Geb.

In the spring of this year, I got to watch far more closely than usual as the Canadian geese came back from the south. This isn’t really a magic time or anything out of the ordinary. Every year, I’ve watched the geese squawking their way north as temperatures warm up and flowers begin to bloom. It’s become so commonplace, honestly, as someone who was born and raised here that I hardly notice it. But this year, I got to watch not only as the geese came back but as they went through their life cycle. You see, there’s this field that they prefer on my drive to work. And every morning, I would watch them waddle around and every afternoon, I’d watch them take up the playing fields so that the kids wanting to run around would have to dodge their poop.

Original source: "A Handbook for Travellers in Lower and Upper Egypt". London: John Murray, Albemarle Street. Paris: Galignani; Boyveau. Malta: Critien; Watson. Cairo and Alexandria: V. Penasson. 1888. P. 083d.

Original source: “A Handbook for Travellers in Lower and Upper Egypt”. London: John Murray, Albemarle Street. 1888. P. 083d.

Before this spring, I had never really paid much attention to the comings and goings of the geese. They were background noises. They were something you saw flying in a vee pattern across the sky, but never really wondered too much more. Sure, sometimes you got to see them up close and personal. The graveyard where my father is buried is covered in geese from the moment they start showing back up around here to when they fly south for the winter. It’s not difficult to see the geese, coming and going or waddling around wherever they happen to be. But, it’s almost like one of those things you take for granted. You see it so much and so often that you kind of start to turn a blind eye to it. I think another large part of my sudden interest in these geese was also because I had begun to see animals I didn’t normal see on my drive to work – hawks, wild turkeys, egrets, etc. – and while these animals are normal for up here, I’m not used to seeing them regularly. With the less normal birds in my sights, it was easy to pick up on the more common animals.

The thing is that I wasn’t really expecting Geb feels because of this.

I’ve never really paid too much attention to that swathe of netjeru who fall in the “early category.” Obviously, each person’s mileage when it comes to the various theologies vary, but I don’t doubt the existence of any of the netjeru. Just because I haven’t had an interest in them or just because they haven’t had an interest in me doesn’t negate their existence. It just means that we have little in common or as a devotee, I don’t have whatever it is they’re looking for. In this case, neither one of us was looking for the other. I wasn’t interested in Geb; he wasn’t interested in him. But as each day passed and I watched those geese and I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, hm, Geb, it all kind of tumbled from there.

And one day, I looked up and realized, I was having some form of semi-devotion to a god who wears a goose on his head.

There’s something incredibly powerful about seeing a physical representation of a god and having it move you in some way. I think this is something that we, as Kemetic polytheists, need to pay attention more and more. A while ago, I began attempting to associate my gods with local fauna. This was harder than I realized because most of the fauna that I felt they would associate with weren’t animals I had ever seen in nature. However, now as I begin to realize how and why this relationship with Geb began forming, I realize the wisdom of this approach. It isn’t necessarily about forcing a sort of connection on pre-existing plant and animal life but in attempting to see your [foreign] deities in that which surrounds you. This ability can, apparently, help to forge a deeper connection with a deity that you may not have much in the way of connection to.

With each sweep by the field, and each new moment in the geese’s lives, I began to grow more and more attuned to what aspects I could see as associating with Geb. The relationship is now nearly six months in and I’ve begun to not just associate the Canadian geese with him, but the field as well. I think that aspect, too, has a lot to do with the connection with local fauna. I associate the geese, outside of Geb, with that field. And now that I associate those geese with Geb, it was not much of a leap to begin to see the field as being a part of him as well. What makes this all the more interesting is that it isn’t just the place itself but the fact that Geb is the earth as far as Kemetic polytheists go. Technically, he is what we walk upon and drive over every day. But it’s difficult to associate such a remote concept with the land that we live in since those mythologies are intrinsic to ancient Egypt and the creation therein.

By forging a relationship with those geese, even as small and minor as this one appears to be, I was able to begin to see connections that my little brain may not have made previously.

Just by seeing some geese taking up roost on a field, I’ve been able to catch a grasp on something that I’ve often had difficulties with.

I don’t usually associate my netjeru with the natural world around me. It’s not that they don’t have purview over this domain, but that it can be very difficult associating deities born in the depth of a desert with a land like western Massachusetts. I don’t have to live vicariously on a narrow strip of black silt that only comes once a year. I don’t have to warily traverse the sands around me. I don’t have any of these aspects that the ancient Egyptians were born next to, lived upon, and died beside. I have trees and rain and a thick[ly polluted] river rushing passed my front yard. I have a myriad of animals that the ancient Egyptians probably had no idea existed. The world I live in is so far removed from the world that my netjeru once reigned that it can be quite difficult to find any form of relationship between what the ancients knew and lived and what I know and live.

A lot of people go on about how paganism is a nature based religious system. For those of us who fall under the more polytheistic branch of paganism, we will often take offense to this. While, as I stated above, our gods have purview over various aspects of natural phenomena, this doesn’t necessarily make us all overly friendly with nature. I attempt this in other ways – I have a servant of Gran Bwa whose domain are forests; I attempt to give offerings to the land spirit where I live. However, this doesn’t mean that my religious tradition has much more to do with nature than any other polytheists’. It doesn’t lump me under the “nature worshiping” paganism that some people see it as. However, nature should be at least acknowledged in some polytheists’ practices. And I’m beginning to learn that, while my natural world is entirely removed from the world my netjeru once ruled, that doesn’t mean that nature can’t be a part of my religion…

…though it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a nature worshiper.

All it means is that my gods can and do have a hand in what I see around me, whether I’m paying attention to what those things are or not, whether I’m attempting to see that connection or not. Geb is in the land beneath my feet, just as he is in the land beneath the feet of the men and women who still reside in Egypt today, as he was thousands of years ago.

That’s just the lesson I need to encompass regarding my entire religious tradition; not just the relationship I’ve accidentally forged with Geb.

And I think I’m getting there.

Honestly, I’m beginning to believe that because of this new relationship and how it began that I have begun to get a better grip on my religion.

And if that’s not a good thing, I don’t know what is.

Perhaps, I can clearly and honestly say, for once, that the lesson is learned.

Pay more attention, damn it. And make sure Djehuty stays off my face.

Geb and Nut: The Creation of The World (PBP).

In some mythologies, they say that the world was created from the belly of Tiamat and in others, they say that a faceless omnipotent, nameless being created it in seven days. In still other mythos, they’ll tell you that three gods came together to create a place called Midgard, a home for the human race. But in my mythology, I see the endlessness that is darkness and night. It is a place of chaos and in this land of isfet there is nothing for a long time. It has a rhythm though and like the uterine rhythm that brings the birth of children, this rhythm brought about the birth of the oversized lotus blossom. This blossom was special for it was the start of all things. It was the start of ma’at.

And for eternities that human minds cannot possibly understand, this nothingness held on to the lotus blossom. It was closed to the fathomless Nun that surrounded it. Within it was the most beautiful child that had ever been created and would ever be created. It was the ultimate creator within: Re, Atum, Amun, and Nefertem. All lived within, but they were all different as well as the same. They lived for so long in the beauty that was a lotus blossom that they hadn’t a clue what could be on the other side of so lovely a prison. But, as with all things, time comes and time goes. And as with all things, the time had come for the lotus blossom to show the sun-deity that there was nothingness all around.

It’s a lonely existence when you realize that you are standing amid the watery Nun. There is no chatter and there is no laughter. There are no tears, there are no angry words, and there are no activities to keep you occupied. There are no other people to live with. A lonely existence is something that we, as human beings, can use to relate to our creator because just as he once lived amid nothingness, chaos, and silence, so too can we. It is this moment that connects us most soundly with our creator. And it is in those moments that, just as the sun-deity did, we must begin to craft friendships and craft things to do. Unlike the creator, our craftiness does not mean we must create an entire world to play in at least not in the same sense as Re, Atum, Amun, Nefertem, etc. had to create. But it can be similar when you live in that silent place. A world to create within our minds’ eye can be similar to the very one that the god created for us. And as I said, it is in that moment that you can most find yourself truly connected to a deity who has long since stopped living in this realm…

Creation happens whether we want it to or not and it is a mystery in how such things come about. So, too, is the creation of this world. So many different myths have come to us over the years that it begins to wear on you, trying to figure out how things came to be. But, that’s not the point in this story. This story isn’t about creation, per se, and it isn’t about the boring existence that the solar-deity must have lived prior to creation manifesting. This story is about Geb and Nut.

Fairy tales are things that children believe in. They are the sum total of knowledge that is passed down from generation to generation with little lessons provided therein. But, sometimes, a fairy tale is more than just a story to learn how to be a better human being. Sometimes, they are stories set to the reality of something and it is that infinitesimal second of reality that we must seek out and we must learn. This particular tale is about a pair of lovers.

Lovers, when we as modern humans think about it, are two people who love each other. They manifest that love in various ways. They live together, they marry, and they have children together. They fight, but they make up. They do nice things for one another. These are the images that we craft when we think about love, but sometimes, when we really think about love, we start to consider it in megalithic terms. It isn’t just about two people living together and producing offspring, but about a love so powerful and so great that it puts anything we see today to shame.

The first love story was the story of Geb and Nut.

The creator’s first chance at creating a world to live in didn’t work out quite so well. He had two children that he created himself with the power of his iron will. Those children were Shu and Tefnut. They loved one another very much and played often. Shu was the air that we currently breathe and it was that air that he would shoot to his sister-wife, Tefnut, who was rain and moisture. Just as their father held dominion over all things, they held dominion over their powers. And together, they played as children would, but the creator was unhappy with this arrangement. They were so in love with another and still, he was so lonely. Besides, the ultimate goal hadn’t been for him to create playmates or friends, but to create an entire world and in the first words that he uttered, the failure was born.

He knew how to bide his time by then because he had been biding it long since. And with that, he knew that children would be born to the sister and brother that he had crafted into being. And before long, as he knew it would, that was exactly what happened.

The two that were born were Geb and Nut. Geb was a man born the color of gold and green and beauty incarnate. His sister-wife, Nut, was born of blue and gold. The moment that they were aware, the awareness wasn’t of their parents or their grandfather or the Nun or the lotus blossom that the solar-deity still lived on. It was of one another. And that awareness was so absolute that they knew there was no way that they could ever live apart, for without one another they would only be half a person, half a soul, and not worth it. So, they lived together. Their arms wrapped about one another and their legs side by side in their lovers’ embrace.

Watching the two lovers together was to know what love truly was. Knowing the two of them was to gift others with the jealousy and heartache, sorrow and longing. To know the two of them was to know that the perfection they had achieved in the embraces of one another was something that no one else would ever know. It is that knowing that humanity was given, perhaps as a punishment or perhaps as a window into our very souls, but it is an awareness that sits true today. We see the lovers together and we know that there is nothing in our lives that can ever achieve the same perfection that Nut and Geb knew in one another’s arms. Their moments were eternity, but it was an eternity that had to end: the solar deity had plans and the lovers were messing those plans up something fierce.

So, the creator went to his son, Shu, and said, “I had plans. Your children mucking about with things they know not.”

But Shu was a loving father and he said, “But they are in love. They are happy. Let them be. Let’s start again.”

By that time, the creator was tired of creating. He was tired of starting again. It takes a lot of someone, whether they are a god or a human being, to create life. And our eminent creator had plans. They were plans within plans that none of his children or grandchildren could see. And he wasn’t about to let them go to waste because his grandchildren were in love. “Pry them apart. I have plans,” was the creator’s response.

Shu was nothing but a loving parent, but he was also obedient to his father. He knew that no matter what he said or did, his father had made up his mind. And while it broke his heart to try and pry apart his children, he knew that it would be easier for the children if he was the one to do it as opposed to their grandfather. So, he approached the lovers and he said unto them, “Your love is legendary. It is beautiful, but it is time for it to end. It is time for you two to part.”

“Never,” Geb said.

“Never,” replied Nut.

“It is what it is,” Shu said. And with sadness in his heart, he began pushing Geb and Nut apart. And as he moved further and further between them, land began to be created and sky began to be created. The ultimate goal was to create life for the solar deity to love like he could not love his children. The ultimate goal was to create so much beauty that he would be forever excited, like that of a child with a new toy or a new book. Waiting on the sidelines, he watched as the two lovers were forced apart. It took time, it took pain, and it took the two of them forever but finally, there was room.

And plants began to grow on the body of Geb. Mountains thrust from his body and with the gentle rains of his mother, rivers and oceans began to form. So high above, Nut watched as her lover’s body changed from the man she had known and loved into something that was alien and different. She watched in heartache and joy, she watched in sorrow and anger. And just as Nut watched her lover change, so too did he. He watched as the golden portions of her body began to sparkle and entrance. He watched as her body became longer and fuller. He watched as the solar deity took to the heavens in his solar barque to watch over all of creation. And he knew heartache and joy, he watched in sorrow and anger.

But by then, the creation of the world had happened and there was nothing more for the lovers to do except to wait on the day when their children would be born to them, the five children that they had conceived so strongly in one another’s embrace. And while that story is as good as this, it is one that must wait for yet another day…

PhotobucketGeb and Nut via Deviantart
User Nienor

If His Heart Rules Him, His Conscience Will Soon Take the Place of the Rod.

Nut and Geb, the children of the god Shu (Air) and goddess Tefnut (Moisture), were born locked together in a tight embrace. The sun god Ra ordered Shu to separate them, so Shu held his daughter high above the earth, creating room between Nut and Geb for other creatures to live. Angered by the marriage of Nut and Geb, Ra decreed that Nut could not bear children during any month of the year. Thoth, the god of wisdom, took pity on Nut and played a game with the moon—the regulator of time—that allowed him to create five extra days in the year. Because these days were not covered by Ra’s decree, Nut was able to give birth to five children: Wesir (Osiris), Heru-ur (Horus), Set, Aset (Isis), and Nebt-het (Nephthys).

As a part of celebrating my faith, I have long since decided that I need to have recreated rituals based as closely as possible on the ancient Egyptian festivals. The first major festival that is rapidly approaching is called wep-renpet, which is translated as meaning ‘Opening of the Year.’ This is, in effect, the ancient Egyptians’ version of the celebrating New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The difference, however, lies in the fact that the calculation of the celebration is based on the heliacal rising of the most important star in the sky, Sopdet (Sirius).

The reason that Sopdet was the most important star in the sky for the ancient Egyptians is two-fold: First, the star is the brightest star in the sky. It was named Sopdet, which literally means skilled woman. The second reason is because at the rising of this star, the annual inundation of the Nile flood waters would soon begin. As ancient Egypt would be nothing without the inundation, the star held an important place.

Unlike with modern-day celebrations of a new year, the ancient Egyptians celebrated wep-renpet for a full week. Resolutions and promises for a good year aside, the celebrations varied from day-to-day. The first celebration hearkens the very end of the previous year, followed by five “intercalary days” which are of mythological and practical importance. (Mythologically, these are the five days Djehuti added to the lunar calendar so that Nut could produce offspring; practically, these days bring the previous 360 day calendar into a 365 day calendar.) The final day is the actual celebration of wep-renpet.

Day 1: Last day of the year
Day 2: Intercalary day – Wesir’s birthday
Day 3: Intercalary day – Heru-wer’s birthday
Day 4: Intercalary day – Set’s birthday
Day 5: Intercalary day – Aset’s birthday
Day 6: Intercalary day – Nebt-het’s birthday
Day 7: Wep Renpet

To honor my faith, I plan on celebrating the full week starting on August 3rd and ending on August 10th, with the rising of Sopdet to commence on the 10th.

On the final day of the year, I will “smite Apep” or at least, symbolically do so. Apep was a demon of the underworld, in the form of a giant water snake. As the enemy of the sun god, he did his best to stop Re’s sun barque from crossing the night sky and fought against them every night after the sun had set. In my symbolic version of smiting Apep, I plan on baking a snake cake and, to defeat him, cut him up into bits and devour him as he would so gladly do to the Re.

I will also clean house and “get rid of evil.” The ancient Egyptians held a “pot-smashing rite” every new year’s. They would focus all of the negative things that could happen in the upcoming year or things that had already happened to them, focus it into the pottery and smash it into bits. They would then throw the shards into the fire to symbolically destroy those bad things. As much fun as this sounds, I think a simple spring cleaning and sage smudging of my home will be sufficient.

Another form of celebration will be with images of Sekhmet. This was a common custom in ancient Egypt as Sekhmet warded away illness. Pendants were frequently worn around the neck or given on the start of a new year so that family members would remain healthy. Though I do not have a stock of Sekhmet pendants to hand out, I think pictures of the goddess should be sufficient to ward off the easier illnesses to contend with.

Other forms of worship will include full rituals to the deities on their chosen days, as well as a full Wep-Renpet ritual which will end in a full dedication to the goddess, Sekhmet.