The Osiris Mysteries: Presenting the Corn Mummy to Daylight.

November 21 – 25, 2019/IV Akhet 19-23

A five-day festival during the Osiris Mysteries is to take the corn mummy you made and present it to daylight. There are other festivals peppered within this 5-day ritual, and I’ll catalog what I did for some of those while also discussing why I didn’t specifically do anything for the others listed.

It’s November in New England, which means that you get paltry sunlight for about half the day. The rest of the time, it’s cloudy and/or raining. And it is, of course, always cold. So as I pulled my preferred corn mummy from its place on my household altar, I wondered what the next five days would bring.

The first day was okay. The sun shown pretty brightly and the breeze wasn’t too terrible. I almost was able to get away wearing a hoody for the entire day. (Towards the end of the day, the wind picked up and it got cold again.) The following day, it rained. The third day, it was sunny and actually stayed light for most of the day. None of that in-between peekaboo shit for the sun that day! We were even able to get some basic lawn work done before the sunset. It rained on the fourth day and was pretty dreary. The sun was out for the last day and it was almost in the 50s.

I wasn’t really surprised the weather did what the weather always does in the winter, but I did have to wonder what Osiris, and by extension his corn mummy, had to say about it. At least it didn’t snow.


The Osiris Mysteries: Making Ointment
(November 21, 2019/IV Akhet 19)

I did not celebrate this for much the same reason I didn’t make unguents. I’m not an ointment person and to be perfectly honest, whenever I think of the word ointment, I think about BENGAY, the topical pain relieving ointment. I just don’t really think that’s what precisely is meant here. And besides, I really have no idea what in the world the ointment would be used for? I don’t think the corn mummy needs a pain reliever.

 

The Osiris Mysteries: Finding the Udjat Eye & Weaving the Burial Cloth (November 22, 2019/IV Akhet 20)

When I first saw the name of this, I had to wonder if the Udjat Eye finding was because she went missing again, or if it was because of Horus’s eye. According to The Ancient Egyptian Daybook, “the two Udjat eyes of Osiris are found. An abnen-bird emerges from them. It is in the form of a standard of Pakhet, to which one says: ‘Shining Lady’.” I liked my idea about the eyes being Horus’s missing eyes better, honestly.

I am not into fiber arts, so I don’t weave. I can knit as long as you don’t expect me to start it or to finish it, but I can’t do much else. So about a month ago, I went out with my husband to find something that I thought would be an appropriate burial cloth. My original idea was one of those decorative sheer scarves (I have several in various colors) that I would wrap my corn mummy in and then bury the whole shebang in the dirt after I buried the corn mummy. I wanted a white one.

But of course, I couldn’t find what I was looking for.

All I could find was a really beautiful pashmina in white that is so soft and so pretty and I really want to find an excuse to wear it one day. And did I mention it is really beautiful? The funniest thing is that I was extremely ambivalent about it when my husband pointed it out. (As I bought it, he made sure to remind me that he was the one who found it for me and that he is very good about finding religious things for me.) So, it’s more of a stand-in as the burial cloth until I end up finding a sheer, white scarf like I had originally intended. Eventually.


The Osiris Mysteries: Removing the Mummy & The Divine Bandages
(November 23, 2019/IV Akhet 21)

I have no idea when I was supposed to put the mummy in bandages, divine or otherwise. There wasn’t anything that I saw in the calendar that would have indicated that I would need to bandage up the mummy in preparation for the day that I would remove the bandages. There are no notes in the Daybook about what this could mean, so I shrugged it off and moved on with my life.


The Osiris Mysteries: The Procession of the 34 Boats
(November 24, 2019/IV Akhet 22)

I kind of poked around in my lexicon of possibilities and decided that I would do a Roaming Gnome impression. I did something like this before for a Procession of Sekhmet and I had a lot of fun. I can admit that I had fun roaming around my house with a sheet of paper flapping in my wind.

We started off in the back of the house, peering into the darkness.

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stop off at the household altar, which you may notice is now sporting a djed. That will come into play later.

The 34 Boats had to stop off and say hi to our pirate boat.

I’ve been purifying my tub of dirt every night until we’re ready for me to start planting things.

I love that little green half-loaf pan. And I have a perverse sense of humor. (You know… O was broken into parts…)

And of course, we ended up back at home base because, of course, we were always heading there.


The Osiris Mysteries: Preparation for Burial
(November 25, 2019/IV Akhet 23)

And thus we get to the part that I really was looking forward to: I’ve got dirt! Okay, so I already had dirt. But my circle of dirt that looked like a little dish is now officially dirt and not a hunk of round freeze dried dirt!

Is it a machine that packs it down so it fits perfectly? What does quality control for that look like? Do people use measuring tape to make sure it works out well when you buy these kits?

It required 3.5 cups of water. I dumped the required amount of water and immediately began to panic. I checked the directions three times in rapid succession, but it had indeed requested that I use 3.5 cups of warm water to make the dirt circle turn into a clump of dirt. I had misgivings as I walked away, not aware that freeze dried dirt demands water like a starving animal demands food. (My ignorance is because gardening has never been my forte.)

I really enjoyed breaking up the dirt. My hands were really dirty and I had a hard time taking a clear picture, but I fucking loved it. Maybe gardening is something that I could actually get into.

I tossed the dirt clump into my tub of dirt and played around in the dirt a few more times.

I made dirt! And it didn’t go wrong!

The Osiris Mysteries: Opening Ceremonies & The Gods Appear in 34 Boats

November 20, 2019/IV Akhet 18

I started thinking about what to do for the Opening Ceremonies in October. Opening ceremonies can be very important and tend to highlight the look and feel of the event even after it has begun. I racked my brain, trying to figure out what would be appropriate and what was something that I could do.

As is my wont, I started with really over-the-top ideas. I have such a bad habit of going overboard with things because I want to show that I am a Real Polytheist™ like everyone else proclaims to be. But the problem with that is that I am a spoony, so I don’t always have the energy to do what I had originally thought up. And I don’t always have the available cash flow to do what I had originally planned. Just because the budget looks bright and shiny a month in advance that doesn’t mean it actually will when you finally get to that point.

The other part of this is that this year’s Mysteries are a sort of test run. Usually, I would have accompanying words and gestures to go along with all of this. But since I have never once participated before this year, Osiris and I agreed that this would be a word-less venture this year: no rites, simple gestures with intent, no words of power to accompany everything else.

So all of my over-the-top ideas were quickly jettisoned as time went by.

I would periodically worry the thread of what I should be doing over the month in advance that I thought about all of this. Sometimes I came up with little ideas that I didn’t feel were too terrible, or at least Osiris didn’t seem to offended or annoyed with what I was suggesting. (And to be quite honest, there were a few times where my ideas actually were very annoying or repulsive to him.)

Not only did I have to do something to commemorate the opening salvo for the Mysteries (since everything to this point has been preparation, more or less), but I also had to come up with some way to show 34 boats as Osiris is accompanied by 34 gods, each in their own individual boats.

From The Ancient Egyptian Daybook:

Boats for Osiris and his companion deities were floated on the Dendera sacred lake on IV Akhet 18. There were 34 boats total:

  1. Osiris
  2. Isis
  3. Nephthys
  4. Horus
  5. Thoth
  6. Imsety
  7. Hapy (one of the sons of Horus)
  8. Duamutef
  9. Qebshenuef
  10. The Capturer
  11. Who Acts Violently
  12. Horus Who Beholds his Father
  13. Who Creates His Own Name
  14. Who Is in His Lifetime
  15. Horus, Beautiful of Front (Face/Front Side)
  16. Their Thrones
  17. Maker of Boundaries
  18. Khonsu the Construstor
  19. The Divine Falcon over His Arm
  20. The Terrifying One
  21. Sia
  22. Who Creates Himself
  23. In Front of Two
  24. She Who is Great in Age
  25. The Two Runners
  26. Name Lost
  27. Name Lost
  28. Name Lost
  29. Name Lost
  30. Who Doesn’t Give His Flame
  31. The Two Red-Eyed Ones
  32. Foremost of the House of the Red Garment
  33. The Lion of the Night Who Brought Him Low
  34. The Destroyer

That was a lot of gods and while the idea of origami was palatable, I could also admit that it was completely out. I’m not good with paper folding as I’ve tried repeatedly and it doesn’t work out ever. I don’t know how people with magic fingers can make things out of paper, but I do not have magic fingers and my paper folding tends to end up in a crumpled up ball of frustration at my feet.

Two days out, I threw up my hands and figured I would decide what to do on the day in question. Something would pop in my head and either it would work out, or it wouldn’t.

I lit all of my candles and then sat down in the living room to make the boats.

It may seem ridiculous to take out a piece of white paper and just draw 34 boats on it, but sometimes that’s about as much energy and pizzazz as you can do. I actually ended up with two copies.

The first one, I tried to be very precise with my boats, keeping them evenly spaced and about 1″ long. I found it irritating and stupid, so I free handed the second sheet. I outlined each little boat in black sharpie so it could be seen clearly from far away.

I am, what you may call, a perfectionist. I stared at the boats a couple of times on my second sheet and seriously considered throwing it away as well. It wasn’t… it didn’t come out right. I looked back at the first sheet of my carefully spaced, 1″ long boats and realized that having them so “perfect” looking didn’t work. The boats would have all looked the same in antiquity, but they wouldn’t have all looked exactly alike.

I also kind of felt, as I looked harder, that having them kind of not-so-evenly spaced on the paper gave it the appearance of boats floating randomly on the water. It took me a bit to warm up to it, but I eventually got there.

Once I was done with the boats, I turned back to the Opening Ceremonies themselves. I had a couple of ideas which was basically music and rattling my little paper of boats around over the altar space I use for Osiris.

Music is also a very important part to any religious festival, so I worried about what I would choose. Inevitably, as I thought about it, I realized that having horns and drums announcing something was probably the greatest way to go about it, so we listened to Fanfare for the Common Man on repeat a few times.

As I walked into my candle lit space, I decided that I was being ridiculous for just holding a sheet of paper over the space, letting it waft in the breeze I created. But I can remember a million times before now where being ridiculous or silly or a little joke-y about things wasn’t so bad. So I went with it. And it seems to have worked out.

The Osiris Mysteries: Opening the House.

November 18, 2019/IV Akhet 16

Before the Opening the House rite, the day prior is known as Preparing the Coffin and Unguents. I initially had every intention of doing something, but the truth is that I didn’t feel a hard pull to do so. And I forgot. At quarter of nine, I realized I had dismissed my alarm and wasn’t sure what to do so late in the game. (My nighttime working is usually done between 8pm-9pm.)

I didn’t feel a particular need to do this because I’m not a fan of unguents or oils. I always end up making a mess, or accidentally destroy something when I use them. And since I plan on burying my corn doll in dirt that I will be growing something in, it didn’t seem like a wise idea to prep or utilize unguents of any sort. It may have been the norm for burials in antiquity and was no doubt done for the corn dolls, but considering my black thumb, I can’t take too many chances.

I also didn’t plan on making a coffin for use. I need the paperwhites to get as much soil nutrition as possible and even with a coffin made of something that could assist the plants with growing, I’m not going to try. I did draw a little modern day coffin in the dirt though.

The Opening the House rite doesn’t have any accompanying text or notes in the Daybook. I knew, after looking into Nephthys, that the reference to the house more than likely had something to do with the inner sanctum of the temple. As I mentioned in my entry on her, her name is often translated as Mistress of the House, but could also mean Mistress of the Temple Enclosure.

It made a certain kind of sense to me that this particular rite probably had something to do with the temple, or the inner sanctum of Osiris: the house, so to speak.

I am not a priest of Osiris, or frankly any of my gods. What I do regularly for them may make people think that I am a priest or priestess for my gods, but I can say concretely that at this juncture in my life I am not.

I know a bit about what more than likely took place within the temples in antiquity but it’s a guess on my part in some instances. Those guesses are mostly logical guesses based on what I’ve learned over the years. But I’m still a little uncertain.

I decided the best course of action was to go with something simple and easy. Nothing flowery; nothing overt.

I purified my kitchen work space with sandalwood incense, leaving it to burn over the window box I had filled with dirt two days before. I also lit the candle on my household altar in front of my two corn doll attempts.

I opened up the door to my ritual room, or spooky room, and thought about the meaning behind the phrase “opening the house.” The inner sanctum of all temples was kept private. The only ones allowed within were the priests and priestesses of the god. The holy of holies was never seen by the lay person, but that wasn’t the only place where the lay people would have been given access to if the priests and priestesses were “opening the house”.

It was probably a very magical moment to be able to go into the temple. There were public areas that people could access regularly but maybe this whole opening of the house meant that they could go into less common areas.

I lit the candles on my ancestor and Osiris altar, lighting incense to purify the space.

I am not a lay person, per se, but as I sat and watched the candles flicker in the darkness of my room, I could see why it would be important for the priests to “open the house”. It would give people the ability to feel close to a god who they might fear (considering his association with the netherworld) and to better understand, maybe, what it must have been like for his priesthood.

Maybe they opened the doors for the people who relied on Osiris’s associations with growth, and greenery, and vegetation, and fertility for their very lives so they could connect with him on a level beyond his death and rebirth.

Or maybe I’m making it all up. Maybe it was the flickering of the candlelight and the myrrh incense (I don’t know why he didn’t want sandalwood in my ritual room, but there you have it) combined to make me overthink and project what I thought the purpose of this particular day is.

The house is open.

The Osiris Mysteries: Forming the Earth.

November 16, 2019/IV Akhet 14

For the few days before the Forming the Earth ritual, I tried to figure out what that meant for me and what I was hoping to accomplish during the Osiris Mysteries. According to The Ancient Egyptian Daybook by Tamara Suida: “A statue of Sokar-Osiris was formed out of soft earth in a silver mold on this day, and prepared until IV Akhet 16.” I had a couple of options available to me but I wasn’t sure what made the most sense.

I knew that I wanted to have a container filled with earth of some sort, but I had to ask myself what earth made the most sense. I had a number of decorative sands that I could use and I was leaning towards the black and red decorative sand in a sort of swirled mix. I had a very for the aesthetic ideal when I thought up this idea, but I wasn’t 100% sure if it worked for me.

After talking it over with Devo, the main question they asked me to help me figure it out was, “Well, are you planning on growing anything?” I kind of wanted to. I’m not what you would call a green thumb (I can kill a cactus pretty easily) but eventually, I would like to try this whole gardening spiel. So I spent some time researching winter plants and what I would need in order to foster them to growth during the Osiris Mysteries.

Eventually, I decided that I could try my hand at this growing business. Osiris has deep ties to growth and greenery. It made sense for me to at least give it a shot. I may not be successful and I will have to come to terms with that if and when it happens. But I am hoping that I can at least get a few sprouts before everything goes to shit.

This meant that I knew what I needed: real dirt, some seeds from a winter-friendly plant, and a container to grow it all in.

I spent much of the morning at various stores where I could purchase the needed supplies. I found a rectangular bronze-and-black window box that I liked. I needed only about a 12″ long box, but wound up walking away with a 15″ long box. I poked through the plant kits readily available for purchase and decided to buy some paper whites for this experience. (I chose them over the amaryllis because they were white for purity and they kind of reminded me of snow drops.) My husband found me some good dirt to use for the type of flowers I was trying to go and I was ready to start.

After cleaning up my work space and the container I purchased, I ritually purified it with a stick of sandalwood incense. (This has been the incense choice for the Osiris Mysteries since I haven’t been asked to use any of my other incense blends yet.)

I actually had a lot of fun piling in the dirt I had chosen. The smell of opening the bag and just inhaling it was pleasurable. I can understand why people enjoy gardening. I also found it very nice to stick my hands deep into the dirt and swish it around in a swirl around the container. Maybe it’s the kid in me or maybe it’s the memory of helping my mom to plant morning glories in the front garden when I was a kid, but I liked it.

The dirt we had chosen wasn’t as dark as I would have liked it (I couldn’t get out the idea that I needed a very dark brown dirt), but I was the only one complaining about that. I poked around in it for a bit and then sloped the pile into a sort of mound shape to the best of my ability.

After inhaling the box of dirt a few more times, I opened the plant growing kit and was surprised to see a giant disc of dirt at the bottom. I don’t know what I was expecting? In my defense, the last time I tried to grow something from scratch, my seedlings ended up popping up in the middle of the container and not at the top like I had expected, so…

I pulled out the disc and after talking with my husband (whose mother is a horticulturist so he knows more about this stuff than I do), I decided I would use the disc. It technically is supposed to sit in the bottom of a round container that came with the growing kit (and if I didn’t intent on burying an 8″ tall corn doll I would have used it), but I thought I could use it in my long container since it comes with, probably, specifically good plant food for paper whites.

The Osiris Mysteries: Prepping the Corn Mummy.

November 14, 2019/IV Akhet 12

During the earlier part of this year when I was re-working my calendar, I got the ping to add the plethora of various holidays associated with the Osiris Mysteries to my calendar. I was horribly uncomfortable with the idea as I have never once paid any attention to this holiday and, by my last accounting of the myriad deities I have developed relationships with, Osiris wasn’t a part of the herd. This, of course, was a lie. When Ra showed up last year, he brought Osiris along and I’ve been slowly integrating more and more Osiris into my practice.

Eventually, I’ll compile my thoughts on Ra and Osiris into a single entry and how I relate them to the Wheel of the Year, but today, we’re going to talk about the first part of the Osiris Mysteries. It’s time to prepare the Corn Mummies.

Initially, I was hoping to not have to do this. I joked around and said I would buy the most over-the-top stuffed animal that was a piece of corn with eyes and a mouth. I even joked about it on my Tumblr. But I was told that this would not work out and that I needed to actually figure out how to make a corn doll.

I’ve never made a corn doll in my life, although I’ve seen people do it and have admired many of the results. I started looking through various how-tos and bookmarked the Martha Stewart guide on how to do it. I figured if there was anyone who knew what they were doing, Martha was the one.

I wasn’t sure where to even find corn husks locally. Would they be at my grocery store? Would they be at Wal-Mart and how big of a package would they have? So I bought the recommended type from Martha’s guide. I wasn’t sure how much 6oz of husks would be so I almost bought two, then thought better of it. (I have a habit of buying too much of a thing.) Good thing I didn’t buy two…

This picture is from after I had pulled 12 husks out of the package. I still have at least 2/3 of the husks left after my attempts. So a good thing my mental self reminded myself that I always end up with too much of stuff when I worry I won’t have enough.

I found out quickly that soaking them for 10 minutes was my least favorite part. I didn’t have a bowl big enough where the 12 husks I had pulled out could actually soak properly. So I found myself holding them down like this for the full 10 minutes. And of course, I had used cold ass water to soak them in.

My second to least favorite part was “blotting” away the excess water. Either I over soaked them because I held them down or Martha and I have vastly different definitions of “excess water”. The good thing was that the water beaded up on the husks and rolled off. The bad thing was that I used half a damn paper towel role to get rid of the water. And they still weren’t completely free of moisture when I started making the doll.

The first part was easy. I could tie some twine about an inch down and voila! I had the start. But the twine seemed a little thicker than what Martha was showing in the sketch of her how-to guide, so I was a bit worried. And I found that the twine I had chosen was no longer cute. The edges were coming undone and it hurt to tie it off.

I got lost at the next part. You’re supposed to fold the husks down so they cover the twine, but when I tried to do that, it looked nothing like the picture perfect sketch Martha had on her website. I was worried I had messed up somehow (were the husks too moist? Did I tie it off improperly?). I pulled up YT, found a video, and confirmed I was doing it right. I had to stop comparing my attempts to the Queen of Decor.

I was so busy following the video I found that I didn’t stop to take a picture until the head, arms, and waist were completed. I realized my mistake when I was contemplating how to do the legs.

I stared at it for a while and realized that what Martha said to do for legs meant that the husks could be evenly divided into halves. Since I didn’t consider that when I was pulling husks down, worried I was fucking everything up, my doll had a dress motif going. I had been advised clearly that the doll needed legs, so I cut the husks down the middle like the YT video indicated to start the legs.

The doll didn’t seem big enough to add knees like Martha’s guide indicated to do, so I tied off near the bottom so I had feet on the thing. I stared at it for a long time, trying to decide if this was The Doll or if I needed to start over.

I grabbed my scissors to start trimming down the twine and decided this was not working for me. I didn’t like how big it was. I didn’t like the twine. I didn’t like the arms or hands. I really didn’t like the look of it with twine and envisioning it with clothes on, I knew that my first attempt was only that: an attempt.

I grabbed my clear small rubber bands that I have used twice for my hair, grabbed 4 more husks, and started on my second [and final] attempt.

I liked this one much better. I didn’t have twine and I could easily trim down the feet or arms so that the doll didn’t look unwieldy. I also liked it because I knew what to do this time so it took me all of 5 minutes to finish once I figured out how many times I had to twist the clear rubber bands.

Even though I didn’t like how the first one came out and found myself frustrated at the beginning, I actually realized that I liked doing this. It felt very good to be able to make something that I’ll be using for the next two weeks or so in my festivities for the Mysteries. And now that I know what I know about corn dolls, I’ll feel comfortable when I need to do this again next year.

The final rite for this was to rest my dolls under the protective gaze of Bes until the one I like is ready to be presented and the other one is ready to be ritually burned.

The Propitiation of Sekhmet: The Return Ritual Rubric

This particular portion of the festival begins on I Akhet 18 and finishes on I Akhet 22.

Daily Morning Ritual

After completing your daily rite to wake the gods and/or greeting the morning sun, open the window so that the sunlight can peer through the room. Approach your icon of Sekhmet and say:

Hail to you, O Sekhmet.
I call to you: heed my voice.
Using your arms, beckon the goddess in your direction.
The sun has risen and the world has awoken with its touch.
May you rise and be awoken by the sun’s warming rays.
Awake from your slumber; awake from your darkness.
Hear these words:
Return to me, O Distant Goddess.
Return to us.

Evening Ritual: Fifth Day Only

O you NTRW of this temple, who sanctify the god in his shrine:
I come to you, your servant, your son, I come to you.
Your beautiful scent, it calls me forward.
I have made my way and I enter into your presence.
I am one of you.
I am one of you.
Do not repulse me on the god’s path.
My feet are not impeded.
I am not turned back from this place.
I have entered this place with ma’at in my heart.
I am pure.
I am purified.

Step Forward & Call Out to the Goddess

O, Sekhmet; O Distant Godess: I call to you.
Hear these words and come to me.
I call to you, my lady, to return to us.
We call out to you to return to this your haven, your home.
Do not hide your beautiful face from us.
Come forth and look down upon us.
Grant us your love and trust as you return to this, your temple.

Awake in peace, Sekhmet, The Great Returning Lioness, awake in peace.
Awake in peace, A’apekhty, Great of Strength, awake in peace.
Awake in peace, Kheneb-ib, He Who Robs the Heart and Cuts the Thighs of Enemies, awake in peace.
Awake in peace, Neb-kennu, Lord of the Uprising, awake in peace.
Awake in peace, Herf-em-Sedjet, Whose Face is Flame, awake in peace.
Awake in peace, Imwy-Ity-Hapy, Who is in the Middle of Flood Waters, awake in peace.
Awake in peace, Shed-kheru-em-kenu-tjemsuf, Creator of Unrest, awake in peace.
Awake in peace, Ka-Desher, the Red Bull, awake in peace.

Step Forward & Open Shrine

I open your temple, I come to you.
Your warmth and beauty surrounds me as I enter.
I am not repulsed.
The doors of the sky are open.
The doors of the earth are unlocked.
This house is open for its Master.
Let me come forth as she shall come forth.
Let me enter as she shall enter.
Behold, I have come to you to offer ma’at to make sound the Eye for its lord.

Light Incense in Censor

The incense is placed on the arms of the gods.
It transforms your heart through its perfection.
I bring the incense to make your temple festive; I appease your body.
*censing the four directions*
The temple is filled with the scent of incense.
Incense spreads throughout your sanctuary.
It sanctifies your throne, it purifies your ka from evil.
Your body is purified.
Your temple is purified.

Light the Candles

The purifying flame is placed in the hands of the gods.
It transforms your heart through its pacifying heat.
I bring the purifying flame to sanctify your temple; I appease your body.
*lift a candle and hold it in the four directions*
The temple is filled with the light of the gods.
The temple has been purified by the flame of ma’at.
It sanctifies your throne, it purifies your ka from evil.
Your body is purified.
Your temple is purified.

Take up the Water

The essential water is placed in the mouths of the gods.
It transforms your heart through its cleansing coolness.
I bring the Great Flood to sanctify your temple; I appease your body.
*flick the water in four directions on the Altar/Shrine*
Your altar is purified by the Flood of Nun.
You are cleansed by Horus.
You are purified by Thoth.
Water invigorates your body.
It is I, your servant, who comes to you in the place where you reside.

Presentation of Libation to the Gods

Greetings to you, primordial water.
Greetings to you, flood waters of Nun.
Greetings to you, o great flood.
You, the father of the gods.
*pour the water into offering cup*
I present to you, o you who are green of face, the cup filled with primordial water, which has come from the Two Caverns.
I pour the libation to water your face.
May your thirst be quenched.

Presentation of Offerings to the Gods

I come near you, o venerable gods.
I bring the food and provisions for you subsistence.
Your altars are piled high with offerings of all sorts and forms.
Every follower, every servant, every devotee has come to bring you the bounty of their hearts.
*pour the offerings into bowl and place on altar*
I am Hathor, Lady of Nourishment, who multiplies the cakes and gives life to the one who is faithful to her.
I have brought you nourishment so that you may thrive.
For as you live, I live.

Behold, I have come from the land of the living to be with you in this sacred place.
I am one of you.
My hatred is evil.
I have come on the good path of the upright in order to make whole all of our limbs.
So that we may live Glorious and Complete as the Eye.
For as you live, I live.
As I live, you live.

Unwrap the Icon

O Returning Lioness, we have come to you to grant you life anew.
We have freed your limbs from their imprisonment.
The wrappings of the goddess have been torn asunder.
We have give your eyes the ability to see.
Your eyes are the whole and complete Eyes of Horus.
We have given your lips the ability to speak.
Your mouth is filled with ma’at and you bestow your ma’at upon us.
We have freed the goddess from her slumber.
You have been rejuvenated, permeated with the will of ma’at.
You have returned to us, green-of-face.

Ma’at comes to you in all of her radiance.
Your heart is glad when she appears before you.
Ma’at has come so that she may be with you.
Ma’at
is in every place that is yours so that you may rest upon her.
So that you may rest upon her.
She comes to you.
You live off of her.
You renew your youth when you see her.
Ma’at rests upon your head.
She is seated on your brow.
Your right eye is ma’at.
Your left eye is ma’at.
Your mouth speaks ma’at.
Your hands are filled with ma’at.
Your limbs do ma’at.
She takes her seat within your ib.
You are rejuvenated at her sight.
Ma’at has taken her position within your hearts and within your shrine.
For as you live through ma’at, your people live through ma’at.
For ever and ever, a million times effective.

May your heart rejoice, O Lady of Contentment of the Two Hearts.
May your hearts rejoice, O Executioners of Sekhmet.
Glorious and excellent, NTRW.
You are green of face.
You are pacified.
Your bellies are full.
Your thirst is quenched.
Your hands are filled with vigor.

O, Sekhmet, Lady of Joy: you are green of face.
O A’apekhty, Great of Strength: you are green of face.
O Kheneb-ib, He Who Robs the Heart and Cuts the Thighs of Enemies: you are green of face.
O Neb-kennu, Lord of the Uprising: you are green of face.
O Herf-em-Sedjet, Whose Face is Flame: you are green of face.
O Imwy-Ity-Hapy, Who is in the Middle of Flood Waters: you are green of face.
O Shed-kheru-em-kenu-tjemsuf, Creator of Unrest: you are green of face.
O Ka-Desher, the Red Bull: you are green of face.

Revert Your Offerings

O Great NTRW, your enemies withdraw from you.
Heru has turned himself to his Eye in its name of Reversion-of-Offerings.
These your divine offerings revert.
They revert to your servant for life, stability, health, and joy.
So that you may flourish for eternity.

The Propitiation of Sekhmet Ritual Rubric.

This particular festival begins on IV Shomu 30 continues through the Epagomenal Days and finishes on I Akhet 22.

Daily Morning Ritual

After completing your daily rite to wake the gods and/or greeting the morning sun, open the window so that the sunlight can peer through the room. Approach your icon of Sekhmet and say:

May you awake in beauty!
Hail to you, O Sekhmet.
Bring forth your icon of the goddess and place it within the sunlight.
The sun has risen and the world has awoken with its touch.
Ra endures another day and gives you life-giving sustenance.
Feel the rays of his beautiful light upon your face.
Feel the touch of the rays of his warmth upon your body.
Ra shines down upon you, his adoration filling you with good cheer.
O Lady of Joy, may you awake beautifully at the top of the morning.
Live, O Sekhmet, O Irt-Ra, live for all time and for eternity.
Leave the icon in the sunlight to rejuvenate.

Evening Ritual: First Day Only
Approaching the Shrine

Awake in peace, Sekhmet, Lady of Jubilation, awake in peace.
Awake in peace, A’apekhty, Great of Strength, awake in peace.
Awake in peace, Kheneb-ib, He Who Robs the Heart and Cuts the Thighs of Enemies, awake in peace.
Awake in peace, Neb-kennu, Lord of the Uprising, awake in peace.
Awake in peace, Herf-em-Sedjet, Whose Face is Flame, awake in peace.
Awake in peace, Imwy-Ity-Hapy, Who is in the Middle of Flood Waters, awake in peace.
Awake in peace, Shed-kheru-em-kenu-tjemsuf, Creator of Unrest, awake in peace.
Awake in peace, Ka-Desher, the Red Bull, awake in peace.

I come to you, your servant, your son, I come to you.
Your beautiful scent, it calls me forward.
I have made my way and I enter into your presence.
I am one of you.
Do not repulse me on the god’s path.
My feet are not impeded; I am not turned back from the god’s place.
I have entered this place with ma’at in my heart in order that you may create peace with beautiful ma’at upon this day.

Step Forward & Open Shrine

I open your temple, I come to you.
Your warmth and beauty surrounds me as I enter.
I am not repulsed.
The doors of the sky are open.
The doors of the earth are unlocked.
This house is open for its Master.
Let me come forth as she shall come forth.
Let me enter as she shall enter.
Behold, I have come to you to offer ma’at to make sound the Eye for its lord.

Light Incense in Censor

The incense is placed on the arms of the gods.
It transforms your heart through its perfection.
I bring the incense to make your temple festive; I appease your body.
*censing the four directions*
The temple is filled with the scent of incense.
Incense spreads throughout your sanctuary.
It sanctifies your throne, it purifies your ka from evil.
Your body is purified.
Your temple is purified.

Light the Candles

The purifying flame is placed in the hands of the gods.
It transforms your heart through its pacifying heat.
I bring the purifying flame to sanctify your temple; I appease your body.
*lift a candle and hold it in the four directions*
The temple is filled with the light of the gods.
The temple has been purified by the flame of ma’at.
It sanctifies your throne, it purifies your ka from evil.
Your body is purified.
Your temple is purified.

Take up the Water

The essential water is placed in the mouths of the gods.
It transforms your heart through its cleansing coolness.
I bring the Great Flood to sanctify your temple; I appease your body.
*flick the water in four directions on the Altar/Shrine*
Your altar is purified by the Flood of Nun.
You are cleansed by Horus.
You are purified by Thoth.
Water invigorates your body.
It is I, your servant, who comes to you in the place where you reside.

Presentation of Libation to the Gods

Greetings to you, primordial water.
Greetings to you, flood waters of Nun.
Greetings to you, o great flood.
You, the father of the gods.
*pour the water into offering cup*
I present to you, o you who are green of face, the cup filled with primordial water, which has come from the Two Caverns.
I pour the libation to water your face.
May your thirst be quenched.

Presentation of Offerings to the Gods

I come near you, o venerable gods.
I bring the food and provisions for you subsistence.
Your altars are piled high with offerings of all sorts and forms.
Every follower, every servant, every devotee has come to bring you the bounty of their hearts.
*pour the offerings into bowl and place on altar*
I am Hathor, Lady of Nourishment, who multiplies the cakes and gives life to the one who is faithful to her.
I have brought you nourishment so that you may thrive.
For as you live, I live.

Behold, I have come from the land of the living to be with you in this sacred place.
I am one of you.
My hatred is evil.
I have come on the good path of the upright in order to make whole all of our limbs.
So that we may live Glorious and Complete as the Eye.
For as you live, I live.
As I live, you live.

Ma’at comes to you in all of her radiance.
Your heart is glad when she appears before you.
Ma’at has come so that she may be with you.
Ma’at
is in every place that is yours so that you may rest upon her.
So that you may rest upon her.
She comes to you.
You live off of her.
You renew your youth when you see her.
Ma’at rests upon your head.
She is seated on your brow.
Your right eye is ma’at.
Your left eye is ma’at.
Your mouth speaks ma’at.
Your hands are filled with ma’at.
Your limbs do ma’at.
She takes her seat within your ib.
You are rejuvenated at her sight.
Ma’at has taken her position within your hearts and within your shrine.
For as you live through ma’at, your people live through ma’at.
For ever and ever, a million times effective.

May your heart rejoice, O Lady of the Flame.
May your hearts rejoice, O Executioners of Sekhmet.
Glorious and excellent, NTRW.
You are green of face.
You are pacified.
Your bellies are full.
Your thirst is quenched.
Your hands are filled with vigor.
O, Sekhmet, Lady of Joy: you are green of face.
O A’apekhty, Great of Strength: you are green of face.
O Kheneb-ib, He Who Robs the Heart and Cuts the Thighs of Enemies: you are green of face.
O Neb-kennu, Lord of the Uprising: you are green of face.
O Herf-em-Sedjet, Whose Face is Flame: you are green of face.
O Imwy-Ity-Hapy, Who is in the Middle of Flood Waters: you are green of face.
O Shed-kheru-em-kenu-tjemsuf, Creator of Unrest: you are green of face.
O Ka-Desher, the Red Bull: you are green of face.
Revert Your Offerings

O Great NTRW, your enemies withdraw from you.
Heru has turned himself to his Eye in its name of Reversion-of-Offerings.
These your divine offerings revert.
They revert to your servant for life, stability, health, and joy.
So that you may flourish for eternity.

 

The Propitiation of Sekhmet 2019.

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind. – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Passing Time

July 30 – August 26

Five years ago, I had an idea that wouldn’t leave me. No matter how many times I tried to turn away from it, it would come back like some insidious bug hellbent on getting into my house. No matter what I tried, the thought would not pass me by and so thus, the Propitiation of Sekhmet was eventually born.

When I began pawing through my archives to see how long this idea has held sway in my life, I was truly astonished to see that it has been five years. I feel like it was only a year or two ago that I was sitting at my kitchen table trying to figure out what exactly this Propitiation business was to be about, experimenting with what did and did not work, or jettisoning what I felt was asking too much of me.

It took me a few months before I finally decided to make a stab at it, not quite encompassing what this would eventually entail. I was looking more for self-gratification at the time I wrote my first post on this mysterious and previously unknown thing. I had been working, so to speak, in the mines and I needed to come up for air. I viewed my first foray into this as more of a vacation, or stay-cation as it were, from my relationship with Sekhmet. It gave me time to think, to plan, to gain perspective.

But it was the second year that I truly began to contemplate more than just the trappings. I had written an outline of sorts in 2014 and I needed to flesh it out more before I could celebrate in 2015. I needed to give form and reason to the vague afterimage I had seen the year prior.

expiation by fire

To create a mythos from scratch could be seen as hubris, but I was only ensuring that my leonine goddess could celebrate the Kemetic New Year, while simultaneously paying homage to the fear of her chaos infesting and infecting the year to come. I had chosen the idea to closet her away to, originally, build a physical barrier between us. But in the second year, I looked to the myths for help on the flesh that was needed for the modern myth.

It was easy for me to view Sekhmet as the Distant Goddess because I had always seen her as such. Not simply because of the myth in the Book of the Celestial Cow, though that was part of it.

It was because she always seemed, well, distant to me. Or more like, a being of such higher magnitude than myself that I could only see her as if from a distance. Sometimes it felt like I was seeing her walking miles off and if I could only just get closer, I could truly see her for all that she truly was, but no matter how hard I tried, I could never get closer. Sometimes it felt like a game and sometimes it felt like a trial.

It was the Distant Goddess myth that eventually broke me. I had not considered the ramifications of how her disappearance from my life would impact me during all that time. I had been paying attention more to the trappings, the words, the gestures, and the heka than I was to myself. There was no warning either. One minute I was be-bopping on my way and the next, I knew an unending grief that stayed with me until the end of the Propitiation that year.

I hadn’t thought that I would be impacted by all of it. I had assumed that I could go on with my life, spiritual or otherwise, without a passing thought. But one of the things I learned in 2015 is that just because you think you understand something doesn’t mean that you really do. Just like ogres and onions, this kind of stuff has layers.

As I looked into the actual meaning behind the word I had chosen for the name of this holiday – eschewing pacification because I wanted to appease the goddess and her fiery wrath, not force her to my desires – I found it within a Judeo-Christian context that I hadn’t expected. While it was interesting to learn about how the suffering and death of Jesus could be viewed as a propitiation, I found myself more interested in the idea of the ordeal of Jesus after his baptism.

I had, of course, heard about ordeals in a roundabout way, but I had never actually given it consideration before. It didn’t seem like anything that I would have a need to learn about and while most of my Google searches tended to lead me down the road of a western culture or Christian reference for what an ordeal was, these weren’t the only places I read up on the subject.

When one thinks about the word, aside from the definition, a number of examples can come to mind: a thirty-six hour car ride to go to your grandmother’s funeral; a particularly long and grueling test that means you pass or fail an important class; a day-long surgery performed by a multitude of surgeons and nurses. All of these examples – and many more – qualify within the dynamic of the definition of an ordeal.

But within a pagan framework, the word tends to coincide within the realm of initiation. This is not the only association within pagan circles, but it’s the most common one.

As I read up on the subject with limited resources available online, I began to consider the Propitiation of Sekhmet less in a framework of how this impacts her and more in the framework of how it impacts me.

On the by and large, though I can’t be certain, she has it easy. She feasts like a glutton the day of the Propitiation before she closets herself away from me for about a month. I, on the other hand, must go through the many emotional upheavals that come about when your god abandons you… even if it is for their and your own good and for a period of time.

It is an ordeal, I have come to realize, that I put myself through each year. There are vigils and threats. There are moments of deepest sorrow and anger. There are times where I want to give up, to beg forgiveness and take it all back. It is a pain that I go through each year, willingly enough, so that my Distant Goddess may return to me.

Horse With No Name

This is something that five, four, three, and even two years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to voice aloud. For a long time after I had realized what was going on, I couldn’t bear the thought of being able to put this into written or spoken word. I thought that to do so would somehow cheapen the experience or lessen the depth of my feelings on the subject.

And it isn’t as if I have always felt… positive… about any of this. I have had my good days and my bad days just as everyone does. I have had moments where I have screamed myself hoarse, furious that a simple idea to incorporate my most revered, most beloved goddess in the Kemetic New Year would eventually take on the mantle of an initiatory rite each fucking year. It felt a little too much like the facts had been misrepresented or produced with a smudge on the fine print to keep the secret for a while longer.

I will no doubt have those feelings again in future.

But as I sit here, writing new rituals for this upcoming ordeal, I can admit that the Distant Goddess myth and its connotations had always formed a fundamental aspect to my practice. And maybe I was always headed in this direction, whether she nudged me or I nudged myself. And while I would not have wanted to formulate all of this into an ordeal, it may be that things were always headed this way.

I will no doubt never truly know the answer. There are moments in time where the gods are opaque to even the most ardent or most obnoxious queries. Sekhmet is no different than any other god in this. Sometimes she willingly answers the questions and other times she gives a roundabout answer that may or may not eventually be given context.

I have found that I want to know the answer less and less. Perhaps it’s fear that I will grow angry again at the unfairness of it all, of being given a quick nudge in a specific direction, which had me falling over an unseen cliff. Perhaps it’s that I have finally found contentment though in the realization that this is my path and I can be comfortable with it even if I can also be angry or disenfranchised with it.

And so on Tuesday, we begin the fifth year of the Propitiation. And for once, in a very long time, I’m interested to see what will come out of all of this anguish and mourning, appeasement and atonement.

Further Reading

Lent 2018.

The Lenten season decided to sneak up on me this year. One moment, it was the New Year and a decision about observing Lent was weeks ago; the next moment, it was only in a few days and I had to decide whether or not I could face it again. After last year’s fiasco, the ancestors couldn’t really blame me for being leery of the prospect.

The funny thing is that, even with how awful things were last year, once I was able to look back and take stock, I could in fact see how it worked to better develop my relationship with them. I spent more time with them during Lent and I found myself relying on their advice more heavily than I would typically. On that end, we could say it was a bit of a success.

And as always, I really don’t want to disappoint them. They aren’t able to take part in these little rituals anymore. It’s for them that I say an occasional Hail Mary or Our Father. It’s for them that I pay homage to saints and have begun adding certain saints’ feast days to my celebratory calendar. It is with my ancestors in mind and the knowledge that through me, they can reconnect with their physical representations of faith that I do these things.

So, as much as I definitely wanted to say, “oh no, I think not,” this year, I knew that I wouldn’t. No matter how awful things were last year, I could remind myself that the the point in the season is about deprivation, about preparation, and about reflection. I spent a good deal of my time last year doing all of those things and at the end of the day, even with the awful fallout, I can say that it definitely wrought change even if I didn’t really expect it to.

With that reminder in mind, I thought about what I wanted to give up. I have a habit of choosing really big things and then getting angry with myself for not following through or forgetting or just generally not going a full 40 days of deprivation.

I think, in all the times I’ve observed, I’ve been successful exactly one time. On the flip side, I can say that last year was a success in and of itself, just not in the way I had expected.

I’ve decided to get down to brass tacks this year though. I’ve decided to tackle two of the Seven Deadly Sins: sloth and gluttony.

sloth

Thou seest how sloth wastes the sluggish body, as water is corrupted unless it moves. – Ovid

One of my major failings – and I have many – is sloth.

I spend my entire work week having to complete things in very specific and predefined timelines. If I don’t meet the expectation that we have given the client for whatever item I am working on, then our value/add goes down in their eyes. And of course, I hear about it from the Big Boss.

So all day, every day, I am working with the knowledge that I have a finite period of time to see to whatever it is that I am seeing to.

Almost in response to this constant pounding nag that I have only so much time to do something, I tend to put off everything else in my life. I have to send out mail? Oh, I’ll do it tomorrow. I have to flip my bookshelves because they’re bending again? Meh, I’m not in the mood so I’ll get it tomorrow. There’s a sink full of dishes and no bowls left? You know what, I’ll just get to it tomorrow.

The problem is that tomorrow never shows up because by then, the task has become insurmountable. Instead of dealing with things when it’s time to deal with them or when I realize it needs to be done, I continue to push it off in the hopes that either someone else will do it for me or I can nag someone else into doing it for me (with limited success).

When no one bothers to step up to the plate to do it, I end up doing it anyway and am disgruntled by how much harder I’ve made the task for myself. And yet, I continue to do this.

Tomorrow is a day that never comes and the cycle flourishes.

The best part is that I know what will happen when I tell myself I’ll deal with it later, but I don’t bother to stop putting myself in this untenable position over and over again.

I have a variety of reasons why this is a thing. If it’s because the chore in question is related to Big Adulting Stuff, the reason is quite simply that I am too anxious to do the Big Adulting Stuff. So, it’s better to ignore it (wrong – as I know) than to actually do it. If it’s the smaller things, then the only reason is because I’m exhausted and I frankly don’t want to have to deal with it.

As tired or anxious as I may be that doesn’t mean life doesn’t keep happening.

So, in an effort to continuing in this vein for yet another year, I’ve decided to take into consideration the fact that what happens when I get home from work tends to mean that I am not going to do whatever needs to be done.

During dinner, I get sucked into Internet or TV. And then I’ll read because I don’t want to deal with the things waiting for me. And then I’ll write if I have time or continue to binge watch whatever I was binge watching earlier that week. I have a lot of things that drag my attention away from where it needs to be, so I’ve decided to limit that.

Television off. Phone on vibrate unless I’m using it to listen to music. Books and laptop are not allowed out until 7:30. That gives me an hour and a half to deal with whatever thing I’ve been putting off that needs to stop being put off.

Gluttony

Gluttony and idleness are two of life’s great joys, but they are not honourable. – Julie Burchill

Another major failing of mine is a form of gluttony.

When I think of the word gluttony, the image those most often comes to mind is a Roman banquet of epic proportions replete with periodic stops at the vomitorium to make room for the next course. I can absolutely and confidently say that I am not like that – in fact, I’ve been losing weight fairly steadily since I flipped my diet last year prior to my gallbladder surgery.

But, I do have a tendency of eating out more than my budget can handle. And I have a tendency of blowing my monthly budget out of the water with idiot mistakes… like going out to eat more often than I should. To me, not following the strict budgeting I’ve put into place for myself in an effort to achieve a Big Adult Goal this year is a part of gluttony.

In a way, gluttony ties back to my slothful tendencies. As I was thinking on these two things to give up, it occurred to me that, very easily, the two go hand-in-hand. While I may not consciously push off cooking dinner, I always have a host of canned responses as to why I don’t bother. The phrasing of those reasons tends to be me highlighting how tired I am because of work and how I’m just so hungry right this second that I need to get something immediately instead of waiting.

I’m lying to myself every time I do this and I know that I am. Every Tuesday, or thereabouts, the kid and I make dinner together. (Usually tacos.) It doesn’t take me that long to get that dinner finished and every Tuesday, I come home “starving” and desiring to just dip into a bag of Cheetos or make something quick that I can eat that much sooner.

But because this important to my son, and to the S.O. when he comes home to leftovers, I know that the canned responses are, in fact, bullshit. It’s a carefully coordinated and class act, but it’s all bullshit for as far as the eye can see.

So, I will be saying good-bye, generally anyway, to junk food and fast food. Going out to dinner for a pre-planned [and therefore budgeted] meal with the S.O. or my son is one thing, but going out three nights a week because I don’t feel like taking the half hour it may take me to cook dinner is ridiculous.

And this way, hopefully, I’ll be able to, you know, stick to that budget that’s been crying at me every month when I look at my bank statements. That way, I can ensure that on top of giving up, I can continue to give back to the community and various causes as I was doing last year even if it’s just a few bucks here and there.

And he said to all: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. – Luke 9:23

After my last fast food hurrah with my son yesterday, I took the time to clean and rearrange the ancestors’ place of veneration. I sang songs and made sure that I had everything set up with all the appropriate symbolism that goes into my relationship with them on a daily basis.

I sat down with the ancestors briefly (since I had to help out with the annual Valentine’s Day hoopla for the kid’s school) and asked them what sort of advice they had for me going into this. I reminded them about the concerns I had going into last year’s Lenten season and that, to be honest, I didn’t really have the same concerns but that they were there nonetheless. I pulled The Empress card in response.

Among other things, The Empress is about nurturing and creativity. These were two things that I failed to do for myself last year. Instead of nurturing myself and pushing myself forward, I was too busy beating myself up for every perceived mistake. Instead of going into the season with creativity and excitement, I went into it with a heavy heart and just about set myself up to fail.

As always, I don’t know what the next 40 days will bring, but it certainly will be interesting. Hopefully, when things get a little tight or I start getting down on myself, I can reflect back on The Empress and remind myself that success in something like this is measured less by the tangible and more by the feeling left behind.

Advent 2017.

It smells like warmth in my home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My house smells of my childhood now.

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

It smells like warmth.