July 24 – August 19 The Propitiation ends with a festival of drunkenness. A celebration that harkens back to sweat-slicked bodies, heavy drum beats, an overabundance of alcohol, and a spiritual awakening brought about by the excessiveness of all three. … Continue reading
For the last few months, I’ve been doing nothing but fighting. I’ve been clawing up out of the muck and mire. I have been catching bits of sunlight glinting before my eyes and then, I slide back down in the mud hole. Sometimes it encases me like a body suit and sometimes it’s just a little dirt.
These past four months have been hellacious in comparison to the previous year, year plus.
The previous eighteen months weren’t a cake walk by any means, but it was still … well, easier. It was more like… a well worn groove that I had created by pacing. I could just keep following it. But at some point in the last four months I lost that well worn thread and I can’t find my way back to it any more.
As a kid, my childhood best friend and I would spend hours in the little pool behind her house. We would drift and be mermaids, but a lot of times we would work on creating the most powerful whirlpool we could and then work to break it. No matter how many times we went round and round that pool, we could always break that whirlpool in a matter of minutes.
The last four months have been a little like that whirlpool except that I haven’t been able to break the current. I’m stuck inside that swirl and I can’t find a way out. If I just lie very, very still then I can float along the surface and let it take me wherever it wants me to go. Sometimes, I still fight it because isn’t that what humans are supposed to do? But mostly I just don’t bother.
I know; I know. It’s just depression. I can find a doctor and go back on the anti-depressants that worked the best. I could easily find a solution, but even just finding a doctor is a fight. After over a year of fighting with the state about whether or not I actually had health coverage and then trying to find doctors in network that are actually accepting new patients…
It’s just yet another nail on the coffin.
I’m tired of fighting.
I spoke those words aloud to myself a few days ago and then just kind of stopped. I was a little shocked when they came out of my mouth. It was like a reflex of some sort, though nothing that I could think of really caused the reflex in the first place. I remember looking around as I voiced the sentence out loud again. I don’t know what I was looking for, but whatever it was supposed to be wasn’t there.
After I announced to the empty house that I was so tired of fighting, oddly enough my first thoughts were about Sekhmet. I wasn’t even concerned about what it might mean about my state of mind. I just immediately jumped to thinking about her.
I thought, wow, what a failure of a Sekhmet kid you turned out to be. She hasn’t said anything about it to me though she’s shown up in dreams since then. I have gotten the impression that she doesn’t think I’m a failure, it’s all just my own spin on the situation. But I still can’t quite get it out of my head that, unlike every other fucking Sekhmet kid out there, I’m ready to just fucking give up.
I mean, of all the ancient Egyptian gods to want to emulate, to claim a connection to, I chose the one god who is the most well known for going in fighting. She’s the one everyone turns to when it comes to fighting back, to standing up, for survival of the fittest, and for strength. She is the one that everyone turns to and says, “this is the deity who is going to teach me how to stand with spine straight.”
How many posts have we all seen about people turning to her in their time of need? They reach out when the tide is high and drowning is on the horizon. They turn to emulate her when they need to stand steadfast against the systemic -isms prevalent in this world of ours. They claw at the shit heap that life has thrown their way, spewing the blood and guts of their personal war into the universe.
She is what everyone hopes to one day be.
But here I am, a child of hers, and all I keep thinking is, “I’m just so tired of fighting. I want to stop now.”
With Wep-Ronpet nearly upon us, I’ve been thinking a lot about The Distant Goddess myth. I am most likely not alone in this since this myth heralds the inundation and the renewal of the year itself. It’s just that time of the year for Kemetics, I guess.
There are numerous variations of this myth out there. Some of them are little more than allusions, breaths of a myth cycle that have since been lost to us (the Anhur/Menhyt version). Others tend to more prominence and are more often discussed: the cycle indicating that Tefnut was the Wandering Eye with Shu sent out to lure her home or the cycle where Hetheru is the Wandering Eye and Djehuty is forced to cajole her back to her father.
It should truly come as no surprise that I’ve chosen to align the Wandering Goddess myth within the confluence of the Hetheru/Sekhmet dynamic I’ve created for myself over the years.
According to my findings, it is after the goddess flees into the wilderness that the Destruction of Mankind myth takes place at some later date in time. My research seems to show that Re is not yet well established as the premier ruler over the world when the Eye takes off in anger.
Based on the Hetheru/Sekhmet dynamic I mentioned above, the idea that the Wandering Goddess myth takes place before the Destruction of Mankind never made much sense to me.
While most likely the reason I find it difficult to see the timeline in that way is because I’ve lost something in the translations I’ve read, there’s no telling if that really is the case. I will readily admit that it’s also possible that I prefer my own carefully crafted narrative when it comes to my two goddesses. Whatever the case may be, I’ve found a different timeline that sits better in my mind.
In my head, it always made much more sense that after Re tricked Sekhmet into drinking the red beer that she grew upset with her father and the world he had set her mindlessly upon. In the midst of the emotional upheaval that his trick most likely caused, she chose to flee into the wilderness.
Maybe she just needed time away for perspective or to race off the remains of her bloodlust. Whatever the case, she needed to get away.
Upon her leaving, she was still angry but knew that any acts upon the people he had chosen over her could end badly for her. After all, Re had clearly proved that he could outwit her. Maybe she realized that she wasn’t up for the task of trying to take him on. Or perhaps it wasn’t that she just simply couldn’t handle the idea of a full fledged battle against her father.
Perhaps it was necessary for her to rest after having gone balls to the wall against the world Re had created. After all, she was mid-bloodlust before he forced her to stop. Having the wool pulled over your eyes by the very being that called you into being as a manifestation of its own rage has to be something that throws you for a loop.
As I’ve theorized before, it seems to me that rage is most likely not an emotion that you can just drink away no matter how much booze you ingest.
How often has something happened that forced us to acknowledge a need to get away from it all? It’s not so much running away or giving up, but a need to take some time so that you can sort out all the minutiae that’s gone into whatever it is that’s upset you in the first place.
As I pondered the mythic narrative I’ve felt more and more comfortable with over the years, I’ve often seen Sekhmet’s version of the Wandering Eye myth much like we would see a mental health day. In her case, of course, it took much longer than a simple day and another god had to talk her into returning eventually, which didn’t exactly go well the first few times. But eventually, she returns.
As I thought about how sick I am of fighting, I wondered if that’s what Sekhmet was aiming for when she ran off. I mean, it makes a lot of sense in my opinion. She went from pure rage to being forced to stop with no available outlet for where the anger was supposed to go. I know that we’re just supposed to believe that all that white hot fire went away with a number of jars of red beer. But it makes more sense that she took off for parts unknown to get her head screwed on straight.
It wasn’t that she gave up necessarily; she stopped fighting.
That certainly sounds pretty familiar to me. After so many months of trying to keep my head above the surface or being shown tantalizing glimpses of the hopes and dreams I have that don’t seem to be able to come to fruition no matter how many times I’ve tried, no longer fighting seems like a pretty decent option. It leaves you open and available to pick up and start fighting again at some future point, but it also gives you the time you need to take stock and figure out what the fuck is going on.
I came out the other side of that sentence, “I’m tired of fighting,” thinking that I was just a terrible Sekhmet kid, that I was doing everything to prove that I was all around a very terrible devotee. But maybe I’m just following her myth cycle a little. I’m going from a need to fight and keep my head above the waves to just letting the damn ocean current take me further out to see. I’ll figure out how to get to shore eventually… probably.
O Lion, I am a weneb-flower; the shambles of the god is what I abhor and my heart shall not be taken from me… – Spell 28, The Book of the Dead translated by R.O. Faulkner
This past week, I had a part of my body removed because it stopped functioning properly. I tell people we removed my gallbladder because I’ve been beating it up for the last 18 years and we needed to permanently part ways, which is true. I told my gods I was sorry and I didn’t mean to and couldn’t they fix it so I could keep all parts of my body for the afterlife?
It was a very confusing time leading up to the surgery.
To be fair, it was a very confusing time leading up to the diagnosis.
I don’t know why I let it get as bad as it did. The first few times I had a gallstones attack, the pain wasn’t bad enough to drive me to the ER at 1 in the morning. Google-fu pretty much told me what was happening to me (gallstones) so I cut back on fatty foods to the best of my fatty food loving ability and the attacks were minimal. I had one or two in a 6-month period that first year and swore I’d deal with it next time.
But I just kept putting it off (sometimes with valid reasons and other times with probably not quite so valid ones).
Three years is a long time to deal with an undiagnosed health issue. But I kept assuring myself that waking up my family in the middle of the night because of the pain that would eventually clear up was not worth it. My body and I were on an uneasy keel, but I was managing pretty well.
My gallbladder had other ideas of course. Maybe it got sick of my shit or maybe three years was too long. After a meal that was not very high in fat content, the pain was bad enough to force me to the ER where the doc said, “oh it’s definitely gallstones. There’s an awful lot in there; how long has this been going on?”
It was kind of nice to get the confirmation of what I already knew, but now I had to deal with it. I read up on different ways to contend with it and found non-surgical alternatives. However they all weren’t permanent solutions; the stones always came back.
I decided to ignore the implication that I would, by necessity, have a part of my body permanently removed. The fear of the surgery itself weighed too heavily on my mind, but I was also completely freaked out by the loss of that body part. I could lie and say just losing a piece of yourself was what was freaking me out, but to be frank, it was trying to figure out how this could impact me in the afterlife that was causing my issues.
It had never occurred to me before I faced this that I had always just assumed I would be fully intact upon my death. But now I had to face the music: my poor nutritional choices had brought me to the point where being fully intact upon my death was no longer an option.
The month of June was completely overwhelming as I faced the news that I needed my gallbladder out. My liver function became less efficient and the doctors were highly concerned because my gallbladder had also begun to harden after 3 years of attacks that I hadn’t dealt with. I found myself crying a lot as I tried to think past my own fears of what was to come.
One night, I cried in the shower, begging the gods to enact a miraculous cure. I knew they couldn’t do such a thing but I was still angry when I woke up with the dull ache around my liver and gallbladder as I had been off and on since the second trip to the ER. I had known the only way to deal with this was removal but the terror that I wouldn’t go to the afterlife because I was missing a piece of me held on and squeezed at me.
That sounds almost ridiculous, I suppose. “I’m terrified of surgery because my beliefs tell me I need all of my body to get to the afterlife.” I don’t want to say that this was a crisis of faith because it wasn’t. It was more like failed attempts to correlate a belief system from early human civilization with the modern era.
This is probably quite common for those of us attempting to create an historically informed practice from an ancient religion. For the most part, I’ve moved beyond these issues and have modernized my beliefs and practices where I needed to. But sometimes, apparently, something comes up that tosses you into a tailspin.
The thing that finally got me over this particular hump was something a coworker of mine said when I mentioned how much the notion was freaking me out. “Maybe they’ll put it in a biohazard jar so you can bury it.” It was said in jest and made me laugh, which was the overall point at the time. And somehow, hearing that set me a bit at ease as far as loss of organs went.
It occurred to me that I was probably being ridiculous. As I came at the fear from another angle, I had to remind myself that people in ancient Egypt probably also lost body parts and may not have been able to keep them for whatever reason. I most likely wasn’t going to be barred from the afterlife because an organ had stopped working properly and needed to be removed before causing me any serious harm.
When I was able to see it from that angle, I felt better. I was still a little weirded out by the whole thing since, aside from canines that didn’t come in correctly, I had never had to have anything removed before. But at least I could turn my anxiety away from what my soul would uncover upon death and focus heartily on my fear of the surgery itself.
I knew fear as an intimate companion the days leading up to the surgery. I would hear that phrase from Christian burials, “and yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil,” and I would sit in a haze of terror. I would shake with it and I would hold onto my apotropaic amulet and let fear race through my veins.
I broke down minutes before the surgery, whispering in my mind, I don’t want this; I don’t want to be here. Please let this be a nightmare. But it was reality and forward I went. The SO squeezed my hand and kissed my forehead, but I was still terrified of what was going to happen to me.
The removal of the organ; the death like sleep doctors were going to control while I was out; the unknown pain and recovery of what was to come after. All of it coalesced into a sort of miniature battle where I wasn’t really sure if I would survive as intact as I hoped to be.
This sounds ridiculous but it felt a bit like a battle against that entropy snake we all battle against as Kemetics. It felt like I was going into battle against an unknown and unseen enemy and I could either survive another day or I could die in the attempt. I didn’t step into the battle with courage like you’d expect from a true warrior but with tears on my lashes and a team of ladies in blue injecting something into my IV.
Split seconds before I passed out, I was staring at the ceiling and thinking that this was a bit like being drunk without all the terrible consequences. The grating in the ceiling above me did a full 180 spin and I can remember thinking, it’s like bed spin without the nausea, and then I was waking up in a green room with nurses everywhere.
I’ve felt very fragile since the surgery. It’s kind of made me realize that our bodies can easily break. I mean, I knew this in a sort of abstract way – I had a fractured elbow a few years back and I’ve fractured my ankle before – but it’s like the point had to be made real again. I feel very much like I could break completely, maybe next time it will be in half.
I’m recovering though, no matter how dark my thoughts or how fragile I feel.
The pain is weird; it comes and goes. Sometimes I feel like I could just recover on my own and then the next time I go to get up for something, I have to call for help because I can barely even think of the idea of getting up without someone helping me to my feet. I overdid it yesterday with all my trying to do this on my own and I’m suffering for it now.
My body feels a little foreign because of the pain, a little like it was someone else’s and now I’m trying to make it fit. No. No, it’s honestly like I put on a different skin suit after the surgery sometimes and now I have to figure out all the motor control again.
No. No… maybe a better description would be like being reborn…
I am reborn, I see, I behold, I will be yonder, I am raised up on my side, I make a decree, I hate sleep, I detest limpness, and I who was in Nedit stand up. – part of Spell 174 from The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner
I’m being stalked by the ritual card from the Amethyst Oracle. I mean, I’m pretty much okay with this. After introducing themselves to me as a deck that was going to be a little odd but definitely capable of dragging my ass, I decided I could live with that. So far, so good anyway.
This past week, the card flopped out at me and then showed up in a legitimate reading. I immediately went to my calendar and notes that Friday was the Day of Pacifying Sekhmet. I had no doubt I was going to do something. I just had to figure out how I was going to pacify her.
I mean, a lot of people tend to think of physical restraints when it comes to pacification. Maybe that’s a byproduct of the colonialism mindset most people in the western world are raised in. I don’t know, but I can say that the mere idea of restraining Sekhmet left me completely uncomfortable.
No way could I, a simple human, subdue such a dangerous and ferocious creature. And I don’t believe that the ancient Egyptians would have gone that route either. They feared her alongside revering her; no one would have been fortified enough to even consider such an idea much less going through with it.
According to the dictionary, the definition of the word is:
- to bring or restore to a state of peace or tranquillity; quiet; calm:
to pacify an angry man.
- to appease:
to pacify one’s appetite.
- to reduce to a state of submission, especially by military force; subdue.
All right, so appeasing sounded like something plausible. I could do that. Probably.
It wasn’t really that I was going to take her on, but more cajole her. I wanted to lure her to me, to ameliorate the rage that no doubt still simmers beneath her skin, but without having to force the issue. In effect, I needed to seduce her… but with what? How does one seduce a god, so to speak, in an effort to pacify the wrath that created her?
I have some experience here since I do something similar towards the end of her Propitiation each year. But there was a subtle difference. During the Propitiation, I am luring my distant goddess back to me. She tends to be fiery and energetic upon her return. This time, I was luring her in the hopes of keeping her calm and pacified.
I knew I needed to seduce her with ma’at-affirming things. As I have mentioned previously, the ancient Egyptians utilized green to symbolize Sekhmet in a ma’at-affirming frame of mind. In that post, I described that this was also a form of appeasement, a way to show that the Lady of the Flood could be appeased and pacified.
During the Propitiation, I am most often using words to draw her back. It isn’t so different from the Wandering Goddess myth where Djehuty or Shu talk her into returning to the fold. I could have used nothing but words, but the green-faced Sekhmet iconography that I needed to create seemed to say that more than mere word play was needed.
My first step was to find foods that I felt would be most appropriate in the act of pacification.
I knew immediately that I was going to use cucumbers. They’re associated with her and I absolutely love them. (I eat one a day typically.) In their associations with her, it seems more that those who would eat them were doing so for a fertility aspect.
While we often hear people tell of the mercurial and fiery aspects of Sekhmet, her ability to protect, maintain, and live in ma’at has more than just these connotations. In my point of view, it is the coolness (as in temperature) of a cucumber along with the gentle taste of these green veggies that help her to remain calm in the face of her own destructive nature.
But I wanted to give her a full meal, a sort of smorgasbord of deliciousness bent entirely on enticement.
Grapes were another given. I have always had a soft spot for the little orbs so long as they’re green. The red ones taste odd to me. Suffice to say merely that I absolutely love green grapes and as Sard pointed out in their post about colors in ancient Egypt, the color green was associated with ma’at-affirming behavior, just like the cucumbers.
Another reasoning behind grapes is because they are expensive for someone on such a tight budget. A banquet fit for a goddess should include items that are a little beyond the norm and as much as I love green grapes, my budget can typically ill afford them. Sometimes, the gods should get a little more than the usual fair.
For the main course, I chose tilapia because of this epithet of Sekhmet. I couldn’t say definitively if eating tilapia was a taboo or not since food taboos are a hot mess of a topic in relation to ancient Egyptian religious food proscriptions. But I figured that if she didn’t really want me to go that route, she would have made herself clear. Since the fish was on sale, I concluded it was a go.
As with every banquet/meal/food time that I have with my gods, I chose chocolate (totally within ma’at and you can fight me if you say otherwise) and also included some organic kettle corn, which is my latest food obsession, and diet Coke. (Hard stop on anyone interested in disabusing me of my diet Coke loving life.)
I felt, well, moderately successful. I mean, as I placed everything together in front of her partially open shrine, I felt like this was a good meal to lure a goddess. It’s possible that I was just overwhelmed with a feeling of my own peace and contentment but I’d like to think some of those feelings were hers.
The thing about this though is that living in ma’at is far more than just a good meal and some beneficent feelings. If it was that easy, we wouldn’t have as many arguments about what exactly it entails (and everyone would most likely be doing it). Living and maintaining ma’at includes actions as well as words, as well as food, as well as good feelings. It’s all tied together and somehow, I had to figure out how to go beyond.
I had to stop and think really hard about what exactly ma’at entails to me. I wound up breaking it down into two component parts: the public stuff that everyone sees me posting or discussing and the private stuff that is not available for public consumption.
The private stuff was easy to pull up and get in front of her. While I won’t go into the details of what it all is, I can tell you that those items are aspects of my personal devotion to her. We may not always get along or spend quality time together, but there are time honored traditions within our relationship which are specifically associated with various items.
I placed those items within the shrine for her with the intent of showing her my “green” living as it relates to our relationship.
The next bit was a little harder. I had to find physical reminders of daily actions that are, in my head, associated with living in ma’at. It’s one thing to say that X, Y, and Z thing are part of your ma’at-affirming lifestyle; it’s quite another finding physical reminders of those things.
The pieces I chose included items relating to my family, my ancestor veneration, self-care, and my faith. I carefully chose what I did in an effort to personify both myself and the belief that I live in ma’at everyday.
Afterwards, I sat in quiet reflection with her. Just as I felt after the meal we shared, I had the distinct impression that she was appeased, pleased with both my efforts at conducting a ritual for her and my attempts to show what my life-affirming propitiation was like.
Maybe, even if for just a few short hours, she was happy.
Recently, I purchased a gorgeous new oracle deck. This isn’t really surprising news or shouldn’t be. I’m a deck collector and I can’t say no when a deck has eye catching artwork and an exquisite use of color.
I have to say that I truly love the Amethyst Oracle with every fiber of my being. It has been one of the best choices I have made for a new deck in a long time. Beyond how much my heart pitter patters whenever I have that deck in my hand, it’s also helping me a lot through a particularly trying time. One of the regular bits of advice it gives me is Ritual.
This has been something that I have been particularly slacking on for the last two years. When your entire world has stagnated and turned gray, it is particularly difficult to give a tin shit about rituals or holidays. Even though I still give daily offerings, in themselves a form of ritual, it’s so ingrained a thing for me to do that it’s more like background noise than an actual ritual.
This oracle has thrown this card at me so often that I’ve found myself searching my calendar for ritual type things to complete just to get a new card now and again. There are a number of things coming up this month, particularly the Festival of the Beautiful Reunion, and while I knew I would be celebrating that, it occurred to me that I should get my feet wet with a few smaller things before then.
Last week, I did a very small celebration for the Day of the Executioners of Sekhmet. This week was the less than descriptive Purifying of Sekhmet. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do but it was going to be something at least.
I tried to remember why I had this on my calendar, hoping to knock loose some idea about what this day was supposed to achieve. I mean, sure the name is pretty clear about the root to the day, but I was thinking along the lines of how in the hell do I purify her? And am I even qualified to anymore?
The last time I spent any time with my gods, Sekhmet included, was during her Propitiation last year. I haven’t felt a desire or need to really do anything heartfelt or expressive. With my days tied up trying like hell just to get through and survive for another 24 hours, the truth is that my relationships with any of my gods is a fairly low priority. With that in mind, I had to ask if I was really the person to do this.
She hadn’t thrown any wrenches in the works. Each new and low impact idea I came up with just kind of unfolded before me. I was in and out of the grocery store in 20 minutes and within budget. I found most other supplies I had in mind tossed behind other junk in my cabinet of religious shit. Even getting the flowers evenly trimmed down for the perfect vase that I had been sure had been tossed out months ago seemed to go smoothly.
Maybe it was the deck spirit or maybe it was Sekhmet or maybe coincidence. It didn’t seem to matter why things were going well just that they were.
As usual, I tried to soak myself in as much symbolism as I could. Sometimes I’m incredibly successful and other times, only moderately so. I looked into creating a sort of quick meal that was generally healthy as well as choosing some foods that have garnered a “purifying persona” according to the magazines.
And then I thought beyond that.
Both incense and flame (candle) are considered purifying in various capacities. So too can colors and scents (aside from incense). I found two leftover ocean scented tealights from last year that I added to the mix since going to the ocean as a kid, for my family, was like a purifying ritual to get away from the drag of the city. The flowers I chose were predominantly yellow and white, colors of life and purity.
I think I did well.
After the simple formalities were out of the way, especially the reversion of offerings, I got a little more serious.
Most rituals for me tend to be quick affairs. I don’t have the energy or time typically to spend hours in ritual, focusing on whatever needs to be focused on. That doesn’t mean that I am bad at this or that anyone who does likewise is either. It just means that I have a life beyond religion and gods that barges in usually when I’m in the midst of something important. So it was easier for me to just simplify everything down as much as possible.
This meant that I could feel like I had made the time and maybe even felt successful in the attempt while simultaneously making it harder for me to think beyond a 15 minute timeframe. I had more time though this round so I knew I had to go a little further out of my comfort zone.
I ran through a long winded and time consuming ritual. While the ritual has specific aspects and actions described within, I decided to focus instead on myself and my relationship with Sekhmet. After months of ignoring the giant elephant in the room, I was going to face the seeming desert between us head on.
I’d like to say that something clicked and things are already starting to get better. I would like to say that an Arrow came up from the Duat and told me where we go from here. I’d like to say that I did more than get over emotional. I would like to tell you all that the words I wrote in Her journal were received and acknowledged. I would love to believe that everything is back to normal now.
But sometimes relationships are hard. And miracles don’t tend to be the trend.
I do feel as though I was able to convey my point appropriately. And I think that perhaps I took a right step. I couldn’t say for sure, but maybe this was the right direction.
Two weeks back, a fellow Kemetic asked if I could do them a solid by reading through and editing an article about ma’at that they were working on. With memories of writing reports for cash in my head, I’ve been helping them with the post in question and have been particularly pleased with the content as I’ve been editing the essay for them. It’s a good post. It will definitely be thought provoking.
Connected to this article is the new round of growing pains the Kemetic community on Tumblr has been going through. I won’t give all the back and forth about what went down to cause this most recent round of discussions (if you’re on Tumblr you have most likely seen some of it or all of it anyway), but it’s been an interesting conversation as well as frustrating in every capacity.
There has always been disagreements about what is and is not a part of ma’at. Even those of us who get along and are more closely connected tend to disagree on the finer points. But we can all agree on the big nebulous concept in abstract form. It’s just that when it comes to putting it into practice, especially with the way the world has been going lately, the in-fighting come to the fore as seeming factions divide and sub-divide. It can be a little exhausting.
In ancient Egypt, they never had this issue. So long as the pharaoh was ruling and the priesthoods were content, so long as there was law and order, the exact definitions of ma’at were known and maintained. During the intermediate periods, when order turned to lawlessness, the people grew worried that isfet had come to rule the roost. They bemoaned their fate and the fate of their beloved country.
During the periods when pharaoh ruled, inequality of society and the socioeconomic strata that fill society was, well, normal. By its very nature, Baines maintains in his article, Society, Morality, and Religious Practice, that ma’at was fundamentally flawed in this regard, that having the haves on top and the have-nots on the bottom was part of the whole package:
Since in theory the gods provided for all of humanity, and humanity responded with gratitude and praise, the cult could be seen as having universal implications. In practice, however, the gods’ benefits were unequally divided. The privileged received the rewards of divine beneficence and returned gratitude, while the rest suffered misfortune in greater measure and had no official channel for interacting with deities. In this inequality, Egypt was not and is not unique. – P. 127
In the name of ethics, the most immoral things have been done in many places and periods. Morality, which is more local and less grandiose, may bear less blame here. The contrast between the two is important, because ideology and ethics rationalize the basis for social inequality, which Egypt had in great measure, yet the king and the elite who benefit from ideological underpinning of their position cannot ignore morality. – P. 131
The king and the elite appropriate a high proportion of the resources of Egyptian society and rendered society very unequal. Inequality lessened people’s capacity to be self-sufficient in facing life’s problems. – P. 137
But in that very same essay, Baines also shared that it was the top stratum of society’s job to help the poor. He states:
“Autobiographical” texts found increasingly from the later third millennium B.C.E. admit that all is not right with the world. They state that the men they praised “gave bread to the hungry, clothes to the naked,” and so forth. Later royal texts – both instruction texts and “historical” inscriptions – take up this idea. This magnanimous role belongs to the whole elite rather than specifically the king, who has a more cosmic, less centrally moral purpose to fulfill. – P. 140
In the Egyptians’ terms, morality and religion can hardly be separated, and the history of the development of both in Egypt vindicates this view. The association of the general ideals of natural morality with central Egyptian religious values carries with it the implication that loss and deprivation could disturb the proper order of things. This disturbance then is not simply a potential disruptive lack of equity in society; it involves the gods and cosmic order. Loss is one of many things that may threaten the fragile constitution of the cosmos. – P. 141
While inequality was rife in the appropriately maintained ancient Egyptian society, the people who needed aid were provided for because helping others was part of the game. To be sure, I have oft considered the actions of taking care of the less fortunate an attempt on part of the nobility to be seen favorably by the gods and when they are judged in the Hall of Two Truths, but the trend was to provide for those who need provision.
This is partly why the intermediate periods were so feared and why claims of isfet were made: without the clearly defined niches of society inherent in ma’at the necessary aid from the nobility, pharaoh, and priesthoods dried up. The assistance the have-nots relied upon was no longer available and death lurked in every crevasse.
These thoughts are echoed across other resources that have been quoted heavily across the community. The essays and books regarding ma’at all seem to point to the basic inequality of the ancient Egyptian society and the necessity to mitigate that inequality – without doing anything silly like creating a truly equal society, of course – through providing for the have-nots. The evidence is pretty clear: caring for your fellow man is a part of ma’at.
There was no division on this matter when society was at its best in ancient Egypt. And yet, the diasporic recreation of the religion is rife with these debates.
The going concensus among those who do not wish to engage on topics of marginalized people seem to be the following:
- No politics in my religion! This is a fallacy. As Baines showed extensively in the above quoted essay, ethics and morality are intertwined with ma’at and cannot be divorced from a religion bent on upholding ma’at. By stating this and maintaining this view point, people are inferring that oppression of marginalized peoples is okay.
- Social justices, and the warriors therein, are isfet! This is again a fallacy. They are not causing disorder by opening one’s eyes to the microaggressions and larger issues at stake. While the tactics of social justice warriors may not be to one’s liking, the point is to give voice and assistance to the oppressed. Oppressed peoples have been dealing with their oppression for generations and are sick of it. They have a right to tell people where to stick their bullshit.
- I don’t have to change because this is just who I am. Yet another fallacy, borne out by the idea that their harmful words or actions, or even their silence in the face of issues like antisemitism and racism and cultural appropriation, impact no one. If you’ve included yourself and engaged in a community, then people are going to notice pretty quickly when you partake, or condone by silence, in shitty behavior.
- Can’t we all just get along? Everyone has a boiling point, but the “can’t we all get along” trope dismisses the concerns of the oppressed by making it appear that discussions on the subject are anathema. It’s also a silencing tactic.
- Everyone should be nice to each other and speak respectfully. This actually ties in to the belief that peaceful protests can change policy. Peaceful protests have been going on for a long while and there’s always naysayers telling the peaceful protesters they’re doing it wrong. Besides it is not the oppressed’s job to be nice when telling others they have a right to exist.
All of this is what I have gathered, at least, from the discussions that keep cropping up on the subject. Those who feel that educating and discussion on the topics of marginalized peoples shouldn’t be so widely included in the community have stated these things or inferred them more than once. It seems ridiculous, their arguments, but then again I believe that social justice has a place in my religion.
It seems to me that the people who make these arguments are under the impression that they shouldn’t behoove themselves to either learn what the issues are or that the issues don’t concern them in the slightest. These issues may not seem to impact them because they come from a place of privilege but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t care or educate themselves on these issues. It also doesn’t mean that the issues won’t or don’t impact them in some way; there are always secondary and tertiary side effects when oppression occurs.
The reasons why we should all keep away from such tricksy sjw shit sounds like a load of pig’s pucky. I mean, in each instance, thinking of one’s fellow man and cohesively working with one’s fellow community members – all of them, not just the yes men that seemingly agree with the above – seems to have been lost in the shuffle.
The disagreements are bound to happen. I fully understand why we are constantly falling into an us vs. them argument about ma’at, piety, and the 42 negative confessions among other things.
There is no central figure here to decree what is and is not appropriate; there is no set priesthood to observe and speak on these things. We are a bunch of individuals who have come together under a very loose umbrella labeled “Kemetic” so disagreements are bound to happen.
That doesn’t make it right.
It just means that the existing divisions are going to grow and become uncrossable if we continue this way. It also means that, most likely, people who are marginalized in some way will begin to stay away from us because we aren’t calling out the people who are “problematic” in our community. There will be continuing and more often disagreements among ourselves and with the wider Neopagan community because we aren’t calling people out on their I-statement laden bullshit.
We have examples of what happens when you allow privileged people to talk over, silence, and outright participate in the oppression of marginalized people. How many people have watched the alt-right infiltrate various circles of paganism, most specifically Heathen circles but in others, as well?
We have the examples. We know what happens when we don’t speak up. So why is this so difficult?
I don’t know. I frankly don’t get it. Like I said above, social justice, the awareness of needing it and fighting for it, are a part of ma’at as far as I am concerned. Maybe that’s why I don’t understand the conundrum that inevitably gets started whenever this comes up.
I’m going to leave off with examples of what happens when we let this shit go unchecked. Maybe the visibility of what can happen will at least give some people a wake up call:
Before I fall asleep, I tend to take some time to think on my gods. I have always done this as that twilight period before sleep tends to be the quietest moment in my life. Though I can see my gods in my daily life, embodied by actions and words or in the world around me, it is then that I feel closest to them.
When I ponder the Lady of the Red Linen, I can quite often envision her. Sometimes her consort is behind her, stalwart as always, a benben upon which to build, but mostly it is just her and I together in solitude.
Sometimes I use this time to speak on things I am uncomfortable to say aloud and sometimes I use it to merely be in her august presence. Always there is awe and joy, sometimes heartbreak and anger. But I am always amazed by her, no matter how upset I may be.
Months ago, I began thinking of her less as a deity and more in her association with various flora and fauna. She is still real to me, as real as her icon and the ba that may inhabit it, but I have begun to see her elsewhere and this changed the nature of our quiet moments before I would fall asleep.
I could see my home and its mountain peaks in the distance, the wild fields where wild turkey and egrets hide. I could see the deer and raccoons, the deciduous trees and blooming bushes. I was home with her and in her while simultaneously being home where I physically live.
When I began seeing her in things around me, I turned to her epithet list in an attempt to rationalize what I was doing or thought I was doing. It seemed… wrong, in a way, to see her around me when she had a home that she truly had helped to make manifest. This is not her home: no sands, no stone built temples, no spine of Osiris to tread upon as the very foundation of the nation.
There were beings here long before my gods came. We would be impudent to ignore them, to forget about them. The Natives who once made my area their home were pushed out and mostly moved west from what I have learned, but this was their place first. And this place embodied their spirits, their gods; never mine.
I was worried that by seeing her here with me (and my other gods) that I was muscling out those who were here first. I was concerned that I was moving into an appropriative no-man’s land where everyone loses. There are no tribes near to me to ask these questions of and I haven’t really figured out who to turn to for help. I mean, shouldn’t someone who has learned extensively about cultural appropriation know the answer to this already?
(The answer is no. If I don’t ask then I don’t know. And if there is a Native American who may read this post and be able to comment in some form or another, I would appreciate it.)
She always understood the fear and anxiety. Maybe that’s because the Lady of the Flame who appears at night before sleep is nothing more than a mental construct. Or maybe it really is because she just gets it. I don’t know and it probably doesn’t really matter.
She told me to look to the stars because no one owns them.
She said to look to the horizon and find her there.
Of course, I found her.
Beyond terrorizing the populace with her very existence, there were aspects of Sekhmet that were far more affable when compared to the destroyer deity wielding chaotic spirits for later. Some of those aspects hint to a deity who seemed to love just as deeply as human beings. And other aspects seem more remote, as distant as the goddess once was after Ra intervened on humanity’s behalf. But each different area seems to, as always, offer tantalizing hints of the multifaceted goddess that Sekhmet can be and is to this day.
When she told me to look to the stars for her, it was easy to see her in the constellations. While the stories of the constellations we all know today stem from the Greeks, I could still feel her in them to some degree.
The constellation Leo has always been a favorite of mine for many years. My zodiac is a Leo so of course it is special to me. And it was never a surprise to see my Leonine goddess there. Based on my research, it does appear that the ancient Egyptians were aware of this constellation and ascribed some significance to it. While I haven’t been able to delve too deeply in what I’ve found, it would appear that the Leo constellation held some importance to the ancient Egyptians.
And of course, we can’t forget the meteor shower associated with the constellation Leo.
While the Leo constellation makes sense, I admit that I could see her in the constellation of Orion too. Though this constellation is associated with Osiris and known by the name Sah in the realm of ancient Egypt, I could see her in the stars both as the protective womb who aids in the rebirth of Pharaoh as well as in the fierce warrior pose often associated with Orion.
I looked beyond constellations and outward further, searching planets and moons, asteroids and other celestial objects. I could see her, in a way, associated with comets and, of course, meteor showers.
As I looked into deepest space, I kept finding her here and there.
It was like she was speaking, but on a cosmic level.
I looked closer to home, at the horizon, where the earth meets the sky and found her. It felt a little like she was hiding, shy and stand-offish until I narrowed in on her like a lioness on the hunt. Sekhmet doesn’t appear to have much in the way of liminal associations and the horizon – that in between space signifying where Nut and Geb seem to merge – is nothing if not liminal. However, even without an apparent association, I was able to find it.
In the PT, as I stated above, it is the womb of Sekhmet that grants the pharaoh the ability to be reborn into a star upon its passing. This was my primary focus, of course, as I found liminal hints and teasers in my continued relationship building with her. It is this threshold of creation that she is best known for and would appear to be some of the oldest, written commentary on her.
Perhaps it was her association with the sun and its being reborn every morning, just as the pharaohs of the Old Kingdom were, that caused her intermingling with the horizon and the doorway found there. Or perhaps there are other items that I have yet to discover.
It doesn’t matter.
I found her there anyway.
As I listened to her, I reviewed her epithet lists in an effort to find some correlation that worked, that helped me to see what I was finding. I knew that there was some association with both the night sky and horizons, but I couldn’t remember quite clearly everything that I had found in my random forays across epithet lists.
I found an abundance of epithets that fit in nicely with what I was finding. As a small example:
The Horizon of Ra
She Who is in The Sky
Lady of the Horizon
Lady of Heaven
The Eastern Sky
The Southern Pillar of the Sky
She Who Opens the Doors of Heaven
It was an incredible relief, truly, to find that what I had seen and found wasn’t something entirely made up. This only seemed to reinforce my ongoing belief that nature, as a whole, was far more important than many modern-day Kemetics may give it credit. (Though, to be fair, I can understand the unease that such discussions can cause since, as I stated above, it sometimes feels incredibly wrong or weird to see my gods here in a land that was never theirs.) And gave further credence to my push to include local cultus, in some aspect, in our practices.
We’ve all seen snippets here and there that would suggest that nature was a matter of import, but the more and more that I delve into epithet lists coupled with quotes here and there, it seemed as though the gods did more than simply exist: they were one with nature in a way that I would not be able to adequately express. Again, it makes me wonder just how much local cultus, as it would have been understood in an ancient Egyptian context, was a part of the overall religion and the personal relationships that people crafted with the netjeru.
There was also a certain level of comfort in the knowledge that I had found my goddess where she told me to seek her. As any devotee of the gods can attest, there is always a certain level of doubt when it comes to communication. The idea that, even before I had found substantive proof of her associations within both the realm of the sky and the realm of horizons, she had given me concrete instructions is, of course, seductive.
Maybe this is what “winning” feels like.
All in all, in my fear to muscle out spirits and gods who had come long before, my goddess assured me that I could find her elsewhere if I only looked.
To be clear, I still see her in the area around me. I don’t think I will ever be able to look at the fiery leaves of a maple tree and not see her. Or drive by the reeds and cat tails that seem to proliferate along the sides of the highway without seeing her there.
But I can look up and see her in the night sky or at the thick, dark edge between sky and earth and know that she is there too.
It’s been nearly a year since I was told that I had built myself a solid foundation but that I had stopped working when I reached the interior. During that conversation so many months ago now, I was told that the foundation for the metaphor building that I am was solid and strong. I just had to continue that trend when I continued building the rest of the house.
The kind woman who told me all this wasn’t the only one who remarked on the foundation. She was just the only one who said it to my face.
During many divination interludes within the last year, my cards have mentioned “foundation” in some context or another. Every time my cards have brought it up, I assumed that the metaphor was in the same vein as the one used by the nice woman across the state. Too often though, the context didn’t make complete sense to me in relation to the overall reading.
What foundation was so strong? What truly made up this alleged foundation of mine? Why are we so heavily focused on this? Is it simply because someone mentioned it heavily in a private reading done almost a year ago? It seemed a little too odd for it come up this often and for it to not mean Something. It was just a matter of figuring out what that Something was.
Whenever “foundation” would come up in a reading, I usually focused on the traditional image of a foundation for a house, before the rest of the house has been built. Around where I live, they will typically use a concrete base and reinforced concrete blocks to form the base of a house in the shape the plans call for. We have basements here, which form part of the foundation as well, hiding away family mementos and washing machines when a family moves in. That was the image that came to mind when my readings would go off on these tangents.
As the cards came up more and more often, leaving me frustrated with the constant reoccurring yet seemingly oblique message, I couldn’t help but think of that phrase about strong foundations.
People will remark that a house may be in bad shape, but that so long as it has a solid foundation, everything will be okay. From what I’ve been told on the subject of house rehab, this basically means that while the house itself may need an extraordinary amount of work, the very base of the house won’t need work done at all. It’s still solid enough, no matter what was left undone upstairs, to withstand the test of time.
I couldn’t be sure if this was really what all of these readings were about, or even if that was the basis of the message from last December. Was it something as simple as a metaphor? Or was there more to it than all of that? Whenever I asked for clarification, the readings grew hazier than they had already been and I got frustrated more often than not.
What was the point in having this form of communication what the gods, the spirits, the universe, whatever, if it wasn’t going to explain what pet peeve it was on about?
Sometimes, you just want some straight answers when everything’s gone to hell.
Not that long ago, I pulled out one of my lesser used decks. This is a deck that I tend to use only for things related to a general spiritual check in. When I pulled out the deck, I was more focused on looking to see what my future would look like since things had, well, strayed a bit in the last few months.
In about August of this year, I felt like everything had just gone to complete shit. I still felt my gods, but because of all of the other things going on related to the stagnation, I was angry and frustrated. I told my gods that I couldn’t do this anymore, that I was running ragged with their needs and my needs and I couldn’t figure out a good way to work it all out.
So, I made up my mind for ill or good. I walked away from my daily offerings, from my altars, and kind of just spent my time winging it. In effect, I did nothing but sit quietly beneath altar spaces and stare moodily at my fingers. Then my gods disappeared and well. It occurred to me that this was probably all related in some form or another.
After nearly two months of doing nothing but languishing in a sort of dark haze, I finally pulled out that spiritual check in deck, thinking about what things are going to look like with my gods in the future. I’ve sort of come to a quasi-plan as to how to proceed in breaking through the lethargy. I wanted to at least get some good feedback as to what I could expect, if nothing else.
What an odd coincidence when one of the “foundation” cards of one’s spiritual practice appeared front and center.
In this particular deck, that card is heralded by an image of an altar. And in fact, that is exactly what the card is listed as, “Altar.” Looking at the image of the card, I glanced at the dusty altars that I had been neglecting for two months. I might have in fact felt some guilt. I didn’t have to read the accompanying text to know what this card meant. It all kind of clicked right then and I wouldn’t even remember the rest of the reading if I hadn’t written it all down for later review.
Here it was.
Here was my foundation.
This was probably what the nice lady across the state meant. And this was most likely what all of those little foundation pings that I had been frustrated with were talking about.
I had finally gotten my straight answer, at least.
Looking back over the last year, I can see where this makes sense. In fact, I can even understand to an extent what I was told in December.
Even at the worst of it all, it wasn’t until I stopped tending my altars, until I stopped giving offerings, until I stopped thinking about them in some small way every day when everything felt completely insurmountable. It wasn’t until I stopped all of that with no intention of going back did my gods disappear. It wasn’t until I was spending all of my mornings in a sort of fog with no seeming routine because an integral aspect of my morning routine had been cut from the cloth did I start to feel as though I was truly losing a battle that I could never, ever win.
I don’t know what it is about the stability of tending the altar, about giving the offerings that really helped here. Maybe I’m just one of those physical kind of people who needs that physical reminder and the act of maintaining that physical reminder that keeps things balanced and stable. Or maybe it’s just one of those things that gets caught in your head, a feeling you can’t shake or whatever, and I believe it so heartily that it is in fact true.
Whatever the case, it is true. When I wasn’t tending to those things, I felt like everything was bullshit. When I started back up again, I began to feel a little less like everything was bullshit. Everything isn’t perfect and maybe things are still going to suck for a while yet, but it doesn’t feel like the battle is a lost cause anymore.
Hindsight is 20/20 of course and now, I feel a bit of a fool for not realizing all of this before now.
But maybe it was necessary for me to stop tending the foundations, ensuring that they are strong and maintaining them, for me to see it properly. There’s always the possibility that this isn’t about hindsight in so much as a necessary learning stemming from a necessary, but recoverable loss.
Change is a cacophony.
It is ten different music scores playing all at once and just slightly off-key and/or off-tempo. It is the pounding of a waterfall with a motorcade of motorcycles and every high-pitched dog barking at the same time. It is a garage band practicing some new song while you’re passively aggressively playing Alice Cooper at top volume while trying to carry on a conversation. It is a category 4 hurricane wailing into the world with freight train cheerleaders leading the way.
Change is neither easy nor quiet. It is loud and boisterous and oh, so very painful.
It is tumultuous and wild.
The thing about change is that you know that it’s all flaming towers and being kicked over the cliff. But they forget to mention how painfully, how headache-inducingly loud it can be. And when you’re sitting in the midst of the maelstrom, trying so hard to concentrate for five measly seconds because otherwise you could probably end up dying or worse, and you just simply can’t because it’s all so fucking loud.
I don’t know why no one ever thought to mention this before. I think, maybe, it would have been nice to know before now. I think I could have appreciated the head’s up even if only after the fact.
But even in the middle of the screaming, screeching, horrendous noise, the worst is yet to come. It’s the loud wail of silence that follows the cacophony of change that should cause the most concern. It’s when it all goes quiet that you have to wonder what the fuck is coming next.
I can’t feel my gods.
I haven’t said anything before now because I didn’t want to listen to the unwarranted advice that would head my way. I don’t want advice. It’s not that I don’t appreciate what anyone would be willing to say. Sometimes, I just need to stew in the juices, sit in the thick of it for a while.
And I didn’t want to see what sort of pseudo discourse that would probably wind up getting shut down because of misunderstandings or miscommunications. I’m tired of seeing a subject that looks to be interesting getting shut down because of people looking inside from the outside and not fucking getting what they’re reading. I don’t have the patience for this to get shut down anyway.
But to be the most truthful, to be the most honest… If I didn’t write it down or say anything to anyone then I could say it wasn’t real. At the heart of all this, I’m a coward first and foremost.
I’ve always just been able to feel my gods. I can’t even really describe it, oddly enough. I just stretch internally and there they are: sun and fire is Sekhmet; soft things and dew covered grass is Hetheru; wide blue sky and gentle breezes is Heru-Wer. There are others that are there when I stretch out but those are the three I look for most and…
They’re just not there.
I can remember the last time I felt them, each of them. They were like pieces of jewel in my hands, in my heart. I could touch them practically and they were just there. It was a comfort, like wearing your favorite pair of sweat pants and T-shirt on a cool fall day. I could feel them and everything was all right.
And then one day, I woke up and they were gone.
Sometimes when I look to see if they’ve returned and I find that place empty, I get angry. Like how the fuck dare they disappear? How in the hell do they think this sort of behavior is okay? What sort of bullshit is this, damn it all, and how dare they?!
And other times when I look and find that they are just definitely not there, I get sad. What did I do wrong? How could I have dropped so very low in their estimations that they would do this? How can I possibly right the terrible wrong that I have clearly done?
But most times, I don’t feel anything. It’s just another coat of gray on the dull gray box that my inertia lives in, breathes in, grows in, devours in. It’s just another knot in the noose that my stagnation ties around me. It’s yet another bundle of wood upon my own funeral pyre.
“It was to be expected,” I tell myself as I wait another month, another hour, another second for the wavering half-light that’s supposed to see me out of this fucking shit show that I’ve been in for almost two years.
“But how did I get here?” I always ask in that drab grayness. No one is there to answer, just the echo of my own words whispered back to me.
I was angry a few days ago. I screamed and hollered and gibbered and whined. I demanded that they show up, that they stop fucking around for two little minutes and just tell me anything instead of this fucking grayness, this silence and horror. No one answered; I didn’t figure they would.
I don’t know. I guess I just figured that if I vented how I felt, then maybe shit would be easier or I’d feel better. I’d get like a game plan or something and you know, shit would like flow. But like the river that’s dammed up, it all just got stagnant and nasty and nobody said a word.
Loki keeps popping up; I get it. Oh boy, howdy, I fucking get it. Do the work. Stop self sabotaging. Get out there and do it all. Yeah, yeah. I hear you.
But I have to ask if he, or they, hear me. Don’t they know how scared I am? Don’t they know that I spend most days in a haze of my own insecurities, shaking and worried? Don’t they know that sometimes I need someone to hold my hand and not to push me into the conflagration at my feet?
The hooting and hollering of the years before last were so loud. I can remember the dizziness that the sounds caused and I can remember wondering how much worse it could possibly get, asking when it would all just fucking quiet down and stop for five fucking minutes.
Famous last words, I guess.
When I first started exploring Kemeticism, one of the first points on my list of Things Sat Must See To Immediately was to get a symbol of my faith to wear every day. I can remember sitting on the message board over at tC, responding to threads and reading all of the More Knowledgeable Kemetics’ posts while simultaneously surfing the Internet until I found a piece of jewelry that I felt was most appropriate a reflection of both who I am as a person and what my faith was probably going to look like… eventually.
I honestly don’t know why I felt that this was as important as it was. For years, I had been flummoxed by the phenomena as I came across it.
During the years that I was a professed Methodist, I wore no symbol. The closest “symbol” I had was a Bible that my daddy had gotten from the same Methodist church we were attending and that symbolized not the religion, but the love I bore him. Aside from that, I did not give much thought to physical representations of faith. The idea of needing something like that seemed, well, weird to me. Why did you need something on your person or in your hand to maintain your faith? Or to even remember what your faith was supposed to be about?
It just didn’t make sense to me.
I honestly think that my confusion over the desire of people to have crucifixes and medals and dirt from the Holy Land and tripartite moons and everything else stemmed merely from the fact that I had no belief. Or, perhaps not belief, but faith. It didn’t move me to tears to listen to sermons or to go to prayer sessions. I was moved more often by a personal anecdote relating to one’s faith than I was anything else. But the emotions those anecdotes created had little to do with my faith and more to do with the fact that I often find others’ expressions of faith beautiful. So, I think the bafflement I spent in those early years wasn’t anything I was doing wrong, just a mere inability to fully understand.
Besides, sometimes a lesson isn’t apparent until the plan is ready to unfold.
So, of course, as I sat there looking for the perfect symbol out there for me, I couldn’t help but note the irony of what I was doing. Had I not spent much of my life confused by the mere idea?
I think though that because I knew lots of people who had symbols of their faith on their person at any given time, it seemed like a good idea to mimic. They wore their symbols around their necks, on their fingers, around their wrists, and/or permanently affixed to the flesh of their bodies. Their symbols were this sort of lantern or beacon to other people of like faith that they were similar. And though I couldn’t have explained any of this at the time, I wanted the same thing.
As a newbie, I was starry-eyed at the prospect of buying supplies and it is possible that this also went into the idea of needing a symbol of my faith. Unfortunately, or otherwise, the decision making process for that symbol was not made easy. The typical Eye of Horus or Eye of Ra was boring to me. I didn’t want a pyramid and most of the ankhs I found were thin and did not interest me.
I needed something robust.
I needed something shiny.
I needed, well, something.
I wore the ankh every day after receiving it. The chains that held it changed out over time, but the one integral point that I made sure I never left the house without was the oversized ankh that comfortably fit in the palm of my hand. I’m sure people who saw it sitting around my neck, or later when the chain was oversized and left the ankh resting near my navel for heka purposes, assumed I was some emo/goth holdover who hadn’t quite given up on all the trappings. But I honestly didn’t care because that ankh was something that focused me.
With a certain sort of amusement, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was what other people felt about the symbols of their faith? Was it so integral a piece that to walk around without it was to feel like half a person? Was it so much a necessity for their peace of mind that they couldn’t go anywhere without it? Maybe that’s the case for some of the people who wear the symbols. It’s probably not the same for everyone.
I was devastated when my ankh broke the first time. I began to worry that I had done something to anger my gods, that I had done something to accidentally waltz off the path of ma’at. I pulled a hundred thousand cards and asked my friends for what they thought about it. I came to realize that I was overreacting. It was at that moment that I realized how integral the pendant had become in the time I had been wearing it.
I hadn’t realize how important the piece of jewelry was for a very long time prior to that point in my life. It was just something that I wore. I made sure that it was around my neck when I left the house. If I happened to step outside or maybe got down the street and forgot to put it on, I turned around. I couldn’t have explained it to anyone to be honest. I couldn’t live without that ankh on my person the second I stepped out of my inner sanctum, out of my home. Without it, I felt like I was only half a person.
When I wrote the KRT entry about living Kemeticism, it really crystallized how important that ankh was. I hadn’t ever been able to put into words why it was so necessary, but somehow I managed to finally get it just right when I wrote that post.
Over the years, the ankh had gone through a veritable metamorphosis itself, just like myself and my path. The starry-eyed child who had bought the oversized ankh had long since died at some point or another. In her stead was a woman who was doing what she possibly could to live in ma’at. Sometimes, living in ma’at just meant to take a step back and breathe. Sometimes, it meant conducting rituals, offering services to other people, or just being there when someone needed to vent. My path had changed; my ankh had changed.
So I wasn’t really surprised when, after nearly a decade of wear and tear, the chain that I had been using for my ankh for most of that time ripped in half in some odd confluence of events that left me more than a little staggered. I couldn’t wear it and I felt naked without it. I tried not to make such a big huge deal about it, but it threw me for a complete loop as I stared at the lost and lonely ankh in my hand, no longer attached to my body. I cried in my office for a few minutes, feeling stupid for being so upset about what this Maybe Meant for the Future and put on my I Don’t Give a Fuck face when I opened my office door again.
I kept the ankh in my purse, tossing out the chain, and wondered if I should finally put to rest the path I had walked with an ankh around my neck.
I could have simply gone out and bought a new chain. I had done that in the past when the robust ring that held the ankh had broken off. It snapped off clean about two years before the chain ripped itself in half. As I felt naked and as I tried to make sense regarding what was probably just a mundane reason, but what felt like a Very Important Religious Moment, I felt the change within me.
For ten years, I had worn the ankh in all its iterations as I moved through my religious experiences and changed into the person I am today.
Maybe a funeral for the ankh was [finally] necessary.
It took me a few days to come to a decision about what to do, but I kind of had known the moment that the chain broke that I would be moving on from the ankh that had seen me through my shaky first steps into the weirdness that followed: the anger, the rage, the joy, the love, the adoration, the piety, the impetuousness, and everything else that had made up the last ten years of my religious life. The ankh itself was the signal post for those ten years; I wasn’t that person anymore and neither was my religion.
I had found a feather of ma’at pendant by a beautiful silversmith on Etsy months before the ankh pendant fiasco. I had liked the pendant and kept it in the back of my mind. Devotional jewelry is a Very Big Thing for me and I wear rings, necklaces, and earrings every day with some religious significance. I had assumed that I would eventually purchase the feather of ma’at pendant and wear it whenever I felt the need to do so. I hadn’t ever considered the possibility that this possible future necklace would become everyday wear. It was just something here and there that I could wear when I felt the need for it; maybe even it could take up as a representative of Sekhmet, as a defender of ma’at.
But as I added the new pendant to my cart, jettisoning the very lovely ankh that they also had available, I knew that this piece was going to become Very Important to Me. I knew that I would wear it every day with the same sort of religious devotion (ha) that I had worn the ankh.
It is important to me. Just as with the ankh, I cannot leave the house without it. I live and breathe by ma’at just as I once lived and breathed by the ankh. It is a reminder that ma’at is subjective and many things can and do make up ma’at, but it is also a reminder that I have changed very much in the last few years. My practice is less about the gods at this moment and more about me and what I can do to better live in ma’at and perpetuate it into the world around me.
I’m hoping that, eventually, when I have fulfilled those portions of this long arduous spiritual turnpike, I won’t need a change again. I don’t think I will – I think the physical representation of ma’at is here to stay – but one never knows what the future may hold, no matter how many times you pull cards from your favored deck.
I will be honest though… It feels strange to still leave the house without the giant ankh resting just above my naval. It’s been almost two months since the ankh left my neck for its current resting place, but I still go to reach for it. Most days, when I find that it isn’t there, I reach up to the feather of ma’at which lives just below my throat as a reminder that ma’at isn’t just in one’s heart or the inner workings of the body, but also in the words we speak and the actions that accompany those words.
The ankh fit in the palm of my hand; this feather is small and I can clutch it with only two fingers. I’m getting used to it now, but I miss having something large and reassuring in my hand. Something big and tangible in a way that the feather has yet to achieve. It probably will get there some day; I don’t know for sure. It’s just not there yet.