Light Up the Sky.

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.

 

And I can see you starting to break. I’ll keep you alive if you show me the way forever – and ever. – Give Me a Sign by Breaking Benjamin

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.

Take this life Empty inside I'm already dead I'll rise to fall again

Take this life, empty inside. I’m already dead. I’ll rise to fall again. – Give Me a Sign by Breaking Benjamin

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.

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Kemetic Round Table: Welcome to the New Deja Vu.

I’ve been trying to remember how long I’ve been doing this shtick and you know, I can’t honestly remember when I started being mystically bewildered. I think I started all of this bullshit about 6 years ago, but the memories from so long ago are hazy. I guess this is what happens when you have so much shit going on in your life: it’s hard to remember the exact details of what was happening half a decade (or more) ago. I guess it doesn’t matter because as far as it feels, I’ve been tap dancing to the same beat for an eternity.

Lost Lake

Sometimes, it seems so clear and other times, it seems lost in a fog bank. (Image by Ben Canales.)

Things have changed so much in the intervening years, I know that much. At times, I am both amazed and horrified by how things have turned out. It’s almost as if I had this sort of set plan for what I was hoping to achieve, which was less a plan and more of a vague arm wave in a general direction, and I have veered completely away from whatever that plan was supposed to be. And still at other times, I am very much relieved that I am not that wide-eyed, naive little shit. I have developed and redefined both myself and my relationships. I have an arsenal at my disposal – something that old me would have been whining about not having – and I am grateful for it.

But there are days, where I do indeed miss being the naive little shit.

Looking back down the fucking years, I think the question more appropriate here is how hasn’t my practice changed since I started all of this because everything has changed. I mean, I actually have a practice for fuck’s sake! I started this blog with a bunch of whining and sniveling about how I wanted to be like everybody else but didn’t know how to get there. I have things that I do regularly; I have prayers that I say to myself; I have an established dictionary of referenced and not-referenced UPG; I have books that I can go to for information; I have relationships with deities for shit’s sake. Sure there have been exciting additions and some sorrowful subtractions, but at the end of the day, my practice has changed so much that to actually discuss it with any fucking semblance of brevity would probably require about 20 years and a lot of generic arm flailing.

I do still whine about not having a manual. I think about half of my posts I’m commenting about having missed out on the sale of all of the HOW TO books that must be floating out there. I mean, for real, they have to exist because there are so many other bloggers out there who seem to have their collective shit together. And that’s something that hasn’t changed either: I still don’t feel like I know what I’m doing. I mean I have things and stuff that I do and I guess that could qualify as “looking” as if I have my collective shit together, but honestly, I end up whining and crying about not understanding what’s happening more often than not.

So, I guess that’s a win for constantly feeling like I’m at the tip top of a roller coaster, getting ready to zoom down at a million miles an hour.

The overwhelming thing that hasn’t changed though is that Sekhmet is still here. (Why?) She’s pushed me, pulled me, destroyed me, burned me to cinders, loved me, protected me, molded me anew, killed me, brought me back to life, slit my throat, sewn up the wounds, fucked with me, put up with my bullshit, let me cry, let me whine, made me fall in love with her, forced me into uncomfortable places, et cetera. She’s turned me into a pretzel of her own devising and it sucks.

There are so many days where I’m screaming inside, crying unshed tears, and demanding to know why the fuck I’m going through this, but at the end of the day, I am glad for it all. It’s changed me so much into the person who I am today. I can remember times where I didn’t like who I was at all and now, I can honestly say that while I may not “love” myself in the ways that those stupid trippy posters tell you that you should, I can honestly say that I respect myself. And I can’t in all honesty say if that would be the case if Sekhmet wasn’t around.

I never expected anything that’s come my way since I tentatively said to my friends (of the time), “I think Sekhmet is calling and I think she has been for a very long time.” I thought that once I entered into that relationship then I was halfway to finding a solid path. I honestly believed that by finally admitting that this was a thing then I would end up with, like, some idea of what was going to come next. Or maybe I just assumed that the alpha and omega was Sekhmet. And you know, that is actually true but there’s so much more to everything I do – the relationships, the daily offerings, the whining, the initiations, the services, the ranting, etc – than just she being the beginning, middle, and the end. But now I have whole books’ worth of UPG just regarding our relationship, never mind anything else.

♥ For The Love Of Candy!!!! ♥


She gave me the candy and I got into the van. (Image by stoopidgerl.)

Honestly, if someone new were to look at this entry and wonder what it was that they could learn from me, I would honestly have to say that they shouldn’t go into this with the idea that they’ll end up having a practice that looks like someone else’s. If they do and things don’t work out the way that they expect them to, then they’re going to be disappointed with the whole experience. I went into this whole thing with a sort of panicked wide-eyed gleam and no real idea about what the hell I was doing. It was only after I entered down this road and began networking that I got the idea that I wasn’t good enough or that I didn’t meet up to some invisible standard I was holding myself to which caused a lot of issues between Sekhmet and I. I laugh about it now but I have to say, holding myself to everyone else’s ideas of what a path should be like fucked with me and fucked with my relationship. So don’t do that.

And you know, it’s okay to be scared of what’s going on.

And don’t get upset if your UPG doesn’t quite match up with anyone else’s.

And don’t think that there is one true way here because we’re all individuals with individual relationships and individual preferences.

And don’t think that there’s a moment in time where you’ll be able to say, “I’ve done it; I’ve learned everything.” There will always be something new and exciting and terrifying on the horizon waiting for you.

And don’t worry that you’re doing something wrong because you don’t have a godphone or you don’t have UPG or you can’t astral or the gods don’t come down as beings of white light to give you dreams or whatever. That’s okay. Not everyone’s cut from the same cloth and so too our relationships with our gods.

And don’t hesitate to tell people that they can have fun when they’re doing the serious rituals and stuff. And don’t forget to remind yourself of that.

And don’t think that Egyptological books are the start and finish of everything.

And if you love your fucking gods, then you fucking love your gods.

And if shit comes at you from left field, you are perfectly entitled to scream and run away.

And if you’re so fucking pissed at your gods that you hate them, then by golly you fucking hate them.

And if you don’t have a strong emotion either way but this is a job to you, then you rock at that job of yours.

And like kick ass and take some fucking names.

Words.

I have a secret passion about language. All right, well, if you know me and have known me for any length of time, then you know I have a thing about words. I enjoy them. I like feeling the flow of them roll across my tongue as I communicate with others. I enjoy spending my time going through the etymology of various words, just to see. I like seeing the history of a word, as we know it today, and why the meaning of words have changed. Occasionally, I try to start using some older phraseology in my communication with others, but I tend to stop after a while. Not many people quite understand me when I speak as though I am attempting to recreate the flowery sentiments of Medieval English and the lavish ideas expressed by tales like the Perceval, the Story of the Holy Grail. Besides, I can’t write the words out in nearly as fancy a script as they used to.

But words fascinate me.

I enjoy them.

I enjoy employing them.

I use many on a daily basis. I sit in front of a computer all day, communicating usually through E-mail with my clients. I’ve been told at this job that I need to always second guess whatever it is that I want to say. I’ve been told repeatedly that I need to “dumb down” my language. This hurts me, honestly. I never thought of my communication skills as being above anyone else. I use the words that come to me because those are the ones I learned. However, I also know that a lot of the verbiage I’ve learned over the years stems from my varied and extensive reading lists. So, I’ve been forced to think and re-think my E-mails. There are days where I stare at an E-mail for hours and hours because I know that words like “differentiate” and “rectify” and “allocate” and the like may go over the heads of the people whom I’m talking to.

This wounds me.

It’s almost like because I have a passion for reading and for learning new words, then I am wrong. I know the whole point behind the statements of my supervisors: my language skills are far above the people who I am interacting with. This makes sense. I don’t know the people on the other end of my E-mail, but it’s possible that they are all very much like me: working a dead-end job in the hopes of one day actually making ends meet. And in many cases, they may not like to read or to learn new words. In many cases, they may just be only interested in getting through the second in front of the one they just wasted reading my E-mail. And maybe, in that second of wasted E-mail reading, they didn’t understand anything I had to say because they don’t care about utilizing various words to make the point they’ve been aiming for.

Whatever the reason, I understand the philosophy behind my supervisors’ statements.

It still wounds me.

I think a large part of my passionate love affair with the various forms of communication stem from my writing background. Even though most of everything I have ever written has never seen the light of day, it is a realm in which I have created using nothing more than the ability to describe effectively, to use words effectively to create that other world. It’s helped that I grew up lost, almost literally, in books. My entire world would change from each day as I chose a new book to read. But, honestly, if it wasn’t for the desire to constantly write some new story, some new universe where the bad guy loses or where the good guy loses, then I honestly wonder if I would be nearly as interested in the history, definitions, and use of various words. I strongly doubt this would be the case.

Whatever the reason, I enjoy words.

This goes well with the whole ancient Egyptian belief about words.

Words, in ancient Egyptian belief, were the founding blocks of everything. Without the supreme act of creation – through the correct verbiage by the netjer in question – there would be nothing. As I was reading The Priests of Ancient Egypt by Serge Sauneron, he touched on this very briefly towards the end of the book. But as I was reading this second, I felt the potency of the point he was making. Words have power and in that power, it is only that which we grant it. In a single moment, we can create something explosive such as life. Or in a single anger fueled second, we can tear down a single person to the very fiber of their beings. Words, as such, are incredibly important in many modern-day Kemetics’ practice. But with this, also comes the fact that the world has changed and the words that may have once founded a nation or destroyed poop with so heroic a measure are no longer practiced in the way they once world.

The ancient world fell out of favor for one reason or another and the beliefs contained therein did as well.

We modern-day practitioners create this to the best of our abilities, but it is difficult. It is never so much more difficult than for those of us who have no intent or no ability to learn the words that once created the world. It is not a simple act of not being able to, or willing to learn, on my part. It is simply a theory that was sort of cemented after reading that book by Sauneron: the ancient Egyptian language is, in itself, a magical formula. It is not a thing for the laity. Even with teachers aplenty, back then, it still took years upon years for a scribe to be perfected enough to utilize their own language effectively and learn the magical formulae for the daily rites. Scribes were a specialized service and I am not to be a part of that because that is not where my path leads me. Laity is my world and I will continue down this path.

But how does all this knowledge work with modern words?

Nowadays, there are words everywhere. In some instances, these words have some severely negative associations. This is the fault of people for using them in such a way. Some words, people have taken back their power from. I’m not going to list them because I am not one of the people who have taken those words, usurped their negative association, and given it a new meaning. In other instances, the use of some words is a hotly debated contest between who must be correct and who must be wrong. I honestly try to steer away from all of that. I just love the words and the meanings and the how they came to be and the everything in between. Whether the word was negative or positive is only spun by the people utilizing it – so why the fuck does it matter so much?

We make it matter.

What seems like years ago now, but really not that long ago, I ended up using a word that has had many definitions. This word was apparently the wrong word to use in the mixed company I was within. What startled me was the vehement reaction to, well, a word. I had gone through some of the negative actions of this word myself, but by the act of being able to use it in any of its other definitions meant, somehow, that I was not a survivor. Or, maybe it meant that I was and that I was a fucked up one. Whatever the actual belief behind the people who ripped into me for using this word, I stated my piece and walked away. It wasn’t worth the conversation, but it did make me realize that there were people who there who feared words, who hated words, who felt that they should stamp out every possible other association with a single word just because it had once been used in context to something they had experienced.

I think what startled me the most was that people seemed honestly to hate the world and were scared of it.

We have long since come from the world when words were acts of creation. They can still be – obviously, we have writers. But the acts of creation that these words can create are not the same as that the netjer once created. What writers do is but a pale mockery to what the netjer have done, in my opinion as a writer. While I create very much akin to the netjeru who have used words to create such things as people and the world we live in, it’s a pale comparison to me. I can never create something as varied and beautiful and horrible and terrifying as the world we live in today or the people who populate it. I can only attempt to create a one dimensional world that, maybe, someone will enjoy spending time with now and again. (As if.) It is nothing like the world my gods created as much as it may be trying.

Now, we live in a world where whatever spin we want to make on a single word is up to us.

But we can only make it as angry and hurtful as the tonality of our voice or the expressiveness of our face. We can only give it the power that it probably does not deserve.

The word itself is neutral. It has no basis in anything unless we give it that basis.

I am tired of people telling me a word is hurtful.

How can it be if I am using it at its most basic definition?

The word is not any of the things that you associate it with. It just is. It is a part of the world that we live in because we created it to describe certain instances. Whether you give it a negative association or not is entirely up to you. Whether it has any worth at all is entirely up to you. Whether you use it or not, is up to you. Whether it is erased from your vocabulary in its entirety is up to you. But because all of these things are up to a single, individual human person, everyone else’s reaction to the word is going to be different. Every single person is going to have their own specific and special circumstances in which they come right out and say, “I do not want to use this word. I will never use this word. Please do not use it around me.”

I can respect that.

I have to since the world I find myself in more and more is entirely surrounded by nothing but words.

My problem is that I don’t understand why people give these words any type of power. By fearing it, by hating it, by striking it from your vocabulary, then you are giving it a strange hold over you. A word is an item that humans created to describe a thing. In that action, there is neither malice nor joy. As I said, the word just is. It is a thing. And just as a gun or a sword has no negative or positive association with it unless you give it either one, so too are words. There is little difference I suppose. Words can be utilized as harshly as either of those two instruments to destroy a person. I’ve seen it happen, I’ve done it myself, and I have had it happen to me. The thing is that words are something we will see and use far more regularly than either of the two weapons I just mentioned.

So, why is there such a need to strike words from use?

Why is there no legislation moving forward to ban the words that people despise, that people will not use, that people cannot use, or that people ask others not to use?

Has legislation not been entered to restrict gun access?

Perhaps we should do likewise with words.

But then, that enters an entire gray area and there is no real way to enforce such a thing.

The point here is that we give the words the power that wound us, destroy us, that hurt us. We allow them to take over and make them into the boogeyman that we must hide from. I find this, as a Kemetic, incredibly disheartening and the entire trend is anathema to me. It is as though the power that the netjeru gave us to create our own worlds – through writing, through heka, through these descriptors – that we are slapping them in the face for their gift of language. We are telling them, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Words have had much power over me in my past.

I’m tired of this.

I’m tired of cowering beneath the weight of my terrors and my traumas. I am most entirely tired of having to defend my use of linguistics when, point of fact, the word that I may utilize is the very word that I mean and in its proper context.

I know what it feels like to be raked over hot coals of horror and fear. I know what it is like to have something hit you square between the eyes and take you for another round of guilt, shame, and revulsion after you finally managed to crawl out of your personalized pit. I know what it is like to lay cowering beneath the weight of the world and fearing everything associated with it. I know what it feels like to have someone you love whispers harsh invectives towards you just to watch you break a little more with each day. But the thing is that I won’t let those invectives or even those seemingly innocuous words rule my life, my will, my power. I will not let them. I will not stop others from allowing this to happen. But you must understand that I do not understand. I will never understand no matter your explanations, kind or otherwise.

I have my fucking power.

And I will keep it.

Broken.

Last night, I was cleaning off Sekhmet’s altar. Every Sunday, I try to clean it up and refresh the flower offerings I have on there, as well get rid of the dust. Though I offer her my homage every morning with refreshed offerings, dust builds up pretty quickly. Carefully, I emptied all of the items off of the altar. And just as carefully, I managed to drop her icon. In tears, I fell to the floor, cursing myself for the bad devotee I must be. I knew that the icons I had for my deities are more prone to breaking then the mass produced resin ones I’ve had. (I’ve dropped Sekhmet’s resin statue time and again with no damage.) I knew that I had to be exceedingly careful when I migrated them from one place to another, but I still manage to let it fall to the floor.

As I cried about being a terrible devotee and for being so stupid, I thought everything was all right. The piece I thought would break – the uraeus and sun disc – were still attached. I thought I had managed to escape this. But, no. After clasping the image in my hands, I noticed that a part of the main had shattered. Her face was intact. Her sun disc was intact. Nothing else broke off the base of the statue, but just the ruffle of mane on the right side of her face. And I began to cry in earnest. I pressed the piece onto the table and began searching like a mad fool for the piece(s) that had broken off. I managed to find one piece, still semi-attached, but couldn’t find the bulk of the rest. I searched all across my kitchen floor, but found nothing. My repeated searches underneath furniture and beside furniture came up empty. (I suspect that the piece rocketed into the heating grate in the floor, but I can’t be sure.) Thoughts of gluing the piece were disintegrating before my empty hands and I felt nothing more than a vileness so thick that I could have vomited.

How stupid you are, I scolded of myself. How could you let this happen? You know what could happen. You’ve had this happen with your Djehuty piece. You were lucky then – the head didn’t fall off. But you were too stupid to pay closer attention. Were you in such a rush to get things set to rights that you couldn’t think more clearly? What is the matter with you? How do you fix this? Why would you do this thing? HOW STUPID CAN YOU BE? WHAT THE FUCK IS THE MATTER WITH YOU? WHY CAN’T YOU THINK CLEARLY? WHY ARE YOU SUCH A FUCKING BAD DEVOTEE?

This isn’t the first time I’ve had these thoughts in the last two weeks. I spent a good part of my Saturday – not this past one but the one previous – berating myself for being such a lazy, fat, and awful devotee. On Saturdays, once the weather changes, I attempt to get out to one of my local cemeteries to spend time with the Guédé. Though weather patterns are rapidly changing, it usually starts cooling off once September hits so that I can actually go out to the cemeteries without worry of causing myself heat exhaustion or heat stroke. (I’m terrible about keeping myself hydrated in the winter, never mind during a hundred degree heat with high humidity.) I ranted and raved at myself for being such a lazy asshole and for being a very bad servant of the Guédé. As a kind of, “I’m so sorry, Bawon,” I gave him some booze and soda.

That fuzzy white thing sure moved fast. I have no idea where it went after I looked away.

That fuzzy white thing sure moved fast. I have no idea where it went after I looked away.

This past Saturday, I went to my local graveyard. This is the one that I’ve spent the most time in and have gotten to know the residents very well. This is also the first cemetery where I truly felt that I had connection with the Guédé and where I first felt the presence of Bawon. As I came upon his and Maman’s grave, I saw a beautiful white caterpillar crawling across her gravestone. I felt the message therein – she, at least, was telling me that I was okay. She was trying to explain to me, I felt, with this caterpillar that I can come when I come and I do when I do and that I’ve given so much of myself over the last two years to the projects and servitude I have for the Guédé that it’s okay. I may even go so far as to say that, perchance, she believes I am not such a terrible servant after all. But the point is that I felt as though I were one. I have a job to do – I do it. It doesn’t matter what the background chatter in my mundane life will be, but I do it.

In same vein, I felt as though I were a truly bad and terrible devotee of Sekhmet’s to allow something so careless to happen on my watch. I have a job to do – I do it. It doesn’t matter what the background chatter in my mundane life will be, but I do it.

Sometimes, however, the background chatter in the mundane are just as important, if not more than whatever task or devotions or services we are providing.

I have a hard time budgeting my spoons on a regular basis. Some days are better than others. Most of my budgeting is done on the fly. “I think I have this many spoons so I should be able to do this, this, and this.” But the thing is that I always end up with less spoons than I plan for. Due to this, I always end up stretched too thin. I do this at work, I do this in my personal life, and I do this with everything else. Part of the reason why I’m as introverted as I am today is because I fail at budgeting the spoons. I think, “This is more important right now so I’m going to do that.” The thing is that whatever “it” may be could look pretty damn important, but is it actually worth the spoon I may be utilizing for it? That’s my problem. I think everything deserves the spoons I have budgeted for it, whether the spoon exists or not. But the big huge thing here is that not everything actually deserves a spoon.

What I do during the day at work, invariably, is something like this: I see something that I need to do and then I do it. This is usually part of some project work that I have going on for various clients. Project work is not a top tier concern and takes backseat to most everything else. But I do it anyway because, eh, why not? However, right after I do the thing, then something more pressing comes in to give me heart palpitations. This is usually a high level repair situation for one of my various clients. And I end up working that repair for the rest of the day. Not all days are like that, of course, because there are some days where I don’t have a single pressing repair concern at all and it’s nothing but project work. However, while taking my time with my projects is something mandated because all repairs are top priority, some of the minor shit that I get done may not have been really necessary (either by me or just on that day). I just did it because I happened to have a free second – a second that I could have been utilizing in some other fashion or saving up for future use.

So, I enter work and I have all these spoons. My irises are in the shape of spoons – like money signs from the old cartoons – because I think I have so many to spare. But then something more pressing comes along and I have to drop everything to the wayside to see it done and quite possibly, whatever I’m dropping is very pressing to someone else (like the site). And then I feel like I can’t prioritize worth a shit.

This is a very serious problem.

This is also something I do with everything in my life. It’s not just something that’s work related but also something entirely devoted to anything going on in my life. I think I have enough spoons to do the dishes, wash some laundry, read a book to my son, clean off some altars, and the whole nine. However, what actually ends up happening is I have so much laundry that I need to do that I end up wasting spoons on that project when reading to my son should take a higher priority. I think that cleaning the altars before I can even remotely think about going to bed, even though I’m dead tired after doing a three-day working (this is literally what I did with my weekend when I wasn’t cleaning or grave-tending this weekend), because I’m a bad devotee if I don’t get it done.

And mistakes happen.

And accidents happen.

And everything else get shunted to that “later” that never actually ends up happening.

Recently, this story went viral across the Internet. I’ve seen it in reblogs on Tumblr as well as on posts on Facebook. With each time I’ve read it, I’ve taken something different away from the story. This weekend, after re-reading it for the millionth time, I realized that whatever parts I was taking away from it were not what I needed to take away from it. The point was that the golf balls are the important bits. While I tend to believe that my faith is an integral part of whom I am, and in some ways it is, it’s more a pebble than a golf ball. The things that are golf balls should be my family. They should be making sure my home is clean (OCD – not as bad as some but sets my teeth on edge when laundry baskets are full and dishes are in the sink). They should be going grocery shopping or getting the piddly little shit we need to keep a clean home. Nothing else should even compare unless I decide that something – my faith – should be golf ball sized.

I haven’t made that decision yet, so right now, it’s still just a pebble.

The lesson with the broken statue and the caterpillar aren’t really that I’m a bad person and that I can’t do whatever it is that I say I’m going to do when I say I’m going to do it. The actual lesson is that I need to budget everything better. If that means I need to make a schedule for both at work and at home, then that’s what I need to do. And if that means that something more pressing comes up – a repair situation or book that needs to be read – then that’s what takes top priority.

Spoon management, man. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to read with a certain little man.

Geb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I think I’m getting there.

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

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

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

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

Kemetic Round Table: Mythology.

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

As a polytheist, one of the easiest ways to get to know the gods to whom you want to devote yourself to is to start looking into the mythology associated with them. While introducing yourself to the deity in question is also a fine example of how best to “get to know” a new god to whom you wish to work with, the mythology surrounding that god is the best non-direct way to learn about the gods. Reading the mythos will grant you a perspective relating to the gods and goddesses that you may not get merely in any one-on-one interactions. It will also give you a better background of information for when you want to begin networking and interacting with other polytheists who work with those gods. As some of those practitioners may be historically informed or recon-oriented in their practices, the mythology relating to the deity could mean a good deal to them and their practices. So, all in all, for any polytheist, it’s a really good idea to at least read the mythology once or ten thousand times.

The problem with Kemeticism is that not all the myths are still extent, if they existed at all. The Kemetic pantheon is made up of numerous deities, some of whom are little more than a name. These deities are associated, usually, with specific nomes in ancient Egypt. And unfortunately, much of the writings relating to them have passed into the realm of mystery. Most of their names are remembered because they were written in Books of the Dead, Coffin Texts, and in some cases, the Pyramid Texts. While this is very well, it doesn’t give us much to go on when it comes to things like how to approach the netjer, what they would have been like, or what all their realm of “expertise” would have been. In cases like that, we can hopefully find things like epithets or look to those surviving sources for more information, but a main source is closed to us, sadly.

Sometimes, it can feel a little like this.

Sometimes, it can feel a little like this.

In other arenas, there are so many variations of a myth that it may be near-on impossible to get an accurate depiction of what the netjer would be like just based entirely on what may be read. Each mythology that was written regarding any of the netjer would have varied from scribe to scribe, as each would have learned specific myths associated with their temples. They may have even added flourishes from possible oral traditions that we are unaware of. In same vein, the myths would have changed over time to include various additional items when one of the netjer usurped aspects from another of the netjer. The ancient Egyptians were also very fond of satire and they had satirical versions of popular mythology, as well. As an example, I believe it is the satirical version of the contending between Set and Heru that infer that Djehuty is the love-child between Set and Heru, as caused when Set ate Heru’s semen that was placed on his lettuces. (For more information regarding this particular myth, please reach out to Devo.)

While the sources themselves may vary, so too can the interpretation of those myths by the modern-day practitioners looking to worship those netjer. While one person may interpret the contending of Set and Heru as allegory, another may literally interpret the mythology as an actual event, recorded for posterity. Another person may only see the contending as a clear indicator of just what a mean netjeru Set is and another may see his actions as maintaining ma’at, even if the way of that maintenance may seem odd to us years later. And yet another person may interpret what they are reading as something that humanity made up an in an attempt to associate with the netjer better. So, while each person may read the exact same version of the mythology, the interpretations are going to vary from devotee to devotee. What makes this even more difficult to find common ground, in some instances, is the simple fact that each version really does vary, as shown above. Without the ability to have a standardized version and without all of us humans practicing this religion being boring, mindless automatons, variations are bound to crop up!

So, mythology is a really excellent jumping off point for getting to know the netjer to whom you may want to devote or to whom you may be interested in. However, you may find that the mythology leaves a sour taste in your mouth. A primary and obvious case in point is Sekhmet’s mythology. The Destruction of Mankind is a pretty basic myth about how Sekhmet went down and killed humanity for seven days before she was pacified by red-dyed beer. It may end up leaving you feeling as though that’s all there is to her and that’s okay! It’s not the be-all, end-all of Sekhmet, of course, but it’s one of the first interactions many people have with her. By reading this myth, we see that she can get pretty mindless at times when it comes to destroying things, but that we can also prevent her from doing so by giving her beer!

Now, as far as the laity that I have seriously begun to cultivate in my practice, I have to admit that after the initial “oh, well that’s interesting” read through, the myths have had little daily interaction in my practice. They can give me good indicators of what type of offerings the gods may want – Sekhmet may want red beer; Aset may want heka; Hetheru may want me to tell her stories – but they’re not items that I interact with, ponder on, or even think of very often. I think that learning them is important, for the very reason I mentioned initially, but I don’t think that, once you get to know those mythologies, that they need to continue to play such an integral part to your practice.

Personally, they work out as interesting tidbits to add as devotional poetry for the netjer. Sometimes, I integrate them into stories that I’m writing. In other instances, they become an addition to the bed time story I will tell my son before bed. But, after having interacted with them heavily in the beginning of my practice, they don’t really figure in as anything more than a solid foundation. And that, above all else, is why I have to advocate why newbies start reading them. They really are an excellent fallback position for where to begin and how best to learn about the netjer. With a concrete historical basis as a foundation, it becomes a little easier, over time, to not only interact with the netjer but also to interact and network with other Kemetics out there.

Cycles.

Alternate Title: Zep Tepi II.

Since Devo’s comments on my last post relating to this subject matter, I’ve been thinking extensively about Zep Tepi and cycles. Whenever a spare moment would hit me, I would be knee deep or brain deep in whatever it was I was hoping to achieve with the thought processes and Zep Tepi. This morning, I was thinking harder than I have in the past few days on the subject of Zep Tepi. When I was beginning to fall off from figuring out the answers to Devo’s questions in that comment, this song came on. Particularly what grabbed at me was the lyric, “I’m gonna change you like a remix; then I’ll raise you like a phoenix.” Well, if that isn’t something that relates to cycles, in a way, then what the fuck does? It was around that moment that I began to really interpret what Devo had said on Friday.

Honestly, my trouble with figuring out where I wanted my thoughts to go related to my rather narrow interpretation of what we need to utilize Zep Tepi in as lay people. I was trying to focus on Zep Tepi in a really big, huge way. So, I associated it with grandiose things like Wep Ronpet and the celebrations therein. I thought about the beginning of a year as opposed to all the other daily, weekly, monthly cycles that people can and do go through. I was trying to focus on something that I felt was easily graspable but I was failing to relate this to me. As the lay person here, I think I kind of failed in that regard. And that’s why having a community – by the way – is kind of a good thing. They’ll check your shit, force you to re-think things, and then give you a cookie if you do a good job. (Just kidding about the cookie part. That hardly ever happens.)

I’m about 99.9% percent certain that my failure to understand Zep Tepi and its relationship with all cycles stems from a rather unsatisfactory work life. (Love the job – hate the environment. You know.) I find it very difficult to even note that a whole new day has started, even upon waking. After nights filled with dreams about items that weren’t taken care of properly or things that I’ve had to constantly put off or delegate to others, it gets to the point where your waking life feels very much like your sleeping life. And that’s just no good. Since I have a difficult time differentiating between one really bad day and the next cantankerous asshat that makes me feel badly about my work ethic, my work ability, et cetera, it kind of gets to the point where you stop thinking that each day is different. Your mind starts to interpret each day as just a new extension to the next, but this isn’t the case. Each day is the start of a new cycle. As the sun rises in the morning, which I’ve been awake for more mornings than I care to admit lately, brings a rejuvenation to me, to my day, to my thoughts, and everything in my between. And that is something that I need to remind myself.

By seeing the new cycle in the upcoming day, the rejuvenation and the changes that can come with renewal, I can at least attempt to feel closer with this important concept in my religion.

And maybe, stop feeling like each bad day at work is just an extension on the one preceding it.

While pondering my inability to actually appreciate the cycles and instead seeing them as another addition, I began to think about my car, Olga. She is a very old car and she has a lot of things wrong with her that I just cannot afford to fix right now, if ever. At 12 years old and nearly 200k miles on her, I have to admit that placing a Band-Aid on the things that are wrong is not in my best interest, financially speaking. But I really do love this car. She has been very patient with me and has always seemed very understanding when I have been unable to get her into a mechanic in a timely manner. Recently, she started idling very hard when I sit at a stop. She has always idled very hard at stops – we joke that she thinks she’s a race car instead of the 4-cylinder Alero she is. But the idling has become much rougher to the point where I will start to seriously worry that she will stall out on me. I’ve noticed, however, that this comes in a cycle.

She drives really terribly one morning on my way to work and is fine for the next few days.

Bouncing off of the idea about how I needed to pay closer attention to Zep Tepi, cycles, and the renewal therein, I started paying attention to how often she does this to me. Now, there’s no guarantee as to when she will start idling harder than normal. And there’s no set time frame as to how long each cycle of “good idling” I can expect. But I began to see that I could at least anticipate this eventuality in future because, really, it is something that will happen. And then, when this particular idling happenstance comes to pass, I can look forward to relative smooth sailing for a few days or maybe even a week. Obviously, this doesn’t fix the overall problem – I’m attempting to find a mechanic who will work for beer and parts to fix two hot ticket items that may be the cause for the idle – but it’s something that brings comfort.

It’s almost like, and stop me if you’ve heard this one before, this is part of the cycle.

As I was driving to work – and Olga’s idling was as good as I could hope – I began to think of it, almost ruefully, as a metaphor for the entire year of a Kemetic calendar. We have ups and downs, which would be the days when I need to put gas in the car or add other fluids. But the rest of the time, it’s all just a general ride. Then, we get to the point where the idling is really, really tough and painful, reducing me to tears, swearing, cursing, pleading, and outright misery. I tend to view that drive to work as a kind of metaphor for what can be expected during the intercalary days, just preceding Wep Ronpet. We’ve all noted that those days are hectic and chaotic, difficult to handle in some ways. So, in a huge metaphor, the intercalary days are the very days that Olga ends up idling a good deal more painfully and more frightfully than she normally does.

By golly, I think I’m on to something here.

Almost like I was on to something, I picked up the book I’ve been reading lately and found something of interest that I think, sort of, relates to Zep Tepi and why lay people need to pay attention to this.

Okay, so, I’ve been re-reading The Priests of Ancient Egypt by Serge Sauneron this week. I don’t really remember how I felt about the book when I first bought it and I honestly wonder if I just skimmed through it. In either case, I decided to start re-reading all of my Kemetic books (for funsies) and this is the smallest one I own. Plus, in a perverse way, as a lay person, it’s almost like know thy enemy or something. I kind of think that by reading about this, I will be able to better understand what it is, specifically, about the priesthood that prevents me from honestly moving in that direction.

Be that as it may, I started reading it and found a lot of very interesting items, as well as amusing items. But what made me think in relation to Zep Tepi was how many of the offices of the priesthood were inherited. As Sauneron says on page 43, “Moreover, stelae of the Late Period sometimes list the genealogies of the individuals to whom they were dedicated, invoking the memory of as many as seventeen generations of ancestors who were priests of the same deity: we can truly speak of dynasties of priests.” Hm. They were pretty big on the “keep it in the family” adage.

While I understand the requirement of ancient Egyptian religion and belief to have a long line of distinguished ancestors, this reminds me that not all things “new” were very interesting to the ancient Egyptians. If we were to use the phrase “set in their ways,” I think it may just come off as a bit of an understatement. Anything new was considered anathema and in many, if not all, instances it was believed to be a part of isfet. Each new change to the ancient Egyptian ruler dynasties came with huge, catastrophic changes as they transitioned from one ruling family to the next period of lawlessness. All in all, things like change were to be feared. They liked the idea of rejuvenation and cycles – they celebrated such things like Wep Ronpet and with daily rituals to gods such as Khepri. But, when it came to things like installing a new priest? One has to wonder if their reaction to such an idea wasn’t something like: “Why bother? Why shake the tree? Or destroy the status quo? We already have a good thing going, so to speak, so let’s keep it! We don’t know what kind of crazy a new person has!”

Now, obviously, they weren’t always able to keep a line of priests in generational succession. Some lines died out; sometimes the pharaoh decided who went where. In some instances, according to Sauneron, they took a sort of collective vote on who got to be a priest and who didn’t. (I’ll explain all of this more in depth when I’m finished reading the book and write the post it inspires.) But in many instances, we have a long line of families who were able to provide priests to a particular nome’s temple deity throughout the years.

Modern day practitioners have a more mercurial ability, I think, to handle changes on an epic and minor scale than the ancient Egypt priesthood. We have had so many years of learning about world history that we are able to take into account the amount of changes that humanity has gone through. Instead of fearing that by mispronouncing a single word, we may bring about the end of the world, we know better. These religious traditions have fallen out of favor for millennia and the world kept on spinning, people kept on being poor or being rich, and living their lives. We don’t have to freak out that a new face in our particular religious path is going to upset the balance. Living in ma’at, traditions, heka, and even Zep Tepi have all changed their standard definitions in the thousands of years since this was a practicing religion. And that, I think, above all else, is why Zep Tepi is still an integral part to the practices of the laity.

It reminds us, always, that things change.

And it reminds us that there is always going to be a beginning, middle, and an end.

You know, I started this journey thinking about Zep Tepi in relation to altars. And I still have a feeling that there may be more here relating to Zep Tepi and the altars of our icons. But, I think, really, the overall point that I’ve come to discover is that this particular aspect of our practice is still important, whether we are a big headed somebody or a head-in-the-sand nobody, whether we are of the literate priesthood from ancient Egypt or the illiterate laity from ancient Egypt, and whether we are the historically informed polytheists of today or otherwise. What matters is trying to remember that Zep Tepi is about cycles and how that relates to you, on an individual level, in your practice. And if you can remind yourself, even a few times a day that change is coming and that the bad isn’t going to always be so bad… then maybe, just maybe, that really is just what the whole point is.

Zep Tepi.

When I was a baby Kemetic, I spent a lot of my time on the Internet forum, The Cauldron*. In fact, I spent so much time on the forum because it was the first place where I was able to see other solitary Kemetics interact with one another and it was, really, the best place to get a good jumping off point to start this crazy Kemetic adventure. I can remember sitting in the forum one day while I read someone wax poetic about just what an altar should be to people entering this particular polytheistic path. I can’t recall who the member was who was saying this stuff and I’m going to look for the thread in question. All I remember is that they explained that the point in the altar, in the shrine, in the mix therein was to achieve Zep Tepi. It was the action of trying to attain a replica Zep Tepi – the First Time –that was the ultimate goal to creating sacred space. That particular depiction has stuck with me through the years and while I cannot say if I am always emulating Zep Tepi when I rearrange and reincarnate my various altar set ups, I can tell you that periodically, I at least think about it.

For anyone who may not be aware, Zep Tepi is the period of time when the gods walked upon the earth and ruled the humans that had been created. To put this into a context that Kemetics may understand: This was when we can expect such titillating mythologies as the Distant Goddess, the Destruction of Mankind, Aset Tricks Re, and the Wesirian Myth cycle to have happened. If we were to associate this with a time period in ancient Egypt’s history, as shown in the various periods hammered out by Egyptologists, we would say that this was prior to the period known as the Pre-Dynastic Period. In effect, this is when all of ancient Egypt’s various cosmogonies and mythologies came to pass.

Considering Zep Tepi from a laity perspective, I have to ask myself if it is even remotely important. Does it play even the tiniest role in the reconstructed practice I am aiming for? My entire stance has been entirely devoted to laity, whether I’ve been specifically stating that or not. And I have to ask myself if Zep Tepi played even a minor part in the personal practices of the men and women and children who made up ancient Egypt? If by recreating the religious perspective of a lay person, am I falling into a desire to understand everything when, maybe, I don’t need to?

I have to assume, though I may not be correct here, that the lay people of ancient Egypt would not have known anything about Zep Tepi. They may have had oral traditions relating back to the telling of the myth cycles. It may have been a form of entertainment for the family: they all get together before going to bed and tell the children stories of the netjer. But since this is speculation, I cannot say if it’s even remotely something that was interesting or worth knowing about for the average ancient lay person. I have to assume, without adequate laity based research under my belt, that they really wouldn’t have known of this type of thing and wouldn’t have cared if they had known. It’s not like the First Time would make their daily toil any easier. It wouldn’t help facilitate the growth of their crops, the health of their family, or their relationships with their gods. Looking at this as logically as I can, I have to just go ahead and say that the lay person probably didn’t know or didn’t care.

Of course, from the other side of the coin, it’s possible they would have known. But again, I have to come back to, would it have mattered? The only time when Zep Tepi really becomes something that the ancients would have needed to at least acknowledge is when we are celebrating Wep Ronpet. While Wep Ronpet (from this blogger’s perspective) isn’t quite the same as Zep Tepi, it’s kind of like a cosmic do-over for the previous year. But as Warboar mentions here, “Wep Ronpet itself is a reenactment of Zep-Tepi, also known as ‘The First Occasion,’ when the sun first dawned over the new Creation, when all created things were in their purest state, and the Creator was at His strongest and most youthful.” Or, as the KO website, WW Wiki states, “On Wep Ronpet, Zep Tepi or the ‘First Time’ occurs again, renewing the year and bringing renewal to ma’at and to the world.”

So, from a modern perspective, the two are intertwined. But I keep coming back to the same question I keep asking myself, does this shit matter from a historically informed laity specific religious practice?

I have to admit that I do think the concept of Zep Tepi is important. Not for the comment that I related above, which I’ll get back into momentarily. I have to think that it’s important because we, as Kemetics, are attempting to recreate a religious tradition based off of whatever we have access to. And while Internet searches mostly come up with items about starseeds when I do a Google search for Zep Tepi, it’s still kind of important. I mean, it’s only just the time when the gods ruled the earth and the time when all of our mythologies came to pass. It’s only just the whole foundation, really, for what it is that we do. So, I think, in that context, it is something that we need to pay attention to and attempt to understand whether we are of the laity or of the priesthood.

Now, I don’t think that this concept needs to be something that we need to spend a lot of time on. It’s important, but it doesn’t rank nearly as high as items like heka or ma’at. Both of those concepts should rank higher, in my opinion, on the Kemetic neophyte “think about” list. But, it’s something that should be taken into consideration when one starts recreating this religion.

And here’s the reason we need to pay attention to it: remember that first rambling paragraph about the totally awesome sauce comment on altars that I started this post with? That is why we need to think about this, get in tune with it periodically, and assess its role in our religion. It isn’t just because it’s the foundation of our myths. It’s not just because we should think about it, at least partially, when we celebrate Wep Ronpet. All of that is fleeting, really, when it comes to reconstructing this religious persuasion. However, what isn’t transitory is the fact that many of us will have created altars to our netjer possibly even before delving into the meat and potatoes behind theologies, mythologies, and concepts. And as that commentary from years ago intimates, the creation of our sacred spaces for the netjer needs to hearken back to Zep Tepi.

While I stood over that altar this morning, I thought about what it was that could relate to Zep Tepi on my altar space. While I have other deities to whom I pay daily homage to, it’s to Sekhmet that I attempt to be the most reconstructed in my religious practices. (I don’t know why. I just… that’s just how it is here, I guess.) And while I studied her altar after having lit the cone of incense and setting flame to the candle, I glanced over that sacred space. Was there anything on there that would make her feel like she was back at Zep Tepi? Were the flowers enough? The flame? The incense? The cool water? The intent? Did any of this even remotely add up to what I was hoping to gain by going through this?

And I have to admit that my cursory moment, stumbling along as I normally am, fell short.

I didn’t need anyone to tell me that. I just knew it.

The thing that the original commenter all those years ago failed to mention is that recreating Zep Tepi is a lot more than just items. Hell, maybe they did mention that part of it and I have just forgotten in all the time since then. Whatever – it doesn’t matter. I know that I failed the task of creating Zep Tepi in that moment. There was something off, something missing. So, how does one attempt to recreate a time period that you have absolutely no real context for, but only ideas and half remembered dreams? How does one end up back to the start of it all – not your start, of course, but the start of life, the universe, and everything – without knowing what it was like?

When I find out, I’ll be sure to update you.

* If any of you look for this page after reading this post, please be aware that I do not advocate it for neophytes unless you have very thick skin. They are very acerbic and clique like. As someone once told a friend of mine, “lurk but never post.”

Festival of Wag 2013.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, again, what to do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Break.

You ever just get so tired of all the nattering going on around you that you just want to throw your hands in the air and scream, “fuck it,” while you stomp around like a child? Or, you ever just get so fed up with everything that you finally realize if you don’t do something, possibly crazy and definitely unintended, you’ll end up wrapped in those hug-yourself coats for a few years? Or, maybe, you just get so sick and tired of the constant background commentary going on around you that you finally come to the crushing realization that you are so far off your intended course and you don’t know how to get back there? Yeah, I’ve been there. Hell, I’m still there. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get back to where I want to go, but I know that I need some time – a few weeks, a few months, a few years, the rest of my life – so that I can at least try to choreograph my movements more precisely…

I’ve been pretty tired regarding all religious items for the last few months. Everything that I have been building up to and creating had been jettisoned to the backseat in since, oh, around February or thereabouts. It was something that would leave me awake late at night, while I stared at the ceiling unable to sleep. All of the things I’ve been doing lately have all been those surreal and frightening experiences relating to my godphone or adventures on the astral. Everything was suffering because of this, not least of all me. I have to admit that when it comes to constantly having some really tough fucking conversations with beings who are bigger than you are, it can take a lot out of you. Never mind the addition of running around on the astral and the absolute desecration it can have on my energy reserves/spoon management. I have to say that since my godphone got really loud this year, everything has suffered. It’s felt very much like I’ve been trudging along and just trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy as my Kemetic practice slammed on the breaks and halted in its steps.

Every post I’ve written regarding the whole “doing as opposed to thinking” or the entries where I harp on how we need to live in ma’at or the entries when I go on about how we need to remind ourselves that our religion is an orthopraxy… Every single one of those posts in recent months would rear their heads at me on those nights where I would toss and turn because of religious matters. It was like a poker of guilt had begun to wedge itself at the back of my mind until I found myself unable to do anything but ponder how much I was putting off or not doing. There are so many varied aspects to my practice, specifically relating to the orthopraxy, that I try to do. But with each step further into the astral, each step further into questioning my sanity, I began to feel like I was failing all over the place. I knew that I needed a break, some quiet time, and figure out what in the world the next step with all of this was.

The thing is about asking for a time out is that you may not necessarily get it. As many parents are wont to say to their children, “the worst they can do is say no.” And in this case, it was something that was a little more important than asking if you could borrow someone’s Hot Wheels or asking to go along on a shopping trip to the mall. I was asking for myself, specifically, and a deep-seated need to step away from everything that was peripheral. I needed to jump back into the foundations of what my practice is supposed to be – laity – and shunt things forward on that. If I’m legitimate about wanting to create a layperson practice specifically for other people in my shoes, then I need to focus on what the hallmarks of that laity will be so I can explain it to others. And frankly, I’m having a hard time focusing entirely on work nowadays with all the head crap going on inside of me. There was no way I was going to be able to adequately focus on what I needed to without some form of, “I need some indefinite time off while I work on this.”

I have to admit that I’ve felt completely wrung out in recent months. I know a lot of it has to do with my personal life and work life. Neither of those two items have been particularly … smooth lately. It takes a lot out of you. But, even with all of the crap going on when I was unemployed or I was having troubles with my family, I had the ability to throw myself gung-ho into my religious practice. I knew that while things may been kind of crappy in other arenas that at least my religious practice was where I needed it to be. And it would always just be there to help me pick up the pieces with everything else sucking so badly. However, since I started working I’ve noticed a severe downtrend in my religious life. While I have attempted to keep a balance, it was like the only answer was to listen to the godphone messages and to have those conversations and to go to the astral more frequently. Bitterly, I would give in to each impulse to discuss, to go, and ten times more bitterly, I would come from those sojourns knowing that I was failing somehow, somewhere, in some way…

Whether or not my OTHERS™ saw it as that is irrelevant here. I know for a fact that they were quite all right with my going off to do the things. However, I was not all right with this trade off. I know that it works in some peoples’ practices, but not mine. I’m supposed to be creating a fluid practice based on laity for all and sundry to pick and choose from. I’m supposed to be the keeper of the faith – the person who tells everyone, “Hey, yeah, it sucks but you have faith in your gods, right? So keep it going.” I’ve still been sending those messages, but I no longer feel like I’m as full of faith as I used to be. And damn it to fucking hell, that fucking bothers me. That’s the whole point – to me and my thoughts – in this shit, “have faith.” And if I’m having some severe troubles with the “have faith” message I try to pass around, then I think there’s a huge fucking problem. No matter what my OTHERS™ may think or feel on the subject, this is about me and what the hell I had initially wanted when I entered this whole religious sojourn.

So, I asked for a break.

Not in so many words.

How do you convey to your gods that you can’t do this anymore? How can you really just sit down, look them in the eye, and say, “I need a time out. Please put me in the corner.” That statement makes it sound so, so easy and it’s just really not. After years and years of wanting this whole kind of experience – and getting it – I was asking for them to kind of take it back. And it wasn’t like I was saying, “for right this second” or “for the next few months.” I was just thinking that I needed a huge break. The volume was too high and the words were too painful and there was so much fucking chattering from every fucking corner of my religious life that it was just… eating at me. So, without using words and without really getting into the details here, I kind of surged my feels at all of them. After writing my post about the godphone mess, I just felt all of these horrible, awful things relating to my practice and just kind of made them realize what the hell was going on with me. Why things were slowing down; why I felt like I had no energy; why everything was too difficult to do besides sitting on my ass when I got home from work… I just laid it all out there without thinking or even talking or even asking, but just feeling. That night I dreamed I went to a party with every single one of my gods.

The lwa were conspicuous only in their absence.

I didn’t really understand what it was I was seeing in this dream. All day, I thought about it. I wanted it to mean as a kind of like “farewell, bon voyage” kind of thing. That’s what I was hoping. When I got home from work, I decided I needed to at least ask if that was the case. I pulled cards to clarify. It felt like if I tried to contact them via the godphone thing that I was really just saying, “kidding!” And besides, I had used my cards for so long and had relied on them so heavily. And then in recent months, you know since February or so, I stopped paying attention to them outside of the general deck I use for everyone but me. I just… It’s like this quintessential need to go back to the “simpler times” we hear old fogeys talk about. Yeah, you know… it was exactly like that.

There’s something really meditative, for me, when it comes to reading cards. So, I was pleased with myself when I very easily went running to something that I knew, for sure. I mean, yeah. It’s always possible that I could be screwing up the interpretation. And in same vein, maybe some netjeri takes a hold of what it is I pull and fucks up everything. But, there is just something soothing about the control of being able to, well, see the future for a bit. During the entire reading, as I went through the meaning behind each card, I kept getting this feeling like I had a year to see this reading through to its completion. And you know what? I was pretty okay with that time frame. A whole year to get through whatever it was the cards were telling me? That seemed like a pretty good deal, all said and done.

The gist of that reading? I had to focus on the foundation of my practice. I had to go back to the beginning, sort of. There was more to it than that. The cards all hinted at the return of my energy and a return of my faith, which is an excellent idea if you ask me. But it also told me that it was time to start applying all that I’ve learned, from the books and from others and from various trial and error, to get this cohesive unit of a practice going. It also reminded me that I have a strong intuition – which is where I get the ability to Tarot so effectively, if you ask me – and that no matter how much I cry, later, about taking this back, I had to keep going and trust my intuition. And frankly, unless my gods are planning on smiting me down all wroth like, then I don’t think I really care right now. What matters is that I’m getting what I wanted.

After a year or more of constantly being told I have no choice in anything that gets thrown my way this is… well, it’s a novel experience.

It’s like asking for a lollipop and getting an entire chocolate cake for dessert instead.

It’s time to get back to the foundation of what it is I’ve been intending on building from the get-go. It’s time to remind myself that I am full of faith. It is time to stop worrying so heavily about whether I’m normal or insane. It’s time to get back to it. Now, let’s just see where we should begin…