July 24 – August 19 The Propitiation ends with a festival of drunkenness. A celebration that harkens back to sweat-slicked bodies, heavy drum beats, an overabundance of alcohol, and a spiritual awakening brought about by the excessiveness of all three. … Continue reading
Are you with me after all
Why can’t I hear you
Are you with me through it all
Then why can’t I feel you
Sometimes I think that writing about grief will somehow lessen the pain. I am pretty sure this is a concept that crystallized for me in high school and just never went away.
But other times, I find the mere idea of sharing the pain to be so odious, so incomprehensible that I can only believe that by sharing the pain, I’m in fact trivializing it. As though the act of publicizing my own emotions creates a sort of side show event where people will laugh at the freak before them.
When I have those moments, I find poems that encapsulate the feelings. There are many beautiful poems out there written on the coattails of one’s inner pain and, occasionally, in the reading, I can feel a hint of the release I’m aiming for. But that feeling never lasts. Sometimes the poems just don’t even help at all.
When that doesn’t work for me, I find songs that speak to me. Intense, beautiful lyrical pieces that make my whole body and soul zing with the emotion better denoted as grief with its stops at suffering and sorrow. When I hit those songs and really listen, I can feel the pain of my grief slipping away if only for a little while. This is a last ditch effort really, but it usually works.
The basis of my problem is that I am just no good with sadness on the whole, even as a person who has been living with depression for a little more than half her life. I never really learned, I guess, how to appropriately cope with it. Maybe I just feel too much as one therapist once told me. Suffice to say that I am so very bad at handling it. Typically, because it’s easier than the whole feeling thing, I just go numb.
I can handle going numb.
But something I have come to realize during this holiday is that, I can’t outrun those emotions or hide behind a shield of numbness. I desperately want to, but I have learned the hard lesson here [again]. As much as I may run and hide and refuse to acknowledge my own feelings on the matter, they’re going to catch up with me anyway.
Last year, I went through this alone. To be honest, it was literally hell. I waffled heavily back and forth between “I’m totally fine really” and “my entire world is falling apart but I have to pretend that I’m fine what the fuck.” It often felt as though the phrase tap dancing on razor blades was wholly appropriate and perfectly summed up everything in between. I felt like I was going crazy half the time.
I tried to talk about it with the people I knew in real life, but it seemed like nothing I had to say on the subject was adequate. I knew how to use my words effectively after a year or more of working steadily towards that goal and yet, when it came to this, I couldn’t use them properly. I got angry and frustrated when people tried to tell me that they understood. How could they understand when I didn’t fucking understand?
I could have turned to Heru Wer or Hetheru, I suppose. But even entrusting them with the depth of my pain was taboo to me. Maybe that’s the wrong word. It was like I couldn’t share it. It was my pain; it was my grief; it was my sorrow. I couldn’t give it up to another god. Maybe that was a directive somewhere that I didn’t consciously know at the time or maybe I really am just no damn good with expressing this shit.
I sat alone for the most part, frustrated and angry and filled to the brim with an unending sorrow. It was like a tsunami with no end in sight even though I knew it was going to end. That’s the kicker to the whole fucking thing; I knew that she would return. The Distant Goddess always returns, but it was like I was never going to see her again, as though my entire world was falling apart. There’s just no logic to this shit.
In a not very surprising plot twist, things are different this year because of course they are.
This year, I haven’t had to suffer alone. I have been suffering right along with Ptah, who was not around last year to hold my hand. He is here this year and together, in a not wholly unexpected way, we have been bolstering one another up as we suffer with our loss. Whenever I feel like I’m dying inside, I can feel his steadying presence. I don’t know if he feels quite the same way, but I just know when I need to be there for him.
It’s an oddity to me to have someone much less to rely on someone. It’s even stranger to know that we are going through the exact same thing though in our own individual ways. His smiles are pain-filled, his silence is pointed and encrusted with razor sharp edges. I assume I am much the same, although probably with a little more petulance and a lot more whining. Still, even though we could just as easily lash out at each other for this, this… this fucked up horror show of our lives, we are there for each other.
Maybe I do know how to cope with this shit; I just didn’t have the right person before. Or maybe it’s just simply because we both feel the loss so intimately that we can understand why the other is acting the way that they are.
It was Ptah, really, who told me that we had entered a period of mourning.
The course of this holiday isn’t so bing-bang-boom. It’s a little of this and a little of that. At first, I was just a little sad and a little depressed that she was gone, but I could handle it. And then, he turns to me and just says out of the blue, “We’ve entered the period of mourning,” as if the whole time period before then was a fucking practice run for what we would inevitably and truly feel.
And I could feel my own mourning returned to me. It was all deep blacks and veils and quietly spoken words and anger, pain, sadness meshed into one. And there was Ptah with his quiet attitude morphed into a caricature. He was hard lines and anger; tear tracks from weeping and a shell of who he has always been to me. We made a pair.
I was so angry that he would remind me that the period of mourning was coming up, that it was bound to happen and really, there was fuck-all to be done about it, but I knew he was right.
We had entered the period of mourning and really, there was fuck-all we could do about it.
I was reminded of the Victorian form of mourning as I realized that he was right. It was a pretty huge process back then and there was this whole huge etiquette for guests and clothes and calling cards and letters. The house was draped in black along with everything else.
It felt a little like Ptah and I had entered into a similar state, though we have had no need to write letters and no visitors. It’s just us barely keeping it going.
I dreamed that I had draped my altar space in black. There was black crape across the table and covering the double doors. A black lace scarf hung down over the front corners of the shrine cabinet and everything was shades of deepest black, deepest mourning. The phrase, pall of mourning, kept flitting through my head though I couldn’t say why. I haven’t found that phrase anywhere when I’ve tried.
Ptah and I knelt before the altar together. We were silent with the pain that we’ve been going through but the close proximity of one another was enough to keep us both alive for the next second and the one after that. They don’t tell you, but grief can kill just as easily as anything else. We kept breathing instead. I held my arm up above my head with my hand covering my upturned face (much like the women in this image) and sometimes, I would scream out with my own pain. But mostly we were silent, just breathing, just trying to stay alive.
I emulated the image of that dream to the best of my ability and each night, I kneel before it. Sometimes I let the sorrow come and I am unable to hold back the tears. Mostly I kneel there and try to remember that she is definitely coming back. I look at the icon of Ptah as it stands before the double doors, guarding it from anything untoward, and I try to remind myself that the Distant Goddess always returns.
But somewhere in my heart, I know fear. I know what it’s like to never really know the truth. Maybe she won’t come back this time and maybe, just maybe, I’ll truly be lost for eternity.
And I think, I think Ptah knows that fear too.
Are you with me after all
Why can’t I hear you
Are you with me through it all
Then why can’t I feel you
Stay with me, don’t let me go
Because there’s nothing left at all
Stay with me, don’t let me go
Until the Ashes of Eden fall
-Ashes of Eden by Breaking Benjamin
July 24, 2016 – August 19, 2016
No matter how many times I may celebrate a particular holiday, I often sit back and muse on the differences between each celebration. I have always worried about the drab gray that I associate with sameness, especially occurring within my religious practice. I don’t want to go into something time and time again, never to be surprised, never to know something new.
That shit gets boring.
Every year, the time leading up to the Propitiation seems to both last twice as long as it should and to also speed up until, before I know it, there are only a few days between me and the holiday. It’s a strange mixture, just as strange as the various emotions the holiday has a habit of causing me to feel.
Two years ago, I went into the holiday with joy and excitement, pleased at the time away. Last year, I went into the holiday with confusion and worry, not sure what to expect. This year, I had a better handle on how things should look and what I could expect while she is gone. Having the last two years at my back has been helpful in many ways, though of course, nothing is the same. I also have Ptah with me this year who was not around last year; he has promised to lend a helping hand while we both mourn the loss of our lady. Having Ptah there to hold my hand when shit gets real, well that’s really kind of a bonus.
For once, I had the time I needed to prepare. Usually, my holidays take place during the work week leaving me with little time to ensure that everything is situated before the day arrives. This year, by the power of the calendar, I had an entire weekend to prepare as the Propitiation didn’t begin until Sunday.
I spent all day Saturday either sitting in the sunlight with my gods, being lazy and relaxed, or headed out to get some last minute items that Sekhmet had indicated I should get. Sekhmet and Ptah both seemed to stress the need that I couldn’t go into this harried or harassed; I needed to have enough strength and energy as Sekhmet always seems to have in spades. With the way things have been lately, I thought it was a pretty tall order to fill but maybe it was the sunlight or the fact that I had a whole day to do anything or nothing because I somehow managed.
Sunday morning dawned even earlier than Saturday’s and we all sat up watching the local birds do local bird things. In the window that I had placed them, chickadees and finches could be seen. They were all very happy and cheerful birds; they made me laugh. One bold little finch finally showed up to eat whatever bugs or spiders were encased around my window, peering in at us with the same sort of curiosity as we were peering at it. It was really nice and made me feel, well, maybe not magical but like everything was going all right.
Though the holiday, according to my calendar, starts the morning of the 24th, I don’t typically get into anything until much later towards sunset. We spent our day basking in the rays of Ra’s rejuvenation for the duration, needing the added boost that only the sun god can provide before we meet together and have our farewell meal.
I honestly can’t fathom what it must have been like for the priests of ancient Egypt undertaking some holiday or festival. Their days, like mine, had probably started very early but I often think that they were constantly on the go to ensure that everything took off properly. Almost by design, during the holidays where I have the ability to give it a slow burn, I am relaxing and taking my time. Nothing to rush; nothing too big to see to. If it can’t be done simply, according to my gods, then it shouldn’t be done.
Part of taking my time with the holiday also includes whatever holiday meal I may decide to make. I try to be as basic and simple as possible. Some of this has to do with the fact that I am not much of a cook. I can bake very well, if I do say so myself, but when it comes to actual meals, I find myself often making what I feel are ridiculous mistakes.
It’s kind of funny, though. Something I’ve noticed is that when I am cooking dinner for a particular holiday, things tend to go well even when I go into the cooking prep with the usual anxiety of just how terrible all of this is going to actually come out. Maybe the gods guide my hand when I cook for them; I don’t know. If Sekhmet aided me in making some of the best steak I’ve ever cooked, then I’ll be grateful for it.
Maybe it’s just my own insecurities in reality, but the gods make sure that if I’m going to cook, it’s got to be simple and easy.
As much as I love to bake, I’ve found that my ability to do so lately has been completely undermined. It doesn’t take long to throw the ingredients together (usually) for a batch of brownies or some cake or another. Maybe the act of baking, to me, is a pain reliever and I’ve been too overwhelmed with that pain in recent months to actually bake something in depth. Sekhmet said I could at least buy her something dessert like instead of baking. Maybe she really just wanted me to focus on getting her altar and cabinet up to snuff before I locked her away.
It may not come as a surprise, but Sekhmet is very demanding about how certain things should look and feel. She wants certain things fulfilled for her holidays that are, as she would say, “mandatory”. When I went grocery shopping for the Propitiation, she was there with me to help me pick out everything that I needed. She was also with me when I had to fetch a few added supplies to spruce up the shrine cabinet she was to be locked into for the duration.
It’s funny, though. As much as she wants this, this, and this in just such a way, she mostly leaves the artistic representation up to me. She knew that I would look to the symbolism I associate with her, with our relationship, and with ancient Egypt as a whole to set things to rights. This is where the partnership of our relationship, in my opinion, becomes more and more pronounced especially as the years go by. She wants things to be just so, but I have free reign to recreate the image so that it’s pleasing for both of us.
It may not be obvious to most people, but symbolism is very important to me. I often look into the how, what, where, and when long before I actually begin to decorate for a holiday. While I will have a certain image in my head, either from my own experience, from what others have done under similar circumstances, or because of dreams I have had, I am always searching for various symbols that need to be recreated in a way that will do justice to the overall image. If I can’t find the symbolism that I require or that I know should be there, then it doesn’t get added.
One of the things that has always pleased me is the fact that green is such an important color in ancient Egypt. Green is my very favorite color so the fact that it ties back, not just to ancient Egypt but specifically to my goddess has always been a sort of additional connection that binds us together. It was with the symbolism of that color in mind that I chose a gentle green overlay for various items on the altar space.
You see, I wanted to keep her fed and life-affirmed as we prepared for the holiday and to continue that theme as we wait for her to return. I removed most of the reds that usually adorn her altar for the same reason: while red is a powerful color and we will need power to keep her in check until her return, we don’t want to give her too much power. There is, of course, always the fear that she may become wrothful once more.
That is also why, most of the time, I will also pick flowers to stay upon the altar for one reason or another. The flowers serve a dual purpose, of course. I love bunches of flowers, set up to look as beautiful as possible. But it’s also a reminder about life-affirming and ma’at affirming behavior.
It is with an eye to symbolism that I’ve come to perfect the implements of this ritual and the pieces I shut away with her. One of the most important pieces is the black scarf I use to carefully wrap her away. Black is the color of the life giving silt that was left behind after the Nile overflowed its banks. In a way, it hearkens back to the color of green and it’s life-affirming and ma’at-affirming connotations.
Black is also a color that I personally associate with the Nun. And it is more on that end, than anything else, that led me to choosing a black scarf (and later, a black shrine cabinet). Nun is a god of potential: from his waters, the potential of both life and death await. It is potential that I aim for here: the potential of keeping Sekhmet calm, the potential of luring her back to me, the potential of keeping her propitiated until her return.
The other most important part of the symbolism are the hearts that I have, every year, left with her as she becomes distant from me.
Most people who have read this blog, or its Tumblr companion, for any length of time should be aware that hearts are a central part of my religious relationship with Sekhmet. I won’t get into the details, since many of them are private, but the point of the matter is that the ib and everything it symbolizes between us must be represented in some form or another when I shut her away.
As found here, the epithet, “she who grasps hearts for herself,” is particularly appropriate.
It is with the representative hearts that we are finally able to bid goodbye. I give her my hearts, literally and figuratively, as a signpost, a reminder of what we are to one another and to give her a way to come back to me. So far, thankfully, each year she’s followed the path of my bloody remains right on back to me. Here’s to another year of anticipation, waiting for the day of her return.
The heart he wore in a golden chain
He swung and flung forth into the plain,
And followed it crying ‘Heart or death!’
And fighting over it perished fain.
So may another do of right,
Give a heart to the hopeless fight,
The more of right the more he loves;
So may another redouble might
For a few swift gleams of the angry brand,
Scorning greatly not to demand
In equal sacrifice with his
The heart he bore to the Holy Land.
– In Equal Sacrifice by Robert Frost
July 24, 2015 – August 19, 2015
Last year, I created a holiday for myself in an effort to incorporate Sekhmet into the epagomenal days and the New Year. I had a real purpose to this: I wanted to add Sekhmet, who was the main reason I was on the path that I am, with the celebrations that I was undertaking in the name of netjeru that I don’t really have relationships with. It felt wrong to not include her, to be honest, so I made it my mission to do so.
I formed the basis and the actions that went with the celebration last year. I wasn’t thinking beyond the actual creation of this. I had an idea of what I wanted it to look like one day since I did, sort of, base it off of the mysteries that TTR celebrates for O every year. But I didn’t stop to think what that would mean in the future. I just needed to create some form of back bone and take it from there… at some point.
With a foundation created, I didn’t do anything further. Aside from wrapping her up in the black scarf I purchased specifically for this, I didn’t do any heka. I didn’t add any further rituals. I just left her closeted away for five weeks (yes, five weeks) and left it at that. At the time, I needed a break from everything and ended up running as far and as fast as I could after the wrapping of her icon was completed.
With all of the other things going on this year, I recognized that what I was aiming for last year wouldn’t be sufficient for me this year. Sekhmet had told me that I had things coming and that I would have rules to follow. I’m still parsing that bit out, but the gist is that I needed to focus more on the duties as her servant that she wants and less on the bare bones that I had crafted last year.
It’s a bit like that section in My Heart, My Mother by Alison Roberts. She discusses how Osiris is the foundation of all ancient Egypt. During a conversation with TTR on this subject, I mused about how our altars could be viewed as a continuation of this idea, as the backbone of O: each altar being a form of central focus, a foundation, if you will of our practices*. The actions of my ritual for Sekhmet prior to the epagomenal days and Wep Ronpet were another version of this backbone. I just needed to flesh it out.
* I’m not saying that altars are mandatory in order to practice Kemeticism. I was thinking more on the physical reminders of one’s practice, which an altar would be the largest in my opinion. There are many other things that can and do make up the backbone of one’s personal practice.
So, I decided that I needed to do more than just act: I needed to think and say, as well.I chose to use one of the spells I read in Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts by J.F. Borghouts. Much of the spells in here make me go, “what,” most especially since the ancient Egyptians really seemed fond of crocodile poop. But there are a few bits of heka that include items to prevent the netjeri of Sekhmet from inflicting harm on the person who is either performing the spell or the person who the spell is being done for during the End of the Year. There are 12 spells regarding the End of the Year in this book to choose from. I chose to work with spell number 13, which can be found on page 12.
As the book indicated:
“Words to be said over a piece of fine linen. These gods are to be drawn on it, and it is to be fitted with 12 knots. To offer to them bread, beer, and burning incense. To be applied to man’s throat. (A means0 to save a man [from] the plague (i3d.t) of the year; an enemy will have no power over him. A means to placate the gods in the retinue of Sekhmet and Thoth. Words to be said by a man from the last day the opening day of the year, the Wag-festival and at the daybreak of the Ernutet festival.”
I ended up choosing to use a silky nylon cord of which I have a large abundance of. I chose to use cordage in the color red. While the color red is associated with things like destruction and anger, it also has associations with strength, virility, and kingship. Since the color is most often associatied with Sekhmet, and being a devotee of hers, it occurred to me that choosing red cord would be an excellent way to utilize it’s negative aspects as well as its positive aspects against the netjeri that would be unleashed the next day. It would help to protect me when they are unleashed.
Since I didn’t know how much string I would need to include 12 knots, I decided to just try it out and see what happened. I had spare cords that I had cut for another purpose that I no longer recall. They were about 20″ long. I cut a third piece to the same length and tied the beast together.I have three vials of various oils that someone made for me a long time ago. (I can’t even remember who or why, tbh.) One of them is a protective oil to keep evil away. So I figured that since I was using cordage, which doesn’t have space to create depictions of gods on it, I could use this oil as a replacement. I soaked the hell out of those three cords and then let it dry for a while.
I cut up a huge bowl of cucumbers and shared them with Sekhmet while I waited. When I felt like enough time had passed, I braided the three cords and found out that no matter how much time has passed, when it comes to oil being soaked into cordage, you’re still going to make a huge mess. I also discovered that one crappy white rag was insufficient and would up with oil all over my hands (again) and in small drips on the table.
When that was completed, I tied knots in the middle as evenly spaced as I could manage it and reformed the knots at the end so that they were evenly spaced as well. I only had enough space for 6 but I’m okay with that. I pulled over the book and whispered spell 13 from beginning to end over the cord. I plan on doing this every day through the epagomenal days and including on Wep Ronpet. I haven’t decided if I will keep this up through to the Wag-festival though.
The next step was to clean up the altar space and get Sekhmet situated.I pulled everything off of the altar that I use to associate with her except for the
We spent a good portion of the rest of the day just resting. I had the blinds open to let in fresh sunlight and I napped as I watched the sun move across the sky. I listened to music that made me think of my relationship with Sekhmet. I also ended up finishing off the cucumbers with her, realizing that no matter how many you cut up, it’s probably never enough to fill you up.
Later that evening, I pulled out my little pile of offerings and set them together so that I could get started. I left them out for her to look over with the feather of ma’at amulet above them. This gesture was to remind myself that what I was always aiming to maintain ma’at and that what I did, by the virtue of all that I have read about the gods and how they were served in antiquity, was an extension of maintaining ma’at.
As I did last year, I bound them in a gold cloth that came with one of the amulets I have (I can’t recall if it was something that came with the feather or the ib pendant). I wrapped them up like a little package with some cord in a nice little bow. While I was doing this, I was doing my best heka on the fly. This may not have been very good because I stumbled a lot over my words, but spoken heka is not my best suit. (You want me to write it? I’m all over that, but if it’s spoken aloud and on the fly… Well.)
I pulled Sekhmet from her representative benben and carefully wrapped her in the black scarf. As I did so, I spoke yet more words discussing that process, the why and the how, and the reason that my power was as strong as any god’s. Once she was wrapped up, I wrapped the package that is Sekhmet in a white cord and murmured spell 13 back over the entire altar space.
As she went on her way with her package of my personalized offerings, I set up Professor in his aspect as Maurice the Netjeri to keep watch over her passage. I lit a cone of incense to bless the path that she walks with the sweet scents of sandalwood. I then placed my red cord of protection on the altar, a not-so-subtle reminder to the other netjeri that I am a hekau of Sekhmet and my demands will be obeyed.
I think one of the things that I always felt completely confused about having religion was how the hell it was supposed to mesh with my mundane life. I know people who are all, “praise be,” and down with God like 75% of the time. And that is really aspiring (sometimes) and I often wondered, when I first got started, how I could be like that even with my own religious persuasion.
But I had to admit, even way back then, that the process on how to get down and dirty, feeling as if my gods were a part of every aspect of my life and not just shoved into a particular niche, well that shit is fucking hard. And as I am often complaining about, no one thought that writing a manual on how to modernize a dead religion that you are attempting to recreate would be a good idea. So, I often found the whole experience that my friends and family members have remarked – making it clear, to me, in their terms that they were down with their deity of choice quite often – bewildering (mystically bewildering, even).
Over the years, I’ve stopped caring whether or not my religion was a niche aspect to my life. It mostly is. I don’t talk about it much with people outside of my community for a lot of reasons. (Most people don’t understand; some people are worried about what I’m doing and possibly believe I am consorting with “devils;” I realize that discussing some minute aspect of one of the netjeru with people outside of my community isn’t scintillating conversation with my significant other; etc.) I figure it would happen or it wouldn’t and I would share it, or I wouldn’t.
It occurred to me, though, that perhaps I have done this and I just didn’t realize it.
So, about a year and a half ago, I started seeing Geb in this field that I was driving by twice a day to get to and from work. I no longer drive by that particular field so regularly, but I think that’s when it really started. I was able to not just associate Geb with that particular field and the geese that were so often doing geese things on that field, but it opened my horizons to new and innovative ways to see the netjeru in the natural world around me.
Prior to this, for whatever reason, associating the netjeru within the natural world was a foreign concept. Sure, it’s fine and dandy to do so when you think they may be sending you a message with a particular bird species you don’t see often, but it didn’t really occur to me that doing this throughout the natural world was a good thing. Or even possible. Or something that should be considered. Yeah, I got it when I read that post by Dver about associating gods with local flora and fauna, but I still didn’t really get it I don’t think.
Maybe the thing I had issues with when it came to Dver’s post was that I was trying to force the relationship associations. I looked for particular things I might see locally and figured that was probably a good association as any. But the thing was that I neglected to actually look for things that I would see regularly. Or maybe I just didn’t see local fauna often enough to make the connection. This is, by and large, quite probable since I live in a very urban area where things like fauna are either mistaken as scenery, hidden very well, or just not see in the light of day.
However, when I took the job that I work now, the trip down to a more rural area made it more likely for me to see fauna that could be associated with various netjeru. A glaring example, of course, being the baseball field that I would drive by and the Canadian geese who take it over once the whether starts warming up again. It became easy for me to see Geb in that and feel his presence whenever I would drive by. (Seriously, note to self: drive by and see how things are going.)
The connection I didn’t start to realize until later was how this particular relationship would flavor other relationships that I would develop.
On that longer drive when I would go by Geb’s field, I would look for other animals that I wouldn’t necessarily see living in a big city. One day, I saw turkeys waddling around in the field by the local prison. I don’t know what it was about these wild creatures that made me start to think of Mut, but there you have it. I began to associate that little family of turkeys (there were usually three but later, they were joined by two more) with Mut.
That’s weird, though, right? She was associated with vultures, which were seen as mother-like creatures in ancient Egypt. So, what the fuck was it about the turkey and the family that made me scream, “THIS IS MUT,” in my head? It was because of the first time I saw them up close and personal (and then realized I was seeing turkeys): one of them was flying across the road, directly above my car with its wings outstretched. It looked beautiful and majestic and it reminded me of the iconography of ancient Egyptian vultures with their wings outstretched in a protective embrace.
As that shadow passed over my car that day, it was solidified for me: turkeys = Mut.
I kept looking around for things that I wouldn’t necessarily associate with any particular deity that I worked with, per se, but for wildlife that I found majestic and beautiful. I found it when I began seeing hawks and/or falcons all over the fucking place. I suppose that road that I used to drive down is a prime place for them because I saw them often. There they would be, floating on the wind currents while they searched beneath them for something to snack upon. Or there they would be, sitting on the light posts as I drove beneath them.
These hawks and/or falcons (I’m sorry but I don’t know what they are except that they have the tearing beak thing and they’re big but that’s all I know) made it easy for me to find parallels with other deities: Khonsu, Heru, Re, Montu, and the like. There are a whole swathe of ancient Egyptian deities depicted with hawk heads and it was easy to see them, depending on the circumstances from which I was seeing them, as any of those deities. I tended to associate the ones from that road with Khonsu in his hawk-headed aspect because of the turkeys I also saw on that road.
The eight hawks I saw the other day, on a different road, were all of the hawk-headed deities to me. The loner hawk deity who I saw the other day, on a completely different road as well, was Heru-Wer because his birthday was coming up (his birthday, according to my calendar, is today). I began almost having fun with it – what deity could I possibly see today?
This morning, I saw Wenut in the world around me.
Across the street, there is a small rabbit that has made its home out of the bushes my neighbors have across their front yard. This morning, the rabbit was sitting up straight in a small patch of grass, looking around as it munched on whatever it was that it had found. And as I watched that rabbit for a good fifteen minutes, snacking away, there was nothing else for me but to associate that tiny little bun-bun with the long-ear Wenut, the swift one. And I watched for a few minutes more until it paid credence to that interpretation of Wenut’s name as it took off across the driveway and beneath the fence that separates one neighbor’s yard from another.
This may be unorthodox and it may not necessarily mean that I actively find the netjeru everywhere. I still can’t find a single way to associate them, other than through the ma’at I conduct within myself, at work or in other places. But I think it’s enough. I think it’s a good way to find religion in the world around you even if only for a moment.
When I began seriously thinking about Wep Ronpet, about a month before it was to begin, I thought about how I could incorporate Sekhmet into the festivities. It seemed weird to me when I was celebrating last year that she had nothing to do with it. If not for her, I wouldn’t have a calendar. And if not for her, I wouldn’t even be a Kemetic. But, I also know that the historical record shows that Sekhmet is very much absent and on purpose around the Wep Ronpet season. Historically, the intercalary days were very chaotic days. There were specific prayers and acts of heka that were seen to in order to prevent Sekhmet and her chaos-wielding netjeri from inflicting harm and suffering on the general populace. Providing people with amulets of Sekhmet was a common gift at the New Year, provided in the hope that this would be enough to keep her and her netjeri from causing harm to the wearer. Based on the historical record, it really didn’t seem like a good idea to actually incorporate Sekhmet in the festivities.
It dawned on me that, with her associations with the more chaotic days of the year, then maybe I could incorporate her sort of in the kind of way that, maybe, the ancient Egyptians would have found satisfactory: I could placate her as best I could and keep her occupied enough to prevent her harmful netjeri from being sent out and into the world. While I can’t assume, based on UPG or otherwise, that keeping Sekhmet tied up with all of the frips and frills I could think of would necessarily keep the netjeri at bay. But I can always hope that, even just a little bit, it would help. I assume that after all of these years, the netjeri have developed desires all their own, but at the very foundation of it all, they work at the behest of Sekhmet. Whether she specifically and emphatically details who should be sought out and had harm brought to them is neither here nor there. At the core of the matter, Sekhmet is their de facto brain/leader/wielder and I can only hope that by placating her with enough things and stuffs, then I would be doing the world, at large, a service.
As I kept thinking about this, I realized that it made sense, in a way, to keep her occupied prior to and including the actual day of Wep Ronpet. The point in Wep Ronpet is for the year to renew its cycle, to hearken back to that world that was Zep Tepi. So, too, would it be a renewal of Sekhmet if my thoughts on cycles and renewal merit any legitimacy. And of course, as I thought about it, her main focus upon her creation as an Eye of Re was to extinguish the life of those who had been planning against Re, which turned disastrously against Re when he unleashed her. So, in a way, it could be seen as a form of renewing her original purpose, which stumped me. I certainly didn’t want to think of all of this as renewing her decision to kill humanity. (We can do that well enough on our own, anyway.) So, how in the hell did I keep her occupied and let the renewal process happen, but not let her kill all the things?
I thought about how to prevent this by looking to other Kemetic practices that I have read about. One particular rite came to mind: Devo’s yearly rites for The Mysteries of Osiris. Each year, while she celebrates these rites, she wraps her icon of Osiris up in a blue cloth that she uses specifically for this purpose. To me, this symbolized that Osiris was “hidden” from the world. And in a manner of speaking, I would like to keep Sekhmet hidden from the world while things are getting so chaotic before the New Year celebrations begin. I decided that the symbolism – wrapping her up and keeping her “hidden” from view – was the perfect addition to keep her satiated. Since I didn’t have a cloth in mind or even something that would work, in my opinion, I had to decide on what sort of cloth and what color would be most appropriate.
I chose a simple black scarf for the purpose (and let me tell you, finding a “simple, black” scarf was a pain in the ass). I chose the color black because this, above all else, reminds me of Geb and the earth. Above all else, the main purpose isn’t really to hide her from the world, though this is part of the reason, but I want to keep her “grounded,” too. Now, I don’t mean this in the New Age context regarding meditation services, but literally grounded – as in sending her to her room without any supper coupled with the idea of keeping her in the here and now, as opposed to caught up in the New Year festivities and the chaos it can bring. Even though the color black could symbolize “resurrection from the dead and even fertility,” (source: see entry for “black”) I was aiming less for the symbolism as denoted in ancient Egypt for the color and more on personal interpretations.
But, I worried that maybe this wasn’t enough of a thing to keep her occupied. It dawned on me that maybe because I don’t have a shrine cabinet where I can lock the doors with a shrine bolt that perhaps it just wouldn’t be enough. After all, Sekhmet isn’t just the goddess who destroys humanity once, but she is also the deity that other deities quake in fear of. (She has no less than six epithets that I can find that talk about how she causes fear.) With that in mind, I thought about how else I could keep her from doing something dangerously ridiculous and making lives miserable. While driving to work one day, it dawned on me that I could metaphorically offer myself in the stead of the human race by leaving the two pieces of jewelry that I wear daily, at her request, in front of her: my heart shaped ring and the ib amulet.
I legitimately debated the merits of this action for a few days after thinking on it. It dawned on me that, perhaps, I was not making the wisest decision here. I mean, after all, I was technically telling Sekhmet that she could eat my heart and destroy it if she so desired just in the hopes that she would keep her mind intact instead of losing it. But, considering the dimensions of our relationship, I didn’t think it was something that I was risking, per se, but something that I was willing to do just in case. I honestly don’t think that she’ll take me up on the offer, though it’s possible. And if she does take me up on the offer, then I have to hope that the purpose is less about destruction and more about adding further dimensions to our existing relationship. Though I’m still leery after waffling back and forth regarding this, I feel that the ends justify the means and that the benefits outweigh the risks. I’m prepared to sacrifice myself in the name of my goddess for a hypothetical situation that may not even happen.
I guess that’s devotion for you.
With that all out of the way, I had to decide how long this was going to take place. My original thought process was that I was going to be doing this for the week of Wep Ronpet and then unwrap her the day after. I looked through my calendar to see what I was looking at as far as timeframes went. On August 2, there’s a feast day I have marked and noted as “The Feast of Sekhmet in Darkness.” This amused me and intrigued me; I had no idea what the hell this particular feast day was original for, but I found it interesting that it was to take place about a week and some change after I had hidden her away – forcing her into the dark. I decided to incorporate that feast into what I was doing and decided to push out when I would unwrap her. Looking at the rest of my calendar for the month of August, I noted “The Feast of Drunkenness” on August 20. Well, honestly, if that wasn’t the perfect day to actually unwrap her from her bindings and bring her back into the light, then I didn’t really know the definitions of coincidence and serendipity. (Seriously, I had no idea these feast days were coming up before I checked my calendar.)
At this point, I decided I should check in briefly with Sekhmet to see if this time period worked out for her and to verify that everything I had planned thus far would work out. We do, as it is, have an oracular session scheduled to conduct August 9 and I was concerned that keeping her hidden from the world in her own form of renewal would cause issues. She rejected my offer to pull the date forward for when I would pull her free from her moorings, though, and she agreed that my planning so far was looking pretty good. (Can I just mention how completely weird it is to “check in” with a deity about how you’re going to hide them from the world and they’re totally on board with the prospect? And of course, let’s just all stop and stare at that last question and think about how weird it looks.) With full steam ahead, I kept planning.
I thought about what, if anything, I would provide as offerings during this time period. I wanted, in my heart of hearts, to give her red beer as this is my interpretation of what Re provided to her during her destructive phase. However, it occurred to me that I wasn’t quite to the point where I wanted to mellow her out. I needed to keep her pleasant and calm during these five weeks (FIVE WEEKS? DID I REALLY AGREE TO FIVE WEEKS?) with her wrapped in her scarf. What I needed to do, though, was probably get her fairly liquored up on a regular basis. The point isn’t so much that I needed to overwhelm her senses with alcohol that looked like blood to keep her from going on a killing spree; I needed to distract her with as much as I could to prevent her from starting the spree. So, since I can’t stand beer (ick) and I hate tomato juice (ugh), I decided that a weekly vodka and diet Coke will suffice. On the Feast of Drunkenness, then I may make terrible faces while I revert red beer down, but not before I have to.Two nights ago, I began the preparation process. I wanted to have everything set up and ready for when I would finally sit down and actually do the thing. (The thing is the vague blog phrase of choice for this rite prior to this post. Most people on Tumblr and on FB will be familiar with this.) First steps for preparation was to clean off the altar. I cleared everything away, tossing the linen napkins I use as table cloths into the wash, and pulling out clean ones. I decided to lay down plain white ones instead of using my usual one red and one white. I was hoping to eschew colors that would incite a riot, you know? And white is symbolic of purity, which is what I’m aiming for. I may not pay much attention to those ancient ritual purity things that other devotees can and do (I don’t decry the practice, per se; it’s just not me and I’ve never been ordered to be “ritually pure” like others have) pay attention to, but I wanted to at least get a nice purified and clean space going for the next day.
I pulled out my black scarf and shook it out, brushing away any stray pieces of linen and making sure the tags had been removed. I then folded it up very carefully and left it at the foot of the table, in Sekhmet’s view. I wanted her to be reminded of what she was signing up for with this and I also wanted to have it readily available for when it’s time. I placed a white candle, covered in healing related herbs, on top. This candle is something that I had prepared last November and I felt that, besides the color itself, it was pretty fitting. Sekhmet is also known for her ability to heal and it is this particular aspect that I want to have the attention of during these weeks.
I pulled out one of the lotus-shaped plates I have, this one in white with the etching for ma’at at its center, and placed important parts within: my prayer beads, my ib amulet necklace, and the ma’at feather that Bezen made. (Shameless promotion of all things beautiful: buy these gorgeous reproduction amulets!) I put away a few of the more random thing that I leave out on Sekhmet’s altar since I want the main focus to be on Sekhmet and this five-week long rite as opposed to the pretty baubles I’ve been placing around lately. To finish everything off, I cleaned off the “benben” that I place my icon on. (Obviously, I don’t really have a benben because I would have posted pictures about it and screeched a lot about my reproduction benben. What I use to keep Sekhmet’s icon elevated is an old wrought iron candle holder. It came in a set of three and I was using the other two for similar purposes before I broke them.)
Finally, I was ready for the thing.
And nervous as all get out.
The day dawned bright and cool and I was in a shitty fucking mood the moment my eyes opened. I soon found out why when I noted that my body, ever ready for a moment of betrayal, decided that it was just that time of the month. I found this ironic and fitting. It goes to show that the body has no time for such fickle things as ritual purity. I, of course, don’t pay any attention to that jazz. But I had to wonder, while the cramps ramped up and what good mood I might have had quickly dive bombed, what would a high priestess have done in antiquity if just such a thing had occurred to her? Would she have kept her mouth shut and kept up with her duties? Or would she relinquish control of a great rite, an important rite, something that probably heralded a great precipice of religious proportions that was really fucking important…? Would she have been able to give up her duty in order to maintain ritual purity? I have to assume that, you know, the make believe woman I was wondering about probably would have. Ancient Egypt was, if nothing else, a dictatorship and if ritual purity was to be upheld, then so be it.
Still, it makes me wonder how many ancient women may have had this issue.
I did my best not to think about what I was doing, why I was doing, or how I was going to do the thing throughout my work day. Work was, of course, stressful, which really didn’t help my already piss poor mood. I began to wonder if maybe I shouldn’t do it because, you know, I should have probably have been in a better mood. But I reflected and realized that I couldn’t very well always let things like work and the stress surrounding it preventing me from doing things. I use that excuse a lot when it comes to things. It’s not always religious things, though some of it is. And I have to admit that I don’t like the idea of having that other part of me – the part that looks like every other working class citizen – preventing me from doing things that I enjoy – the part of my that lives, breathes, and works within their religious preferences. So, I decided that I was going to go home, shower, and then get the show on the road.
I did the shower thing and hope that I managed to get enough of the stress gunk off beforehand. I wasn’t very… successful in that.After I ate my own dinner – thinking about the Snickers commercial while I did so – I fed Sekhmet. I provided her with as large of a meal as I possibly could. Looking at it, it doesn’t look that big, but it was sufficient in my opinion. I gave her the usual green grapes and added a banana. I thought about adding bread and whatnot, but decided that I would give her cookies instead. I bought cupcakes (birthday cupcakes) for the Intercalary Days celebrations this week, but I bought red velvet cookies with buttercream frosting specifically for this particular holiday (and also because I really fucking love them). I suckered her up with some vodka and diet Coke, which I am finishing as I write this. I lit a cone of incense, made sure all of the jewelry I was going to be offering to her for the next five weeks was on the white dish I had rested the prayer beads on, and went about my business. I was trying to get ready for the thing.
I still felt very much out of sorts, though, and kind of angsty about everything that I had gone through at work. (It wasn’t even that the day was, like, bad or anything, but it was just a mixture of things and the period thing and just general nervousness about the whole thing, I think.) So, I ended up going around and driving, listening to music while I psyched myself up for the work at hand. I chose to listen to Skillet, really loudly, for a while and then switched over to Fall Out Boy. I don’t know if I have ever mentioned this to anyone, but there are a few songs from their most recent album that have particular sentimental and personal value in my relationship building exercises with Sekhmet. I, of course, chose those ones to listen to while I cruised around, trying to get into the mood.
So, finally, it was time.
I got home and nervously paced the altar. I had to seriously ask myself, am I doing this? Am I really going to do another thing that has no baring, probably, on what happened in antiquity? And is this going to become a yearly thing? And am I really fucking doing this? I must be crazy. There’s no way.
So, then I did it anyway.I whisked away every ounce of food product and the dishes. (I made sure to finish the grapes and the banana is for breakfast tomorrow morning.) While I sucked down the vodka and diet Coke ambrosia, I set the black scarf up so that it was just big enough to cover my icon of Sekhmet width wise. And then, I wrapped her up. I decided I didn’t like what I was seeing and unwrapped it. I did it a second time and liked that even less. The third time around, I spoke (in my head) and said, “I bind thee from unleashing your special brand of isfet, lady. With this cloth, your powers are bound. Your netjeri are bound. You will cause no harm.” I felt very kind of like The Craft with the wording – possibly where my head went to when I started thinking/saying it – but I also felt successful.
I then bundled my heart ring, the ib amulet, and the feather of ma’at amulet into a little golden package that I wrapped with a white cord. I placed that package on the white plate where I had left my prayer beads.
And thus, I have propitiated (hopefully) the goddess.
And just as hopefully, this lasts the full five weeks.
And even more as hopefully, this works out.