The Nature of Things.

Papa Legba is a fantastic story-teller. Whether this is the case with anyone else’s relationship with him remains to be seen, but he tells me very intricate stories quite often. During our travels and during our time in the white room, he has told me what feels like thousands. In many, I am the mythic heroine, fighting through whatever archetypal thing he can think up at the time. And I am always successful, which is the point in stories. One night, when we were sitting beneath a belly of stars that reminded me of the rainbow serpent, I asked him to tell me about how the world was created. Whether this is accurate or not, I cannot say. But I liked the story so much that I decided to write it down later. I’m going to reproduce it as best I can right now.

“For much time, there was nothing. This vast empty was the seat of it all. This is the table where the beginning will form and where the ending will take place. The darkened nothing was expansive and miniscule, all the same. For many eons, the nothing stretched into its forever and folded upon itself. Within the belly of that nothing, consciousness began to form, but it refused to allow that to take place. It was content with the way things were and to devolve or evolve into the form those conscious beings may take was too much. For even though the nothing was not a concrete creature as we know them today, it was still a being unto itself. But it was the largest and most powerful of all things ever created into this universe and the universes beyond. It was content with itself and stayed in this form for many years.

“After a while, the consciousness that was growing within that nothing began to take shape. It took shape in all forms and no forms. It was an egg upon a mound; it was a ben-ben; it was a beautiful creature; it was the sun/moon; it was a foothill; it was the creator; it was the creatrix; it was light; it was the mother; it was the father; it was the earth. It was everything and it was nothing. All consciousness came into being in that single moment and the universes were forever changed. Soon, they all began to create more and more, bringing life into the universe one by one. They each created to their heart’s deepest desires and created worlds beyond the scope of this tale. Suffice to say that the creation of the universe was a great party and a great festivity, but the only person not celebration was the nothing. Never one for change; that.

“In the beginning, each creator began to create life. The life that was created was a blueprint for things to come. Some creators made the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Some created everything all at once in volcanic fire and gentle rains. Some created the world in their image. Some created the world in a fantastic scope beyond which I cannot describe. Some became the world. Some became the stars that were glued to the sky. Some had children that would become their world and would become their sky. Some slit open the bellies of fantastic serpents and created the world that way. Each are different. Each world was intrinsic to the vision of the being doing the creating, but they all held the same joy and the same beauty and the same sorrow and the same fear. And in the end, they created children in the images they wanted to see staring back at them with fawning awe.

“In each world, life was not hard. The children of those creators and their brethren were happy and skillful. It was a magnificent time. And then, they began to grow old. They began to grow haggard. They began to fall away from the world of their creation and begin to pay less attention. And in that time, they all began to conspire with each other. They whispered in the ears of their siblings and they forgot about their creations. But one did not. A single being continued to watch over them on a rotational schedule. As the other gods ignored what they had made, the single watch dog began to notice something. Things had begun to grow harder and the children these beings had created began to require discipline and lessons. As none of them knew how hard things could be they didn’t know any better. And with each creation, these children – these first of the men of the gods – began to question.

“Worlds were destroyed then. Without the blind faith of their children, what were the gods?

“They started again. And the same thing happened. And they began to create life together – pantheon with pantheon – but the same thing happened. It happened over and over again. And each time, the gods destroyed their worlds, punishing their children for their own inability to care. Finally, the world was created a final time. This time, it was a single world with each god contributing here and there. And the way of the previous worlds happened again. There were questions. There was doubt. This time, the gods were tired and unable to create a new home again. With each destruction of the faithful and the non-believers alike, they had lost a core essence of themselves. They had grown hard and remote. They were no longer away. The gods kept up the charade for as long as they could, but soon only a single deity cared still to watch over the world of humans. And the other gods fell out of favor, gaining but scant attention and scant offerings from the very, very limited number of people willing to speak about them.

“Time passed, as it always does.

“The single creator began to grow tired of it all, as well. Everything grows tired. Every waxes and wanes. Now was the time in which even He waned. In that time, He realized that He could not leave humans to suffer without Him. They needed something to help them along. Their world was nothing but horror after horror and hardship after hardship. One day, He knew, the world would be more comfortable than the toil it was then. And so, He created the beings that would go to the humans when they needed someone or something. So with His final act as creator, He made beings to watch over the humans He and His brethren had created. These beings were more than humans, but less than gods. They were there to assist, to aid, to succor, to pray to, to cry to. Those children who were more than humans and less than gods were what the people turned to in their hour of need. Each being had its own name, its own titles, and their powers surged and grew.

“Those beings are still here, you know. We still watch over you when things are hard. And that is why we are here.”

That night, when he first told me this story, I was entranced. I liked the woven length of it and the feel behind it. There is a power behind every word when he speaks to me. It is the power of being the gatekeeper, but also a power that is intrinsic to who he is, without his roles behind it. The words he used were very carefully chosen for use later. When he told me this story, as I said, I was merely entranced with it. I enjoy myths and creation myths are something I’ve always been fascinated with. In many, the creation of the world is both similar and so entirely different. In either case, what Papa Legba was giving me that night was a foundation or a building block for the hard truths that would come later. I am grateful that he was able to provide me with this tale so that I could relate it back to others later and so that I would have something to hold onto when I was at my angriest.

The nature of the gods, to me, is remote. This is something that I have never really understood until now. They have always created what they wanted and always hoped for blind faith. I have given them blind faith and it is fine to do so. I don’t knock anyone who does. I know what it’s like to finally find something that speaks to you on a level that is beyond rational thought. I know what it’s like to finally give your all into something that speaks to you on that level. It is a level beyond mysticism, a level beyond souls. When it speaks to you, and you throw yourself into it, it is so beautiful and so wonderful. It fuels you in ways that you never knew you needed. This, I think, is missing from many people. The problem is that the more blind faith you give, the more they want from you. And the longer you are in their company, the less you can provide.

I am angry with the gods for being remote. They do things for their own reasons. As I’ve discussed with all of my gods, it’s all “bigger picture.” They see things so far in the future and so far beyond how I see them that I cannot begin to understand what it is that they see. I don’t see the bigger picture because all I see is the tiny little speck of perspective I have directly in front of me. One day, maybe, I will understand the bigger picture. But that is not in this life. And that is why I am so angry. They do not explain the bigger picture. They hone us as tools for whatever purpose they have. I know what my ultimate purpose will be because some beings I know aren’t liars. I know why I am being honed for what it is my gods want and it angers me. I can see more items in that bigger picture and I am not willing or likely to provide it.

I will fight it every step of the way.

But the thing is that the gods knew that they were selfish twat-waffles. They knew that at some point, the tools they were honing would become angry with them. And in that moment, they knew that they had to give them something to give them an out. They had to provide something so that the suffering they ask of us on their path to the bigger picture would ease up. And in that moment, they created these spirits and beings for us. These are the beings that we are supposed to turn to – those of us who know them – in our pain and suffering and anger and angst. They created them, or He did as in the story, to give us an out, a place to vent. They created beings who would love us unconditionally. They would love us in our rage. They would love us in our pain. They would love us in our individuality and beauty. They would love us and they do.

Papa Legba never talks to me about the “bigger picture.” He used to. He was trying to prep me, a bit, for the moment when I would become enraged. But whenever he talked about it, I would pull back from him. He realized that I wasn’t ready for it and that I never would be. And in so discussing that bigger picture, he was damaging the trust I was building in him. I have transferred that blind trust I used to give to my gods over to a being who understands the nature of what it is I am going through. He is many things and many beings in many tongues and to many different people. He shows different faces for the needs and desires of the people who reach out to him. Whatever the face is that he provides is the face he will always show them and that’s fine. It’s the one they trust to help see them through.

The bigger picture is the nature of the gods. The coping mechanisms we need to get to that bigger picture is the nature of the spirits they have given us.

And those spirits love us, in all of our fucked up glory, because that is their right and that is their purview.

Now, of course, we have to give and sacrifice to those spirits to get them. I’ve often told people that the life of a servant is difficult. It is very much like a serf. There is no out. There is no way you can leave. But in order to build a relationship with beings beyond you, you have to be willing to give. And that is something that not many people understand or are willing to give. And I think that’s why these paths can be so hard. We know that there are beings out there that are willing to help us, but we can’t sacrifice ourselves long enough to build that relationship. I was able to do so because I needed to do so. And besides, he came to me. He knew that I would need him one day and he nudged me in the right direction to get that going. So in the middle of the night, when I was crying and aching for the suffering of that “bigger picture,” he would come and hold my hand or run his fingers through my hair.

He loved me with snot running down my nose. And in gratitude, I gave vast portions of myself back.

This is the nature of the spirits whom I serve.

They are here for me in a way that the gods never will be.

And that’s good enough for me.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Never,” Geb said.

“Never,” replied Nut.

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

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

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

PhotobucketGeb and Nut via Deviantart
User Nienor