In February, I was beginning to despair that things weren’t going to work out the way that I wanted them to. I don’t know if anyone realizes this, but I tend to come down on the side of “never going to work out” because hope is a thing that I don’t really know how to have. It always works out best if I assume the worst because I’ll never truly be disappointed. But this year isn’t about assuming the worst; it’s about moving forward and being reborn. Unfortunately or otherwise, a part of that means that hope is a thing that has to happen.

During a conversation with one of my long-time friends where we were discussing what was going on with me, they mentioned that they had done a reading for me about the whole thing. As part of that reading, the cards seemed to indicate that I should reach out to Nephthys. I kind of laughed and said, “Are you sure?” They confirmed twice and said that I should probably look into it.

After doing the usual research (going to Butler’s entry on Nephthys), I found it interesting that Nephthys’s name is translated into “Mistress of the House.” According to Wikipedia, this could be a misnomer; a citation-less note on that page seems to indicate that her name could mean “Mistress of the [Temple] Enclosure.” Based on further reading I’ve done on her since, I have a tendency to think that it’s all the same; in either case, she’s still a mistress of some closed off space.

As I was going through various pages, trying to catch a glimmer of who this unknown-to-me goddess was, I kept coming back to the translation of her name and the fact that her name, when written in hieroglyphs, looks very much like the traditional house hieroglyph with a bowl plunked down on top. I was apparently not the only one to see this since TTR agreed that they, too, saw the same house image with a bowl placed on the roof.

I couldn’t get this bowl thought out of my head.

Whenever I would sit down to look deeper into this mystery goddess, I couldn’t help but keep coming back to the bowl on top of the house image. I kept picturing a house with a bowl to catch rain water. Sometimes I would picture the bowl filled with the same kind of crap you could expect to see in a gutter around a house, but mostly, I kept coming back to the idea of the bowl catching rainwater, or maybe even snow in the winter.

I assured myself that the bowl was immaterial probably; the important part was that she could help me out. But even with my own false assurances loudly ringing hollow in my own ears, I kept coming back to the hieroglyph of her name, of the square that I’ve seen a hundred times in similar position when I’m looking into Hathor for one reason or another: her name uses that same little box since her name translates to “House of Horus”.

The idea that Nephthys has a relationship to the home makes sense to me, although after doing further research on her, the translation of her name meaning temple enclosure could also fit. But before all of that deeper dig into the source material, the idea that Nephthys was related to the house wouldn’t leave me. And I kept asking myself: Well, why can’t she be a household deity?

We know little about the religion of the laity, a point I’ve made many times over. The bits that we do know seem to indicate that they had idols of gods like Hathor, Djehuty, Bes, and others in enclosures in their home. It’s not quite so different in a very broad way from what most pagans and polytheists are doing now except that we aren’t sure how those household deities were worshiped.

Now, I did look around to see if there was any evidence that a Nephthys idol could have been found in any of the homes that have been excavated and I came up with nothing. In fact, the more I looked into it, the more I began to feel like this was probably not something that was done in antiquity, but I wasn’t getting any negative push back from any of my household gods about it. To be blunt, the more I thought about it, the more I felt like this was A Thing that Should Happen.

To prevent myself from over-thinking it, I went back to the books, back to the research. If I was going to do something that was probably a-historical, then I should at least have a firmer base in history.

Nephthys didn’t have much on her own, all said and done. Her story is often tied with others: Osiris and Isis the most often, Set on occasion. It is the connection between her sister, Isis, and she that is most often discussed in the places I looked. The two of them are the professional mourners par excellence for Osiris and it is the two of them that protect him. There’s more to it than all of that, but I kept seeing that where Isis went, her sister Nephthys was sure to be there, to follow in her sister’s footsteps. But Nephthys was no slouch when she is depicted or discussed on her own though this seems to have not occurred often: she is a deity who can battle, who can heal, who can drink excessively, and who can do many more things besides. As with them all, she is multifaceted.

Nephthys also didn’t appear to have much in the way if a temple at all. There is record of one small place that seems to have been her own, but all other temple mentions indicate that she was included in the reindeer games of other gods’ temples. This brought me back to the idea of her being a household deity; I mean, after all, Bes was a household deity and he didn’t get his own temple either. Why couldn’t Nephthys be like him in that way?

When an idea won’t leave my head, I push back on it in every conceivable way and then, I give up. Sometimes the ideas are good; sometimes the ideas don’t work out. But this one had a feeling to it that made me think this could work out in my favor. I decided that I would at least give it a short, push to include Nephthys as a household deity with the rest of my household deities.

As I began looking over my household altar space, which is amusingly enough, situated on top of a box, I could practically picture a large bowl on top of it. The bowl color is the color of sand and within that bowl was… paper. Little tiny strips of paper that reminded me of the daily angel message strips my MiL was given when one of her good friends died. Those messages are filled with positive and happy messages, feel-good things that you are meant to focus on throughout the day to guide you ever forward.

The difference between those messages and what I was seeing in my head was that the strips of paper included things that I would want to see in my household. Happy and calm vibes; strong maintenance schedule; clear communication between the household members; etc. These were all things that you would, hopefully anyway, like to have occur in your house and amongst the people of your household.

I could see the bowl filled with various semi-precious stones to help attract the very things that you would want to see, but I could also see a giant feather of ma’at, too, because at the very base of it all, you would want ma’at to flourish within your home.

I pulled out the little purple card I had made for Nephthys many years ago when I began honoring the children of Nut and Geb on their birthdays and tried to figure out where to place it on my household altar. The box I have it not very big. It is just large enough for the things I had kept on it up to now, so I had to rearrange and move things around so I could make room for this sand-colored bowl and Nephthys’ name in addition to the pieces of my household altar space that I felt needed to be retained at all costs.

When I was done, I felt like this could work out at any rate. I placed the bowl behind my icon of Bes and his household deities-in-arms, Wenut, Tawaret, and Wadjet. I was actually very proud of the arrangement and felt like I had done the vision in my head proud (which is not always the case). I felt like this was functional enough for daily rituals but also that Nephthys’s specific function was segmented back enough from the other three so that, while they are all technically fulfilling the household deity dynamic, their paths are separated enough for me to focus on the grouping or specifically on Nephthys, depending on what I’m aiming for.

Then it came time to fill the bowl. My feather of ma’at amulet was the first thing to enter. I batted around the idea of including a magnet of some sort. TTR and I had discussed adding a magnet to attract all the things I was putting out there, perhaps with a feather of ma’at drawn upon its sides, but I couldn’t find a magnet that I felt worked for the moment, so instead, I sat down to write down all the things I wanted to see.

I took a small sheet of notebook paper and wrote down various items that I wanted. I wrote them down on one line apiece, if I could, but no bigger than two lines. And once I had filled an entire page of notebook paper, I cut them all down into strips to wrap them into the bowl around my feather of ma’at paper. This was actually harder than I thought it would be because the sandstone bowl I chose for this purpose is actually a lot smaller than the one I pictured in my head.

Once I was done, I stood back and found some remaining things that needed to be added: fake flowers. I love real flowers but I don’t like in a place where those live for very long. So I pulled some of the fake white flowers I have stashed everywhere and placed them all on top and around the bowl to cultivate what I want to see in my home.

I honestly don’t know if this working out so far. This setup hasn’t been up for very long: a little less than a month. But when I walk over to my household altar to do something in the morning, I can feel the difference. It was stagnated before (partially because I needed to clean and rearrange as I do every three months or so) but also because the feeling that I had needed to be fulfilled before the space could open itself back up to me.

It’s been opened up for three weeks or so now and I can feel the hard work that I put into it reflecting back into the walls and the people who live here. It doesn’t feel as if I have done something wrong or that I shouldn’t have done this. It feels right in that way that a polytheist or pagan will get when they know what they’re doing isn’t necessarily historically accurate but at least seems to be working for the time being.

I have another picture in my head of how this will change and evolve over time, but we’re not there yet. All I know is that I can see what the future of this endeavor will look like and it looks kind of awesome.

Thus far, I have had very little communication with Nephthys on the solo front. She has always been a silent goddess to me; she was never truly mine at any rate. I have had no dreams of her as I have had dreams of Bes and Wenut. I have heard not a peep and maybe that means she is quietly working away, diligently pushing forward the things I asked for with my little bowl of messages.

We’ll see at any rate.

Intercalary Days 2013

I have never bothered to really celebrate the epagomenal days before. Since I only started the actual calendar based celebrations last year, I had never felt much need to pay any attention. And last year, I was so busy working up to the day of Wep Ronpet that I really couldn’t be too bothered with doing much for the five gods Nut gave birth to, thanks to Djehuty. This year, I figured I could do something for the gods in question. It honestly made sense. I had begun to cultivate relationships with two out of the five and I’m interested in doing something, at some future time, with Wesir and possibly Nebthet. So, why wouldn’t I bother to honor them in some form or fashion? I knew that – based on other celebrations – I didn’t want to do anything big or too overwhelming. I just wanted something quiet and meaningful between me and five gods who were born because Djehuty gambles spectacularly.

I really wasn’t expecting the soul-crushing depression that would go along with those celebrations.

The day prior to Wesir’s birthday, I kind of snapped about everything. It didn’t seem to matter what I was doing or why I was doing it, but things never seem to work out capably. I have since reminded myself that planning anything is really just not a good idea. It started with work related items and started to snow ball from there. With each day into the intercalary days, I couldn’t help but wallow in some new form of mind-crushing depression. The first day, it was work related. The second day, it was financially related. The third day, it was car related. The fourth day, it was family related. And on the fifth day, it was a general feeling of being incapable of doing anything for anybody without screwing something up. With each new day, there was a general theme. It seemed to flow, a little, with the gods to whom the days were associated. But, I wasn’t expecting it.

I’ve since wondered if this part of the celebrations had anything to do with the fact that the intercalary days are seen to be a sort of chaotic time of the year. Technically, according to ancient Egyptian lore, the days themselves are “outside of time.” Many ancient Egyptians would not bother to go to work on those days and would, generally, just remain at home so as to keep themselves safe. There weren’t many laymen celebrations, although some of the temples seem to have done a thing or two to mark the days. But, overall, the time it pretty much seen as “inauspicious” all around. And the nation, at least as far as my cursory examination has led me to believe, seemed to kind of close up shop instead of bothering to do anything with. I can remember thinking to myself on my drive to work on Thursday (the first intercalary day) that this was a chaotic time and I had to drive extra more careful to be safe, Sekhmet pendant being worn or not. As I’ve thought about the strange coincidence of this depressive phase and the particular holidays associated, I’ve tried to think back to last year and how I felt around this time. I believe I had a deep, dark depression in the days leading up to it as well. (I was still unemployed and I was still whining about no one hiring me, so I was at least slightly depressed if not horrifically depressed.)

In any case, I was not expecting that happy little coincidence. It was kind of a mind blower.

Wesir’s Birthday

The night before, I spent a good two hours coloring in a coloring book that I had purchased for just such the occasion. The Gods of Ancient Egypt by Dover was a last minute purchase about two weeks prior and I knew that I had to have it. I knew that in the purchase it was going to be a devotional item and as it arrived, literally, the day before Wesir’s birthday, I knew how I begin my devotional acts. Very carefully, I spent a good portion of my Wednesday evening just coloring very gently. I remember sitting back and looking at the likeness of Wesir periodically, feeling as though his energy was infusing the picture. Whether or not that was the case doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that, in taking the time to create a depiction that I was to honor later, I was devoting myself to the celebration to follow. And it really helped me to nail down his “energy signature,” or whatever it may be called, so that I could focus on him later.

The next day, upon driving to work, I found Wesir in my car. Now, having gods in my car really isn’t a strange occurrence. Since I spend a good deal of my time driving places, either because of work or because of errands, I have a very deep, magical, and intense connection with Olga. (My car.) I have had numerous gods and spirits show up, out of the blue, to have deep philosophical conversations with me in said vehicle and since I can’t hide behind a book or my family or chocolate or what have you, I end up being forced to listen to whatever they have to say. In this case, I had little else to do expect to listen to Wesir wax poetic about various things. We talked about my religion and where I wanted it to go. We talked about work and how I wasn’t overly thrilled to be going. Actually, we spent a lot of time giving me various pep talks about how I needed this job and I couldn’t just say “fuck it” like I was interested in doing. (Not that I wanted to not go, but that I didn’t want to give it my all.) It was a very pleasant drive, although the work day thoroughly sucked.

Upon coming home, I pulled out his carefully colored picture and set up a quick altar. I have a spare table that used to house various deities (and lwa) throughout the years that I had kept for just such a transitory purpose. I had purchased a dozen yellow roses for the occasion. I placed two cut roses into a small jar, gave some organic ginger snaps, lit some incense, and gave him a mug of tea. I allowed him to take his time over each item. I said no prayer. I said no rites. I didn’t even bother “cleaning” myself all proper-like. I dished out some food and left him to it. This, to me, is the integral aspect to my rituals and rites. I don’t hover. I don’t gawk. I don’t hope to see a hand move or hope to feel their presence. I’m not very pious about it. And frankly, I don’t care if they care how I behave about it. The only act of true devotion I bothered with was writing a page-length devotional short regarding our time together in my car that morning. You can see what I did here.

That night, I went to a party with Wesir on the astral. He introduced me to all his friends and pretty much behaved in the complete opposite of what I would have expected from Wesir as possible. The only way I could even remotely describe it was that he was very much the quintessential frat boy that everyone pictures. It was an interesting glimpse in the life of Wesir when he’s very busy not being himself.

Heru-Wr’s Birthday

For the hour or so before bed the night before, I colored the picture of Heru in the book to look as closely approximate to Heru-Wr. Since Heru-Wr isn’t a big deity, I guess, he was not included in my coloring book. I decided that instead of looking for any ancient Egyptian coloring pages, I would spend my time creating him out of what I had to hand. So, I colored as best I could the picture I had and wrote “Heru-Wr” just beneath the hieroglyphs for Heru. I didn’t spend as much time on this picture as I did for Wesir. I think part of that had to do with the fact that I had managed to program my hands to not ache as much while I was coloring. I, also, think that it was just easier to go with what I wanted instead of basing it off of classical ancient Egyptian imagery. Again, the action of coloring in this picture felt as though I could connect better with Heru-Wr. It didn’t feel as much as it did with Wesir – maybe because I had no relationship with any of the hawk deities before two weeks ago, or maybe just because I was in a bit of a rush while coloring – but I did feel that the act of coloring brought us closer.

The next morning, Heru-Wr came along with me on my drive to work. We talked about how Wesir is a party animal and Heru-Wr was never invited. Though he didn’t admit it at the time, I think Heru-Wr was secretly jealous. Mostly, the two of us discussed how he’s not as popular a deity as some of the others. He said a lot of things that were very interesting on the topic. Mostly, what really made me think was when he said, “I used to be popular. They used to fan girl over me all the time. I was pretty important, you know, during the Old Kingdom. But as time went by, I realized I didn’t need all the attention. It was nice while it lasted, but I do all right. I do all right.” If this wasn’t a secret message to me and my secret desire to be a popular kid, then I don’t know what is. All I can say is that it certainly goes with my impression of Heru-Wr: statuesque and quiet, happy with his lot in life.

That night, I added two more cut roses to the jar I had left out the night before for Wesir. The two in the jar were already beginning to bloom and it seemed a shame to jettison them. I added four organic ginger snaps, cool water, and a small tea light. I spent about an hour trying to write a short page-length devotional as I had done for Wesir. I ended up writing whatever came to mind instead of what I had actually wanted to discuss. I wanted the little page to seem like a devotional act. And since I was actually writing about Heru-Wr, it could be classified as such. But it wasn’t as devotional as Wesir’s, I don’t think. As it was, I came back to Heru-Wr’s statements to me earlier that morning and how he seemed happy with his lot in life. I decided I was happy with what I had done and left it at that. You can see what I did here.

Sutekh’s Birthday

Following my previous tradition, I colored Sutekh the night before. Frankly, I didn’t think I really needed to focus on the coloring in as much as I did with the previous two. Sutekh and I have had a passing acquaintance for some time now. He’s even showed up and had conversations with me about random items at the most inopportune times. I couldn’t really fathom what-all his birth day was going to be like, especially since I had the day off, but I knew that it wasn’t going to be as intense as the previous two. With that in mind, I spent most of my time focusing on how I really didn’t like the representation of Sutekh. The picture is of a goat head and that is not the classic Sutekh I know. I tried to keep the picture as close to ancient views as I could, even though the head really wasn’t what I was thinking of when I was coloring it.

The next morning, Sutekh watched my majestic break down as I learned I have a pretty decent oil leak in my car. And that was really the building point that we worked upon. We talked about break downs. As a god of chaos and all the stuff that he did to his brother, he completely understands the whole think about having a break down. He understands the need to curl up into a ball and cry about things you really have no choice in going through. And while he did have the choice – whether or not to remove his brother – he did it anyway. And even though he knew what he was doing would be misconstrued and he would be hated, he still went through it. Only the little bits people forget is that he probably grieved and he probably felt really hated and he probably ended up breaking down quite a few times, both because of Wesir and because of his nephew. So, while driving around randomly so that I could get back into the right head space for my family, we discussed what it was like to be a god and what it was like to be a human and how, when it comes right down to it, the emotional fall out can be the same.

Again, I added two more cut roses to my growing jar. I actually ended up filling the jar to capacity with the next two. I relit the little tea light I had used the previous night before because, as Sutekh informed me, “waste not, want not.” I added four ginger snaps and cool water. As I had done on the past two occasions, I wrote another devotional page of randomness to Sutekh. In the writing of that little tidbit, I could feel Sutekh beside me. It was just like when I was in the car, tears pouring down my face at yet another thing I had no control over. And in that moment, I completely understood him in every way. You can see what I did here.

Aset’s Birthday

Since I have a working relationship with Aset, I was actually more interested in things that I could do for her. I thought about doing magical type items on her birthday, but the fact that the intercalary days can be so chaotic prevented me. Instead, I did as I had done the last three nights: I colored her picture. I spent time reflecting on her as a god in my life, as well as what she would have been like before Sutekh had killed her husband. I reflected on the fact that we have a lot in common in various ways. But, mostly, I focused on the fact that I was more interested in her birthday than anyone else’s. Nothing against Sutekh and our relationship, but she’s really the one god in the whole Wesirian cycle that I pay the most attention to. So, it wasn’t really shocking that her birthday would be something I was most interested in.

I didn’t spend as much time with her on Sunday as I had initially hoped. That was part of the reason why I was thinking about doing some magical undertaking. Instead, I spent my day just relaxing. The little bit of time we spent together was about us. It wasn’t about us as a mother, as a magical worker, as a woman or anything in between. The day was just about who we were and what we mean as people. I spent that early evening, working on her spread for the altar. I added ginger snaps to the offering plate and she was given cool water. Instead of a candle, I went back to incense. (I find it amusing that I burned incense for the husband and wife team that are so well known.) I added a second jar for the next set of cut roses, which were looking a bit worn at that time. And then, I spent my night just focusing on me, me, and more me. You can see what I did here.

My dog stole one of her cookies off of the plate on the table. We laughed about it later.

Nebthet’s Birthday

I have thought about Nebthet a total of a few times in my life. I think I’ve taken consideration of her more in this last year only because I do have a sort of relationship with Sutekh, whom she is married to. However, I’ve come to primarily associate her with a goddess of grief. While I have never actively prayed to her or worked with her during those trying times, I have only ever associated her with sadness and despair and grief. Of course, she does have other associations, but not in this UPG. The night before, per usual, I colored a picture I found of her online. Since she is, also, not one of the popular deities, she was not in my coloring book. I don’t remember where I found the picture, but it was okay. It didn’t have the same standard as I have found with the gods in the Dover coloring book, it would suffice, as far as I was concerned. The entire time I colored, I marveled at my one-dimensional view of her.

She showed up only briefly on my ride into work. By the fifth day, I was running out of spoons. Even though my festivals and rites aren’t really all that huge or awe-inspiring, the fact that I had five in a row was beginning to wear on me. While she didn’t really spend any time with me on my ride in to work, I did feel her presence throughout the day. And when I say that, I mean it was like a gentle breeze or caress. Frankly, I don’t get as “strong” a vibe as I do with her husband or her sister, or any of the other deities I actively cultivate relationships. The wavelength, so to speak, is entirely passing or vague. She’s there, but only for a split second before she’s gone again.

That night, I put the coloring book in the little drawer and placed her colored picture front and center. I added a fifth cookie to the usual four, as a kind of penance for having a misbehaving dog the night before. I added the last two yellow roses to the cup, which were sad looking indeed. Instead of a simple tea light for Nebthet, I chose one of my scented ones. This one reminds me of home cooking and a calmer atmosphere. Since my connection with Nebthet is fledgling at best, I couldn’t tell if she was pleased with my choice. But since she is the “mistress of the house,” I have to assume she liked the reference. You can see what I did here.

All in all, I have to say that I am pretty pleased with the rather mellow way that I celebrated the days of birth of each of the gods. I was looking for something simple and easy and I chose it. However, I will admit that after five days of ongoing rituals and rites, as simple as they were, it does take a lot out of you. I can’t decide if this means I will do something even smaller and less expansive next year, or if I will continue in same vein. I do know that I want to continue to add this portion into my festivals and feasts in future. I also do know that I enjoyed getting to know Wesir, Nebthet, and Heru-Wr after never having given them much of a passing thought. As to whether or not I will continue in the vein of laity in future or if I will tone it down further, I haven’t quite decided yet.