Lent 2017: Heart with a Gaping Hole

I’m just at the halfway mark and I would love to say that things have changed so very much. I want to say that I’m upbeat and positive, that the mood swings have gone, and that I am floating on a natural high of my own ability. I want to tell everyone that I feel better, healthier and ready to get active again.

But I can’t say any of that. The ancestors promised me despair; Lent has more than delivered.

Depression

Dark twisted fantasy turned to reality; kissing death and losing my breath. – Bones – MS MR

I don’t necessarily feel like a monster anymore, which could be a good thing. Maybe monster is too strong of a word.

Every day tends to have at least one single moment where I am ready to break down and say fuck it, fuck this, I just can’t do it. There is just that given moment in a given day – sometimes more than one and sometimes just the one – that leaves me questioning why I chose this course of action in the first place.

People always remind me then to look to my reasons. They tell me to remind myself with the reasons behind this choice to keep myself on track. To be honest, I can’t actually remember what those reasons were anymore. I stop and ask myself why the hell I’m doing this and I honestly can’t remember.

I always come back with an ambivalent response. There is always a “but…” in there somewhere. I didn’t really want to quit. The ancestors didn’t give a shit what I fore-went during this season. And I could have found something else if I tried hard enough.

But here I am, ambivalence and all, on day 20.

The least expected thing to start cropping up was the depression. I knew that I used this addiction to aid me through my anxiety and that it helped me to cope with all of that. I had figured that part out pretty quickly. It just honestly never occurred to me that I had been using it for my depression as well. I don’t know why I never thought of it.

My depression is usually small, pretty manageable. It’s the anxiety that causes the most trouble.

I’m high functioning so most people don’t realize that I do have mental health issues. The first time I mentioned my anxiety to a coworker at work, they stared at me in shock. I haven’t ever mentioned the depression; I can imagine that I don’t fit into my coworkers’ ideas about what a depressed individual looks or acts like.

My depression is something that sits there on my back like a gray monster. Sometimes it is big enough to smother me, much like it is now; other times it is just a small annoying weight back there. It started to grow around day 13 or so, maybe day 12. It seems to have grown as much as it was going to. I don’t think it’ll get any worse at any rate.

To be honest, I was kind of hoping it would stop of its own accord and start to shrink back down again.

It hasn’t.

It most likely won’t.

health

Lost in the pages of self made cages; life slips away and the ghosts come to play; these are hard times – Bones by MS MR

I’ve noticed that I don’t have a lot of patience anymore. I scream a lot more in the car and while everyone always said that I drove like an asshole before, I definitely do now. I yell a lot at people who can’ t hear me yelling: neighbors, my son, the dog, something that happened last year. I’m angrier than I was before.

Sometimes I can trace out what makes me so angry, what specifically about the quitting that has made me angry enough to overreact to what is happening. Invariably, I am always overreacting. I shouldn’t be so upset that the neighbor put the broken plastic chair on the side of the road; it doesn’t affect me. I shouldn’t be so upset at the car that’s inching forward to merge into the next lane; they’re over there and it doesn’t impact me.

I haven’t noticed any difference in my breathing or the aches in my chest. Everyone always says, with almost a badge of honor, it’s the coughing that let’s you know when you’re over a hump. I haven’t tried to clear out my lungs since I quit. I think I’ve had two coughing fits and nothing that came up with any substance. My chest hurts every day; sometimes it’s a panic attack and sometimes it’s this.

It actually annoys me sometimes because I can’t always tell the difference between the panic attack and my chest just hurting. Sometimes, it’s a muscle ache; sometimes it’s more than that. The ghost pains move around my chest, up near my arm pits one moment and then down near my diaphragm the next. It annoys me every time I stop, every time I am mindful of my body. Somewhere in my chest, it always hurts.

I can’t breathe through my nose still. I suppose I could just assume that I have allergies and that’s why I’m living with a perpetually clogged nose. I think that’s a lot of bullshit. I think my nostrils are probably just fine; they just haven’t caught the memo yet.

At the end of the day, I don’t feel healthier or better.

I kind of assumed I would. I mean, when you give up something that you have been doing for 15 years multiple times a day, aren’t you supposed to just suddenly feel better about, I don’t know, yourself, life? Something? I don’t feel better. I still feel as gross as before, but of course that could just be the depression talking.

I speak every day to the ancestors about all of this. Without fail, I jot a few words down to form a small string of sentences in the morning. I tell them how bleak I feel; what my dreams are filled with and how it relates to how fucking irritating this shit is; how annoyed I am with myself and my surroundings; and what the fuck was I fucking thinking.

Sometimes they respond in whatever way they feel is necessary. Sometimes, they don’t at all but I kind of feel them a little bit. Personally, I think they’re still cheering me on even if I don’t hear it. I guess I’m okay with that.

I just wish the depression would quit already.

laughter

Dig up her bones but leave the soul alone; let her find a way to a better place. – Bones by MS MR

I did notice that while I’m more aggressive and bitchy still, I’m able to laugh more. I don’t know if that makes any sense? It’s like everything is funnier or brighter sometimes and it just makes me laugh for no apparent reason.

I spent hours on the couch with the significant other last week just laughing at stupid shit. None of it was particularly funny, but it all kind of streamed together into a long drawn out laugh. I had a similar experience with my son; it was definitely funny. He made that face he makes that gives me a case of the giggles, only this time it was a paroxysm of barking laughter.

I was thinking just the other day that, honestly, as horrible and annoying and as bitchy as I am about all of this, I haven’t really had to exert willpower during those times when I want to break down. I don’t even really distract myself during those moments. I just ride it through. Sometimes I’ll breathe through it, but mostly I just let it ride.

It hits, it overwhelms, it’s gone.

I guess I’m doing okay. I haven’t killed anyone. I haven’t gotten into a car crash when I was driving like an asshole. I’ve caused a lot of mayhem in other ways. I don’t know if I’m working through those parts or if I’m just going to let it ride, just like the cravings.

I figure one day I will be safe to be around again.

Lent 2017: Things That Will Bite.

On the final day of February, a mere few hours before Lent was set to start, I went off by myself for a few minutes while I considered what I was getting ready to do. I needed to think about what I was giving up, what I could expect. That card reading I had done for myself kept showing up in my mind’s eye, reminding me that what I was looking forward to was despair.

It honestly seemed like no matter how much I tried to spin how positive this experience was bound to be or was supposed to be at any rate, I kept coming back to the bleakness of despair.

Since the start of Lent, I’ve woken up twice in mimicry of the 9 of Swords. I’ve managed to put down the feeling of anxiety and depression those moments brought with them. Before falling back to sleep in those moments, I turn over the image of the 9 of Swords in my mind and kind of sigh. I mean, what other type of reaction can I really have?

I knew what I was getting into and I honestly thought that I could get through this.

Reclusion

Say your prayers, little one. Don’t forget, my son, to include everyone – Enter Sandman by Metallica

I’ve felt a little bit like a monster since the 1st of March. I’ve also felt a little like a doll made of porcelain, minutes or hours or years away from a cracked face, knowing that the cracked face will occur one day. I have also felt more than a tad like a broken piece of pottery, something perhaps once used in someone’s heka, that has been used up and destroyed.

It’s been 10 days since then and my emotions are all over the place. Everyone tells me that this is normal. I’m kicking an addiction – something that I have been absolutely assured is not done every day or even in a day – so emotional upheaval is part of it, I guess.

I don’t know if I really want to hear it though. All I keep thinking about is why in the fuck I’m doing this and what this is supposed to achieve. Everyone says something different from each other about it and in the end, I’m left more confused and annoyed than I was when the advice first popped up.

Quite obviously evidenced from the above paragraph, I spend a lot of my time complaining, though mostly in my head.

I never realized how much having an addiction could, like, lessen your ability to give a tin shit about outside things. I also never realized that this was the one thing I did regularly to keep my mental health in check – I honestly didn’t understand what a coping mechanism this is or how completely unprepared I was for that fucking despair thing the 9 of Swords talked about.

I am far less entertaining with my ongoing monologue while driving and use a lot more curse words (and I’ve always used a lot of them). I am far more willing to get off the phone with someone who is angry not-with-me or maybe-a-little-with-me over work stuff that isn’t my fault and cry. I don’t typically cry at work so that’s been interesting. I’ve done a lot of yelling in the last ten days and I’m not a quiet person once you get to know me.

It’s been… it’s been a lot for all of us.

The significant other keeps reminding me that this is absolutely a good idea. Sometimes I tell him to fuck off. He smiles and laughs since he’s been in my shoes. Other times I tell him that I want to stab him in the eye and he gives me his telltale smirk and continues on with his day. I feel bad for all the times I thought very uncharitably about him when he was going through this.

But mostly, I feel like a monster. I feel like something dark and rabid, living in the swamp with all the dead things.

Monster

Dreams of war, dreams of liars, dreams of dragon’s fire, and of things that will bite. – Enter Sandman by Metallica

Every single morning, I wake up and think about how much I can’t do this. The push to just give up is overwhelming. I always knew my mind was an enemy of sorts. I am very used to listening to my brain tell me what a complete failure and loser I am about so many things. It’s a daily occurrence, so it’s not like I haven’t gone through this particular song and dance before.

The idea of giving up just pushes at me like a weight on my chest though and it is so strong. Frankly, giving up is louder and more insistent than the voice that has always told me what a horrible human being I actually am. I never really considered the fact that there would come a day where I could honestly say that the voice in my head that is named Anxiety is drowned out by something louder.

And truly, it does get drowned out when the voice of Surrender whispers insidiously and seductively in my ear.

When I open my eyes and I am finally aware of my surroundings, I think about how stupid this is. When I have my second cup of coffee before I wake up my son during the week, I think about how it would be easier to stop this ridiculous exercise. When I drive to work, when I get angry, when I want to cry, when I am reading a book, when I am scrolling through Facebook, when I am going through Duolingo for my French lessons, when I have forgotten to take a lunch break at work again, when I have gotten out of the shower: all the fucking time, I keep thinking about what a farce this is.

The key, or so I have been told, is to distract myself. The funny thing is that I would use my addiction to distract myself from the voice in my head that tells me how much I suck at everything. Everything else I try now seems to pale in comparison or fail miserably. Chores, books, conversations, etc. They all fail to offer the distraction that I have been assured is the key to this.

I write about all of this, thinking about what Alex said in a comment on my last entry about this. He told me that sometimes willpower isn’t the way to go, sometimes asking for help is the way to go. I’m not very good at asking for help, so I write a small paragraph each morning to the ancestors. I think they’re listening.

Last night, a very nice and happy cheerleader appeared in my dreams. She wore an A on her uniform and her skirt went to her knees. She had white sneakers and a peppy little grin. Her eyes were made of the universe; she was my ancestors in a single body. They did a cheer about how I could do this and how I shouldn’t give up because, of course, yesterday’s daily entry was about giving up.

I haven’t given up yet, but I want to.

Day 3 (Barbed Wire)

And never mind that noise you heard. It’s just the beasts under your bed, in your closet, in your head – Enter Sandman by Metallica

It’s not all horrible, I suppose. Part of Lent includes donating more regularly than I already do. If I hadn’t gotten a body modification within the last year, I would have most likely donated blood which is a favored go-to of mine for a myriad of reasons. Instead, I have been having a lot of fun researching various organizations to give to in order to ensure that almsgiving, as requested, is a part of my Lent experience.

I get to donate every 10 days and I get to choose the organization so long as it is not the ACLU. I have a recurring donation set up there and the ancestors requested that the places I donate to be new places. I have determined which two organizations get the first two donations – Planned Parenthood and Hope for Paws – and I have a pretty good idea of what the third will be. I guess I’ll have to look around for the fourth.

When I’m not complaining or hurting or annoyed, I think things are going remarkably well. I’ve managed to ignore my desire to give up on all of this and I’ve managed to keep to the goals I had set for myself. I don’t think I’m doing too badly all things considered.

It could be worse, I keep reminding myself in as cheerful a way as I possibly can. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. It just really depends on the day.

Lent 2017.

Recently, I started thinking about that story in Genesis where Abraham is asked to sacrifice his only son to God. It’s kind of a weird thing to be focused on, but I woke up one day thinking about how Abraham just got this message one day and instead of fighting back against his deity, he went ahead with a plan to sacrifice his kid.

It’s been a few years since last I heard it spoken of in relation to the Bible, but I can remember wondering why in the world anyone would do that. It just never made a lick of sense why the hell someone would be willing to do that.

I mean, did he cry at the thought? Or did he just go “yeah okay” and get on with the program? I always had to ask myself whether or not the whole story was “yes, I will do this thing” from Abraham or if there was a lot more fear, anxiety, and ranting against what appeared to be a completely unfair request.

I kind of thought, as a kid, that he probably was pretty upset by the whole thing. I mean, can you really just go ahead and willingly sacrifice your child out of blind faith? I personally don’t know the answer to that question, but I have a better understanding about sacrifice and faith as an adult than I ever did as a kid.

As a kid, the sum total of things that I would sacrifice was, well, bullshit. It was stupid things. “Give that to your brother” or “stop doing that because I said so.” I mean that’s what I thought sacrifice was. I just assumed it was being told by someone more powerful than you to stop doing the thing for their own reasons.

It’s not really like that, but it also is. I’ve been told any number of times by my gods that X had to happen in order for Y to occur. And X usually entailed having to surrender and give in to blind faith that they would ensure that Y really did occur.

This is an actually an overarching theme in my religious relationships and it comes around quite often. I don’t trust, therefore I have a hard time foregoing whatever it is they think I need to let go of in order for Y to occur. It’s a cycle or something.

To me, it has always been scary and frightening whenever I’ve had to do that. There’s no stoicism here as shocking as that may be to some people. I have ranted and raved quite a few times because what they wanted just seemed so damn unfair. But even with all of my bitching and moaning, I did the thing and gave into faith…

Eventually.

My gods have never come and told me – either through themselves or through alternative means – that I could stop sacrificing whatever it was because I had proved my faith, proved my fear of them. Maybe Abraham got the better end of the deal because he didn’t have to give up something he loved.

lent 05

I’m a sinner; I’m a liar; Want forgiveness; But I’m tired – Curbstomp by Meg Meyers

The theme of sacrifice has been popping up a lot lately. I kind of expected it. I usually hit this theme around now when Lent is around the corner. Last year, I studiously ignored all of the little neon lights pointing at Lent and kept tooting on my merry little way.

I’m not so lucky this year.

Some weeks back, my ancestors began hemming and hawing about Lent. I kind of assumed they’d be a little outspoken about it since they had asked me, very politely of course, to observe Advent and I had declined for perfectly valid reasons [at the time]. I guess they figured since I wasn’t able to partake of Advent, then it would be perfectly okay to push for Lent.

I kind of went round and round the idea for a bit with them. They were very sure that they wanted me to observe Lent, but had little other advice to offer. It was only after a particularly grueling session with them that I came to the conclusion that this was A Thing and that I should do The Thing.

I figured I know how to go about this and I have a sort of blueprint to follow, it couldn’t be so bad as all that.

Though they were particularly mum when I pushed the point in that grueling session, I have since learned from my ancestors that the original blueprint is a little faded and aged (maybe they had to think about it before getting back to me). I need to revamp the process and start over.

That’s around the time that I started thinking about Abraham and his requirement of sacrifice.

The ancestors made it clear that the sacrifice this year had to be bigger than diet Coke, had to be bigger than chocolate. It had to mean something to me personally. I wasn’t really sure what they were looking for, so I of course asked my son for a few suggestions. He only had one even after my pressing and pushing for more.

When asked, the ancestors agreed that would do.

The funny thing is that I’ve been thinking about giving it up for a while so it’s not really anything that’s come up out of the blue. It’s just unexpected and a little rushed. If I had more time, I’d plan it out. But my ancestors know me of course. They know that’s an excuse; if I don’t go for broke, I’m never going to fucking go.

sacrifice

I’m a shadow; I’m a creeper; Want forgiveness; Getting weaker – Curbstomp by Meg Meyers

The other day, I sat down with them and went through a long list of questions and answers. I asked them what I could expect all of this to look like and wouldn’t you know it? Despair. I got a lot of despair. I kind of had to laugh; you’d expect someone who is sacrificing something pretty big to be going through despair.

In one of those flip moments, they also told me that if I didn’t bother, then I would be much happier. It’s like they just needed to let me know that this isn’t supposed to be a pleasant process. They even came back three separate times and reminded me that sacrifice isn’t supposed to be easy or simple; it’s supposed to hurt.

When I mentioned this to a friend of mine who has a longer Catholic association than my tangential one, she reminded me that the 40 Days of Lent were related to Jesus’s time in the desert where he’s being constantly harassed by the Devil. If that doesn’t resemble despair, I don’t know what does.

But as with Jesus in the desert, the refusal to give in to temptation is what I’m after here. I can only hope that my will power is enough to see me through.

That, and hopefully my friends and family understand just how completely awful I am going to be while I sort this addiction bullshit out of my system. But at least I can always remind myself (and them) that I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.

Some Would Sing and Some Would Scream.

I’ve been purposely quiet lately. The whole last month – last three months really – have been a sort of nightmare that Americans woke up to the day after the election. There is so much going on everywhere that it’s enough to send anyone into a spiral of darkness and depression, myself included.

Every single day, I wake up at 6am and spend a half hour looking through the news reports I missed out on while sleeping. I comb the various social media platforms I am on and reblog, share, and retweet the things that I find need to be shared. I spend much of my breaks at work or periods throughout the weekend doing the same thing. It’s honestly one of the few things that make the darkness a little more bearable.

It also tires me out. I mean, there really is only so much of these horrifying things you can take before you want to hide in a pillow fort for a few days. Life continues though, no matter how scary the real world has become and no matter how your mental illness reacts to it.

I still have to go to work and pay the bills. I still have to get groceries, do laundry, help my kid doing homework, and clean the old homestead. I still have to have the same arguments about fruits and vegetables with my son. I still have to feel miserable when shit starts flying at work. I still have my life to lead amid the nightmare fuel the world has seemingly become.

Sometimes it’s a wonder any of us can get up and greet a new day.

Fleur de Lis - Lily Style

You soon find you have few choices… I learned the voices died with me. – Arsonist’s Lullabye by Hozier

During all of this, there has been some beacons of light in the darkness. I have turned to comfort from my ancestors. Some of the reason that I have turned to them is because of that old whispering commentary telling me to get right with my ancestors. But that’s not the whole of it.

I know enough about them to know that there were members who fought for freedom in some form or another. I figure they’ll understand all this stuff we’re going through now. My grandfather and his brother joined up during WWII, the time frame that seems to most mirror what we are going through today. I know they probably get it.

I don’t actually know what caused them both to join the air force. I couldn’t say if it was the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the atrocities committed by the Axis powers, or just a need to be a patriot. My grandfather once told my mother, after learning that I did not vote in the first election that I could have, that he was disappointed because the fight for that freedom to vote was something he had done or something like that. So maybe it was just the need to fight for freedoms.

I don’t know what, if anything, they had to say about the Japanese internment camps. I don’t know what they thought or felt about any of that and I will most likely never know. I have a romanticized dream that both my grandfather and great uncle thought it was just awful. Maybe the rose colored glasses will be ripped from my eyes one day or maybe not. I of course prefer my possibly false characterization.

Whatever their reasoning, I have turned to them, and my akhu as a whole, more and more often. Multiple times a week, I find myself talking to them, thinking about what they would say to me during this trying time if they were alive. Perhaps nothing; perhaps something. It is a comfort to me.

And that is predominantly why I’ve been so quiet.

The Keys to Bokeh

All you have is your fire… And the place you need to reach – Don’t you ever tame your demons. But always keep ’em on a leash. – Arsonist’s Lullabye by Hozier

One would think that in such dark times, I would turn to my two warrior gods. They would be two whom understand fighting against a sea of swirling isfet, and to be sure, the world certainly seems full of that right now.

But I have found myself unable to do so. Whenever I think of it, I talk myself out of it. Things aren’t so bad for you. Let them focus on those who are in danger, those who truly need advice from two warriors during this trying time. I need comfort and wisdom too, of course, but in my mind, not as much as others.

I can feel them both like distant statues seen in the distance. The image is hazy even when squinting. If I were to move closer, I would no doubt have the image resolve itself. But I can’t seem to make myself move closer.

As I spend more time with my ancestors, I have found that they like being in the limelight less and less often. It seems very much to me that they lived quiet lives and want to continue that practice even in death. They have often asked me to be silent, to keep details back.

I have half a dozen drafts of posts that will never see the light of day simply because they have asked me to keep it quiet.

And to be fair, I often agree because the idea of going full on ancestor veneration under public scrutiny is disturbing to me. A little of that is because it feels lile breeching a previously unknown boundary.

But too it is also the idea that this world of akhu can get a little lonely.

Often it feels like a lonely little island with not so many other people discussing the subject. Since my ancestor veneration looks more like a cross with Kemeticism and Catholicism,  and an occasional pinch of Methodism, it seems like keeping it all to myself makes the most sense from all perspectives.

Lantern on snow

I knew that something would always rule me… I knew the scent was mine alone. – Arsonist’s Lullabye by Hozier

The akhu have filled a sort of empty niche, willingly placing themselves at my disposal. Maybe this is the road I need to be on while I “get right with them.” I guess I’ll  find out eventually.

The Brightest Things.

Before I fall asleep, I tend to take some time to think on my gods. I have always done this as that twilight period before sleep tends to be the quietest moment in my life. Though I can see my gods in my daily life, embodied by actions and words or in the world around me, it is then that I feel closest to them.

When I ponder the Lady of the Red Linen, I can quite often envision her. Sometimes her consort is behind her, stalwart as always, a benben upon which to build, but mostly it is just her and I together in solitude.

Sometimes I use this time to speak on things I am uncomfortable to say aloud and sometimes I use it to merely be in her august presence. Always there is awe and joy, sometimes heartbreak and anger. But I am always amazed by her, no matter how upset I may be.

wheat

It was just the beginning. I think that I was meant to be next to you, to you. On this planet spinning… – Back to Earth by Steve Aoki feat Fall Out Boy

Months ago, I began thinking of her less as a deity and more in her association with various flora and fauna. She is still real to me, as real as her icon and the ba that may inhabit it, but I have begun to see her elsewhere and this changed the nature of our quiet moments before I would fall asleep.

I could see my home and its mountain peaks in the distance, the wild fields where wild turkey and egrets hide. I could see the deer and raccoons, the deciduous trees and blooming bushes. I was home with her and in her while simultaneously being home where I physically live.

When I began seeing her in things around me, I turned to her epithet list in an attempt to rationalize what I was doing or thought I was doing. It seemed… wrong, in a way, to see her around me when she had a home that she truly had helped to make manifest. This is not her home: no sands, no stone built temples, no spine of Osiris to tread upon as the very foundation of the nation.

There were beings here long before my gods came. We would be impudent to ignore them, to forget about them. The Natives who once made my area their home were pushed out and mostly moved west from what I have learned, but this was their place first. And this place embodied their spirits, their gods; never mine.

I was worried that by seeing her here with me (and my other gods) that I was muscling out those who were here first. I was concerned that I was moving into an appropriative no-man’s land where everyone loses. There are no tribes near to me to ask these questions of and I haven’t really figured out who to turn to for help. I mean, shouldn’t someone who has learned extensively about cultural appropriation know the answer to this already?

(The answer is no. If I don’t ask then I don’t know. And if there is a Native American who may read this post and be able to comment in some form or another, I would appreciate it.)

She always understood the fear and anxiety. Maybe that’s because the Lady of the Flame who appears at night before sleep is nothing more than a mental construct. Or maybe it really is because she just gets it. I don’t know and it probably doesn’t really matter.

She told me to look to the stars because no one owns them.

She said to look to the horizon and find her there.

Of course, I found her.

Over the Horizon

This is a crooked path. I think that I was meant to be next to you, to you. We can never come back. – Back to Earth by Steve Aoki feat Fall Out Boy

Beyond terrorizing the populace with her very existence, there were aspects of Sekhmet that were far more affable when compared to the destroyer deity wielding chaotic spirits for later. Some of those aspects hint to a deity who seemed to love just as deeply as human beings. And other aspects seem more remote, as distant as the goddess once was after Ra intervened on humanity’s behalf. But each different area seems to, as always, offer tantalizing hints of the multifaceted goddess that Sekhmet can be and is to this day.

When she told me to look to the stars for her, it was easy to see her in the constellations. While the stories of the constellations we all know today stem from the Greeks, I could still feel her in them to some degree.

The constellation Leo has always been a favorite of mine for many years. My zodiac is a Leo so of course it is special to me. And it was never a surprise to see my Leonine goddess there. Based on my research, it does appear that the ancient Egyptians were aware of this constellation and ascribed some significance to it. While I haven’t been able to delve too deeply in what I’ve found, it would appear that the Leo constellation held some importance to the ancient Egyptians.

And of course, we can’t forget the meteor shower associated with the constellation Leo.

While the Leo constellation makes sense, I admit that I could see her in the constellation of Orion too. Though this constellation is associated with Osiris and known by the name Sah in the realm of ancient Egypt, I could see her in the stars both as the protective womb who aids in the rebirth of Pharaoh as well as in the fierce warrior pose often associated with Orion.

I looked beyond constellations and outward further, searching planets and moons, asteroids and other celestial objects. I could see her, in a way, associated with comets and, of course, meteor showers.

As I looked into deepest space, I kept finding her here and there.

It was like she was speaking, but on a cosmic level.

I looked closer to home, at the horizon, where the earth meets the sky and found her. It felt a little like she was hiding, shy and stand-offish until I narrowed in on her like a lioness on the hunt. Sekhmet doesn’t appear to have much in the way of liminal associations and the horizon – that in between space signifying where Nut and Geb seem to merge – is nothing if not liminal. However, even without an apparent association, I was able to find it.

In the PT, as I stated above, it is the womb of Sekhmet that grants the pharaoh the ability to be reborn into a star upon its passing. This was my primary focus, of course, as I found liminal hints and teasers in my continued relationship building with her. It is this threshold of creation that she is best known for and would appear to be some of the oldest, written commentary on her.

Perhaps it was her association with the sun and its being reborn every morning, just as the pharaohs of the Old Kingdom were, that caused her intermingling with the horizon and the doorway found there. Or perhaps there are other items that I have yet to discover.

It doesn’t matter.

I found her there anyway.

Path to the stars

And you know I’ve found the dust to be resilient. And we’re the dirtiest of the dirt. Every time we fall to pieces, we build something new out of the hurt. – Back to Earth by Steve Aoki feat Fall Out Boy

As I listened to her, I reviewed her epithet lists in an effort to find some correlation that worked, that helped me to see what I was finding. I knew that there was some association with both the night sky and horizons, but I couldn’t remember quite clearly everything that I had found in my random forays across epithet lists.

I found an abundance of epithets that fit in nicely with what I was finding. As a small example:

The Horizon of Ra
She Who is in The Sky
Lady of the Horizon
Lady of Heaven
The Eastern Sky
The Southern Pillar of the Sky
She Who Opens the Doors of Heaven

It was an incredible relief, truly, to find that what I had seen and found wasn’t something entirely made up. This only seemed to reinforce my ongoing belief that nature, as a whole, was far more important than many modern-day Kemetics may give it credit. (Though, to be fair, I can understand the unease that such discussions can cause since, as I stated above, it sometimes feels incredibly wrong or weird to see my gods here in a land that was never theirs.) And gave further credence to my push to include local cultus, in some aspect, in our practices.

We’ve all seen snippets here and there that would suggest that nature was a matter of import, but the more and more that I delve into epithet lists coupled with quotes here and there, it seemed as though the gods did more than simply exist: they were one with nature in a way that I would not be able to adequately express. Again, it makes me wonder just how much local cultus, as it would have been understood in an ancient Egyptian context, was a part of the overall religion and the personal relationships that people crafted with the netjeru.

There was also a certain level of comfort in the knowledge that I had found my goddess where she told me to seek her. As any devotee of the gods can attest, there is always a certain level of doubt when it comes to communication. The idea that, even before I had found substantive proof of her associations within both the realm of the sky and the realm of horizons, she had given me concrete instructions is, of course, seductive.

Maybe this is what “winning” feels like.

All in all, in my fear to muscle out spirits and gods who had come long before, my goddess assured me that I could find her elsewhere if I only looked.

To be clear, I still see her in the area around me. I don’t think I will ever be able to look at the fiery leaves of a maple tree and not see her. Or drive by the reeds and cat tails that seem to proliferate along the sides of the highway without seeing her there.

But I can look up and see her in the night sky or at the thick, dark edge between sky and earth and know that she is there too.

The Foundation. 

It’s been nearly a year since I was told that I had built myself a solid foundation but that I had stopped working when I reached the interior. During that conversation so many months ago now, I was told that the foundation for the metaphor building that I am was solid and strong. I just had to continue that trend when I continued building the rest of the house.

The kind woman who told me all this wasn’t the only one who remarked on the foundation. She was just the only one who said it to my face.

house foundation long abandoned

“Home can be anywhere, for it is a part of one’s self.” – quote from The Butlerian Jihad by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

During many divination interludes within the last year, my cards have mentioned “foundation” in some context or another. Every time my cards have brought it up, I assumed that the metaphor was in the same vein as the one used by the nice woman across the state. Too often though, the context didn’t make complete sense to me in relation to the overall reading.

What foundation was so strong? What truly made up this alleged foundation of mine? Why are we so heavily focused on this? Is it simply because someone mentioned it heavily in a private reading done almost a year ago? It seemed a little too odd for it come up this often and for it to not mean Something. It was just a matter of figuring out what that Something was.

Whenever “foundation” would come up in a reading, I usually focused on the traditional image of a foundation for a house, before the rest of the house has been built. Around where I live, they will typically use a concrete base and reinforced concrete blocks to form the base of a house in the shape the plans call for. We have basements here, which form part of the foundation as well, hiding away family mementos and washing machines when a family moves in. That was the image that came to mind when my readings would go off on these tangents.

As the cards came up more and more often, leaving me frustrated with the constant reoccurring yet seemingly oblique message, I couldn’t help but think of that phrase about strong foundations.

People will remark that a house may be in bad shape, but that so long as it has a solid foundation, everything will be okay. From what I’ve been told on the subject of house rehab, this basically means that while the house itself may need an extraordinary amount of work, the very base of the house won’t need work done at all. It’s still solid enough, no matter what was left undone upstairs, to withstand the test of time.

I couldn’t be sure if this was really what all of these readings were about, or even if that was the basis of the message from last December. Was it something as simple as a metaphor? Or was there more to it than all of that? Whenever I asked for clarification, the readings grew hazier than they had already been and I got frustrated more often than not.

What was the point in having this form of communication what the gods, the spirits, the universe, whatever, if it wasn’t going to explain what pet peeve it was on about?

Sometimes, you just want some straight answers when everything’s gone to hell.

A Firm Foundation

“Endurance. Belief. Patience. Hope. These are the key words of our existence.” – quote from The Machine Crusade by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Not that long ago, I pulled out one of my lesser used decks. This is a deck that I tend to use only for things related to a general spiritual check in. When I pulled out the deck, I was more focused on looking to see what my future would look like since things had, well, strayed a bit in the last few months.

In about August of this year, I felt like everything had just gone to complete shit. I still felt my gods, but because of all of the other things going on related to the stagnation, I was angry and frustrated. I told my gods that I couldn’t do this anymore, that I was running ragged with their needs and my needs and I couldn’t figure out a good way to work it all out.

So, I made up my mind for ill or good. I walked away from my daily offerings, from my altars, and kind of just spent my time winging it. In effect, I did nothing but sit quietly beneath altar spaces and stare moodily at my fingers. Then my gods disappeared and well. It occurred to me that this was probably all related in some form or another.

After nearly two months of doing nothing but languishing in a sort of dark haze, I finally pulled out that spiritual check in deck, thinking about what things are going to look like with my gods in the future. I’ve sort of come to a quasi-plan as to how to proceed in breaking through the lethargy. I wanted to at least get some good feedback as to what I could expect, if nothing else.

What an odd coincidence when one of the “foundation” cards of one’s spiritual practice appeared front and center.

In this particular deck, that card is heralded by an image of an altar. And in fact, that is exactly what the card is listed as, “Altar.” Looking at the image of the card, I glanced at the dusty altars that I had been neglecting for two months. I might have in fact felt some guilt. I didn’t have to read the accompanying text to know what this card meant. It all kind of clicked right then and I wouldn’t even remember the rest of the reading if I hadn’t written it all down for later review.

Here it was.

Here was my foundation.

This was probably what the nice lady across the state meant. And this was most likely what all of those little foundation pings that I had been frustrated with were talking about.

I had finally gotten my straight answer, at least.

DSC_3874

“When others place impossible expectations on a man, he must redefine his goals, and forge his own path. That way at least someone is satisfied.” – quote from The Battle of Corrin by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Looking back over the last year, I can see where this makes sense. In fact, I can even understand to an extent what I was told in December.

Even at the worst of it all, it wasn’t until I stopped tending my altars, until I stopped giving offerings, until I stopped thinking about them in some small way every day when everything felt completely insurmountable. It wasn’t until I stopped all of that with no intention of going back did my gods disappear. It wasn’t until I was spending all of my mornings in a sort of fog with no seeming routine because an integral aspect of my morning routine had been cut from the cloth did I start to feel as though I was truly losing a battle that I could never, ever win.

I don’t know what it is about the stability of tending the altar, about giving the offerings that really helped here. Maybe I’m just one of those physical kind of people who needs that physical reminder and the act of maintaining that physical reminder that keeps things balanced and stable. Or maybe it’s just one of those things that gets caught in your head, a feeling you can’t shake or whatever, and I believe it so heartily that it is in fact true.

Whatever the case, it is true. When I wasn’t tending to those things, I felt like everything was bullshit. When I started back up again, I began to feel a little less like everything was bullshit. Everything isn’t perfect and maybe things are still going to suck for a while yet, but it doesn’t feel like the battle is a lost cause anymore.

Hindsight is 20/20 of course and now, I feel a bit of a fool for not realizing all of this before now.

But maybe it was necessary for me to stop tending the foundations, ensuring that they are strong and maintaining them, for me to see it properly. There’s always the possibility that this isn’t about hindsight in so much as a necessary learning stemming from a necessary, but recoverable loss.

Semblance of Life.

Change is a cacophony.

It is ten different music scores playing all at once and just slightly off-key and/or off-tempo. It is the pounding of a waterfall with a motorcade of motorcycles and every high-pitched dog barking at the same time. It is a garage band practicing some new song while you’re passively aggressively playing Alice Cooper at top volume while trying to carry on a conversation. It is a category 4 hurricane wailing into the world with freight train cheerleaders leading the way.

Change is neither easy nor quiet. It is loud and boisterous and oh, so very painful.

It is tumultuous and wild.

The thing about change is that you know that it’s all flaming towers and being kicked over the cliff. But they forget to mention how painfully, how headache-inducingly loud it can be. And when you’re sitting in the midst of the maelstrom, trying so hard to concentrate for five measly seconds because otherwise you could probably end up dying or worse, and you just simply can’t because it’s all so fucking loud.

I don’t know why no one ever thought to mention this before. I think, maybe, it would have been nice to know before now. I think I could have appreciated the head’s up even if only after the fact.

But even in the middle of the screaming, screeching, horrendous noise, the worst is yet to come. It’s the loud wail of silence that follows the cacophony of change that should cause the most concern. It’s when it all goes quiet that you have to wonder what the fuck is coming next.

Changes

“Alone. Yes, that’s the key word, the most awful word in the English tongue. Murder doesn’t hold a candle to it and hell is only a poor synonym.” – ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

I can’t feel my gods.

I haven’t said anything before now because I didn’t want to listen to the unwarranted advice that would head my way. I don’t want advice. It’s not that I don’t appreciate what anyone would be willing to say. Sometimes, I just need to stew in the juices, sit in the thick of it for a while.

And I didn’t want to see what sort of pseudo discourse that would probably wind up getting shut down because of misunderstandings or miscommunications. I’m tired of seeing a subject that looks to be interesting getting shut down because of people looking inside from the outside and not fucking getting what they’re reading. I don’t have the patience for this to get shut down anyway.

But to be the most truthful, to be the most honest… If I didn’t write it down or say anything to anyone then I could say it wasn’t real. At the heart of all this, I’m a coward first and foremost.

I’ve always just been able to feel my gods. I can’t even really describe it, oddly enough. I just stretch internally and there they are: sun and fire is Sekhmet; soft things and dew covered grass is Hetheru; wide blue sky and gentle breezes is Heru-Wer. There are others that are there when I stretch out but those are the three I look for most and…

They’re just not there.

I can remember the last time I felt them, each of them. They were like pieces of jewel in my hands, in my heart. I could touch them practically and they were just there. It was a comfort, like wearing your favorite pair of sweat pants and T-shirt on a cool fall day. I could feel them and everything was all right.

And then one day, I woke up and they were gone.

Sometimes when I look to see if they’ve returned and I find that place empty, I get angry. Like how the fuck dare they disappear? How in the hell do they think this sort of behavior is okay? What sort of bullshit is this, damn it all, and how dare they?! 

And other times when I look and find that they are just definitely not there, I get sad. What did I do wrong? How could I have dropped so very low in their estimations that they would do this? How can I possibly right the terrible wrong that I have clearly done?

But most times, I don’t feel anything. It’s just another coat of gray on the dull gray box that my inertia lives in, breathes in, grows in, devours in. It’s just another knot in the noose that my stagnation ties around me. It’s yet another bundle of wood upon my own funeral pyre.

“It was to be expected,” I tell myself as I wait another month, another hour, another second for the wavering half-light that’s supposed to see me out of this fucking shit show that I’ve been in for almost two years.

“But how did I get here?” I always ask in that drab grayness. No one is there to answer, just the echo of my own words whispered back to me.

one more show down... lost count of how many more to go.... :-)

“It knew about the darkness that comes on the land when rotation hides the land from the sun, and about the darkness of the human soul.” – ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

I was angry a few days ago. I screamed and hollered and gibbered and whined. I demanded that they show up, that they stop fucking around for two little minutes and just tell me anything instead of this fucking grayness, this silence and horror. No one answered; I didn’t figure they would.

I don’t know. I guess I just figured that if I vented how I felt, then maybe shit would be easier or I’d feel better. I’d get like a game plan or something and you know, shit would like flow. But like the river that’s dammed up, it all just got stagnant and nasty and nobody said a word.

Loki keeps popping up; I get it. Oh boy, howdy, I fucking get it. Do the work. Stop self sabotaging. Get out there and do it all. Yeah, yeah. I hear you.

But I have to ask if he, or they, hear me. Don’t they know how scared I am? Don’t they know that I spend most days in a haze of my own insecurities, shaking and worried? Don’t they know that sometimes I need someone to hold my hand and not to push me into the conflagration at my feet?

The hooting and hollering of the years before last were so loud. I can remember the dizziness that the sounds caused and I can remember wondering how much worse it could possibly get, asking when it would all just fucking quiet down and stop for five fucking minutes.

Famous last words, I guess.

Came Out West Just to Break the Spell.

Six months ago, I became yet another face in a long line of faces who got Loki’d. After a while of dithering around as to whether or not this was something I needed to pay any attention to, I decided to go for broke. While the idea of actually working with him wasn’t something that I was thrilled about, the positive feedback I kept getting from my gods seemed like a good enough reason for me, and I agreed to a partnership.

Perhaps that’s not the best word for it though. A partnership would denote a form of equality and while I do believe that I am just as divine as any god, I rather feel like I am the one taking chances (because I am) while Loki gets to do whatever he does in the background. Maybe I should say it was more along the lines of a caustic sarcasm fest that occasionally yielded results. That’s a bit more like what actually happened.

Key West, Feb 2012 - 32

Sickness and healing are in every heart. Death and deliverance are in every hand. – Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

For years now, I have been reading a lot of stuff about Loki. I have been following Lokeans and reading the discourse quietly on the sidelines. It was the Loki who told Fools to cut the shit about pagan island that I could feel close to, but that wasn’t the Loki that my stagnation and I needed. And that was one of the most terrifying realizations to come to.

I never wanted to get to know Loki. In fact, the idea always left me feeling vaguely nervous in a sort of “never; no fucking way” kind of way. Even with all the demystifying that the very kind Lokeans do on a regular basis, I still figured that Loki (and the Norse as a whole to be honest) was a sort of No Man’s Land.

Besides, Loki seemed like the kind of guy who would turn your world topsy-turvy, tell you it was for your own good, and be on his merry way. Maybe he’d check back in a few months later just to see how many fires he had started, but he didn’t seem like the kind of guy who’d stick around to clean up the mess. I didn’t think I needed that.

The thing is that I did kind of need that. As irritating as it is to say, I needed someone who I didn’t really trust to fuck with things just enough to help me through the inertia. With all the issues with trust I have had with my gods, I can admit that outsourcing was a good idea. I can even admit that they chose the right patsy. Loki seems perfectly okay with being the anti-hero.

I had a vague and outlandish idea about what to expect but the reality was different.

Working with Loki has felt a little bit like chewing on Legos while simultaneously banging my head into a wall in the hopes that one day I break through. I don’t know if this is normal, but that’s rather what it felt like when we would sit down together and discuss what was going on. The worst part is that he was always solicitous, always nice about everything. He would quietly heave a sigh when I was nasty and bitchy or just go with the flow when I told him that there was absolutely no way I could possibly achieve any of the six points in our scope of work.

Honestly, I was so very scared at the idea of having him around. What I said above about fucking things up just enough has always been my fear. As a control freak, the idea that I had to give some partial control up to a god who has a history in fucking shit up was just too much. But I knew, too, that if I continued to ignore the situation I was in for a world of hurt.

Sometimes dealing with the gods is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of situation and this definitely qualified. I had choices even if I felt backed into a corner about it. Out of it all, Loki was well-mannered and not unkind about it. I think that was the most surprising thing about it all.

Wild & Wonderful

This is how humans are: We question all our beliefs, except for the ones that we really believe in, and those we never think to question. – Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

I remember sitting at my kitchen table in March, going line by line through the contract I created at Loki’s request. I had, in my opinion, covered all the possibilities with thick legalese. Loki laughed when I confidently told him there weren’t any loopholes. The laugh was clear: he’d find them if and when he wanted to.

I was kind of pissed at that honestly. He knew how worried I was about all of this and yet, it felt a little like he was playing with my head. I will admit that I went into this because of that laugh and his kindness towards me, feeling a little like he wasn’t going to help, that this was all a waste of time.

I went in not knowing what to expect, but following the rules that we had worked out.

For the first two months, I sat down every two weeks to chat. We discussed how to get movement and why I felt like I was a failure. I kept racking my brain, trying to find the source of all evil that caused me to resemble one of the inert ones. He kept telling me that this would take time, that patience was a necessity. He said rushing in was no way to go.

It took three months but we finally got there. And we came up with a tentative sketch of how best to proceed. The overall goal was still there, but I had to be even more patient before we could finally get to a point where it seemed like I was getting somewhere. Even knowing that I had to wait a while longer, I still felt good. I felt like we had accomplished something together. He was happy that we were going forward and things were looking up.

After that, I started to fade. I know that I was fading. But whenever I sat down to talk it out with Loki, I heard all about how I had to trust and that trust was integral to what we needed to be doing together. I began to grow bitter with the trust talk, I began to get angry with him. It was always the same. Even though he told me that things were progressing as quickly as they possibly could, even though I had felt good for a little while there like we had accomplished something important together, I began to feel like this was just another long line of gods who was failing me.

For almost a year now, I’ve been told to do the work and that the work requires trust. I get what that means, but like I said above, I have trust issues. Everyone, god or human, tells me that I have to get over it, that it’s all in my head and that I’m letting those trust issues crop up and get in the way. Subconsciously, I was sabotaging the work by letting my own brain get in the way. But how the fuck do you tell your brain “shut the fuck up” long enough to trust in the plan you had already created?

How do you start to trust again when everything went to shit because you trusted?

Every two weeks, I would sit with Loki and the conversation was a rehash of the last one. It began to feel a little like auto pilot. I stopped caring. I stopped doing. I just sat in a gray bubble and stared off into space most of the time. I stopped talking to him, to my gods, to everyone. It wasn’t really a fallow time. It was more like I had become so overwrought with everything that I couldn’t actually do anything.

Loki seemed to tell me that he understood but this was no way to make a living, for either of us. I told him to go suck a banana.

Sometimes I would finally get so irritated that I would achieve a goal, accidentally, in our scope. I managed to mark off four of them before the end of our time together. I think he was probably irritatedly amused that I just went ahead and did something that we had decided to work on together thinking, “well, this is probably how Loki would handle it so let’s just fucking go, man,” and do it.

Our six months are up.

I don’t know which way to go now.

The Spell Is Broken

The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing, and therefore should be treated with great caution. – Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

A few weeks back just before our six month contract was officially up, I was talking to someone who I haven’t really spoken with in a long time. They used to be someone that I looked up to, that I wanted to emulate. Things have changed since then; it’s not like they’re a terrible person or anything because they’re not. Things just diverged a lot since the last time we spoke to each other, so it was a little like a learning curve when we met back up.

It was a little relaxing, it was a little nice. I couldn’t believe that they understood some of the things that I couldn’t even say out loud. I forgot what that was like.

When we spoke, this person mentioned that I should be cautious around Loki. They indicated that things may not go well for me if I sign back up with him for another six months. The exact wording discussed the possibility of crashing and burning, the indication that Loki may just bring in some frightening One-Eyed help to see the job through. That certainly got my attention.

I had to admit that I was both skeptical and worried. I had been sitting around, dithering on the idea but had made the not quite official decision to go for it. I mean, while things weren’t so great this last round, we had at least managed to get somewhere together. The fears that had eaten away at me six months back before I was told to go for it or die trying came back in force.

I decided to talk it out with a lot of the people in my community, get some feedback, and determine how best to proceed.

I have nothing against this person or their advice – they mentioned protection at one point and I think that’s a fabulous idea to see to – but overall, while the concern I have is there, I also had to admit that I kind of felt like I was doing okay. I had created a contract, I was very careful about the terms, and part of those terms were very crystal clear about not crashing, about not burning, and about not bringing anyone new on board to see this through. While Loki has a habit of slipping out of his leash, I rather accepted that possibility and just had to hope that the terms were stuck to.

When I reached out to my go-to on the subject, his advice was a little worrisome. Looking back at it now, I can see why the reading came back as harsh as it did (didn’t I need that anyway?) but I wasn’t exactly happy about it. After a lot more discussion and some more irritating back and forth between the two halves of myself on the subject (the one that still wants to use that old friend of mine as a go-to resource and the one that needs to do all this on my own), I realized that I had come pretty far in all of this.

It might not seem like it when I look back across these past six months and see that nothing has overtly changed. But I can also pick out the smaller bits that have. I know what’s the root cause of the problem and how that cause feathers out to each facet of my life. I know what the plan is to get to the root cause and try to get some of that alleviated. I also know how to push the envelope a little so that I can lace some heka into the approach of it all.

I have a plan and none of it includes crashing and burning. Loki may not be as dismissive or nice about things this round; I honestly don’t expect him to be. But I think I’m okay with that. I mean, I know where my faults are when it comes to this shit. And he knows where they are now, too.

Sometimes, you have to set aside the safety harness that you’re tethered to when you have to go cliff jumping. I don’t want to do that of course and I certainly don’t want to wind up splattered across the ground. But I also know that I don’t have a lot of choice. I also know that even if I did have a choice, I’m kind of fed up to be honest.

Here’s to at least another six months.

Let’s get serious.

Light Up the Sky.

When I first started exploring Kemeticism, one of the first points on my list of Things Sat Must See To Immediately was to get a symbol of my faith to wear every day. I can remember sitting on the message board over at tC, responding to threads and reading all of the More Knowledgeable Kemetics’ posts while simultaneously surfing the Internet until I found a piece of jewelry that I felt was most appropriate a reflection of both who I am as a person and what my faith was probably going to look like… eventually.

I honestly don’t know why I felt that this was as important as it was. For years, I had been flummoxed by the phenomena as I came across it.

During the years that I was a professed Methodist, I wore no symbol. The closest “symbol” I had was a Bible that my daddy had gotten from the same Methodist church we were attending and that symbolized not the religion, but the love I bore him. Aside from that, I did not give much thought to physical representations of faith. The idea of needing something like that seemed, well, weird to me. Why did you need something on your person or in your hand to maintain your faith? Or to even remember what your faith was supposed to be about?

It just didn’t make sense to me.

I honestly think that my confusion over the desire of people to have crucifixes and medals and dirt from the Holy Land and tripartite moons and everything else stemmed merely from the fact that I had no belief. Or, perhaps not belief, but faith. It didn’t move me to tears to listen to sermons or to go to prayer sessions. I was moved more often by a personal anecdote relating to one’s faith than I was anything else. But the emotions those anecdotes created had little to do with my faith and more to do with the fact that I often find others’ expressions of faith beautiful. So, I think the bafflement I spent in those early years wasn’t anything I was doing wrong, just a mere inability to fully understand.

Besides, sometimes a lesson isn’t apparent until the plan is ready to unfold.

So, of course, as I sat there looking for the perfect symbol out there for me, I couldn’t help but note the irony of what I was doing. Had I not spent much of my life confused by the mere idea?

I think though that because I knew lots of people who had symbols of their faith on their person at any given time, it seemed like a good idea to mimic. They wore their symbols around their necks, on their fingers, around their wrists, and/or permanently affixed to the flesh of their bodies. Their symbols were this sort of lantern or beacon to other people of like faith that they were similar. And though I couldn’t have explained any of this at the time, I wanted the same thing.

As a newbie, I was starry-eyed at the prospect of buying supplies and it is possible that this also went into the idea of needing a symbol of my faith. Unfortunately, or otherwise, the decision making process for that symbol was not made easy. The typical Eye of Horus or Eye of Ra was boring to me. I didn’t want a pyramid and most of the ankhs I found were thin and did not interest me.

I needed something robust.

I needed something shiny.

I needed, well, something.

 

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

I wore the ankh every day after receiving it. The chains that held it changed out over time, but the one integral point that I made sure I never left the house without was the oversized ankh that comfortably fit in the palm of my hand. I’m sure people who saw it sitting around my neck, or later when the chain was oversized and left the ankh resting near my navel for heka purposes, assumed I was some emo/goth holdover who hadn’t quite given up on all the trappings. But I honestly didn’t care because that ankh was something that focused me.

With a certain sort of amusement, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was what other people felt about the symbols of their faith? Was it so integral a piece that to walk around without it was to feel like half a person? Was it so much a necessity for their peace of mind that they couldn’t go anywhere without it? Maybe that’s the case for some of the people who wear the symbols. It’s probably not the same for everyone.

I was devastated when my ankh broke the first time. I began to worry that I had done something to anger my gods, that I had done something to accidentally waltz off the path of ma’at. I pulled a hundred thousand cards and asked my friends for what they thought about it. I came to realize that I was overreacting. It was at that moment that I realized how integral the pendant had become in the time I had been wearing it.

I hadn’t realize how important the piece of jewelry was for a very long time prior to that point in my life. It was just something that I wore. I made sure that it was around my neck when I left the house. If I happened to step outside or maybe got down the street and forgot to put it on, I turned around. I couldn’t have explained it to anyone to be honest. I couldn’t live without that ankh on my person the second I stepped out of my inner sanctum, out of my home. Without it, I felt like I was only half a person.

When I wrote the KRT entry about living Kemeticism, it really crystallized how important that ankh was. I hadn’t ever been able to put into words why it was so necessary, but somehow I managed to finally get it just right when I wrote that post.

Over the years, the ankh had gone through a veritable metamorphosis itself, just like myself and my path. The starry-eyed child who had bought the oversized ankh had long since died at some point or another. In her stead was a woman who was doing what she possibly could to live in ma’at. Sometimes, living in ma’at just meant to take a step back and breathe. Sometimes, it meant conducting rituals, offering services to other people, or just being there when someone needed to vent. My path had changed; my ankh had changed.

So I wasn’t really surprised when, after nearly a decade of wear and tear, the chain that I had been using for my ankh for most of that time ripped in half in some odd confluence of events that left me more than a little staggered. I couldn’t wear it and I felt naked without it. I tried not to make such a big huge deal about it, but it threw me for a complete loop as I stared at the lost and lonely ankh in my hand, no longer attached to my body. I cried in my office for a few minutes, feeling stupid for being so upset about what this Maybe Meant for the Future and put on my I Don’t Give a Fuck face when I opened my office door again.

I kept the ankh in my purse, tossing out the chain, and wondered if I should finally put to rest the path I had walked with an ankh around my neck.

I could have simply gone out and bought a new chain. I had done that in the past when the robust ring that held the ankh had broken off. It snapped off clean about two years before the chain ripped itself in half. As I felt naked and as I tried to make sense regarding what was probably just a mundane reason, but what felt like a Very Important Religious Moment, I felt the change within me.

For ten years, I had worn the ankh in all its iterations as I moved through my religious experiences and changed into the person I am today.

Maybe a funeral for the ankh was [finally] necessary.

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

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

It took me a few days to come to a decision about what to do, but I kind of had known the moment that the chain broke that I would be moving on from the ankh that had seen me through my shaky first steps into the weirdness that followed: the anger, the rage, the joy, the love, the adoration, the piety, the impetuousness, and everything else that had made up the last ten years of my religious life. The ankh itself was the signal post for those ten years; I wasn’t that person anymore and neither was my religion.

I had found a feather of ma’at pendant by a beautiful silversmith on Etsy months before the ankh pendant fiasco. I had liked the pendant and kept it in the back of my mind. Devotional jewelry is a Very Big Thing for me and I wear rings, necklaces, and earrings every day with some religious significance. I had assumed that I would eventually purchase the feather of ma’at pendant and wear it whenever I felt the need to do so. I hadn’t ever considered the possibility that this possible future necklace would become everyday wear. It was just something here and there that I could wear when I felt the need for it; maybe even it could take up as a representative of Sekhmet, as a defender of ma’at.

But as I added the new pendant to my cart, jettisoning the very lovely ankh that they also had available, I knew that this piece was going to become Very Important to Me. I knew that I would wear it every day with the same sort of religious devotion (ha) that I had worn the ankh.

It is important to me. Just as with the ankh, I cannot leave the house without it. I live and breathe by ma’at just as I once lived and breathed by the ankh. It is a reminder that ma’at is subjective and many things can and do make up ma’at, but it is also a reminder that I have changed very much in the last few years. My practice is less about the gods at this moment and more about me and what I can do to better live in ma’at and perpetuate it into the world around me.

I’m hoping that, eventually, when I have fulfilled those portions of this long arduous spiritual turnpike, I won’t need a change again. I don’t think I will – I think the physical representation of ma’at is here to stay – but one never knows what the future may hold, no matter how many times you pull cards from your favored deck.

I will be honest though… It feels strange to still leave the house without the giant ankh resting just above my naval. It’s been almost two months since the ankh left my neck for its current resting place, but I still go to reach for it. Most days, when I find that it isn’t there, I reach up to the feather of ma’at which lives just below my throat as a reminder that ma’at isn’t just in one’s heart or the inner workings of the body, but also in the words we speak and the actions that accompany those words.

The ankh fit in the palm of my hand; this feather is small and I can clutch it with only two fingers. I’m getting used to it now, but I miss having something large and reassuring in my hand. Something big and tangible in a way that the feather has yet to achieve. It probably will get there some day; I don’t know for sure. It’s just not there yet.

The Propitiation of Sekhmet 2016: Mourning. 

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.

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

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.

I can hear the voices haunting
There is nothing left to fear
And I am still calling
I am still calling to you – Ashes of Eden
by Breaking Benjamin

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