Deep into the Night

Preparing for Lent is a little like waiting for the next shoe to drop for me. Like, you see it on the high wire above you and know that its grip on the phone line is precarious. It’s going to come down eventually but the when is still up in the air. That’s what preparation for Lent often feels like because the Lenten season with its sacrifice and introspection rarely goes out without a bang.

Sometimes, I’m prepared ahead of time. I’ve taken the time to be introspective and find a particular thread to focus on. But, mostly, I often feel surprised by the start of Lent. I don’t really know why either because I put Lent on my Google calendar many months in advance and see it regularly when I scroll through the months to get an idea of what’s coming up. But even with the words LENT scrawled across 40 days on my calendar, I’m most often scrambling for something to focus on, to sacrifice, to internalize, to flay me alive and rebuild from the pieces cannibalized from my stinking corpse.

I chose to stop buying books. After two or three years of not reading, I got back into it. (Thanks, BookTok.) I was on a buying spree for longer than I care to admit. I doubt I’ll keep that up after Holy Week. My TBR may be 22 books deep on my end table and my wishlist is… well a lot bigger, but I keep getting sucked down different fiction paths that light me up again. I may have jumped headfirst into reading as a learned behavior to hide from reality as a child, but it brings me such joy.

I chose to donate the price of a book each Friday to some organization. I figured since I was saving money by not purchasing books so often, I could donate the proceeds. This isn’t new for me to do during Lent – it’s just the first time I’ve been able to do it each Friday because something Big and Expensive hasn’t come up yet. (My need of new breaks for my car has been a thing since before Lent so it doesn’t count.)

I decided to also add calorie counting again because my avoidant personality loves to cope with food. Food, food, food. Give me way too much to eat, full to bursting, and my fat ass is particularly content even if I bemoan the over-full part.

But the biggest thing to focus on was dedication on the religious front. It’s gotten sorely complicated and things I’ve wanted to do have often fallen to the wayside. So, I needed to evaluate and focus on what I personally need on this mystically, bewildering, meandering path of mine.

Wonder Where You Are

Reevaluation is something that we should all take part in, but my problem is that I’m so used to just sitting like a boulder in the middle of a river, I never take the time. I never make the time. Isn’t it easier to allow the water to burble and scream around me than to actually try and move? The water will eventually wear this boulder down, though, and the sharp edges of the rock face are becoming blunt with age.

It started off with the fucking calendar of course. It’s a lot. There’s too much. It doesn’t seem right and while interesting things crop up now and again that snag my interest, it’s still far too fucking much. It’s this weird mismatch, hodge podge of random anecdotes all swirling around in this sort of free form blob that gives me a headache to look at. It’s too fucking much but that’s how I roll. Overwhelm first; figure it out in pieces later.

And then the land shit. That part isn’t too much; it seems like it’s not enough. As if the wraiths and spirits and monsters tromping through my tiny bog each night are all constantly whispering that I need to do much more than I’ve already started to consider or have done. The spirits of the pasture, the craggy men in the mountains beyond, the burbling river have all joined in partnership to assure me that there’s more.

The tiny little snippets of those hags I talk to online have started to coalesce into something close to sentience in my mind. And the calendar and the local cultus are all adding into the mix in a way that leaves me confused and frightened. This is never what I saw for me. This was something to admire in others’ practice over the early morning coffee or exhausted late night social media doom scrolling.

Reevaluate before you suffocate, except that I’ve already started to suffocate.

Nothing Has Changed at All

This Lenten season felt a little like the world was frozen all around me and I had to explore that frozen tundra to figure out a way to get through. The chaos that consumed me was just another icy wind with gnarled fingers scratching at my face and mind, but it changed nothing coming out of it on the other side. The world was frozen and me right along with it.

There is no true feeling of success here. Sometimes, towards the end, I feel so proud of maintaining the right levels of sacrifice that I’m filled with excitement and joy. I am happy in those moments, a bragging swagger added to each step forward. But this year, the feeling is less about success and more a simple survival.

It is not as if I didn’t finish out this season doing the few things I truly wanted to complete (no new books/donate) but it still feels like even those accomplishments are bland. Or maybe, not bland per se. A simple fact that was never in question. I decided no to this and yes to this and therefore that is what happened. Everything else added to the tally were effluvia and therefore not as nearly as important as I built them up in my mind.

This all speaks to the need for change across the board. Again.

Fuck.

A Strange Light in the Sky

Towards the end of Lent, I usually begin reviewing my list of Items to Be Bought Later for my ancestors so that I can get them something. It’s kind of a “thanks for putting up with my bullshit” present. If I feel particularly good about how things went, I’ll sometimes add something for myself but not this year. They earmarked their present in February so I’ll grab it next week for them. I don’t know who is more excited about this.

For myself? I’m left with a list of questions and to-dos that sort of gets longer each day. The messages adding to those questions and things to see to are all being pushed in concert like everyone came together in a meeting and decided to push the same agenda no matter who is doing the pushing.

So, here’s to Lent and to the Tower card that keeps getting shoved in my face. I see it and maybe I’ll do something about it. Eventually. Probably.

Just Wanna Be Where the Sun Shines Down.

When I was 9, we moved to a place where we could be outside as long and as much as we wanted. I’ve written of that place before – and probably will do so again – but I can remember the giddiness of feeling free when we moved. Biking with friends until late into the evening, walking the sandy/rocky spit of land that jutted into the lake, and being deliciously surrounded by a natural world that had not been possible in the urban sprawl of my early childhood.

The sun was bright and hot in summer. It streamed through every window, highlighting the nooks and crannies of our house. It blinded me as I rode my bike down the neighborhood streets, dazzling me when it hit quartz in the sidewalks. It was weak but trying in the winter, still trying to highlight the corners of the house like it was searching for a secret. The sun bouncing of the snow caused snow glare every year but it was beautiful for that little while before snow turned to brown or yellow mush, filling the streets with grossness. I loved the sun.

Growing older, I hid from the sun. I moved my bedroom into the basement with two tiny windows that didn’t let in natural light. I wore dark clothes, hiding from the sun’s probing rays with sunglasses and long hair. I never went outside for long in summer, hating the heat that dark pavement trapped and released. The sun and I had a hate/hate relationship and the darkness I hid in only fed my depression. I preferred the dark and wanted to keep hidden from the sun in every way.

It’s funny how things have changed. The sun is with me every day. It shows me the wonder of the natural world and the wonder of my own home. Sometimes he speaks to me, telling me tales of beauty and heartache. And sometimes, he is merely silent as I wander around, lost and confused. But he is always there.

Make the Same Mistakes

The time change in March 2020 brought with it a seeming unreality. There was no way we were facing a pandemic like the flu of 1918. There was no way that this could be true, but the steady stream of the 24-hour news cycle seemed to say otherwise. Lockdown was on the horizon and all I could think was that Ra had shown back up at the worst possible time. How on earth could I honor him in any real way while being stuck inside all the time? He laughed when I asked him about it in a panic, as if to say the things we’ve been making together transcend location. He made me feel like a toddler and I pouted.

Eventually, I began going outside for extended periods of time. While I worked at my kitchen table, I would step onto the back porch and watch the sun slowly sail by me in the sky. I took calls outside and ran projects from the tiny, little deck behind my porch. I was working my job but I was also communing in a quiet, unobtrusive way with him. Sometimes, I swear he was calling out to me. Other times, it was like a deep ache that demanded I step outside.

The walks I started going on in the evenings added to the unreality of lockdown. No cars. One or two joggers socially distancing from me, or vice versa. A speed walker crossing the street to stay distant from me. But beneath all the surreal feelings of those evening walks was the heat of the sun in my hair and on my skin and the special playlist enticing me as I walked. I found so many places where Ra seemed to be staring back at me and I was happy to find him there. I needed that feeling of him nearby as the year continued to heap more bullshit down on everything and everyone.

I haven’t felt really hopeful in a long time. I feel like we’re all watching the end of the world with ennui. Maybe I’m not that wrong in that assessment. But when I stepped outside, earbuds in and music playing for Ra or whatever other god I was focused on via music, I could feel a certain dull flutter in my soul. It might have been the remnants of hope but it might have also been nothing more than the lies I sometimes tell myself; lies of a positive nature that cannot possibly be real.

Ra told me I should probably be focusing on myself. I told him that I was pretty self-focused at the moment. I had no idea what he meant and wouldn’t until Osiris showed back up.

Hard to Open Your Eyes

When you start to read about the afterlife, as a beginner, you get hyped up on the rebirth of the sun god. He heads to the underworld to be reborn from the body of Nut every night so that he may live again. But when you dig into it a little deeper, the rebirth cycle is couched a little bit more in terms of Ra needing to remerge with Wesir – who is encapsulated as the physical body of Ra in this instance – for that rebirth process to really take place.

I’ve joked over the years that when you find Ra, invariably you’ll find Wesir behind him and vice versa. It’s the underworld texts that really solidify that connection in a way that just writing or joking about it doesn’t adequately convey. The ties between them both are so apparent to me now that I don’t see one without feeling the other.

So, I wasn’t shocked when Osiris picked up the battle cry of the self and annoyed me into submission. It’s the only way my stubborn ass will do anything nowadays. He annoyed me so much and so completely that I was a shit and he was a shit back. But I eventually started to focus inward in a way that I hadn’t before. He was smug about it and I continued to be a shit about it.

When we got to the sticky parts, I ran away. I couldn’t look that deep anymore. I had taken a candle flame to the nooks and crannies of my soul and seen things I had always been happy to keep hidden. There was no prep for it either; it just happened. I broke down and felt like I was nothing more than a snowbank melting on the side of the road, falling in on myself a little more each day.

Today, I am a dirt streaked puddle at the corner of the road. Sticks and seeds and trash litter the puddle so completely now that I’m not sure where the waste ends and I begin.

Find a Place Where You Don’t Have to Hide

Wesir had warned me that the work I began for the Mysteries would continue beyond it. I knew that. I knew it going in and I knew it going out, but it was nice to know that he did not want me to stay as a half-formed snow/slush beast slowly melting on the side of the road. When I told him that, he laughed at the imagery but turned serious.

“You’re stubborn. You always have been. But you’re starting to see that, stubbornness be damned, it’s time to do what you have always put off. You have a very long road from here.”

Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night and cry a little. On those nights, I can feel him close by as if waiting for me to turn to him for comfort. I won’t until I’m ready for it at any rate. I’m not the kind of person that trusts or relies on others because just about everyone – god, human, whoever – has failed to meet me where I want them to. Part of that is my fault and I’ll admit it. But the fun thing about breaking yourself down is that you can see your faults finally; you just might not be able to figure out how to fix them yet.

I’ve often hidden myself from others. I don’t want anyone to know the real me because, deep down, I’m 98% sure the real me is a nightmare that should have been put down long ago. That 98% part of my surety is also pretty sure I have no redeeming qualities. That 98% of me is a fucking liar. And Wesir agrees she lies as easily as she can to keep the real me hidden and scared.

Baring your soul to the gods is a lot harder than most people would have people believe. The vulnerability that maybe was once common in the face of one’s gods seems to have been burned out of humanity by the constant fight and struggle of life. Or maybe that vulnerability has always been so hard to achieve and everyone who says otherwise is as much a fucking liar as the 98% of me that says I should have been put down years ago.

Mental health wise, I’m doing pretty shitty. But I’m not hiding behind a mask much anymore. Fuck it. This is me and yeah, I’m a jigsaw puzzle with a lot of pieces missing. I’m tired of wearing a customer service mask throughout my whole life because “some things are best kept hidden”. I’m not fucking hiding anymore.

Lent 2020: C’est Fini.

When I was a kid, I remember Lent being like every other time of the year. We went to church on Sundays but there was none of that giving things up or eating fish on Fridays. Of course, my mom had left Catholicism behind by then so that may be why we never did any of the traditional trappings of Lent.

I wonder now if my mom missed it. If there was a part of her who desperately wanted to turn back to the religion of her youth to pay homage in some form or way during one of the most common expressions of Catholic devotion. Based on comments she had made to me over the years, I doubt it. She had made her peace with leaving Catholicism and while she still reached out to the saints and said three Hail Marys before a trip, it wasn’t something she wanted back in her life.

I can understand that.

So It Begins

Every year, I have an ongoing debate with myself about whether or not I will be observing Lent. It’s not really my thing, per se, and while I desperately want to honor my ancestors in an expression they prefer, it’s asking a lot. I not only have to give things up but step up the game each year to ensure that I understand the overall point of what I’m doing. The ancestors don’t always win the argument – I didn’t actively do anything last year – but they tend to be really pushy about it until I make a decision.

This year, I figured I may as well. It wasn’t like I was doing anything worthwhile and I tend to use the forty days as a time of reflection. I never know where my thoughts are going to take me and it’s kind of nice sometimes to find a single thread woven through the season of Lent to the finish line. Other times, I feel worn out and cranky, ready to throw my hands up in frustration and irritation when it’s over.

When I agreed to observe Lent this year, the ancestors had two additional requirements for this year. I needed to find myself a rosary with a crucifix attached and a Bible. I said no but one early February day found me running errands for what they had requested. The Bible I found had a soft cover and I wound up with a St. Francis medal in addition to the rosary. They didn’t say why these things were requested; just that they were needed. I set them all up in an altar area after reading that some Catholics set up a little prayer space with their family Bible for Lent.

I gave up diet Coke for Lent. I had gotten the two requested items for my ancestors. For myself, I set up a pretty little area to hold all of these so I had a single place to practice my Hail Marys every morning for memorization. I was almost looking forward to this Lenten season. I had high hopes at any rate.

My Lenten altar space.

The Middle of the Road

Caffeine headaches are no joke. They started almost immediately and I was hating it. I tried other caffeine substitutes but wound up giving up on them eventually too. They didn’t have the same pizazz as diet Coke and they didn’t stave off the caffeine headaches very well. I remember someone telling me that one way to give caffeine up is to take a can of regular Coke and pound it down. I thought about trying this but stayed away from all sodas instead.

My diet suffered at first because I was shoving horrifying amounts of sugar down my throat to hide from the caffeine headaches. I started carefully cutting back, making sure to stick to the fruits and salad snacks I was used to. I had moderate success in that arena. But I stuck to my guns on Fridays, only eating fish for lunch and dinner. My husband and son hated it since they despise seafood; they’d eat burgers on Fridays and bitch about the seafood smell that lingered in the air each Friday night.

I practiced the Hail Mary every day after I had written down my daily Tarot card interpretation in my Tarot journal. I got really good at it and was almost able to memorize it by the second week. I’d forget the line “the Lord is with thee” or “Holy Mary, mother of God” depending on the day. Eventually it stuck. I was pretty thrilled when I got it right on the first try for the first time. My memory gets worse each year but I find it soothing that this prayer that my ancestors whispered frequently enough is now something that I, too, can say by memory.

A week and a half in, the pandemic really exploded. School was effectively canceled and while I was still in the office that first week, running things basically solo, I wondered how this would impact Lent for me. It didn’t, jokes from the husband about Lent never ending now not withstanding. I was more easily able to moderate my sugar intake. And on the days where it was warmer, I went for a walk after dinner to watch how my neighborhood reacted to the social distancing requirement and was blasted with news about what places were shutting down each day.

I wonder how the Catholics of my local parish reacted when the priest began posting videos of services on You Tube. They continued to post quotes and messages on their Facebook page – really positive and nice things that I appreciated myself – and lamented the inability to meet with the parish family during the season of Lent. I, of course, was mostly unaffected since I never intended on going to Church during Lent. That may change in the future, but not this year.

I felt a little lost when the pandemic started. I was still doing what I said I would but it was like… it felt a little like everything was slipping away even though that isn’t really true. I tossed myself into exploring others’ Lenten devotions. I was hoping to find something, anything really, which would help me to feel connected to it all still.

I found some interesting things but it was mostly selfies of Catholics from “happier” Lenten times or some positive motivational quotes. Boring. Boring. Not for me. Not what I was looking for. Not what I needed. It took me no time at all to begin obsessing over what new Lenten devotion Ms. Dirty would post, amazed at how I could just feel how she must have felt as she went through each moment. I was breathless and said to myself often: I want that; that’s where I need to go from here.

It was after one of her posts that I began writing the brunt of my post on Ra. I’m not saying her post had much to do with my reflective thoughts on him, but I could see a similarity between what she seems to be doing as part of her religious path and what I am doing as part of this newly found one. I can… I don’t want to say “see” because it’s not a vision, but I can… sense where things are going for me and part of it entails a very similar evocative practice as that espoused by Ms. Dirty.

Perhaps one day, I’ll finally get to that practice and maybe, just maybe, my posts on said practice will resonate with people.

Beyond giving things up and wanting to feel connected and desiring the ability to have an evocative practice, Lent is about alms-giving. I don’t have spare change to give out much anymore, but in years past, I would donate money to causes that spoke to me on each Friday of the Lenten season. This year, I combed my house for things to give to the Good Will once Lent was up.

I have a very large box of things and two bags of clothes to donate, but I don’t dare donate them now. I’m going have to wash everything once this quarantine business is all over so that I can give it away, knowing that I’ve ensured the items to be good and ready for a new home. I’m hoping next year that I can do likewise, but maybe with a few charity alms interspersed. I guess we’ll see.

The End

Whether I observe Lent or not, I am acutely aware of the timing if it. I always know when it will end and usually, around mid-Lent, I get the feeling it’s time to book an appointment to donate blood. I do this every year on Good Friday. It’s an homage to my grandfather who was big on donating blood. I’ve gone every Good Friday since this Lenten thing began for me to a little local church that has provided space for the local Red Cross chapter.

Except for this year.

I’m still getting the emails and sometimes the texts from the Red Cross alerting me that my blood donation is needed. But with the pandemic still in full swing, I couldn’t go. I don’t have the ability to buy or make a face mask and I couldn’t chance it. And now that the Red Cross has stopped its Blood Mobile travels this year, this means my yearly appointments will have to take place a half hour away instead of right down the street.

I told my grandfather that I was sorry I couldn’t go this year. Assured him that I would make an appointment once quarantine let’s up again. I was… devastated frankly at the idea that my one ritual of most importance [to me] could not be observed.

And in someone else’s voice he assured me that the health and wellbeing of myself and my family is far more important right now than my homage to him. I could feel his love shining to me through that message and while guilt gnaws at me still a bit, I’ve come to accept it at least.

The second ending ritual for Lent in my world is a gift to myself for seeing through the entire 40 days of Lent. Obviously, this only occurs when I’m successful and I can admit that while giving up diet Coke may sound easy, it wasn’t. I still haven’t had a single fucking sip and I’m still bitchy about it.

I usually look for something early on so I have it in my mind’s eye. A sort of carrot on a string to pull me along the next forty days. This year, I couldn’t really find anything that I thought met the bill of “a gift for not giving up”. I perused my various “I want” lists over and over again but nothing really spoke to me. I went into Lent without an image of anything in my mind and came through three quarters of the season without anything, so maybe I don’t need that dangling carrot anymore. Or maybe, I just didn’t need it this year.

I was really just messing around a few weeks after the shelter-at-home orders went out when I looked up “mourning ring” on Etsy. I like mourning jewelry, so why not? I ended up finding a replica mourning ring within the first two seconds of my search that said, “I’m your gift. And I’m going to come home to you.” And that ring, that beautiful damn ring, stayed frozen as a pretty little picture in my mind up until the evening of Good Friday when I finally bought it.

Usually, my gifts are intrinsically tied to me, but this one is definitely tied to the ancestors. It speaks to me of them and whispers their names in my ear. Looking down upon it sitting happily on my finger, I can feel the connection between us.

The mourning ring being purified by incense.

This year, Lent was a lot of things. It was short and sweet (time has no meaning really right now but my personal relationship with relativity says it was fast). It had fewer candle led whispers and rituals than I had originally planned for. It had more jokes and stories between my husband and I. It had a lot more seafood than I am used to and it had a lot less feeling of connection to anyone or anything than I usually do.

To end this entry, I’m going to retell a story the husband told me shortly after he told me that Lent will never end since the Pope closed down the Catholic churches, which means that Holy Week and Easter is canceled.

I was talking with one of the old-timers at the club and he mentioned that he was giving up the usual things for Lent. I asked him what was the worst thing he gave up and he said, without thinking about it, “potatoes. I give up drinking and smoking and gambling every year without missing any of it, but potatoes was the hardest. You don’t realize how much food is made from potatoes until you can’t eat any.” I looked at the old-timer, trying to figure out how many side dishes I ate every week that had potatoes in them and nodded. “Yeah,” I said. “Yeah I can see that.”

Send A Lifeline.

As a teenager, I would spend hours on our DSL connection surfing the web in the pre-Wikipedia days of Wiki-clicking. I found so many ridiculous websites made in garish tones about all manner of things that grabbed my attention. One such black background with red font monstrosity was about the different vampire legends from all across the globe and ancient world. They had a four line paragraph dedicated to Sekhmet.

I loved her immediately and could get behind a god made of rage and wroth because I, too, was made of rage and wroth. Sure, I could be nice and kind when I wanted to be but at the end of the day, I was a tiny ball of red-hot fury. That four-sentence paragraph spoke to me on a level that I never fully understood until many years later. From that page, a terrible idea for a horror novel evolved but it wasn’t until a good ten years later that I realized that, as gods went, Sekhmet seemed right up my alley.

It’s weird how shit works out like that.

Through the Fire

As my Kemetic New Year began in the summer of 2018, I was left to ask myself the hard questions about where I was supposed to go from here. I had spent the last few years feeling very lost and adrift, a consequence of actions that began in 2015 although the core problems date back further than that. I knew in a general way that Kemeticism was where I needed to be; I just didn’t know what it was supposed to look like for me. I had been pulled in so many directions and was wrung out from it all.

I pulled into myself, trying to get to the bottom of it. I knew that the heart of the matter was my relationship with Sekhmet. It had broken down so much by 2018 to almost be nonexistent. I never reached out to her, I never spoke to her, and she returned the favor. We ignored each other as completely and stubbornly as we both possibly could. But as much as we may have wanted to part ways by then, we couldn’t. We had forged together something bigger than ourselves that required some form of working partnership to continue.

When the idea that a new rebirth cycle was what we both needed, I balked before I agreed. I knew fairly early into my Kemetic New Year that that was the best way forward, but it wasn’t until October that I finally agreed to it. It’s a lot to ask of someone no matter what outsiders looking in may think. Reinventing the wheel may not be necessary but reinventing the self, over and over again, is and it is always difficult, painful, and exhausting. Doubly so when you are reinventing more than just yourself.

I went back to the drawing board on the rebirth cycle and found a few things to help me move it along. As the time drew ever closer, Sekhmet reminded me more and more of the Inert Ones and as I thought about it, so too did I. Maybe that quiet time, the feeling that we were like the Inert Ones, was a building up of energy that was required for the rebirth cycle. And as I looked ahead, it felt like the whole world had quieted down too as if we were all in this together.

Rebirth hurts only because some of the pieces of yourself that you thought were so integral to who you are as a person may no longer serve the purpose they once did. And those pieces need to die, to be ripped out of yourself. It hurts because other portions of yourself that you never wanted to acknowledge or think about ever again come to the fore to be reintegrated with the whole because now they serve a purpose.

The first few months were about pain, shoring up the holes left by the pieces that die completely with other bits of yourself. The wounds can’t heal without the pain. The next few months were about growth. There was pain then, too, but more like the feeling your legs get when you might be growing again. It hurts, but not so completely as the pain of tearing yourself apart to rebuild who you are. And the last few months were quiet as we shored up the energy stored from the time of growth to be reborn again. It hurts then too because the person you used to be is dead and gone and you aren’t sure who looks back at you from the mirror.

As Sekhmet and I neared the moment when the rebirth cycle would end, we distanced ourselves from one another. It wasn’t quite like how it had been before. The distance was necessary now; not forced. We needed time to figure out who we were.

To the Ends of the Earth

Over the years, Sekhmet and I had created a single line between ourselves that kept us connected. Stretched between us were a million memories and experiences that had forged us and our relationship. When Ptah began to appear to me, he quickly assumed a place within this line, turning what had merely been two people into an equilateral triangle. The connections between the three of us deepened still further with his inclusion and now, none of us can truly remember a time where he was not there.

His time spent with me as always has been couched in the imagery of the garden. No matter how many times I have spoken with him, I am always reminded of the butterfly and the bush within the garden that I dreamed of the first time he came to me. Even with his Tatenen associations in our three-person world, he will eternally be the essential spark of life.

Ptah had no stake in the Year of Rebirth project. My death benefited him in all the right ways, but he had no horse in the race. His words to me, leading up to the event were never about what needed to be done but always about how I would benefit from it in the long run. All the other gods whispered words of encouragement and sang the song of how important this was for everyone. Ptah didn’t care about that; he only cared about me and how all of this would impact me.

Ptah has no rebirth or death associations, mummiform imagery notwithstanding. His areas of expertise are many of course but at the end of the day, his primary associations in my world are with speech, craftsmanship, and the vitality or spark of life. While one could argue that any of these areas are integral to a year of death, he assured me that he had no place at my side. The demiurge wished me luck, assured me we would be together again, and bid me pleasant journeys.

Our parting felt a bit like I was tossed off the cliff, not unlike the artwork others have made of Set kicking them off a cliff face. There were no kicks forward; I went because I knew I must and needed no one to push me over. But the loss of his vitality throughout the year could have crushed me far quicker than any of the pain I suffered through during the rebirth process. He had become so essential to me and by extension to my relationship with Sekhmet that to not have him around often felt like something was missing.

I can remember thinking for a time that maybe this was what I needed to truly learn about this year: that he wasn’t as necessary to me and my relationship with Sekhmet. I came away from following that line of thoughts shaken and worried. But I could think back to the moment where he assured me most definitely that he would be back, that I was not going to leave him no matter what I may feel or think, and knew that I was only lying to myself.

The ancient Egyptians were big fans of the number three. My deity relationships also seem to be a huge fan of triads: if one deity appears, inevitably a second one shows up who is as integral as the first. That’s what happened with Sekhmet and Ptah; it reoccurred again with Heru-Wer and Hetheru. And over the Year of Rebirth, it happened a third time with Ra and then Osiris. For some reason, this gave me comfort. Ptah and Sekhmet needed me to complete the triangle.

The Wounded Heart Within

Everyone enters into something with a set of expectations. The event may not live up to them; it may exceed them; or they may be completely wrong in every respect. The Year of Rebirth met some of my expectations because I knew what I needed to do having started this before. But there were unforeseen [to me] circumstances or consequences that have happened because of this. And I am having a difficult time, for the most part, reconciling all of this together.

I knew that both Osiris and Ra would make appearances because of this. Out of every god in our pantheon’s arsenal, these two have gone through the processes of rebirth on a nightly basis. They understand all of this in a way that other gods – no matter their associations with rejuvenation or the life/death/rebirth cycle – cannot even begin to have. So there was never a surprise that they would appear. I always knew to expect them in some form or another.

What was unforeseen was the seeming need or desire to stay. They were never supposed to stay here; they were to move along and leave me to my own devices such as they are. But alas, they have more in the offing and I can admit that I am looking forward to what they have in mind. The teasing glimpses of the future they have envisioned is… something that I can’t pass up.

But they weren’t supposed to crowd out everyone else either.

Ptah and Sekhmet seem disconnected from me. The pull cord I could always follow back to them appears to be missing. I’ve gone through other means in an effort to find them and yet, they are not there. I have looked so much in the last four months that my eyes hurt. Not only because of the search but for the sorrow I can feel building at the back of my throat. I can’t find them and it hurts. It hurts more than I thought it would.

I didn’t expect any of these feelings at all. I had been so fed up with Sekhmet and our relationship, which had tainted to some extent my relationship with Ptah, that the idea of them disappearing from my life could have had me in fits of delight two years ago. Now as I continue to haunt the places where I had once expected them to be, all I can do is call out and cry in the hopes that they will come back to me.

I’m worried that they won’t and that… that is more startling than anything else.

In Conclusion…

The teasing glimpses of the future Osiris and Ra have given me are seductive. The future encompasses all arenas if I’m reading the room correctly and I am hungry for it. It feels a little bit like when those of us who suffer a cold and snow-filled winter look ahead by late January or early February for the green grass and colorful flowers of spring. It’s almost here but still out of reach and oh, oh are we all ready for it.

But I also recognize that I’m not ready for it. The part about this that I like to ignore is that I have a lot of work to do in the interim. No timelines have been given but based on what I’ve seen, we’re a few years out until we can say this has been a successful adventure. And in all these thoughts and conversations and imagery of the future, the things missing are only conspicuous by their absence.

Sekhmet and Ptah will, probably, be back one day. And when they come back, I will probably be ecstatic for their return. I suppose it’s possible that our relationships may break down again and we’re all back at the start. But I’d like to try to be filled with hope for once. A hope for the future and hope that I can follow the path that has always, always brought me back to Sekhmet and Ptah and find them there.

Oh, You Fool.

When I was a baby Kemetic, surfing the KO website for a name of a goddess I could give my attention to, I found the name of Ma’at listed there. I was immediately entranced with this goddess because she was both a being and a concept. Almost nothing of value that I had access to at the time was written about her, but I chose her to be my starting point on this path. It took me a long time to realize that she had no interest in me.

During this childlike phase, I had a dream that seemed to indicate I needed to get a tattoo in her honor. So, I had one of my local tattoo artists put her name in a cartouche on my shoulder. I also had a feather of ma’at placed above her name. Years later, I was told that I got the message wrong. It was about living in ma’at, not the goddess herself. The tattoo is permanent so it’s a reminder nowadays to be really sure I know what the fuck the gods want from me.

We all make mistakes when it comes to the messages our gods send us. I am no different.

Hell. I still get shit wrong.

The Stranger

It was mid-to-late 2018 when the song from Lord Huron would crop up in my liked song list more often than usual. When it would play on my walks, while I cleaned, driving somewhere, I could feel my heart rate pick up and a feeling of uneasiness come over me. The message was from Sekhmet; a reminder that death is waiting for us all and not to be scared when the Year of Rebirth began. It took far longer than I am willing to admit to realize that the message was never from Sekhmet. A different god was pulling the strings on this.

I was coldly furious when I realized the truth. How dare he use my relationship with her to contact me thus? How dare he use my carefully curated playlists to speak to me? How dare he come to me at all? I think TTR was amused when I admitted the truth of the matter; it took me so fucking long to figure it out. But from cold rage to acceptance I went and began creating a playlist for Osiris too, one that put the song right at the top as a reminder that I wasn’t afraid to die.

Osiris didn’t want too much from me; only my death. A benefit for all gods involved (Ra, Sekhmet, him) with me as the catalyst. He recommended that I beef up my calendar for the year of 2019 and almost threatened to see me later. Sekhmet took the first few months of rebirth; Ra the middle portion; and Osiris formed the basis of the last four months. It was a busy time, trying to ensure that all gods were reaping the benefits of the Year of Rebirth project.

When Ra’s presence began to dim out around Samhain and the clock change, Osiris geared up and began taking his place. He spoke to me at first via the ancestors since it is through him that they have any basis at all. But as Ra faded down to a pinprick of light in my life, Osiris was there in stereo to take over the reigns. As the cold of winter began sweeping through the world, it was the green-faced one who spoke the loudest out of all of them. Though speak is a euphemism; he seems to prefer intuition and dreams to actual speech.

He was gentle, but firm. I needed that after years of not engaging with him on purpose. He was never supposed to be for me, much like Ra was never supposed to be mine. My engagement with Osiris had been minimal at best. I knew enough to get by but not nearly as much as others. He didn’t seem to mind how limited my information about him was. As it stands, I know more than I give myself credit for and the thanks for that falls squarely on TTR’s shoulders.

He watched me die and I was grateful for the audience.

As the closing of the Year of Rebirth and the Year of Rites came ever closer, the world around us continued to cool. And in the frost of the mornings and the frozen air of the afternoon, he spoke of a future that encapsulated more than mere death but a continuous rebirth cycle from here until forever. We dreamed of green plants and cookies together. He said the grave was only the beginning.

Beyond the Grave

Those of us who have had associations with Osiris often see him within the paradigm of a river. I am no different. I often see him standing thigh-deep in charcoal gray waters, looking introspective as he takes in the sights. But beyond the river stands the idea that it is through Osiris that all things have come into being. No matter which portion of history attributed various identifiers to his mythos, one keeps coming back to the fact that Osiris is as much the alpha and omega as Ra is.

Years ago, I was reading MHMM and a specific passage relative to Osiris pinged loudly for me:

Next the ostracon hymn continues with an unusual evocation of Osiris as the backbone of Egypt, the ground upon which the whole of Egyptian culture is built. Upon his spine rest the houses, the temples, the monuments, all the fields and tombs, and it is proclaimed that there are no empty spaces on the god’s body…

Without this stable foundation which is provided by Osiris, it is impossible to imagine that Egyptian culture could have survived three thousand years. He is the solid base, the enduring ground upon which the whole of Egypt rested.

It is as the base of the pillar that I spied Osiris staring back at me. It was as if he always knew that I would end up in this space, looking at him with a mix of fear and worry. I got the distinct image of a house’s foundation: a thick gray square of concrete open-mouthed and yawning at the sun that passed over it every day. This imagery was the very same foundation ping that I often came across in my relationship with Ptah, and by its association, with Ptah-Tatenen.

The image of the gray foundation morphed into a gray and dusty spinal column. From each nodule of the bones, I could see flowers and wheat, corn and apple trees. I had come full-circle, it seemed; from one who sees him only in death to one who finally saw him in the cycle of life.

One of the things that TTR and I have talked about at length is that Osiris is more than simply a deity associated with death. The myth cycle that we know tends to lose the thread of his associations with rebirth, rejuvenation, and green-living because most people only remember him as the god who was murdered by his brother and his son had to hide till adulthood to fight his uncle for the right to rule. While not everyone forgets this, it’s easy to push off the green aspects of his domain because we hear people talk about The Contendings so frequently.

But as we moved forward, I saw him more and more in the world around me. The golden shimmer of winter wheat and the ornamental grasses that populated the road side. It was as if he were telling me that he had always been there, I merely had to look with opened eyes and not the closed one that I preferred.

This felt a little like a game of hide-and-seek. As the winter wrapped its chilly fingers around the world around me, I began to see him in everything. I found him in places he had no business being and shrank back from the implications of every new instance until I came to a sort of acceptance about it all.

He was here, and he was here to stay.

The Appointed Time

At the time change in November, Osiris came upon me with a dramatic flourish just as Ra was leaving. It was as if he had been waiting in the wings, waiting for this very moment, to appear to me and say that it was time for us to truly begin this journey together. He began appearing around an ancient festival that began on Halloween, a festival about Horus welcoming the Nile.

Within two weeks of Osiris coming to me and Ra leaving, the Osiris Mysteries were upon me and I began to catalogue the differences between what I had known before and what I was beginning to suspect would occur after all of this was over. Osiris asked merely for the trappings of the Osiris Mysteries; he seemed to be implying that more serious things would come later.

He claimed the winter absolutely and totally. Everything about that winter whispered his name to me. The snow upon the ground, cold and crusted over with ice. The flittering red wings of cardinals fighting over resources in the backyard. The twinkle lights of Christmas on barren shrubs and trees. The false spring that caused old-timers and farmers to whisper about climate change. The roar of winter’s breath decimating sensitive skin on cheeks and lips. Everywhere I looked, there he was. He assured me that he would never leave with promises that both frightened me and beckoned to me.

As the world entered the beginning of spring, Osiris became pushy and forceful but only in small doses. He would come upon me as if I were waiting for him and give me direction, or a reminder of something. His presence seemed to be growing dimmer, not unlike what happened with Ra the previous fall. It was as if the louder the animals in the backyard grew and the higher the plants climbed above the soil, the quieter he became. It felt a bit like he was throwing all of his energy into the push for spring, the push of new life that was just around the corner.

As I looked to the calendar to remember when things would most likely change, I found three final Osiris holidays added to my calendar at some unknown previous time. The three holidays were scheduled to take place just after the time change. They seemed to be the types of farewell that he needed to truly leave to give Ra the chance to take over again. These holidays felt a bit like a good-bye before the switch between gods could truly begin.

Go Back to Start

When I began to question what the purpose of this religious life was, I knew that things would change. I didn’t know how the questioning would cause things to change, but I knew that what I had grown with and created over the years would change in its entirety. I’ve come to accept this, although [as always] I doubt that I am truly ready for any of this.

Around Imbolc, I found myself researching plants that are most often associated with the holiday. As I had mentioned then, I found it difficult to see my gods in those commonly ascribed plants. But eventually, I did find Osiris in many places that I couldn’t find in a book. I found other gods there, too, of course, but it was the presence of Osiris that ensnared me like I was a fly caught in the web of a spider. He seemed to be speaking to me soul to soul instead of mouth to ear.

As the months go by, I’ve come to realize that I like the idea of finding gods in the world around me, which is why I often ask myself whether this is a good thing or not. I’ve thought about why this means so much to me now when nothing before seemed to mean as much. I think it’s because, as a child growing up in a Methodist church, I could never really feel like God was anywhere but inside the church that we attended. I don’t know why I couldn’t see that God in the world around me, but I couldn’t. And as I continue moving forward on this unused path ahead of me, all I can do is see my gods in everything.

I asked him once what he thought about being a local god to a place that had never known him. I had the distinct impression that he took my question seriously, but he never really gave me an answer. I didn’t exactly expect one because he doesn’t seem to like answering in that way. He seems to prefer the idea of strewing clues about on the ground for me to find as I stumble across them. As my dreams have oft shown, he seems to like the concept of making me build the puzzle on my own.

But that question bothers me more and more as the days go by. It nags me in a way that I can’t quite explain. Who am I to see foreign gods in a land that was brutally stolen from indigenous cultures? How dare I stumble upon my gods here? But are these beings even my gods? Is it possible someone else’s gods wear the face of mine to whisper sweet nothings in my ear because they want, more than anything they want, to be remembered?

I’m hoping that one day, I find the answer to these questions. And that the guilt of this ancestor of colonial brutalizers can perhaps, maybe not be fully absolved, but reconciled with.

In Conclusion…

Just before Osiris left to make way for Ra, I found myself listening to The Yawning Grave by Lord Huron over and over again. I couldn’t have said what it was about the song that hit me so palpably until Osiris came to me in a dream, singing to me as if he were the singer of the song. He hit me hard with it, as if he needed to inject a little piece of himself into me while we separated for a while.

Osiris, like Ra before him, made it crystal clear that there was no going back now and that he would return in the fall. The cycle has begun again and there is nothing I could do to stop it. I don’t really want to because, as I’ve mentioned, I am quite interested to see where all of this is going and I haven’t felt that type of interest in my religion in a long time. It’s possible I become dissatisfied with these changes, but a part of me believes this direction is exactly where I needed to go when I wrote about how unhappy I was with the way things were.

One morning, shortly after Ostara, we woke up to snow on the ground. It was a dusting really and it disappeared as quickly as it came on us. I stood outside under the awning, marveling at the beauty of pure white snow on pine needles and at the base of my favorite tree. I felt the icy, cold fingers of Osiris on my cheek as if in final parting. And I knew that while the months ahead will be hot and belong to Ra, I would be looking forward to the cooler months and shorter days of Osiris.

Stand in the Sun.

As a baby pagan, after I had gluttoned myself on all the books by all of the authors that older pagans cringe at now, I found a website that told me believing and worshiping the ancient Egyptian gods was real. Floored by what I had found, I read through the list of names of the gods over and over again. I formed their names with my lips and wondered what worshiping them might look like. And as I went through those list of names, perhaps influenced by early divine goddess rumblings or merely my own past, I swore I would never worship the male deities. They had had enough worship; I would only honor the women goddesses.

I’ve thought about that time in my life and I’ve come to the conclusion that this was a childish form of rebellion against the wrong religion. All my life, I had been indoctrinated to believe that while God has no true sex, it was He this and He that. I was tired of all the He. Even my irritable changing the He in prayers and Bible readings to She wasn’t enough. I was sick of male deities after living a lifetime suckling the teet of male deity propaganda. (Side note: churches should only use They for God now.) So, I decided the ladies was where my attention would go and that was that.

Hoo boy, has shit changed in 20 years.

A Wild God Appears

In very late 2018, shortly after Samhain, I felt the first real kick from Ra. I was distinctly uncomfortable with the attention. As anyone who may have followed me for a while knows, we don’t get on. But there he was like a towering statue out of the thick fog. I knew why of course; the 2019 Year of Rebirth project may have started off about Sekhmet but it really was about more than just she.

One thing I’ve found more and more as I go deeper down this road is the fact that hard polytheism only works so much when it comes to the NTRW. If you’re working on things for one deity, invariably what you’re doing will no doubt effect or benefit others. Sekhmet, created from Ra’s power, is as connected to the other gods as the rest of them. Dying for Sekhmet’s benefit was dying for Ra’s benefit.

He was patient and quiet, which is what I needed to get over some things. Say what we will about gods busting down doors without knocking, occasionally they seem to be able to read the room before they even get in there. So he was mostly quiet while I came to terms with the idea that he was around, he was going to stay around, and that most likely his presence would continue well past 2019.

It didn’t start to become more of a relationship until about Spring of 2019. Things started kind of piecing together for us. He asked for very few things other than attention and a few little baubles. I asked him once if this would turn into something more. He kind of snorted and said no. I had assumed originally that this relationship would turn into a shrine, an icon, altar space for prayer. But when I had asked, I got the distinct impression he found my question amusing before he told me no.

He did ask for a daily rite that I had written for him for the Year of Rites project, which I managed to finish before 2018 came to an end. While the Year of Rites project fell apart about midway through 2019, he didn’t seem too unhappy that I had stopped doing the daily rites with the words I had written. I did the physical portion of the rite and that seemed to be enough.

For a while anyway.

Once you start down the rabbit hole, you get a little lost. No matter how many times you try to back track to the start to find your way out, the labyrinth closes up behind you until the only way out is through. The way through looked weird and strange to me. Not completely at any rate, but a good bit of it was new territory. Ra merely said to keep it up; I’d know where the exit was eventually.

That Wasn’t an Exit

As 2019 came to a close, I began to register that Ra’s presence was dimming so to speak. I don’t know how to put it that will make it clearer but as October hit, he seemed to have collapsed in on himself. I assumed it was because the year was starting to come to a close and he needed strength for the actual birth of the new year. I was partially right, but not completely.

It was the week of Samhain that it all came together. The clock change was set to begin the Sunday following Halloween and I could sense that this was it. He was going to do one of those dramatic exits that the gods seem to love to do and leave me with some vague request. The request wasn’t completely vague oddly enough.

“Look beyond the trappings and you’ll find me there,” he seemed to say as his time with me grew ever shorter. I remember standing in my backyard the weekend of the time change and staring at the sky. “My time for now is over. Use this quiet to figure out the puzzle.” Not like I needed clear cut answers anyway.

That winter, as the world cooled and the snow refused to fall, I would look up at the watery light of the sun and wonder what Ra was up to. I would imagine the rays of sunlight trying so desperately to reach me in my backyard but unable to do so through the winter wind and ice cold frost. I tried to play his playlist and found it didn’t work for the way the land and world around me had changed to winter.

The trappings are encapsulated by my altar room. That was the place where I found my gods over and over again and while I have pieces that are designated for Ra in there, I had never really felt him there. He was always outside, in the land, in the air, and in the world around me. I had looked beyond the trappings and found the god in the natural world.

This isn’t strange; it’s not abnormal. I’ve long had a local cultus push for my gods, but it was Ra who solidified it in a way I hadn’t been able to do until he showed up. The physical reminders of worship and altars are for the priests; the natural world and the worship within is for everyone else.

Timing is Everything

Since Ra all but disappeared at the time change, I wondered if I could expect him back in 2020 when it changed again. I waited throughout the winter, wondering if my hunch was correct. The Tuesday prior to the time change, my calendar told me there were Ra festivities coming up (feast for three or four days in his and the Irt-Ra honor) and just after the time change, the Divine Birth of Ra lined up nicely with his return.

I looked back to see what was going on, calendar-wise, in October as I hadn’t been paying as much attention to the holiday alerts since fall is a busy holiday time for my calendar. Nothing so concrete as a “say bye to the sun” but there were a few hints that I missed back then, which will become important in another entry.

It seemed that I had figured out that my relationship with Ra was to coincide with the world around me. As spring approached and the whispers of birds and plants began to grow louder, I could feel him more and more in the air and beside me. I remember waking up one morning between the time change and Ostara whispering, “oh there you are.” And there he was.

He hasn’t given any directives since he showed up and other than a matter-of-fact hello-how-are-you, he’s been pretty quiet while I try to figure out what all of this means. It’s one thing to understand, finally, the reason and the push, but it’s quite another to turn it into reality.

I kind of feel like I’ve been stumbling along, occasionally picking up clues and messages that tell me I’m headed forward to somewhere else. After talking about this a bit with TTR, I was happy to find that I’m not the only one in this boat, but it doesn’t necessarily help anyone at all. We may all be headed in the same direction, but who really knows what it will all look like at the end of the day?

Ra, probably.

The Beginning is Now

My local cultus push has been a thing for some years now. It started in fits and spurts around 5 years ago, maybe more, and has been increasingly felt throughout the rest of my relationships with my gods. Part of this push has caused decay in some of my relationships (Sekhmet and Ptah, who I have yet to find in the world around me) and solidified others in ways I hadn’t ever expected (Heru-Wer, Hetheru, and of course Ra).

Over the winter, I read through Hathor: A Reintroduction… by Lesley Jackson. One of the quotes that I ended up posting on my Tumblr has stayed with me most often, especially now that I understand the next phase of where this relationship with Ra is supposed to go:

…but the Egyptians also detected her presence in nature; in the rustling of papyrus in the swamps, in the breeze through sycamore leaves and in places in the desert where there were conspicuous outcrops of rock

P 198, Hathor: A Reintroduction to an Ancient Egyptian Goddess by Lesley Jackson

This isn’t, by all means, the only clue-by-four that’s showed up leading me down this road, but it’s the one that stuck with me the most often. Usually it comes up when I’m sitting outside, staring up at the sun and trying to parse out the nuance of how local cultus is supposed to formulate the basis for many things going forward.

All of this, whatever this may actually end up being, is a reset in a manner of speaking. The ongoing path project has always been a bit of a disappointment for me. I’ve always felt the push in one direction and never really felt comfortable in going that way. But I’m reminded that my path is ever-evolving and has always been best summed up by the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken.

Now, the path ahead is forged with oak and grass, bees and tree frogs, hawks and owls, mayflower and staghorn sumac. There are gods within these places as there always has been; the gods of these places may be gone now or colonized into silence, but there are other gods who seem to want to be found there, gods who have followed me for most of my life in some form or another. And while I’m not sure whether I have the right to see them there since I am living on land stolen from indigenous peoples, I see them there anyway.

In Conclusion…

In February, I did a month-ahead Tarot reading for the month of March. I didn’t foresee the pandemic (sorry) since I was looking at myself. The Theme of the Month was a card called Spellwork, which we can sum up as meaning this: “create a recipe of your own choosing; gather the ingredients together to gain clarity and insight; you know exactly what you need so follow your intuition.” If that doesn’t tell me what I need to know, then what does?

Ra has made it very clear that he is here to stay and while sometimes I still feel like this is all an elaborate prank on the stupid human, sometimes I think everything will be okay. His entrance into my life has overtaken many other areas of my practice, almost like he’s clearing the slate to a point where I can actually start over. I’m a little hesitant only because I don’t want to fully sacrifice the carefully created relationships I’ve already made, but I’m also interested to see how this could play out. And I can admit that I haven’t felt interested in my religion in a very long time.

The other day, as I was taking my daily walk, the sun threw its life-giving rays between a thick scattering of white pines. The rays of the sun were clear and reflected off of a small creek that traveled through the wooded area. I managed to snap a picture of it, and it looks like there are two suns: one in the sky and one on the ground. The rays of both suns meet in the middle in a sort of new horizon. I take a lot of nature pictures, but that’s my favorite so far. I think it neatly captures my religious life and where it’s always been headed.

The Question.

 

One of the many little parts of my daily ritual includes the pulling of a daily card. I leave it out on the window sill beside my cupful of Ma’at to soak up the morning rays or the leaden skies that are forecast for the day. Sometimes, when I pull the card, I immediately understand it. It’s a reminder, a suggestion, and push in the right direction. Sometimes it begs me to slow down and to take care of myself. And sometimes it makes no sense whatsoever; it means nothing to me at the time. Whether it means something to me later is a matter of debate.

As part of this little ritual, I select a single deck to use for the month ahead. I prefer to use the same deck day-in and day-out for the full month because it helps me to understand decks that I may not use regularly and it also helps me to rotate my various decks. I have many, many types of oracle and Tarot cards and I can never use them all as much as I would like to.

This month of January I allowed my hands to float over my various decks until I pulled out a deck that I had been gifted with last year that I had side-eyed when I opened it but have found myself enjoying using: The Heart of the Faerie Oracle.

I know very little about the fae; it’s just not an area of interest to me. I love the posts about fae politics and culture and culture that go around Tumblr, but that’s about it. That’s why I didn’t understand why the deck was sent to me, but as I’ve used it over the last year, I’ve begun to understand the draw. Sometimes the cards are oblique, immaterial, confusing; sometimes it is like a punch in the gut.

Today’s pull was puzzling.

The candle is from CottageWicks and frigging amazing.

The guidebook had this to say about the card, The Question:

Intention / Dialogue / Answers

In Faerie, questions are very important. Questions, answers, and wishes, all of those things that help or hinder us on our journey are very much a part of our relationship with Faerie. “Who am I? What is your quest? Why have you come here, and what do you seek?” are questions often asked by the individuals you meet in Faerie. They don’t as often ask you who you are. It is more important for you to discover who they are.

It is important to know why you are traveling in Faerie and to be able to express that reason. You will be asked. When you cross the border into the otherworld, you should have a reason to be there. Are you a tourist, just looking around, hoping to send a postcard home? Are you on a quest, a journey of the spirit? Do you want knowledge? Experience of the otherworld? Are you looking for love? Are you searching for something that you have lost?

If you draw the Question in a reading, try to answer those questions for yourself. When you have answered, you can ask one of your own. What is that question, and of whom are you asking it? If you are clear about your quest (in Faerie and in life) and what you seek, you will then be able to ask the right questions and be ready to hear the answers.

This was all very nice and lovely, but it didn’t really explain why this card had come up this morning. I wrote in my Tarot Journal that I truly didn’t understand the purpose of all of this and figured that either I would eventually come to an understanding, or I wouldn’t. Sometimes I’m lucky and something pops up that allows me to connect the dots and other times, I’m left with a puzzled frown on my face, trying to understand what the cards are trying to say.

I was lucky that I was able to figure it out a bit after settling down to read through my WordPress Reader. I had a number of outstanding posts that I had been saving up for when I had a free moment and I had nothing to do for a bit while I waited for the world to wake up. The last post I had to read through was a post by someone I’ve known for years. I found myself at first uncomfortably interested and then visibly intrigued by what they had to say.

As I sat back, phone on my lap staring at the ceiling, I could understand what they had been going through. I, too, have watched as others have managed to bring to flesh their religious practice in a way that I cannot fathom. It is as if the language those people with fleshed out practices speak is so close to my own and yet, it is nothing like my language. I, too, have found myself envious and admiring of what those people have posted and wondered what that would look like for me.

I’ve known for a long time that the practice I’ve been kind-of dealing with hasn’t been enough. I knew it wasn’t enough four years ago, but I kept sticking to it because Kemeticism is what I knew and what I wanted. I can admit that it is still what I want; I want the relationships with the gods that I have and I suppose I’m amenable to exploring the relationships pushed upon me by such gods as Osiris and Ra. But I want flesh to cover the bones.

I want to be able to sink my hands into the dirt of my practice and feel it soak through my soul. I want to see it and smell it like a verdant garden, ripening eternally in spring-like splendor. I want to hear it and touch it. I want to know that it is there and it is made not only myself whole, but my life whole. I want to feel the ecstasy of release and the comfort of it all. I want.

I pulled my phone back up to my face and carefully typed a response to the post, “I’ve had similar issues myself. I can feel and see the bones but the flesh isn’t there. It’s been an ongoing issue for me for, well, a long time. Part of that is because I’ve felt very adrift lately.”

After leaving the comment, I put my phone down and stared at the ceiling some more. (This is actually something I do often when I’m lost in thought. I’m not sure that a ceiling has ever been able to answer questions, but it has been able to form the questions I was looking for.) The Question was there buried in the meat of my mind and it finally took form: “What would it feel like to have a fleshed out practice? What it would it look like to have something with tone and form and more than just tossing a dart at a dart board? How would I even do that?”

We don’t see this sort of stuff in Kemeticism; not really. The only person who really talked about it was TTR and they’re gone for the most part. I don’t doubt that there are Kemetics with something that is concrete and comfortable and livable, but if they’re out there, I haven’t seen them. Oh, I see people effect that persona and make it seem like that’s where they are, but I can see through the veneer. They’re no better off than I am.

When I compare what I do with what others have done, I see the difference. My practice and the practices of many other public Kemetics appear to be charcoal drawings. Others’ practices from other faiths look as if they have been shaded and painted and have a form that I can only marvel at. I want to know what that would be like for me, but alas.

Personally, I’m just cruising around, letting the flow of the world around me push and pull me wherever it decides I should go. That’s normal for me; I’m a go-with-the-flow kind of person and (contrary to popular misconceptions) I don’t like to cause a fuss. I just want things to be smooth, simple, easy, and ready for the taking. I’m just a little lazy that way.

But it doesn’t feel good. And as I’ve mentioned a time or six, it doesn’t seem to be working. As usual, I have to decide what’s best and where to go from here and I have to admit that fuck if I know. Fuck if I know.

So… well… This day started with a card pull; I should finish it with one.

The deck is the dual deck The Hidden Path & Well-Worn Path Deck which is a Raven Grimassi deck. I’ve had it since long before I learned how to better vet things and people in the pagan sphere.

I decided on this deck because it was always the one, back in those early 20-teens days that I could turn to and find a form to what I was looking for. It was the stop-gap when I felt like I was going off the rails. I needed to feel that foundation again; that feeling of knowing where I was going and what I was doing and using the very deck that steered me so well back then seemed to make the most sense.

I chose the ten-card spread called The Cauldron Spread from the book. The ten positions are listed below along with the cards I pulled for each:

  1. The Present Situation – Yule
  2. The Challenges Ahead – Ostara
  3. The Underlying Root – Tree in Summer
  4. The Querent’s Appearance in Relation to the Question – The Altar
  5. The Influencing Aspects – Faery Door
  6. Aspirations and Concerns – Wheel of the Year
  7. The Probable Course – Between the Worlds
  8. The Possible Alternative – Earth
  9. The Final Outcome – The Old Ones
  10. Transform the Outcome – Oath

I found it interesting that the card that represented my personification of this spread was The Altar. This card tends to mean a balance between the divine and yourself, which is the basis of one’s altar. The Altar is the direct interface, according to this deck anyway, between the divine and yourself. It is that physical connection that allows you to develop those relationships in many, many ways.

The reason I found this an interesting card for myself is that, no matter how many times I try to push it away, I keep coming back to that post from TTR, Ma’at Shines Through my Body and how it should relate to the utilization of one’s body as an altar-of-sorts for our gods, for our religion, and everything in between. Based on the card, I am a confluence of the physical and the divine.

The second most interesting card was the card, Between the Worlds. In effect, the card tells you that your vision isn’t clear and that in order to manifest what you want, you must have clarity of thought, clarity of vision, and cut out the distractions so that you can focus on that which you manifest.

The reason this was interesting is that it was low-key calling me out on my bullshit. I have a tendency of saying, “I will do this,” and then just not doing it. I did my Ritual365 last year, but I cut it back, cut it down, and didn’t bother to finish any of the entries I had originally intended on writing last year. Part of that is work and that nonsense, but I could have made more of an effort… which ties into that whole lazy thing I mentioned above.

And that is the crux of my issue, card reading or otherwise: I am a lazy creature. I do not want to do. I want it handed to me if it can be. That doesn’t mean that I won’t, it just means that I will put off until I cannot put it off any longer. Perhaps lazy isn’t the best word for it but that’s what I’ve always assumed it was. (That’s what all the adults told me when I was a kid. But it really goes hand-in-hand with the genetic heritage of sticking one’s head in the sand when big things happen, hoping that they will go away.)

To start, I suppose, I should solidify my vision. I should make a sort of vision board to give me clarity, to focus my desire in a specific arena that I want to flesh out first. But where? I’ve had so many ideas in the last year alone – reading subject matter that has little to do with Kemeticism but explores other avenues of religion so that I can try and figure out where I go from here – that I’m not quite sure which ideas make sense to include and which ones don’t.

I think I’ll just start with writing out the things that I want to include in my practice and see where that leads.

Loss of Faith: Polytheism Edition.

As a birthday present to myself, and after a recommendation from TTR, I picked up The Grief Recovery Handbook and immediately began reading through. Grief, as discussed in this book, is defined by the opening statement in the first chapter: “Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind.” The authors make no specific distinction about what caused the loss, pointing out the most common (death, divorce, financial change, etc), but they make the point that any major change can cause a loss of some type.

The overall point in the first part of the book is to illustrate that we have all been “socialized to believe that those feelings are abnormal and unnatural.” This should not be the case for anyone as it means that we have not been given the tools necessary to contend with the very real emotional reaction humans have when it comes to loss.

The authors go on to stress that it is no one’s fault that they were never given the necessary resources to recover from their grief. Society as a whole is responsible and the only way to overcome this is to educate ourselves and therefore, eventually, be able to educate others, on how to recover from this.

During my reading, I found a specific section on faith that I found particularly interesting:

In 1969 John’s younger brother died. John remembers being told, “You shouldn’t be angry with God.”

John knew he shouldn’t be angry with God, but he was anyway. No one knew to tell him that anger at God is a typical response to an untimely death. We’ve relied on intellect for years, so we search for understandable reasons for events. When we can’t find a reason, we assign blame to God.

As someone who experienced the loss of their father at a young age, this particular passage made a good deal of sense to me. At the time of his death, I was too young to understand the full cause that resulted in my father’s death. I now know things I couldn’t understand or be told at 7 years of age, so it no longer seems like a reasonless death. But as a child facing the seeming untimely death of their parent, I assigned blame to God.

But placing blame on God for an event that seemed to have no reason is frowned upon. We’re told contradictory things like “God has a plan” and “Don’t be angry with God” and are never really allowed to voice that anger because it is seen as taboo or wrong. To voice our displeasure at God can be downright threatening for some people to hear and in general, such sentiments are shushed into oblivion.

The authors continued this passage with the following:

This anger will pass if we’re allowed to express the feeling. We have to be allowed to tell someone that we’re angry with God and not be judged for it, or told that we’re bad because of it. If not, this anger may persist forever and block spiritual growth. We’ve known people who never returned to their religion because they weren’t allowed to express their true feelings. If this happens, the groover is cut off from one of the most powerful sources of support he or she might have.

To reiterate the point, if we bottle these feelings up because we are either taught to keep them quiet or talked over when we voice them, we may never experience spiritual growth again.

Reciprocity

While the above quotes did spark a series of thoughts relating to myself and my father’s death, it was not in fact his death that I first began exploring. I had already know about my anger with God at age seven and have managed to, for the most part, deal with it. My thoughts actually began rolling to when pagans lose their faith and my own experience with it.

For those who have only recently started reading this blog, I used to be an obnoxious “have faith” kind of person. By that, I mean that I loved my gods and my religion. I was here for it everyday and I worked hard to both maintain my faith and towards the common goals my gods had given me. I often thought of my faith as a shining gold blanket, thick and luxurious, and it made me feel comforted and happy. I suspect the reason I was this person is because my mother often told me that she cared not for what religion I followed, as long as I had faith. So, perhaps to overcompensate for the years where I had none, I was full of it.

But in 2016, I began to have a crisis of faith.

A crisis of faith is typically defined as when you seriously question whether what you believe/how you see/what you’re committed to is actually true. If you read editorials from pastors, reverends, and priests, many of them will say that a crisis of faith is a good thing. But while you are on the midst of one, and if your religion doesn’t have spiritual leaders to discuss these issues with, it certainly doesn’t feel like a good thing.

My issue was reciprocity. The word is commonly defined as “mutual exchange” and was a part of the ancient Egyptian religion. It was seemingly practiced by both the upper echelons of ancient Egyptian society and the laity. I felt like the gods were not holding up their end of the bargain.

I had made extensive strides in the areas I had been asked to, but the return I was expecting failed to materialize. It felt very much like the gods had welched on their part of the contract between us and no matter how many times I pointed out that their lack of fulfillment was both upsetting to me and concerning me on their behalf, I typically got the message equivalent of smashing the keys of a keyboard in answer.

When I spoke about my anger at being, seemingly, forsaken, I was told by many that I shouldn’t be angry. I shouldn’t rage and rant at the gods. I should effectively suck it up and keep on going about the work I was already doing because “the gods have a plan”.

Eventually, I brought it up less and less because the voices trying to drown out dissatisfaction and discontent grew steadily louder. Those who once commented on the things I said about being angry disappeared for fear of an eventual dog pile from those who seemed to be threatened by the idea that people could be angry with their gods. The discussions were eventually shushed into oblivion.

Sound familiar?

These statements and arguments kept cropping up whenever anyone mentioned feeling like I did on the matter and compounded an already stressful situation for me. I’ve come to the conclusion that many who say things similar to what the authors mentioned in the Handbook have taken the same point-of-view of many Christians: the deities are at a higher level than humans and we should simply be content with an occasional glance.

I suspect that people who shout down other polytheists with this negative rhetoric are still very much entrenched by the religious backgrounds they come from. While that is not necessarily their fault if they’ve not been given the means to recover from it, it makes it difficult for people who do not suffer from the same backgrounds or who have been successful in recovering from those previously held beliefs.

I also strongly believe that these same people are scared. They’re terrified of someone upsetting their status quo. And I understand that rocking the boat on the open ocean can be terrifying but sometimes you have to in order to grow.

Whatever the psychological or emotional reason behind this need to shout over the disaffected and grieving, they need to remember that they are speaking to real, living people going through some of their own shit. And they need to keep in mind that, more than likely, what they’re talking over or trying to shut down may in fact negate some of the basic tenets of their polytheistic religion. (Or in the words of Jake the Dog: they need to “go sit in the corner and think about your life.”)

Reciprocity in Christianity culminates in the Golden Rule more often than not. Reciprocity in the ancient Egyptian religion, at least, extends to include the gods and that means that I have a perfectly reasonable expectation to assume I will eventually be given what I have asked for especially after years of faithful service.

The idea that they could not or wouldn’t abide by what I expected threw me into a tailspin. This tailspin was further exacerbated by people who, perhaps thinking they were “helping,” voiced the same types of comments the Handbook authors specifically refer to as detrimental especially when someone is experiencing a loss.

And make no mistake: I was grieving for my loss of faith. I had blindly and lovingly followed for years and now, what I knew to be true about my gods and our relationships was thrown on its head. I could no longer view them with love or faith; I could only see them as capricious beings who were using me or figments of my imagination.

The situation never cleared up for me, not really. I just stopped talking about it, no longer willing to defend myself while I tried to work on my grief at the loss of my faith virtually alone.

2016 was a hard year.

abandoned churches

So how do you recover from grief when, seemingly, everyone wants to shut your natural reaction about said grief down? How do you come out the other side, feeling better about it all? I must have done something since I’m back at the religion table again, doing my due diligence and trying to forge ahead as always.

I can say that I’m not sure. In the last three years, I have truthfully spoken to one (1) person about this in an unedited fashion. TTR seemed to be the only one who understood what I was saying, but at the time, they didn’t have all the tools necessary to be much more than the vent hole I needed when I was angry or upset about it. And besides, they too had had their own similar experiences regarding reciprocity and understood things from a similar perspective to my own.

I can truthfully say that I am still grieving. I can often look back at those years where I felt secured in my golden, fluffy blanket of faith and grieve for it all over again. This isn’t always the case, not by a long shot, because sometimes I look back and I am so angry that I once so blindly believed as I did back then.

I was able to at least come to terms with it, which isn’t the same thing as recovering. I was able to come to a point where I still viewed the gods as capricious beings that played games with people like me, but I stopped worrying that I was making it all up, that the omens and signs were coincidental and that I was imagining things.

I’m hoping that my reading of this book may better help me. Thus far it’s taught me what not to say when someone experiences a loss of any kind. The next section appears to be given the steps to come through one’s grief, so perhaps I will eventually be able to say that I have recovered.

Things will, of course, never go back the way they once were. I knew that two years ago when I started to say that I missed having a religion and went back to the gods I knew already. You can’t fill the hole of one’s loss and assume it will be as good as new. The myriad of patch jobs a city does on its potholes is all the physical reminder of this that anyone needs. But like a fresh patch job done well, the hole can at least become functional again for a time before a new patch is needed.

I am hoping the book will give me more than a patch job; maybe stitches to knot the edges of the hole together. I suppose I’ll find out.