Boundaries.

The ancient Egyptians used to create stelae for various reasons but the main reason that always kind of stuck with me were boundary stelae. As a kid, I can remember reading through the books about Amarna, trying to envision Akhenaten demanding that Joe Blow Stonemason cut into a cliff face to deliberately mark the borders of his new city. For a long time, that was the closest I ever came to boundary stela.

After getting over the marvel that someone would just create a stonework detailing where something began and ended, I could see the value in such a thing. As human beings, we seem to like to clearly mark things as “ours vs theirs.” While the boundary stelae of Amarna were less about us vs. them, the other types of boundary stelae are very much in keeping with that mentality: they delineate fields, borders of administrative sectors, and of course countries.

I also had to admit that I kind of liked the idea behind it. There is a sort of permanence in the creation. It’s being sculpted from stone, which could and would last a very long time, gave an added dose of “forever” to the stelae. To be perfectly frank, the very idea that this piece of stone was to delineate a beginning point and an ending point all and for an eternity really spoke to me.

Maybe I have a permanent us vs. them mentality waiting in the wings or maybe I just like the idea that instead of using a fence, they carved some words into a rock. And therefore it was. It existed because the words had been carved into that rock and that would come down to us millennia later. The amount of mind blowing wonder I’ve spent staring at boundary stelae is probably obscene. But man, they sure are fascinating.

Boundary stela of Sety I

Boundary Stela of Seti I, found in Kom el Lufi

When I was a newbie Kemetic, I spent an inordinately large amount of time combing through forums. I started off looking for resources to help me figure out what I was trying to do but I also realize now that I was hoping for a mentor. I was hoping that someone would take me under their wing and just tell me what to do.

I can recognize that this is a sort of holdover from my early religious years. I was raised in a tradition where you needed someone to facilitate the relationship you were supposed to forge. I wanted something similar, though I still wanted to experience things on my own and without someone else’s experience to muddy the waters.

Around the same time that I began wishing someone on the forums would tell me what I was supposed to be doing, I began to work through a lot of the negativity I had after the “coven” I was a part of broke up. It took a while but I finally began to recognize that having an intermediary between myself and my gods was dangerous, worrisome, time-consuming, and not something I really could stomach any longer.

I don’t bring up the break up of that “coven” over and over again to finger point or anything. I’ve worked through most, if not all, of the resentment I had holding me back from that tumultuous and painful time. The reason I bring it up is because it helped me, only after working through a lot of that resentment and anger, to realize that I didn’t really want someone to mentor me any longer. I just wanted someone to mindlessly tell me what to do while I fumbled around on this weird and meandering spiritual turnpike.

As I began to actually explore, I wanted less that person between me and my gods, between me and my religion and more a community of sorts. I wanted to be able to talk through a lot of the things that I was exploring, the things that I was thinking, the things that I was feeling as I delved deeper. I clung to that forum a lot in those early years and it did help to shape my practice. It also helped to teach me who were good community people and who were not. It gave me a lot of learning points as I began to get serious about things.

Pushing Boundaries ( please view large on black )

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. – Brene Brown

One of the things the forum helped to teach me was about boundaries. This was a concept I was already beginning to figure out, but it took a while to really solidify enough for me.

As a newbie, I wanted to be let into every nuance, every detail regarding others’ practices. It wasn’t that I wanted to steal what they had to offer. I just wanted to know what things could be like if I tried hard enough. The idea of keeping quiet about aspects of my practice had never really occurred to me – that is, after all, why I started this blog. More as a tally for myself on how things had changed, but also as a place to publicly point people to how things can and do and will change as newbies delve deeper into their own spiritual practices.

I rolled the idea through my mind, trying to come to a collective decision about what, if anything, I should keep private. In those early years, the idea of keeping quiet about anything was still very mind boggling and didn’t feel right. I realized that silence isn’t my strong point.

The thing is that I want to keep people in the loop. I want people to see what it is that I am doing in the hopes that it may jump start what it is they will be doing or are starting to do. I don’t write about my personal religious shenanigans anymore simply because I need the record for my own peace of mind, but because I know what it’s like to be like, “how religion,” and not getting what I felt I needed at the time.

I’m at a stage in my practice now where I definitely do not want someone to hold my hand through my own experiences unless I make the request. I may whine and cry and arm flail about these things, but I am not looking to do that simply because I need someone to tell me what to do. I am doing all of that because that is how I work through the new things being levied at me as I wander around trying to formulate a living, breathing practice. And I have this desire to show other people what that looks like as they, in turn, go through similar experiences.

Sometimes, I feel that people misunderstand what it is that I am trying to do and when they do misunderstand those things, they breach boundaries that perhaps I didn’t carefully delineate. Perhaps I should have carved a piece of stone with carefully chosen words to explain that there are, in fact, boundaries in play as open as I may be regarding my practice. It is those boundaries that have kept me very quiet lately. Too often it feels like people are misunderstanding what I’m doing or what I’m saying and feeling the need to step in, take my hand, and point me in the proper direction.

They have broached my boundary stelae and I honestly don’t know how to handle this. I can’t help but think that because I am so open about what I’m doing and what I am hoping to achieve, that because I didn’t keep quiet about certain aspects of my practice then this is rather my fault. I also suspect that because I use open blogging platforms to catalog the things that I have done and said and felt and gone through, then I am rather asking for this.

To be fair, the people probably think that they’re being helpful, but this isn’t my first rodeo. It’s not even my fifth. I’ve been around the block a few times and I have to tell you… I don’t need or want your help unless I say, “help me.”

silent candles night

Silence is a true friend who never betrays. – Confucius

All of this has brought me back to those early years when I can remember knowing and being told that there are parts of others’ practices that I am not privy to. I am finally beginning to understand why they kept things to themselves. And I am finally having to reengage with myself regarding what is and is not appropriate to share anymore.

I’ve already begun to hold back exponentially. I often find myself wanting to discuss something incredibly personal, but being very worried about who will determine that it’s time to “benevolently” step inside my borders and tell me what they have done on my behalf, without my permission, to help facilitate things for me. I don’t want to share these items anymore because I am tired of feeling as though people who are “older and wiser” than myself have decided that I need help even though I never asked for it.

I guess I have to ask what the point in any of this is if my openness regarding what I’m hoping to achieve has seemingly made it seem to others that I need their help. Why am I doing this in the first place? Why do I keep this blog or its companion sites open if I have to sit and wonder over and over what sort of can of worms I’m opening because I’m willing to discuss these things in an open venue? Is it my fault for not posting “I don’t need your help but thanks for thinking of me” on every arm flail I post? Is it my fault for not clearly stating, “I am sharing this not because I need help but because I need to post it somewhere” or emphatically pointing out, “there are boundaries here, here, and here so don’t cross them when we discuss this”?

I can appreciate silence now and I dislike that I can appreciate it in any context. I can understand why people keep things to themselves and I hate that. I hate that I’ve become so divided in what I share and what I don’t share. I hate the fact that I’ve had drafts saved for months, going absolutely nowhere, because I’m worried what sort of person is going to try and extend me a helping hand when I haven’t requested one.

I think I need to start looking back to the past in order to look to the future.

It feels like this is a jumping off point, a moment in time where I can go either left or right on this meandering path of mine. I know that one way will lead to more and more silence, more and more moments of sitting on my laurels with drafts saved that never see the light of the day. The other turn will take me down the road to clearly mark where my boundaries lay, both for myself and for others, so I can continue down the road that I actually need to be on.

Everything starts with one step, or one brick, or one word or one day. – Jeremy Gilley

Place of Truth.

You ever have one of those moments where you just have this fucking thing stuck in your head? It can be a song lyric, a picture, a turn of phrase – but it’s just sitting there in your brain pan and periodically, it shoots back out at you and reminds you that it exists in there and that you should think about it. That’s what this post is about.

For weeks on end, whenever I would walk over to my altar for Sekhmet, I would hear this phrase just echoing through my meat space. Hell, let’s be honest here, this has been going on for longer than all of that – months, more like. Whenever I would go over there or pass by, which is done on a daily basis, I would just hear this fucking phrase echoing in my head and I was so very puzzled by it. It was like a little zing at first, you know? It was just there. “Boop! Hey, I’m here.” And then with each passing day that the phrase would hit me, it became more and more like an electrical shock to the system: place of truth.

I puzzled about it, you know? I thought I was making up things out of the reactionary word vomit that can occasionally inhabit one’s mind space. How often had I had moments where something would come through like this and it ended up being nothing? (Or quite possibly, it actually was something that was never solved because, let’s be real here, that’s always a possibility.) But it began to happen on such a regular basis and the zings were becoming more painful. It was like eating too much sugar after a filling falls out – a zap of pain to the teeth. Or more like a momentary brain freeze that would shoot not just into my brain, making me want to cut off the entire apparatus housing it, but throughout my whole body.

I started looking things up because, you know, I may as well give in to the reactionary odd shit my mind makes up.

I was really just expecting like a book title to pop up or have an image come up on the screen: a single pointed finger surrounded by bubbled text spelling out “ha ha ha.” That’s not what happened. The not-oracle that is Google came up with something interesting: set maat was what the ancient Egyptians referred to the Theban necropolis as. Oh, well, that was very helpful… so helpful that I looked up the bits about how the workers at Deir el-Medina were referred to as “servant of the place of truth.” And all of that was just so very helpful but not in any way, shape, or form that could possibly explain to me why the fuck I was having this damn fucking phrase puncture my brain pan every fucking morning.

I mean, honestly? What in the world did my relationship with Sekhmet and/or my altar space have to do with the Theban necropolis? I couldn’t make a connection. Sure, I had dealings with Sekhmet in the Duat, but that didn’t really relate as far as I could see to the necropolis. And I don’t really consider my altar space as sacred as, maybe someone somewhere thought the necropolis was. So, how the fuck and why the fuck and what the fuck?

I left it alone. That’s a thing, right? When things really start to aggravate you, sometimes if you just leave them alone, they percolate in the background and something might come of it.

I left it alone for so long that I told Sekhmet’s altar that it could shut the fuck up. I got more zings. I started avoiding going near her altar except for the most necessary things – offerings, dropping off jewelry, picking up jewelry, etc. I got more zings. I refused to make fucking eye contact with my fucking altar whenever I would do these in the hopes that it would help. I got more zings. I left it alone for so fucking long that I began to actually tune it out. Evidently, this was just too much to handle because things came to a head the second week of January.

The second week of the month is when I do the rites and services Sekhmet and I agreed upon (over a fucking year ago now – time flies). I usually make up the altar pretty much the same, maybe with minor changes. I clean the place up and out and spritz it down and make it damn fine. I have ritual plates that I use for the heka feast offering and ones specific for the actual food offerings I give as well. No big deal, I pulled everything down and placed the heka in the proper plate-bowl-thing and looked at it and had the volume turned up: PLACE OF TRUTH.

I stared at the space I had lovingly tended with revulsion and irritation. We were back to this stupid fucking thing again. I had finally managed to get out of that fucking gutter and I was getting sucked back in when I had things to do. So, I looked around for something while I began to get a massive fucking headache as PLACE OF TRUTH pounded through my brain pan. I found a candle and laid it over the heka meal. I stared at the plate some more and then pulled down the feather of ma’at amulet, wrapping it gently around the candle holder.

The volume dial was turned down and I was able to walk away, pleased with it.

Well.

Shit.

What the fuck.

A while later, I began moving things away and looked down at the altar space. I was pretty angry and irritated. I went to move the heka feast bowl-plate-thing with its candle and ma’at, but my hand stayed right where it was at my side. I looked at my hand. I looked at the bowl thing. I looked at Sekhmet. I looked at the feather of ma’at amulet.

PLACE OF TRUTH.

I decided to just remove the heka feast and clean the plate thing, but placed the candle and the amulet back where it had been previously. The volume dial was turned down again. I was beginning to get a very serious feeling that the bowl-plate-thing and the amulet needed to stay put. I wasn’t really sure if the candle needed to stay put, but since it’s a good focal point, I figured it could stay. Besides, if nothing else, doesn’t the place of truth deserve a little way to make some flame especially since it seems, somehow, to be related to the Lady of the Flame?

I’ve been growing more and more desperate. I can’t tune it out as clearly as I had been. I can continue to walk by; I can continue to ignore the space; I can even just go “lalalala, I can’t hear you,” with my fingers in my ears. None of it really works. I don’t know what the hell this means. Why the hell this is even supposed to be a thing?

In desperation, I went to the not-oracle that is Google and found a whole lot of the same shit I found the first time around. In desperation, I reached out to two groups for help, but have received no responses from anyone about the phrase “place of truth.” I’m clearly at the end of my tether because I can’t fucking sit around and listen to the stupid bullshit anymore. I don’t know what this means or why this means. I don’t understand the zings I’m getting or the constant feeling that there is something missing, perhaps that I, myself, am missing (clearly) or that is missing from the fucking space in general. I just don’t know.

So, because I was finally at the end of my fucking rope and demanding answers, I pulled out the Book of Doors deck.

WHAT DOES THIS FUCKING THING MEAN.

And I got a hodge-podge mess that actually made me even angrier. I was already pretty pissed to begin with – the fact that I had to turn to cards in the first place really made me snottier than usual – so the responses I got to the question, phrased differently each time, made me very unhappy. It was made worse when I realized that how I typically interpret the deck wasn’t going to work. The answers I was looking for were “woo” related, or in that realm. So, historically, I have bubkes. And technically, woo-wise, I also have bubkes but at least I know it’s related to that in some way.

This was not helping.

I sat in front of the altar and stared at the white plate. It was just a plate. I had purchased it for $1 at the dollar store. There is absolutely nothing special about the plate. It’s flat in the middle and rounds up. It’s probably more like a serving bowl or a salad bowl. There is no design to it – I wanted something nice and plain for the rites and services when I picked it out. It’s a nice enough looking bowl-plate, but it’s usefulness starts and ends at holding offerings once a month.

And yet… adding it to the altar had definitely been a good thing.

Maybe it wasn’t the bowl so much that was a good thing, but the amulet? I thought about that. And it wasn’t until the two were placed together, with the amulet wrapped daintily around the pillar candle holder, when I felt I had done a good thing. But the good thing, that feeling anyway, is still beset on all sides. There’s more here, I can fucking feel it.

I keep looking at the damn space and I keep thinking about how the fuck this can finally shut up in my head. I keep looking at the whole damn space and I keep knowing that I need to add to it. I need more than just the candle and the amulet and the bowl. There’s something here and the answers just aren’t anything more than bleariness at the corner of my eye. I keep rubbing at the bleariness but there’s nothing there but more bleariness.

What the fuck am I even doing.

I wandered back and forth to the altar. I stared at it. I looked down at the floor in frustration and then looked back up, hoping that I had taken enough time to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing. I walked away in a huff. I walked back with my hands linked at the back of my head, afraid that if I didn’t hold them together tightly that I may just slash my arm across the whole edifice and destroy it all. I lay down and watched Supernatural for a while. I got back up and stared at what I had begun and then moved back to the TV. I paced back and forth while I messaged with a friend, freaking out through my cell phone. It was a good thing really; I was finally able to say something to someone who, though perhaps they wouldn’t understand the entirety of the problem, they could at least be a sounding board since clearly there will be woo and there is already woo.

This is my truth.

This is my truth.

We talked and they made sense. The panic-streaked thoughts from the last few months faded out. They became less shaky and more solid. I could see what I needed to do in my head, but I just had to figure out how to get it there. As carefully as my son has done when building a precarious tower of blocks, I held my breath and placed pieces in the plate-bowl. I held my breath so as not to disturb the precarious balance. I looked down at my handiwork and knew that I needed more. This was insufficient and I looked up at mawat’s face and I thought to myself, what the fuck do you want from me? And then I saw it… the little necklace of the four arrows I had made a few weeks back. I looked down at my not-a-masterpiece and looked back up at her and then knew what I had to do.

They were the final piece to the finished product.

You see, the point was that I had to build myself a place of truth. It makes sense that the bowl was a good thing – a repository for the heka that I have taken on for the last year. It is a part of my truth. Each little piece placed carefully in that bowl-plate is a part of my truth: my path and where it has led me. I knew this year was going to be a bit of a doozy in the way of my religious experiences. I knew that last year when I looked to the future and saw more hardship, many more ordeals, and new adventures coming my way. I was told a little while ago that I would be judged, but you know? I judge myself, too and quite often, very harshly. I built myself a place of truth. These pieces are a part of my truth – my inner truth, the truth of my ib – and while I may, indeed, be judged by outsiders, the foundations remain the same.

Je suis prêt, I remind myself.