All Other Ways of Mortification are Vain…

A friend of mine posted a link last month on their Facebook that I found particularly thought provoking. The original author, whom we all know as “the Henadology guy,” has a particular way with words that will make your sluggish brain move whether you want it to or not. I definitely had no intention of falling into a pit, following thought process after thought process as they circled down the endless drain of my internal meat space. Unfortunately, one’s intent is not always the way of things.

After hours spent feeling both irritated and thoughtful, I came to a single conclusion:

Way to call a girl out like that.

Sometimes, my life is little more than an old meme come back to bite me in the ass.

The exploration of the polytheism hemisphere can often start out with almost a lackadaisical sort of defiance. Raised as many of us are nowadays in a stringent monotheism that pollutes the civic world as well as our personal lives or in a laissez-faire environment where a lack of belief can be seen as currency, the profession of belief in the many can be titillating.

We move from a world of seeming absolutes – a single deity or none at all – into a realm which offers up a platter of possibilities. Gods and nymphs, ancestors and demons, guardians and spirit: they are all there for the taking. Not all fruits of the tree are ripe, but they are all there nonetheless for people who have found the status quo of their parents’ religious lives (or lack of) stifling.

At the beginning, it is frustrating or exciting or frightening. In many instances, it is all three at the same time. As we explore religious dynamics hidden from us, we run the gamut of emotions while trying to decide what works best. We try things we shouldn’t and go down rabbit holes that lead to dead ends. But it is oft-times the act of exploration that is the most exciting of it all because we are looking outside of our cultural norms for something that may or may not be missing.

We have all looked elsewhere for answers and sometimes, those answers lay in the shadows of polytheism. Before the Internet truly took off, it was a quiet place peopled in small groups of like-minded individuals looking to find something that felt right. With the Internet surrounding us, we have found more people like us and created virtual communities so that even the misanthropes like me can occasionally feel like we belong. We have found something that feels like it could work.

But in the background, we have basic programming instilled in us that we must recover from. A tag was once used on Tumblr – maybe it still is – for those indoctrinated in their culture’s or family’s staunch monotheism to reprogram themselves from that life. It is a paradigm shift for all of us going from the one to the many, the none to the many, or the possibility of one to the many.

Some shifts are easier to make than others. Some can bounce back from that programming easily. Others find it harder to break the cycle that may in fact be generations old. I’ve always been somewhere in between, but then, I’m hardly an example to live by.

As we de-program ourselves into better devotees, we find what works and what doesn’t. We all give the same advice for new people that worked for the generation preceding them: research as much as you can, find time to introduce yourselves to the gods, develop discernment for both resources and experiences with the gods, give stuff to the gods, and don’t be a dick for fuck’s sake. With various other underpinnings based on religious preference and the like, the advice is much the same (except for maybe the dick part).

But we forget sometimes to stress how hard this will most likely be. Each relationship and path is individual even within a group dynamic. What some found easy to reprogram in themselves may be the breaking point for others. As much advice as we can give, it doesn’t usually matter to the individual burning out the cancer of a religious doctrine, or no religious doctrine, that they always found to be lacking.

We all burn through what came before, building something new out of the leftover pieces of ourselves, or we don’t. We either succeed or we don’t. And sometimes the seeming failure in assimilating ourselves into a polytheistic religion can be enough to do what we wanted all along: to laugh in the face of preconceptions that always annoyed us.

And sometimes my life is a more recent meme, busting through the door and ready to kick me in the face.

As a child, my poorly defined idea of God had metastasized into the idea of a person living in the sky. He looked down on us on Sundays because those were the days that we went to church, but he mostly went about his life doing whatever it was that he wanted to do for the rest of the week without really taking a look to see what was going on. I’m not sure where this particular idea stems from (though I could take a few guesses) but that was what I had worked out on my own.

It was with this general idea in my mind that, as a pre-teen, I decided that I wasn’t interested in appeasing this idea anymore. I didn’t want to go into a very old building (without air conditioning in the summer and not enough heat in the winter) to pray to a being who lived in the sky. A being who didn’t seem overly interested in what I had to say when I did get around to praying. In addition, I had come to finally understand the Methodist sermons and was insulted often to be told that I was a sinner and had to work hard to be saved.

It always seemed to me that if this being had my best interests at heart, in some form anyway, he should reach out to me to tell me what I needed to do to get right with him. Instead, I was being told by a man (or woman) in a pulpit that I had to work hard to be saved. The Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ weren’t sufficient in my opinion to tell me how to go about getting salvation. The whole thing annoyed me and I decided that I was kind of done with it.

The general issue I found was that I had no personalized relationship with the deity in question. I waffled often as a child between belief and disbelief. When I believed, it was a disinterested human-shaped person living in the sky who watched my life with his own disinterest. When I didn’t believe, nothing happened and we were all going to die. I suppose one could say I was a dark kid.

In any case, finding polytheism was exactly what I felt that I needed as a child. It came years later and with it, I was able to develop that personal relationship that had so eluded me as a child. Instead of being told via a book and a man or woman in a pulpit, I could go direct to the source and we could game plan together to figure out what I needed.

But the overall issue was that I needed to like… do stuff… to make this happen. Before, I had sat down in an uncomfortable wooden pew that had probably been there since the church I went to had been built and listened in barely veiled boredom to someone talk for an hour. The idea that there was some quid pro quo that needed to happen was weird, but I went into it.

And I was embarrassed.

As I cleaned off flat surfaces and purchases statues and bowls and cups, I had to like bring food to them. They needed milk or water. They wanted honey. They wanted to hear my voice. They wanted to listen to music. They wanted so many things that I was okay with doing, but there were other people in my house. They could walk in on me doing this and maybe they would make fun of me?

This was another change that I had a hard time with. I had to go about my business, doing what I did, and maybe I would get laughed at or maybe I wouldn’t. I didn’t have to worry about that when I sat with glazed over eyes in church; everyone else was just like me. But now I was entering into a realm where not everyone else is just like me. And there would no doubt be questions.

How do you answer questions that make you feel like an idiot? After going through years and years of semi-belief in a dude in the sky to no belief whatsoever to an idea that maybe reincarnation is a thing to okay so all gods are real and I’m worshiping some of them, how do you speak to what you now believe? How do you adequately explain the changes over the years to someone you care about or a complete stranger? I kept everything closeted and private out of nothing more than the possibility of being embarrassed.

This is no way to go into a new relationship with the gods, but Mr. Butler is correct.

Often, we come into this with our baggage and we find it simply more believable to go through what we think of as a mortification in a large, over-encompassing way. I’m not sure about the vanity part though that makes sense. I can say that I would be more than willing to go through with something large and dramatic than something simple and small.

I can dress it up however I want. I can make it seem like this overwrought thing is more important because it shows the level of my devotion. I can make it seem like it is more important because I need to show the gods that I am all in and the only way to do that is in big, dramatic ways. I can and would dress it up in a way that I was able to feel good about it, to agree that this was the way of it and there was no turning back.

But the smaller mortifications that encompass the profession of belief and the requirements of that belief, I.E. putting out offerings, were too difficult to even by considered. Someone might see. Someone might talk to me about it. Someone might laugh at me. How in the world could I possibly do something so small, so simple, and so less-dramatic than a near death experience especially if someone walks in on what I’m doing and demands to know what’s happening?

Well that seems like a little too much, don’t you think?

How many more times am I going to see my exact thoughts in a popular meme?

The melodrama seemingly inherent in the ecstatic moment of one’s near death experience is a fairy tale we all tell ourselves. We see these posts and comments from others, wondering how we too could have our religious lives broken down and rebuilt in a single night, a single experience, instead of asking ourselves if we cannot achieve the same thing by pouring the libations, offering the food, and playing the requested music.

It is possible to live in a state of ecstasy in the minutiae that one’s religious practice requires. The rapturous joy of those moments are as few and far between as we allow them to be, but they are there. We are too busy looking outside when we should be looking within, listening within to the emotional connection these daily sacrifices foster between the gods and ourselves.

Not everything that we do for the gods will be big, glorious sound bites fit for public consumption. Sometimes it really is as small as placing offerings at the feet of a statue, but that makes it no less important.

(The title for this entry stems from this quote by John Owen.)

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God Bothered: A Guide.

I get bothered by gods, well, fairly frequently I suppose. I don’t personally see it as such myself, but that’s what happens when you live in the thick of it. However from an outsider’s perspective looking in on the vague posts I make, it could seem as though my entire life is a giant way station for some new god to appear and go, “hey, hi. I’m here,” or something like that.

I can definitely say that things used to work that way; they don’t anymore. It seemed like once a month or so, some deity was jumping off the train with some baggage and a sign that said, “Satsekhem: look at me!” At first, I tried to accommodate and wound up in that deity collecting phase that drove me up a flipping wall. I would take one look at whoever the new deity was, roll my eyes as theatrically as you please and just mutter, “jfc, not another one of you,” and begrudgingly wound up attempting to do the thing.

But I began to realize that this was partially my fault. I hadn’t set clear boundaries for these gods so when they showed up and without those crystal clear boundaries, I found myself constantly out of my element. I had yet another new god that I had to deal with and learn about and figure out why the hell they were hanging around. It caused a large amount of stress and a long series of headaches that left me floundering.

That is absolutely no way to live a life or attempt to be a devotee. While not everything may turn out badly for both the god and the devotee in question, I can assure everyone that it doesn’t exactly leave the best taste in your mouth. It leaves you feeling bogged down and just generally irritable with the whole kit-n-caboodle. I wound up realizing that if I was going to appear as a sort of beacon into the night that gods would home in on, I needed to be clear with myself and with those gods coming in on the midnight train.

Boundary

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

Boundaries can be difficult to set up for yourself. There are a lot of various aspects that you must take into consideration when formulating them. While you may be thinking about how this will benefit you, something we need to keep in mind are the current relationships we have with our gods and what their particular plans for those relationships may entail. There is also the messy business of promises, agreements, contracts, and oaths that may need to be considered before setting a boundary.

In my case, the only promises I had made before setting up the boundaries was to Sekhmet and they had no relation in allowing new gods to stay or not. But this isn’t always the case. Some devotee-deity partnerships include being loaned out to other gods, being sent to other gods for specific reasons, or various other items that may lead to developing relationships with new gods.

The best way to figure out if both you and your existing deities will be okay with these boundaries would be to focus on the primary concern for creating a boundary: why am I setting up this boundary in the first place?

This might sound like one of those “no duh” questions, but asking yourself why you feel you need to do something will open up avenues of thought that you may not have considered. Just deciding that you want to make some space for yourself isn’t going to give you the ability to delve deeply into the matter at hand and determine the best design for you when it comes to the limits you’re setting.

On the other hand, this will aid in presenting the idea to the gods you currently have relationships with. It’s a give and take situation when discussing the possibility of a boundary with your gods and compromise may be a word used often when formulating a game plan.

When I broached the subject matter with my gods, they were all very supportive but there were certain stipulations that needed to be taken into account. While at that particular moment, I was flustered and flummoxed, they let me know that they may need to parcel me out elsewhere on occasion and they would let me know when that was the case. Since I felt that was fair, I told them I would do the thing if it occurred though I wouldn’t necessarily do it with grace or humility.

As I sat around determining what would work best for me, I kept focusing on the idea that my best interests were the heart of the matter. And they were; they are. I was setting up the boundary specifically because I was flustered by this seeming revolving door of deities and needed some peace. If you constantly have an influx, it’s damn hard to do the research you need to do to figure out what’s happening or determine why.

However, there are a million reasons that may come up for yourself when you ask yourself why this is so important now when it may not have been important before. When those reasons begin piling up and after all parties agree to a sort of informal agreement, it gets easier for you to determine the next stage of the process, how closed off do I need to be? Should I limit myself to no new gods? Or should I limit myself to a specific pantheon?

Going back to the gods with what we think would work best for ourselves is also important. I had tentatively put in the idea that I needed no new gods, but I was told that wouldn’t slide. New gods were coming whether I liked it or not; I just had to limit the influx to a number I could handle.

When new gods from outlying pantheons show up, it can be difficult to not just complete the research you may need but to also network with devotees of said deities. While not everyone will take the time and delve into the research with a level of detail as others, I do need to do both research and networking if a deity not-of-my-frame-of-reference shows up. And it can be both tiring and confusing to delve into arenas that often wind up looking an awful lot like gibberish.

From a Kemetic perspective, I know where the source material is and what to pick up if someone just jumped off the train. If a god from another pantheon shows up, I may know where to look generally for information but the question that begs is whether or not it’s worth learning about.

When it came right down to it, knowing as I do regarding resources for various other polytheistic traditions, I figured it was wiser to limit myself from the outset: Kemetic gods were a maybe, depending on situation and the feedback I received from my existing relationships, but gods from other pantheons were a no-go. This left me feeling a little more secure as the months passed; I had a general system in place and it worked.

This isn’t to say that gods from other pantheons stopped showing up. Oh, of course not. This clearly defined border only meant that I had to be firm when they annoyed me, which is why I wrote this entry about saying no. Just because you’ve set a limitation for yourself doesn’t mean that the gods will necessarily respect it or be aware of it.

Setting this boundary benefited me in the long run and also my relationships with my gods. I was able to spend more time on the things they wanted and when new deities appeared, I was better able to handle researching them, networking with existing devotees, and figure out what was going on, if I chose to look into the deity.

Yes/No

The strongest and most effective force in guaranteeing the long-term maintenance of power is not violence in all the forms deployed by the dominant to control the dominated, but consent in all the forms in which the dominated acquiesce in their own domination. – Robert Frost

Just as having your gods put their stamp of approval on boundaries you’re setting for yourself, so too must we put our stamp of approval on a new relationship that we are considering entering into.

Consent is one of those things that can cause pagan drama for days. Some people believe that our ability to say yes or no to a god is immaterial; others believe that ability is a necessity. I am a big proponent of consent, however I have to admit that it doesn’t always look quite like what we would expect it to.

In my experience, gods need some forms of affirmation to begin developing a relationship. A hearty yes is going to be the least ambiguous confirmation however, it seems to be the least common given. Gods have been known to get your approval through shady dealings and may even bug you until, in a fit of pique, you give in. This kind of goes back to the boundary question above: how well defined and high is the boundary?

I’ve noticed that while begrudging cooperation will work in a pinch, willing cooperation will make the experience easier on all parties involved. But again, this isn’t a black and white area; as with all the gods, it’s shades of gray. The point I’m trying to convey is that, out of all of it, while the form of consent may not resemble what we would prefer, some form of it appears to be needed to get the ball rolling.

A recurring theme I’ve picked up on is when people mention that X or Y deity is about, sometimes the advice given neglects to keep in mind that our consent is something that’s required. Often I will see something along the lines of, “you may as well just do it because it’s not like you have a choice.” I grow concerned when I see this out there; it seems to be neglecting the very reality that consent needs to be given in such situations no matter who the deity is or the reason they may or may not be hanging around.

So, let me state this emphatically: no matter what deity is poking around or why they are poking around, you always have the ability and right to say no. It doesn’t mean they won’t keep pestering you. It doesn’t mean that no will automatically filter through and they fly off to bother some other unsuspecting possible future devotee. This only means that you have the right to say no and that you do not have to give in, no matter what you may see floating around the Internet under the guise of advice.

Over the years, my default position for new deities has been to say no. Obviously, this isn’t always the case but it’s pretty much my fall back in any given situation unless directed otherwise by the deities I have relationships with. And even when directed to look into X deity, I always have the choice to tell them that I won’t do it or that now is not a good time.

As an example, Sekhmet pinged me a few months ago and requested I look into Tutu. I was able to do a cursory look but had to admit that, while I found the information available interesting, I did not have the necessary time to look deeper. She let it go and while she does check in to see how I’m doing, she knows that my focus elsewhere is important. In same vein, both Hetheru and Heru-Wer have asked me to look deeper into Ihy than I have and while I would like to, again now is not the time.

They respect my choice and I appreciate the carte blanche they have given me regarding these requests.

On the flip side of this, Sekhmet had mentioned that a certain Hellenic party guy would be beneficial for me some time back. Since I knew enough about him to be weary and because of the boundaries I had set, I was able to tell her that I wasn’t interested and she understood where I was coming from. It took a bit longer than that for that deity to buzz off, but he eventually went on his way.

It’s not always simple. Sometimes a deity is around for a reason and you have to weigh the pros and cons about entering into a relationship with them. When Loki arrived for me, I spent a good few weeks going through the benefits as well as the possible negatives before making a decision always with the knowledge that saying no could make things worse for me. Snap decisions are all well and good now and again, however sometimes more information is needed in order to make the best determination for yourself.

It’s not always easy. Sometimes a deity is persistent and refuses to take no for an answer. That doesn’t reflect on you; it reflects on them.

But at the end of the day, it’s your decision one way or the other. And you don’t have to enter into the relationship no matter who is poking around or why. So long as you have enough information to make a decision – why they’re around, what would happen if you do and do not enter a relationship, etc. – it’s entirely up to you.

Further Reading

  1. Gods, Boundaries, and Consent
  2. The Nuances of Non-Physical Relationships
  3. A Good Horse
  4. Breaking the Narrative
  5. Consent for Spirit Walkers
  6. Setting Boundaries with Your Deity

Festival of the Beautiful Reunion 2015: Wetjeset-Hor.

One of the most important recurring themes in ancient Egyptian cosmogonies is the eruption of the primeval mound, or benben, into existence.

In Hermopolis, the Ogdoad merged to form it. In Heliopolis, Atum[-Re] comes into existence and sits upon the mound to create Shu and Tefnut. In Memphis, Ptah is associated with the mound in his associations with Tatenen, who personifies it. The city of Thebes was thought to be the place of the primeval mound.

But these aren’t the only aspects in which we find the primeval mound popping up, either. Outside of Edfu, there is a place known as Wetjeset-Hor. It translates best as “the place where Heru extolled.” To me, this seems clear: this was thought to be a zone of pre-creation, where Heru landed upon the benben and extolled creation… probably in association with his form of Ra-Horakhty. Or maybe there’s more to the elder Heru’s genesis than we know.

In either case, it is at Wetjeset-Hor that Hetheru and Heru come together for the first time during the Festival of the Beautiful Reunion.

Primeval Mound

Primeval Mound; ink and pen. (Art by Jenny Carrington.)

The meeting of the two at Wetjeset-Hor has manifold implications. As the place where life began, it is a sort of cosmological meeting point between the seen and the unseen. I read up a bit on the place and it seems like the beginnings of the Temple of Edfu began there. Egyptologists have found pieces of society dating back to the Old Kingdom and even during Pre-Dynastic times. The import isn’t lost on me in that respect at all.

But I think the symbolism is more than just mere creation. I think it speaks of renewal and regeneration, two items that are so often intertwined in ancient Egyptian belief systems that it can be difficult to do much more than mention it.

As I was reading what I could about this place, I thought back to the Ancestor Ritual that is discussed in My Heart, My Mother by Alison Roberts. I was thinking, specifically, of the bits regarding the bull’s heart.

A heart is offered to the gods as a symbol of vitality and life. It pulses with the very breath of our lives, filled with the very essence of who we are. In the Ancestor Ritual, the heart is offered up as a physical representation of all that the son has become not just in his own right but in his merging with his mother.

But by virtue of sexually uniting with his mother, Horus has indeed taken the place of his father in every possible way. He has become a ‘Bull-of-his-Mother’, capable of perpetuating an unending cycle of regeneration through the heart. And incestuous though this union of hearts may be, it encapsulates the mysteries exchange of life energy necessary for the empowerment of the new ruler. Though Osiris has gone to his Ka he remains actively supporting his son, who now embodies the procreative powers of his predecessor. (p.77)

The similarities between the triad of Wesir/Aset/Heru-sa-Aset and the triad of Ra/Hetheru/Heru-Wer is not lost on me. And I think that is, above all else, why this particular part of the Ancestor Ritual came to mind.

It is the meeting place at Wetjeset-Hor that makes me realize how similar these two triads really are. And it is by virtue of this meeting in the first place of creation, at the primeval mound of that creation, when the greening of their hearts truly comes to be. As hethert-dot-org says, “It is appropriate that the meeting of Het-Hert and Heru occurs at this holy place, because the fruit of their conjugal union symbolizes new life, fertility and regeneration.”

I think the meeting is very much like that heart – the seat of everything in both my practice and of tantamount import in the unseen and afterlife – being offered up to the gods.

Be Still My Beating Heart

Sometimes my ib chokes me with the weight of it. And other times, it is a comfort about me. (Photo by Mustang Aly.)

At Wetjeset-Hor, I provided so many offerings. I laden the plates with everything, throwing confetti at the two statues in the shape of hearts. If nothing else, it’s a bit like Valentine’s Day for me. Only instead of celebrating hearts and love with people, I’m celebrating it between two deities who have made profound impacts on me in so many innumerable ways.

After, I divined to see when it would be best to finish the journey to Edfu proper. According to what I had read, this was done. It makes sense. Sailing on the Nile could be a nasty business and no one would really want to lose two major icons. It would be quite inauspicious, no? They spent an entire 24 hours at Wetjeset-Hor, surrounded by hearts and love and offerings and more love.

Perhaps the reeds have been planted in their hearts, too, and new life grows in the union between them. It’s probably only my life, to be fair, but at least it grows.

Festival of the Beautiful Reunion 2015: En Route.

I have been a devotee of Hetheru for years now. I honestly can’t recall when she officially showed up, though I believe the exact moment may be saved somewhere in this blog. In all the time that we have been together, I have never had a push to honor her festivals. There’s never been an all-consuming need in the background, demanding that I pay homage.

Either because of my developed relationship with Heru-Wer or because she had finally said it was time, I can’t say. But this year, I got hit early with the Festival of the Beautiful Reunion bug. I found myself counting down the days three months in advance. It was like I had an earworm only instead of a song; it was this pounding requirement to celebrate this heretofore unknown festival.

I knew I had to get my research on.

I did a number of Google searches, attempting to fill in the in-between of what I knew. Before reading about it, I knew the festival was a celebration of the reunification of Hetheru and one of the Heru; I didn’t actually know which one.

My research found me looking into the different Heru over and over again. I found that the holiday seemed to be celebrated sometimes with Heru-Wer, sometimes with Heru of Behdet. The particular Heru didn’t really seem to matter – let’s be real, there’s like a hundred of them – so as long as it was an older Heru, a Heru beyond the Osirian myth cycle at least.

I found out that there was some traveling involved: it took Hetheru a few days to get from Dendera to Edfu. She made strategic stops, it seems, going down the Nile. The first stop was at the Precinct of Mut at Karnak in which she visited with Mut. She detoured for a bit at a Per Mer to visit with Anuket. The third day, she stopped at Nekhen and visited with the Heru there. This Heru saw her through to her meeting with the Heru of Edfu, whom she met at Wetjeset-Hor, before the two sailed further south to Edfu proper.

I had a lot of planning to do.

Depicture of the Feast of the Beautiful Reunion

Depiction of the Feast of the Beautiful Reunion. Edfu, Egypt. (Photo by Dennis Jarvis.)

I have a bunch of colored scarves that I’ve picked up over the years. I don’t know why I bought them in the first place, but the color schemes are appropriate for any standard holiday: black, green, and blue (need a red one at some point, I think). I figured that I could use the blue scarf for when Hetheru was traveling and the green or black to indicate she had “landed” at the strategic stopping points.

Check.

The next thing to plan out was how in the world I was supposed to make it look like she was in the middle of, well, sailing down the river. I found iconographic representations of what her solar barque looked like and then looked for a few for Heru, as well. I found those easily enough. I spent about 4 days working on the project, but managed to recreate both barques on card stock.

Check.

I finished up the supply run with a bunch of jewelry-making supplies, which is outside of my norm. I’m not a jewelry maker in any sense of the word, but I’ve gotten a few hits in the last few months which seemed to indicate that my lack of interest should probably become “semi-interest.” I ended up purchasing beads and charms, which are going to symbolize both the event itself as well as Hetheru’s journey to Edfu.

Check.

The last piece to the puzzle was to figure out the menu for the week. That was actually probably the easiest thing: fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh baked bread, booze, diet Coke because it’s my life’s blood, chocolate, and of course flowers because really who doesn’t love flowers?

I guess I was ready.

_MG_8507 - Yellowstone River sunrise.    ©Jerry Mercier

Yellowstone River Sunrise. (Photo by Jerry Mercier.)

Starting on Sunday, the moment that I woke up, I was off and running.

I made sure to set the blue scarf down and set the little cardstock solar barque up so that it wouldn’t fall over during the day. I then made sure that Hetheru’s icon had cool water and something to tide her over throughout the day as we journeyed.

Each evening, I printed off a little sheet with images that reminded me of the stopping place: For Karnak, I chose an historically recreated map of the premises along with iconic images of her precinct, including the crescent-shaped sacred. For Esna, I chose another historical drawing accompanied by yet more iconic images of the Temple of Khnum and those specific to Anuket. I followed this pattern for the four days that she traveled.

I also added a little extra by filling the queue on my Tumblr with images and specific items related to the places that she was stopping. I wanted to surround myself as much as I was able with thoughts and images of the act of traveling.

I also spent the first hour or so I was home preparing the meal for her, as well as setting up the altar space. I baked fresh brownies, I roasted asparagus and zucchini, I made steak and spaghetti and all of the normal dinner type items one might expect. All said and told, it probably took me about 1 – 1.5 hours of prep each night for Hetheru to “land” at the places she was stopping at.

Lucky stars

Lucky Stars. (Photo by Cath Schneider.)

I will be honest, this is the most time-consuming festival I have ever taken upon myself. I’m not a huge fan of committing myself to something that is as time-consuming and energy-eating as this is. I like things to be simple, quick, and neat. That’s part of the reason why my holidays are 15-minute affairs. I have things to do; I have a life to live; I have spoons to conserve and use elsewhere. Celebrating holidays can take a lot out of you, especially when you are the only one around to do the work that is required to see it through.

I can definitely understand, at least at this moment, why there were so many priests to oversee a temple and to make sure everything was functioning properly, both during and outside of holidays. That shit will eat you up and spit you back out if you let it.

I have fourteen more days left on this. I will admit, I’m counting down the days until this is over. I’ve found that it isn’t just that it eats my spoons, makes me tired, makes me paranoid and nervous. I’ve been overwrought emotionally as I prepare and oversee the process to have two separated lovers reunited. It’s difficult to explain, even to myself, but I think when it comes to relationships, even those of two gods you happen to have developed relationships with, there’s some backlash between the devotee and the celebration that you’re doing. I feel, in a way, like I’m hitting that backlash as my emotions take turns from up high to down low. It’s an interesting, if unnerving, experience. You try explaining to your boss why you’re crying over a spreadsheet at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

Even with how hard this has been for me, I will admit that I feel very accomplished. I know that I have done well with the celebrations I have undertaken for Sekhmet. She has told me as much and afterwards, I tend to feel both rewarded and content. I am feeling this, as well, with this year’s Festival of the Beautiful Reunion. So I know that I am doing a very good job, all things considered, to seeing things through.

I just hope I am able to keep it up for two more weeks.

(Pictures Taken of the Celebration So Far!)

A Bitter Pill.

Last year, quite a few netjeru and I went toe to toe over a ton of things that were, in my opinion, none of their fucking business and were seriously crossing the line. While that sentence may sound a little weird to some, that’s almost exactly what happened. I left the whole situation hanging like an elliptical sentence for the last eleven months. Having the blinders ripped from my eyes in a very not-nice way had left me shattered and angry. Having to deal with the ramifications of that shattering was not something I was capable of and I have suffered for my cowardice.

I found it easier to ignore the reality in front of me than to actively pursue it. While I don’t recommend this for anyone, honestly, it’s part of my modus operandi. I tend to do this for a lot of things and I can openly admit that it is very unhealthy. I’ve brought this bad habit, unfortunately, into my religious life and suffered for months because of my stupidity and cowardice.

The terrible thing (though, in all honesty, it wasn’t particularly terrible in relation to the world, but only in relation to me, myself, and I) that took place from September to November of last year was harrowing. I learned a lot of things that I didn’t particularly want to learn and it changed everything entirely about my practice. Even months later, thinking about that moment when it all boiled down and everything came up to slap me in the face, I want to clench my hands into fists and snarl with the best of them.

For all of that, I am much calmer now. While putting things off with no particular interest in picking them back up again to make a decision regarding them is unhealthy, it certainly allows for being able to make rational decisions later on. Part of the reason why I tend to push things off is because I tend to react hotly in the heat of the moment. It didn’t seem like a very good idea, at the time, to react in the heat of the moment since my initial reaction was to give everyone the finger and walk the fuck out on everything.

Eleven months is not as long as all of that, but it’s still enough to give me perspective and to give me a cool head. It helps, I think, that the scars from that episode are mostly healed and even though the flares of anger can still be palpable if I wallow too long, there is nothing I can do about that right now. It has happened and I must live with the decisions that I unconsciously made at the time. However, what that means is that I have to also come to terms with the subtle changes and the not-so-subtle changes in my religious life and the path I’ve been on.

I think we can all safely say that I can no longer count myself as a deity collector. That’s the gist of the moment, the culmination of it all, but it still wounds me to have to admit that to myself. It galls me to no end to have to say that out loud, to have to type it on this blog, to have to announce it to the wider world (or to anyone who cares about what the fuck I’m up to).

I always feel this way, though, when things change. I always like the idea that I can be a vocal voice for a minority that is discarded or looked down upon… and then it feels like once I am comfortable within that role, then I am cast off into the sea in order to determine what the next step is going to be. I really fucking hate how it seems like being comfortable with things after months of discomfort over it ends up, invariably, leading to changes that I’m not ready for.

Maybe that’s the point in having a religion, though. You aren’t supposed to remain static in a single place for an extended period of time. Perhaps that is why people become unhappy and unfulfilled with religion often enough: they have become so comfortable with the status quo that the idea of pushing off and looking for more is too much.

It doesn’t seem to me like I get the luxury of relaxing for an extended period of calm in the status quo, though. It feels very much like once I consciously have decided that I can be comfortable at this point, then I have to start looking elsewhere. I don’t know if that’s just my particular flavor for this particular path or if I’m reading too much into something. Whatever the case may be, I often feel that I achieve a comfort level and then end up being pushed off without an inkling of where I’m supposed to end up.

The thing about going toe to toe with the gods is that, sometimes, you’ll learn things that you weren’t expecting. I learned a lot of things and none of it was something I wasn’t to learn. I ended up realizing how drawn into that bigger picture fiasco I had been and that, when it came down to it all, the deity collecting would have to go. By that time, I had amassed a large following, so to speak, and I found myself frozen with the knowledge that I could choose Sekhmet or I could choose… anyone else. But in the end, I had to make a decision.

I went with the deity that I’ve known and felt the closest to for years… and lost everyone else.

That’s a bit of an overstatement, but that’s how it feels.

My decision was, mostly, acknowledged politely and the rest moved on. I still have passing relationships with some of those deities – Djehuty is always available for a laugh; I see Geb and Mut in the natural world as I always have; Hetheru periodically comes to me in dreams and we talk. Everyone else has disappeared. Sometimes, when I look for them around me, I realize how much I miss them. Other times, I recognize that I did the right thing and as nostalgic and lonely as it is now without them, I know that things have worked out better this way.

I think, in a way, this is why I have had some issues when I recognized that Heru-Wer had made an appearance. Hadn’t I just done this song and dance months before and ended up as [mostly] a one-deity marching girl parade? Evidently things are changing yet the fuck again, but that’s an entry for another day. Maybe.

For the last eleven months, I haven’t admitted that things have changed at all. I have refused to rename myself except for in quiet quarters amid friends or in the embrace of my netjeret. I haven’t wanted to openly admit that I was holding on to the last vestiges of hope with scrabbling fingers, praying that what I had learned in November of last year was wrong. The thing about growing in our own path is knowing when it is time to admit things to ourselves and to the wider public. Another thing is knowing when to admit that whatever you are hoping to achieve isn’t going to fucking happen and it’s time to stop hoping and give in to the reality.

Last weekend, I cleared off my household altar space. I had Aset, Djehuty, Heru-Wer, and Hetheru on it. I kept three out of the four, but placed the icon I had purchased for Aset away. It’s in a box, awaiting someone who needs it badly. Her icon was, in a way, the very physical representation of my attempts at keeping the old way alive and well. What it also signified was inertia: mine, hers, theirs… take your pick. I put her away and bid farewell to the old way of life, officially.

It only took me eleven months.

The Art of Balance.

I think I’ve been babied by how most of my interpersonal deity relationships have been in the last few years.

I talk about being a deity collector; I have a lot of deities that I pay homage to at any given time. Some of those relationships are more fleeting than others, which is how I am able to handle my shit without flipping my shit. Geb and Mut are prime examples: they do the “deity pop-in.” I only ever associate them with outdoors type shit so I don’t need to pay homage to them nearly as regularly as I do with other deities. Bes is only given attention when I’m at home and doing home and family centric things (pretty obvious with that one); Set gets attention when he’s told to send me a pick-me up; Anup gets attention when the akhu are involved. Hetheru, Djehuty, and the rest have all been so quiet since I flipped out on them for constantly pulling at me, trying to get me to do what they want when I had someone of larger importance already having led the fucking charge. In the end, while I do pay attention to those relationships that began when I was nervous and worrying about things, they’ve mostly gone the way of the Dodo.

Some of this is okay; the work with those deities was for Bigger Picture. I understand that now although I didn’t necessarily fully understand what that Bigger Picture was way back then. So, I had to learn to use heka effectively under the tutelage of Aset to prepare myself for the intermediary status I took on last year. I had to learn to write more effectively under Djehuty’s demands in order to make my heka more effective. Hetheru has always been there, waiting in the wings, until she felt I needed someone’s affection. (She counter balances the intensity of my relationship with Sekhmet by not being intense, at all, and not demanding anything from me except some fun periodically. She’s always kind of been a breath of fresh air.)

Thing is, they’ve all been relegated to household deities while things have seriously picked up with Sekhmet. I had made my choice; I wasn’t getting cake and eating it, too. They’ve quieted down and stopped asking things of me. I seem to have even lost that counterbalance with Hetheru, not as if it was a permanent addition to my life anyway. I don’t have the energy and wherewithal to give them any more than what I’m doing now: a daily offering, perhaps some words, the occasional, “hey, how are you,” and then I move on with my life. I was pleased and happy that I had been able to move from “active deity collector” back to “one track mind.”

Then Heru-Wer showed up and I’m beginning to flip my shit.

You see… I have never really had to learn the act of balancing relationships.

balance

Balance via Flickr

I am not very good at that whole thing. I talk a good game, but I’m very much a MUST HYPERFOCUS ON THIS THING RIGHT NOW BECAUSE REASONS and everything else falls to the wayside. This was the fundamental issue between Sekhmet and Hetheru. I always just assumed that Hetheru was around for a purpose and I strongly suspect she was only there as an escape when things would get really hard with Sekhmet. I don’t think I’ve necessarily burned the bridge, but I do think that she’s kept her distance for good reason. (I was a massive ass face when I made my decision last year.) The problem is that I don’t really seem to have that option here. Sekhmet is demanding and fickle; I bound myself to her and that is just simply what it is. However, as I’ve been looking more and more steadily into the mythology of Heru-Wer and wondering about what relationship we will have and figuring out what the fuck it’s going to entail, I’ve come to conclude that… well, he offers a really awesome balance point between HARDWORKHARDWORKHARDWORK and PLAYPLAYPLAY, which is something I need to fucking learn like yesterday.

How the hell do people do this? How in the world can you balance yourself out between two different deities that want two different things from you?

I got off scot-free, so to speak, and now I have to pay the piper. That’s… how it feels anyway. I was able to do my thing with Sekhmet and still do some things with other gods, but while it could suck at times, there was still something in the back of my mind that said I could run away if I needed to. I could walk away if I needed to. In the end, the decision was made for me anyway. The decision to end all intense relationships outside of Sekhmet’s was made and I have lived with that decision for almost a year now. I can’t tell anyone if it was a good one or a bad one, in all honesty. I think, with everything, it is shades of gray: I had to stop getting pulled in a million different directions and my loyalty was to Sekhmet first and foremost. Everyone else was cannon fodder for that Bigger Picture I was just harping about.

The problem is that I’ve been able to escape all of this learning curve. Perhaps because of my own inability to NOT be so single-minded about things, I never had to learn what it was like to actually balance a relationship with one deity and then learn how to add another. I tried it, sort of, when Hetheru joined Sekhmet in annoying the fuck out of me the beginning. And I found that I was so intensely focused on the various aspects of Hetheru that I couldn’t jump out of my head long enough to make that relationship more than an offshoot that was painful and frightening. Perhaps Hetheru knew something I didn’t back then: I wasn’t ready for this whole balance thing. In an effort to terminate that relationship, I have done everything in my power to push that particular goddess out of my life, too unwilling to stop long enough to think about other aspects of her that I needed/need to pay attention to. Instead, I have severed and strangled that connection to the point where it probably needs more than just mouth-to-mouth to resuscitate it.

That is my own stupidity, however; my own inability to work on the things that need to be worked on. I recognize that I have a lot of failings, by the way, and I know myself well enough (at least in this particular ball park) to know that I have a lot of fucked up shit that I have been very firmly ignoring. Sure, I look at it and I poke and prod at it occasionally, but what it comes down to is that all of the associations that Hetheru holds the keys to regarding that fucked up shit made it nearly impossible for me to do much more than to push her away. She got the hint long before I did, probably. I haven’t felt her since last year and then when I made my decision in October, I figured everything there was no longer available to me. Now, though, I have another deity in my life and I… well, I don’t want to be an asshole. I don’t want to strangle that connection until it is as dead as some of my other connections and relationships. I want…

That.

That.

Right there.

I want.

I want to try it. I want to see where things will head, but I don’t necessarily know how to do it. I recognize that I have limitations; didn’t I just say that? I also recognize that there is a possibility here that is very frightening on a lot of levels. The possibility though is made more possible because I don’t have the issue with my head getting in my own fucking way. With Hetheru, as I said, I was too aware of her other associations to be completely comfortable with all of it. Heru-Wer doesn’t really have those types of associations, as far as I have found. He has associations with Hetheru (which is possibly where this randomness comes from), but the things that made me pull away from Hetheru aren’t necessarily there with Heru-Wer. That, in all honesty, makes it a lot easier for me to be willing to explore the realms I need to in order to move forward and I desperately want to.

Maybe it’s only now that I am fully aware of how fucked up my shit is and how much I need to, you know, actually work on it.

But I have to ask how people do this thing. I know of quite a few people who have intense relationships with various gods and they manage to work it out all right. They don’t seem to (in my limited view into what they do and who their relationships are with) have had the issue I have where the brain pan has been too busy fucking with them. And from what it looks like, while not easy, it seems feasible. I just don’t know if I have it in me to balance anything appropriately. I know myself too well: that thing about being hyper focused on things isn’t even remotely an exaggeration. I’m a Leo, for fuck’s sake; it’s in our nature to be like GIVE ME THE SHINY to the detriment of all else.

But I also recognize that the whole fucking point about this religion is balance (ma’at). I recognize that, maybe, this will help me with the whole ma’at thing.

If nothing else, I can only hope it helps me…

Wep Ronpet 2014.

I like Wep Ronpet. The very feeling behind the celebration shoots both joy and excitement throughout my body and I can feel, almost, as if my body as renewing just as the year is about to. I think the excitement and joy comes from the knowledge that, soon enough, the year will reset itself and the hope of a new year will be upon me. Whatever sorrows and horrors that may have happened within the last twelve months will soon be gone and something new, something perfect, will be before me.

The best way to describe these feelings would be to explain about the first snowfall of the winter.

Just as with many people in the northeast, I am not a huge fan of winter. It is a long time to live with gray clouds and hardly any sun to peek through, with temperatures rapidly plummeting. There is nothing to commend it, really; icy roads, blizzard conditions, and depression. But there is something that has always made me, even as a little girl, look forward to the first snowfall. I can remember, when I was little and when November would start to stretch towards Thanksgiving, eagerly peering out my windows every morning in the hopes that the first snow had fallen.

And the gasp of joy at the beauty that the land awaited when it did fall! Everything was covered in ice crystals and the snow was pure and perfect, never touched by man or beast. The crusts of gray and soot from passing cars hadn’t yet touched it; it was glorious. To me, that glorious first snowfall is a lot like Wep Ronpet and what I can expect to see for the upcoming year: a pristine field of snow, untouched and unsullied, just like the New Year.

I was both excited and worried, in all honesty, for this year’s festivities. I thought I had more planned than I actually did, I think. I’m not sure what it was that made me worry I wouldn’t be able to get it all done. I have to admit that working a full time job really cuts into the whole religion thing. I often feel that the amount of time and effort I would prefer to dedicate to something is not available to me because I have to go out and into the world, work for a paycheck that barely gets me by. But, I also understand that this is way of most people, so I am at least aware that I’m probably not alone with my unhappiness at the prospect.

Initially, that morning, I was going to lay my icons out to rejuvenate in the sun. This is something that I have done for the last two years and I like the idea. However, with Sekhmet currently in hiding until The Feast of Drunkenness, it didn’t seem right to have the other three icons out and about. So, I nixed this idea that morning. I prepared the usual daily devotions to my home altar shrine and set up the altar space I had been using for the intercalary days in preparation for that night.

It was a little crowded and a little hectic, but finally, I felt that everything was set up properly.

On my way to work that morning, I ended up stuck in stop-and-go traffic. This isn’t actually very usual for my trips into work. As I watched the time click slowly passed when I should have arrived at work, I began to grow crotchety. There I was, stuck in traffic because some idiot got into an accident. Fuming, I shot off the closest off-ramp and sat in a Dunkin Donuts parking lot to have a pep talk with myself. (By that point, I was already very late and had called into work to let them know I would be there when I got there, so I figured a pep talk wasn’t really pushing the limits of tardiness.)

I reminded myself, carefully, that I was at a crossroads with the New Year. Things were still resetting and that wouldn’t solidify until tomorrow. It wasn’t my fault that someone hadn’t taken extra precautions while [possibly] driving [recklessly] down the highway. While I did have to sit in stop-and-go traffic because of it, I reminded myself that not everyone can be prepared for the chaos that the reset of a new year can cause. And I also reminded myself that chaos tended to float around the days outside of the year and impact Wep Ronpet, even though it’s most often seen as an auspicious day. Calmed again, I went off to work and kicked some telecommunications ass.

When I got home, I immediately started fully planning the festivities. My first step was to create a sa. I used this guide to create it and I used this one for figuring out how to and what type of sigils I would use in the interior. I had decided to create the sa about a month ago and purchased the supplies when I went on my merry little chase for all things Wep Ronpet. I chose silken cords for the interior and exterior in white and red and ended up choosing red felt for the actual sa itself.

I went through my book, Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt by R.T. Rundle Clark for inspiration on what sort of sigils I wanted to use. It seemed appropriate that I would choose symbolism from ancient Egypt as opposed to anything that I myself would create. It seemed like it would be more effect, heka wise, if I chose something with extensive history. I ended up choosing the shen ring, the glyph for eternity, and the glyph for life. These three symbols were used to create this sa specifically as a protective amulet in my car. The message I was aiming for was, protection for eternity, protection for life; may a long life by lived. I also did create a personalized sigil specific to the aim as well.

I ended up finding out just how difficult it can be to braid something that isn’t your hair. I chose one red strand of cord and two red. I knotted them at the top and realized that, well, I had nothing to anchor the end to so that I could begin braiding. I ended up holding the knotted end in my mouth so that I could braid it all. When I got to the other end (measured against the length of the felt I had purchased), I knotted it together and beheld my work.

I also didn’t expect for the cordage to shrink so much because of the braiding. I had measure it out specifically to the length of the width of the red felt and hadn’t considered that I would end up with something that was completely hidden in its center. What I also didn’t expect was just how thick the damn red felt would get when I rolled it into a tube shape. It was thicker than any of my fingers and completely unwieldy. I ended up cutting it down until the sigils, which were in four strategic places on the inside, were at the very edge. When I rolled up the felt again, it was still pretty thick, but not as much.

It's fucking huge.

It’s fucking huge.

I had my son hold out his finger to me so that I could use that to tie a single white cord around the center to hold its shape. With that in place, I took a long strand of red cordage to wrap around it, creating the distinctive sa shape by pulling it as tightly as I possibly could. I then managed, with much concentration and a bit of power words (f-bombs, mostly), to string a white string in the center. I had originally wanted to thread white cordage around the sides of the rounded top, but was unable to do so because of how thick the felt was. I ended up just using the white thread to hold it together for when I tie it to my rearview mirror.

Once that was completed, I placed it on Sekhmet’s altar in the middle of the offering plate.

Booze it up, up, up.

Booze it up, up, up.

My next step was to hold a final celebration for the children of Nut and Geb. I ended up setting everyone up that morning, but chose to add an alcoholic beverage on top of the cupcake. I used my “royal cup,” which was a gift on my birthday last year. I didn’t use the crazy straw when I placed the vodka and diet Coke concoction down, but I did sing out that everyone had better get it before I snapped the damn thing up. Calories be damned; I was having me some vodka.

In a totally strange coincidence, by the KO calendar, my Wep Ronpet coincided with Heru-Wer’s birthday. I was enjoying all of the stories of peoples’ experiences with him throughout the day. Somehow, one of his kids (from KO) and I got onto the topic of getting him drunk as hell and it just kind of gamboled out of control until many people were offering him booze, whether they were celebrating his birthday or not. I joined in on this particular shindig and ended up with no fewer than two cups of alcoholic beverages out for him. I really can’t say if this was received properly or not (I had a distinct impression he had screeched, “CHALLENGE MOTHERFUCKING ACCEPTED,” at one point, but I could be mistaken).

It was fucking hilarious.

While this was going on, I danced around the house to a few tunes that deserve to be danced to. While I was shaking my booty up and down the hallway, I ended up pulling both my son and TH into the little festivity. With the three of us dancing around the kitchen until my knees and hips hurt, I figured we had done justice to the celebration of Wep Ronpet. And I have to admit, I was pretty happy to have had both of my boys join in since neither usually do.

While listening to calmer music, I ended up writing down 25 possibly dangers to execrate for the year ahead. I won’t list what I wrote down, but I will mention how I wrote them down: on a simple sheet of paper, I wrote a heading indicating why I was listing these words. I then went through a list of possible things that may come up in the next year and things that have been plaguing me this year, hoping to clear them from my life with this execration.

I took this and the heka I had been hoarding since November of last year and went outside to execrate.

It took two fucking hours to burn the massive chunk of heka. That’s right; I sat outside of my house, watching a myriad of visitors going to the bar across the street, for two fucking hours while every ounce of heka was burned into soft gray ash. I added my heka for the year to come to the pile and watched it blow the fuck up. In fact, in those two hours, it burned a soft steady coal red-orange and then would go back up into a pyre of flames when I stirred at everything. When I had enough (there were still some lit embers), I dumped the ash into the world in a pile.

I then stomped upon it and spat upon it. As I stomped I said, “I step upon your brows as pharaoh did to his enemies. I spit upon you so that you may know your vile presence is not needed. I beat you back as a pharaoh at the head of his victorious army. You are nothing. You are less than nothing. Be gone.” And then, I walked back inside.

I don’t know if I can really say if last year was a good year. I do know that I have hopes for the next year. And I hope, beyond all hope, that they come true and that the renewal of this year infiltrates my being, from my ba to my ka to my ib, until it is not just the year that renews, but myself as well.

I have high hopes for this upcoming year.

And right now, I intend on seeing those hopes come true.

Intercalary Days 2014.

Last year’s intercalary days, I often felt like I was always rushing about in an effort to get everything done before the netjer‘s birthday the next day. I didn’t like how I always felt like I was about twenty steps behind, so I decided that I would change things up a bit. I decided to go for what I classify as “simplistic ritualistic birthday.” I don’t know if that’s really a proper descriptor for what I ended up doing, but I do have to say that it makes sense. I wanted a touch of ritual, but I also didn’t want to feel like what I was doing wasn’t enough. So, I made sure that everything I needed I had in advance and I spent one entire day preparing things before the actual celebrations.

I’ll tell you what I learned: as much as I despise planning ahead, it kind of helps in the long run.

I knew that I wanted to change up the “icons” I used of the gods during their birthdays. I had bought a really awesome coloring book last year and was able to color in the designated netjeru the night prior to their birthday. That was, in a way, a kind of communing action while I introduced myself to the three children of Geb and Nut whom I had not interacted with previously. While I enjoyed the coloring book, and still do when I need to unwind and want to color, I wanted something a little more… I don’t want to say “adult,” but sedate might work.

I ended up purchasing card stock from Michael’s. I chose two black sheets, thinking that I would write their names in hieroglyphs, all along the same size and shape. However, after I purchased the card stock, I realized that I also wanted to honor Nut and Geb as well. They are, after all, the parents to whom we should pay homage for having given us Wesir, Heru-Wer, Set, Aset, and Nebthet. So, after realizing that I wanted to honor all of them, I went back out and purchased five more sheets of card stock in colors that I felt were best associated with the five: Wesir was given green; Heru-Wer was given sand; Set was given red; Aset was given blue; and Nebthet was given purple.

I believe the last two associations are probably UPG related. The Aset icon that I have in my own, in the altar space of my home, has a lot of blue and blue-related imagery associated with it. I have always chosen this color for her, though I can’t quite decide why. Purple was a last ditch effort for Nebthet, to be honest. I don’t know her and I have had one minor interaction with her, which occurred last year on her birthday. Outside of that, she is a complete and silent mystery to me.

To write out the names in hieroglyphs, I purchased a glitter gold gel pen. It didn’t occur to me how I would actually write the hieroglyphs. I ended up realizing the night before the birthdays that I couldn’t free hand hieroglyphs. I don’t know what I was thinking. Perhaps I was hoping that I could utilize the hieratic form and go from there, but it occurred to me that I liked the full version, the actual hieroglyphs themselves. So, with TH’s suggestion ringing in my ears, I printed out their names in hieroglyphs, cut out each individual glyph, and taped it to the card stock to trace over with pencil. I think I spent a good two solid hours doing it, getting everything right.

Surprisingly enough, everything came out okay. I was really thinking that it would look terrible, but things works out in my favor.

In preparation for the intercalary days, I had to do some altar moving. I ended up packing away the things I had set up for the lwa on my bookcase in the kitchen and moved the household deities to there. This opened up the top of my blue cabinet as an available area to stage the intercalary and Wep Ronpet celebrations. But as much as I enjoy having that much space, I also felt that I needed appropriate covering for it.

I chose a plain black scarf, thinking about the black silt of the Nile when it floods. I then added blue for the water of the Nile, but also for the sky as well. To top it off, I found some birthday confetti on sale with stars in it. In all honesty, all that was missing was the red for the desert. The glittery “happy birthday” confetti kind of took care of that.

I placed the black scarf down first and then followed it with the blue. I then very haphazardly arrange the confetti into a non-pattern. My son helped me here, finding it greatly entertaining to be sprinkling stars and “happy birthday” onto scarves. What I didn’t think about was how those fucking glittery stars would follow me everywhere. The second I walked away from the cabinet when my rites to the netjeru were over, I found stars in my hair, on my sandals, and attached to random areas of clothing. (I’m pretty sure my butt never fucking touched that damn thing and yet, I found one on the back of my jeans one night. What even is that?)

I had purchased the confetti specifically looking for the stars. I wanted to have stars or star imagery associated with my five days because I had chosen black, a color I associate with Geb, and blue, clearly a color associated with Nut, for the foundation. It felt off though because Geb is the foundation – he is the earth, whereas is counterpart is the sky and ephemeral. I can touch Geb, but I can’t really touch Nut. So I wanted physical reminders of her in more than just the color of the scarf. But what I got was more of a birthday celebration than I had intended.

Since I went with the happy birthday confetti, I ended up buying cupcakes (and nothing else) as offerings for each day. I have a metric shit fuck ton of birthday candles lying around. (I legitimately don’t even know why because we always have birthday parties at TH’s mother’s house.) I knew I was definitely going to have a birthday party… if a little muted.

Wesir

I don’t think I’ve ever really had any interactions with him that have ever left me feeling like, “hell yeah, I’m all about the fucking Wesir.” I don’t honestly think Wesir has any interest in me whatsoever and I’m mostly okay with that. Even though I have deep associations with my akhu, I didn’t come by that through my Kemetic background. I came through that because of the interactions I had with the lwa and even though both Anup and Wesir could fill in the gap, I never once considered it. (And when I tried it with Anup once, he was just like, “oh fuck no.”)

Or, maybe Wesir doesn’t like my sense of humor. So, on the way into work on Wesir’s birthday, I thought, “hey whatever song that comes on… that song is for you!” And then I kind of felt like he was there, waiting to see what would come on next. And then it was Dead and Bloated by Stone Temple Pilots. If ever there was a more appropriate song… I laughed until I was crying, which was clearly not well received.

I didn’t feel him around when I lit his blue birthday candle and sang “happy birthday.”

Heru-Wer

I really liked Heru-Wer when I met him last year. That was a complete accident, but he was so down-to-earth and so relaxing to be around that I find myself often thinking of ways to see him in the world around me. Sometimes, when I see the hawks or falcons (whatever they are) that are flying on the road I drive down every day to and from work, I think of him.

This year was quieter than last year. I didn’t necessarily feel his presence as I did with Wesir. And unfortunately, no really appropriate songs sprung up on the radio when I was hoping for one. But I did go out and spend time with family while listening to a cover band. (They mostly played old C&W or rock/C&W.) When I got home, I sang him his song du jour and lit that birthday candle all happy like. I can’t say if he was really, really happy with how things turned out in my household, but I know the cupcake went down well.

I had a fleeting image of a giant hawk-headed man with chocolate crumbs around his beak and puffed out cheeks. That, to me, says an offering well received.

Set

I didn’t really feel much from Set. I’ve been kind of ignoring him, but I also understand that he’s rather busy. He’s come around a time or two, but whatever connection we may have had has since faded. I’ve been told to expect this with the myriad of netjeru in my life (and I can definitely state that the connections have faded for most of them since October of last year, but even more so since the bonding took place).

I gave him a pink candle in his chocolate cupcake. I sang happy birthday to him and made sure to refer to him as titit, at Devo’s request. (I guess this is slang of some sort for ‘peen,’ which is received by Set in varying shades of irritation.) I don’t know if the reference irritated him with me or not, but I found it amusing.

Aset

Yet another no-go here. Aset and I haven’t really spoken since I screamed at her in October of last year. I’m not sure if she’s angry with me or if she is just no longer interested in maintaining a relationship with me. Of course, something that most of the netjeru have come to expect or are finally aware that they will always need to take second fiddle to Sekhmet. Some deities, such as in the case of Djehuty and Heru-Wer, seem all right with this. But I don’t think this is something that Aset likes (as I’m finding out with someone else in a similar situation), so we haven’t spoken in nine months.

I still had to go through the motions, though. I gave her a blue candle in her cupcake and sang her happy birthday. I got more interest, I feel, from her parents than I did from her. But so be it. Second fiddle is the game and she will either deal with it or she won’t.

Nebthet

I got absolutely nothing from this little lady. I’m not really surprised, though. I’ve had a few conversations with other Kemetics and they have had similar experiences with her. I often wonder if she’s just too shy, especially considering how “important” her siblings were in antiquity. Or perhaps her quiet is just merely a part of her nature. Whatever the case may be, I have never felt a thing from her except for briefly and that was last year when I introduced myself to her.

I honestly don’t know what to say to her.

I chose a pink candle for her cupcake and again, as with her sister, I felt more of a rush from her parents than I did from her.

I was relatively surprised but also pleased with how this year’s celebrations turned out. They were quiet affairs. Outside of the candle in a cupcake and the repetitive singing of happy birthday, I felt very much as though I had accomplished something worthy. It’s possible that this feeling stems more from the good feefees I’ve had since I “swaddled” Sekhmet on Thursday (as Devo deems it) or if it’s because I planned something out in advance and it worked out (for once).

I will say that the card stock idea is probably one of the better ideas and I’m going to use it from now on. It’s much cheaper than having icons and while it’s time consuming printing out the glyphs and tracing them, it also makes me feel much, I don’t want to say it but it’s the only word coming to mind, closer. Since I am not an artist and since all I can do is write on behalf of my gods, being able to write their names in the language that they know best makes me feel like I can touch them, in a way, even better than having an icon does.

I plan on using this for any and all further celebrations in future with any and all deities that I don’t have icons for.

Petition to Sekhmet – July Edition

I am rapidly beginning to understand why there is a dearth in the Kemetic community for heka hut type things. There is a toll on the person doing the heka hut that I, personally, didn’t take into consideration. With each month that comes by and each monthly rite and service under my belt, I am not only seeing some really heart breaking tales and requests, but I’m also beginning to see a pattern in what is requested and my responses to it. While I’m pretty used to what’s being requested – much is of the mental or financial assistance category, which makes sense considering the world climate we currently live in – but what I find disheartening is that with each new petition service having come and gone, I find myself more and more exhausted by the end of it.

All in all, it’s not even the actions themselves or the specific errands I must complete prior to the rite that tires me out, but the whole act relating to it. The next day, I wake up fairly early with the knowledge that I still need to spend some serious time on the actual blog entry itself relating to what occurred the evening before. And I find myself, more often than not, just sitting around with a blank look on my face, feeling like I haven’t achieved a damn thing and whatever energy levels I may have had are now currently out the window.

If this is what even a fraction of people have experienced when conducting these types of services, I can completely understand why they stop after a while. I think it’s kind of like burn out. And of course, while all of these service type things are happening, nothing else stops. There is still a life to live and still religious items to go through and deal with and still lessons to learn and still family to tend to and still a dirty fucking house that needs to be cleaned. I mean, it’s all still there, but it gets shunted to the side for a bit to complete the service and then, there it is, back and ready the very next day.

Yes, I can clearly understand why people don’t tend to do these things for such long periods of time.

With seven months of official rites under my belt, I’ve also noticed a steady decline in requests. I’m mostly okay with this because that means that I spend an hour writing down petition requests instead of multiple hours. However, it also leads me to wonder why the requests have dropped off. I find myself adding people into those requests whether they ask for one or not – people I care about, people within my community, who clearly need some assistance coming from somewhere.

I often wonder if the reason the requests have dropped off lately is because people aren’t seeing anything being done on their behalf. This might be fear (mine) talking, but it’s something I’ve thought about each month.

I don’t know if I have ever made it clear that Sekhmet decides on what she does or does not do. I have absolutely no say in who gets first dibs or who gets completely ignored. I would assume that the people who are just hoping that things end up dropped in their lap without doing any of the legwork are the people who are not seeing anything positive come out of this. Or maybe, it’s because whatever they are doing is insufficient and they need to do something else. Or maybe, people are just sick of seeing me put that request out there every month and they no longer give a shit.

I’m not sure it really matters.

I think I may try something different, though. This month was the last actual rite – next month is an oracular session. (Note to self: let’s be firm about how many people are admitted to this because you sucked last time and admitted like a million people more than you wanted.) I think, though, in September, I’m going to change up how I put out the request a little bit and see if that draws anyone new in or brings back frequent flyers.

The rite itself, as usual, was pretty simple. I had a couple of errands that I wanted to get through yesterday in order to meet up with Sekhmet during the service portion of my evening, fully stocked with what I wanted. However, I also had other errands that I needed to complete in preparation of Wep-Ronpet, which is rapidly approaching. (Wep-Ronpet is slowly but surely turning into something very different from what I’m used to.) So, I did the two burns with one stone shtick and managed to get everything that I wanted in about two hours… minus the rose petals.

I’ve pretty much just given up on rose petals for the time being, even though I really fucking love using red rose petals in my services. The last two bags that I had went bad before I could use them all, which irritates me beyond belief. I completely understand that I’m buying it and they are on sale so, therefore, I should use them quickly. But my ritualistic time table and the rotting-slowly time table of the rose petals are clearly not in sync. So, until I can be sure that I’m getting fresh rose petals that will last beyond two weeks, I’m going to have move passed that particular idea. In the meantime, I can still set a mean fucking altar if I want to.

Even without rose petals, it still looks pretty B.A., in my opinion.

Even without rose petals, it still looks pretty B.A., in my opinion.

I decided on a simple setting this month. I chose grapes and wheat bread for an offering. The only thing that I went a little overboard with was the CHOCOLATE. I saw this chocolate Swiss roll that was on sale at my local grocery store and it looked so delicious. It also had the fewest caloric intake when compared to all of the other delectable goodies on sale in the bakery. It was rich and fucking wonderful, by the way, and if they ever have it on sale ever again, I am going to buy it (possibly not with the intention of giving any to the gods, possibly only for me).

For this month’s flowers, I chose an orange type of color. I was hoping to add lilies to the whole shebang because I’ve been on a lily kick lately. However, none of the bouquets with lilies were in my price range, so instead, I found this really awesome orange and white bouquet for like $6. There were even roses in the bouquet and as anyone who has been reading my blog can attest, I fucking love using roses in my rites and whatnot. So, I can’t really tell if I was sold because of the orange roses or if it was just because it’s a color I associate with Sekhmet or perhaps both. But orange fucking bouquet it damn well was.

When I came home, I did some minor altar cleaning and then napped.

I realized at about three or so that I was fucking exhausted. I am an introvert and a homebody, in case no one was aware. So, all of the errand running kicked my ass coupled with yet another shit-tacular work week. So, my son and I ended up watching Mythbusters and fell asleep until well passed dinner time. (Seriously, I took like a 3 hour nap, which is unheard of. Give me an hour and I’m usually ready to bounce up and do the things. Or, well, not bounce up, per se, but like at least get shit done until I have quiet time.)

I added incense, booze-and-soda, and cool water to the altar before trying to find a box that I like for shrine purpose. (I failed. I found a bunch of boxes that I really liked and found issues with every single one. Then I found a bunch of boxes that I kind of liked and found issues with every single one of those, as well. I’m beginning to despair that I’ll find one in a timely manner – because I should have found one like well before now since this was “supposed” to be done with before Wep-Ronpet.)

While reverting the offerings, I sat around and did some thinking about what sort of changes I can expect in the next few weeks. I know there are a lot – there have been others who have confirmed that they’ve noticed BIG CHANGES on the horizon and with Wep-Ronpet rapidly approaching for Kemetics across the world, it’s really no wonder. (Wep-Ronpet can be a chaotic time for a lot of reasons and three years running, I’ve noticed that’s when shit goes down, at least in my life.) I have to hope that the BIG CHANGES are an easier confluence than the last few BIG CHANGES I’ve gone through.

Also, I have to wonder why in the hell 2014 is the year of BIG CHANGES.

Whatever the case may be, here’s to hoping that Wep-Ronpet heralds the end to them. And that with the burning of my last seven months’ worth of petitions, a new era will reign supreme. Or, if not a new era, I at least won’t have to stop because no one puts in requests anymore.

The Arm Flail.

Yeah, this is about right.

I often wonder if the gods find it amusing to watch their devotees going through the act of, what I deem officially from here unto forever, “Kermit Arm Flail Mode.” Anyone who reads that phrase knows exactly what it is that I am talking about; and for those who don’t, it’s easy enough to search online for the phrase and finding the appropriate image. (Or you can just look over to your right hand side and see exactly what I mean.)

It’s a visual representation that, I feel, encompasses much of the individuals who make up the wider pagan community at any given moment and quite often, it is a perfect representation of both my and other polytheists’ personal practices. I think there may even be a tag, on Tumblr, for just such a thing in the wider community. Whatever the case may be, many of us have moments where everything is melded together to encompass the very act by which Kermit is so well known: the arm flail.

The arm flail can happen because of anything, really, which makes it alarming is the frequency with which I see posts that can easily be encompassed within that phraseology.

I can remember as a newbie pagan, constantly feeling like I was in the middle of the longest and most drawn arm flail of my path. Everything could elicit the reaction: I didn’t hear the gods – arm flail. I wasn’t sure if they appreciated my offering of X – arm flail. I was pretty sure I was doing it all wrong – arm flail. There wasn’t an easily attainable manual that told me how to religion – arm flail. I accidentally tripped over my own two feet and dropped my offering – arm flail. I broke a nail leaving the altar – arm flail. No one could tell me what I was doing was correct – arm flail. People were mean to newbies – arm flail. People were assholes – arm flail. People were talking about frightening topics – arm flail. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing – arm flail.

Over the years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve become less adept at the arm flail. Or, more likely, I’ve just become used to some things and I’ve learned to adapt because of other things and I’ve stopped allowing shit to accumulate that would frustrate me. Take your pick here because any of them will do. You see, I’m pretty sure that I do still do the arm flail, but the reasons behind it have become more personal and less, “what everyone else is doing.”

If you look at the above examples, there is a pattern. I was so busy worrying about what everyone else was doing that I ended up in the middle of a flail. And then I felt too stupid to live – tripping and breaking nails – in comparison to what other people were doing, thus a good flail was had. And then, as I got more used to what I was hoping to achieve and actually, possibly achieving it, I ended up letting events unfolding around me, and my lack of an adequate response to such things, cause me to jump into the class flail pose.

I think that’s one of the milestones in any polytheistic or pagan religion, by the way: the moment when what outsiders are doing doesn’t really impact you, at all. Now, I’m not talking about wider community impact because, well, assholes being assholes to newbies and fucking around by telling people what to do from their “one twoo path” egotistical trip is a problem and should elicit arm flail procedures. However, what I meant was that when you stop worrying about how your practice adds up and stacks against what everyone else is doing, then that’s the milestone.

Maybe we can think of that as, “Arm Flail Level 2,” or something.

The things that cause you to freak the fuck out and go into “Kermit Arm Flail Mode” are no longer based on what you think your practice should be based on because of what you see other people are doing. Instead, they are based on things you see happening within the wider community that are unsettling or things that are happening to you in a personal devotee capacity.

In my practice, level 2 was officially achieved when I began caring about the community, at large. Part of this was due to the people I hang out with – boat paddlers. I may not technically be one (I frankly don’t know if I really fit that title) but I hang out with a lot of them. I do try to emulate them in various arenas and it is through boat paddling, in my honest opinion, that Kemetics have such really wonderful things as “don’t be a dick,” “two response rule,” and the “don’t be a dick thing.” (I know, I mentioned it twice. It’s important enough to merit a million mentions, in one sentence even.)

But it was because of the boat paddling that I began to become aware of things outside of myself. And sure, being aware of things outside of what I was hoping to achieve is always a good idea. I mean, we should, at least, have an eyeball out there to see what the wider community is doing. Even for those of us niche enough, like Kemeticism, to not really fall under the “main stream” sobriquet should probably be aware of things that are going on. And since I was hanging out with a bunch of boat paddlers, I was intimately aware of what was going on.

And so, I entered “Arm Flail Level 2,” which to me is embodied by wider community ramification and bullshit.

I wrote a lot of community related posts when I entered that particular phase in the hopes of doing some good. However, after a while, it gets to the point where you get burnt the hell out with community and boat paddling. Sure, knowing what’s going on is a bonus but it can kind of eat you alive. This is why boat paddlers should have a hearty constitution. And since I don’t really think I have a hearty constitution, I have since removed myself from the situation.

Thus, I have moved from level 2 to the really awesome phase, “Arm Flail Level 3.”

But this is the really best part, I swear, and this is where I currently reside.

Instead of being sent into flail mode because of what others are doing that I thought influenced my personal practice and instead of being sent into this mode because of what other people are doing that influences the wider community, I have entered the best part. The part where my personal practice and all it entails is the be-all, end-all of everything. There is nothing more important than my personal practice and though I do still do community outreach work and while I do still offer myself out there in a semi-boat paddler capacity, the wider community is no longer an issue. The only thing that is an issue is what my path is, to me, and the odd twists it can take.

And boy, are those some odd fucking twists.

I find myself, not very often, in flail mode, but I have found myself in longer periods of flail mode. It’s not a single action of, “what the fuck now,” but an elongated process that is drawn out for however long before I figure it out. And sometimes, it can take me a lot of months to figure it out. Or, perhaps, it isn’t a matter of figuring it out at all that is causing the arm flail. Perhaps, it’s the simple matter that I have figured it out and I don’t like it. Just because I’m in arm flail mode doesn’t necessarily mean it’s because I’m lost and fucking confused, but it can just as easily mean that I don’t particularly like what the fuck I’m seeing/feeling/doing/being told.

Maybe it’s less arm flail mode level 3 and more like, whining baby hissy fit. In either case, it just means I’m more often just telling anyone who is willing to listen, “I am not this thing. I am not doing this thing. It’s not happening. Are you listening?” And then when it’s painfully clear that they are not, in fact, listening, I am then thrust into the middle of arm flail mode level 3.

I don’t know if this is a contest among the gods, but I’ve often thought that it probably should be: how long can I keep X devotee in arm flail mode? And then, there is a contest once a month or maybe once a quarter or once a year between all of the gods and they point out that they were able to keep their devotees in arm flail mode, level fucking three no less, for so much time. And of course, those of us who are in that mode are on the verge of tears, trying to figure out what the fuck we’re fucking doing.

Of course, the gods are probably laughing it up.

Yes, it’s kind of like this. However, there is usually less of a smirk on my face and usually a blank stare.

In the interim, many people are rapidly beginning to understand the “Kermit Arm Flail Mode” is a normal and safe reaction to any particular deviation that our seemingly obvious paths are somehow taking. And they are rapidly becoming “old hat” when their spiritual lives end up at these deviations. Sometimes, I legitimately just wind up curled in a ball because of all of the flailing – with sore arms no less – and internally scream until I can smile through it all. Most days, I just wind up keeping my nose to the grindstone, hoping that someone will listen to what I would like things to look like.

Then again, I’m used to the “bigger picture” conversations by now and I very much recognize that our wants and desires do not always figure into this. (Let’s be real here: I tend to believe that none of our wants and desires actually figure into anything unless they meet the end game, specifically the “bigger picture” that gods are always on about.)

So, instead, arm flail mode and internal screaming about all the things I’m not doing or I’m not willing to admit is possible.

This sounds about as productive as it obviously is.