I Have Driven Off A / Pep.

This past week, I had a part of my body removed because it stopped functioning properly. I tell people we removed my gallbladder because I’ve been beating it up for the last 18 years and we needed to permanently part ways, which is true. I told my gods I was sorry and I didn’t mean to and couldn’t they fix it so I could keep all parts of my body for the afterlife?

It was a very confusing time leading up to the surgery.

To be fair, it was a very confusing time leading up to the diagnosis.

Confusion

O you who emerge from the waters, who escape from the flood and climb on the stern of your bark, may you indeed climb on the stern of your bark, may you be more hale that you were yesterday. – part of Spell 101 from The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

I don’t know why I let it get as bad as it did. The first few times I had a gallstones attack, the pain wasn’t bad enough to drive me to the ER at 1 in the morning. Google-fu pretty much told me what was happening to me (gallstones) so I cut back on fatty foods to the best of my fatty food loving ability and the attacks were minimal. I had one or two in a 6-month period that first year and swore I’d deal with it next time.

But I just kept putting it off (sometimes with valid reasons and other times with probably not quite so valid ones).

Three years is a long time to deal with an  undiagnosed health issue. But I kept assuring myself that waking up my family in the middle of the night because of the pain that would eventually clear up was not worth it. My body and I were on an uneasy keel, but I was managing pretty well.

My gallbladder had other ideas of course. Maybe it got sick of my shit or maybe three years was too long. After a meal that was not very high in fat content, the pain was bad enough to force me to the ER where the doc said, “oh it’s definitely gallstones. There’s an awful lot in there; how long has this been going on?”

It was kind of nice to get the confirmation of what I already knew, but now I had to deal with it. I read up on different ways to contend with it and found non-surgical alternatives. However they all weren’t permanent solutions; the stones always came back.

I decided to ignore the implication that I would, by necessity, have a part of my body permanently removed. The fear of the surgery itself weighed too heavily on my mind, but I was also completely freaked out by the loss of that body part. I could lie and say just losing a piece of yourself was what was freaking me out, but to be frank, it was trying to figure out how this could impact me in the afterlife that was causing my issues.

It had never occurred to me before I faced this that I had always just assumed I would be fully intact upon my death. But now I had to face the music: my poor nutritional choices had brought me to the point where being fully intact upon my death was no longer an option.

a town of memory loss

Seth … will say to him with magic power: “Get back at the sharp knife which is in my hand! I stand before you, navigating aright and seeing afar. Cover your face, for I ferry across; get back because of me…” – part of Spell 108 from The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

The month of June was completely overwhelming as I faced the news that I needed my gallbladder out. My liver function became less efficient and the doctors were highly concerned because my gallbladder had also begun to harden after 3 years of attacks that I hadn’t dealt with. I found myself crying a lot as I tried to think past my own fears of what was to come.

One night, I cried in the shower, begging the gods to enact a miraculous cure. I knew they couldn’t do such a thing but I was still angry when I woke up with the dull ache around my liver and gallbladder as I had been off and on since the second trip to the ER. I had known the only way to deal with this was removal but the terror that I wouldn’t go to the afterlife because I was missing a piece of me held on and squeezed at me.

That sounds almost ridiculous, I suppose. “I’m terrified of surgery because my beliefs tell me I need all of my body to get to the afterlife.” I don’t want to say that this was a crisis of faith because it wasn’t. It was more like failed attempts to correlate a belief system from early human civilization with the modern era.

This is probably quite common for those of us attempting to create an historically informed practice from an ancient religion. For the most part, I’ve moved beyond these issues and have modernized my beliefs and practices where I needed to. But sometimes, apparently, something comes up that tosses you into a tailspin.

The thing that finally got me over this particular hump was something a coworker of mine said when I mentioned how much the notion was freaking me out. “Maybe they’ll put it in a biohazard jar so you can bury it.” It was said in jest and made me laugh, which was the overall point at the time. And somehow, hearing that set me a bit at ease as far as loss of organs went.

It occurred to me that I was probably being ridiculous. As I came at the fear from another angle, I had to remind myself that people in ancient Egypt probably also lost body parts and may not have been able to keep them for whatever reason. I most likely wasn’t going to be barred from the afterlife because an organ had stopped working properly and needed to be removed before causing me any serious harm.

When I was able to see it from that angle, I felt better. I was still a little weirded out by the whole thing since, aside from canines that didn’t come in correctly, I had never had to have anything removed before. But at least I could turn my anxiety away from what my soul would uncover upon death and focus heartily on my fear of the surgery itself.

Surgery

…expel my evil, grip hold of my falsehood, and I will have no guilt in respect of you. Grant that I may open up the tomb, that I may enter in Rosetjau, and that I may pass by the secret portals of the West. – part of Spell 126 from The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

I knew fear as an intimate companion the days leading up to the surgery. I would hear that phrase from Christian burials, “and yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil,” and I would sit in a haze of terror. I would shake with it and I would hold onto my apotropaic amulet and let fear race through my veins.

I broke down minutes before the surgery, whispering in my mind, I don’t want this; I don’t want to be here. Please let this be a nightmare. But it was reality and forward I went. The SO squeezed my hand and kissed my forehead, but I was still terrified of what was going to happen to me.

The removal of the organ; the death like sleep doctors were going to control while I was out; the unknown pain and recovery of what was to come after. All of it coalesced into a sort of miniature battle where I wasn’t really sure if I would survive as intact as I hoped to be.

This sounds ridiculous but it felt a bit like a battle against that entropy snake we all battle against as Kemetics. It felt like I was going into battle against an unknown and unseen enemy and I could either survive another day or I could die in the attempt. I didn’t step into the battle with courage like you’d expect from a true warrior but with tears on my lashes and a team of ladies in blue injecting something into my IV.

Split seconds before I passed out, I was staring at the ceiling and thinking that this was a bit like being drunk without all the terrible consequences. The grating in the ceiling above me did a full 180 spin and I can remember thinking, it’s like bed spin without the nausea, and then I was waking up in a green room with nurses everywhere.

I’ve felt very fragile since the surgery. It’s kind of made me realize that our bodies can easily break. I mean, I knew this in a sort of abstract way – I had a fractured elbow a few years back and I’ve fractured my ankle before – but it’s like the point had to be made real again. I feel very much like I could break completely, maybe next time it will be in half.

I’m recovering though, no matter how dark my thoughts or how fragile I feel.

The pain is weird; it comes and goes. Sometimes I feel like I could just recover on my own and then the next time I go to get up for something, I have to call for help because I can barely even think of the idea of getting up without someone helping me to my feet. I overdid it yesterday with all my trying to do this on my own and I’m suffering for it now.

My body feels a little foreign because of the pain, a little like it was someone else’s and now I’m trying to make it fit. No. No, it’s honestly like I put on a different skin suit after the surgery sometimes and now I have to figure out all the motor control again.

No. No… maybe a better description would be like being reborn…

I am reborn, I see, I behold, I will be yonder, I am raised up on my side, I make a decree, I hate sleep, I detest limpness, and I who was in Nedit stand up. – part of Spell 174 from The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

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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.

Missing.

In case no one was fully aware, I tend to jump to the worst possible conclusion about things. It doesn’t matter what in the world the thing actually is, but if there is a worst-case scenario, you had better believe that my mind has entertained it. My mind has probably not just entertained it, but invented completely improbable probabilities to go along with said worst-case scenario. I try not to do too much entertaining of said improbabilities, but you know, your mind does whatever it wants. Usually, though, I try not to announce those scenarios until I have something definitive in which to report, which is probably why it took me years to finally say, “Oh, yes, that is Sekhmet calling, isn’t it?”

So, the worst case scenario – let’s entertain you with that first – is that the lwa have all up and disappeared. The best case scenario, as far as I can tell, would be that I am full of shit and just being a dumbass. The middle case scenario is that they need some time away from me, just as I probably need time away from them, and we’ll all come back together at some point in future. But, I actually suspect the worst case scenario is what may be going on.

It started just after Lent. I was pretty busy, of course, with Sekhmet-related things. This was to be expected because I (a) promised, (b) don’t break my promises, and (c) had some bonding to get done for the next phase in our relationship. As much as I may have not wanted to go back prior to Lent, I was willing to get to the new step after having learned what I could throughout Lent regarding Lent. It was easy, of course, to see similarities and to fit the dogma regarding Lent in a Kemetic standpoint and how to fit that into my relationship building exercises with Sekhmet.

Papa Legba left me at the bus stop, so to speak, and tooted on his merry little way.

I haven’t seen him since.

After Lent was over, I went through the motions of giving him his daily coffee. We would share a cup just about every day, either in companionable silence or while talking over things that were bothering me. Whatever the case would be, we would share the coffee. I often felt very upset that I hadn’t the ability to do more, but Papa would always remind me that I am one of those souls that feels the need to be demonstrative with my affections, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. He said coffee was A-Okay with him because he loved coffee and I made it just strong enough for him to enjoy.

But those morning moments, stolen amid getting ready for the day ahead, didn’t return after Lent. Even though I continued to give him coffee, I couldn’t feel his presence. I looked for him on my rides into work, even though they were shortened. I looked for him in the places that I thought he would be after I was bonded. I stole away in the middle of the night, uncomfortable with the golden thing around my neck, and looked in the gardens and forested areas where I thought he would be and I found nothing.

On those stolen evenings, I would look for other lwa who had been companions in this, as well. I often spent whole nights in that other place, going to the place where Bawon’s bonfire normally was held and found the place empty. Or, I would run through the forest, searching for Gran Bwa just as I always had but instead of catching glimpses of him laughing at me always, always ahead of me, there was no one there to laugh. I saw no one and nothing and Papa Legba was curiously missing.

In the morning of those stolen evenings, I would make his coffee and try not to worry that I had done something amazingly wrong by becoming a bonded servant. But it’s hard for me to not go to that worst-case scenario. I started this entry off with assuring anyone who is willingly reading this drivel that is who I am: I think in terms of, “IT IS ALL SHIT.” I don’t know if I do this in the hopes that things aren’t as shitty as I think they will be and so, therefore, am always surprised pleasantly when they’re not. Or if I just like to have worst-case scenarios (even with all of those improbable possibilities in the offing) completely covered just in case.

I was worst-case scenario-ing there. I was beginning to think Papa Legba had left me.

I, of course, went through all of the things that he and I had done together during Lent. Most of it was in dream form. He was always, always nurturing something and making something grow, while I whined at him about all manner of things. He would just listen and that was that. I couldn’t help but go back to that final Lent entry I had written and found something that I had dismissed in the writing:

Sometimes, I would dream of the two of us in a garden or in the forest. He was always making something grow. He’s very good at getting things to grow, as I’ve found out. What I didn’t seem to realize until only just recently that each change in the scenery, the overall goal was the same: he was creating a garden and needed to nurture it. We talked a lot about the nature of what nurturing a garden was like and how that relates back to the nurturing one must do for themselves. He told me jokes and he told me stories. He said to me last night that it’s time for me to go back to where I belong; the lesson is over. And it was a lesson and a half. He wasn’t just giving me a way out of the really oppressive atmosphere I was in, but he was also helping me to grow, my core, my soul, and everything in between. He was busy nurturing the fledgling plants and the older plants that had been accidentally pinched out when I became so angry and so embittered.

In a fit of pique, I cried out to a very small group of friends about this. Someone responded and told me to keep cool. They reminded me that things had been rough and that I was probably worst-case scenario-ing. Of course, of course, that made sense. That’s what I do. I go to the worst possible place in the fucking world and I just live there for a while, moodily sifting through the improbabilities. Okay, I decided, I would just keep at it because, you know, Dory has excellent advice. So, I just kept swimming and kept looking in those stolen moments.

When nothing came of my repeated cries for his attention, I told myself that he was probably busy. I’ve noticed, of course, that the lwa are reaching out more and more to new devotees across the board. Perhaps he had things to do regarding getting those new devotees? Why can’t the lwa and the relationships they develop with various servants also go through a fallow time? How many times had I very calmly explained fallow times to newbies and reminded them that there were so many possible reasons that the gods had gone on walkabout? Of course, I reminded myself, the lwa could just as easily do the same.

But I was uneasy with all of that. I don’t trust my instincts, which is probably why I end up in the worst-case scenario. But my instincts were telling me that my having woken up in the middle of Sekhmet’s palace, knowing that I had been literally dropped at her doorstep, meant something. Clearly, I just had to figure out what that something was. It didn’t necessarily mean that he was gone, but that I had to decide what it meant.

I couldn’t clear my head long enough to come to a conclusion, so I experimented instead.

I “forgot” to make his coffee. I hadn’t had the same emotional willingness to make his coffee anyway. His altar was looking pretty dusty and a bit forlorn. And I had absolutely no desire, whatsoever, to give Bawon a shot of rum on Saturdays, like I had been doing. I also felt no compunction, even though the weather was beautiful, to go to a graveyard for anything. I noticed that everything that I had wrapped up and stamped as “this is something to do with the lwa” had absolutely no fucking interest for me whatsoever. So, I “forgot” to make his coffee and heard nothing.

There was no “honey-child” in that tone of voice.

There was nothing.

I kept “forgetting” throughout the week and when Saturday dawned, I didn’t go to the graveyard. I didn’t even move from my bed for an hour upon waking, glaring angrily at the ceiling. I felt nothing, nothing and yet more nothing. None of the feelings of things that I had to do were stirring at all. So, I stayed at home and no one got any alcohol and I just moped about, doing nothing, while I threw all of the lwa related worries on the back burner.

Guilt-ridden that following Monday, I made a cup of coffee, but no companionable silence or conversations of epic proportions. There was still no one in the garden or in the forest; there was still nothing anywhere. My reasonable explanations were beginning to disappear in the face of all of this fucking nothingness. And of course, it’s not very much as though I could reach out to Sekhmet and ask her what the fuck was going on. I was supposed to be kneeling on a dais, doing nothing, while my body attempted to heal a newly installed seeping wound in my side. She would go on about exacerbating the condition and defying her: two conversations I wasn’t interested in having.

But above all else, I couldn’t have that conversation with her because I was worried about what she would say.

I couldn’t help but think that my bonding had done a lot of changing in relationships and the lwa were affected by it.

I went back through the memories of my bonding ceremony, trying to remember the last time I had actually seen Papa.

The last thing I remembered was crying to Papa, asking him to let me stay for a little longer. I had asked him to let me stay out of fear and anxiety. He, of course, denied my request as I had already knew he would. He could not allow me to stay. I had things to attend to. What bothered me most about this situation was that I had been left on her doorstep – I knew without even remembering that was the case – and now I was here. I had decisions to make, he had schooled me, and now I couldn’t run away to ignore those decisions.

Had those decisions that he knew I had to make changed our relationship so drastically that he was missing? That he, and all of his compatriots, weren’t allowed around me anymore? And maybe, they shouldn’t be around me anymore? Was my tear-stained begging of him my final fucking goodbye? What a shitty fucking goodbye.

So, the lwa have been missing since Lent was over. No matter how much searching I’ve done, either in my soul or in that other place, has brought them to me. I don’t know if my decision making caused this or if this is for my own good. I remember what it was like to say goodbye to Hekate – fear, worry, excitement – and know that other goodbyes with other deities are coming down the pike. I just don’t know if I have the strength and the ability to admit that the worst-case scenario has come to pass. And I just don’t know if I have the strength and ability right now to say goodbye on my end.

All I know is that they’re all missing.

And I have decisions to make.

Funerals: Saying Goodbye to Non-Kemetics.

I think funerals are, probably, one of the harder things to contend with when it comes to those of us who are from “alternative” religious choices. I mean, many of us are recreating a religion that had an established (if we know it) way in which to honor the dead. In some instances, they had a whole host of things to see to the souls of those who have passed and how to honor those souls after they had finally gone into… well whatever direction they may go into. In a modern context, especially when compared to how the ancient Egyptians went about their business, the amount of things done for the deceased can be rather paltry. Ancient Egyptians had seventy days of mourning, funeral corteges, and spells to see the deceased on while many of the funeral services that I can recall are a two-day affairs that end up with a meal in a restaurant, reminiscing. But I think, honestly, what makes it harder is not knowing whether or not you should ever bother doing anything within your own religious context especially for people who may know not, may not understand, or were staunchly religious in their own rights.

So where do we draw the line? At one point is it okay to do what we want versus what they want? When will it be okay to say a thing or three about them in our religious context, either publicly or privately? How much lip service, if any, must we pay to their religious contexts? As a matter of form, of course, each response to these questions is going to be highly dependent not only on the individual who will be attending said funeral services for people whom they cared for, but also based on what they know about the deceased and how the individual feels that the deceased would react to such things.

This, of course, comes up for me because this week, I had to attend funeral services for the significant other’s grandmother’s boyfriend. He was a well-established member of the family long before I arrived on the scene and everyone loved him. He took very good care of their ailing grandmother, his stories were hilarious, and he knew everyone. He was a very well connected kind of guy and not just because of his Italian background, if you catch my drift. And his stories were fucking awesome.

J will be missed.

Of course, with the announcement that he had passed, I began thinking, as I always do, about how I could or would celebrate his life in my own way. I think, again, this is kind of common for people such as myself with an “alternative” religion, especially in the context of someone that you truly cared about. We want to pay them homage in the best way we know how to, which often tends to be an association from our religious background. There is something within each of us, at the notice of a death, which seems to say, “I need to give respect to this person and I think I should do so within my own religious context.” Just with writers, we each go to what we know, which tends to be based on our individual recreations of ancient religions and how they handled death and the afterlife.

How do you provide for them in your own religious context, though? Is it even okay to do anything for them in your religious context? If they were overly religious in their own way – and J was, as evidenced by the St Anthony and St Christopher’s medals, the rosary, and the Catholic Mass for his funeral rites – do you bother to try to do anything outside of what their final wishes were? Or if they were an atheist, is it okay to do something within your religious observances? Is a[n American-style] wake/viewing and funeral enough to make you feel like you’ve done something effectively for them? Or do you attempt to incorporate them, either in minor or in major, with your own religious practice’s observances?

When I attempted to incorporate my deceased family members into my Kemetic akhu observances, I found myself getting glimmers of strong emotions that were clearly negative: disinterest, dislike, discouragement. I was a little surprised by it. One would assume that they would like to be honored in some way, but the more I ended up trying to Kemetic the practices into a cohesive way that worked for me, I found that I was getting fewer and fewer emotional pings but the ones that I did sense were more and more intense. And they were all incredibly negative. It didn’t take a long time for me to realize [for once] that they didn’t like it.

It didn’t dawn on me until I attempted to try it out that they wouldn’t appreciate what I was doing. I thought that since they cared about me and probably would like to be remembered more than just merely in passing that they would tolerate what I was doing, but I was wrong. I was going into this with a basis that my needs and wants figured more prominently than their needs and wants. I was also dismissing their own religious backgrounds and beliefs. I was thinking that my own, with its rich plethora of akhu veneration was more important than their own. In effect, I was going into this with the belief that I was more important. While I still think I’m pretty important, I don’t think my wants and desires really should overpower them or their desires on the subject matter, whether they are alive and kicking or not.

Since this was the impression I got when it just came to visiting family graves, it dawned on me that I may find the same discouraging emotional pings when it came to funerals. I had thought, a few years back, that I would create some big and encompassing super-rite that had to do with funerals. And then, I scaled it back to something small and minor after having gone to one and then I scaled it back to nothing at all when I realized that, well, maybe the deceased wouldn’t appreciate what I was trying to do. That idea came to me when I was sitting beside TH who was saying goodbye to his paternal grandfather, who was staunchly Catholic. This came to me again, last year, when I was sitting beside my son and TH while they both said goodbye to TH’s maternal grandfather. And by J’s funeral services this week, it had solidified to make me realize that what I may have wanted to do wasn’t necessarily in the deceased’s best interest.

This reminded me that, in many instances, the funeral services aren’t really for the deceased anyway. It’s possible that many of them go into the afterlife, knowing full well what will happen after they depart because they already have it planned. But, I think that, it’s mostly something that is set in place for those who are still alive. It’s a final good-bye for the living to the deceased. It’s the close of the final chapter, but instead of a drawn out ending that leaves the reader hanging, it’s the act of tying up of all the loose ends in the plot devices within the novel before it. The ending may not seem satisfactory to the reader for one reason or another, but that is precisely what the funeral services are for. It’s the act of goodbye for those whom still live, whether they want to say those farewells or not.

And while I, too, need something that will close out the end of the novel, and would prefer it in a frame of reference that makes more sense to me – Kemetic trappings, specifically – I realized that it may be a little presumptuous of me to do so. I’m not the only person looking to say farewell to the deceased, after all, and my religious persuasions are still very much in the minority. Of course, this made me wonder how it would be possible to take something for myself in the final goodbye scene of the deceased as well as to be respectful, not only of their wishes, but of the desires of the people around me. The funeral services that I have attended the last few years didn’t truly impact me on an emotional level, though they obviously impacted people to whom I care about deeply.

What if, though, I was attending a family member’s funeral? Would the idea of keeping my own religious observances and desires to myself still hold? Obviously, I haven’t been able to put this into practice, but I have to keep thinking back to those negative emotional pings I was receiving from my deceased relatives. If they don’t like it after they had already passed, why in the world would they tolerate it when I am saying goodbye? Again, it comes down to a respect for their wishes and the wishes of everyone around me. The hiding of a religious practice that isn’t mainstream and is oft misunderstood by outsiders also plays a part in all of this. While I know that TH’s family would support me if I decided to do something more, my own family wouldn’t. And frankly, the idea of arguing with them or even explaining something that they won’t understand (either purposefully or not) doesn’t really appeal to me, especially in regards to funeral matters and the acts of saying goodbye to someone I care(d) about.

But in this particular case, just like with the funerals in the preceding years that I’ve gone to, I stayed my hand, my lips, and paid attention to the religious observances. I said the Lord’s Prayer, I offered the refrain during the Catholic Mass, I took Communion, and I did the sign of the cross at the appropriate times. I knelt on the prie dieu (when I wasn’t holding on to my nephew to keep him quiet). It seemed to me that, even though these trappings were not my own, it made more sense to do them to honor the deceased. It felt as though it would have been more disrespectful to sit or stand, a blank look upon my face and glazed eyes during the service. And at the very crux of the matter, I thought of that popular saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

I think though, in some instances at least, it may be okay in order to do something that makes sense within our own religious framework. While paying homage to the religious observances of the deceased is very important in my opinion, I also think that we can’t shy away from our own thoughts on the matter, either, especially when it comes to family members whose deaths may severely impact us emotionally and mentally. I think that, in all honesty, denying our religious beliefs in any way, especially when it comes to saying farewell to someone whom we cared for deeply, would be a sin against ourselves and would be against ma’at. So, how in the world do you connect the two separate worlds together, especially if you’re in hiding, so that you are respecting the observances of the family and friends of the deceased, the deceased themselves, but you’re also respecting your own religious observances as well?

On the down low, of course.

My wearing ankh imagery isn’t outside of the norm for me. I wear an ankh necklace daily and I switch into my ankh earrings also rather regularly. So, it wasn’t outside of normal parameters for me to be wearing either. But in my own heart of hearts, I was wearing them in homage to the deceased and his passing from this life into the next. The ankh is one of the most potent and obvious symbols of the ancient Egyptian religion. It is often shown in tomb art in the hands of deities associated with the afterlife, who are conferring the gift of life onto the one who has passed. They are also amulets used to denote strength and health, two things that the person who has saying farewell to the deceased would need in abundance. By wearing these symbols, I was hoping that J would be transformed into the afterlife of his choosing (I would assume it was the Catholic form, but one never really knows) and my wearing that jewelry was my covert way of aiding and abetting.

A few days before the funeral, I mentioned it on my Tumblr and wrote the following deceased offering formula to J:

An offering given by the Daughter of Power to J-Wesir. That she may give a voice offering of bread, beer, oxen, birds, alabaster, clothing, and every good and pure thing upon which a god lives. For the ka of the revered, J, True of Voice.

I was keeping in line with the offerings that the ancient Egyptians would have provided to their deceased by remarking that I was giving a voice offering of all of the super awesome things that the gods really liked back in the day. (And maybe even J’s God would like, too? I mean, I can’t think that the Christian deity would like clothes but maybe He’d like pure things, pretty things, and food?) And I ended it with denoting that J was “true of voice.” This particular aspect is a form of heka all its own so that he will be transfigured into the next life of his choosing, no doubt about it. This was the only thing I did that was overtly and obviously Kemetic in origin. I didn’t want to encroach too much but I also didn’t want to ignore the feeling that I needed to say goodbye with a frame of reference that works for me.

As much as it does suck that we may be unable to do things how we would prefer, we also have to remind ourselves that we’re still very much a minority when it comes to other religions out there. And it will be some time, if any, before we start seeing more Kemetic flavored or styled funeral rites. In the meantime, some of us may feel the need to integrate what we think would be in the deceased’s best interest with the desires of the deceased and their family members, especially in regards to respecting their own religious observances. But above all, being respectful towards the deceased should be foremost in our minds when attempting to figure out how to surreptitiously incorporate our desires and religious leanings into our own farewells.

Ansanm (SVP).

Together.

Last night, I found myself in Papa Legba’s company. I’m not quite sure what prompted this. I haven’t really reached out to him recently. It’s not that I don’t remember that he is there and willing to assist me or that I don’t care. It’s just a simple matter of not having a lot of spoons right now and being unable to do much more than go through the motions.

Perhaps he sensed my inability to do lately.

I wanted to say that we went to a ceremony, but I’m not even sure what kind. I wasn’t there at the beginning. He came to me and said, “Come, child, we are going out.” And I left my body behind to follow him to wherever it was we needed to go. We ended up in a very crowded room with undulating bodies everywhere. Men and women were already rapidly entering the throes of trance as we came onto the scene. “Get ready.” And then he was gone.

I remember standing in front of a man. His brow was sweaty and his eyes were rolling back into his skull. His body was trembling with the force of whatever was happening to him. I cannot even begin to convey what could have been happening to him. I have never been to one of these ceremonies and Hollywood renditions are really sub-par. All I know is that I could sense that a lwa would be entering him soon, though not the one who had brought me out to celebrate. It was like I could almost begin to see it happen as he shook, his face right in front of mine, but whatever shape that thing would take was beyond me.

Whatever happened next is completely lost – I blacked out after that.

I woke up feeling like I was sub-human and beneath the lwa. I get this way a lot. I have been battling depression since I was a teenager and some days are easier than others. Due to other items in my life that are… difficult and painful, I have had a lot of depressive days lately. I’ve found myself feeling like I am not a good servant more and more often. While I know that this is not the case since they still come to me, they still tell me, they still direct me, I still feel like I suck at it all. I’m sure this will pass at some point or another. In the mean time, I just have to deal with whatever feelings I have going on inside of me.

When I woke up this morning, I wondered why Papa Legba would take me out. We haven’t had a night out together in a long time. It’s not that I’m not interested in going because I am. It’s just a fact that I am not his only servant and I am not the only one who needs him. So, I stay in the background and I go through the motions and I speak the words and I cry out in pain and I wait, patiently, for him to turn his eyes on me again.

On my drive to work, I tried to figure out what it could all mean. I’m a big believer in the fact that when a deity or one of the lwa pop up in a dream, then I need to pay attention. Hell, maybe this wasn’t even a dream but reality. Maybe I really did witness someone else’s celebration. Sometimes, I can catch glimpses of a round, older woman talking to me in the back of my head so again, maybe I really did end up somewhere else. Whatever this instance really happened to be, I don’t know. All I do know is that I couldn’t figure out what the hell this was supposed to mean for me.

While I was mulling this over in my mind, trying to feel better about everything, my thoughts turned to the Marassa. My offerings and my weekly rites have not been successful. I’ve begun to believe that they are gone. I’ll clear off their altar space and move it elsewhere just in case I may be wrong. But the loss of the twinned lwa who made me laugh as they played with my son’s loud cars or would crash over blocks or played hide-and-go-seek is kind of wounding. It makes me feel like, inevitably, everything and everyone leaves and I just have to deal with it.

I know my thoughts shouldn’t be selfish on this one. It’s their prerogative what they decide to do. If they are to stay or they are to go, then that is their choice. I am just here to serve them while they’re around for a while. But it still sucks when you think you know what you’re supposed to do – build a foundation – and then you get tossed aside.

I thought about the jaunt while I felt really badly about the Marassa and I began to wonder…

Maybe it’s the jaunt, itself, that is the lesson and not what I saw.

Thinking on it in that context, I have to admit that I did feel a little less like I was a horrible servant. If I can just assume – and really, I can’t because it’s the lwa and they are not always so easily figured out – that he was simply there so that the two of us could spend some time together, then it doesn’t feel so strange or so weird. It doesn’t feel like I was given a perfect, beautiful gift for being an awful child or like I was given the best experience of my life after having just killed someone’s kitten. It feels more, in this way, that he was giving me something special and precious to hold on to and remember when things are rough. He was saying, in his own Papa Legba way, that things are really awful right now, but here is a moment where we can just spend time together.

In that context, really, it was wonderful.

La Marassa (SVP).

For the last year, I’ve been paying semi-attention to the Marassa. I’ve been paying some attention to various other lwa as well, but they have unruly pair have been an ongoing amusement for me. It’s only been recently, with Papa Legba’s “learn some things” request that I decided I needed to pay closer attention to these two. After all, if I’ve been commenting on them, remarking on them, and thinking about them, it’s little more to add services to them. I’ve already prepared myself, I think adequately, with my ongoing daily services to Papa Legba. It’s little more to add a weekly homage to the sacred twins.

They have matching teddy bears, crayons, and cups. It's not much, but it's a start.

They have matching teddy bears, crayons, and cups. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Last Saturday, I prepared their altar space. As I do live in a very small apartment, I am unable to provide them with what I would truly enjoy. Honestly, I would prefer to have a table for Papa Legba with a side dedicated to the Marassa. According to my readings, Papa Legba is saluted first in a Fet, followed closely by the Marassa. It seems appropriate to my uninitiated self to have the two in close proximity to each other. Unfortunately, due to that whole tiny living space problem I have, I am unable to give either Legba or the Marassa what they deserve and can only give to them what I have on hand. So, as you can see from the picture, the Marassa have a shelf. It’s the third shelf – as the Guédé and the Bawon are on shelf number two. I had a feeling this was going to be an issue, but we make do with what we are capable of. And I was quite right, I think, in how large the issue would become.

As I said, last Saturday, I set up that little altar space for the Marassa. They each have the same things. The only difference is the color of the cars I gave them as they are loaners from my son’s gluttonous box of Hot Wheels. (I’m hoping I can find two identical cars.) I want to add more, like a small pink cloth and a small baby blue cloth, but that will come later. As I tend to associate the Marassa with the childish personalities they are famous for, I provided them with a drink of apple juice as that was the only thing I had on hand. I wasn’t quite comfortable providing them with juice but only because of the day in question. According to my readings, most services in their honor are done Wednesdays. (Source: Serving the Spirits by Mambo Vye Zo Komande LaMenfo.) However, since I was getting their altar ready this past Saturday, I didn’t think it would be harmful to provide them with a sweet drink until Wednesday.

When I went to offer them something new on Wednesday, the juice was moldy.

Now, mold is a hazard of leaving out offerings. Bacteria happens and then mold happens. However, I have to admit that it has been a very rare occurrence for any of my offerings to end up going to mold like that. I’ve left out rum for weeks and weeks with it drying up instead of going moldy. (Although, I’ve add alcoholic libations go moldy on me before, too.) I’ve left cookies and bread items out for at least a week one time and nothing like this happened to it. Hell. The flowers that have been sitting on Sekhmet’s altar for two weeks are only just starting to wilt and die. We’ve all noticed or remarked before that there seems to be a certain kind of “woo” going on when it comes to how long items can last on our altars, I have to admit that I’ve been extremely lucky, I suppose, in the fact that most of my libations and offerings do not go bad.

I really try not to read too much into things. I try not to think that everything I see or think or do is a sign from the spirits to whom I serve. However, this seemed like a very real indicator that whatever I had done was incorrect and left them unhappy. Unfortunately, no one stopped by to tell me what it was that I may have done wrong. I will admit that the jumping feet of two giggling children in my son’s [empty] room have all but stopped and the batteries have run down in the cars they would set off all night in the last six months. So, it’s possible that they are just not happy with me. However, I also provided a service on a day that I didn’t feel comfortable doing because it didn’t seem right. And they could have also been upset that they are number three on the bookcase I’ve retrofitted for all things voodoo related. And yet again, they could have been dissatisfied with what I had provided.

The problem here is that there are a lot of possibilities and very little to go on.

I have to believe that the Marassa to whom I am willing to serve would not punish me for only being able to provide juice. All in all, as much as I want to provide the very best for all of the OTHERS™ in my life, they are all fully aware that my financial situation is rocky at best. And they also know that when I have the extraneous funds, I will provide them with the best of the best. In the meantime, everyone has to make do with what I have on hand. If I’ve learned anything about the OTHERS™ to whom I’ve served in the last five years, whether they be from my voodoo portion or from my Kemetic portion, it’s that they are always willing to wait until the funds are available for the big ticket items, for the organic offerings, and for the ability to provide them with everything us lowly humans believe that they deserve. So while the Motts apple juice may not have been up to a particular standard, I don’t think they’d be angry enough to mold it.

I was hemming and hawing as I added their items to the shelf the entire time. It wasn’t that I was setting things up on the wrong day, but as I had mentioned above, that I was making them “number three” on the list. The thing is that it’s really more of in numerical addition to the spirits that I serve as opposed to favorites. (Though, I will admit to having a certain cache for Papa Legba.) But there is also the possibility that my wants and desires are overshadowing things. I want to give them a big space. I want to provide them with a shelf higher off the ground so I can leave them with sweets and not worry that my dog will snatch them away. (Though there really isn’t any guarantee that a higher shelf would prevent that, honestly – if the dog wants it and the spirits don’t prevent her, then she’ll get it, sadly.) It’s not as though I am a mambo or anything and I have no desire to become one, either. So, as important as the Marassa are in the world of a society, does this mean that I should serve them with the same sort of gravitas and stipulations as institutionalized services?

On the one hand, I have to go with “no.” I am not part of anything aside from me. I can only do as well as I can with what I have to offer, which includes where a spirit may or may not end up in the grand scheme of altar-bookcases. While both Papa Legba and the Marassa are very important lwa to whom we should be very aware of, those of us with a solitary practice cannot very well be limited by the aspects designated by a society. However, on the other hand, I can’t very well go ahead and ignore everything I’ve read on the subject. Papa Legba is the very important first lwa of awesomeness and the Marassa are a close second, practically a one-and-a-half in some places. Since I am obviously conflicted on the subject matter, I need to pay closer attention to what my intuition is telling me here, but unfortunately, all I can get out of that quarter is, oh shit, oh shit, they’re mad at me.

Maybe I really do need to just pay attention to the days that I say I will do something. Even though I was setting everything up and it didn’t feel complete without a libation, I shouldn’t have done so. I mean, the offering is all well and good, however if I’m going to start seriously paying attention to other lwa in my life, then I need to pay closer attention to the days. Papa Legba gets every day of the week, like the netjer, except for Sunday. (Nobody gets anything on Sundays, ever. It’s my day off.) While I wanted to at least get everything set up and started, it’s feasible that I shouldn’t have gone beyond what I was doing: setting up. By shifting this work to a different day, it’s possible I threw something out of whack. After all, Saturdays are the day that I give attention to the Guédé, so by giving them something on a day reserved for the dead. This is a very real concern that, I think, I need to think on further.

But, there is also the fact that, as I mentioned, I haven’t heard from them in a while. They would play the sirens on some of my son’s more obnoxious toys to all hours of the day and night, irritating me and amusing me at the same time. I’ve heard them bounce around on my son’s bed when he’s staying over his grandparents’ house. I’ve heard them bound down the hall when no one is in the hallway and even seen them playing hide-and-go-seek from the corner of my eye. None of this has been happening in recent months. It could be a cause for concern, but I’ve had long periods where such intense contact has waned previously and it’s always started back up. So, while it’s feasible that they are upset with me over something and have yet to make me aware of what that is, this is something that I believe I would have been made privy to already, if this was truly the case.

And I don’t think it is.

I honestly have to wonder if the main cause of the moldy juice was merely because I went out of order here and screwed up on that front.

Just to be on the safe side, though, I’ll be looking into habitual offerings (aside from the sweet items) and see what I can purchase specifically for them when I go grocery shopping.

Hopefully, I’m reading too much into a situation. I try not to, honestly, but it can be very difficult when you are traversing an area that you are far from expert in. It’s also incredibly difficult when such things as regular communication is entirely based on such things like divination, intuition, or an active godphone. As things in my [mundane] life have made it difficult for me to do much more than go through the motions, none of those other options are currently fully functioning at the moment. All I can do is hope that I haven’t truly angered the spirits of some of the more important lwa out there and hope that this upcoming Wednesday, they enjoy what I provide.

Cycles.

Alternate Title: Zep Tepi II.

Since Devo’s comments on my last post relating to this subject matter, I’ve been thinking extensively about Zep Tepi and cycles. Whenever a spare moment would hit me, I would be knee deep or brain deep in whatever it was I was hoping to achieve with the thought processes and Zep Tepi. This morning, I was thinking harder than I have in the past few days on the subject of Zep Tepi. When I was beginning to fall off from figuring out the answers to Devo’s questions in that comment, this song came on. Particularly what grabbed at me was the lyric, “I’m gonna change you like a remix; then I’ll raise you like a phoenix.” Well, if that isn’t something that relates to cycles, in a way, then what the fuck does? It was around that moment that I began to really interpret what Devo had said on Friday.

Honestly, my trouble with figuring out where I wanted my thoughts to go related to my rather narrow interpretation of what we need to utilize Zep Tepi in as lay people. I was trying to focus on Zep Tepi in a really big, huge way. So, I associated it with grandiose things like Wep Ronpet and the celebrations therein. I thought about the beginning of a year as opposed to all the other daily, weekly, monthly cycles that people can and do go through. I was trying to focus on something that I felt was easily graspable but I was failing to relate this to me. As the lay person here, I think I kind of failed in that regard. And that’s why having a community – by the way – is kind of a good thing. They’ll check your shit, force you to re-think things, and then give you a cookie if you do a good job. (Just kidding about the cookie part. That hardly ever happens.)

I’m about 99.9% percent certain that my failure to understand Zep Tepi and its relationship with all cycles stems from a rather unsatisfactory work life. (Love the job – hate the environment. You know.) I find it very difficult to even note that a whole new day has started, even upon waking. After nights filled with dreams about items that weren’t taken care of properly or things that I’ve had to constantly put off or delegate to others, it gets to the point where your waking life feels very much like your sleeping life. And that’s just no good. Since I have a difficult time differentiating between one really bad day and the next cantankerous asshat that makes me feel badly about my work ethic, my work ability, et cetera, it kind of gets to the point where you stop thinking that each day is different. Your mind starts to interpret each day as just a new extension to the next, but this isn’t the case. Each day is the start of a new cycle. As the sun rises in the morning, which I’ve been awake for more mornings than I care to admit lately, brings a rejuvenation to me, to my day, to my thoughts, and everything in my between. And that is something that I need to remind myself.

By seeing the new cycle in the upcoming day, the rejuvenation and the changes that can come with renewal, I can at least attempt to feel closer with this important concept in my religion.

And maybe, stop feeling like each bad day at work is just an extension on the one preceding it.

While pondering my inability to actually appreciate the cycles and instead seeing them as another addition, I began to think about my car, Olga. She is a very old car and she has a lot of things wrong with her that I just cannot afford to fix right now, if ever. At 12 years old and nearly 200k miles on her, I have to admit that placing a Band-Aid on the things that are wrong is not in my best interest, financially speaking. But I really do love this car. She has been very patient with me and has always seemed very understanding when I have been unable to get her into a mechanic in a timely manner. Recently, she started idling very hard when I sit at a stop. She has always idled very hard at stops – we joke that she thinks she’s a race car instead of the 4-cylinder Alero she is. But the idling has become much rougher to the point where I will start to seriously worry that she will stall out on me. I’ve noticed, however, that this comes in a cycle.

She drives really terribly one morning on my way to work and is fine for the next few days.

Bouncing off of the idea about how I needed to pay closer attention to Zep Tepi, cycles, and the renewal therein, I started paying attention to how often she does this to me. Now, there’s no guarantee as to when she will start idling harder than normal. And there’s no set time frame as to how long each cycle of “good idling” I can expect. But I began to see that I could at least anticipate this eventuality in future because, really, it is something that will happen. And then, when this particular idling happenstance comes to pass, I can look forward to relative smooth sailing for a few days or maybe even a week. Obviously, this doesn’t fix the overall problem – I’m attempting to find a mechanic who will work for beer and parts to fix two hot ticket items that may be the cause for the idle – but it’s something that brings comfort.

It’s almost like, and stop me if you’ve heard this one before, this is part of the cycle.

As I was driving to work – and Olga’s idling was as good as I could hope – I began to think of it, almost ruefully, as a metaphor for the entire year of a Kemetic calendar. We have ups and downs, which would be the days when I need to put gas in the car or add other fluids. But the rest of the time, it’s all just a general ride. Then, we get to the point where the idling is really, really tough and painful, reducing me to tears, swearing, cursing, pleading, and outright misery. I tend to view that drive to work as a kind of metaphor for what can be expected during the intercalary days, just preceding Wep Ronpet. We’ve all noted that those days are hectic and chaotic, difficult to handle in some ways. So, in a huge metaphor, the intercalary days are the very days that Olga ends up idling a good deal more painfully and more frightfully than she normally does.

By golly, I think I’m on to something here.

Almost like I was on to something, I picked up the book I’ve been reading lately and found something of interest that I think, sort of, relates to Zep Tepi and why lay people need to pay attention to this.

Okay, so, I’ve been re-reading The Priests of Ancient Egypt by Serge Sauneron this week. I don’t really remember how I felt about the book when I first bought it and I honestly wonder if I just skimmed through it. In either case, I decided to start re-reading all of my Kemetic books (for funsies) and this is the smallest one I own. Plus, in a perverse way, as a lay person, it’s almost like know thy enemy or something. I kind of think that by reading about this, I will be able to better understand what it is, specifically, about the priesthood that prevents me from honestly moving in that direction.

Be that as it may, I started reading it and found a lot of very interesting items, as well as amusing items. But what made me think in relation to Zep Tepi was how many of the offices of the priesthood were inherited. As Sauneron says on page 43, “Moreover, stelae of the Late Period sometimes list the genealogies of the individuals to whom they were dedicated, invoking the memory of as many as seventeen generations of ancestors who were priests of the same deity: we can truly speak of dynasties of priests.” Hm. They were pretty big on the “keep it in the family” adage.

While I understand the requirement of ancient Egyptian religion and belief to have a long line of distinguished ancestors, this reminds me that not all things “new” were very interesting to the ancient Egyptians. If we were to use the phrase “set in their ways,” I think it may just come off as a bit of an understatement. Anything new was considered anathema and in many, if not all, instances it was believed to be a part of isfet. Each new change to the ancient Egyptian ruler dynasties came with huge, catastrophic changes as they transitioned from one ruling family to the next period of lawlessness. All in all, things like change were to be feared. They liked the idea of rejuvenation and cycles – they celebrated such things like Wep Ronpet and with daily rituals to gods such as Khepri. But, when it came to things like installing a new priest? One has to wonder if their reaction to such an idea wasn’t something like: “Why bother? Why shake the tree? Or destroy the status quo? We already have a good thing going, so to speak, so let’s keep it! We don’t know what kind of crazy a new person has!”

Now, obviously, they weren’t always able to keep a line of priests in generational succession. Some lines died out; sometimes the pharaoh decided who went where. In some instances, according to Sauneron, they took a sort of collective vote on who got to be a priest and who didn’t. (I’ll explain all of this more in depth when I’m finished reading the book and write the post it inspires.) But in many instances, we have a long line of families who were able to provide priests to a particular nome’s temple deity throughout the years.

Modern day practitioners have a more mercurial ability, I think, to handle changes on an epic and minor scale than the ancient Egypt priesthood. We have had so many years of learning about world history that we are able to take into account the amount of changes that humanity has gone through. Instead of fearing that by mispronouncing a single word, we may bring about the end of the world, we know better. These religious traditions have fallen out of favor for millennia and the world kept on spinning, people kept on being poor or being rich, and living their lives. We don’t have to freak out that a new face in our particular religious path is going to upset the balance. Living in ma’at, traditions, heka, and even Zep Tepi have all changed their standard definitions in the thousands of years since this was a practicing religion. And that, I think, above all else, is why Zep Tepi is still an integral part to the practices of the laity.

It reminds us, always, that things change.

And it reminds us that there is always going to be a beginning, middle, and an end.

You know, I started this journey thinking about Zep Tepi in relation to altars. And I still have a feeling that there may be more here relating to Zep Tepi and the altars of our icons. But, I think, really, the overall point that I’ve come to discover is that this particular aspect of our practice is still important, whether we are a big headed somebody or a head-in-the-sand nobody, whether we are of the literate priesthood from ancient Egypt or the illiterate laity from ancient Egypt, and whether we are the historically informed polytheists of today or otherwise. What matters is trying to remember that Zep Tepi is about cycles and how that relates to you, on an individual level, in your practice. And if you can remind yourself, even a few times a day that change is coming and that the bad isn’t going to always be so bad… then maybe, just maybe, that really is just what the whole point is.

Atoure (SVP).

To surround.

Papa Legba by Larissa P Clause.

Papa Legba by Larissa Clause.

Much of the time, when I am directed to learning something by Vye Legba, I am given a rather oblique and general communication on the subject. Point in case, he wanted me to do some research relating to my previous post and adding celebrations to my religious calendar. His exact wording for what he required of me on this search? “Pick up the book and read what you need.” There really wasn’t a lot to go on when it came to this. I had to decide which book he may be talking about and hope that I was correct. The first book I chose was wrong. Since I had no compulsion to open it until two days after I decided to utilize it for the research necessary, I rather figured it would be a failure on my part. And it was, but I still had to double and triple check that intuitive knowing that I had chosen incorrectly. I stared at my bookcase, thinking long and hard about his instruction before thinking of what I needed and what books I hadn’t read as thoroughly. Maybe he was talking about something I haven’t delved into as heartily as I have with some of my other voodoo books? It would make sense that whatever he wanted me to learn would be in a place I haven’t found it yet, hm? So, I grabbed Serving the Spirits: The Religion of Haitian Vodou by Mambo Vye Zo Komande LaMenfo. And on my second attempt, I found what I was looking for.

The thing is that I’m pretty sure he wanted me to pick up this book for numerous reasons. It wasn’t just the research he’s asking me to look into relating to calendar related items, but also because there were other items I needed to read and learn. And this book really helped me with that in a way that I wasn’t expecting. This particular epiphany related to the Guédé, of all nachon to be epiphany-ing about. And was thoroughly unexpected. (Yet more proof, to me, that Papa Legba is the string puller in the background.) The other thing relating to this book is that a lot of the items she mentioned when discussing the nachon of the Guédé was not something I had heard before and was not something the Bawon found particularly pleasing, either.

While I have done as much research as my little typing fingers can convey and as much reading as my thirty-year-old eyeballs allow, there have been a lot of items that have slipped through the cracks. A large part of this isn’t just my own human frailty but also the fact that there are just going to be things that I am simply incapable of learning because I have not been inducted into a society. I have, mostly, made amends with the fact that the information I have is going to be anthropological in nature – so couched in the terminology of a lot of theories and possibilities – or based on a single person’s practice. While anthropological tomes are pretty damn important to the Kemetic part of things, a lot of my practice with the lwa can be simply stated as “UPG.” I may not know what it is that I am doing, or the specific why of the matter. Sometimes, later, I find out that there is actually a word for what it is I am doing or that there is a specific action that is relating to what it is I have already been doing to serve my spirits. But, for the most part, I’m being pushed and prodded in a way that is completely outside of a standardized frame of reference, or so I believe. While this is, obviously, a problem in numerous arenas – I mean, really, can you imagine talking to a practitioner about some of the shit you do as a non-initiate and not being laughed at because of it? It’s something that I find easier to do because of the Kemetic background that I have.

What it comes down to is that I like the structured reliability of a community to fall back on. However, because I have a functional gateway of communication between myself and the various OTHERS™ who have entered my life, I don’t necessarily require it.

This isn’t to say that whatever I end up with is the proper choice. I can only go so far with rather vague instructions – please see Papa Legba’s commentary above – before I come to a stopping point. But there are days where the fact that I can surround myself with the lwa is infinitely more preferable than having to stop and learn under the tutelage of a human being who is as fallible as myself. By surrounding myself with the lwa and by embracing their entrance into my life – as much as someone as caustic as me can anyway – I think I have it a lot easier. While I know that many established practitioners would read what I write and scoff heartily or would shake their heads or accuse me of something or other, I feel a certain type of safety in these kinds of moments. In learning based on what the lwa themselves desire and have in store for me versus the tried and true message. And as Papa Legba is so fond of telling me over and over again, “Sometimes, you just have to go and fuck up the status quo.” While I’m not quite sure what that means to Papa Legba, I can see what he means. Sometimes, the tried and true methods take a good deal longer than the lwa are willing to wait on.

Something of interest that I found in this section of the book related to how the Guédé and the honored ancestors need to be kept apart when you honor them. This really made me sit back and pay attention to something that had been niggling me in the back of my head. The thing is that when it comes to the akhu veneration that I do, I tend to consider all that I do, from the grave-tending to the minor rituals in home, as a part of that. I also tended to view what I was doing for the akhu as part and parcel with what I was doing with the Bawon and the Guédé. The statements relating to this within the book made me sit back and seriously take stock in the various aspects of my practice and how differentiated they actually are.

Baron Samedi by Veronika Unger.

Baron Samedi by Veronika Unger.

When I am grave-tending, this is in honor of the Bawon, Maman, and Papa G. I am not doing this for myself. This is how I offer them service each week. This is also why much of what I do when I am in a graveyard stems from bits and pieces I’ve put together in my readings relating to the Guédé. All of the offerings, everything I say, and how I go about what it is I do in those cemeteries is a carefully created Guédé-related blanket that I have sewn together based off of my readings and based off of things that the Guédé have asked of me. When I enter the graveyard, I announce myself, which is something that Bawon requested that I do. When I enter a graveyard, I pay my way with pennies at the sentinel grave nearest the entrance, which is something that I learned from another Vodouisant. The offerings that I leave are based entirely off of things that the Guédé have asked of me or based off of things I’ve picked up here and there in either blogs or books. Every aspect to what I do when I go to the cemetery to honor the locals here is one-hundred percent something relating to the Guédé. This is why I have had a difficult time trying to mesh my Kemetic practice into the grave-tending because, damn it, there is nothing Kemetic about it outside of the occasional cone of incense or the fucking flowers I leave.

And that’s it.

This made me realize that my constant failed attempts at blending the akhu veneration with the service for the Guédé is never going to work. I had a feeling that was the case because, well, every time I go to the cemetery and try to stay in a Kemetic frameset, Bawon comes on over and chews me the hell out over how silly I’m being. I was doing him a sever disservice and doing myself one as well by attempting to blend the two. They have no requirement to be blended. The work I do for the Guédé, the forgotten ones in those cemeteries, has to do with Bawon, Maman, and Papa G. They are not my akhu in the way that this book made me realize: they’re not my fucking relatives so I need to stop inviting them over when I’m doing the Kemetic akhu thing, damn it, because as special as they are to me, their being special has nothing to do with my Kemeticism. That special has to do with the voodoo portion of what it is I do.

Why it has taken me this long to realize this is incredibly stupid and silly and ridiculous. All I can say is that I am a stubborn son of a bitch.

Another item that was of particular interest to me was about how the Guédé and the rest of your lwa need to be kept apart. I do understand this, actually. I know how the rest of the lwa tend to feel about the Guédé. I’ve read enough to know that most of the lwa will leave a Fet if the Guédé show up, unannounced. There are different reasons for it – in this book, there was mention about how Freda will leave when they show up because the Guédé are incredibly tactless and truthful. I understand this, of course, but I have to admit that my Guédé altar is right in the center of my altars for the Marassa and Papa Legba. And of course, wasn’t it interesting that Bawon was a lot less lively around me after I had placed him up there…?

I thought about this a lot. There are some issues that I have relating to the “you have to” in this stuff. A part of it is the fact that a lot of us non-initiated don’t have a lot of time, energy, or space to have the types of altars that the Guédé may want. I know exactly what Bawon wants and I know exactly what he would like on it. I’ve seen it. He’s shown me exactly what he’s hoping to have, one day, in my home. In the interim, what he is looking for is going to have to wait due to a serious lack of space. I live in a very tiny apartment. Every available wall space has been taken up with things like furniture and altars and living space. What bits I have been able to appropriate as functional altars (such as my Anup and akhu altar that sidelines as a filled DVD case) are very small and not very functional. I had to go from a full sized apartment and all of the furniture that furnished that place into a place that is half its size. For fuck’s sake, the living room is 10×14 nook off of the dining area. So, while I understand that the lwa don’t like the Guédé and don’t want them around, there are some things that just have to give.

And that means the Guédé end up smack dab in the middle of two other lwa.

While thinking about how I hadn’t heard anything from the Bawon since I made the decision to add the Guédé to the other lwa‘s home, I felt a brush on my shoulder. It wasn’t really like… it wasn’t like someone was stroking my shoulder to tell me I was doing all right. But it wasn’t exactly not like that either. It was almost a way of saying, “There’s other stuff going on right now and I’m not angry about it and if anyone else is, they can take it up with me so don’t worry about it.” It was soothing, more than anything else, and it helped.

Again, I know that what I’m doing is probably wrong in a lot of other established practitioners’ eyes. However, I have to make do with what I got. And if that means that I’m going to have to put the services I wish to have for some other lwa, most notably the Marassa and Gran Bwa, on hold until things can be maneuvered around properly, and then that’s what I’m going to have to do. It’s not very much like I asked for them to come to me, anyway. They showed up to me, for whatever reason, and I kind of have to believe that means something to both them and to the services I am intending on implementing for each.

I think what really threw me for a loop was this quote, “I was taught that unless you have The Baron in your constellation or were born on his day (November 2) then you do not serve Him. He is too dangerous to anyone He has not chosen for himself. Even those of us who do serve him, must pay the price in the end of that service.” While I agree that nothing is given for free and that we must all, ultimately, pay the price set for us when it comes to the services we offer to the lwa and the Guédé, I’m not quite sure why people should not offer the Baron services. She hints that he is a dark and sinister figure. And while I agree he has his moments, nothing I have found anywhere has ever intimated that he should be left alone. Obviously, each Mambo and Houngan is taught in a different way from one another, which is why there is no unified “this is how it is” in voodoo. But, this statement bothered me a lot.

Yet another downfall of being an uninitiated prat? I have no one to turn to when it comes to this shit.

This was a problem up until I fell asleep when I went to see the Bawon. (Side note: whenever I dream of the lwa, they are in a forest. I know what forest, specifically, they are inhabiting, but I always find it weird that I am, without fail, in a forest and surrounded by forest noises.) He was holding reign over his Guédé and smoking a cigar. And he was quite angry with the much of the items I had taken away from that chapter. At one point, he slashed his hand in a rather sinister manner and said around his cigar, “Don’t you be worrying, baby girl. You do what I tell you to do. That’s what you worry about.” I have to say that I have never seen the Bawon as angry before (and as I told Tumblr this morning, I do not recommend seeing him angry). But he was pretty pissed off with a lot of the ideas and thoughts I was having because of this.

The lesson here (remember there was one) is that just because I find something of note or interest in a book doesn’t mean that the lwa and Guédé whom I offer my services to are going to be pleased with what I pick up. Remember that rambling monologue earlier on about how I get a lot of direction from the lwa and the Guédé because I have a functional godphone? That’s the lesson. The lesson isn’t just that I may find things that the spirits I service disagree with. The lesson is that I’ve spent so much time relying on books, blogs, and other people to tell me what to do here. When all along, I’ve been doing a damn good thing by listening to the lwa and what they’ve wanted of me.

This hearkens back to a conversation I had with Papa Legba recently about Gran Bwa. I’m going to leave off with it here.

Papa Legba You need to honor Gran Bwa. He come to you and you don’t do nothin’ for him.
Me I failed the test he gave me, remember? I figured we were just kind of done. Besides, how the hell do I honor him?
Papa Legba Haven’t you been doin’ that all ready?
Me What? No. I’ve been honoring the land spirit and leaving– Wait.
Papa Legba You been doin’ this whole damn time and you don’t e’en remember what started all that.
Me Oh, fuck.


 

Neg Di San Fe (SVP).

People talk and don’t act.

One of the most unsurprising aspects to the fact that I was able to shut down my godphone is the fact that the lwa are still here. Since the dream that seemed to indicate I was getting what I wanted showed me only the netjer with whom I have relationships with, I kind of expected to continue to get pushes and touches from the lwa whom have made my life… much more interesting in the last two years. And it wasn’t all that surprising when the Bawon showed up one day, talking on about all the things he was looking forward to this fall season with the work we do together. Shortly thereafter, the Marassa showed up with various requests that I believe I have attended to, finally. And of course, we can’t possibly have a complete moment without Papa Legba showing up to add his two sense. While the others are relating to specific items, Papa Legba is very much about the “bigger picture” and whatever it may entail for his ongoing string-pulling in my life. It seemed that this time around, with my upcoming year off from the netjer, he was looking forward to spending more time with me relating to the voodoo portions of my religious practice.

Color me shocked.

I’ve known that the inevitable outcome would be of each item we have ever covered together. I have known, from the beginning, what I could be expected to do on my end to fulfill my role as a servant. As much as I may have worn blinders at the time regarding the “bigger picture” and all of that shit, I have known what would end up happening over time. However, I naively believed that what I could expect would be a slow and steady migration instead of a sudden shift forward. It’s almost like I’ve decided to try drawing a stick figure, but I’m being ordered to do a fully rendered copy of the Vitruvian Man. I know there are drastic differences between religious matters and artwork, but as taken from someone who has no frame of reference (per usual) to something, it’s the best I can come up with. And frankly, they’re both just as frightening.

Papa Legba, for all that I complain about him and sass at him, has been infinitely patient with me as I move forward with items in my own time. He has known that the voodoo aspect to my practice is a secondary and background article to the Kemeticism that I found first. With this in mind, he has strategically pushed me in areas where the giving of time and spoons was minor: researching, reading, following blogs, tentatively offering responses to queries from curious onlookers, etc. He has very tenderly and lovingly, at times, pushed me in the appropriate directions, but always with the caveat that it would be according to my needs that things would be looked into and checked off his invisible list.

As each new item was added to this secondary aspect to my religious practice, I have waited for the inevitable day when he would say, “now.” As I’ve intimated, I have always known that he would one day ask the Big One from me. With fear, I have dreaded that moment. And can we please mention the sheer irony of the fact that it was my requesting that my [Kemetic] godphone be shut down for a while that has led me to the very thing he’s been waiting for: my time and energy to focus on voodoo. And can we also please mention how completely stupid I was to assume that I was getting what I wanted based on my own desires as opposed to the desires of every fucking OTHER™ who has been manipulating my religious strings for years and years, if not lives and lives.

Well, it certainly appears that this upcoming year will be far more about foundations, in numerous aspects, than I had previously considered.

What worries me completely is that I feel that I am not ready to attend to this next step. Obviously, Papa Legba believes otherwise. He thinks that I am completely ready to begin the actual aspect to the practice that he has wanted from the beginning: real servitude… whatever that may mean. My daily items are minor in the grand [lwa] scheme of things. They are stepping stones to the “bigger picture” he has been carefully keeping hidden from me for the last two years. And while I understand that this has been what we have been building towards for the last twenty four months we have been together, I have to admit that I am beyond frightened of just what it is that I can start expecting. I know that rituals and celebrations are a major part to what it is he is seeking and I have to say that, well, I’m just not sure that I am either ready or qualified to follow through on these items.

Case in point, I have only been successfully and willingly celebrating religious items from a Kemetic perspective for a year now. I started on Wep-Ronpet of last year and have been attempting to keep this portion of my practice cohesive. And I have to admit that I have failed admirably in the last few months because work got in the way. (Damn having a life not devoted entirely to religion.) Even without that knowledge in the forefront of my mind, I have to admit that I had researched heavily prior to even contemplating what it would be like to celebrate festivals, feasts, and processions from a Kemetic perspective.

Now, I have to do likewise with the voodoo portion of my practice and even better, I get to do it completely alone. I have no society or group in which I can bounce ideas off of or with whom I can discuss what would be most appropriate. As Papa Legba has made entirely clear for the last few months: I am alone in this adventure and it is up to me to see it through. While I have done my share of complaining regarding this – I mean, for fuck’s sake, talk about totally unfair – I admit that I am in part excited to attempt to see these items.

However, where do I get the ideas for what it is he desires? Should I just listen to what my intuition is telling me? Should I reach out to him and ask him? Or is there some form of “idiot’s guide” that I can work with here? But, in all seriousness, how the fuck do I do this thing?

So, how is one supposed to make this functional and appropriate without the community that is required in all arenas of this way of life?

Papa Legba appears to believe that I will “figure it out.” He has assured me that he has the utmost faith in me regarding this matter.

That makes one of us.

Festival of Wag 2013.

I received a notification on Thursday that I was looking at a two-day festival for the akhu and I had no clue. My feelings regarding this were two-fold: on the one hand, I was really excited to start digging into various rites and services from the layman perspective but I was also terrified because I had a festival to prepare for with barely a day’s notice. (This is actually why I really need a desk calendar or something that I have hanging on my wall because before I know it, something like this happens and I’m just like, “Shit.” This happens to me a lot by the way.) So, instead of running around like a crazy person on the start of the festival, I decided to put off doing anything until Saturday.

Throughout the quiet moments on Friday, of which there were many that night, I tried to think of what I could do that would be something common in ancient Egypt. There really isn’t a lot of akhu related items from the poor man’s perspective. We see all of these really fantastic tombs for the kings and their families, the priests and their families, and for the nobleman and their families. While there are graves for people who did not belong to any of the above three buckets in ancient Egyptian society, we have very little to nothing relating to how they went about celebrating their dead. Did they have a shrine in their home? Did they go to their graves? Did they leave offerings for them? Or did they just assume that all of the stuff the priests were doing was enough for them? Unfortunately, John Doe-hotep hasn’t come out of the wood work to explain to me what he wanted for his family or for his soul. Hell, maybe they weren’t even transfigured like all the rich people were and they’re just roaming around the Duat, right now, wondering what the next step is.

The problem here is that I don’t know and chances are, I’ll never know.

I was getting pretty desperate for ideas, so I ended up moseying on over to Wepwawet Wiki. This is a Kemetic Orthodox specific site, which is rife with UPG. I don’t necessarily dislike it, but I do not recommend it as a source unless that person is KO. Nothing against one of the largest established Kemetic orders out there, but I don’t want newbies who are interested in a solitary path, like me, to get caught up in others’ unverified personal gnosis in their path. They could end up with a bastardized version of Kemetic Orthodoxy and it could cause problems for those solitary neophytes later.

According to the KO site, there was a lot of offerings left (pretty obvious) and the priests did a bunch of stuff. And that’s pretty okay. I could definitely see that as being a major part to the celebration.

Back then, the priests were the go-to guys for all such things. In this day and age, however, we don’t have the same time of need for an established priesthood as there was back then. We are all literate. We are all fully capable of providing for ourselves. We are no longer living in a society where the be-all, end-all was a human-turned-god on the throne and the myriad of priests who maintained ma’at through daily ritual. We emulate this in many cases with our daily rites and offerings on an individual basis, so I honestly don’t think an established priesthood is overly necessary nowadays. However, I also don’t want to emulate things that are obvious bastions of an ancient priesthood. I’m not here as a priest; I’m here as the laity, damn it.

The KO site offered a few suggestions for the modern practitioner,

  • Visits to local cemeteries, cleaning the tombs, and making offerings to the deceased
  • Sharing a picnic in the cemetery with friends, family, and Akhu
  • Folding paper boats and re-enacting the ancient tradition

I thought about all of those suggestions and ended up tossing them over my shoulder. I go to local cemeteries to do my grave-tending every Saturday. And since the weather is finally changing away from the oppressive snit it has been in this summer, I will be dedicating every Saturday until winter hits to doing just that. Besides, I attempt to visit my genetic akhu on birth and death days. I didn’t want to do something that I always do to honor the celebration. The second suggestion actually kind of creeps me out, which is hilarious. I spend hours at a time in cemeteries, taking pictures and talking to all of the akhu within, but having a picnic inside of one bothers me? I actually think it’s more of a situation where it would seem disrespectful, to me, to eat in front of souls who can’t eat like I do anymore thing, but it’s still a little weird to me. And lastly, the paper boats thing hearkens back to what the priests did and again, I don’t want to encroach on an area that my practice isn’t willing or ready to go in.

So, what the hell does a layperson do on a holiday to celebrate their akhu?

I gave serious consideration into pulling out my copy of The Pyramid Texts and The Book of the Dead as translated by R.O. Faulkner and going to town. However, this nagged at me. The idea of saying words from ancient Egypt are very well and good, but again, this may not have been something common to the very peoples’ practice I am trying to emulate. Later generations were more than capable of finding a copy of the BotD for their own use, but I’m not really a “later period” kind of recon. As I grow further and further into this recon-slanted/historically informed area of my practice, I’ve come to realize that a lot of the stuff I’m looking for are from the Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom. The New Kingdom, for me, is great to study and read about the various pharaohs, but it’s really the older religious practices that interest me (right now, at least). So, I had to think that, maybe, reading some words on a page wasn’t the best idea.

So, again, what to do?

I went back to the basics. I sat down last night, in between doing various chore like items, and asked myself what the point in this celebration was about. To some extent, the celebration is about me and my intense desire to connect with my akhu. While, obviously, the main focal point is the akhu and all things related, it isn’t just about them. We don’t go to graves, go to funerals, tell stories just to keep the memory of our akhu alive, but also to give us closure and to keep them with us and our future generations. So, while this is definitely something that they need, it’s also something that I need. So, if that was the case, what would I want to do to make me feel better?

That is my kitchen table. It's boring, right? Shit. Yeah, probably. But it was nice!

That is my kitchen table. It’s boring, right? Shit. Yeah, probably. But it was nice!

I put a nice little buffet style spread on my kitchen table. I bought a nice dozen roses that were on sale and a small bunch of various white flowers to offset all the red. I brought the candle that sits on my mini-shrine to Anup over as the kind of center piece. Since I burn this candle every Saturday (or try to) when I can’t get out to go grave-tending to honor my akhu, it was practically mandatory. I offered water, soda, and a shot of vodka. I don’t normally offer alcoholic beverages when it comes to my akhu celebrations since many of my family members tended toward alcoholism, but thought it couldn’t hurt too badly. It’s also a slight nod to Bawon (as we are out of rum) because he was a little miffed he was being left out of a celebration for the realm he governs. I set out freshly baked bread (purchased, not baked). I then sliced up a pepper and an apple to leave out, as well as adding a bowl of blueberries and a bowl of baby carrots. I added some of the organic ginger snaps I had purchased for Wep Ronpet this year and some chocolates I had laying around.

Over all, I have to admit that I’m fairly pleased with how this little shindig turned out.

I didn’t want anything flashy and over-the-top. I rarely do anyway, but with my renewed commitment to this whole laity thing, it would seem as kind of a slap in the face to go in that direction. It was simple and moving. When the candle was lit, while I couldn’t see or necessarily feel the akhu feasting away on my meager spread, I did feel like I had accomplished something and I was fully capable of accomplishing said something again in future. Though I have no confirmation that the akhu are pleased, it [almost] doesn’t matter because I am pleased. Sure, I’d like to know that they showed up and hung around for a bit with what I had given them. But, at this [still tender] stage of the game, it’s really all about what I’m doing, how I’m doing, and where I’m going with it.

While I can’t say, clearly, if what I have done and what my aims were are in line with my recon-slanted layperson practice, I think that what I did provide and what I did do could very well be in keeping with how John Doe-hotep did it way back then. It’s simple. It’s small. It’s in my home. And it was done with love and affection, not just for my akhu but for myself as well. And if that’s not the important part, then what is?