Sekhmet’s Procession With Her Executioners 2016.

January 9, 2016

I have been flailing a bit with regards to holidays lately. Though years into this, I am still rather stuck in the attitude of what and why and how instead of focusing on the doing. I don’t think that’s abnormal, but after a while, both the gods and the devotee get a little winded from the constant questioning.

In the years since I added this holiday to my calendar, I have focused on various aspects of it while trying to celebrate it. I have focused on Sekhmet, then on her executioners. I focused on what a procession could conceivably look like and how best to recreate it. Sometimes these attempts have felt more like a stab in the dark, hoping to hit something.

Looking back on each instance, it has felt as though something has been continuously missing. The holiday was about Sekhmet and her executioners; I paid attention to them as much as I was able and in accordance with what I hoped were her wishes. But it occurred to me this go around that the one thing I’ve glossed over every single time has been me.

Don’t get me wrong: holidays like this were less about the people. But this isn’t ancient Egypt or merely a bastion of recreating a dead religion. This is my home, my relationship with my gods, and if I’m to celebrate these things, I need to do more, in my opinion, than simply orchestrate a bastardized recreation. I need to be as integral as the main deities these holidays are supposed to be about.

S told me the week of the holiday that the stagnation bit was important to focus on. She reminded me that this next year is to be focused more on me and less on everything else. Spoon management; job prospects; relationship building with the family; etc. But in order to really crystallize all of that, I needed to do the work.

I figured she was probably on about something of importance and decided to listen.

Though the motions I've been going through have failed and I'm coasting on potential towards a wall at a hundred miles an hour

Though the motions I’ve been going through have failed and I’m coasting on potential towards a wall at a hundred miles an hour – Saturday by Fall Out Boy

I read a snippet about a holiday in a book that indicated Sekhmet and her executioners went on a sojourn to Letopolis. I didn’t think that the book was referring to this particular holiday (the season, I believe is different), but it did get me thinking. I thought about the traveling bit and realized there was something important here. I got the idea to “lead” a procession to “Letopolis,” also known as my self-care altar.

Popularly referred to as the Place of Truth, my self-care altar has changed dramatically since its first inception. No longer a small bowl of tidbits, it spans three book shelves, a half wall, a small cabinet, and is covered in items that hold varying shades of value to me. The primary focuses are the parts of myself that have remained throughout each transformative experience of my life… similar to the one I’ve been ignoring in my attempts to “passively surrender” to what fate has in store.

While I prepared for what was taking shape in my head, it occurred to me that symbolism has been everywhere lately. It seems to have soaked through from my dreams and has begun to run rampant in my life. Along with my life, it’s also more than simply coated my attempts to celebrate holidays, but has fully enriched it. As I grabbed items together to start the celebration, I kept thinking: Symbolism; symbolism everywhere.

I have three vases that I purchased last year that I snapped up first. They are red, green, and blue vases that I bought to represent places when I was celebrating the Feast of the Beautiful Reunion. Nowadays, these glass vases represent parts of myself with a dried rose help in the mouth of each. Just as with the Beautiful Reunion, I took the three vases to use as symbols of my own procession with Sekhmet and her executioners.

Blue symbolized the inertia of my person. I envision the stagnation or inertia as a river where I have allowed it to determine what course I head down. I placed this back near Sekhmet’s sacred space. The symbolic river bank was the start of the journey. I took the green one and placed it at the base of the bookshelf. This symbolized the “greening of the ib“, basically the sprouting forth of life-affirming, ma’at-affirming action. The red one went on the shelf beside the small cabinet. This one symbolized successful movement forward, embodying my power to break free of the stagnation.

I took seven tea lights and placed them upon the floor between the blue vase and the red vase. The symbolism was two-fold: each candle represented one of Sekhmet’s arrows but it also symbolized the seven steps I was to take to get to my self-care altar. I actually measured out seven footsteps and placed the candles at those points.

Sekhmet, the four arrow pendants that represent her arrows, and myself took the seven steps to my self-care altar to break free of my own inner demons. I moved ahead with eyes focused on my goal, thinking about how I was performing a symbolic act to force myself out of the second hour of the Duat so that I could journey on to the third and fourth. To add to the journey, we listened to Victorious by Panic! at the Disco.

I read about the afterlife but I never really lived more than an hour

I read about the afterlife but I never really lived more than an hour – Saturday by Fall Out Boy

After I had provided the offerings, I sat across from the book shelf and listened to the music. I closed my eyes and let myself leak out in front of my lady and her arrows, explaining why I had let things carry on for so long. It was cathartic; I had spent so much time hiding from my thoughts and feelings on the matter.

I went through a few of the key phrases in Hathor Rising as I sat. I tried to picture what it would look like to embody Ihy, to pull myself from the realm of the Inert Ones with the same force he used to be born into this world. I thought about the dream I had of him – when I had pulled my prayer beads from my dream pocket – and thought about praying.

It’s hard to beseech the gods, even if you know you should, when you’re not used to the process. It’s something I do at my wit’s end, when there is nothing but a wall at my back. I remembered the cool feeling of the beads between my fingers in that dream and the calm that followed. Maybe I was successful; maybe I wasn’t.

I felt calm at least.

S told me that this was the start of the journey. Just as the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither am I to pass through the second hour I’ve been in lately. She reminded me that this will take time and the lesson of patience from last year’s Answering Words will be important here. I don’t doubt any of her advice on the matter.

She is the guiding force with her consort and my relationships with Hetheru and Heru-Wer as stabilizing influences on the journey. As I mentioned to her later, it is almost as if I am on a barque with Sekhmet in aegis form at the helm and the other three taking up strategic positions to row the boat with me at the rudder. We may not always get the rhythm right, but we at least try.

I turned to her and smiled that night. I whispered, “I’m on a boat; I’m on a boat.” She got the reference – we listen to a lot of The Lonely Island around here – and said that I wasn’t so far wrong in all that. Hopefully I don’t crash upon any rocks or become overrun by hippo.

Sekhmet’s Procession with Her Executioners 2015.

January 9, 2015.

About six months ago, I started feeling as if I needed to add the Seven Arrows of Sekhmet into my practice somehow. They’re kind of important pieces of her that I’ve only recently paid any great attention to. I figured I would get around to do something altar related to add them in at some point in future.

Queue in to about a week ago when I was like, “I’m going to do it now.” I went out to a local shop and purchased four bronze arrow pendants. I have every intention of going back out for three more when the store restocks. Coincidence abounded when I received the notification that yesterday was the holiday, “Sekhmet’s Procession with Her Executioners.” Coincidence: the landmark of any devotee’s practice.

Last year, I sat around for a while and tried to figure out how I wanted to go about celebrating this particular festival. While last year’s festivities got the job done, I wanted to do something a little different. My holiday celebrations have been rather boring lately: a meal, some words, candle and incense. While this clearly is effective (since I haven’t been told to stop being a lazy bum about this shit), I wanted something more. Perhaps that stems more from three weeks of leading a very sedentary lifestyle while in arm prison or perhaps it was just simply time to hearken back to my “I’m going to have some fucking fun while doing this shit” mentality. In either case, I decided paper and food wasn’t enough this time.

All right. It looks like a collar or something, but it was what I managed.

All right. It looks like a collar or something, but it’s what I managed.

So, I worked for about an hour on how to get the arrow pendants in a sort of circlet that I wanted to fasten around my icon’s neck. Let me tell you that it was a fucking pain in the ass and I really need to come up with a better idea here. I chose silken cord that I had lying around and was unsuccessful in that attempt because the holes on the arrow pendants is really fucking tiny. My cord wouldn’t thread through it. I even had the SO try threading them for me and he handed it back with, “nope, it can’t be done,” after assuring me that he could do it.

I looked around my crafting stores, trying to figure out what the fuck I wanted to do. I knew I had wanted to purchase wire or something to hold the fucking pendants, but I figured it could wait until I had all seven. I finally found some really thin white ribbon I had lying around… and it took me about 45 minutes to thread the fucking shit through. I actually ended up unraveling one end of the white ribbon at one point. I was getting really fucking frustrated, but I kept on until I had a serviceable end result. I was even able to slide if over the head of my icon without causing any damage to myself, the arrows, or the icon in question.

That’s when I sat around and tried to figure out how I wanted this procession to go about. In 2013, I celebrated this particular festival (without knowing its full name) with a sort of Roaming Gnome impression that I found both fun, funky, and exciting. With this devious plan forming in my mind, I decided to go for broke and process Sekhmet with her SevenFour Arrow necklace around the house. I took photographic evidence to show that I’m not full of shit.

Jealous bitches? Who goes on walkabout? ME.

Jealous bitches? Who goes on walkabout? ME.

There is no TV; there is only ME.

There is no TV; there is only ME.

I have no fucking idea what the hell this is.

I have no fucking idea what the hell this is.

Books. Aw, yiss.

Books. Aw, yiss.

This room is filthy.

This room is filthy.

That looks like some damn fine eats. Let's get on with this, shall we?

That looks like some damn fine eats. Let’s get on with this, shall we?

















After all of the processing was done, I put her with her necklace-of-sorts back to rights at her altar space. I ensured that it was cleaned and looking pretty dapper with all of the damn things she manages to accrue each month. (But no, seriously, I clean that fucker off every damn month and every time I go back over there to do a full on fucking clean, there’s some shit all over the place. Like, I really don’t even know how the hell this happens because I’m pretty sure I have it in my head to not add things to her altar space and yet… every month, I pare the thing down.)

That's what I'm talking about.

That’s what I’m talking about.

I added the four pieces of paper I had created last year in a sort of pattern that came out to look like an “A.” That was not done on purpose, I can assure you, but I giggled like an idiot when I realized what I had done and left it. “A” is not only just for awesome (as in awesome fucking holiday celebration; you go with your bad self) but “A” is also for Aubs, who is awesome. It was a total win-win. You may note that you only see three pieces of paper in the image, but that’s because I don’t feel comfortable announcing the names of the Sekhmet devotees I listed on the fourth piece of paper. That piece is hiding beneath the red arrow paper.

Once I was over my giggle fit, I cut two honking pieces of bread and popped it down in front of her. “Manger,” I said like my mother used to do when I was a kid. I then demanded that the SO make me a diet Coke and vodka, which devolved into a conversation that I feel best describes his stance on my religion and my point-of-view regarding offerings:

Me: Make me a diet Coke and vodka please.
SO: Is this for you or for your Roaming Lion?
Me: Lioness. And it’s for me.
SO: What if she gets thirsty, though?
Me: That shit is mine. She had better zoom in quick for a gulp before I get that shit in my hand.
SO: *shrugs* Whatever you say.

I recognize that how I go about my holiday celebrations isn’t really what others would think when they ponder the “inherent seriousness” within one’s religion. However, I can assure you that I take my love, my job, and my religion very seriously. I just don’t know why we all have to be boring fucks who sit around, thinking about the meaning of life in the cultural and religious contexts of our lives and religions, when we could all be doing Roaming Gnome impressions with our statuary. I mean, shit man. If religion means being a douche and feeling holier-than-thou, I’d rather build with blocks and take pictures of my gods traveling around my house.

I spent the rest of my night watching really awful horror movies, pounding down my straw-laden alcohol, and listening to Timber by Pitbull, feat Kesha. (No, I did not dance but that was because I was drinking my alcohol really fast and didn’t trust my feet. I had a severe case of the giggles, though.) That, to me, is a better ending to any religious holiday I have ever celebrated in my life.

And either that says something about my religious upbringing or says something about how I’m so fucking jettisoning that boring as fuck mentality about being a pious devotee.

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Sekhmet’s Procession with Her Executioners 2014.

January 9, 2014.

The thing about attempting to create a calendar that a lot of people don’t realize, or maybe just don’t put a lot of thought into, is how many of these festivals are going to be about things that we have absolutely no information on. Some festivities lasted all the way through to the New Kingdom and beyond, some going so far as to have continued celebrations during the Greco-Roman era. However, when it comes to some of the less popular deities in the later period – such as Sekhmet – then a lot of times, we may learn about a festivity and go, “well… what the fuck was that about?”

Case in point, last week, I got a notice that I had an upcoming festival coming up. I got the information for this particular celebration from Fanny Fae, who is a priestess of Sekhmet. She was the one who told me about this celebration and what date it was celebrated on so that I could add it to my calendar. However, as with many things relating to Sekhmet, aside from a name, I had very little to nothing to go on. I had to start thinking clinically and clearly about what I thought this would be about and then, take it from there. Unfortunately, even the name of the festival didn’t help: “Sekhmet’s Procession with her Executioners.” Well, a big ole “what the fuck” on that.

The first part was pretty obvious – we had a procession.

To me, that word elicits a type of celebration that would have been filled with pomp. The pomp would have been, probably, pretty pious and quiet as it proceeding to wherever the end goal was. I could see images, in my head, of priests of Sekhmet walking toward their common goal, perhaps even surrounded by the populace as they went from point to A to point B. The problem with just having that is that I wasn’t really sure where they would be processing to. So, I had to look at the rest of the title in an effort to figure out what the hell was going on.

But the next problem arose pretty quickly: what executioners was this supposed to be about? Is it possible that we were focusing on a certain class of men in warfare who ceremonially killed the captives? Sekhmet was seen as a guardian of the pharaoh and was a war faring deity. So, perhaps, this was about a certain class of priesthood relating to the armies whose sole focus was to ceremonially kill the prisoners after the war?

However, she was also seen as an arbiter of justice, so maybe it wasn’t just about war and warmongering. Perhaps it was a class of priest who would execute those who deserved it under the laws of the pharaoh. In thinking on that, I thought about what sort of men and women would see the death penalty in ancient Egypt. They would have been the lowest of the low: men and women who had done unspeakable things to corpses, preventing the spirit of the deceased from traveling to the Duat. They would have probably have been murderers (though I can’t say, clearly, as I haven’t studied the justice system of ancient Egypt) and perhaps people who had committed some heinous sins against the gods. It makes sense, in a way, that Sekhmet would have a band of executioners whose sole job was to put the unjust out of the misery of the rest of the populace.

But, of course, there are other ways to interpret “executioners.”

In relation to Sekhmet, there are also the Seven Arrows of hers. These were seen as “the dark equivalent” of the Seven Hathors, who determined the fate of the populace. The Seven Arrows tended to also decree fate, but in a much less positive fashion. They are harbingers of ill-fortune, which tended to be shown most often in the form of disease. While the power of the Seven Arrows was mighty, it was possible in heka to control them. (As found on p39 in Magic in Ancient Egypt by Geraldine Pinch, there was a spell that could be used to control the Seven Arrows against the “Evil Eye.”) While I’m uncertain if I fall in line with Pinch’s statement that the Seven Arrows were the “negative aspects” of the Seven Hathors, I have to wonder if the general populace, or more specifically her priesthood, would truly honor them outside of their valued ability to inflict pain and suffering on those whom they deemed worthy of that pain and suffering? And if so, would they have had a festival that was big enough to require a procession for it?

Another possibility was regarding the netjeri that are specifically related to Sekhmet. On top of the Seven Arrows, she also had a group of demons known as “the slaughterers of Sekhmet.” Again, according to Pinch, these demons were particularly dangerous usually at certain times of the year. It seems that the slaughterers of Sekhmet were more active during the scorching heat of summer (or Harvest), which makes sense as Sekhmet’s breath was thought to be the scorching heat of the desert. So, if the netjeri known as the slaughterers were her demon hoard sent to do her bidding, it makes clear sense as to why they would also be feared during the heat of summer and why they would also be associated with that heat. However, would they have had a festival in honor of them at all? If nothing else, it may have been intended as a sort of appeasement of Sekhmet and of her netjeri so that they would not infest, infect, or attack the unsuspecting populace. And there’s no way better, in my humble opinion, to keep a demon from striking than to bore them to tears with a long-winded procession from point A to point B.

Of course, this still didn’t answer my fundamental question: who the fuck were the executioners of Sekhmet? And why the fuck did they get a whole processional somewhere?

I decided that, in some cases, we’ll just never know.

And I absolutely hate that this may be the case with a lot of festivals that I end up celebrating this year, but it is what it is. I strongly suspect that many of these festivals regarding Sekhmet began in the Old Kingdom, or perhaps the very fundamentals began as early as the Predynastic Period. As much information as we have nowadays regarding ancient Egyptian history, there are huge gaps missing. Some aspects of the Old Kingdom practice have come down to us in other tidbits. If you look at the Pyramid Texts, you can find aspects of those spells found in the Coffin Texts and then, later on, in the Book of the Dead. However, not everything has been saved through time in this way. And I honestly believe that this is the case with many of the festivals and feasts for the deities popular during the earlier periods and less liked in the later periods. Sekhmet is a clear example: I have a handful of festivals regarding her, but according to my studies, she was a pretty important deity in the Old Kingdom, probably due to her relationship with Ptah and his preeminence as the deity of Memphis. I doubt that the handful of festivities I have (okay, more like a dozen) in my calendar are all that there is for her.

Another possibility is that maybe there are more festivities that have come down to us, but we have no idea because of syncretism. There’s more festivities of drunkenness under the auspices of Hetheru than there are of Sekhmet. I don’t honestly believe that the two began their deity status as a syncretized deity, but that it came later in an effort to tone down the blood thirst of Sekhmet. I think that some of the festivities of drunkenness that are related to Hetheru actually started off as appeasement ceremonies to Sekhmet in an effort to keep her pacified so that she wouldn’t become enraged again. However, I can make thoughts and suppositions all I want, but chances are, we’ll never know. People who study their particular deity for long enough can make educated guesses, but at the end of the day that is all they are. We just have to hope that in our attempts to recreate something ancient in a modern-day kind of way that we are doing it justice in our attempts and that, hopefully, we’re not as half-cocked as we sound when we discuss it.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter so much what the festival is about. I really do attempt to figure it out. Sometimes, there are discussions I have about it with the folks on Tumblr. Someone thought, maybe, that the festival had to do with the single myth we have of Sekhmet, in which she was sent to end the world and then Re went, “Whoops, about that.” While the thought was appealing, I had to admit that I knew that wasn’t the case. (The reason I’m explaining it here is so that others can see why I didn’t go down this route.)

All things said and done, the ancient Egyptians feared Sekhmet’s wrath and what she was capable of doing. In most of her festivals, the aim was all about pacifying the power that she has so that she didn’t end up trying to end the world a second time. Let’s not forget, she did it once and nearly succeeded in destroying all of humanity. If it wasn’t for some quick thinking and some dyed beer, we wouldn’t be here! And so, while they regarded her with awe and there are other aspects of her that they turned to in their time of need, when it came to the powerful one that she is, they would have done whatever they could to not remind her of that time. They would have given her beer and made her drunk and they would have petted her like a kitty, but they would have been very clear in not celebrating any aspect of that time. It was chaotic and frightening – why bring it back up?

So with all of this boiling in my head, I decided to just ignore what the fuck I thought everything was about and go with whatever I could in my gut.

While thinking about how I could possibly do all of this with the limited information I had, I thought about the word “executioners” again. And I thought, well, maybe, her devotees could be executioners in their own way too?

Here is where UPG meets the recreated.

I tend to think of myself, and the other Sekhmet devotees, as executioners. In many instances, we turn to her out of a deep-seated need for removing harmful influences in our lives. Everyone who has been reading this blog for long enough knows what a whiny, sniveling brat I was in the beginning of it all. And everything has changed in the last year or so. As someone else indicated to me, I’ve “matured.” (Cool!) And as I’ve looked back over the long, long years where I’ve been in this relationship with her, I’ve come to find the influence of her in my life in many different places. And what I’ve come back to is that she has always, always helped me out with “executing” the more negative aspects of myself, my practice, and my past. In every instance, whether she has been publicly and obviously assisting me with it or she has been maneuvering in the background, she has assisted me with this in one way or another.

And this got me thinking about some of the other relationships I know that other Sekhmet kids have. I was thinking about one in particular, who may realize who she is while reading this, who has been going through the “growing pains” in her relationship with Sekhmet. And she’s at a place that I very clearly remember being in numerous times with her over the years. But the outcome of all of these “growing pains” will be good things. I can assure her of that and I can tell her that, but she still has to realize that on her own. And while she’s walking down that path, traipsing and screaming and running and yelling and pouting and growling and everything in between, on her way to that realization, she is steadily but surely “executing” the negative aspects in her life that she needs Sekhmet’s help with.

So, I realized, well, maybe it wasn’t just about who could have taken part in this festival way back when but who could take part in this festival now.

My art isn't exactly good, but at least you can kind of see what I was aiming at creating.

My art isn’t exactly good, but at least you can kind of see what I was aiming at creating.

I came home and I thought about what a procession would probably have looked like in the actual act of it. I thought that they would have probably have had a barque that the icon of Sekhmet would have been riding in. I’ve re-created a barque before during one of my rites, but since that rite was specific to sailing and this was more about walking around, I decided to nix it. I thought about the movement that would have been felt when the procession was ongoing and that, maybe, there would have been pendants floating in the breeze during the walk. Maybe those pendants would have even have been on the barque that was taking its time going from wherever to wherever.

So, with the thought of those pendants in mind, I created four strips of paper, cutting them lengthwise. I wanted to have them long and sort of free flowing in the breeze, or at least as free flowing as I possibly could. After cutting those strips of paper, I detailed the four types of executioners I thought needed to be honored here: the Seven Arrows, the weapons that would have been used (maybe) to execute people, the general netjeri known as her slaughterers, and the names of every Sekhmet kid that I could think up off the top of my head. I chose red for the Seven Arrows to better associate them with Sekhmet and her association with the color red. The rest, I just wrote down with your regular pencil and decided against coloring them in. I did the best I possibly could with the weapons sketches, looking specifically at pictures of ancient Egyptian weapons so that I could sketch them as appropriately as I could. (I can’t art!)

All said and done, I think with prep, this took me about 30 minutes to start and complete.

All said and done, I think with prep, this took me about 30 minutes to start and complete.

I set the four pieces of paper in a kind of “flowing” pattern on Sekhmet’s altar. I also kind of bent them a little bit so that it would look as though they were blowing in the wind. I arranged them in a pattern that I thought was most pleasing on her altar. I lit a cone of incense and added four white tea lights. I chose the number four because it’s supposed to be a number of completion in ancient Egypt. (I honestly can’t recall where I read this but I know that I read it relatively recently. I’m also uncertain where the information comes from outside of numerology concept, which tends to be associated with R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz.)

Per usual, I have to hope that how I moved forward with this particular festival was enough for her. I was looking for something more somber and less fun-filled than my last festival. In that, I know that I succeeded. Whether or not I capably succeeded in recreating a festival that probably hasn’t actually seen the light of day in thousands of years? Well, Sekhmet hasn’t offered any complaints.