It was shocking to me, this morning, to realize that I have not written here since my birthday in August. The familiar sense of concern that I had failed in some way tried to creep its way into my thoughts. I caught it before it settled into the nooks and crannies that are the caveats of my present good mood, and flung it elsewhere. Today is not a day for sadness, today is a day of moving forward, of the next phase of time in my life.
You see, yesterday I just finished the final assignment required for my master’s degree. I have three more days at my internship site. I have a small job lined up for January, and am working towards other opportunities, but it is something, and it is good. Friday’s graduation ceremony will be a day worth celebrating.
Granted, outside of that bit of light in my life, the world is, from where I’m standing, a far scarier place than it was when I last wrote. Brexit, which I did not fully understand over the summer, now feels like a harbinger of political division, anger, and fear that has fallen upon my country as well.
I acknowledge that the days ahead will be difficult ones. I’ve seen it already in my office: the week following the election was a week of so much grief, terror, and uncertainty amongst nearly every client who came to our office, and yes, even amongst the staff ourselves. It is going to take strength, courage, and compassion for one another to see each other through whatever changes may come in the years ahead, and to make changes of our own in turn that best support equity, justice, and Ma’at.
Ma’at is made all the more complicated in a modern world where the media tries to convince of us of a binary regarding what is right and wrong. Perhaps, in that sense, reviewing history and the complexity of Ma’at becomes all the more important. We must review the past and fight for the future through the lens of what is balanced and just. We must spend time determining for ourselves and our community what justice really means in the circumstances of the present day, and how we can contribute to that sense of balance, in all its grey areas.
Maintaining spiritual connection in the midst of so much secular difficulty becomes challenging. I’ve struggled myself, over the past few months, and found myself constantly apologizing to gods, friends, and family alike for the factors that left me working twelve to fourteen hours days on a regular basis. My health wavered, and physical issues related to purity kept me from establishing the constant, reliable practice I wanted to offer my gods. Only in the past few days, as I drew near to the end of the scholastic portion of my journey, found a new combination of medications, and began to hear the words of Set and Bast, calling me back, telling me it was time, have I been able to turn my sights back to this aspect of my religious work.
Sitting before them in shrine last night, I reflected on how there is still a lot of uncertainty, but there is also so much love. The sun rises each day, and with it, the cycle of time begins again, new chances are made to reach out, to try again, to rebuild what has been broken.
We are all far, far stronger than we know, provided we hold to the connections that empower us. Connect with your gods, connect with your loved ones.
You are not alone, not now, not ever.
When I wake up naturally just before 6:00 am, I know that Set wants to chat. He’s done this many times now in our years together, generally on important days.
I was not thinking of today as particularly spiritually significant for my personal practice, though on the secular end of things today marks completion of my 27th loop around the Sun. Nevertheless, when He who is Great of Battle Cry speaks, you listen. (As that particular epithet implies, He’s marvelously loud in that regard!)
So we chatted, and it went something like this.
Set: You are worried, and you have just woken up. That’s no way to start the day.
Me: At times I don’t know what I’m meant to be for my community. That I’m letting them down.
Set: What have you been in the past?
I listed various jobs and skill sets, drawing from time spent as a musician, a sculptor, an educator, a marketer, a counselor, and more.
Set: Quite a few options.
Me: Jack of many trades, master of none.
Set: I hear plenty there from which to draw your purpose.
Me: I suppose.
Set: What I do not hear is what you wish the community to bring to you.
Set: Have you learned from Hethert’s words?
(She had previously gently chided me, “You give all your gifts away and keep too few for yourself. Hold on to some of them.”)
Me: Not yet.
Set: Fix that.
Me: I will.
Good things to think about. Gratitude is a good focus on one’s birthday, I think. Taking time to look at all that has changed for the better since I became Kemetic, all that I have learned. Giving myself space to determine what I hope to learn and gain in the future. How to bring that to pass, and worry, even just a little bit less, about if I’m doing enough, or being enough, for those I love. Never to lose sight of my responsibilities, but simply to take a better look at who I am. Greater self-understanding so that I won’t feel so much doubt at what I can offer moving forward.
Another Wep Ronpet has come and gone. I find that the world around me feels fresh and full of possibility, yet also remarkably unstable. This will be a year of transitions, of finishing major goals and setting new ones. I am continuing in the same vein of what I was doing before, and yet there’s a new weight of significance to it. My dreams are full to brimming with images of immense rain and floods, and my brain can’t fully parse out if that’s because of the spiritual time of the year with the inundation, or the unending torrent of actual thunderstorms we’ve had on a nigh daily basis since my return home to Pennsylvania following my annual trip to the Midwest for fellowship and ritual.
I am fortunate to be in the mountains for so much rain, my heart openly grieves for those who have lost much in Maryland, Louisiana, and other flat-landed spaces. Water is powerful and yet can be terribly traumatic, just as change is exciting yet frightening with its potential for destruction. My continued prayers are with those escaping disaster, and for those who may have lived something similar before and are struggling with understandable retraumatization.
Those prayers have an added sense of responsibility, I think, as I sit here typing at the computer and simultaneously watching my hands. Hands that have now done the work of a priest during formal Wep Ronpet ceremonies. Hands that have poured through pages of new research on the gods I serve, feeling the urge to learn and be qualified to teach in turn. Hands that will continue to serve Set and Bast in myriad ways as I write and clean and pray. I stare at my hands, remembering the laughter and joy as pure water was poured over them for the first time, recognizing that in that gesture I have publicly promised to do the work, in the many forms it may take. Water again becomes a source of strength, and yet responsibility. Water moves as means of change and transformation that will follow any number of paths, depending on what I give to that journey in turn.
I am excited to begin walking forward from this new start. It will be a good challenge, a means of giving back to the gods and community I love. It may even be a powerful intersection in the work I do as a counselor.
You see, I am endeavoring to hold the space within my home, within my state shrine, to hear my gods more clearly, and share in turn the knowledge they offer. In my secular life I am working to hold the space for my clients, giving them time to find their own, internal knowledge, to find the courage to challenge what thoughts or beliefs may hurt them, in the hopes that they in turn will be able to find wellness and give back to their own communities.
And I trust, that at the end of each day, when I am tired from what I have given to those I serve in varying capacities, that my gods will hold the space for me. I find it in my name. I am the standardbearer of my two, but there are also two standards [held] for me. Both roles are needed, to try to carry the words of my gods, the goals of my clients, and yet still permit others to occasionally help me in turn. Only in balancing all of this will I be successful in what I can offer to the world.
Dua Set! Dua Bast! I will serve you to the best of my ability. I am forever grateful for your presence, for your compassionate strength, and for the quiet moments in which you simply stand guard and let me breathe.
Let us see, all three of us, what the New Year brings.
The Song of Hethert-Nut My stars are bright, Dancing into darkness, Streaming into night. Here my stars are shining, Deepened in sorrow, Their colors twining. And to the melody, They come to rest, Alongside others, Against my chest. -by me The shock of events really does not settle into my heart or mind for […]
He is crimson fury and russet strength unyielding. Red drips from His body as it has His titles. Pure, garnet heat rushes from the fiercest heart, giving sign of the battles fought for the sake of testing a kingdom and maintaining existence.
She is viridian life and jade pleasure sinuous. Green winds through the curves of Her movement as it has the scent of Her malachite perfume jar, deceptively soft. The fiercest heart gives sign of the depth of Her passion, expressed through music played to remember the point of existence.
The malachite rises from the garnet, gives Him reason to lift blade time and again, brings a smile to curving, sharp-toothed mouth. The thought of what He preserves as He defends within the sky.
The garnet rides within the malachite, gives Her fangs the memory of blood, brings the hunt to curving, sharp-tipped claws. The thought of those who dare attack those left upon the kingdom’s mortal soil.
My gods are so vitally, vibrantly alive, each bearing a trace of the other’s color within.
A friend of mine recently quoted T.S. Eliot, noting that “April is the cruellest month.” It has not been an easy few weeks, that is certain, but as I stand at the end of my coursework for the semester, still grieving certain losses yet treasuring memories, I find myself ready to move past April with renewed energy and hope for the months beyond.
I have gotten caught up in the urge to clean and remove the unnecessary things. To seek out only what is needed, and find comfort in that simplicity. Old clothes, old books, and old knick-knacks are finding new homes, as I acknowledge the sense that something (or someOne?) is driving me to create more space in my home, to prepare and clean for something new. I’ve also been exercising again and playing guitar, finding the joy in the physical world, getting away from electronics for at least an extra hour every day.
There have been changes in my shrine set-up, as well. Cleaning, of course, but also a shift so that my five primary gods are the only Names present in the naos. Sekhmet had joined us for several months, as I asked for Her guidance in my inital foray into the field as a health professional. She told me two nights ago that it was time for Her statue to move elsewhere. She would always be with me, guiding my hands, but I was competent enough to serve without the constant reminder that She was with me. Nervous, but recognizing the tone in Her voice as “This is how it must be,” I gently took Her from the shrine, wrapped Her, and placed Her with my other icons who wait for specific festival days.
Even as Sekhmet has stepped back once again, Set and Bast have been all the more present, directly involving Themselves throughout my days in ways that have positively intervened with some of the difficulties of late. Then, after senut ritual two days ago, They asked me out of the blue if I knew why I was Their child. I expressed my thoughts aloud, but They informed me that They would send dreams to help me better understand. I was thinking too much with my mind and not my heart.
Bast said She would come first, and that night I dreamed of vibrant vignettes that featured various memories of connections between me and loved ones, starting in early childhood and continuing to the present day. Old activities I treasured, new rituals that had become deeply fulfilling to me. All of the images were joyous, all full of laughter and affection, until the final image where I had gone to comfort a friend who had recently lost a pet we both held dear, and we were preparing to bury the body. There was a rapping on the door, and we opened it to find an older woman whose face was obscured, who said that we had the wrong pet, our animal (and she spoke the cat’s name) actually was still alive. I looked at both creatures, dead and living, and realized that somehow they were one and the same. The beloved companion was no longer with us, and yet she was. Then I woke.
Set said His dream would come next, and last night I dreamed of frightening things. In one fluid storyline I was forced to face nearly all of my greatest fears and anxieties. I was lost in an unknown space, the only hotel I could find was full of bugs which bit me, but I wrapped myself up in sheets I cleaned in the sink and dealt with them. I suffered a significant allergic reaction from the bites, my body covered in welts, and yet was able to trade for benadryl from another person in the hotel. Then an old man who showed up to the hotel tried to assault me after a series of particularly humiliating events. I fought him off and was able to make it out to the parking lot, where I stole a car and drove to the nearest police station. I survived, and my husband came to get me shortly thereafter.
My Mother’s dream was so positive, so full of love and promise, and yet ended with the recognition that immense love comes hand in hand with eventual loss. She also seemed to remind me of the responsibility of my empathy: to comfort others and sit with them in their grief, to try to hold on to the hope that those who pass might still live in part if we remember them. My Father’s dream was a challenge, a gauntlet of my personal fears, and yet the ending showed that I was now strong enough to face all of them.
I’m still processing the meanings within each dream, how different they were, and the areas in which there was overlap. I am grateful for these messages from my Parents as I refocus, sorting for myself what the next step will be, and preparing my body, my home, and my heart for that opportunity.
(A quick warning that the following post is fairly media intensive.)
March is always a wonderful month to honor my Parents. I celebrated an early festival in IV Peret, The Day of Eating Onions for Bast, with my friend Temseni up north, carrying my senut statue to her home for celebration. We gave offerings, performed an execration, and asked for Bast’s blessings. We made music before the great lady of Bubastis, and had a wonderful evening.
Later in the month, I celebrated the Procession of Set. He and I chose to honor this particular holiday in a more lighthearted way, as we knew several of our community could really use a reason to laugh in the midst of various hardships. Thus, a plush form of The Lord of the Northern Sky traveled with me throughout the day, visiting shrines, parks, and receiving various offerings all the while.
Finally the month came to a close with a far more personal holiday, a day honoring Set as Lord of the Oasis. Here I include what I wrote on my Facebook page during that day:
I’m not the best artist, but I wanted to try to capture the image stuck in my head the last two days, during Father’s festival honoring Him in His name of Set, Lord of the Oasis.
This is Set as the god of beauty in the harshest places. Set as the security of a home one can return to, a home with necessary protection and comfort, after one has explored the difficult places or thoughts. Set as the reassurance that dawn and Zep Tepi will come again, bringing new life, new chances.
This is the Set I rely on as a counselor: Set who is stable and sturdy and present so that my clients are safe enough to go wandering through the deserts of their lives and know they will be okay, that there is someone listening and waiting with water at the ready after they’ve walked and spoken and are parched from the effort. This is the Set who is both mirage and reality, that liminal space of what could be and what is, mystical in the surreal way that there is life and hope amongst the vast nothing of the desert of our fears and anxiety. The Lord of the Oasis is so profound to me, so incredible and beautiful, and all the more so in that every year we have honored it together He asks only that I give Him something small and then care for myself, create my own oasis to examine my reflection, process my grievances, and move forward.
I would later join in Him in shrine, where the way He seemed to move forward through the incense inspired me to write the following:
If you are in need of strength, walk forward in the power of your own words and intent. Your way is cleared of obstacles, no fear can bind you, the strength of Set is your strength, the voice of Set is your voice.
So yes, a very intense, fun, wonderful month spent honoring my Parents as best I could while juggling all that other life stuff we grapple with from day to day. I hope these images and shared experiences bring you joy as we enter a time of purification, preparing for the final season of the year.
Dua Set, Great of Strength
The sky shakes with your return at the dawn
Victorious at the prow of the mandjet.
I am victorious this day in… (x4 things I want to go well)
My enemies tremble before me
I destroy isfet without and within
The day is renewed, my strength is renewed
I am worthy of a joyful life lived in ma’at.
Dua Bast, Lady of Light
The stars shine with your flame through the night
Glowing with life in the darkness
My life was brightened this day by (x4 things my husband and I were grateful for that day)
Our fears are burned away with gratitude.
We destroy isfet without and within.
The day rests, our hearts rest
‘Til we rise with the dawn and Zep Tepi.
I share these two brief prayers, because they serve as the cap stones for my day, every day. I’ve previously mentioned the first in a post that lists the full ritual, and also obliquely on every occasion I’ve touched on having my morning “coffee conversation” with Father. Regardless of whether I wake up at 6am and prepare to go to work or sleep in until 8 or 9am on the weekends, I get up, I make a cup of coffee, and I recite this prayer while standing at my kitchen window, holding the hot mug between my palms in a gesture of offering. Set may share thoughts with me after the prayer, or He may simply nod and indicate that it is time for me to revert the steaming drink after I speak the appropriate words.
I wrote the second prayer this year, after Bast requested something to mirror my daily morning ritual with Set. It took me a little bit of time to establish it as a habit, in no small part because the time I go to sleep varies greatly from night to night. But eventually I decided that the evening prayer could also help with another goal, namely to be better about turning off my computer and phone before I actually climbed into bed. So it was established: whenever I was about to sleep, I would recite the prayer and offer water or tea, and after that point I would only rest or read books until I drifted off. This gave me a flexible, but theoretically fixed, time to always complete the rite, and I’ve been much more reliable with it since.
And then, to my surprise, my husband wanted to join in. We now take turns sharing four points of gratitude from earlier in the day, appreciating and remarking upon our mutual joy. We read the final lines together and then we share the water or tea upon reversion. In so doing, we both wind down our days at the same time, and on most nights will subsequently go to sleep together shortly thereafter.
This has become a treasured end to my days, a shining point of gratitude in and of itself to be able to complete a tiny ritual with my “Kemetic ally” partner, to be mindful and present as a pair, and frequently to be reminded of the many others in our lives who bring us such happiness. When we acknowledge the aspects of our day that lifted our spirits, we connect with countless others, invoking the moments in which our lives touched with some other passing person, and remembering that that connection has profound power.
The chance to talk with a family member chases away anxiety that I will be alone in a difficult time. A moment when a barista gave me a little extra coffee just because he could gives me faith in the kindness of others. The opportunity to attend a free concert fills me with profound awe at the talent of the individuals before me, bringing their unique backgrounds and years of practice together to create something new and amazing that will never sound exactly that way ever again.
And Bast is vibrantly aflame and brilliant with the heat of existence in every instant of these moments. As Ra’s vast Eye she is connected not only with so many other goddesses but so many ways of being; she burns with light that touches everything that can be sensed and lived and loved. She would have us light up the world with the things that make us grateful and in so doing inspire others to remember why it is worthwhile to keep pushing on through the difficult times to seek these beautiful moments. These incredible moments of connection with other individuals who might set our own spirits ablaze with wonder at how they choose to live, create, share, and be.
I sit here in a coffee shop after a late night of studies, writing this and knowing I’m still not capturing the whole of it. I asked her about it once, sitting in shrine and worrying about my inability to stay in touch with everyone I wished to connect with, and she responded. Not in words, but with an image of brilliant gold fire linking between me and so many others I’ve met: my family, my friends, my clients, my colleagues, my online acquaintances, my offline encounters, and on and on it spread, through their connections, and the connections of their connections, and farther still. It brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful “problem” to have, to be connected to and care about so many brilliant and fascinating individual people that I lost track of them amidst Her glow of lives entwined. How amazing it is to see how we impact one another with actions great and small. How incredible that this reminder stemmed from a nightly act with one of my most treasured connections, the connection I share with my husband.
How grateful I am to worship a goddess who reminds me of such things, and keeps me doing my damnedest to live a life that burns through even a little of the darkness in the world.
Sometimes you receive advice that really hits home, without previously having so much as an inkling as to how badly you needed those precise words.
I have not written as much as I used to, shifting from weekly to monthly writing. Most of those monthly posts have either been very technical in nature, focused on a specific ritual, or have revolved around my health. The health issues have left many things up in the air, but I have largely learned to manage the remaining symptoms. Thus, after several months of only entering shrine sporadically — afraid of yet another nose bleed or perhaps in too much pain that day to speak or kneel — I changed my diet, my sleeping habits, my workload, and I have been able to return to daily practice.
But it still felt off, like I was greeting my gods through some kind of fog. They were there just as They always had been, but muffled, or father away than I had expected when I returned. I was having a very difficult time focusing while I was sitting in shrine, found myself making more errors out of clumsiness in action or speech than I ever had before, and grew frustrated. So when recently given the opportunity, I asked Hemet (AUS) about the prospect of returning to shrine after a time of impurity. While I thought I was looking for some sort of ritual, or specific words of purification, her response instead lead me to consider if I was feeling guilty about being away.
Yes, I was. My body may have been able to come back to shrine, but my mind and heart were still wrapped up in what had taken me away from serving my gods. They were not angry with me, I was angry with myself. In fact, I have been livid, still fighting against the situation that had left me feeling powerless, even though that situation is largely past. My impurity had shifted from physical ailments to a constant eating of my own heart, a self-imposed weight of “should have done better” and “didn’t try hard enough.” It hindered me.
I took time that evening to process how those life events made me feel like I had lost my personal agency. Then I considered my response to those events, choosing to make necessary changes so that I could be well and get back to my gods, my work. All of this has been a means of reclaiming that sense of control, and even during the process, my gods never left me. In fact, on the days when I was most ready to give up on my body, Father would show up and remind me of what He told me when we first met, when He first insisted upon my developing a greater sense of self-respect.
Your body is my temple, He would say.
Now I know that has become a loaded phrase for some, but He never pushed those words in any sort of “you should treat it better” guilting nonsense, but instead used it as a reminder that I was His, that my physical form was the vehicle through which I worshiped Him. My body was what came to shrine and presented offerings, what danced and sang for Him and Mother on the good days, what sat on the floor and still managed the basics on the bad days, and what prayed in bed to Them both and visited them in the duat on the days when that was the only option while I physically recovered. It was a humbling reminder, and more than once what helped me to keep going as I worked to sort out what my new normal was going to look like, and how I could still reach my goals despite necessary changes.
Now I am back, and it is time to recognize that I did my damnedest while I was away so that I could return, and time to use that recognition to let all the guilt go. Wash it away and start fresh. Even just coming to terms with this much made a world of difference during last night’s senut. My gods seemed so bright again, so clear. I think as I continue to live in this mindset, take each day as it comes and acknowledge my day’s efforts as the best I can do in the now, things will just get better and better.
Looking forward to sharing more again here with all of you.
(Thank you, Hemet. <3)