Ekunyi's Embers

Archive for the ‘Bast Within’ Category

Balanced

My spiritual Parents never cease to astound me, even as I watch our months together turn to years. They work so well together, and gradually continue to show me how They accomplish this and even some small sliver of why.

Bast seemingly claimed the month of Miew Khem as Hers, and what a roller coaster of a month it was. Set stayed near, but let the feline goddess run things for those four weeks of soul-searching and self-assessment. I achieved a great deal, much of it having to do with finally getting closer to my emotional side. I allowed myself moments of vulnerability, however brief, that give me hope in my ability to someday trust enough to once again engage in outward expressions of grief.

Yet there was much joy, as well. The middle of the month had me traveling by train for twenty hours round trip, so that I could attend a beautiful ceremony for the Day of Eating Onions for Bast in New Jersey with many members of my Kemetic Orthodox family.

I arrived a night early, and was able to speak with Shefytbast on many engaging and fascinating topics related to the Mistress of the Perfume Jar, before the rest of the group arrived the following day. Further conversations about our gods and lives, catching up on important events both spiritual and secular, was both heartening and grounding. It was exactly what I needed in the midst of so much internal effort, to get out of my house, to visit with a group of trusted friends, and to let go of some of the dredged-up hurt through a powerful execration ritual. It was also just lovely as always to honor my Mother at the home of one of Her priests.

The results of this joyful weekend buoyed me when health problems struck shortly thereafter in the form of a minor, yet still fairly debilitating, neck injury and another severe allergic reaction to the subsequently prescribed pain relievers. I had one bad night grappling with the resultant fears such medical travails can inspire, but even that night proved useful in showing me aspects of my thoughts and behaviors that must change for me to fully accept myself and my emotions. I was able to move past the gut-reaction of panic in a matter of hours, rather than days and acknowledged this growth for myself. That the final days of Miew Khem were spent on the road and in meetings the next state over was a testament to the success of Bast’s lessons in self-care and patience with my body; I was still able to meet all of my obligations.

One of those obligations involved my Father, who about a week from the end of Miew Khem came roaring back into my life with a request. He wanted me to celebrate His Procession day,  IV Peret 17 (celebrated on the Kemetic Orthodox Calendar this year on March 17th) in some major fashion.

I was honestly uncertain that I could pull it off: the Procession fell smack in the middle of my midterms week, and I was traveling both the weekend prior and the weekend after. Fortunately it landed on one of the few days I don’t have an evening obligation for school, and so, still nervous about how this was all going to come together, I contacted local Kemetics and got to work.

With some plan, various icons of Set were successfully processed around Pittsburgh. My statue rode by car, first to my day job, then to a local library to pick up other celebrants. I made a mental note for next year that I need to come more prepared for balancing issues: yet Set seemed to be largely amused by the blue towel that I scrambled to arrange in some semblance of dignity so that He didn’t fall over while being processed. Another Set icon, a hand-made plushie version, went with my friend to all of her tutoring gigs for the day, where He was introduced to her students.

After the two processional parties joined together, all Sets were carried north directly alongside the Ohio river. Their destination: the home of my third Kemetic friend in the area, the recently-named Temseniaset. She had set up an altar for her Beloved, Yinepu, and all Set icons (including a few more statues we’d brought along) were arranged so as to greet the hosting jackal! We celebrated the journey and the gathering with an Irish dinner (my akhu would not have been pleased had I forgotten that *other* holiday on the 17th!) and offered soda bread and an imported Irish cider to our gods. We closed the evening with ritual, and then carried all the various Sets back to their home shrines.

It was a wonderful evening honoring my Father, and wonderful fellowship with good people. As I drove home after dropping off the last guest at his house, I reflected on the fact that I had managed to pull another spiritual event together, despite my initial misgivings. I knew the rest of the week would be difficult for taking the time to fulfill Set’s request, and indeed it was — I averaged three hours of sleep per night that evening and every evening following until Friday — but I did it, and made it through my midterms with flying colors. But more significantly, I kept to the standards I hold myself to. I managed all the things that matter: school, work, and spirit. It would seem that perhaps I am strong enough to keep striving towards all of my goals, but only, as my Mother taught me earlier, if that strength also involves knowing when I can push and when I need to step back and look to my own needs.

Set and Bast are so, incredibly, brilliant together as a team. I want to accomplish so much in their name, as their daughter, for Them, and for Their other children and followers of Netjer. With their guidance, with their knowledge as my map, I think, maybe, I’ll be able to do just that.

A Modern Holy Month: Miew Khem

Two days prior to this past Friday, February 13th, I found myself reading through G.B. Marian’s recent blog update regarding The Holy Month of Miew Khem (or “Black Cat”). It’s well worth reading through his thorough explanation of this time, held sacred by the members of the LV-426 Tradition, which takes place between the rare occurrence of two consecutive Friday the 13ths. Marian’s group considers this time significant for, “…celebrating (1) the positive results of killing Osiris and (2) the marriage of Seth to Ishtar and Anath (as any of our normal Friday the 13th rituals would be); it’s also a time for (3) experiencing some major initiatory event.”

Though personally identifying as Kemetic Orthodox in terms of tradition, my spiritual path has benefited greatly through participation in reconstructionist-based, revivalist and modern rituals, as well as practices specific to my particular branch of Kemeticism and those from the wider Kemetic, polytheist, and general pagan communities. With this in mind, it was surprising, but not uncomfortably so, that the concept of the month of Miew Khem grabbed me almost immediately, with that sort of palpable force that many of you may be familiar with. The one that translated into words would go something along the lines of, “Hold on to your hat, kid, we’re in for a bumpy ride.” I sought permission from G.B. to participate (initially uncertain if this was something other-Set-worshipping folks could join in on) and upon receiving permission continued about my Wednesday, full of thoughts of the past and curiosity towards the future: namely what that impending WHOOMPH feeling was going to translate to come Friday.

Regarding the past, I’ll just share what I wrote in response to the initial blog post about Miew Khem, as it sums it up fairly well:

“[Your post] got me thinking back to what I was doing around this time in 2009, and I admit, I… was somewhat blown away at the realization. I don’t honestly remember all that much of the details of what happened during that month. I was in my junior year of college, I was at the lowest point that depression has yet to take me in my life, but this was… legitimately when it all hit critical mass. I wound up leaving school for a week at the end of February after almost doing something drastic, spontaneously fled … to be with my sibling Tenu, got off all the medications that seemed to have made things so much worse (for me) and in the midst of the vast red mountains, took an oath to whatever gods/spirits may be (I was too low to believe in anyOne specifically at this point) that I would do whatever it took so as to never scare and hurt my family so deeply again, even if I couldn’t see reason enough just yet to take these steps for myself.”

Initiatory? Yes. Messy as hell? Yes, again. Worth acknowledging as an incredibly significant moment in my life?

Absolutely.

With that in mind, I had intended for this Miew Khem to be about celebrating how far I’ve come since the prior occurrence of this month. I wished to honor how Set showed up roughly two years later and helped/forced (either verb would be accurate!) me to make drastic changes in my life that led me to become the healthier, stronger, more independent person I am six years on. I wished to acknowledge how Bast stayed with me through all of it, shifting through various forms that my mind could make sense of from childhood on, guarding and guiding through the turbulence of adolescence and my early twenties, and finally revealing herself as who She truly is once I was ready. Wednesday evening and much of Thursday I started to pull together plans for a personal ritual that would accomplish just this.

The celebration was put on hold come Friday 13th.

A brief note here before I continue: I am about to share some relatively personal information on what I know to be a public blog. I will avoid specific details, but I have made the decision to share the general gist of what occurred because I believe that mental health is something that is not discussed frequently enough in my part of the world and that abuse is not something the victim should be made to feel ashamed of or for. I also believe that sharing some of this is significant for my own well being, part of the process of acknowledging it, making it part of my reality. If this bothers or triggers you, I respect that and do not wish to harm anyone with my words. Please stop reading now.

Friday the 13th, I had scheduled a counseling appointment for myself. As someone who is in training to be a counselor, I had previously recognized that I had some unresolved issues from my past, things that fed into my experiences back in 2009, and knew that I needed to work on these things in order to be an effective helping professional for my clients.

My counselor, after hearing my story regarding this prior relationship, wanted me to admit that I was a survivor of physical and emotional abuse. I denied it. Defended the other party in question. Explained why I deserved much of what had happened, minimized the severity of it, claimed that I had not gone through enough to merit the “title” of abused. My counselor pressed me, kept showing me the truth of it, metaphorically holding the mirror up to my own face and making me took a good, long, look at myself.

I finally relented. Spoke the words that would begin the process of acknowledging that this had indeed happened to me, that it was not merely an unhealthy relationship but something worse, something that had warped my perception of my self-worth, something that had led me to do things, give things, I had not wanted to do or to give.

I made it home, and then I broke. For the next several days I was utterly useless to the friends and family I love. Grieving for something I’d known but had gotten by in not acknowledging. Angry but too exhausted to express that anger. I mostly hid in my apartment with my partner, reaching out only to him and to my sibling. I used Monday to force myself out into the world again, knowing that the evening would see me in class again, the following morning back in the office. I had to function, I had to find a better balance between wallowing in this new reality, the endless repetition of “how could I” and “why did I” needing some relief in the form of self-care and strength, even if that strength was somewhat forced.

Meeting the necessity of various obligations got me moving: class, work, online meetings, and finally — shrine.

I was not up to the festival I’d planned, when I finally managed to light candles and incense. I said the words of the senut ritual and then I just sat there, exhausted and not really wanting to be doing the rite. I felt dirty. I felt stained. I felt… abused.

“Sing.” Came the voices of several gods, “Sing our songs.”

I didn’t want to. I didn’t know if I could. But They kept asking, and so I did, working through the lyrics for Heqat, Hethert-Nut, Heru-wer, Bast, and finally Set. I started in on one of Set’s songs but He abruptly cut me off.

“Not that one. The first one.”

I was surprised — His opinion of my music has always been one largely of mild amusement. He appreciates the gesture but isn’t so… picky as Bast or Hethert-Nut, who’ve more direct associations with that sort of worship. So if He actually had a preference for once, I’d listen. I refocused, shifting my headspace from the fierce “Daughter of the Storm” chant to the low ballad of “Dua Set.” I sang the first verse, the chorus, the second verse, chorus again, then headed into the bridge:

“Tear me apart, challenge my soul. / I must be broken that I might yet be whole.”

I promptly choked back the rush of emotion that flooded me. I was and am so very broken. Less so today than on that initial recognition of the 13th, but still aching, still tender in spaces I’ve not explored for the better part of five years. It hurts in ways I can’t fully express to go delving back into my past, ways I don’t want to express, because I hate the rawness of it, hate the showing of those weak spaces, hate the tears that once earned me such harsh critique. Sekhmet pulled the depths of it from me once in a semi-public setting and oh how I burned with the shame of it. I do not like to cry at all. I absolutely abhor crying in front of damn near anyone else.

I couldn’t even fully cry then, in front of Set. I almost did, I almost am now, remembering the moment. He showed me in the lyrics from my own hand that I need to let it out, probably at some point fairly soon, but it may take a god again to haul it from me. Every time I try to release… whatever this weight at the pit of me is, there’s a wall. If I could just get past that, I think He would be willing to take it from me. I think Bast would too as She was there, less tangible but still present, an external wave of concern and acceptance of the mess that I struggled with and subsequently contained after the initial wave.

How do I do this? Where do I go with this? I’m so… lost again. Lost in a time that I was initially so happy to celebrate for all the good that I’ve found. Perhaps this is the true spirit of the month, the not knowing, the challenge and the change. I am doing my damnedest to honor that spirit, but gods above and below, it is so, so very hard.

On the Significance of Nomes – Part 1

I was recently telling a few friends that I genuinely believe that my gods enjoy the city of Pittsburgh.

I have quite a few reasons for this, many relating to the general culture of the place and the nature of the people who live here. Yet perhaps the point of most significance is this: we know how to appreciate and love a river. In fact, we know how to appreciate three.

duquesne-incline-pittsburgh-pennsylvania-5982962649-800x532

We do, of course, lack a sea into which any of these rivers might flow, creating a notable dearth of anything akin to a delta, but we have our three rivers and by the gods, our city is defined by them. From its industrial past where the rivers served as an ideal means of transport for the steel and other commodities produced within massive factories, to the cleaned up shores of the present day which serve as a rare example of how humanity can reverse the damage inflicted by careless pollution if they set their minds to it. I feel my primary gods as being deeply present here, in this space that appreciates its waterways as part of its livelihood and very spirit, in a way that I never could when I first met them in the purely urban sprawl of downtown D.C. This is not Their land, nor would I try to argue that the gods of Kemet are likely to truly prefer one foreign place over another, but I welcome them to it whole heartedly and take pleasure in finding that they seem pleased to stay for a brief time in this space where Ohio, Monongehela, and Allegheny meet.

This is a highly personal, yet meaningful, interpretation. Unfortunately for my overactive mind, I tend not to be able to just sit with such things; driven by the incessant ping of “Why does this matter so much!?” I found myself looking back across the Atlantic, examining my primary gods more closely, and studying the regions where they were worshiped. This came in part from the general desire to know more about these places, but also due to my understanding of the House of Netjer’s Rite of Parent Divination (RPD). By following that link, you can read through Itenumuti’s excellent, overview of the ritual as well as a few interpretations of the significance of one’s Parent names. Yet I also view it as a replacement for modern Kemetics being unable to live within a specific Nome, or portion of Ancient Egypt where a local god (or gods) would have been primarily worshiped by the majority of the population in that area. With this in mind I set about trying to track down a region where Set and Bast’s worship might have had the potential to overlap in some significant way.

I had a few personal clues, which wound up proving helpful. First, I knew to start my search based on temples functional in the New Kingdom, as Bast, while worshiped earlier, largely rose to popularity in Her cult center of Bubastis during and after this span of time. Second, I recognized that the “Set I get” is a northern version associated with Lower Egypt. He has often appeared to me wearing the deshret (red crown) of the region, standing in stark, proud contrast to Heru-wer wearing the white Hedjet. Finally, I know that my Parents appear to me as gods working in tandem, mutual defenders of Ra, and very willing to appear to me side-by-side rather than taking anything akin to oppositional roles.

Many articles later, and I found myself looking at three cities in the Eastern portion of the Nile delta: Avaris, Tanis, and Bubastis. The former two served as strongholds for the Hyksos during the second intermediate period, who introduced their storm god Ba’al, amongst others, into the Egyptian pantheon. Ba’al was recognized as Set by the Egyptians, and eventually the two became synchronized as one deity. Yet even after the Hyksos were defeated and sent back to the North, there is strongly likelihood of some number of their population remaining, contributing to continued worship of Set in their main towns. While Set’s temples would have been destroyed during the Amarna period, some scholars seem to suggest that they were rebuilt. During the 19th and 20th dynasties, Set worship definitively continued in these spaces, with Ramesside pharaohs incorporating the Avaris populations Set-Ba’al into the Egyptian pantheon through the addition of the epithet “Son of Nut,” honoring Set as the defender of Ra throughout Egypt by reviving His Old Kingdom conceptualization as a god of strength and ferocity, and even taking His name as part of their own.

The 21st and 22nd dynasties of the Third Intermediate Period would see a shift away from the Set revival noted during the middle to late New Kingdom, though power was centralized in the city of Tanis for most of the 21st before shifting to Bubastis near the start of the 22nd. As pharaoh Shoshenq I endeavored to gain power from the city of Bast, so too did the goddess receive greater attention, rising in popularity swiftly and maintaining that popularity through to the Ptolemaic period.

Do my Parent deities ever really geographically/chronologically overlap in a significant manner?  Perhaps not directly. Is this eastern delta region an area in which they would have most likely done so, if such were remotely possible? That is my hope.

It is also my hope that such initial discoveries will lead me to understand what few, baffling connections I had previously found between the two. For example, there has to be some explanation for why a magical spell listed in Bourghouts, describing a tale in which Set must provide Horus with his true name in order to be healed of poison, would show Set taking the false name of “a jug of milk milked from the udder of Bastet,” giving what Edward Butler describes as a reflection of part of His character, but not what encompasses the whole.

As per usual, I am left with more questions than I am answers.

One final realization that I made: a little nudge that perhaps I am focusing on the right span of time (massive though it may be), was a recognition about my Shemsu name. The use of standard-bearers as regimental leaders came about as part of the reorganization of the Egyptian army under Amenhotep III during the 18th Dynasty. The primary information I’ve found regarding Set as an army Standard? Under the reign of Ramses II.

I will be continuing with this, compiling sources, and writing up a far more academic overview of the roles of my Parents in the northern Delta between 1293 BCE and 730 BCE. Again, this is a huge span of time to cover but I just… can’t stop thinking that there’s something to be learned about this. About their relation to each other, their relation to me, and maybe even our mutual relationship to the wonder of rivers.

 

 

Aqualung

“Hey and you snatch your rattling last breaths
With deep-sea diver sounds
And the flowers bloom like
Madness in the spring”

– Jethro Tull, “Aqualung”

Winter can be a notoriously brutal time for many of us, wreaking havoc on health both mental and physical. I’ve been following the words of many fellow bloggers and online friends with no small degree of empathy as they fight lengthy battles with illness. I’ve listened to those coping with SAD, trying to hold to stability as the sun gradually returns to a higher place in the sky, the light lasting a bit longer with each day. I’ve read the words of folks like Aubs, who took a genuinely terrible injury after falling on the ice and yet found wisdom from it. I’ve shaken with anger alongside Aine as she described what she lives through on a daily basis as someone who is chronically ill, black, and poor. I read about these experiences with bodies that have been hurt or are constantly hurting, see discussions through various media platforms about the dangers of uncritical positive thinking regarding one’s health, and in turn find myself struggling with a vague, writhing sense of how can I make this better while simultaneously looking at my own body and recognizing things about it that would have been much simpler to let well enough alone.

You see, I really hate caving to limitations. Hate admitting that there are things that I physically cannot do. I’m as stubborn as anyone I’ve ever met when I take on a challenge, and if I say I’ll do something, it will damn well get done, come hell, high water, or hypertension.

I had the realization recently, after talking with Khenne about the trend amongst dual-Parented members of the House of Netjer to connect more with one god over the other, that this relates to why I lean so much more strongly towards Set in my spiritual practice. I take pride in the sheer grit that He represents for me and that I aim to reflect in my active, day-to-day worship of Him. Every single dawn He’s up and fighting the Uncreated One, taking the bites and the poison, largely because someone has to but no one else can. There is no sense of “backing down” in this aspect of Set’s nature, there is no “today I’m going to take a break because I need some time for self-care.” There is only moving forward, getting the job done, and putting that critical necessity, that responsibility, ahead of everything else.

Through this lens did I view my responsibility to family over the past month, cramming five cities worth of travel by bus, car, and train into ten days.  All the while I played marital counselor to aging, angry parents, served as nurse to a relative who handled his illness as maturely as a five year old, and worked as organizer for an extended family who largely seem to have stopped caring about bothering to schedule time with those who travel for hours to be with them. I did this without complaint, keeping the grief I felt contained, and instead charging forward, getting through it, seeing my responsibilities through.

I was not surprised when I became ill half way through the trip, violently so by the time I returned to Pittsburgh, fighting my way through work on Friday through the necessity of keeping my job, and then effectively collapsing after taking the bus home.

But it was not Set whose presence I felt during the days that followed, my lungs rattling from the fluid in my bronchial tube, each breath an exercise in deliberate motion, shallow and controlled, trying to avoid the minutes-long coughing spells that would leave me dizzy and occasionally half-blind from lack of oxygen. It was not Set who watched me with concern and frustration as my right hand blistered over with hot, red welts triggered by a prescribed antibiotic that my body rejected, nor was it His voice that I heard as I reached out to my gods in a panic during my third day largely confined to bed, albuterol shakes and a fever ramping my anxiety to levels that left me irrationally convinced that I was actually going to die at age 26 without some way to fight the infection, some way to help me breathe.

It was Bast who watched me with cool green eyes, Her immense presence surrounding me and then forcibly drawing out the whole of my grief for a family that had hurt me, and a body that had caved, as it so irritatingly and frequently does under such stress and pressure, to bronchitis, anxiety, and allergic response.

I wept, I choked, I gasped, I wailed, and I hated every single minute of being so utterly out of control. I hated it all the more for occurring in my partner’s presence, when he’s had his own health battles to deal with of late. But then the experience was done, the rage and grief largely out of my head and heart, and I slept more fitfully than I had in days. My life predominantly continued to revolve around sleeping for several days following. I made it to work, I did the bare minimum for other obligations, but for almost everything else which I normally hold myself responsible, I just said, “No.”

I hear Bast in that “No.” See Her in the actions of my own black-furred cat who was dealing with a cold at the same time as I fought bronchitis. For all of Sammi’s sweet “nurse-cat” temperament when I am ill, rarely leaving my side when I’m under the weather, she instead took a few days to largely rest beneath my bed by herself, until she was ready to come back and be my loyal familiar once more. Bast is far more than cat goddess alone, yet the feline propensity for self-care, self-focus (a very different beast than self-centeredness, as I would be wise to learn) is something that I believe She would have me better understand. But it keeps me from so readily embracing Her as I do Set. I feel no pride in stepping back, in admitting that my body has been “defeated” or was too weak to continue. I despise the limitations that asthma, cancer scares, and ongoing battles with anxiety and depression place on my life, how they limit what I can physically offer to the world. I struggle to love and accept my body, because I am increasingly aware that there is no amount of will power that’s going to make all of my ailments magically go away. I cannot be Set’s stubborn, get-shit-done, tough-it-out daughter all the time, much as, in my ideal world, I would.

How do I accept my Mother’s lessons, and in turn accept myself? How do I become closer to the Eye who knows how to burn brightly without burning out?

I have no answers as of yet. Only frustrated acknowledgement that this… this needs to be dealt with.

Farewell

I lost a friend today. I will not write her name here, if only because this is a very public place, and some of our mutual acquaintances may not have yet learned of her passing. I would not want them to learn of it from my blog.

It hit me harder than many previous losses have, though I have lost friends who held a similar place in my life and heart. I wonder if this is because my relationship with the dead has changed: no longer do I simply shove the feelings of loss aside, moving forward because the person is gone and “in a better place,” but instead I find myself sitting with that death, seeing the change inherent to it. I hear the grieving lamentations of Aset and Nebt-het in my mind as I wonder how the family of my friend is mourning in their own way this evening. I mourn for her with them, and I mourn for them as well.

This person shared a spiritual Parent with me. I reached out to that Name tonight and expressed how I was aching at my loss of a sibling, felt Her sadness at the loss of a child and ached further still. We held each other in the way a Name and Her follower might, our conceptualizations of loss quite different, yet our grief perhaps more similar than I ever could have expected. I gave my Mother flowers as a sign of this shared comfort, I gave my Father flowers for offering me His strength throughout the day to do what was necessary: share the news.

DjaiShrine

I considered the art that I had made for this friend, the way that she had encouraged me to make more. I played a song from her favorite band during senut (and I sincerely hope, if she could witness this in some way, that she got a good laugh out of my attempt to sing along with Steve Perry and accidentally blowing out the shrine candle when I hit one of his famous high notes.)

Thinking of my friend, I’ll be spoiling my cats rotten tonight once I finish writing this, then donating to a local feline rescue organization in my friend’s name sometime tomorrow.

And I will move forward as I have done in the wake of losing other friends, but always take care to look back, always remember. It feels more complete this way, even if it simultaneously hurts more than it used to. I am grateful to Kemeticism for that, though I suspect it sounds odd. Grateful for teaching me a different way to grieve.

Most importantly, I am grateful to my friend: for her light, for her love, for her bravery.

Travel safely West, my sister.

Thoughts for the New Year

“I need help.”

I finally admitted it aloud, my mind begrudgingly aware of the fog of weariness creeping in around the edges of my caffeine-induced consciousness. My hands still on the wheel as I drove south from Illinois to Texas, my shift at the “helm” was a necessary one; my sibling Tenu needed the rest after driving for the better part of twelve hours straight, and we were in the middle of nowhere — not a safe place to stop and mutually snooze. I had promised to wake zir if I got tired. Tired was not an option. Zie needed to keep sleeping, at least for a little while longer, and I needed to keep my promise.

Thus, damn stubborn Set-kid that I am, I reached out to my gods a second time, sheepish about doing so over something seemingly as trivial as a road-trip. “I need help. I have to stay awake. Please.”

We’re here, as we always are. You are not alone.

The mental ping of words came from several gods at once, my mind somehow translating various ideas, colors, images that flooded my headspace into five distinct presences. My spiritual family of Netjeru. The gods I worship each time I perform the rite of senut all giving a little boost in their own way, now also including my newest Beloved, Heqat, who formally joined me at Retreat.

Set suggested shifting the CD to a livelier song with a stronger rhythm. Hethert-Nut, leaning strongly towards Her Hethert side, encouraged me to groove. I did an awkward sitting-in-a-car boogie to the beat as She laughed and cheered, the movement waking me up. Heqat simply settled as a calming presence around my neck and shoulders and I stopped worrying about the weariness and focused on keeping myself mentally present, a much more productive use of my energy. Heru-wer offered His light, and suddenly the headlights of oncoming traffic seemed a little brighter, the night not nearly so oppressive in its magnitude. Bast just talked to me, and this was a wonder in and of itself… we don’t often just speak, She and I.

We talked of many things, including my experiences at Wep Ronpet at Tawy. She noted how I was healthier these days, had focused enough on myself that She felt comfortable making a request that pertained to external matters. It is time to seek balance between Her and Set. I seek my Father daily, speak with Him readily, have done research and written essays for personal use in His name. Some people do not even recognize my associations with Her, so much do they link me with Set. At times, I feel closer to my Beloveds than I do my own divined Mother, and She has been here far, far longer than any of Them, longer than Set as well.

I would have felt guilty for this, but She would not let me. Instead she gave me goals to focus on, goals that will take a fair amount of discernment and effort, and so I may hold them fairly close to the chest for the time being, having already shared them with those who She instructed me to reach out to. But it is worth recording some of what occurred at the House of Netjer’s annual Retreat here, to hold myself accountable in a way.

Upon my arrival at Retreat, Shefyt (an amazing daughter of Bast herself!) was one of the first people to see me, and she came running across the room to greet me with a giant hug. It made me feel so immediately welcomed again, so very Home-with-a-capital-H that I practically teared up. Shortly thereafter I went to greet Hemet, and saw a Bast prayer card with Bast depicted with a green face. Hemet explained Her associations with malachite, in part through Wadjet in later periods, and I made a mental note that I wanted to *know* this and other such important associations in the future. The following day being Aset’s birthday, I wore a green and black dress, mostly because Aset (albeit largely through Hatmehyt) tends to approve of my indulging my feminine side. No less than five people complimented me on it, saying that it looked like I was wearing malachite. Point taken, Lady.

That evening in ritual was a highly emotional experience for me, one that I am still largely processing. What I can note, was that I received tremendous comfort from both Sekhmet and later Zat, who gave a particularly wise point of advice when she mentioned that I was so much my Father’s child right now, it might help if I reached out more to my Mother, remembered that I was Her child too, and allowed Her to help me approach and deal with emotions that I have otherwise worked to repress via throwing myself into five thousand projects.

On Wep Ronpet itself, I stopped by Bast’s shrine after the festivities had been completed. I kneeled, offered full henu, admiring the many gifts that had been left for Her (quietly regretting I’d not brought any of the mint-chocolate offerings She loves.) She gave me the aforementioned instructions then, and told me who I was to share them with.

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Bast shrine at Tawy

I’m still reeling a bit and was certainly startled then. But as the day progressed, and gifts were exchanged (an AGI Bast being *given* to me which was mind-blowing in and of itself) I received another present from Netjer. The ribbons from last year’s Wep Ronpet ceremony, which had been tied around each of the gods, were distributed to those still present. I received Ma’ahes’ ribbon, and just… laughed warmly at the realization, friends sitting next to me looking amused as I seemingly cackled at nothing.

I need to work on remembering that I am a Child of Bast. Who better to help than one of the gods who is, in fact, a Child of Bast?! Main spiritual goal for the year understood, Lady. I realize it took a spiritual clue-by-four, but I’m listening, and I will do right by you.

On the secular side of things, I am moving forward towards finding, applying to, and beginning a counseling program — ideally one with arts/music therapy as part of the counseling degree. As I joked to Tenu, I feel like I’m amassing a Support Squad of gods as I work my way towards this. Set has discussed how His strength, and my personal reflection of that strength, will be necessary as I move forward along this path, both to maintain my own boundaries, and to face on a daily basis the isfet that is eating the hearts of my clients. Heqat and Hatmehyt mutually suggested my creation of a “mindfulness” shrine external to my senut space, somewhere I could go and pray regardless of purity concerns, where I could engage in self-care through meditation and also offer prayers to those who might need my counseling, that they too could find a way to care for themselves and accept what help I might give. Sekhmet has offered Her aid here as well, mostly to me, but also to others.

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Art by A’aqytsekhmet that will be the focus point of my mindfulness shrine

The most surprising addition to this group is Nebt-het. Last night, Tenu and I did senut together at Tenu’s home shrine in Texas. We went through the ritual, made offerings, and then Tenu noted zir mothers were very, very present — did I have any questions for them? I had one for Hethert-Nut, which I asked, and received an encouraging response… but Tenu insisted that the pressure remained.

What could Nebt-het want me to ask Her? I’ve only just barely worked with Her. A ten-day effort to get to know Her culminated in my daily praying for each of the victims of a mass shooting in California, and finally praying for the shooter and his family as well. It was challenging, but I did it, and suddenly I wondered if this was the point. I had the strength to deal with those who were grieving, to look at violence in the world and continue to make space for both the dead and those who mourned them. I asked Tenu to inquire via fedw if Her ten-day request was to show me that I was ready to become a counselor, specifically given my interest in serving communities which have dealt with trauma, and received a firm yes. The presence, Tenu noted, faded abruptly thereafter, but not without a brief message: I am to reach out to Her if I need Her as I move forward along this path. Though still surprised, I am grateful for Her support.

It feels like a lot to wrap my head around, but such seems to be the way of Wep Ronpet. There are many new beginnings, many new challenges to tackle. I hope to be better about writing out my thoughts on these matters, sharing them with those of you who may be reading this blog. I encourage you to reach out to me if you relate to anything I write, if there are any questions I might answer, or ways I might help you on your own journeys this year. As They reminded me on that late night drive that started this whole train of thought: the gods keep us from being alone, yes. However, we, as a greater community of Kemetics, both within the House of Netjer and without, can also fend off loneliness by writing, reading, sharing. Do not be alone. There is no need. I can speak only for myself, but know others out there who feel the same: do not be alone. I am here. I would sit beside you if you’ll have me, no matter the distance.

Di Wep Ronpet Nofret, my friends. My love to all of you.

Kemetic Round Table: Living Kemeticism

The Kemetic Round Table works to connect Kemetic bloggers of various practices and paths in order to provide helpful information for those new to Kemeticism. More information about the project can be found here.

Due to my free time in March and April being eaten alive by a rabid grad school monster, I’m going to address two topics in one, though it will all go under the guise of “Living Kemeticism.” I will discuss the following: What does living your faith mean to you? How can others bring their religion into their day to day life or live their religion? How public are you about your beliefs and practices? How has it (or not) impacted your work life, your familial and friendly ties? What advice would you give to uncertain Kemetics about how to approach either telling or not telling others about their beliefs?

I think I was living as a Kemetic, in many ways, before I even found Kemeticism. I say this in the sense that I was already trying to live my life in a balanced manner, respecting myself and respecting others, caring for the world around me while caring for myself, seeking knowledge while simultaneously trusting instincts and emotions. I also held the belief in a divine force that could manifest as many individual and distinct gods or spiritual forms, which allowed me to worship and work with the entities that most strongly called to me, while respecting, from a distance, most of the gods and religious practices of others.

Kemeticism sort of wove its way into what was already there, fleshing out the details with a more complex definition of balance in the many questions of living a life in ma’at and giving me Netjer, an entity from within the greater divine force, from which many Netjeru extended into complex individual gods. While I began to establish a set ritual practice, and perhaps did more genuine praying than before, overall my day-to-day existence changed very little.

What did change was having a far more solid concept of the benefits of living my faith and a growing sense of responsibility to, and support from, a diverse range of Kemetic communities. In turn, “Kemetic” added a new layer of self-understanding within my identity, a form of security based upon the framework through which I could now learn more about myself, my relationships, and my world. The ideals I aspired to live somehow acquired greater weight in their manifestation in the revitalization of an ancient tradition. When I lost sight of these goals, there were others to whom I could turn to find my way back, books I could read to revitalize my interest. These were ways to cope with fallow times, rather than simply watching and despairing as my connection to spirituality withered away.

I have been far better off for having this foundation of Kemeticism beneath my longheld beliefs and ideologies. Yet living my faith extends beyond the complexities of the ideas that shape who I am and what I do, often creeping into the simple comforts of day-to-day actions. I always wear the ring that represents my devotion to, and connection with, Set and Bast. I also have a rotation of pendants and earrings depicting various Netjeru, an ankh, a scarab. These become physical reminders, their weight on my chest a reminder of who I am and what I believe. My Set-animal pendant in particular has grown shiny from the amount I’ve rubbed it between my fingers when nervous and seek a small reminder of my own strength.

Given how living my faith has so strongly proven itself to be a positive influence on my life, it is perhaps of little surprise that I guard it fiercely. I share my faith only with those I know I can trust, though have reached a point where I am no longer willing to lie if directly confronted and perceive no actual physical threat.

I am fortunate in that I live in a place where Christianity is not so deeply entrenched in the culture as to result in my potentially being attacked for who I am and what I believe. In my previous academic job, I was under some pressure to keep my spiritual beliefs, any spiritual beliefs, to myself, so as to be taken seriously, but I hope that my next career will be more open in this regard. My family largely does not know, but were I ever to move back in with them, this conversation would need to be broached. I do feel that, again, barring physical repercussions, I would owe it to myself and to them to be entirely open about my spiritual beliefs and practices.

In the meantime, I have made gradual, but significant, steps towards helping my parents understand that I do not identify as Christian, and have a different spiritual worldview. I hope, in time, to reach a point of complete openness with them, but for now, try to keep a balanced perspective on what I need them to know to be personally fulfilled and honest, and what small gaps in their knowledge might be better for their emotional well being overall.

Living as Kemetic requires this sort of balanced approach towards how “Out” you are with your faith. Consider your needs, your safety, and weigh these against how you can best respect the needs of others. Only you can make these decisions, and they are well worth contemplating over time, particularly if your life as a Kemetic has brought you as much joy and positive growth as it has me.

Two Years As Their Daughter

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“Bast and Set Defend the Solar Barque” by A’aqytsekhmet

My Parents are deities of fierceness and beauty. They embody, in fire and strength, who I aspire to be with each new goal and challenge.

They are the defenders of the right to start again, destroyers of the obstacles that would keep a new day, a new chance, from beginning.

They are the passion for another and the passion for self, balanced and in check.

They are the split second decisions of lightning and the long burning blaze of needing to see something to its completion.

They mutually defy the overly simplistic boundaries of gender and species to rewrite what it means to rise up and live as Self rather than assumption.

They will not be defined by mere words, but action.

My Mother is neither woman nor cat. My Father is neither man nor sha. They are both, and neither, and the vast complexities that lie somewhere in between these conflicting extremes.

Today, two years and a day since They claimed me through sacred rite, I reaffirm that I am Their daughter.

I will carry Their standards high.

Kemetic Round Table – Walking two Paths

The Kemetic Round Table works to connect Kemetic bloggers of various practices and paths in order to provide helpful information for those new to Kemeticism. More information about the project can be found here.

This week’s prompt asked: “Can I work with other pantheons? Can I perform rituals that aren’t Kemetic based?

This is going to be brief, as the bulk of my thoughts on these questions are summarized beautifully here at Making Bright, and I find myself unable to add much, conceptually, to what Nellethiel has already eloquently discussed. What I can share is a bit of personal experience, offering one perspective on why those ideas are so important to me.

One of the two primary Kemetic deities I work with transcends multiple spiritual areas of my life. I’ve written about my complex relationship with Bast in greater detail in an earlier post, but suffice it to say, I’ve known Her from childhood and She has transitioned with me through the many spiritual changes I’ve gone through over the years. She was my “invisible friend” as a very young child, my Goddess in an adolescent Wiccan phase, one of my primary spiritual guides in the animist period of my collegiate years, and now is my divined Mother in Kemetic practice.

I still interact with Her in both of Her most recent incarnations. I pray to her in shrine, and on other, separate occasions, I walk with her in meditations. She can be fierce in her expectations for me on both paths. She requires regular devotions and offerings, that I worship her as Netjeru, one of many faces of the divine. She also expects that I will seek her out as one of my guides in journey, her feline form one of many various plants and animals I speak with to learn more about myself, my community, and my world.

While my animist practice is not necessarily what one would consider a separate “pantheon,” it does come with a very different set of ritual expectations. I have a separate altar space for my primary animistic guide at any given time, and this space often includes animal by-products. For example, right now I have a Great Horned Owl’s feather, vertabrae, and talon on this shrine, items that were gifted to me many years back from partial remains a friend found and cleaned. These items, sacred in my animist practice, are extremely impure from a Kemetic standpoint, and thus I actually prefer to keep them in a separate room from my gods’ shrine.

My animistic practice also takes place outside of a set shrine space. Journeying techniques involve astral work: I sit in a dark room, slow my breathing, sometimes play a slow, even, percussive rhythm to assist in the process of moving beyond my body. My Kemetic work is always done before the shrine, eyes open, the candle’s flicker and the glow of incense helping me to transcend the profane and move to sacred experience. The two processes are unique to me, and involve a deliberate choice to interact with one or the other, gods or spirits.

This does not mean that the two do not, on occasion, intertwine. More than once I have been in the midst of a meditation when suddenly a god, or gods, jumped in to mess with me, show me something, or challenge me further. Given that they are gods, I would not presume to box them in to one form of interaction over another,  but in my opinion, it is important that I leave that option to Them. If They want to reach out to me astrally, or if They request that I meet Them in that space rather than shrine, I will. But in the meantime, as someone who does identify as Kemetic, I primarily choose to work with them in a manner based on Kemetic practice: in shrine, with candle, incense and offerings, celebrating Their sacred days, studying Their myths, and doing my best to live in ma’at in all other aspects of my life.  

As Nellethiel wrote, “anything is possible in the realm of polytheism. Just be mindful of what it means to be a part of Kemeticism as the religious movement and practice it is today (as the modern reconstructed/revived ancient religion of Egypt).”

Anything is possible. It is possible that Bast is my goddess and my guide. It is possible that Set might challenge me with a storm right when I’m trying to learn something from the oak tree I’ve climbed. It is possible that the golden hawk I visualized myself flying beside was Heru-wer, teaching me something outside of senut. But it is important to be mindful of the means by which these interactions took place, to know what is faithfully reconstructing ancient practice and what is better described as my own homebrew animist work with a bit of Kemetic flair. It is vitally important to acknowledge the source of things, that we might discuss our multiple paths with others, respecting each method as distinct while not discounting its validity.

 

Kemetic Round Table – Shrines on the Go

The Kemetic Round Table works to connect Kemetic bloggers of various practices and paths in order to provide helpful information for those new to Kemeticism. More information about the project can be found here.

This week’s prompt asked: “Shrine basics: Setting up your first shrine: How do I do it, what do I need, and what rules are there (if any).

I’ve seen a number of great posts this week which cover the basics of maintaining a shrine, that sacred space that serves not only as a place for performing ritual acts, but also divine temple of sorts where you welcome the gods into your home and into your life. I highly recommend Sobeqsenu’s post here for a concise outline of putting together the basics for your shrine and Satsekhem’s post here which provides a helpful clarification of the distinction between altars and shrines, and why both can be equally valid and important aspects of one’s spiritual life.

Several KRT-authors have also touched on the usefulness of compact or travel shrines. Near the end of her post, Sarduriur offers useful advice for Kemetics or other polytheists living in a space where cohabitants. Devo also suggests wearable shrine options in the form of sacred jewelry, and offers ways to use that jewelry in the same context as an icon.

Given that I am presently visiting my sibling Itenumuti and hir partner in Texas, I thought it might be appropriate to expand a little bit on my personal use of a travel shrine, and provide one take on how one can endeavor to transfer the experience of spiritual work at home to spiritual work on the road.

How do you make a travel shrine?

The sky is the limit when it comes down to how you want to create your travel shrine. Some practitioners choose a box of some kind, often made of wood, ivory, metal, or  even synthetic materials if your gods do not view this as a purity concern. Others wear devotional jewelry on their body, or attached to an important item. Either way, you are welcome to decorate your travel shrine as ornately or discretely as necessary. Go with what strikes a comfortable balance between your relationship with your gods, and the necessity of your current living situation.

If you use a box and intend to place ritual items within it, I recommend finding one with a clasp of some kind, so you can close it securely and lower the risk of spilling items consecrated to spiritual use into a messy location. Of course you can always purify them again, but at least for me, the prospect of accidently dropping an icon into something unmentionable makes me cringe.

What goes into a travel shrine?

There are a few things to keep in mind for what to place within your travel shrine:

1.) What do you need to complete the rituals you will be enacting while you are on the road?

If you are of a path like Kemetic Orthodoxy and hope to continue with the state ritual (senut) — or a ritual with similarly established necessary items —  as you complete it at home, you will want to find a way to fit all of these items for this ritual into your travel shrine. If you have an adapted ritual for travel, perhaps you can bring fewer things. If you are someone who regularly interacts with his or her gods, via meditation, divination, or any other forms, you can always ask Them what They expect of you while you’re off on grand adventures, and “pack” accordingly.

2.) How long will you be gone? 

Packing for two weeks is much different than packing for two months. Try to think ahead for how much of any given ritual item you use at a time. Can you just pack a few small sticks of incense in your travel shrine, or would it be wise to bring an extra box in your suitcase? Unlike the roll of toothpaste you accidentally left on your bathroom sink, you’re probably not going to be able to drive to the nearest drugstore and easily pick up some natron and kyphi. Do your best to think ahead for what you need, and how much of it you need.

3.) Where will you be staying?

Staying in the home of an open-minded friend for the duration of your trip is far different than staying a week in a hotel. Keep in mind what the rules will be for burning candles and incense in your travel location. Tealight LED candles are a cheap and easily-acquired alternative to burning an actual wick, and scented oils can serve as an offering to the gods without the producing the same powerful scent of many incense options, should your host be sensitive to such.

4.) How are you getting there? 

If you’re driving or taking the train, chances are good that you won’t have to worry too much about what you put into your travel shrine. The TSA, however, may find issue with certain items in your shrine. A few important things to note: if you need to pack matches with you, and you are taking them in your carry-on luggage, you must use strike-on-box matches, and you can only bring one box. Strike anywhere matches are not permitted, and neither are torch or micro-lighters. Though perhaps more self-explanatory, if you use a ritual blade of any sort, don’t pack that in your carry-on either.

How do you use your travel shrine once you’ve arrived?

There is no hard and fast rule for ritual use of your travel shrine. Again, take into consideration where you are going, who you are staying with, and how long you are going to be there. Personally, if I am going to be staying in one space for the duration of my trip, a space where I can safely practice without any issue from my cohabitants, I will try to establish a specific spot for my travel shrine early on. Much like my shrine at home, I clean the area before setting up icons, and I purify my body before I enter the sacred space. I welcome my gods to stay in this shrine for the entirety of the time in the new location. I give offerings, usually just cool water while I’m actually in shrine (note my tiny offering cup in the pictures below) but silently offer some of my food before meals. I will then pray, sing, meditate, create art — any and all of the usual activities I would do with, or for, my gods while I was at home.

If I am staying in a hotel, or in a space where my cohabitants would be bothered my spirituality, I take greater precautions. I unpack my shrine, complete my chosen ritual the same way as described above, but after ritual, I pack all icons and ritual implements away in the travel shrine, and tuck it safely back into a bag where I know it will come to no harm. In the case of hotels, I have heard more than one story of cleaning staff accidentally damaging a shrine while they were doing their daily administrations. In the case of a less understanding host, I do this as a sign of respect to whoever has allowed me to stay within their home.

(The caveat here, of course, is if you are going to be living with this person for an extended period of time. In this case, I would suggest a full, free, and frank conversation of your faith before moving in with them, if such a conversation is at all humanly possible. As always, you know your own life better than any other, do what you think is best.)

What does a full travel shrine look like?

You can look at some of the blogs I mentioned above for ideas, but I’ve also included a few photos to show my current travel shrine.

The outside of my travel shrine. I love this box for its compact size, the shining gold caps on the exterior, and of course: the handy clasp.

This gives you a sense of how I pack the shrine, and some of the things I include within it. Please note the strike-on-box matches, as well as one of two lovely icons by Tenu depicting the names of my Parent deities.

Moving one layer down, you can see the incense, a candle, an ankh candle holder, and a small offering cup for fresh water (which is partially blocking a tiny, lotus-shaped incense holder) and two more icons which I made myself from polymer clay. They recently received some touch-ups after their original paint job began coming off.

Finally, here is the full travel shrine when it is set up. I currently place the three-dimensional icons of Set and Bast across from their painted names. This is a visual reminder for me; I was recently tasked in finding the similarities between my parent deities, in an effort to better balance which of Them I more frequently turn to. I enjoy sporadically changing elements of my travel shrine, whether it is the color of the candle I pack, or the type of incense I burn, depending on which Netjeru I am working with, and what I hope to achieve spiritually while I am traveling.

May your own adventures be fulfilling, and your gods near.