Ekunyi's Embers

Archive for the ‘Kemetic Orthodoxy’ Category

Holding the Space

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.

Kemetic Orthodox: Year 23, Sarytsenuwi: Year 27

I believe I have mentioned in a previous post that 23 has been an auspicious number for me for a very long time. There is admittedly no mystical association or scientific reasoning to it, merely the nostalgia for a very young version of myself who was proud to memorize that she was born on the 23rd of August, and decided that number must be *very* significant simply by virtue of the fact that my parents always made me feel like I was the most special person alive on that day. (Imagine a curly-headed eight year old clutching her new Draco-from-Dragonheart toy while stuffing Pizza Hut into her face and being physically unable to stop smiling. This covers it fairly well!)

Over the years that sense of “23″ as significant developed into a greater sense of renewal, first being linked to the start of each new school year (which more than once fell on my actual birthday). It also became a source of feeling a little unique when I first started digging into astrology around age 13, and discovered that “my 23″ granted me a weird (and often hilariously accurate) placement of being born on the cusp of Leo and Virgo.  More seriously, my personal 23rd year was one of tremendous growth and change, casting away self-deprecating practices and harmful connections, and establishing the very beginnings of the loving partnership I share with my husband.

As an adult, once I joined the House of Netjer and learned about the history of my new religion, I occasionally wondered what would happen come the official Year 23 of my faith. What would I make of being 27 years old? Would these little moments of signficance attached to the number my childhood self decreed as important continue? Was it time to let the old amusement go?

26 was… hard. I worked two different jobs over the course of the year, trying to contribute financially to my household while simultaneously going to graduate school full time. I lost the grandparent who was always closest to me, and in losing her, fear that I have most likely lost the final reason for any of my cousins on my father’s side of the family to maintain much interest in interacting with me moving foward. Also, for most of the year I was also planning a fairly large and extravagant wedding (in the Italian-American way of things that capital-M Matters to my mother’s side of the family.) It was beautiful, I will forever be grateful, and I have memories from that amazing day that I will cherish forever, but I feel that it is fair to acknowledge that attempting to juggle all of these things took a significant toll on my health.

I wrote about the health issue in far too many places. More important to me now is to acknowledge how much I allowed it to control me and define me. I lost myself in it, lost sight of the other things I still do and contribute. I began to forget my worth, my value to my communities and those who love me, and could only think of myself in the context of being chronically ill. Experiences at Wep Ronpet helped me to finally let go of some of the emotions wrapped up in this unfair assumption that I only had value if I could do things for others, as did my spiritual Family’s acceptance of my grief. And I do feel that I was grieving, grieving for my grandmother, and grieving for my past, healthier self. I may not get her back, and I think that I may be getting much closer to accepting that. Now to accept that the me that exists in this time is no less worthy of my appreciation and care.

That care is coming mainly in the form of changing jobs. My last day at the high-stress marketing position was this past Friday: it was making me ill, perhaps in part because of how antithetical it was to how I view myself as caretaker, defender and advocate, the aspects my Parents represent in my life and which are core ethical values I hold myself to on a daily basis. Instead, I am trying to focus on school. Focus on getting into a good internship, focus on using the hobbies that feed my spirit to try to make some money on the side. (Given the wages I was earning as a temp, if I can actually start selling some of my sculptures on a regular basis and calculate in what I’m no longer spending on gas and parking, I’ll not actually be that far off from my previous earnings. Plus, it brings me joy. This is worthwhile.)

Care is also coming in the form of having more time for service, which feeds my spirit and reminds me of why I matter. I don’t *need* to serve to have value, but it really does improve my spirits and self-image to do so. There can be balance here as well. It is easier in this particular moment to speak of balance, when I have somehow been granted a reprieve from the flares associated with the health issues for several weeks after months of continuous symptoms, but I hope to use this time of energy to lay the foundation for how to buoy myself when the next flare does occur. It will not overwhelm me again. I have heard the words of my Beloved, and I am not afraid.

In the Aset oracle of the year, we were reminded that, “After disorder, there is order. After sadness, there is joy. After violence, there is peace. After work, there is rest. After the year of beginning, there is the year of continuing what you have begun. My Son offers strength and power to those who accept the task.”

My sister and w’ab priest A’aqytsekhmet reminded me of these words a few days ago, and how true they already feel to me, a mere month into the new year.

But what is the task set before me? My new position of service to the community and new oaths associated with becoming Shemsu-ankh? Perhaps. Both feel as though I’ve taken a name (or been entrusted with a title) that allows me to continue prior work but in a more formalized capacity.

Yet I’m almost certain there’s something more that I’m missing. Something else that this time of rest is supposed to help with, prepare me for… I don’t know. It’s this gap, like once I tore the “illness as identity” away and refused to continue feeding it with the power of my acknowledgement, there was a hole left behind that leaves me wondering about my purpose, for the first time since I made the career shift from professor to counselor (though have since realized I could actually be both if I choose, and tossing aside the binary of one path or the other was brilliant — but that’s a story for another day!) There’s just… something I’m missing, or perhaps something I’ve lost sight of during the period of difficulties. I hope that I’ll figure it out over the course of this next year.

Given that it’s a “23″ — I’ll try to be ready for anything!

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.

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.

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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.

 

 

Red Week – Day 1

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In late August 2014, I began putting together a series of events for my spiritual community in the House of Netjer, focusing these efforts around the worship and study of the god Set, my primary deity and the Netjeru I view as my spiritual Father. The seven-day festival, given the name “Red Week,” has already been a tremendous learning experience for me in relation to event planning, delegation, personal research for the preparation of lessons and heka, and maintaining an active practice of spiritual discernment in the midst of the malestrom of day-to-day organizational details. The last point was maybe one of the trickiest elements for me: working to maintain the necessary balance between what benefits the celebrating community in question and what benefits the god we wish to honor through our festivities. I’m sure I will continue to have continued insights about all of this as the actual event unfolds in the days to come.

I knew that I very much wanted this first opportunity in learning how to plan a spiritual event, and I knew I needed it at roughly this level/size. I have somewhat grandiose dreams of eventually working on such things both within my primary spiritual community and on an even larger scale, with Kemetics of all paths, or even other polytheists, to promote local gatherings and worship. I have been fortunate to start to find such people in my home town, and have seen how it can function: a recent ceremony held in Pittsburgh on December 21st was a tremendous success.  Two members of Kemetic Orthodoxy, an independent Kemetic/polytheist who follows both Set and Pan, a Druid, and a Ceremonial Magician came together to honor Set’s battle against Ap_p on the longest night of the year. We made our varying backgrounds work together, combining elements from our different traditions for a vibrant evening of spiritual fellowship, storytelling, song, and contemplation. While I can only speak for myself: I found it to be a thoroughly profound night.

Yet even as I look outward and to the future, as is often my inclination, so too am I reminded that the work I’ve put into these next seven days merits a healthy degree of introspection and mindfulness: I want to take time to enjoy the week for myself, to spend time with Set and consider the lessons He may have for me. I can share some of those thoughts here and on Facebook, in the hope that they might inspire discussion both within my temple and beyond, but also just for personal growth. Both, I must remind myself, are meaningful efforts and well worth my while.

I am so very excited by what has been accomplished in the past few months: so many have stepped forward to make these “Red Week” events happen; so many have given their time and creative energy to connect and listen, teach and learn. I sincerely hope that these efforts will provide an opportunity for renewed strength as we head into 2015 and a renewed appreciation for a god who, if already fairly well known, remains so complex in His identity and the role He plays in lives of His followers around the world as to be well worth further discussion, study, and worship. Personally, while I cannot, and do not, claim to be an expert — I’ve only four years to my name as His follower, two and a half of those as His daughter — I hope that what I have learned in that brief span, what I can share through my service and dedication, will still be of benefit to others.

As for my own, individual, goals for the upcoming week? It’s time to take a look within. I have spent so much time with Set as a god of change and transformation, a god who helped me to break the boundaries of the world I previously existed within to find something better for myself. With His aid I broke free of an unhealthy romantic relationship, have since found a partner who supports me and brings balance to my life. With Set’s guidance I fought my way out of the worst of my mental health issues, and have been able to come off of medications, supporting my emotional well being through other methods. Set gave me the backbone I needed to leave an academic graduate program that was pushing me beyond my physical and emotional limits, and guided me to Heqat. With His force and Her boundless patience and love I earned a place in a new graduate program, this time in clinical mental health counseling, within a span of months, and found decent work to financially support my time in school.

I think it is time to figure out what it means to exist as His daughter when I’m standing still, finally living in a healthy space, on a fulfilling path, with supportive people. It’s a strange thing to admit, but I genuinely struggle to define myself when I’m not moving. I can’t seem to understand the edges of this person who calls herself Saryt when I’m not pushing ahead to the next challenge, fighting my way out of the most recent emotional or physical scrape. When I was an adolescent I feared change, but beginning in college, and all the more so once I re-discovered spiritual belief in 2011 with Set leading the way, I have come to use change as a means of self-definition. Now that this transformative element is, at least for the time being, seemingly less necessary on the personal level? I want to work to understand who I am when I’m not fighting to become something else, and maybe, in that understanding, come to appreciate, and care for, that self a bit more.

In so caring for myself, I believe I will then in turn be a better counselor, a better advocate, a better worshiper, and a better friend.

My goals for Red Week: self-respect and self-understanding, that I can sustain my Father’s driving will to break down the bad and make space for something new, a will that I seek to emulate within myself through my words and actions.

Much love to you all. Looking forward to sharing more as the days progress.

New Year’s Checkpoint

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I have been extremely fortunate that for the past five years, every January 1st between 2011 and 2015, I have woken up in the home of much-loved Chicago friends to this view: sunrise over Lake Michigan. I’ve seen several years onmy own, I’ve watched it with a man I’d leave six months later, and I’ve even shared it with my current partner who I’ll be marrying six months from now.

This year I watched the changing shades of the sky alone, feeling a bit under the weather due to asthma but grateful as always for the past night’s company and the glory of the view, the small space of quiet in such a massive city save for the soft whistle of tea I’d set to boiling some minutes prior. My friends slept, while I gave myself a brief bit of time to contemplate how marvelously different things will be next year: one of my friends is due to have her first child tomorrow, is ready to meet him any day. I will be married and halfway through my counseling program. 365 days of change and growth and hard work and celebration.

Yet this time for me has never felt like a true ending and beginning. January 1st marks the changing of the Gregorian calendar year, but it’s more of a check point, really. I think of video games, where you’ve made it roughly half way through the level and whew, there’s the little flag to pull, the barrel to burst, which means you don’t have to push through all of this again, you’ve made it far enough that there’s no going back to the start if something awful happens, you’ve got a safety net of sorts.

That’s my January 1st. Growing up, it was school that established this sensation for me, and my first career path as an academic maintained it. The year began anew in late August: new classes, new teachers, new friends, new obligations. It ended in June, and then there was this wibbly-wobbly summer bit that felt like something akin to Van Gennep’s description of the liminal, where I was neither in one year or the next, but somehow both, recovering and progressing simultaneously.

That Kemetic beliefs regarding conceptualizations of the year fell in line with this perception was a happy accident. Of course the New Year shifts over in early August, by the Kemetic Orthodox calendar I use! Intercalary days, out of time and out of synch with the year before or the year to come, they too took very little mental adjustment. One mental envisioning of time slid neatly within and so reinforced the other.

But what then is to be done spiritually at the “check point,” the secular New Year, the point between semesters, the date that’s just under half way to the next Wep Ronpet? I might suggest that it’s a good time to take a good look at what you’ve made it through this far, acknowledge in some way that you’ve accomplished much, and simultaneously recognize that there’s no going back.

No one can take away what you’ve achieved in this span of time. Even if the actions you took were not perhaps what you originally set out to complete, you can’t be sent back to who or where you were five or six months ago, for better or worse. You’ve learned something, progressed in some way, so why not take the time to acknowledge it. Maybe even reshape the goals you set when you started this year. Remind yourself of what you wanted to do with your spiritual practice this past August. Does the new you standing at this January checkpoint have a different perspective on things now? Maybe an adjusted view on how to achieve those original goals, or a realization that perhaps the goals themselves look completely different from this angle?

Riding back to Pittsburgh, away from the state that holds so many of my loved ones, away from the state that is home to my temple at Tawy House, I feel like I’m being physically drawn away from my personal January New Years’ check point. But the past ten days have given me a lot of time to think. I’ve had time to recognize what is changing, what I’ve done to enable that change, and how I can continue to worship and learn from my gods as I walk forward with the flow of time into the second half of my spiritual year. Armed with the knowledge granted by reflection, I look forward to the adventure.

There’s no turning back, just making what I will of whatever is to come.

May your own stops at the 2015 check point prove insightful, and your adventures magnificent.

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.

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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.

KRT: Walking with the Ancestors

Do akhu play a role in your practice? How do you work with the akhu (shrines, rites, etc)? How do you set up an akhu practice?

Learning to honor the akhu, or the blessed dead, has been a challenging process for me. I wasn’t someone who came to Kemeticism with any prior experience of ancestral veneration. Those who had passed away were mostly gone from me, or so I believed, either “far away” in some form of afterlife, to be seen again only when I too passed away, or simply gone as I often felt in my moments of pessimism and spiritual doubt. Learning to open my mind to the possibility that maybe I could still connect with them, honor them, even speak with them? It remains an ongoing effort: difficult but rewarding at the best of times, disconcerting at the worst, and altogether strangely more challenging for me to speak about in a public setting than my interactions with the gods.

With that in mind, this post may seem less candid than others, with fewer references to specific individuals than you may notice in other posts where I readily discuss which netjeru I spoke with, how I perceived them, etc. This relates to that discomfort I mentioned: I struggle with the idea that I might be mishearing one of my ancestors, particularly those I knew in life. With the akhu, it’s harder to forgive myself if I feel that I am not accurately discerning what I actually hear from what I’m mentally making up, for reasons that are difficult to explain. I suspect it relates somewhat to ideas that the gods are beyond human error, will not be affected if I misinterpret something now and again. But to mistake the words of one of my family members, someone likely only being reached out to in this context by me and me alone? It sits strangely at my core, and often prevents me from reaching out beyond the recitation of specific prayers, or a quick hello as I walk by.

My akhu thus have a more generalized role for me, for the time being. I do have a dedicated shrine for them in the living room of my apartment, decorated with photos of various individuals from both my family and my partner’s family, and a few family heirlooms. At least once a week (though I am trying to up this to a daily practice) I greet them aloud, formally welcome them to share my home, and offer water. The water offering is later poured into a specific spider plant that I bought as part of a fundraiser at a Race for the Cure event, and thus I view this as a way of honoring the many akhu my partner and I have lost to cancer over the years. I do not revert this water myself, as I follow the Kemetic Orthodox practice of not reverting the offerings given to akhu, but instead give them to nature or, in my case, a small bit of nature that I tend indoors.

I will light a candle or incense on special events and holidays that would have been significant for my known akhu (their birthdays, Father’s day, veterans day, etc.) I also attend sixth day festival chats hosted by the House of Netjer’s Rev. Raheriwesir, speaking my ancestors names aloud and sharing them via chat, so that they are remembered and, as some say, so that they live.

I also engage in certain practices that relate to my ancestor’s culture and spirituality as a way to honor them that falls outside of what might be viewed as specifically Kemetic. I have learned and prepared various recipes from my Italian great-grandmother’s cookbook. I attend a Methodist church when I visit my father at home, to honor the faith that was so important to many, many generations on his side of the family, even if I personally no longer identify with that particular religion. On occasion my partner and I will sing or play songs that his father liked in front of the akhu shrine, or bake biscuits to recognize his southern heritage. It has been good to share this aspect of my practice with my partner, as I think it helps us both to deal with our losses in some small way, and to always remember.

The memory aspect is what touches me most, I think. Even if I struggle to communicate via conversation like I do with my gods, even if I have moments of concern that perhaps some of my particularly devoted Christian akhu would not want to be recognized through formal Kemetic ritual, they all deserve to be remembered and honored. You can be creative with how you choose to go about relating to those memories, what actions you take to recall what they loved, who they were, what they cared about. But whatever you do, it is worth it to spend that time walking with their memories, thinking of how you personally reflect those who came before, and allowing them to live again as you speak their names and remember.

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.

Frog as a Cultural Keystone

Two weeks ago I spent several days in my childhood home in Maryland, visiting family and taking care of some planning for my upcoming wedding. Each night, after a busy day of visits and organization, I was greeted by the voices of hundreds of native treefrogs. The slow rising, alto creeeeeeeek of the upland chorus frog formed a polyphonic chant with the soprano chirrups of spring peepers. I did not see them on this trip, but recalled with joy being in my early years and finding the little creatures crawling on the sides of my parents house, loving that they were so small and yet had such a tremendous voice.

The return of the chorus frogs was always, for me, the first sign of the return of the warmer months. School would soon draw to a close, and a summer full of adventures would soon begin. So too would my personal new year be arriving, my August birthday arriving only a few months after the frog song began, and even when little the choir of ribbits got me thinking about what it would be like to be another year older, wondering about the year behind me, and the year to come. I would lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to the rhythms of amphibian music, dreaming and pondering about new beginnings until eventually sleep took me.

This emphasis on Frog as a representative of new beginnings on the east coast of the United States once reflected fresh starts on another shore: that of the Nile delta. In Ancient Egypt, immediately following the annual flooding of the great river, thousands of frogs would seemingly “emerge” from the soil, as the sodden earth provided a greater expanse of habitat, and the various frog species began to mate and reproduce. Though my research has not yet lead me to which of the following endemic amphibian species to the Nile valley region (egyptian toad and mascarine ridged frog) most likely existed at that time, one or both contributed to the ancients’ understanding of the goddess Heqat: lady of rebirth, midwife to the gods, giver of life to the human bodies that potter Khnum created upon his wheel. When the frogs returned after the flood waters subsided, so too would crops begin to grow, new projects could begin as the silt was once again rich with nutrients and the sky rich with frogsong.

It cheers me that these various species on both sides of the globe remain listed as unthreatened, though the Egyptian frogs have declined substantially in the past 10 years due to overharvesting for university study. Hopefully something can be done to protect them, as the frogs serve not only as a symbol of renewal, a current cultural keystone within the Americas and a historic cultural keystone of the Nile delta, but also as a source of food for other predatory species seeking sustenance as they enter their own breeding seasons, a source of protection from imbalance as they keep insect populations in check.

The frogs are necessary to balance, necessary for new life. Their song must continue to be sung.