Ekunyi's Embers

Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

A beautiful post from A’aqytsekhmet…

The Song of Hethert-Nut My stars are bright, Dancing into darkness, Streaming into night. Here my stars are shining, Deepened in sorrow, Their colors twining. And to the melody, They come to rest, Alongside others, Against my chest. -by me The shock of events really does not settle into my heart or mind for […]

via The Song of Hethert-Nut — Iryt-Ra

The Longest Night

The Eye has returned from Her wandering journey, time away from Her home giving Her the peace and freedom She needed. Many Kemetics celebrated Her return with the Solstice, honoring the growing light, and cheering for the longer days that bring so many of us joy and needed renewal. I love this holiday, and will make offerings to Hethert (in Her syncretization of Hethert-Nut in particular) with the Establishment of the Celestial Cow in the coming days. Yet the Solstice night for me is a day for my Father, a day to acknowledge His longest fight of the year against the Uncreated One, and to give what offerings I can to lend Him encouragement and aid.

This year I was out of town visiting my biological family, and so a full, formal ritual like the one I celebrated the year prior with my Kemetic family was not a possibility. But I ordered a fancy steak when we went out to eat, and silently offered it to Set before digging in myself. I wore one of my t-shirts with his image on it. Once home, I took some time by myself to briefly visit a shrine space I’ve established in the duat to light candle and incense, pour cool water and beer. Then, while preparing for bed, Set made one more request of me. He wanted the very first song I’d ever written for Him, and He wanted it sung aloud.

I was nervous. I’ve had sinusitis for three and a half months now, and with it a bevy of unpleasant pain in my throat, ears, and mouth. I caved and made an appointment with a specialist in January, but as of right now my voice is still a fickle thing. Sometimes here, sometimes raspy, and sometimes gone. It’s been a challenge, separating my identity from the singing I’ve always been proud of, and finding other things to focus on besides my music in the meantime. But He kept asking, so I tried, not at full voice, but enough to carry the melody well. I made it through, despite a bit of pain, and realized that what hurt I experienced was no worse than what I feel at present when I have a conversation with someone. My fear about damaging my voice permanently was what had actually been holding me back, not the physical discomfort. Yet the experience of singing again after so many weeks of avoiding it was so fulfilling that I realized I needed to find balance in this aspect of my recovery as well.

The experience reminded me that while balancing my identity with other aspects of who I am and what I bring to the world is important, vocal recovery is worth fighting for. I sang and I remembered my power there, even if it was just one quiet, tired voice at midnight rather than the operatic soprano I once was, able to sing over choirs and pounding drums. I sang and I reconnected to emotions I’d been repressing for several days, as part of this particular visit home involves sorting out the severity of a serious health concern for one of my family members, and helping other family members get past their denial of the situation so that they can better care for her with whatever lies ahead. I have shoved my own feelings aside to get what needs to be done, done. Those feelings came back, and I turned on the shower briefly and cried where it would not be heard, but then felt a weight lifted for doing so. I can acknowledge the hurts I accrue while fighting my battles, while still being strong enough to continue to wield my spear at my Father’s side. I have seen the scars that mar His skin as the night wears on and the snake strikes and strikes again. He will win as He always does, but that victory does not come without cost, and that cost provides lessons, new tactics to stay one step ahead on the next night’s battle.

I am so grateful that my Father showed me these things, that He knew how much fighting my way through that one song would help me understand what needed to change. I will keep going, but I will do so with the recognition that I cannot do so clouded by fear. That the things I love matter, and will be my strengths as I work to care for others.

Dua Set. <3

Shared from WordPress

The Lamentations of Set and Nit for the Transgender Dead – http://wp.me/pklcu-er

Autumn

Autumn sings to me via her unique, improvised melody of change. She is different from the other seasons, so distinctly herself, and integral to my senses and psyche in a way no other time of year can match. Her wind brings cooler air, the crisp scent of living things casting away the old in a spiral dance of saffrons and russets and earthen hues all claimed back to the earth himself. She is the time of harvesting grains and gourds, but also harvesting ideas and sun-kissed inspiration, readying it for the time of gathering by the hearth to place pen to paper, paint to canvas, voice to tales, and beyond.

She is all the stories that bring communities together in the winter months, families sharing hot drink beside the flame that keeps away both chill and dark. She is the advancing night sky, the twinkling lights of the ancestors above us spending lengthier hours guarding from on high. She is a time of connection as we return to our homes, re-enacting rituals of generations or crafting new traditions as we are called to do, treasuring those internal spaces all the more for the comfort of emotional and physical warmth after coming in from the cold.

In the traditional land of my spirituality this time of year would also represent a time of cooling, a closing of windows, a preparation of shrines for the colder points of the year. Yet the harvest was still long off; the third month of Akhet includes festivals to welcome the still-rising Nile, greeting the flood before it recedes and growth begins. It was a time to ask the blessings of Hethert, who presides over the month, and to continue efforts towards ones goals.

I appreciate this contrast, and find my blessings in the closeness I feel to others in my small corner of the world as the sun wanders away and we gather together in the darkness to await the Eye’s return. I find beauty in the light we create through shared meals, shared stories, shared moments of internal creativity brought to the forefront. We have more reason look within and subsequently encouragement from those who gather beside us to bring it without, to share and draw closer to one another. My personal goals often involve doing things for others, serving the communities I care for, and so this time of year gives me tremendous opportunity to do so. The sun sets earlier and rises later, so all the more reason for ritual candles to be lit, all the more reason for communal songs to be sung. I am given purpose in this season, both as I celebrate it here in Pennsylvania, and as I might have celebrated it in Egypt.

That purpose can only be fulfilled if I also look to my own needs, and Autumn holds me in that regard. She reminds me of transitions, of the only constancy in life being that nothing is constant. She allows me to let go of what was old, let it wither and feed the changes that will come again in time. There are always new beginnings, She says, but those beginnings require a casting away of what might hold you back.

A leaf falls, and I give it my difficulties with trust.
A leaf falls, and I name it remembered trauma.
A leaf falls, and the wind carries away my belief that I am worthless.
A leaf falls, and I watch my fears about my health drift away.

They are not magically gone, of course. It will take time for them to return to the earth, rot away, and become that which feeds new growing things in the soil. In the meantime, the limbs of the beloved oak outside my window are laid bare, as are my emotions: raw, naked, unadorned with the beautiful lie that everything is always “okay.”

But new leaves will grow, after many new returns of the sun, rising and passing overhead as I struggle towards acceptance and adjustment. Each dawn brings me a little closer to the final fresh start that I crave, each dusk gives me a night of creative effort and community. Autumn grants me connection to my spirit through artistic endeavor by candle light. Autumn grants me connection to those who so kindly remind me that they care as they share their stories in turn. I adore Her, the spirit of Her that lives in these Appalachian mountains. She works in tandem with my Father to help me break, then change, then grow again. They are a powerful team, the small aspect of the god Set which dwells in Western Pennsylvania, and the Autumnal netjeri of a season and a city and its people.

I light a candle for them, I sing for them, I write of their message for all who find this time difficult or painful for any number of reasons. My hope is that in sharing some aspect of why this season proves to be a blessing for me, that perhaps the darkness will feel even the slightest bit less overwhelming for others. I will gladly raise my mug to your own inspiration and connection with those you love. Be well, and may your life be changed for the better.

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.

My “Lightningbolt” of Understanding

It has been good for me to focus on animism for a time, and to forge a solid connection with Heqat, who seems to easily traverse both my Kemetic practice and my workings with the natural world. She has given me a certain serenity, encouraged me to stop and recover from my previous project, helped me to overcome the anxiety which had nearly overcome me in my final months of my graduate program. She is still here with me, and I suspect She will be for quite some time. I’ve made certain promises to Her as regards my future career in counseling, and She will see that I hold to those promises.

But She is not, in my experiences with Her, a god to push me forward, to send me into the next period of transition. No, the times of change, the times of necessary strength to make things happen? That is my Father Set’s domain, and He has made this very clear.

Fellowship with other Kemetics, the celebration of the festival for the Beautiful Reunion that celebrates Hethert and Heru-wer’s wedding, drew me joyfully back into purely Kemetic practice and efforts. During the conversation that followed ritual proper, I threw out the idea that my Father had few group rituals done in His name… would anyone be interested if I were to attempt to plan something. A strong, positive response was given, and I made a note to inquire of Set what day He might prefer.

During senut the following night, He made it very plain that He would hold me to this, and also made it clear what Day He preferred me to plan for. This is all, of course, in nascent stages, but I will write more about the process as things progress.

(And they will progress. I get the sense there’s no backing out of this, now that I’ve offered.)

My usual informal coffee with Set the following morning was met with a surprisingly in depth conversation about another aspect of Future Things, this time my career.

“Heqat is not the only one supporting you in this, daughter.”

I raised an eyebrow, as Set, for all that I view Him as a Parent deity, is rare to make a big show of the father/child, master/padawan distinction.

“No? Who else should I be working with?”

“Do you think that being a counselor will be easy?”

“Of course not.”

“Do you think that someone weak of will and courage could withstand the daily onslaught of isfet within people’s lives?”

“No, but I’m seeing your point.”

“You are the daughter of the god of change, of the necessary stripping away of that which is toxic, the removal of the great snake as it has taken hold in others’ minds and actions. Remember that, and do not forget what I am, and also what you are in bearing my standard in your name.”

He left then, and I was left to add milk to the coffee I always offer him black, sipping quietly as I considered why I had never considered this before.

I felt compelled to make good on another issue sooner rather than later: my devotional ring for Him and Bast had broken while I was at the Beautiful Reunion gathering. With a bit of extra time yesterday, I went to the local Tibetan Buddhist store where I generally buy my incense. I asked to see the rings they had available, and was immediately drawn to a garnet piece and initially assumed the mental push was just because garnet has always been, for me, His stone and color.

Asking the shop keeper about the symbolism (as I prefer not to wear things I don’t know the meaning of!) I was told that it was a dorje, the “thunderbolt of wisdom.” Stronger god-pinging ensued, and I realized I wasn’t going to be leaving the store without it. I went through my subsequent singing lesson feeling particularly “Great of Voice” with the ring perfectly snug on the middle finger of my left hand.

image

Upon arriving home, I did more reading — and will continue to do more in the day’s ahead. The dorje was masculine associated, and the “thunderbolt of wisdom” could be perceived literally as a weapon of certain aggressive gods (Indra) or more symbolically, as the determination to apply “skillful means” in the effort of reaching enlightenment. Skillful means is a concept that is going to take me a heck of a lot longer than two days to understand, but seems to somehow relate to methods or techniques that fit a situation to reach enlightenment, even if those may be difficult, painful, or rely on bending the truth. (Horribly over-simplified, but again, give me five years with the concept and I’ll get back to you with something that isn’t terrible.)

Regardless of the shoddy summation above, the symbol, for all my initial, “Set wants a Buddhist ring. Right-o, color me confused,” actually… rather fits.

And then I remembered another matter that I had not thought of in months. Last August, a few weeks after Wep Ronpet, I had a dream where I was given a message, both aloud and then written down. As I thought I recognized a few words from said message as some form of Egyptian, I ran it by Rev. Tamara Siuda, and was shocked to learn that it… actually could be interpreted as Middle Egyptian.

She wrote me back that, “It could be an epithet: s3i m3′ wn-hr(w) Sth (sai ma’a wen-heru Set(ekh), which would mean “True wisdom (and) skillfulness/clear vision (of) Set.”

If you took the sai as a command (bare infinitive verb), it would be something like “be true in wisdom and clear (of vision), Set” “

True wisdom and skillfulness/clear vision of Set. Be true in wisdom and clear of vision, Set.

What is the true wisdom of my Father? Add that to the grand list of Things I’ll Be Pondering for Decades. That said, His recent reminder stood clear in my mind. The wisdom required to be a successful counselor relates much more closely to some of His knowledge than I initially realized: the wisdom of how to stand strong when faced with so much pain and hurt, the wisdom of how to use skillful means to direct your client in a mutual effort towards necessary change, even if it may be painful. The ring on my finger suddenly became my own little miniature “thunderbolt of enlightenment” relating to *why* Set stepped forward as my Father.

He always knew I was strong enough to do this. I’ve only discovered that strength for myself in the past year. I’ve wondered, off and on, why me? How could I possibly earn the god of strength’s interest? Why has he continued to work with me, push me, train me, improve me?

Finally, at least in one regard, I get it.

Dua Set.

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.

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.

Spiritual Places Without and Within

I will not live the live my parents led, and I am fine with this. As musician, artist, and scholar, hopefully someday counselor, my home will not compare with the home of two lawyers that I grew up in: again, I am fine with this. My home is huge in comparison with the homes of many. Three rooms full of instruments and art and books. My home is open to those friends and family who need shelter. My home is full to brimming with the affection between two human-bodied and two feline-bodied people. There is space in my home for the ancestors to visit, if they choose, a small space always left for a father, two grandfathers, and any other relations to drop by in whatever form they might take. There is space in my home for gods and spirits, a Kemetic shrine and animist altar well tended in separate rooms for separate moments of worship.
 
My home exists in the liminality of the mountains and the city. Sturdy brick with nearly 70 years to its name surrounds me, with human neighbors above and below. Yet the deer walk the small patch of woods behind my home, as do chipmunk and squirrel. The robins greet me in the warmer months, the crows laugh when the weather begins to cool. Wild turkeys occasionally posit themselves directly in front of my car, reminding me that nothing is so important that it can’t wait a few more minutes for them to strut on by.

In my mind my “territory” extends about a mile east, to the avenue that holds both my favorite cafe and my nearest big park. I wrote my masters thesis, in its entirety, in the local, family-run coffee shop. I know the people there better than I do the ones in my own building. After working and writing for hours on end, I can walk up the same street to my park, get lost in the trails that during summer are shielded from any roads. I can view the Allegheny river from here, greet a broader range of avian life: mallard ducks, Canadian geese, chickadees, blue jays, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, grackle… the list goes on. Only recently, courtesy of the animist course I’ve been taking, have I looked on a smaller scale. Ants, wee spiders hiding in the bark, inch worms, lady bugs… a world I’ve not given nearly enough notice to. The plants as well: a newly acquired Kindle has allowed me to download a guide to the wildflowers and trees. My goal is to know the park that has given me such joy since I claimed Pittsburgh as my new home three years ago. I owe it that much, if not more.

Yet my home extends beyond this physical space. My heart strings are taut. The core, bass strings are drawn out of love and duty to my parents and Maryland; these are also pulled fiercely to Texas where my sister, best friend, and heart-kin lives with zir mate. Higher pitched strands guide my soul to Colorado, North Carolina, Illinois, and West Virginia. These are the homes of friends, family; so many loved ones I cannot ever see nearly enough for my own liking. Pittsburgh remains within driving distance of many of these places, and I am grateful for that. For the places more distant, it grants me compensation: in being near other spaces important to those I love, it gives me the option to see them when they travel. It also provides me both the water I grew up with, albeit three mighty rivers instead of the one great Bay, and gods bless it for the mountains.
 
It is unsurprising to me that the places I travel in my meditative journeying efforts reflect the reality of the physical that feeds my soul. My internal temple, while Kemetic in design, was built within a natural clearing in a vast forest. It is near a great river where I work with Heqat and Hatmehyt, and the forest itself is rolling and wild, a part of some unknown mountainous region in my mind. I run the woods with deer and hound, I soar above the trees and see great valleys and other, unknown tributaries with Great Horned Owl. As my physical self, I seek similar places out in my actual travels. I clean litter from the aforementioned park when I visit, trying to protect what small corner of my ecosystem is within my neighborhood, my little human territory.

I would shrivel up without access to the woods, the water, the birds and the green. It is as much a part of my spiritual life as ritual and prayer.

Setting and Carrying Standards

Around this time, a year ago today, I was coming home after a small surgical procedure that would determine whether or not the “questionable mass” in my chest merited greater concern. My head was full of a lot of other issues on top of the health concerns — Would I finish my masters degree? Was I even in the right career? How could I deal with the toxic situation in my workplace? Where was my relationship going with this amazing person who’d stayed in the hospital with me all day despite his own recent emotional hardships related to family and cancer?

With as much emotional sand shifting beneath my feet, for both ill and good, it was with no small degree of gratitude that I had a very special occasion to look forward to that evening.

Ice pack strapped to my chest, pain medicine leaving me a bit more light-headed than I would have been anyway out of sheer excitement, I sat in shine as I prepare it when I’m not ritually pure. I turned on my laptop, glad to spend a fair amount of time talking with Tenu as we waited for the time when we would learn our Shemsu names and take vows to both put our Parent gods foremost in our spiritual lives and serve the Kemetic Orthodox community.  Together we entered the virtual room that had become familiar to us as our online place of worship, together we were greeted by many, together we took our vows.

And now I am Sarytsenuwi. I’ve previously written about what that name means to me, how it related to my relationship with my Parents before I became a Shemsu. I don’t want to focus on that so much today, today I want to focus on what has happened since, and how it relates to being “The Standard [Bearer] of [My] Two” or “Two Standards for Me.”

Two Standards For Me

One of the biggest goals I’ve set for myself is breaking down my “double standard” tendencies. I’ve examined how I set standards for myself  and how I live those standards:

1.) I am setting new standards for how I speak and write about myself. 

This falls in line with the well known, “Hail Bast, coming forth from the shrine, I do not eat my heart.” What I say and write about myself affects how I think and feel about myself. This pertains to both obvious things — not denigrating myself , and being careful of the difference between self-insult and humility — and less obvious things, trying to write about solutions to problems, concerns, health matters, rather than simply listing them out. It’s a shift of mental standards as much as a shift of action, but I’ve found they greatly overlap.

2.) I am setting new standards for how I respect the sovereignty of others.

I am not responsible for the actions and words of other people. I cannot make anyone change, nor should I. My responsibility is to myself, and I can only set an example for others by being careful of what I say and endeavoring to be respectful unless I ethically cannot remain silent. My workplace is difficult to navigate in these terms; anything I say against another individual is almost certainly going to come back to bite me, no matter how much they may have angered or hurt me. I tried to change this environment by creating new organizations, promoting healthier social interactions. This having failed, and in my own realization that my professional calling lies elsewhere, my standards for respecting the sovereignty of others necessitates my departure for another path.

3.) I am setting new standards for self-care.

Aaaand this would bring us to that lovely concept that Netjer has tried to smack me upside the head with since I started this crazy journey several years back: “balance.” Balance in the Bawy, balance in my akhu reading from my RPD reading, balance in my efforts with Heqat, balance appearing in so many places that it’s become one of those words I read three times over because it’s no longer processing in my skull the same way. In the past year I’ve forced myself to try this brilliant new concept where rather than always focusing on work and school obligations, I give myself space to be creative, allow myself to take days off when I’m sick, and forgive myself for seeking help when I need it. Lo and behold, my mental health has turned a corner and I’m far more capable to help others.

The Standard [Bearer] of [My] Two

The year has also seen me seeking out a better sense of my own “calling,” though that overdramatizes it a bit. If a standard bearer was deemed specifically suited to that position, I wanted to use this year to determine what my own position might be, and how I might achieve that.

1.) I want to bear a standard for the community.

I really wanted (still do!) to get more involved with the Kemetic Orthodox community this year. I took a vow to honor and aid my spiritual family, many members of which I have come to deeply care for and who have added great joy to my life. I’m not where I’d like to be with this, admittedly. Far too often my schedule overlaps with the Dua times or I’m too worn thin to be up for fellowship. I’m working on it though, coming when I can, trying to stay on top of potential local gatherings via the forums. I’ve also felt at least somewhat helpful with my efforts at organizing the monthly fedw chats, and intend to keep that going as long as possible. I’m also trying to stay in touch with other Kemetic folks via Facebook and tumblr. We may not have what one would call a cohesive community, but I am constantly learning from all the different folks I meet online, in their various paths and takes on life. I hope to maintain those ties.

2.) I want to bear a standard of aid for those who need it.

This was a Big Thing for me, and it didn’t come easily. It took me many months to come to terms with the fact that I really wasn’t happy in academia alone. I needed more one-on-one interaction, needed to be able to carry my ideas about how music can be used in a therapeutic context into the world rather than simply writing about it. This is finally underway, as I’ve made plans to depart, and have started research for what comes next.

3.) I want to bear a standard of joy.

Okay, yes, this is the cheeseball fluffy bunny part of the entry (no offense intended, Wenut!) but I mean it. I want to be a positive influence for people. I’ve upped my efforts to reach out to the friends and family I’ve not heard from in ages, offering my company and my compassion if they want it. We have the technology, we can make it better, stronger– eh, you know what I mean! I want to write music and make art for people. I want to laugh and just connect. This is a work in progress too, but, you know, it’s a goal to reach for. I’ve finally got the spoons for it due to some of the other work I’ve done, time to make good on it.

So aye, my name and the goals I’ve taken on courtesy of that name. There’s far, far more to do. I’m sure I’ll have plenty more lessons from “Sarytsenuwi” in future years. But, it’s a solid start and I am prepared to keep carrying these standards forward into whatever comes next.