Ekunyi's Embers

Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

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.

A brief meditation on the Mysteries

Lord, we want to see You … Lord, we want to see You. … O Lord, come in peace. Let us see You …

Little one! How lovely it is to see You. - excerpts from the Lamentations of Aset and Nebt-het

I witnessed the Mysteries alone this year, asthma necessitating my bowing out of previous plans to join in with an in-person gathering hosted by Heruakhetymose in Maryland. While I still hope to do a full vigil in years to come, my small-scale acknowledgement of Wesir’s passing still proved quite moving for me.

My partner had purchased a statue of Wesir for me from a local store after seeing my disappointment at my health’s ill-timed turn for the worse, and the Lord of Ma’at sat on my shrine for days, seemingly waiting for me to find the time to honor Him in my own way. I put it off for about a week, as stress over my music directorial debut and a brief dip in mood courtesy of the changing seasons made me wary of immersing myself in the solemnity of the occasion. Still He waited, a patient presence in the room, reminding me without anger that He was there, and He was ready when I found the energy to meet Him.

Finally, I prepared the shrine for Him with pine scented candle, sandalwood incense, a bit of earth. I kept his statue upright while I sang for Bast and Hethert-Nut, spoke the prayers to Set and Heru-wer that have become habit. It felt as though an honored guest had joined my regular host of deities, and there was no animosity.

Having gone through my regular senut prayers and praise, I lay Wesir on his back behind the pine candle. The shadows from the flame completely obscured His icon from my view when I returned to my knees. It was strange, having Him there, having just touched Him, and yet simultaneously being very aware of the lack of being able to see Him while the other images remained.

I read through the entirety of the translation of the Lamentations provided in Hemet’s The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook, and found my voice catching with each repeat of “Lord we want to see You.” When I finally reached the end, I took awhile, sitting in the silence to consider why this was hitting me. I closed my eyes, entered the river to find the calm that Heqat’s meditations have provided in recent days, and She joined me wordlessly while I attempted to sort things out for myself.

I am nearing a point in my life when my paternal grandfather has been gone from me nearly as long as I knew him in life. I love him and I do miss him, but I never knew him in the manner I might have as an adult. He passed while I was still too young to know the questions I would have asked, and while I am grateful that he (and, for that matter, my mother’s father who died of cancer while she was still carrying me) have both been willing to accept my efforts to honor them as akhu, it will never be the same. I cannot see him the way I did once, I will never know him with the same depth that I would have liked.

But this, for all that it aches on occasion, does not truly mirror Aset and Nebt-het’s grief in the Lamentations. Their consort and brother was close to them in a way that my grandfather, who I only saw a few times a year, never was. I have not yet experienced a loss of the magnitude of Wesir’s death, I have not yet grappled with the void of a death of someone I know inside and out.

I have, however, become acutely aware of the inevitability of experiencing such a thing, and perhaps sooner than I would like. My mother’s health has suffered greatly over recent years. She nearly lost a battle to kidney failure while I was overseas doing fieldwork, and I have spent several nights at her side in the hospital while she did her damnedest to fight off one form of infection or another. Her physical body has simply not kept up with the feisty, second-wave feminist lawyer that has so inspired me to become the proud, independent woman I am today. Her struggles in her battles with various ailments is antithetical to the sheer force of nature she can become out of love for her family, her career, and any child (two-legged or four-legged) who has ever needed her aid.

I am not ready to lose her. I suspect I never will be.

Granted, I sincerely hope that I will not lose her for some time yet. But the truth of the matter is, someday, I will. Someday, I will not be able to see the woman who I adore with my whole heart. The mother and friend I love so, so very much. She will be gone from me, and I will cry out, “Let me see you!”

And in time, some seventy days, I will. But it will be different. She will not be gone forever, but the way she appears to me will never be the same.

It makes me treasure each moment we have all the more.

Dua Wesir, for making me face these emotions. Dua Wesir, for allowing me to appreciate life and the time we have together with the ones we love most.

Heqat’s Senut

Heqat’s new statue arrived tonight, after a particularly difficult week that saw me facing serious abuses at work, family emergencies, and something of a “quarter life crisis” (though even I’ll admit that sounds a bit humorous.)

We’ve worked together for about four months now, all told. You can see my previous post for a more detailed description of how She entered my life, but suffice it to say, She’s made quite a difference in that mere third of a year.

I dedicated tonight’s senut to Her, and after offering my traditional brief prayers and praise for the four gods of my line-up, I joined Heqat in meditation as I now do on a daily basis.

It was simpler this time. I realized that in meditating, I could actually hear the faint whirr of what few evening insects still live in the woods behind my apartment as winter overtakes fall. I felt the heat of the candle’s glow on my face, envisioned it as sunlight. Heqat sat beside me, in my cupped hands, all around me. So small, so great, many dimensions and sizes and powers in one.

She-in-human-body reached out and touched my chest. I was aware of my heartbeat. Aware of my calm.

Like Serqet, one of Heqat’s epithets is “She who makes the tight throat breathe.” I am breathing easier than I have in years. I am calmer, more accepting, less riddled by anxiety. I can listen to my heartbeat, feel the passion and joy there, indulge those needs without guilt in far better balance with my drive to work and push and succeed.

I offered her bread and water. I read Her the poem I wrote in Her honor and submitted to the Bennu. I spoke briefly on what She meant to me, but She cut me short, so I dedicated the pair of earrings and brooch I had purchased for Her. She liked the earrings quite a bit, found the tiny, sparkling frog a bit too ostentatious, but appreciated the gesture.

She made me promise that after I left shrine, I would send the email that began my departure from my current field, and my journey towards work as a music therapist.

We sat for awhile longer, just enjoying the sounds of the night and not saying anything. I asked Her if I could take pictures of the shrine and She agreed, then bid me goodnight with Her soft smile that is less seen and more felt and was gone.

I rose, took the pictures below, then sent the message which will change the course of my life.

Dua Heqat.

Procession of Bast-Nebet-Ankhtawy in front of Ra

On many of Her festivals, Bast asks very little of me in terms of formal worship, instead making artistic requests or suggesting that I use the time I would have spent in shrine to spoil my “cat kids.”

Tonight She wanted me to play with the furballs and then to attempt a sketch of the image of Her and Set in Ra’s barque that I’ve seen in several dreams now. I’m not much of a two-dimensional artist, but I’ve enjoyed playing with digital paint programs of late, so I gave it a shot. It seemed appropriate for the day, after all.

I’d be curious to hear what you think of it, simple and stylized though it is. ^_^;

 

Living the Spiritual when Time and Spoons are Scarce

I have not been looking forward to the start of the semester.

I’m a part time teaching fellow, putting in about 20 hours a week (more if there’s grading to be done), and a full time graduate student. I’m in year three of my PhD program, and coming back to school after a summer of emotional and spiritual recovery post surviving the MA has been a bit of a kick to the pants. After a full week of 6 to 10 hour training days I’m officially back in the thick of it, teaching, reading, writing, and all the while doing my best to sort out whether or not I’m actually on the right career path.

I’m also facing some health challenges. Tomorrow I’ll have an ultrasound which may finally shed some light on several health issues I’ve been dealing with for the past four years, health issues that have necessitated surgeries and put me and my family on edge while we waited to hear if the issues at hand were something more insidious than we’d initially believed. I’m really hoping that this new test will get at the root of the issue, so we can move forward, rather than perpetuating the previous cycle of monitor, biopsy, consider removal. Granted, an ongoing emotional health battle compounds the lot of everything I’ve written above, so that’s another reason to get the tricky health stuff off the table if possible.

Since school began again I’ve gone from doing senut every evening to senut once or twice a week on Thursday and/or Sunday evenings, my only daily accomplishment the extremely brief mindfulness heka I shared in the previous post. I found myself angry for this perceived failure to maintain the habits I’d established over the summer, caught myself attacking my own inability to keep doing what I felt I “should.”

But “should” is stupid, terrible word, particularly when it comes to your relationship with the gods. Fact of the matter was, They weren’t guilting me, They weren’t tearing me down for what I could manage now that my schedule and life had become more complicated. Those insults were entirely my doing, my belittling of my accomplishments. When I finally directly asked Set if what I was doing was acceptable, He said He was pleased I’d managed to make a weekly commitment and stick to it, given that last year I’d go the better part of a month without sitting in shrine. He also reminded me to always live my belief with pride and passion, even when I can’t celebrate it as frequently with formal ritual.

I’m still sorting out for myself exactly what this concept of living the spiritual means to me. I hope to use the next several posts to form a series related to this topic.

For now, I’ll just share a few images that may serve as prompts for this effort.

I’d like to consider daily habits, like my morning ritual for the battle at the prow of Ra’s barque.

I’d also like to consider the significance of celebrating events with family, both Kemetic and not, such as my recent trip to Allegheny Cemetary with my partner.

Another post may deal with the ways in which Kemetics reach out to each other across the miles, such as the generosity and kindness shown to me by my spiritual family on my birthday.

And finally I’d like to consider the ways that things that seem largely unrelated to our spirituality may nevertheless prove inspirational to our spiritual goals.

I hope these posts will prove useful to others as I embark on my own journey of how I can maintain a balanced spiritual life, even when my mundane life necessitates shifts in the methods used to do so.

The Days Upon the Year

Following the Kemetic Orthodox calendar, I have just made it to the end of another official Kemetic year. Over the course of five days, starting today, I will be celebrating the birthdays of the five children of Nut, and using this time prepare for the new year or Wep Ronpet. For the few followers of my blog who aren’t familiar with these “Days Upon the Year” or “epagomenal days,” they specifically refer to five days which do not actually take place within one year or the next. To quote my much-respected acquaintance Shefytbast, “In myth, Nut was forbidden from giving birth to her children on any day of the year; feeling sympathy for her, Djehuty gambled with the moon and won five extra days upon which Nut’s children could be born: Wesir, Heru-wer, Set, Aset, and Nebt-het. These days, being outside the year, and further being a time of birth (always fraught with peril), are considered to be both extraordinary and dangerous.”

Other Kemetic friends and acquaintances are on slightly different time tables, depending upon their own calculations, but regardless of the precise dates assigned for each god’s day of birth, many of us are in in the midst of a time where we ready ourselves for a spiritual “reboot” if you will, reflecting on the year past and considering what we might do in the days to come. Occasionally, people find themselves dealing with profound changes, or strange and unexpected trials during these five days. I’ve certainly had my own bumps and surprises in the week leading up to this time outside of the year, but I’ve dealt with them as best I could, and moved forward.

I will spend the epagomenal days in a very different manner than I did last year. Wep Ronpet 2012 saw me in Wisconsin, with substantial amounts of time to myself even while I participated in an intensive study program. I was able to spend time in shrine with each god on their day, write an individual post in their honor, and seek out places or activities around town that reminded me of them.  This year, I am staying with friends in Chicago until tomorrow evening, when I will head to Joliet to celebrate Wep Ronpet with members of the House of Netjer. This is an important step for me. I felt as though I could not, in good conscience, continue forward on this particular Kemetic path without meeting Hemet and more of the House in person. I was very grateful to meet a few of these folks in Pennsylvania a few weeks back, and very much enjoyed the experience. It was sort of like I’d known each of them for far longer than I actually had, given how smoothly conversation went and how quickly the time flew by. It was also kind of amazing for me to be able to openly discuss my spirituality in a group. In my day-to-day life, I generally only get to have full-fledged conversations about it with Itenumuti online, or occasionally with my partner when he wants to learn more.

I do strongly feel as though the gods wanted this of me, so while I am somewhat nervous about meeting so many new people, I am mostly pleased that I have been able to pull this together. I hope to learn a great deal in the coming days, both in terms of Kemetic practice in general and also about this specific community that I have taken vows to uphold, and the woman whom I trusted to divine my primary deities. I am optimistic that my positive impressions online will be verified in person, but it’s still a weirdly unnerving thing, giving the virtual the potential to become a far more intricate, messy reality by stepping away from the screen and into actual, face-to-face interaction.

I will try to do something for Wesir today, small though it may have to be. I suspect I will endeavor to spend some time with my akhu this evening, after my friends have gone to bed. Perhaps write some small bit of poetry in his name.

But yes, as the year is renewed, so am I trying my best to renew my writing efforts. I’d gladly welcome a bit of conversation to help inspire further posts, but also simply to hear from you, as it’s an exciting time for many of us, and there is much to talk about as we consider what is behind us, and what that means for each of us at the new year.

PBP 2013 – E is for “Eye of Ra”

As this is technically a weekly blogging project, I am perhaps stretching the rules a bit by posting a creative work. But they’re really more “guidelines,” no?

Eye of Ra

I am as waves, shifting and pulsing,
a vibration that once was my visceral cry
quickens from roar to scream to explosion

In that instant I am more than the single strand of belief
which 
held me between your imagined sky and walked earth
Ecstasy holds me taut, faith draws a hand across me,
and those who know both will erupt with my birth
into the vision of humanity’s dawn

I am light and sound in that boundless repetition
My voice slows into the shaking of the sistrum at my right
My Eye rises into the blaze of the wand at my left

Sound in darkness
Light in silence
I am the destroyer of mere sensate dichotomies
And live in the soul of those who would burn
as more

Shefytbast’s Feast of Set Ritual

So this evening I had the opportunity to effectively “beta test” a ritual written for Set by Shefytbast.

By the Kemetic Orthodox Calendar I’m technically a day late to be celebrating Set’s Feast day, but graduate student scheduling often necessitates a bit of flexibility when it comes to holidays. More than once I’ve had to give some small offering and an apology on an actual “Big Day” ™ and promise to properly celebrate a few days down the road, once I’ve made it through the paper, presentation, or what have you.

But that aside, it was quite nice to try a modern-styled ritual written by both a respected acquaintance and priest. The version of Set she presented was somewhat different from how I usually connect with Him, but I enjoyed the opportunity to try to understand Him from a different perspective, and also appreciated the similarities that emerged throughout the course of my reading through and contemplating both story and song.

I generally followed Shefyt’s instructions quite closely, though I did (by virtue of belatedness) combine the celebrations for Day 1 and Day 2 together and read the story silently rather than aloud. I also left Bast on the shrine: She wanted to be there for her role in the pacification, apparently? Who knows! (But one does not argue with an Eye.)

I spent the allotted celebration time in prayer, singing a few of my own songs for the Red Lord, and completing a divination. It was quite nice, having a bit of one-on-one with Set in shrine. Most senut experiences of late have been deliberately evenly split amongst my four primary deities.

I would also note that it was really just a lovely experience to have a brief, tangible connection with another Kemetic person that I’ve only interacted with virtually via blog and forum. I would love to continue this sort of experience with others, when and if you all have personal rituals you wish to share.

At any rate, I’ve included a few photos below:

How about that inadvertent glare placement. <_<

 

The print off to the left arrived today, thus became part of the offering. I find it amusing that it got lost in the mail last month, only to finally arrive on The Day I could fully celebrate its featured deity. Also, the incense burning is a new “Strength” blend I found today in my local Nepalese store while seeking out a red candle. It’s rather epic.

Bagel and clementine, aka: the itty!feast of Set.

Thanks again to Shefytbast for the chance to try a newly authored ritual!

Dua Set!

PBP 2013 – C is for Cat

This is not going to be a particularly eloquent post, nor will it involve a tremendous amount of insight. This post is not going to detail the history of cats (plural) in Egypt, nor dwell on any examples of the marvelous art that depicts them.

This post is simply to express my love for my cat (the cat here at Chez Ekunyi) and to thank Bast for her continued health and well being.

Sammi (aka: Kittenface, Goober, Bastlet, Samwise Catgee, and Babygirl.)

So the little goober off to the right is Sammi.

She is my furkid. I view her as a dependent and take pride in knowing that I earn enough money to take her to regular check-ups at the veterinarian, to buy her food and toys (…entirely too many toys.) I view it as my duty to care for her teeth and her claws, to carefully watch her body for any changes that might necessitate concern. I find it grounding to brush her out every day when her coat starts to shed like mad in the spring time, to complete the simple daily tasks of changing food, water and litter.

She is my comfort. My partner can attest to the fact that when it reaches a certain hour in the night, she takes it upon herself to yowl and plant herself squarely in front of the television or computer until I get my butt to bed. She somehow knows just where to lay when I could use a heating pad on my chest when I’m dealing with a cold, or some warmth near my lower back when I’m sore. She stayed by me the entire time I was stuck in bed recovering from a surgery two years ago, chasing my roommate’s cat away from me repeatedly after the other cat accidentally walked on my wound.

She is my joy. Her presence in my life necessitates that I put aside my work at least once a day and throw her mouse or wriggle her special “stick” around for her to chase. She makes me laugh when she chases her tail, when she gets so excited about my coming home that she can’t take her eyes off me while running around and eventually just falls over. She wants to be on me, near me, almost all the time that I’m home, to watch what I’m watching, to listen to me sing. (And yes, given that she will snuggle up with me and purr at the sound of my voice, I do indeed sing to my cat.)

Sammi being helpful with research.

She is my inspiration. Though it’s ridiculously anthropomorphizing of me, her background genuinely inspires me. A mother to four kittens at seven months, she kept them alive and well through the “Snowpocalypse” while living under a porch, to the detriment of her own health. Despite this rough start in life, she has come so far from the skittish year old cat I brought home from the rescue center in September of 2010, growing into a snuggle-cat who pretty much wants to convince the world that everyone would be better off with a little more food and a lot more petting.

And yes, in her own way, she is a little connection with Bast. While I don’t view my time with Sammi as an inherently “spiritual” time, all of the things I’ve listed above do make me incredibly grateful that I have her in my life. In our short two and a half years together, she’s been at my side (or more accurately, in my lap!) through career changes, cancer scares, moves, and a break-up. She makes me laugh when I’m crying, and has grabbed onto my heartstrings so firmly that the thought of life without her (hopefully some fifteen odd years from now or more!)  can bring me to tears.

Dua Bast for the brilliance her children can bring in shadowed times, and for the love that we learn to share with them in turn.

And so, so much of that love to my Kittenface.

Naming Update

Many thanks to those of you who’ve contacted me here and elsewhere to let me know you wish to attend my Naming. As some of you may have heard, the House lost one of its own this past weekend, and understandably Hemet needed to reschedule the celebration for next week while she grieves for a friend of twenty years and helps with the funeral. Many prayers to Hemet and the family of Rev. Butta; may Deena’s ka be justified and those who loved her find comfort.

Emky and I will thus be taking our vows next week, on the evening of February 6th, at 9:30 pm Eastern.

It will be an… eventful day for me. Due to an inconclusive ultrasound I had today of a breast mass I’ve been monitoring with my doctor since October, I will be having a small, surgical biopsy that Wednesday morning. Fortunately ritual purity does not seem to be an issue for this particular occasion, so I promise to be online, excited for the event albeit possibly a bit groggy from pain medications? (We’ll just say it adds to the general “WHEE! I’M A SHEMSU!” of the day.)

Such is life when you’re the daughter of Set, I suppose. Roll with the punches, and take your vows on the same day you have a mildly disconcerting medical procedure.

(…sometimes you’ve just gotta make light of things, you know?)