Ekunyi's Embers

Archive for the ‘Woman of Set’ Category

Describing Set

The apartment is quiet after a wonderful weekend with members of my spiritual family. We gathered to celebrate the Feast of the Beautiful Reunion, a personal favorite holiday of mine for several reasons. For one, my own anniversary often falls during this joyous festival, which is a lovely coincidence. I also deeply care for both Hethert and Heru-wer as deities I share a Beloved relationship with in my Kemetic tradition, and appreciate that Her return offers a wonderful chance to re-focus on the many forms of love we experience in our lives, celebrating the divine couple and our own relationships with music and fellowship.

During the gathering, as is often the case with individuals who mostly interact online, we stayed up late into the night just talking about our gods and our faith, enjoying the opportunity to hear one another and share ideas and the lived aspects of our connection to the gods. At one point on Saturday evening conversation turned to the concept of regional gods,  in the sense of how each individual present connected to the Netjeru in unique ways, often finding connections based on historical reference and detail, but also in the personal touch of the gods on their own lives, perhaps inspired by personality, location, or some other aspect of what is felt and discovered through experience. We considered that the gods perhaps show Themselves to us in the way They do for reasons that may not initially be clear, but perhaps hold some degree of purpose, well worth further contemplation.

And then at one point A’aqyt asked me, “What is Set like for you?” I initially could not answer, because I found it difficult to put to words. I found a brief description later, but even then it wasn’t enough. The urge to try again in writing has struck me now:

What is this land of green to you, Neb Deshret,
Father who walked alone through the dangerous red land?
Guardian of those who wander far from the river’s edge,
You know each hardship, bearing strength enough to endure.
Did you claim our waters that rose and fell not with seasons
but instead at the terrible fury of your storms?
Lord who walks the spaces of transition,
I have seen you transform the very passage of time.
Where once the boundaries of your hand were defined by flood and recession
You have now fiercely taken hold of the cycles of my home.
I sense you when the trees grow bare, when the ice hangs heavy on their limbs.
The color of autumn shifts to grayscale, and you are present in its sudden absence
As sharp as the snow that lands heavy on my bare, outstretched palm,
As hot as the air that burns deep within my lungs as I speak to you
of that once spoken by the great king who sought your protection,
recognizing your command over the cold winds of distant lands.
Set, you have claimed the winter’s edge,
Your grip rests upon the bladed peaks of our mountains.
You recognize the power of extremes
and balance them in your palm as a well crafted knife.
Father, you are not gone from me when this land’s cycles renew.
As the people of Dakleh sang your name in the oases
So shall I drum your heartbeat in gratitude for life returned,
Appreciating your power in the verdant leaf that rises from treasured water
Acknowledging the bounty we are gifted with the constant flow of rivers three.
Sa Nut, as light falls in winter or summer,
I fall to my knees and kiss the ground,
then rise with fist to chest and another aloft to the sky.
My eyes turn North to seek you amidst your mother’s expanse,
And I find you striding forth in constellations,
Until clouds obscure you from view, and I know that battle has begun.
Yet with the coming of the storm, your voice rattles the earth beneath my feet.
Your victorious shout against the Uncreated that assures me another day will dawn.
I will be there to greet you as the mandjet carries you back to Appalachia,
Your name on my lips,
Your voice in my heart.
I am your child of strange lands,
Who finds you at times in the knife of ice
and even the gift of living things.
But always, forever, shall I seek you amongst the stars.

.

Cycles

It was shocking to me, this morning, to realize that I have not written here since my birthday in August. The familiar sense of concern that I had failed in some way tried to creep its way into my thoughts. I caught it before it settled into the nooks and crannies that are the caveats of my present good mood, and flung it elsewhere. Today is not a day for sadness, today is a day of moving forward, of the next phase of time in my life.

You see, yesterday I just finished the final assignment required for my master’s degree. I have three more days at my internship site. I have a small job lined up for January, and am working towards other opportunities, but it is something, and it is good. Friday’s graduation ceremony will be a day worth celebrating.

Granted, outside of that bit of light in my life, the world is, from where I’m standing, a far scarier place than it was when I last wrote. Brexit, which I did not fully understand over the summer, now feels like a harbinger of political division, anger, and fear that has fallen upon my country as well.

I acknowledge that the days ahead will be difficult ones. I’ve seen it already in my office: the week following the election was a week of so much grief, terror, and uncertainty amongst nearly every client who came to our office, and yes, even amongst the staff ourselves. It is going to take strength, courage, and compassion for one another to see each other through whatever changes may come in the years ahead, and to make changes of our own in turn that best support equity, justice, and Ma’at.

Ma’at is made all the more complicated in a modern world where the media tries to convince of us of a binary regarding what is right and wrong. Perhaps, in that sense, reviewing history and the complexity of Ma’at becomes all the more important. We must review the past and fight for the future through the lens of what is balanced and just. We must spend time determining for ourselves and our community what justice really means in the circumstances of the present day, and how we can contribute to that sense of balance, in all its grey areas.

Maintaining spiritual connection in the midst of so much secular difficulty becomes challenging. I’ve struggled myself, over the past few months, and found myself constantly apologizing to gods, friends, and family alike for the factors that left me working twelve to fourteen hours days on a regular basis. My health wavered, and physical issues related to purity kept me from establishing the constant, reliable practice I wanted to offer my gods. Only in the past few days, as I drew near to the end of the scholastic portion of my journey, found a new combination of medications, and began to hear the words of Set and Bast, calling me back, telling me it was time, have I been able to turn my sights back to this aspect of my religious work.

Sitting before them in shrine last night, I reflected on how there is still a lot of uncertainty, but there is also so much love. The sun rises each day, and with it, the cycle of time begins again, new chances are made to reach out, to try again, to rebuild what has been broken.

We are all far, far stronger than we know, provided we hold to the connections that empower us. Connect with your gods, connect with your loved ones.

You are not alone, not now, not ever.

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.

Garnet and Malachite

He is crimson fury and russet strength unyielding. Red drips from His body as it has His titles. Pure, garnet heat rushes from the fiercest heart, giving sign of the battles fought for the sake of testing a kingdom and maintaining existence.

She is viridian life and jade pleasure sinuous. Green winds through the curves of Her movement as it has the scent of Her malachite perfume jar, deceptively soft. The fiercest heart gives sign of the depth of Her passion, expressed through music played to remember the point of existence.

The malachite rises from the garnet, gives Him reason to lift blade time and again, brings a smile to curving, sharp-toothed mouth. The thought of what He preserves as He defends within the sky.

The garnet rides within the malachite, gives Her fangs the memory of blood, brings the hunt to curving, sharp-tipped claws. The thought of those who dare attack those left upon the kingdom’s mortal soil.

My gods are so vitally, vibrantly alive, each bearing a trace of the other’s color within.

Focus and Dreams

A friend of mine recently quoted T.S. Eliot, noting that “April is the cruellest month.” It has not been an easy few weeks, that is certain, but as I stand at the end of my coursework for the semester, still grieving certain losses yet treasuring memories, I find myself ready to move past April with renewed energy and hope for the months beyond.

I have gotten caught up in the urge to clean and remove the unnecessary things. To seek out only what is needed, and find comfort in that simplicity. Old clothes, old books, and old knick-knacks are finding new homes, as I acknowledge the sense that something (or someOne?) is driving me to create more space in my home, to prepare and clean for something new.  I’ve also been exercising again and playing guitar, finding the joy in the physical world, getting away from electronics for at least an extra hour every day.

There have been changes in my shrine set-up, as well. Cleaning, of course, but also a shift so that my five primary gods are the only Names present in the naos. Sekhmet had joined us for several months, as I asked for Her guidance in my inital foray into the field as a health professional. She told me two nights ago that it was time for Her statue to move elsewhere. She would always be with me, guiding my hands, but I was competent enough to serve without the constant reminder that She was with me. Nervous, but recognizing the tone in Her voice as “This is how it must be,” I gently took Her from the shrine, wrapped Her, and placed Her with my other icons who wait for specific festival days.

Even as Sekhmet has stepped back once again, Set and Bast have been all the more present, directly involving Themselves throughout my days in ways that have positively intervened with some of the difficulties of late. Then, after senut ritual two days ago, They asked me out of the blue if I knew why I was Their child. I expressed my thoughts aloud, but They informed me that They would send dreams to help me  better understand.  I was thinking too much with my mind and not my heart.

Bast said She would come first, and that night I dreamed of vibrant vignettes that featured various memories of connections between me and loved ones, starting in early childhood and continuing to the present day. Old activities I treasured, new rituals that had become deeply fulfilling to me. All of the images were joyous, all full of laughter and affection, until the final image where I had gone to comfort a friend who had recently lost a pet we both held dear, and we were preparing to bury the body. There was a rapping on the door, and we opened it to find an older woman whose face was obscured, who said that we had the wrong pet, our animal (and she spoke the cat’s name) actually was still alive. I looked at both creatures, dead and living, and realized that somehow they were one and the same. The beloved companion was no longer with us, and yet she was. Then I woke.

Set said His dream would come next, and last night I dreamed of frightening things. In one fluid storyline I was forced to face nearly all of my greatest fears and anxieties. I was lost in an unknown space, the only hotel I could find was full of bugs which bit me, but I wrapped myself up in sheets I cleaned in the sink and dealt with them. I suffered a significant allergic reaction from the bites, my body covered in welts, and yet was able to trade for benadryl from another person in the hotel.  Then an old man who showed up to the hotel tried to assault me after a series of particularly humiliating events. I fought him off and was able to make it out to the parking lot, where I stole a car and drove to the nearest police station. I survived, and my husband came to get me shortly thereafter.

My Mother’s dream was so positive, so full of love and promise, and yet ended with the recognition that immense love comes hand in hand with eventual loss. She also seemed to remind me of the responsibility of my empathy: to comfort others and sit with them in their grief, to try to hold on to the hope that those who pass might still live in part if we remember them. My Father’s dream was a challenge, a gauntlet of my personal fears, and yet the ending showed that I was now strong enough to face all of them.

I’m still processing the meanings within each dream, how different they were, and the areas in which there was overlap. I am grateful for these messages from my Parents as I refocus, sorting for myself what the next step will be, and preparing my body, my home, and my heart for that opportunity.

March Celebrations

(A quick warning that the following post is fairly media intensive.)

March is always a wonderful month to honor my Parents. I celebrated an early festival in IV Peret, The Day of Eating Onions for Bast, with my friend Temseni up north, carrying my senut statue to her home for celebration. We gave offerings, performed an execration, and asked for Bast’s blessings. We made music before the great lady of Bubastis, and had a wonderful evening.

 

Later in the month, I celebrated the Procession of Set. He and I chose to honor this particular holiday in a more lighthearted way, as we knew several of our community could really use a reason to laugh in the midst of various hardships. Thus, a plush form of The Lord of the Northern Sky traveled with me throughout the day, visiting shrines, parks, and receiving various offerings all the while.

Finally the month came to a close with a far more personal holiday, a day honoring Set as Lord of the Oasis. Here I include what I wrote on my Facebook page during that day:

IMG_4107

I’m not the best artist, but I wanted to try to capture the image stuck in my head the last two days, during Father’s festival honoring Him in His name of Set, Lord of the Oasis.

This is Set as the god of beauty in the harshest places. Set as the security of a home one can return to, a home with necessary protection and comfort, after one has explored the difficult places or thoughts. Set as the reassurance that dawn and Zep Tepi will come again, bringing new life, new chances.

This is the Set I rely on as a counselor: Set who is stable and sturdy and present so that my clients are safe enough to go wandering through the deserts of their lives and know they will be okay, that there is someone listening and waiting with water at the ready after they’ve walked and spoken and are parched from the effort. This is the Set who is both mirage and reality, that liminal space of what could be and what is, mystical in the surreal way that there is life and hope amongst the vast nothing of the desert of our fears and anxiety. The Lord of the Oasis is so profound to me, so incredible and beautiful, and all the more so in that every year we have honored it together He asks only that I give Him something small and then care for myself, create my own oasis to examine my reflection, process my grievances, and move forward.

I would later join in Him in shrine, where the way He seemed to move forward through the incense inspired me to write the following:

IMG_4122

If you are in need of strength, walk forward in the power of your own words and intent. Your way is cleared of obstacles, no fear can bind you, the strength of Set is your strength, the voice of Set is your voice.

So yes, a very intense, fun, wonderful month spent honoring my Parents as best I could while juggling all that other life stuff we grapple with from day to day. I hope these images and shared experiences bring you joy as we enter a time of purification, preparing for the final season of the year.

Kemetic “Art a Week” Challenge # 1 : “Desert”

Kemetic “Art a Week” Challenge # 1 : “Desert”.

An Offer of Execration

While not formally trained as a priest in my religion, my gods do often ask me to share my personal heka with others, or invite others to participate in some way. It’s part of my service to them, to also provide spiritual service to others. This also takes the form of the divination services I offer for Set and Bast, and my work for my community.

Long story short: Father wants me to smack things on His smacking day next Wednesday (1/13 — The Day Set Kills the Rebels.) I’m afraid I don’t have the energy, time or money for the intricate heka I managed last year during Red Week, but I sure as heck can still find time to pray and burn things!

If you would like me to add a thing/emotion/idea to execrate (my path is not one of adding names to the list, so no specific people please) feel free to shoot me an email at Sarytsenuwi@gmail.com. You can also just ask me to write an X down and I will include it as “those things which (person) desires to be destroyed.” Bast will then be honored and asked to purify all those who have just included their hurts or grievances in the execration.

Please send me any messages before next Tuesday at midnight, as I will be up at 6 am (honoring Set’s hour of the morning in my timezone) for the ritual. If you’d like to just do something similar yourself, that is awesome as well.

Go go gadget smiting of rebels. ;)

A Prayer for Veteran’s Day

Last night during my daily ritual, my Parents asked me to do something formal in their Name for Veteran’s Day. So today I wrote and completed the brief bit of heka below. I just finished the rite a few minutes ago, and having spoken the prayer, received permission from my Parents to publicly share the text in case it proves helpful for anyone else on this day. I began the rite at 11:00 pm in my time zone, a nod to Armistice Day, even if my current schedule would not allow me to complete it in the afternoon, as tradition would normally dictate. My thanks to all those who have served honorably, and my hope that upon your return home that you find whatever support you need.

Honor to Set, warrior standing before the king.
Strong of Arm, slayer of the uncreated.
Great of Voice, whose words challenge the poisons of the world.
We give you homage,
We thank you for protecting the dawn from the snake,
That we might find light in the midst of darkness.

Honor to Bast, defender standing before the kingdom.
She Who protects the Two Lands and the Akhu.
Goddess of Family and Home, whose love comforts those who remain.
We give you homage,
We thank you for the experiential power of living,
That we might know joy in the midst of grief.

To the ones who serve at present, protecting their families and their nations: (Name active duty here)

Set’s strength is your strength,
His leg is your leg, you walk with courage on your path.
Set’s strength is your strength,
His sharp eye is your eye, you see what is before you.
Set’s strength is your strength,
His drive is your drive, you have vitality for your goals.
Set’s strength is your strength,
His spear is in your hand, you are defended from harm.

To those who have served in the past, and have created — or are working to create — new lives: (Name retired here)

Bast’s heart is your heart,
Her fire is your fire, you have space to express what you carry.
Bast’s heart is your heart,
Her Valor is your Valor, you have gratitude if you wish it.
Bast’s heart is your heart,
Her love is your love, you connect with those who support you.
Bast’s heart is your heart,
Her Truth is your Truth, you make of your life what you need.

To the shining ones who have gone before us,
but who served while among the living:
We thank you, our blessed dead, for all that you have done.
We honor you with the lives that you fought to protect
And seek to remember your service through our actions.
A thousand of every good thing to you, oh beautiful ones.
May Set, Lord of the Northern Sky, inspire you with his nightly victory.
May Bast, Lady of Heaven, watch over you as you shine on high.
You are welcomed in our homes this night and all nights.
A light will be kept for you, incense and offerings left by your shrine.
We speak your names and you live: (Name veteran Akhu here)

He before whom the sky shakes,
Hear these words and honor them.
Grant those who defend us your courage.

Devouring one,
Hear these words and honor them.
Grant those who defend us your flame.

May you satisfy yourselves with the repast to the right and to the left.

Dua Set! Dua Bast! May it become!

To Honor Set and Bast

A Dialogue of Light

The image above is a painting by Cú Meala of Cait Sidhe Designs entitled “A Dialogue of Light.” Please visit the store for other sacred art and jewelry by this wonderful husband and wife team. 

The past few days saw a visit from my sister in the House of Netjer, A’aqytsekhmet. Our time together was full of laughter, worship with fellow Pittsburgh Kemetic Orthodox Shemsu Temseniaset, divination, and no small amount of spiritual discussion. Through our lengthy conversations (which often went to hours of the evening that I have not seen in several months due to my previous work schedule) I was able to flesh out some of the deep feelings I harbor for my primary gods, starting to find words for the depth of emotion and gratitude I have come to feel for them over the past four years of my life. I hope to put some of these thoughts to the virtual page, in order to avoid losing them again to the impending whirlwind of projects often known as End of Semester Doom.

When I try to describe my Parents to another, I see an ongoing journey of personal discovery. I am not one to follow the camp of “everything happens for a reason” but instead ascribe to the idea that “you can learn from everything that happens” and find myself in genuine amazement at how necessary many of those lessons have been. In my Parents, I have learned to see two halves of my personal whole. First, the driven, justice-seeking advocate who will be strong so that others have the safe space required to be weak and to heal. Second, the passionate artist whose music and joy of the sensuality of experience replenishes and tends the body that she pushes to its limits to care for others. Without the second, I would destroy myself through burn out or health issues derived from stress and overuse. Without the first, I would lack personal fulfillment and a sense of purpose to always keep going for as long as I feasibly can. I need the lessons of both my defender, warrior Father and my mindful, fiercely free Mother.

And those lessons extend beyond what they represent. They communicate and exist in such different ways. Set is largely solitary and solid in that individuality. He is concrete in a way that few other gods appear to me, readily heard, almost always embodied in a clear way that my mind’s eye can focus on and address. He is massive in His strength and power, but the connections He has to the rest of Netjer-as-whole are not so diffuse. I can always sense Him, always hear Him, can always ask what He wants of me and get an answer. I do not get lost in the diverse connections of other deities such as I do with my Mother, who in Her sheer existence has helped me to understand the complex power of being one of Ra’s Eyes. Bast is so huge it can be hard to figure out where She begins and ends. She can appear to me as the great cat or the woman with the dark lion’s face, but she can also extend back into Tefnut, outward into Sekhmet and Mut and Hethert and beyond. She rarely speaks directly, and so deeply cherishes the ideal of freedom that Her requests are rare. I often feel lost in Her depths, uncertain what She would have me do on Her behalf, and given that often the final answer ends in “Do as you wish and as it brings you joy” I struggle to understand if I am on the right track for honoring Her. Yet in these extremes of communication and desired forms of worship, I have come to better be able to reach out to other Netjeru. To have mental conversations with some, to not be discouraged by the relative quiet of others, and to accept the awe of meeting some of the oldest deities rather than being overwhelmed by it. I feel that together, They prepared me to greet the many other Names of Netjer, in their many forms and through their many methods.

If I tell fewer stories of Bast, it is because so much of what we do together is deeply personal. She has helped me to prioritize my life to focus on things that I want to be doing, rather than things I believe I should be doing, and in making those choices, to greatly reduce my stress. She has helped me to love my body for what it can do, being mindful of its power and ability rather than focusing on my frustrations when it aches or falls ill. She has helped me to live in the present moment, to enjoy what I can and experience in the instant I am doing it, so as not to worry about the “what ifs” of tomorrow or the next day. Yet so many of these lessons came through surprise experiences, a gentle nudge from Her to pay attention to an occurrence in the world, or even one of my actual feline companions bringing a tiny realization to mind. She and I don’t have the readily shared stories I’ve developed with Set through our daily coffee ritual, our informal worship through metal and science fiction, our formal moments in shrine where His voice rings in my mind and I sing back to Him in gratitude and fierce, fierce love. I have learned to accept that not all balance appears as such to others, and that this is okay as well, so long as you have found it for yourself.

Yet despite their differences, my Parents also function brilliantly together. They are both defenders, protectors, fierce and capable in their own right. One of the images they have shown me time and time again is of the two of them upon Ra’s boat, Set at the prow, Bast guarding the King’s back. They remind me of the importance of the concept of protection, how many forms that process can take. They would have me protect others through counseling, teach others to protect themselves and their well being through self-care.  They would have me protect community, working to provide spaces where the bonds between fellow worshipers can grow and strength. There is so much more to this idea of the defender that They wish me to explore, in part considering the relevance of my Shemsu name in relation to that concept, but I will save such thoughts for another time. What is important is just the acknowledgement that Set and Bast are incredible as partners, but also as contrasting forces of equally stunning power. I adore Them, I am grateful to be their daughter, and fortunate to have Them and the work I’ve yet to do in Their name as one of many reasons to always keep going.

I still have more work to do, but I am more whole, more stable, than I have ever been before, and I say this coming out of over a year of significant health concerns. With Their guidance, I have learned that I am strong enough to eventually get through most challenges. With Their love, I am reminded that opening up and reaching out for assistance is a form of strength in itself. With Their wisdom, I am able to see that in struggling, I have developed a greater sense of perspective on my own good fortune and greater sense of empathy for those who have suffered. In truth, I am now better able to serve my gods and my community than I was a year ago, having embraced what Set and Bast taught me during the obstacles that chance threw my way. I am grateful for that guidance, and for the depth of the love I sense from Them each day that I honor Their names.

Dua Set, Son of Nut, you are my spirit!

Dua Bast, Lady of Joy, you are my heart!

I honor you both, now and always! I lift your beautiful faces high!