Ekunyi's Embers

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:

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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:

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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”.

A New Nightly Prayer

Dua Set, Great of Strength
The sky shakes with your return at the dawn
Victorious at the prow of the mandjet.
I am victorious this day in… (x4 things I want to go well)
My enemies tremble before me
I destroy isfet without and within
The day is renewed, my strength is renewed
I am worthy of a joyful life lived in ma’at.

Dua Bast, Lady of Light
The stars shine with your flame through the night
Glowing with life in the darkness
My life was brightened this day by (x4 things my husband and I were grateful for that day)
Our fears are burned away with gratitude.
We destroy isfet without and within.
The day rests, our hearts rest
‘Til we rise with the dawn and Zep Tepi.

I share these two brief prayers, because they serve as the cap stones for my day, every day. I’ve previously mentioned the first in a post that lists the full ritual, and also obliquely on every occasion I’ve touched on having my morning “coffee conversation” with Father. Regardless of whether I wake up at 6am and prepare to go to work or sleep in until 8 or 9am on the weekends, I get up, I make a cup of coffee, and I recite this prayer while standing at my kitchen window, holding the hot mug between my palms in a gesture of offering. Set may share thoughts with me after the prayer, or He may simply nod and indicate that it is time for me to revert the steaming drink after I speak the appropriate words.

I wrote the second prayer this year, after Bast requested something to mirror my daily morning ritual with Set. It took me a little bit of time to establish it as a habit, in no small part because the time I go to sleep varies greatly from night to night. But eventually I decided that the evening prayer could also help with another goal, namely to be better about turning off my computer and phone before I actually climbed into bed. So it was established: whenever I was about to sleep, I would recite the prayer and offer water or tea, and after that point I would only rest or read books until I drifted off. This gave me a flexible, but theoretically fixed, time to always complete the rite, and I’ve been much more reliable with it since.

And then, to my surprise, my husband wanted to join in. We now take turns sharing four points of gratitude from earlier in the day, appreciating and remarking upon our mutual joy. We read the final lines together and then we share the water or tea upon reversion. In so doing, we both wind down our days at the same time, and on most nights will subsequently go to sleep together shortly thereafter.

This has become a treasured end to my days, a shining point of gratitude in and of itself to be able to complete a tiny ritual with my “Kemetic ally” partner, to be mindful and present as a pair, and frequently to be reminded of the many others in our lives who bring us such happiness. When we acknowledge the aspects of our day that lifted our spirits, we connect with countless others, invoking the moments in which our lives touched with some other passing person, and remembering that that connection has profound power.

The chance to talk with a family member chases away anxiety that I will be alone in a difficult time. A moment when a barista gave me a little extra coffee just because he could gives me faith in the kindness of others. The opportunity to attend a free concert fills me with profound awe at the talent of the individuals before me, bringing their unique backgrounds and years of practice together to create something new and amazing that will never sound exactly that way ever again.

And Bast is vibrantly aflame and brilliant with the heat of existence in every instant of these moments. As Ra’s vast Eye she is connected not only with so many other goddesses but so many ways of being; she burns with light that touches everything that can be sensed and lived and loved. She would have us light up the world with the things that make us grateful and in so doing inspire others to remember why it is worthwhile to keep pushing on through the difficult times to seek these beautiful moments. These incredible moments of connection with other individuals who might set our own spirits ablaze with wonder at how they choose to live, create, share, and be.

I sit here in a coffee shop after a late night of studies, writing this and knowing I’m still not capturing the whole of it. I asked her about it once, sitting in shrine and worrying about my inability to stay in touch with everyone I wished to connect with, and she responded. Not in words, but with an image of brilliant gold fire linking between me and so many others I’ve met: my family, my friends, my clients, my colleagues, my online acquaintances, my offline encounters, and on and on it spread, through their connections, and the connections of their connections, and farther still. It brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful “problem” to have, to be connected to and care about so many brilliant and fascinating individual people that I lost track of them amidst Her glow of lives entwined. How amazing it is to see how we impact one another with actions great and small. How incredible that this reminder stemmed from a nightly act with one of my most treasured connections, the connection I share with my husband.

How grateful I am to worship a goddess who reminds me of such things, and keeps me doing my damnedest to live a life that burns through even a little of the darkness in the world.

Purifying Away Guilt

Sometimes you receive advice that really hits home, without previously having so much as an inkling as to how badly you needed those precise words.

I have not written as much as I used to, shifting from weekly to monthly writing. Most of those monthly posts have either been very technical in nature, focused on a specific ritual, or have revolved around my health. The health issues have left many things up in the air, but I have largely learned to manage the remaining symptoms. Thus, after several months of only entering shrine sporadically — afraid of yet another nose bleed or perhaps in too much pain that day to speak or kneel — I changed my diet, my sleeping habits, my workload, and I  have been able to return to daily practice.

But it still felt off, like I was greeting my gods through some kind of fog. They were there just as They always had been, but muffled, or father away than I had expected when I returned. I was having a very difficult time focusing while I was sitting in shrine, found myself making more errors out of clumsiness in action or speech than I ever had before, and grew frustrated. So when recently given the opportunity, I asked Hemet (AUS) about the prospect of returning to shrine after a time of impurity. While I thought I was looking for some sort of ritual, or specific words of purification, her response instead lead me to consider if I was feeling guilty about being away.

Yes, I was. My body may have been able to come back to shrine, but my mind and heart were still wrapped up in what had taken me away from serving my gods. They were not angry with me, I was angry with myself. In fact, I have been livid, still fighting against the situation that had left me feeling powerless, even though that situation is largely past. My impurity had shifted from physical ailments to a constant eating of my own heart, a self-imposed weight of “should have done better” and “didn’t try hard enough.” It hindered me.

I took time that evening to process how those life events made me feel like I had lost my personal agency. Then I considered my response to those events, choosing to make necessary changes so that I could be well and get back to my gods, my work. All of this has been a means of reclaiming that sense of control, and even during the process, my gods never left me. In fact, on the days when I was most ready to give up on my body, Father would show up and remind me of what He told me when we first met, when He first insisted upon my developing a greater sense of self-respect.

Your body is my temple, He would say.

Now I know that has become a loaded phrase for some, but He never pushed those words in any sort of “you should treat it better” guilting nonsense, but instead used it as a reminder that I was His, that my physical form was the vehicle through which I worshiped Him. My body was what came to shrine and presented offerings, what danced and sang for Him and Mother on the good days, what sat on the floor and still managed the basics on the bad days, and what prayed in bed to Them both and visited them in the duat on the days when that was the only option while I physically recovered. It was a humbling reminder, and more than once what helped me to keep going as I worked to sort out what my new normal was going to look like, and how I could still reach my goals despite necessary changes.

Now I am back, and it is time to recognize that I did my damnedest while I was away so that I could return, and time to use that recognition to let all the guilt go. Wash it away and start fresh. Even just coming to terms with this much made a world of difference during last night’s senut. My gods seemed so bright again, so clear. I think as I continue to live in this mindset, take each day as it comes and acknowledge my day’s efforts as the best I can do in the now, things will just get better and better.

Looking forward to sharing more again here with all of you.

(Thank you, Hemet. <3)

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. ;)

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

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!

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