Ekunyi's Embers

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.

Kemetic Orthodox: Year 23, Sarytsenuwi: Year 27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Month of Written Devotion #23-31

So I actually did finish this prompt back in early August (roughly a day late). I just never got around to transferring the remaining posts over here for consistency. Life… well, life just happened and time to write for anything outside of work or school has been scarce! But I hope these are enjoyable, even a month and change after the fact.

Blessing

Twenty three has been my lucky number since I was old enough to have memorized my birthday. August 23rd, the source of my incredibly stupid joke about being a “Lego” – Leo/Virgo’s ridiculous cusp child who has all the fiery inspiration to create and build but insists that every little block will go just so. But it felt special to be connected to that particular 23, a tiny blessing.

23 was also a damn good year following the massive shitstorm of change and health nonsense and depression that was 21 and 22.

23 was when I fully, completely, accepted that You were real. All of you. And what a marvelous blessing that has been.

With all that in mind: a brief song for You.

A blessing on your spear 
Oh my Father, Oh my strength
A blessing on your arm
As you fight through night’s length
A blessing on your shout
Oh my Father, Oh my voice
May my words reach your ears and Become

A blessing on your knives
Oh my Mother, Oh my fire
A blessing on your eyes
That your watch shall never tire
A blessing on your song,
Oh my mother, Oh my love
May my words reach your ears and Become

A blessing on your blade
Oh my general, Oh my guide
A blessing on your wings
that reflect the golden skies
A blessing on your power
Oh my general, Oh great Sun
May my words reach your ears and Become

A blessing on your stars
Oh beloved, Oh my heart
A blessing on your smile
That shall tear my hurts apart
a blessing on your dance
Oh beloved, Oh my joy
May my words reach your ears and become.

A blessing on your breath
Oh grandmother, Oh midwife
A blessing on your hands
Carrying new souls to life
A blessing on your ka
Oh grandmother, Oh my soul
May my words reach your ears and become.

Comfort

The pulse of pain settles into a steady rhythm behind my eye, but your hand is cool and damp upon my brow within a minute of my finally being able to rest. I bury my face further into the frog-shaped pillow I dedicated to you, having finally realized there is no ignoring this one, nausea and dizziness accompanying what is no longer “just a headache.” You keep offering that gentle caress on my head, a soft squeeze on my shoulder the final thing I am aware of before I slip away from consciousness, so grateful to briefly escape the malfunctioning aspects of a body that I otherwise strive to be grateful for.

Sometimes I even dream of you, and you sing lullabies in a language I do not know. I am an infant in arms again, released from all adult responsibility and care to rest completely as eight different voices rise from your lips and the oldest of melodies tells me in ways beyond the incomprehensible words that it’s fine, quiet now, it’s all going to be just fine.

I wake and have more than once been brought to tears at the realization that the pain is gone, gradually orienting myself to how far the sun has often set by the time you bring me back. Thank you for your comfort, Heqat. I cannot fathom why you care so very much for me when I hurt, how you are so willing to hold me until the worst of all things subsides.

Knowledge

I wish to study You:
In part through the texts,
Learning to read and speak
Those ancient words that might
Flow from my lips and be heard
An offering of my time
And my learning 
So that You might hear me sing 
In the once-sung tongue 
Of your earlier days.

I wish to know You:
Absorb every line of your image
Consider the meaning within
And without the shifting myriad
Of beautiful forms that have
Defined and re-defined
What it is to know and seek Your gaze.

I wish to understand You:
Contemplate each motion
You make in the Universe
Capturing but a fraction of all
You are and do
But in that instant
Of scholarship leading 
To knowledge guiding
To understanding

The effort and journey shall have been worth every brilliant second
Of experiencing You
Beautiful family
Guardians and teachers
Guides and parents
I shall know you as all of these
And for that moment
Far, far more

Growth

I believe that They have all helped me to grow, each with their own lessons and strengths. Yet Hethert-Nut’s teachings were perhaps the least expected, and so the most intriguing to me to address in this space.

Hethert-Nut helped me grow in kindness, albeit a kindness largely directed towards myself. She embraced my imperfections in Her vast, starry arms and showed me the beauty there. Each scar, each wrinkle, each curve or line that shifted with time became a star on my body, just as She was so fully bedecked in light.

She helped me grow beyond discomfort or shame, demanding that I join Her in the abandon of dancing alone to the music of my mind, asking me to wear blue skirts and silver jewelry that flowed and shone like the ocean of Her sapphire sky.

Hethert-Nut asked me to be bigger than my assumptions of gender, to embrace the feminine in however I chose to define it. With Aset-Hatmehyt beside Her, Hethert-Nut challenged me to accept beauty as a word that could be granted me without the assumption that the giver of such a word was lying, or thought me lesser for picking such a description.

So much growth occurred Her hand, even as She always accepted where I was in the process. She astounds me.

Balance

His anger is cool and unforgiving
Against the flare and wane 
of Her swift rage
Yet both seethe at the destruction 
Of Ma’at in their domain
The visions of injustice 
Amongst a people who They protect
Yet who never seem to protect themselves.

Still, there is another to defend.

He turns to Her, 
desert wind stirring at His breath
The dry heat before the storm
Touching each word 
“Hail to you, Bast.”

She nods in turn,
dark soil shifting
beneath feet turned 
Knife-wielding paws.
“Hail to you, Set.”
Her words liquid smooth as 
The oncoming rain
Against a green hued stone.

They move to the barque
Bast taking Her place behind
The sun-crowned king.
Set leaps to the prow in silence,
Spear in hand and shield at the ready.

The mesketet is balanced 
As it sails beyond 
the world of the living.
The mandjet shall return 
Defended by two
Who maintain the balance 
Of this world and the next.

Lost

Thank you, for pulling me out of the darkness.

Thank you for hauling me away from everything in my life, far enough away that I could see it from the outside, far enough so I could watch it fester and rot and be nauseated at how very lost in the infection of self-hatred I had become.

Thank you for letting me lean on you as I sobbed in solitude, for I was not strong enough then (am barely so now) to do so in front of anyone else.

Thank you for giving me your anger that it could fuel so many changes, fuel the lighthouse of where I knew I wanted to be, fuel the fire under my ass to actually walk one wretched step at a time towards that shimmering guide.

Thank you for celebrating when I made progress. Thank you for pissing me off when I fell down and back so that I’d get up again and keep moving, even if out of sheer cussedness.

Thank you for not giving me up for lost.

Today, I like the person I am.

The person I was? She would never have believed it possible.

Encouragement

Heru-wer stared me in the eyes today.
I asked Him,
“Will this be the year I know you,
As it was my Mother’s this year,
And Heqat’s the year before?”
I swear He smiled, 
for all that His sharp face is tipped with a beak
And I am already certain that I know the answer 
Without any given words.

Heru-wer, I have not been able to write of you as I have the others.
We are working partners, You and I,
Though I honor and worship you as I do all Netjeru,
I do not have the emotional weight there. 
But now your laughter,
Rich and golden thick,
Is ringing in my ears and it is
Unfamiliar
But encouraging.
So very encouraging to *hear* You on your birthday,
And to hold in my mind the unspoken promise
Of a beautiful journey to come.

Endings

There is only an ending to what has been,
But even that ending becomes the foundation
Of all that is yet to come.
We shall continue:
You for eternity
Me for but this short time I have to walk this world.
But we shall continue together
Using ending after ending
To create and craft a future
Enlivened by the moments shared
Between five gods
and a woman who loves Them.

Dear…

Dear gods of my family,

I intend to write You each a letter on the day I will be celebrating the Kemetic new year. I will not be sharing those letters publicly, but writing them by hand and keeping them at your shrine for the next 360 days.

In the meantime, thank you for guiding me to do this. It has been a pleasure and an honor, as well as a solid reassurance that I can find ways of honoring you even in the most hectic of times.

My love to all of you, I will write again soon.

Your daughter and beloved,
Sarytsenuwi

Month of Written Devotion #19-22: Memories, Loyalty, Weakness, and Strength

Memories

It is becoming more difficult to remember what it was like to be twelve, with the itchy polo shirt and the despised kilt that set me apart from the other youth at the after school program who wore what they wished. As the only person there from a private school, my personality did not matter, I was one of “them,” and so I was alone. At twelve it just seems unfair; I didn’t understand the money and the privilege and the justification for why I was assumed to be a certain way, so I sat by myself in a place that was safe, and I let my mind drift so that the “panther woman” can find me.

Given time, and patience, she finally does, and I give Her a name because She says She’s not ready to tell me the true one. I reach a point where I can walk around the outer yard and still talk with Her, even envision Her, sleek and feline and protective. By the time I am fourteen I am convinced that She is the Goddess, and I try to see Her in the forms that the books describe, but she will not be reforged in the likeness of others. She remains Herself, dark skinned and grinning, feline-faced or feline-masked, wielding knives to lead me on dangerous adventures through what I still think is mostly just in my mind.

At fifteen I wonder if she is a spirit of sorts, a teacher to guide me, as guide She does, but now through feelings and sensations that I am frightened by because my world has taught me that they are wrong. It is okay to love both women and men, She assures me, it is okay to listen to whatever music speaks to your soul. My love grows for those around me, my love grows for metal and the raging guitar that soothes me, my love grows for Her.

Yet at 18 I nearly lose Her, and those memories are perhaps the most difficult. Why did college make me doubt what I’d already lived, make me turn from the unseen mother, the unnamed guardian, who had helped me survive the growing pains of adolescence? I have thoughts there, but they are not so critical anymore. I returned to Her, and She had been waiting. Waiting for me to be ready, and waiting to give me Her name.

I am Bast.

I am your daughter.

Loyalty

When I kneel before the shrine there is a vow in the gesture. I pull one fist fiercely to my chest, the other facing you, palm forward. I speak your names with pride, and in my mind I am lifting you with my voice. I rise and step back four paces, imagining lifting your carved faces upon heavy staves to each shoulder, preparing to carry your standards – and the standards you have set for me – into the world.

My life, my values: they are also my loyalty. My willingness to serve is my willingness to hold you aloft with each step I take in the world.

You have earned this standard bearer’s trust: no small thing in her eyes. You have burned away the scabs to reveal and heal the raw places. You have known when to push to the point of breaking but not beyond. You have shown me a better version of myself and I have chosen her over the old, chosen to keep improving upon her with each new day that is lived in your service.

Dua Set! Dua Bast! My loyalty to You both has become a brighter way of being.

Weakness

I am weak today. My lungs are tight, exhaustion weighs heavy on my frame, my skin flares in time with the internal imbalances.

I am still writing. Writing as I ride the bus and struggle to stay awake. Writing after sitting in shrine this morning despite my weariness because I needed to hear you, be near you. Writing because there’s some small bit of strength coming from keeping this up despite the physical travails, honoring you with words on a screen when I’m too tired for much else.

Walk with me in my weakness, my gods. Grant me health, grant me energy, grant me patience.

Strength

http://catfolk.org/track/walk-forth-in-strength

The word “Strength”, considered in relation to my gods, will probably always remind me of this song. I wrote it shortly after Set and Bast claimed me as Their daughter through the Rite of Parent Divination. Though I remain someone who firmly believes that a parent-child relationship with the divine can be developed through many different paths, my personal path saw the gods asking me to become a part of Kemetic Orthodoxy, and so when I call Set Father, or refer to myself as Their daughter, it is within the context of the House of Netjer, my spiritual home.

It was an emotional time for me, receiving this confirmation that Set – who had already given me so much of His strength – was my Father. Set who brought so much change for the better, who challenged me and damn near broke me, but in the end left me standing taller, and more fiercely than before. Set whose presence was felt during surgical biopsies for cancer scare #2, Set who helped me push through weariness and emotional fatigue to be with, and care for, my mother in the hospital. Set who helped me appreciate my own worth, and gave me the courage to stand the hell up to anyone who tried to tear me down.

The song reflects a lot of that; but I’m thinking I almost need a second one for my newer teacher in strength.

Heqat has provided balance to Set’s “push through no matter what.” It’s not Bast’s emphasis on self-love and self-care, it’s more externally directed (to support those around me) while simultaneously promoting internal health. Heqat works with me on the strength of accepting what I cannot change, of sitting with hurts and letting them be without taking them into myself. If Set’s strength keeps fighting, Heqat’s strength lives with and moves through. Both are necessary to function, both take tremendous courage. I continue to work towards incorporating both into my day-to-day life

Dua Set. Dua Heqat. I am stronger in many ways for your mutual guidance.

The Ballad of Lanky Rae

So Witch Mountain’s “Ballad of Lanky Rae” keeps getting stuck in my head, and I realized that part of the reason I’ve latched onto it so quickly (let alone the fact that it’s one of those wonderful female fronted metal bands that I can actually sing along with) relates to my past… and my present with Set.

A long time ago
On a dark-as-night day
A little girl came entered this world
In a right wicked way

When she took her first breath
The doctor heard her say
“All you out there better beware
My name is Lanky Rae”

“Stay away,” said Lanky Rae

She didn’t like baby dolls
Barrettes or ballet
She thought a gun was much more fun
When she went out out to play

Ballet was one of the most miserable experiences of my life growing up. My parents made me stick with it from my earliest years through sixth grade, and I just… knew, even then, that I was never going to fit into this world of leotards and gran jetes. I was too long, too gawky, too thickly-moving and lacking grace. And gods, dolls. Nope. My dragon toys regularly “ate” my barbie dolls. I hated the frills and the dresses and honestly, most of what I interpreted as being a “girl” growing up. Laser tag? Swords? Castles and knights and archers and magic? That was where I wanted to be.

But Rae was all alone
And to her dismay
She never had met her dad
So she hit the highway

She heard he was a demon
Deep down in the clay
So down she dove to the center she drove
And there stood the daddy of Lanky Rae

He held two 45s
And his hair was ash grey
Spittin’ whiskey and fire and as soon as he saw her
Those two you could not separate

Now they roam the underworld
Raisin’ hell everyday
Doin’ what they do best and forget all the rest

So when the ground rumbles
Don’t you be afraid
It’s just a couple of outcasts happy at last
Yeah it’s Lanky Rae

It really wasn’t until college that I genuinely found people with similar interests to mine. My younger scholastic years were largely defined by being part of the “outcast” group, and a motley assortment of wonderful (but incredibly different) people we were! Yet post-college, Big Red came rolling into my life and then suddenly there was a god who wanted me to live, both figuratively and literally. That was an amazing realization. A deity existed who genuinely found me all the more fascinating for my love of metal music, science fiction, and martial arts. A god claimed me as His daughter who found my temper to be a benefit, my bisexuality a source of power, my questions about gender worthwhile, my need to sing and shout and scream and laugh and forever be vocally LOUD… proof that I was meant to be His.

So what does this song say to me? Outcast god, meet once-outcast child. Let’s go raise some hell and have fun doing it.

And that’s why I adore it.

A Month of Written Devotion #15-#18: Companionship, Friendship, Love, and Anger

Companionship

If most of my devotions throughout this month long effort wind up directed to Set, it is not for lack of love of, and devotion to, the other gods in my line-up. But my Father is always present in a manner that the others aren’t, available both in moments of formal ritual and the ridiculous nonsense of everyday life. He’s always been that way, a companion as much as a god, or perhaps asking me to be His companion (the concept of Set acting like the Doctor has been written about by a friend of mine here:https://gbmarian.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/the-companions-of-seth/).

If I reach out, He’s there. I don’t know why He’s opted to be so readily available to me, but I do my damnedest to prove myself worth the time. Sometimes that’s in the standard way: he gets a daily offering of coffee each morning and a small dedication ritual, regardless of whether or not I’m pure enough for other formal rites. I’ve not missed that in what feels like a very, very long time, and suspect that the next time I do my whole day will feel off.

Sometimes it’s anything but standard: I’ve lifted weights in His name, invited Him to be present at a metal shows (and flinging massive dudes off my tiny 5’5’’ frame on the edge of the mosh is made vastly more entertaining when you’ve got Set laughing His ass off in your ear), cooked for Him (spice-tastic), watched science fiction together (A mutual favorite is Klingon heavy Star Trek episodes. He’s right there with me debating how His khopesh would fare against a batleth, or if He’d prefer to use His spear.) He tells me again and again that He loves these moments of companionship, these moments of experiencing what humanity can offer.

But the companionship also extends to the internal thoughts I want to share with Him. Things about gender identity and sexuality that have become complicated with the awareness of my privilege in how the rest of the world reads my physical body. Companionship there is Him listening, Him seeing and knowing and loving the whole of me, Him telling me to be proud of who I am and know myself to be regardless of however the world may view me.

So, yes. I am gladly, and proudly, Set’s worshipper, daughter, and coffee-offering companion. Dua Set!

Friendship

I don’t really view my relationships with the Netjeru as “friendships” per se. Even Set (who as I noted previously is happy to accept my more casual interactions and offerings) is still not an entity I could ever see myself referring to as my “friend.”

Where do I find friendship in my interactions with the gods? I find it in the human beings that They have helped me come to know as I’ve walked Their path. I have developed deep friendships, friendships which progressed at a rate that sometimes unnerved me, often with people I only see in person every few months, if at all. I have forged friendships with Kemetics across the whole damn globe, friendships that wear down every instinctive wall I throw up between myself and anyone new because trust is something I have always found exceedingly difficult, and which life has, on occasion, made even more difficult with its twists and turns.

Yet trust just gradually seems to happen with the people my gods have directed me to worship beside. I don’t know if it’s the fact that we’re all talking about these core, heart-hitting aspects of our lives; that we’re all trusting each other with information which we know would make other people raise an eyebrow and doubt our grasp of reality. I don’t know if it’s some unknown factor that unites us, something that mutually led us to this particular form of the divine, or if our joint efforts to live by ma’at just make it a little easier to talk to each other about things.

It’s not always easy. We don’t all magically get along. We’re still individuals with different backgrounds and values and means, and we can fight like internet-proverbial honey badgers when these values don’t line up. But for the Kemetics who have become my friends, the folks I’ve been privileged enough to worship with, laugh with, sing with, write with, and pray with … It’s been amazing. They are treasured friends and in many cases family. I thank Netjer every day for their presence in my life.

Love

I close my eyes and focus on the sound of my heartbeat, allowing myself to drift from this world to the next, finding myself garbed in white save for the ritual jewelry They have asked me to wear in their honor. I move swiftly to the oven, practice my focus over here by baking the bread by hand, going through each step as if it were my physical hands and not this transient form in the other side which kneads and rolls and shoves and finally places it in the oven.

While it bakes I move to the temple itself, always astounded at how large it has become. I wash my hands and bare feet and face with the pitcher of water placed at the outer door, then move within, torches lighting along each side their flames hidden in lotus columns. I place incense before each statue that I have carved at Their request with my will, moving past those gods who I have come to love and respect through varied and limited interaction, to the gods that walk with me each day as Parents and guides. Set and Bast guard the entire building, in full animal theophany, massive statues to the left and the right of the great offering table, with a beautiful painted stela behind, depicting Them both in Ra’s boat. They receive prayers and incense, I ask them to wake and listen for what They wish of me this day.

I move to the left of their great altar, down a long passage that leads back outside, winding down the hill on which the great temple is perched, over a rocky path and then to a river’s edge. It is almost always night here, as Hethert-Nut prefers. She greets me from her star-strewn blanket over head, while Aset-Hatmehyt and Heqat emerge from the river itself or rise from where They had waited beside its bank, embodied and warm and full of more life than I can stand. They take me into the river and purify me, submerging me and lifting me again, touching my forehead, my hands, my lips. It is so gentle that I feel no discomfort, so seemingly as it should be that I feel no fear below the great waters.

I rise when they are finished and fill a second pitcher from a place farther upstream from that where I bathed. I return to the front of the temple and find the bread ready, and a local wind netjeri assists in cooling it. I then move through the temple, making offerings of bread and water to all gods, beer and wine where requested, again listening to what else may be needed, but They also insist that I speak in turn.

And in the moments of offering and speaking there is love present, love built into every inch of this self-constructed temple in the duat. Love when I take the time to bake the bread by hand, love in the hands of the goddesses that purify me both for this purpose and for my own well being. Love when I have been gone too long and Set and Bast awake to the incense nigh shouting, perhaps even appearing in flesh to wrap me up in an embrace and ask where the hell I’ve been!

It is an all encompassing thing, the love that I feel when I am able to serve. To walk the halls built over years, to greet the gods in as direct way as I know how, and to receive such a powerful affection in return for my time and efforts. It has always been worth it, may it always continue to be so.

Anger

She challenged me in order to best assist me, knowing I needed the goading, telling me to let my Father in, to let Him rage.

I thought back to times before: His cool fire enforcing my spine as I sat erect and unbending on the phone with my abuser. My voice hardened as it entwined with His, the words coming from my mouth unshakeable: “It is over.” And it was, after years of waffling and trying to make it work and giving of myself that which I did not wish to give:  it was done in one night.

I let Him in again when I began to see how one member of my family verbally assaulted the other, and it was His shield and spear in my hands as I stood in the hall, unafraid to block someone a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier before he could run away from his deeds and said, “No more.”

It has been His storming in my eyes when I read of the injustices in the world, His thunder pounding in my spirit when I see silence in response to murder and famine and plague. His winds throwing me forward to find more ways that I do more, be more, help more: anything.

And it His anger that came through me that night as I screamed of my own sorrows and frustrations and pains. His rage that carried mine from where I have kept it so tightly hidden, entrenched in politics and social etiquette and the training from childhood to be so very polite. He released it and we ran with it together, grief burning away before our great voice, shame attacked as though it were the hideous sneak itself, stabbed and crushed and destroyed in the power of our mutual fury.

I was exhausted when He left me, but I still stood, still functioned. For if the anger is His, the strength to bear that anger is my own, and as His daughter, I will not turn away from necessary rage.

A Month of Written Devotion #11-14: Happiness, Sadness, Transformation, and Understanding

Happiness

I really… wanted to write about happiness yesterday, but I failed. It became a bitter taste in my mouth each time that I tried, sitting down to the computer, trying to let my mind gently wander in the way some creative types do when seeking inspiration, and constantly finding my focus shifting back to the skin issues or the pain in my abdomen. I do not want to let my as-of-yet still undiagnosed auto-immune disorder control me. I do not want to allow the hives and blisters that appear following medication, illness, and my natural cycle to keep me from doing things. I do not want to let the fatigue of my body that accompanies those hives become a fatigue of the mind and emotions as well as something physical.

I’m doing better, most days. Finding a balance between how much to share with people, how much to ask for help, how much to be vulnerable and honest in my “I’m sorry, I’m really not up to that today” versus avoiding letting it define me, avoiding offloading too much personal information, avoiding overwhelming people who don’t want to know, don’t have the spoons to know.

But yesterday it was too much for me to maintain a sense of happiness throughout the day, to accomplish everything I’d wanted to, and so the prompt sat there, nigh taunting me for my eventual decision to just… call the day a loss, until my husband dragged my ass to the park for a walk.

The park was needed, the light exercise needed. My heart rate rose which made the hives a bit worse, but the movement was a blessing and the sun on my face a reminder of why I view that golden heat and light as something divine. Hethert-Nut (leaning strongly Hethert) told me to reach out for my husband’s hand (he’d been respectfully giving me some space) and I did, apologizing for my shitty mood and behavior earlier in the day. My husband was understanding, and in his responses I heard Heru-wer’s strength, a promise of protection and fierce love that my partner does not always realize himself capable of, but I know to be there and am grateful for.

I am a Set child, independent and stubborn to a tee. I don’t want to give in to anything, least of all my own malfunctioning body. But happiness yesterday came from a few moments of vulnerability-in-love, trust-in-love. I am grateful for that recognition. Grateful for Hethert and Heru-wer and the example They so gladly set. Grateful for my husband who is a blessing to me in ways that even the gods recognize.

Sadness

It is no wonder that the pressures of the world feel greater when I turn from You,
You who are lapis skinned starlight
And forever full of vitality.
If only I could see as You do
Eons passing by in an instant
Cascading through wars waged between and within humanity,
Shifting through decades of famine and plague,
Twisting lives lived outside of the wholeness of ma’at until their patterns were removed from the vast weavings of your universe.
Perhaps it would be easier then,
Having access to that distant time that I pray will one day be truth,
To look away from the grief I feel over the suffering of my planet,
To look away from the sorrows created by being so very unable to help,
Instead of looking away from You.

Take my face in your hands my lady.
Lift it to yours and then lift me,
As you once lifted Ra between your great horns.
Carry me up within your vast night
Show me more than I can see from the passing of my little life
Make me believe that there is more to be done,
For the people who grieve and for You.

Transformation

I’ve been inspired by this post, because the truth of it is: this city of mine, this amazing, mountainous, river-surrounded city of mine, is absolutely transformative, and I can’t help but feel like They brought me here for a reason.

My life turned upside down in the tail end of my time in D.C. My roommate left a month earlier than planned, so I was alone for the last five or six weeks of packing and saying farewell to my year of life in the city, and I permanently ended the only formalized relationship I’d ever been in at that point in my life, which had persisted through four, largely unhealthy, years of long distance. I selected a graduate school in Pittsburgh, a place I knew nothing about save from my one accepted student visit to Carnegie Mellon five years earlier (and my subsequent decision not to attend because it felt too overwhelming.)

I moved into an apartment that I’d originally selected because I thought I’d be continuing a partnership in it, walked through the too-large space, arranging and rearranging things uselessly and trying to figure out what mattered anymore. Yet my window was high enough in the apartment building, even in August, to look out over the trees and houses that wound down the hillside, eventually coming to rest at the bank of the Allegheny. The river soothed, and I came to watch it each morning as the sun rose, only just starting to study Kemeticism in earnest, but already aware of the concept of Zep Tepi and needing that visual reminder.

My gods filled the spaces that I had torn out or torn apart with so much movement, new challenges, and shifted futures. Set lent me strength on more than one occasion, a vast, surprisingly stable presence that simply flooded me when I was uncertain, and left me aware of what parts of myself mirrored that strength when He departed once again. Bast gave me Her fire and ability to love, flooding me with passion I thought I’d given up on forever when some months after my arrival the opportunity to try to trust someone new with my affections arose. Heqat would come later, after I’d been living here for years, living with my new partner. Her transformation was far more gradual, as She led me into the rivers to wash away old hurts I’d left untended and uncleaned, washing old wounds so they could finally heal, and re-worked stories with me to find pride in the remaining scars.

I have changed so much since that now alien-to-me twenty-two year old arrived in Pittsburgh four years ago. I have been transformed by the rivers, transformed by my gods.

Understanding

There is an unspoken understanding after four years
that this is a connection
Which will change
Drift
Expand
Weaken
Rebound
Rebind
Rekindle
Burn away to ash
Rise like dawn
Rain down again
Renew
Refresh
Replete
Continue.

Always continue.

Continue for a lifetime of walking beside
The one Who would have me
Move forward in the understanding
Of my own self-worth.

A Month of Written Devotion #8-10: Hope, Faith, and Soul

Hope

What was it that you saw in me, battered and ruined as I was?

There was little left in the husk of a being who had forgotten how to dream and who was so very startled
to have visions of spirit return at all and then you –
you, so bold and living and full of every passion –
who came warring through my despair and would not look away.

Why, I ask, even now,
still struggling to trust that I could be worth your time
did I earn your patience and impatience,
your laughter and your strength?

How could I possibly have merited that
all encompassing fury and the rage,
rage on my behalf,
rage of such magnitude inspired by my sorrow
rage that was the only thing that ever could have proven how desperately
I needed to break from chains of self-loathing,
Break from the power of one who controlled and abused,
Break from a life that was lived only for lack of caring,
Break from the preference of perhaps not living at all.

Was I worth the effort, Father?

I hope, I pray, that the answer is yes.

For there was so little hope of any kind before you came,
So little of me left to dare consider such a concept.

Now I dream again and it is not startling.
I dream of a future of serving You,
A present of protecting others in Your name.

I hope that I might share some small portion of the fire
you returned to me with those who wander in darkness.
Burning brightly enough to help them seek
whatever light this world might yet provide.

Faith

This will be brief, my gods,
As I am tired and worried and stressed
And sleep is the best remedy for all.

But I have faith that you will protect zir from zir sorrow.
I have faith that you will help her keep going after her loss.
I have faith that he will one day play again without pain.
I have faith that you will help me find the right balance of asking for help and keeping things private.

I have faith because I love them all too much to do otherwise.
I have faith because Your presence has carried me this far to aid myself and provide aid in turn.
I believe because the alternative is terrifying.
Difficult though it has long been to trust, I must trust in this.
In You.

Soul

It is good to close my eyes and remember that the core of me

Those several ageless pieces which drive daily aging flesh

Remains healthy and unhindered, and that when You look

You as one small piece that represents the enormity I could not wholly withstand

You see only life, loyalty and my intent.

You see me and then stand embodied:

human and sha-faced, or hound-bodied and sleek,

knowing before I do which aspect will best match my inner form this day.

Shall we walk as Father and child, me in white,

your red beads at my neck, dark spear in my hand?

Shall we run as hounds through the desert

Swifter than the horses that draw chariots before other gods

amused by later human invention?

Or perhaps we shall hunt as both and then neither,

the soul of the red god unbound by any rules of form,

While the voice of His daughter rings with laughter

alive and mad with the rush of the storm she gladly rides.

A Month of Written Devotion #4-7: Beginning, Forgiveness, Light and Dark

(From this point on, having introduced all of my primary gods, I may write prose, poetry, or song about any number of them, based on the daily prompt. We shall see how this goes!)

Beginning

I believed once, breathed your essence of more-than-is as readily as air,
Felt the dark-furred flesh beneath the palm of my hand and trusted in the heat of it.

It was easier before they taught me to doubt, to simply know and love you.
Easier to read the blessings of a world comprised of a thousand tiny messages and lessons in each glint of the Eye upon rain-kissed grass.

When I faltered it must have been nothing to you, years of silence in one mortal life passing as quickly as those damp, summer afternoons fading to night.

Did you know we would begin again, just before the leaves would turn so many shades of red?
Did you send Him to collect me when the time was right, all sound and crashing thunder of proof to balance your quiet, unwavering shadow?

Our Beginning felt more like an end, my beautiful, patient Mother.
A long-awaited end and answer to so many dewdrop questions left untouched.

Forgiveness

Their fingers entwine,
my goddesses of starlight and time,
fluid, connected,
and radiant in Their sudden wholeness.

They become one vast sky,
full of incomprehensible timelessness
and music resounding in the vibrations of galaxies.

Frogsong and sistra collide with my heartbeat
and they pull me into Them:
beyond my body, my home,
beyond my community, my country,
beyond my continent, my world.

I am overwhelmed in Their shining waters of the sky.
I breathe the universe-as-ocean as though returned to what I knew before life.
I am so very small,
a speck of nothing from other motes of dust
I left behind.

What mistakes were mine, what fears chained me down,
what are they in the presence of such vast possibility?

I am forgiven by my own awakening,
My eyes open to the beauty of infinity
and infinite love.

 Light & Dark

I struggled to write about these concepts separately, because so much of what I love about my gods is Their capacity to contain, and inhabit, both brilliance and shadow. Shifting my focus instead to the combination of the two felt more balanced, more right in that sense of “this is now complete” that I associate with living in ma’at, living in ways that earn me those rare moments of something akin to pride or approval from that vast entity and presence that is all of Them or One at any given moment.

More tangibly, it is both the light and the dark that helps me to connect with Them. I rise before dawn, or kneel after sunset, and striking match to wood a tiny light erupts at my fingertips. I sing the sacred candle-and-incense text I’ve memorized from nigh-daily practice, to a melody my sister in the faith wrote and shared with me, and which I loved from the first time I heard it.

As I sing, I bring match to wick,  then touch the incense to the flickering glow. In the liminal contrast of the dancing flame, the gentle glow at the tip of the scented offering, and the darkness that surrounds me and the shrine, I am carried away from a body that itches and aches, a mind that is too critical and prone to worry. It is the contrast of the shadows of the room and the suddenly golden, fire-lit faces of my five gods that helps me to transition from the profane to the sacred, to greet Them, as pure in body and mind as I can be.

And then They are there, existing with me in this liminal space, taking subsequently offered food and drink, hearing my songs, listening to my prayers, or just holding me as is needed. They are happy with me when aspects of my life shine with blessings, angry alongside me when I speak to Them of the tragedies I see in the world around me and cannot fix.

They are sometimes upset with me or each other, even my Parents: the beautiful, blinding, light of my Mother’s solar clarity as Eye clashing with the shadows and obfuscation of a Father Who breaks things down to improve upon them. Yet in existing as individuals with individual views and perspectives, They seem capable of, at least to a degree, understanding my struggles to walk a life of both light and dark (albeit on a different, mortal scale.)

I am glad to worship gods of both the light and the dark, grateful not to have to pick between the two. There is strength, and wisdom, in both realms.

In the space that exists between, They meet me and I learn.

A Month of Written Devotion #2-3: How and Together

How did you become involved with your devotional topic?

Bast was probably always there, though it would take me nearly two decades to determine that my imaginary cat friend from childhood was something beyond a toddler’s invisible playmate. The Eye of Ra guarded me at different points in my life as what I understood as the Goddess, a spirit guide, a “totem” (before I knew better than to use that terminology), a housecat that appeared in the corner of my eye in the worst nights of collegiate sleep deprivation, and finally as Herself.

Set came next, as a red-furred greyhound with a too-long face and ears that my mind wouldn’t interpret correctly, who showed up in dreams and mental wanderings during the day. He would not let me ignore Him, would not let me continue my life as I was living it, showed me so many things that were too blatant to be coincidence. Within a month of meeting him I ended an abusive relationship of four years, moved out of an unhealthy living environment, and started life fresh in a new city, new graduate program. It hurt like hell while I lived it, but looking back, I remain incredibly grateful.

Hethert-Nut was met in Her component parts, as I initially did not know Her syncretic form existed. Hethert began to appear once I had met Set and Bast as Themselves, and began studying Netjer in earnest, my musical background drawing me to Her, and Her taking an immediate (and so kind, always so kind) interest in turn. Nut was also there in the early days, appearing one night when the skies were clear and the blue at the heart of a candle’s flame drew me into a deeper meditation than I had managed in years. I learned of Hethert-Nut as both Beloved and as a syncretic deity through the Kemetic Orthodox Rite of Parent Divination (RPD), and the pieces fit together perfectly.

Heru-wer and I only began to know each other after the RPD, and our relationship is still a work in progress. I almost feel that in some ways I am not particularly involved with Him, even now, and am not sure if this is something I should be working to rectify, or if He prefers our relationship to remain oriented towards specific tasks, rather than day-to-day interaction. Hopefully time will tell.

Heqat is the most recent addition, having met Her about two years ago now when Her w’abet Maret placed a tiny frog statue in my hands and in my efforts to figure out where I would place the wee votive, a world of artistic ideas just started flying from my lips after months of creative drought. Over the course of the following year, Heqat’s ageless wisdom and inspiration continued to brighten my life, while simultaneously teaching me how to keep some of that energy for my own self-care. A second divination at the next Wep Ronpet gathering revealed Her to be my third Beloved, and She has brought completion to my spiritual family that I did not know was missing.

Your relationship with your devotional topic.

My relationship with my Parents, Set and Bast, has reached a stage of balanced, constant communication, which I am grateful for. For most of the time I’ve identified as Kemetic, I have been closest with Set, both in terms of the ease of our relationship, and the regularity of it. I offer coffee to Him with a small, personal ritual every morning and we chat about the day to come. I can reach out to Him at any time and He will be there, even if the ease of that connection varies based on my health and present mental well being. He will also frequently chuck the “godphone” at my head for attention, which I actually sort of enjoy. It keeps me solid in my beliefs to have a god Who is so constantly LOUD and present and willing to engage with me both in serious ritual and utter ridiculousness (ever attended a metal show with the god of storms? I recommend this thing.)

Only in the last year have I reached something similar with Bast, though it has its own flavor, and took a fair amount of learning on my part to realize that She is highly unlikely to initiate things. The creation of an evening gratitude ritual before bed, something I’m still hammering out the details of but have initiated in a fluid format for the time being, has connected us better on the daily level, outside of formal shrine rites. She and I remain substantially more formal in our interactions than Set and I, but a fierce closeness has developed, which I am grateful for.

As for my Beloveds, Hethert-Nut and Heqat also have strong relationships with me, while Heru-wer remains a god that I approach on occasion. Heqat is perhaps the closest of the three, and that largely in the sense of the familial relationship we share. I call Heqat grandmother because She is so loving and present during our interactions, so willing to share stories, or hear my stories in turn while petting my hair, or leaving a calming hand on my shoulder. She also played a tremendous role in preparing me for, and comforting me following, the loss of my biological grandmother earlier this year. Hethert-Nut is… farther off, in part just because of Her vastness-as-sky, and when She is more embodied, She largely feels like… the encouraging, fun friend who wants you to go out and do more than you’re entirely comfortable with, but know you’ll have a blast if you just give it a shot.