Ekunyi's Embers

Posts Tagged ‘Heru-wer’

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.

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.

A Month of Written Devotion #1 – Who

So over on tumblr, there has been a project for the month of July to write daily devotionals to gods/spirits of your choice, based on this list of prompts. I’m starting this several days late, but am still determined to give it a shot, and will be posting my responses both on my tumblr and my blog. The prompt works rather perfectly timing-wise in terms of getting back into regular creative offerings right up to the point of my celebration of Wep Ronpet. I’m also hoping it will be a solid way of getting me involved in writing about any sort of spiritual matters again after being eaten by The Weddening (which was lovely, but kind of all-consuming: Italian cultural expectations for weddings – they are a Big Thing!) as well as health stuff, the new job and grad school. It feels like the right time to reconnect with my gods and my spiritual community.

So here goes, prompt #1:

Who - Deity, spirit or chosen devotion for the month

I tried to choose between the five deities who I honor each day in my daily rituals, spending entirely too much time this morning weighing the benefits of focusing on those Who are closest to my heart versus those Who I still wish to come to better understand and connect with. I came to the realization that perhaps a choice was not necessary: I may not write about all five of Them each day, but all five matter deeply to me, and perhaps it would serve me well to write not only about Them as individuals, but the complex ways in which They interact with me and with each other.

With that in mind, a brief introduction the five gods of my spiritual family.

Set: My Father, my strength, my partner in stubborn, unyielding determination and my daily visitor over early morning coffee. He is the fire behind my eyes, my unwillingness to back down from any challenge. He is what keeps me going when my own health fails, He is what inspires me to reach out to others and lend them what of my flame I can. Set shows himself to me as the Set of the North, He wears the Red Crown, makes use of the ideas and gifts of those from outside lands. He knows the benefits that come from those who are different, and He protects Them.

Bast: My Mother, my heart, my teacher in self-care and compassion and my nightly prayer of gratitude at the end of each day for all that is good in my life. My lady of mindfulness, She walks the world with eyes wide open to truly see and experience all that living can reveal. She is the earth in my step, the groundedness that pulls me back to reality. She is the soul to my music, the rhythm of my heart translated into song and dance and beauty. Bast shows herself to me as the Lady of Bubastis, celebrated with sistrum and dance, but also the Defender of Ra, blades in hand to cut down the snake. She is fierce and knowing, wise and full to the brim with life.

Heru-Wer: My general, my instructor, my Beloved reminder of the importance of the physical body in the midst of all else. He is distant from me most days, but appears at the most critical of moments to demand greater care of my physical form when I have neglected it. He is heat that balances Set’s cold anger, when I have been attacked, the conscientious reminder to find my own role in what has gone awry. But He is also the partner and lover of my next Beloved, and it is in this role that I have started to feel safer with Him, more willing to reach out.

Hethert-Nut: My joy, my laughter, my beautiful lady who dances across the night sky and asks me to join Her by abandoning my fear. She is always present, in a vast, all-encompassing way that needs no bodily form, though She can just as easily appear to me as the mind-blowingly beautiful woman with the ears of the cow, naked save for celestial skin, ready to wrap me up in the fiercest, most comforting hug one could ever imagine. Hethert-Nut often leans more towards the first portion of her syncretic nature, joining Heru-wer as consort and lover, counseling me in my own marriage. She teaches me to redefine what the  concept of feminine means for me, and to embrace its power, regardless of how it does or does not align with how others may view that role.

Heqat: My Grandmother, my spirit, my counselor who has asked me to become a counselor for others in turn. She is ancient in a way that extends into concepts of time that my brain cannot wholly fathom, yet so very present and adoring of each tiny, mortal life that comes into Her hands as midwife. She shows herself to me as Khnum’s partner at the potter’s wheel, imbuing life not only to those yet to be born, but to those who have lost the ability to live in their current day-to-day existence. She reaches to them, seeks to help them guide themselves a little closer to that energy of living, loving, and creating ma’at in the world. She tasks me with this in turn, such as I am.

I adore Them all, and look forward to writing more about Them.

Thoughts for the New Year

“I need help.”

I finally admitted it aloud, my mind begrudgingly aware of the fog of weariness creeping in around the edges of my caffeine-induced consciousness. My hands still on the wheel as I drove south from Illinois to Texas, my shift at the “helm” was a necessary one; my sibling Tenu needed the rest after driving for the better part of twelve hours straight, and we were in the middle of nowhere — not a safe place to stop and mutually snooze. I had promised to wake zir if I got tired. Tired was not an option. Zie needed to keep sleeping, at least for a little while longer, and I needed to keep my promise.

Thus, damn stubborn Set-kid that I am, I reached out to my gods a second time, sheepish about doing so over something seemingly as trivial as a road-trip. “I need help. I have to stay awake. Please.”

We’re here, as we always are. You are not alone.

The mental ping of words came from several gods at once, my mind somehow translating various ideas, colors, images that flooded my headspace into five distinct presences. My spiritual family of Netjeru. The gods I worship each time I perform the rite of senut all giving a little boost in their own way, now also including my newest Beloved, Heqat, who formally joined me at Retreat.

Set suggested shifting the CD to a livelier song with a stronger rhythm. Hethert-Nut, leaning strongly towards Her Hethert side, encouraged me to groove. I did an awkward sitting-in-a-car boogie to the beat as She laughed and cheered, the movement waking me up. Heqat simply settled as a calming presence around my neck and shoulders and I stopped worrying about the weariness and focused on keeping myself mentally present, a much more productive use of my energy. Heru-wer offered His light, and suddenly the headlights of oncoming traffic seemed a little brighter, the night not nearly so oppressive in its magnitude. Bast just talked to me, and this was a wonder in and of itself… we don’t often just speak, She and I.

We talked of many things, including my experiences at Wep Ronpet at Tawy. She noted how I was healthier these days, had focused enough on myself that She felt comfortable making a request that pertained to external matters. It is time to seek balance between Her and Set. I seek my Father daily, speak with Him readily, have done research and written essays for personal use in His name. Some people do not even recognize my associations with Her, so much do they link me with Set. At times, I feel closer to my Beloveds than I do my own divined Mother, and She has been here far, far longer than any of Them, longer than Set as well.

I would have felt guilty for this, but She would not let me. Instead she gave me goals to focus on, goals that will take a fair amount of discernment and effort, and so I may hold them fairly close to the chest for the time being, having already shared them with those who She instructed me to reach out to. But it is worth recording some of what occurred at the House of Netjer’s annual Retreat here, to hold myself accountable in a way.

Upon my arrival at Retreat, Shefyt (an amazing daughter of Bast herself!) was one of the first people to see me, and she came running across the room to greet me with a giant hug. It made me feel so immediately welcomed again, so very Home-with-a-capital-H that I practically teared up. Shortly thereafter I went to greet Hemet, and saw a Bast prayer card with Bast depicted with a green face. Hemet explained Her associations with malachite, in part through Wadjet in later periods, and I made a mental note that I wanted to *know* this and other such important associations in the future. The following day being Aset’s birthday, I wore a green and black dress, mostly because Aset (albeit largely through Hatmehyt) tends to approve of my indulging my feminine side. No less than five people complimented me on it, saying that it looked like I was wearing malachite. Point taken, Lady.

That evening in ritual was a highly emotional experience for me, one that I am still largely processing. What I can note, was that I received tremendous comfort from both Sekhmet and later Zat, who gave a particularly wise point of advice when she mentioned that I was so much my Father’s child right now, it might help if I reached out more to my Mother, remembered that I was Her child too, and allowed Her to help me approach and deal with emotions that I have otherwise worked to repress via throwing myself into five thousand projects.

On Wep Ronpet itself, I stopped by Bast’s shrine after the festivities had been completed. I kneeled, offered full henu, admiring the many gifts that had been left for Her (quietly regretting I’d not brought any of the mint-chocolate offerings She loves.) She gave me the aforementioned instructions then, and told me who I was to share them with.

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Bast shrine at Tawy

I’m still reeling a bit and was certainly startled then. But as the day progressed, and gifts were exchanged (an AGI Bast being *given* to me which was mind-blowing in and of itself) I received another present from Netjer. The ribbons from last year’s Wep Ronpet ceremony, which had been tied around each of the gods, were distributed to those still present. I received Ma’ahes’ ribbon, and just… laughed warmly at the realization, friends sitting next to me looking amused as I seemingly cackled at nothing.

I need to work on remembering that I am a Child of Bast. Who better to help than one of the gods who is, in fact, a Child of Bast?! Main spiritual goal for the year understood, Lady. I realize it took a spiritual clue-by-four, but I’m listening, and I will do right by you.

On the secular side of things, I am moving forward towards finding, applying to, and beginning a counseling program — ideally one with arts/music therapy as part of the counseling degree. As I joked to Tenu, I feel like I’m amassing a Support Squad of gods as I work my way towards this. Set has discussed how His strength, and my personal reflection of that strength, will be necessary as I move forward along this path, both to maintain my own boundaries, and to face on a daily basis the isfet that is eating the hearts of my clients. Heqat and Hatmehyt mutually suggested my creation of a “mindfulness” shrine external to my senut space, somewhere I could go and pray regardless of purity concerns, where I could engage in self-care through meditation and also offer prayers to those who might need my counseling, that they too could find a way to care for themselves and accept what help I might give. Sekhmet has offered Her aid here as well, mostly to me, but also to others.

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Art by A’aqytsekhmet that will be the focus point of my mindfulness shrine

The most surprising addition to this group is Nebt-het. Last night, Tenu and I did senut together at Tenu’s home shrine in Texas. We went through the ritual, made offerings, and then Tenu noted zir mothers were very, very present — did I have any questions for them? I had one for Hethert-Nut, which I asked, and received an encouraging response… but Tenu insisted that the pressure remained.

What could Nebt-het want me to ask Her? I’ve only just barely worked with Her. A ten-day effort to get to know Her culminated in my daily praying for each of the victims of a mass shooting in California, and finally praying for the shooter and his family as well. It was challenging, but I did it, and suddenly I wondered if this was the point. I had the strength to deal with those who were grieving, to look at violence in the world and continue to make space for both the dead and those who mourned them. I asked Tenu to inquire via fedw if Her ten-day request was to show me that I was ready to become a counselor, specifically given my interest in serving communities which have dealt with trauma, and received a firm yes. The presence, Tenu noted, faded abruptly thereafter, but not without a brief message: I am to reach out to Her if I need Her as I move forward along this path. Though still surprised, I am grateful for Her support.

It feels like a lot to wrap my head around, but such seems to be the way of Wep Ronpet. There are many new beginnings, many new challenges to tackle. I hope to be better about writing out my thoughts on these matters, sharing them with those of you who may be reading this blog. I encourage you to reach out to me if you relate to anything I write, if there are any questions I might answer, or ways I might help you on your own journeys this year. As They reminded me on that late night drive that started this whole train of thought: the gods keep us from being alone, yes. However, we, as a greater community of Kemetics, both within the House of Netjer and without, can also fend off loneliness by writing, reading, sharing. Do not be alone. There is no need. I can speak only for myself, but know others out there who feel the same: do not be alone. I am here. I would sit beside you if you’ll have me, no matter the distance.

Di Wep Ronpet Nofret, my friends. My love to all of you.

PBP 2013 – B is for “(Spiritual) Bling”

So I’ve sort of given up on titling these posts PBP Fridays, as I’ve not been terribly good at writing them on the correct day. That said, I do intend to keep going with the allotted schedule, even if it may take a bit of catch up work on my part and patience on yours.

I asked for inspiration regarding my second “B” post, as I was struggling with what I should write. I received one response, with tremendous enthusiasm, that I should write about spiritual and ritual “bling.” This initially made me chuckle; as you may have gathered from previous posts, I’m not really the sort of individual inclined to wear over-the-top jewelry, and I don’t know that I’ve ever actually said the word “bling” aloud.

Next it made me cringe. I’m presently dealing with several health issues, one of which has left me ritually impure and prevented me from completing the Kemetic Orthodox state ritual of senut for months now. My skin is on the war path, my body is holding water like a dam, I can’t take excedrin (which has aspirin) to ward off regular migraines before my biopsy next week, and my issues with SAD are coming back full swing as January creeps softly into the cloud-covered, greyscale days of February.

So I said to myself, no way in hell am I up for writing about the beautiful things I adorn myself with to celebrate my spirituality, and set that idea on the back burner, figuring I’d apologize to my friend for not taking her up on her kind suggestion.

But then this past Wednesday evening  I sat in shrine, making offerings and praying outside of a formal ritual context. Of late it has been too difficult for me to focus to successfully hear my Parents or Beloveds, but it was nevertheless a comfort just to speak aloud my frustrations in the present, my fears for the days ahead, and to find the joys in what good had happened, despite the challenges. I talked to Netjer for a solid thirty minutes, then realized that I really must be quite distressed to be venting at such length to my gods. I also forced myself to acknowledge that I had struggled more than I cared to admit just to make it through the previous day without completely losing it in my workplace. I had the sudden urge for a physical reminder to stay strong, for myself and for my loved ones, and so instinctively opened the cabinet beneath my shrine to seek out my necklace with Set’s image.

As I closed the clasps that held the chain around my neck, it was something of a clue by four. The items I associate with my faith are far more to me than how I’m feeling about my physical appearance at any given time. They’re powerful reminders of the connection I have with Netjer, the lessons I’ve learned from gods and spiritual guides. They are precisely what I need when I’m feeling at my worst, and something to enjoy aesthetically when I’m at my best.

Anecdote shared, I figured I’d share a few photos with you.

The first includes my Set-animal necklace, which I wear fairly often. I connect strongly with Set depicted as sha, as when He first began appearing to me in dreams, before I knew anything of Kemetic gods (and, to be frank, when it felt like my world was crashing around my ears and I assumed the “odd dog” I was visualizing was proof I’d completely gone off my rocker), He appeared to me as a greyhound with strangely squared ears.  This was custom made for me by Kristan of SilverWishes, and I am forever grateful to her for her creativity and craftsmanship.

This photo also shows my Heru-wer necklace, which was made for me by Emky (Ty Barbary) of Mythic Curios. This is more of a ritual wear piece, and presently it resides on my shrine as something of a rosary. I can hold different portions of it, consider the blade/claw, the balance between dark and light, the two brothers, the sun which is Heru-wer in Ra.

Finally, of note, I took this photo while wearing my ritual whites. This garment is made of cotton, and contains no man-made materials for purposes of ritual purity. I generally wear it only for senut, which further helps establish the shift from a secular to spiritual state when I enter shrine for the official ritual. I’ve missed wearing it.

Daily and ritual wear, worn over my cotton, ritual white shirt.

The next photo is of necklaces representing other Names in my line-up, plus Wesir, with whom I have a tentative, but growing relationship. The ones for Bast and Hethert-Nut were again made by Emky. Bast’s is also for ritual use, I have worn it when dancing, and the weight of it keeps its own rhythm against my chest as I move. It also depicts Her as I see Her, which is understandably a bit unique from most.

Hethert-Nut’s was made to be worn out and about. It is small, elegant, but full of sparkle. I tend to wear it on days when I’m feeling vibrant enough to “pull it off,” but it can also bring a little brightness back on days when I’m not as confident about myself. I also love the natural pearls amongst the perfect spheres, a reminder that though beautiful and serene, Hethert most assuredly has horns: and so do I.

Wesir’s necklace has personal meaning that I would rather keep to myself at this time, but I am equally grateful to have it. Many thanks to Brenda of Howling Caterpillars.

From top to bottom, necklaces for Bast, Hethert-Nut, and Wesir.

 

The final photo includes earrings that are actually not Kemetic, but dedicated to Great Horned Owl, my spiritual guide in animist practice. They are from a company that does very detailed jobs painting specific owl and hawk feathers onto bone. I try to remember to wear them to honor her after we have worked together within a meditative journey, but also on days when I hope to embody some aspect of her teachings.

Last but not least, the ring which I wear every day, without fail. This ring symbolizes my Kemetic Parents. The larger, darker red stone at the base is Set, solid and strong, and Bast, the smaller, brighter, fiery stone and Eye of Ra to His right.  I am represented by the small, but dark, red stone at the top of the spiraling gold, a combination of Their traits, and yet something unique entirely, lifted up by Their mutual presence, transformed for the better. It came from the lovely work of Veronika at Vera Nasfa.

Great Horned Owl earring and dailywear ring for Set and Bast.

I hope you enjoyed this.

(Belated!) PBP Fridays 2013: A is for Arranging Sacred Space

Happy to say I’m participating in the Pagan Blog Project 2013 event! Off to a bit of a late start, but I’m sincerely hoping that jumping into this right at the beginning of the year will prove ample inspiration to keep it going.

As a member of the Kemetic Orthodox faith, a major portion of my spiritual practice revolves around my shrine. While kneeling before this space, I perform both the official state ritual of senut (click here for an excellent summary of the rite at Shrine Beautiful) when I can, and various other forms of worship and prayer based on my own inclinations and research on days when my various health concerns preclude the full rite. However I choose to interact with Netjer, my time “in shrine” allows me to remove myself from the worries and concerns of my day-to-day existence. I light a candle, and in the flickering light I am brought into a new day, a new space unto itself. I light incense and the smoke drifts upwards and fades, the scent is wholly unique from that which is secular, and my heart is lifted with it away from the profane. I offer cool water and bread and refresh my gods as well as my own spirit with the eventual reversion of these life-sustaining items. Thus seemingly transported, I can look to the statues, paintings, jewelry and other items laid out in my sacred space and find inspiration for music, poetry, essays, or personal meditation.

In achieving all of this, my Kemetic shrine creates a place which is distinct from the rest of my life, and as such, the space itself deserves to be well planned. Yet it is easy to lose sight of this sort of organization. I find many fascinating things in my travels; in the moment a new icon seems like it will add something unique to my shrine’s collection. Gods know I am guilty of “shiny object” syndrome, and over the course of two years of collecting and creating my shrine was beginning to show the results. Though full of beautiful objects, many of them gifts, my focus was pulled in too many different directions. Gods were represented in several different ways, some contradictory, and though it brought me pleasure, it did not provide me with a specific direction for my creativity or contemplation.

So today, my first day home since the start of the calendrical New Year, I completely reorganized my shrine with the goal of creating a space dedicated to the concept of Balance. This issue has been a constant one in my life: balancing personal happiness with the happiness of others, balancing career with creative activities, balancing health with perfectionism and achievement. I was not surprised when this was the message my akhu brought to the fore during the akhu divination before my RPD, speaking to me through a reading called “ma’a.” It’s something I’ve always struggled with, and only recently have even begun to take the steps, make the necessary changes, to put my health and joy as priorities equal to my work and the needs of those around me.

Here is what I came up with–

First, the Shrine space itself:

The items required for a Kemetic Orthodox shrine include the candle, the incense holder, and something in which to place offerings of food and drink. Granted, my shrine cloth is red, rather than the traditional white, but given that I have two solar deities, a goddess of love and passion, and the Red Lord Himself in my line-up, They would have it no other way!

I have personally chosen to create space for four candles. In part, this is in acknowledgement of the significance of the number four to my faith. My sibling Emky writes, “To the ancient Egyptians, four was the number of completion, and we see it everywhere – the four directions, the four winds, duality x duality; five is four plus one, “perfection plus something to oversee it.” (From “About Kemetic Orthodoxy“). One is often asked to wait four days before making important decisions related to membership, and as a personal ritual act, I sometimes set aside four days for prayer and consideration in shrine before making an important choice, lighting one candle on the first day, two on the second, and so on until coming to a decision on the fourth.

I am currently looking for new items on which to place offerings. The mug and plate, with their shifting, autumnal leaves, once represented change — something my spiritual Father, Set, taught me not to fear in one of our earliest lessons. When I find something more appropriate for the concept of Balance, I will replace them.

Many Kemetic Orthodox choose to place images of their divined Family (to learn a bit more about the Rite of Parent Divination, try this post by Shukheperas’ankhi) in their shrine as well. I was divined the daughter of Set and Bast, beloved of Heru-wer and Hethert-Nut. I have placed matching statues of my Parents on an elevated space in the center of the shrine, with smaller statues of Heru-wer (admittedly represented with an image of Heru-akhety) and Hethert (wearing a Nut shen, a gift from my sibling, purchased from Inibmutes) on either side.

The placement of all four is deliberate: Set and Heru-wer stand beside each other representing the balance of the Bawy. Explaining the dual relationship that defined this entity, Sarduriur writes, “Sutekh [Set] and Heru-Wer are often shown together in Egyptian art, throughout various periods in history. They are complements, not adversaries. They demonstrate the unity of the State, as well as cosmic balance and harmony. Symmetry was not only a concept of aesthetic importance to the  Egyptians; it was a concept which carried profound theological significance” (From “Why do you worship Sutekh?“)

Bast and Hethert-Nut stand beside each other as complements of day and night, Bast as an Eye of Ra, the sun itself, Hethert-Nut as the vastness of the (usually) night sky and its multitude of stars. More generally, there is also a balance of male and female, symmetry in gendered representation.

A few special items I’ve yet to mention. First, Heru-wer carries a necklace made for me by Emky. Each component of the necklace has meaning related to Heru-wer, and His relationship with His brother Set. I want it out and visible because Heru-wer remains the Name I know the least about. Every time I am in shrine, I hold the necklace and consider its structure and form. I use it as an impetus to think about my most enigmatic Beloved, in the hopes that we will grow closer. Second, there is a small, beaded, blue-purple container resting in front of Hethert-Nut. One of the tasks She has charged me to complete is to write a goal for the month on a slip of paper, and place it in that jar. Every time I am in shrine, I unfold it, read it aloud, and then replace it. At the end of the month, I read it one last time, burn it, and while it is being absorbed by the flame I consider how successful I was at achieving said goal. It’s a little bit of positive heka (very roughly: empowered speech) to help encourage me to take on my personal challenges.

Finally, I also have a painting hanging over my shrine, a gift from Emky in celebration of my Rite of Parent Divination.

The symmetry of the central figure, along with the balance amongst the four Names featured in each of the four quadrants, makes this a perfect image to reside above my shrine, mirroring many of the themes I hoped to convey in the physical shrine itself.

And with that, I believe I’ve covered, albeit briefly, everything in my new shrine layout. If you have any questions about certain choices, just let me know. I’d love to go into further detail.

I’ll conclude with a photo of the shrine as it looks when everything is lit: