Ekunyi's Embers

Posts Tagged ‘Kemetic’

A Modern Holy Month: Miew Khem

Two days prior to this past Friday, February 13th, I found myself reading through G.B. Marian’s recent blog update regarding The Holy Month of Miew Khem (or “Black Cat”). It’s well worth reading through his thorough explanation of this time, held sacred by the members of the LV-426 Tradition, which takes place between the rare occurrence of two consecutive Friday the 13ths. Marian’s group considers this time significant for, “…celebrating (1) the positive results of killing Osiris and (2) the marriage of Seth to Ishtar and Anath (as any of our normal Friday the 13th rituals would be); it’s also a time for (3) experiencing some major initiatory event.”

Though personally identifying as Kemetic Orthodox in terms of tradition, my spiritual path has benefited greatly through participation in reconstructionist-based, revivalist and modern rituals, as well as practices specific to my particular branch of Kemeticism and those from the wider Kemetic, polytheist, and general pagan communities. With this in mind, it was surprising, but not uncomfortably so, that the concept of the month of Miew Khem grabbed me almost immediately, with that sort of palpable force that many of you may be familiar with. The one that translated into words would go something along the lines of, “Hold on to your hat, kid, we’re in for a bumpy ride.” I sought permission from G.B. to participate (initially uncertain if this was something other-Set-worshipping folks could join in on) and upon receiving permission continued about my Wednesday, full of thoughts of the past and curiosity towards the future: namely what that impending WHOOMPH feeling was going to translate to come Friday.

Regarding the past, I’ll just share what I wrote in response to the initial blog post about Miew Khem, as it sums it up fairly well:

“[Your post] got me thinking back to what I was doing around this time in 2009, and I admit, I… was somewhat blown away at the realization. I don’t honestly remember all that much of the details of what happened during that month. I was in my junior year of college, I was at the lowest point that depression has yet to take me in my life, but this was… legitimately when it all hit critical mass. I wound up leaving school for a week at the end of February after almost doing something drastic, spontaneously fled … to be with my sibling Tenu, got off all the medications that seemed to have made things so much worse (for me) and in the midst of the vast red mountains, took an oath to whatever gods/spirits may be (I was too low to believe in anyOne specifically at this point) that I would do whatever it took so as to never scare and hurt my family so deeply again, even if I couldn’t see reason enough just yet to take these steps for myself.”

Initiatory? Yes. Messy as hell? Yes, again. Worth acknowledging as an incredibly significant moment in my life?

Absolutely.

With that in mind, I had intended for this Miew Khem to be about celebrating how far I’ve come since the prior occurrence of this month. I wished to honor how Set showed up roughly two years later and helped/forced (either verb would be accurate!) me to make drastic changes in my life that led me to become the healthier, stronger, more independent person I am six years on. I wished to acknowledge how Bast stayed with me through all of it, shifting through various forms that my mind could make sense of from childhood on, guarding and guiding through the turbulence of adolescence and my early twenties, and finally revealing herself as who She truly is once I was ready. Wednesday evening and much of Thursday I started to pull together plans for a personal ritual that would accomplish just this.

The celebration was put on hold come Friday 13th.

A brief note here before I continue: I am about to share some relatively personal information on what I know to be a public blog. I will avoid specific details, but I have made the decision to share the general gist of what occurred because I believe that mental health is something that is not discussed frequently enough in my part of the world and that abuse is not something the victim should be made to feel ashamed of or for. I also believe that sharing some of this is significant for my own well being, part of the process of acknowledging it, making it part of my reality. If this bothers or triggers you, I respect that and do not wish to harm anyone with my words. Please stop reading now.

Friday the 13th, I had scheduled a counseling appointment for myself. As someone who is in training to be a counselor, I had previously recognized that I had some unresolved issues from my past, things that fed into my experiences back in 2009, and knew that I needed to work on these things in order to be an effective helping professional for my clients.

My counselor, after hearing my story regarding this prior relationship, wanted me to admit that I was a survivor of physical and emotional abuse. I denied it. Defended the other party in question. Explained why I deserved much of what had happened, minimized the severity of it, claimed that I had not gone through enough to merit the “title” of abused. My counselor pressed me, kept showing me the truth of it, metaphorically holding the mirror up to my own face and making me took a good, long, look at myself.

I finally relented. Spoke the words that would begin the process of acknowledging that this had indeed happened to me, that it was not merely an unhealthy relationship but something worse, something that had warped my perception of my self-worth, something that had led me to do things, give things, I had not wanted to do or to give.

I made it home, and then I broke. For the next several days I was utterly useless to the friends and family I love. Grieving for something I’d known but had gotten by in not acknowledging. Angry but too exhausted to express that anger. I mostly hid in my apartment with my partner, reaching out only to him and to my sibling. I used Monday to force myself out into the world again, knowing that the evening would see me in class again, the following morning back in the office. I had to function, I had to find a better balance between wallowing in this new reality, the endless repetition of “how could I” and “why did I” needing some relief in the form of self-care and strength, even if that strength was somewhat forced.

Meeting the necessity of various obligations got me moving: class, work, online meetings, and finally — shrine.

I was not up to the festival I’d planned, when I finally managed to light candles and incense. I said the words of the senut ritual and then I just sat there, exhausted and not really wanting to be doing the rite. I felt dirty. I felt stained. I felt… abused.

“Sing.” Came the voices of several gods, “Sing our songs.”

I didn’t want to. I didn’t know if I could. But They kept asking, and so I did, working through the lyrics for Heqat, Hethert-Nut, Heru-wer, Bast, and finally Set. I started in on one of Set’s songs but He abruptly cut me off.

“Not that one. The first one.”

I was surprised — His opinion of my music has always been one largely of mild amusement. He appreciates the gesture but isn’t so… picky as Bast or Hethert-Nut, who’ve more direct associations with that sort of worship. So if He actually had a preference for once, I’d listen. I refocused, shifting my headspace from the fierce “Daughter of the Storm” chant to the low ballad of “Dua Set.” I sang the first verse, the chorus, the second verse, chorus again, then headed into the bridge:

“Tear me apart, challenge my soul. / I must be broken that I might yet be whole.”

I promptly choked back the rush of emotion that flooded me. I was and am so very broken. Less so today than on that initial recognition of the 13th, but still aching, still tender in spaces I’ve not explored for the better part of five years. It hurts in ways I can’t fully express to go delving back into my past, ways I don’t want to express, because I hate the rawness of it, hate the showing of those weak spaces, hate the tears that once earned me such harsh critique. Sekhmet pulled the depths of it from me once in a semi-public setting and oh how I burned with the shame of it. I do not like to cry at all. I absolutely abhor crying in front of damn near anyone else.

I couldn’t even fully cry then, in front of Set. I almost did, I almost am now, remembering the moment. He showed me in the lyrics from my own hand that I need to let it out, probably at some point fairly soon, but it may take a god again to haul it from me. Every time I try to release… whatever this weight at the pit of me is, there’s a wall. If I could just get past that, I think He would be willing to take it from me. I think Bast would too as She was there, less tangible but still present, an external wave of concern and acceptance of the mess that I struggled with and subsequently contained after the initial wave.

How do I do this? Where do I go with this? I’m so… lost again. Lost in a time that I was initially so happy to celebrate for all the good that I’ve found. Perhaps this is the true spirit of the month, the not knowing, the challenge and the change. I am doing my damnedest to honor that spirit, but gods above and below, it is so, so very hard.

Red Week – Days 4 through 7

I needed to sit on this final post for awhile. As I told my friend last night, in so many words, the week brought up a tremendous amount of feelings and insight for me. I’m not entirely certain I’ve come to terms with all of it, even a week after it’s all drawn to a close, and I’m also not sure of how to write about my experiences in a way that doesn’t smack of self-aggrandizement, something I generally aim to avoid. I do want to try to share some of it though, for I got so caught up in the thrill of things, the challenge of balancing prayer, personal ritual, and community efforts along side my day to day wedding planning, graduate school, and day job, that I stopped being able to share when I was actually in the thick of it.  I don’t want to let that become a reason for writing nothing, in part because I want to remember, and use those memories as a foundation for future efforts, future personal growth.

The candles and barque have been put away for some future festival, the red festival shrine cloth folded and waiting to be washed of what incense and wax escaped their holdings. The small bronze hued statue of Set, Lord of so much more than any epithet can capture, has been tucked back into my cabinet where extra icons remain. The table that burned brighter and brighter with the light of six, sacred flames has been returned to a crafting space for music, words and clay, a space of creation, with a small shrine holding images of both Set and Bast, alongside Heqat and Khnum who watch over my efforts. My Father was honored here for six days. Each night as I sat with Him, He tore away obstacles, guided me to confront those things still holding me back, and helped me to see what will make me a better worshiper, counselor, leader. Now this small place of homage has been returned to a space where I can move forward, unbound, free again to add beauty to the world.

On the seventh day, I celebrated Him with seven others. We celebrated all He had done for those who followed Him, be they long time devotees who have known His ways for years, or newcomers, stepping beyond past assumptions to reach out to a god they had not yet greeted in shrine. We sang for Him, we destroyed our fears on clay pots in His name. We crafted ropes to remind us of the threads of His tail which serve as ropes for a sacred barque, and put our strengths into them that we might hold fast to such strengths in darker days. We gave Him many, many offerings; we reverted those offerings in fellowship. We returned to His shrine after night had fallen and naught but candles lit the room. We toasted Him again, and again, and again, each person present Honoring the Lord of the Red lands with strong voice and strong drink.

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And we had time to sit with Him individually, as the candles burned and He remained so very present. Each had time if they chose to sit and pray by the flicker of the candle light and the passing from shadow to fire’s glow. A few of us sat with Him deep into the night, holding vigil with our thoughts and feelings even as Set held vigil over Ra on their nightly journey below the horizon.

I sat with Him by myself at one point and found it quite difficult to find words adequate to thank Him for everything He’d shown me in those past seven days. How do you thank a god for reminding you how deeply you care for a sister, and in truth, how deeply you care for your whole spiritual community? How do you express gratitude for the necessity of being bluntly shown your flaws, reminded that no matter how much work you do, things can and will go wrong and the best you can do is try to repair them after the fact? How do you find words for the clearest moment of recognition that you’ve had in four years of following a god of why He chose you, and how His influence has lead you to the professional path you’ve chosen to walk?

The answer: you don’t. There’s nothing to encompass the sheer emotional mass of it. In recognizing that, I just endeavored to share with Him the fullness of spirit I felt, the gratitude that was emanating from what felt like every fiber of my being. I believe He accepted that small offering of sorts, and I believe I felt some sense of pleasure in return, that He was proud of everyone who had worked so hard to make these things come to pass, that He enjoyed the extra time so many spent honoring Him, learning about His complex, occasionally even confounding, methods of upholding ma’at.

I know, for myself, it will take many more weeks beyond His festival, beyond even this first effort to share some of my reactions, to fully delve into everything I believe Set shared with me during His week.

…but I very much look forward to the challenge.

Dua Set! Dua Netjer! Nekhtet!

Red Week Round Up

I still owe you all a summary of what occurred during Days 4 through 7 of Red Week, and I promise that I have such a post in the works. However, my brain is still processing a number of things that took place during that span of days, trying to find words for certain emotional reactions and sorting out feelings regarding things that I researched or discussed.

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In the meantime, I wanted to do a quick post that highlights some of the other ways that different followers of Set joined in on Red Week celebrations. I like to think that the week brought some extra attention (and positive “PR!”) for my Father, that He was pleased with our efforts, and that those who celebrated Him learned something about the Red Lord or themselves.

 

 

 

  • G.B. Marian of LV-426 Tradition (priests of Seth-Typhon) shared photos of a new Set statue he recently purchased!

 

  • A child of Nebt-het and Hethert-Nut, Itenumuti shared zir experience learning more about Set during His week and perhaps a bit about zirself!

 

  • Kemetic Orthodox gatherings were held in Massachusetts (with Khenneferitw), Ohio (with A’aqytsekhmet), and Maryland (with myself and Heruakhetymose)!

 

These were just a few examples amongst the sculptures and drawings created, stories shared, and heka enacted in Set’s name over the past week. I remain humbled by how many chose to participate in some way, how many volunteered to pull together and make this festival a reality.

Finally, if you did something for Red Week, I’ve not mentioned it above, and you would like to see it added to this post, just let me know. :)

Dua Set! May the Son of Nut continue to walk with you and lend you His strength.

Red Week – Days 2 and 3

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It is Tuesday night, the end of Day Three. I sit beside my Father’s statue and struggle to find words for what I’m feeling, when two days ago I wrote with confidence about my goals for the week, and those words rang true without question.

Tonight, there is a flickering candle, transient between moments of darkness and light, and my several attempts to launch into an in-depth analysis of the past days’ events have all felt hollow.

I focus beyond words.

There is an ache in my back from additional hours spent before a screen, organizing, planning, making foolish mistakes and trying to fix them. There is a tension in my shoulders and neck from nerves relating to a new graduate program, and a particularly trial-by-fire first day of class. There is a weight in my chest for the loved ones near and far whose mental and physical demons I cannot seem to slay, who have had less of me in the past few days than I would normally give. (There is even a tic in my eye from entirely too much caffeine in a 48 hour span!)

There is also a fierce joy beyond measure at the creative works and stories in Set’s name that have spread across my community’s forums and even a few blogs beyond. There is a boundless depth of gratitude that so many continue to lend their time, their presence, their service to this event which honors the Son of Nut. There is a reverbant thrum of excitement that a few individuals who had been gone from my community chose this week to return, perhaps because of Set’s festival, perhaps because of the New Year, perhaps because of a chance.

There is also, admittedly, a growing solidity at the core of me, summoned by the soft, firm voice that says of  my school and work and caretaking, “Yes. You have done well.”

The owner of that voice sits with me and I Him, the incense I’ve lit blowing up against His statue and back to my face.

I breathe and I am so grateful for all that has already occured and what has yet to come.

I breathe and I wish other things had happened differently, that I might have done better by my community members and our gods, both of whom I endeavor to serve.

I breathe and recognize that I cannot control whether the flame casts me in its shadow or holds me aglow.

I breathe and I think that tonight, sitting here with the One who embodies such transformations, I can accept the uncertainty.

Frog as a Cultural Keystone

Two weeks ago I spent several days in my childhood home in Maryland, visiting family and taking care of some planning for my upcoming wedding. Each night, after a busy day of visits and organization, I was greeted by the voices of hundreds of native treefrogs. The slow rising, alto creeeeeeeek of the upland chorus frog formed a polyphonic chant with the soprano chirrups of spring peepers. I did not see them on this trip, but recalled with joy being in my early years and finding the little creatures crawling on the sides of my parents house, loving that they were so small and yet had such a tremendous voice.

The return of the chorus frogs was always, for me, the first sign of the return of the warmer months. School would soon draw to a close, and a summer full of adventures would soon begin. So too would my personal new year be arriving, my August birthday arriving only a few months after the frog song began, and even when little the choir of ribbits got me thinking about what it would be like to be another year older, wondering about the year behind me, and the year to come. I would lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to the rhythms of amphibian music, dreaming and pondering about new beginnings until eventually sleep took me.

This emphasis on Frog as a representative of new beginnings on the east coast of the United States once reflected fresh starts on another shore: that of the Nile delta. In Ancient Egypt, immediately following the annual flooding of the great river, thousands of frogs would seemingly “emerge” from the soil, as the sodden earth provided a greater expanse of habitat, and the various frog species began to mate and reproduce. Though my research has not yet lead me to which of the following endemic amphibian species to the Nile valley region (egyptian toad and mascarine ridged frog) most likely existed at that time, one or both contributed to the ancients’ understanding of the goddess Heqat: lady of rebirth, midwife to the gods, giver of life to the human bodies that potter Khnum created upon his wheel. When the frogs returned after the flood waters subsided, so too would crops begin to grow, new projects could begin as the silt was once again rich with nutrients and the sky rich with frogsong.

It cheers me that these various species on both sides of the globe remain listed as unthreatened, though the Egyptian frogs have declined substantially in the past 10 years due to overharvesting for university study. Hopefully something can be done to protect them, as the frogs serve not only as a symbol of renewal, a current cultural keystone within the Americas and a historic cultural keystone of the Nile delta, but also as a source of food for other predatory species seeking sustenance as they enter their own breeding seasons, a source of protection from imbalance as they keep insect populations in check.

The frogs are necessary to balance, necessary for new life. Their song must continue to be sung.