Ekunyi's Embers

Posts Tagged ‘Kemetic-Roundtable’

Kemetic Round Table: Living Kemeticism

The Kemetic Round Table works to connect Kemetic bloggers of various practices and paths in order to provide helpful information for those new to Kemeticism. More information about the project can be found here.

Due to my free time in March and April being eaten alive by a rabid grad school monster, I’m going to address two topics in one, though it will all go under the guise of “Living Kemeticism.” I will discuss the following: What does living your faith mean to you? How can others bring their religion into their day to day life or live their religion? How public are you about your beliefs and practices? How has it (or not) impacted your work life, your familial and friendly ties? What advice would you give to uncertain Kemetics about how to approach either telling or not telling others about their beliefs?

I think I was living as a Kemetic, in many ways, before I even found Kemeticism. I say this in the sense that I was already trying to live my life in a balanced manner, respecting myself and respecting others, caring for the world around me while caring for myself, seeking knowledge while simultaneously trusting instincts and emotions. I also held the belief in a divine force that could manifest as many individual and distinct gods or spiritual forms, which allowed me to worship and work with the entities that most strongly called to me, while respecting, from a distance, most of the gods and religious practices of others.

Kemeticism sort of wove its way into what was already there, fleshing out the details with a more complex definition of balance in the many questions of living a life in ma’at and giving me Netjer, an entity from within the greater divine force, from which many Netjeru extended into complex individual gods. While I began to establish a set ritual practice, and perhaps did more genuine praying than before, overall my day-to-day existence changed very little.

What did change was having a far more solid concept of the benefits of living my faith and a growing sense of responsibility to, and support from, a diverse range of Kemetic communities. In turn, “Kemetic” added a new layer of self-understanding within my identity, a form of security based upon the framework through which I could now learn more about myself, my relationships, and my world. The ideals I aspired to live somehow acquired greater weight in their manifestation in the revitalization of an ancient tradition. When I lost sight of these goals, there were others to whom I could turn to find my way back, books I could read to revitalize my interest. These were ways to cope with fallow times, rather than simply watching and despairing as my connection to spirituality withered away.

I have been far better off for having this foundation of Kemeticism beneath my longheld beliefs and ideologies. Yet living my faith extends beyond the complexities of the ideas that shape who I am and what I do, often creeping into the simple comforts of day-to-day actions. I always wear the ring that represents my devotion to, and connection with, Set and Bast. I also have a rotation of pendants and earrings depicting various Netjeru, an ankh, a scarab. These become physical reminders, their weight on my chest a reminder of who I am and what I believe. My Set-animal pendant in particular has grown shiny from the amount I’ve rubbed it between my fingers when nervous and seek a small reminder of my own strength.

Given how living my faith has so strongly proven itself to be a positive influence on my life, it is perhaps of little surprise that I guard it fiercely. I share my faith only with those I know I can trust, though have reached a point where I am no longer willing to lie if directly confronted and perceive no actual physical threat.

I am fortunate in that I live in a place where Christianity is not so deeply entrenched in the culture as to result in my potentially being attacked for who I am and what I believe. In my previous academic job, I was under some pressure to keep my spiritual beliefs, any spiritual beliefs, to myself, so as to be taken seriously, but I hope that my next career will be more open in this regard. My family largely does not know, but were I ever to move back in with them, this conversation would need to be broached. I do feel that, again, barring physical repercussions, I would owe it to myself and to them to be entirely open about my spiritual beliefs and practices.

In the meantime, I have made gradual, but significant, steps towards helping my parents understand that I do not identify as Christian, and have a different spiritual worldview. I hope, in time, to reach a point of complete openness with them, but for now, try to keep a balanced perspective on what I need them to know to be personally fulfilled and honest, and what small gaps in their knowledge might be better for their emotional well being overall.

Living as Kemetic requires this sort of balanced approach towards how “Out” you are with your faith. Consider your needs, your safety, and weigh these against how you can best respect the needs of others. Only you can make these decisions, and they are well worth contemplating over time, particularly if your life as a Kemetic has brought you as much joy and positive growth as it has me.

Kemetic Round Table – Walking two Paths

The Kemetic Round Table works to connect Kemetic bloggers of various practices and paths in order to provide helpful information for those new to Kemeticism. More information about the project can be found here.

This week’s prompt asked: “Can I work with other pantheons? Can I perform rituals that aren’t Kemetic based?

This is going to be brief, as the bulk of my thoughts on these questions are summarized beautifully here at Making Bright, and I find myself unable to add much, conceptually, to what Nellethiel has already eloquently discussed. What I can share is a bit of personal experience, offering one perspective on why those ideas are so important to me.

One of the two primary Kemetic deities I work with transcends multiple spiritual areas of my life. I’ve written about my complex relationship with Bast in greater detail in an earlier post, but suffice it to say, I’ve known Her from childhood and She has transitioned with me through the many spiritual changes I’ve gone through over the years. She was my “invisible friend” as a very young child, my Goddess in an adolescent Wiccan phase, one of my primary spiritual guides in the animist period of my collegiate years, and now is my divined Mother in Kemetic practice.

I still interact with Her in both of Her most recent incarnations. I pray to her in shrine, and on other, separate occasions, I walk with her in meditations. She can be fierce in her expectations for me on both paths. She requires regular devotions and offerings, that I worship her as Netjeru, one of many faces of the divine. She also expects that I will seek her out as one of my guides in journey, her feline form one of many various plants and animals I speak with to learn more about myself, my community, and my world.

While my animist practice is not necessarily what one would consider a separate “pantheon,” it does come with a very different set of ritual expectations. I have a separate altar space for my primary animistic guide at any given time, and this space often includes animal by-products. For example, right now I have a Great Horned Owl’s feather, vertabrae, and talon on this shrine, items that were gifted to me many years back from partial remains a friend found and cleaned. These items, sacred in my animist practice, are extremely impure from a Kemetic standpoint, and thus I actually prefer to keep them in a separate room from my gods’ shrine.

My animistic practice also takes place outside of a set shrine space. Journeying techniques involve astral work: I sit in a dark room, slow my breathing, sometimes play a slow, even, percussive rhythm to assist in the process of moving beyond my body. My Kemetic work is always done before the shrine, eyes open, the candle’s flicker and the glow of incense helping me to transcend the profane and move to sacred experience. The two processes are unique to me, and involve a deliberate choice to interact with one or the other, gods or spirits.

This does not mean that the two do not, on occasion, intertwine. More than once I have been in the midst of a meditation when suddenly a god, or gods, jumped in to mess with me, show me something, or challenge me further. Given that they are gods, I would not presume to box them in to one form of interaction over another,  but in my opinion, it is important that I leave that option to Them. If They want to reach out to me astrally, or if They request that I meet Them in that space rather than shrine, I will. But in the meantime, as someone who does identify as Kemetic, I primarily choose to work with them in a manner based on Kemetic practice: in shrine, with candle, incense and offerings, celebrating Their sacred days, studying Their myths, and doing my best to live in ma’at in all other aspects of my life.  

As Nellethiel wrote, “anything is possible in the realm of polytheism. Just be mindful of what it means to be a part of Kemeticism as the religious movement and practice it is today (as the modern reconstructed/revived ancient religion of Egypt).”

Anything is possible. It is possible that Bast is my goddess and my guide. It is possible that Set might challenge me with a storm right when I’m trying to learn something from the oak tree I’ve climbed. It is possible that the golden hawk I visualized myself flying beside was Heru-wer, teaching me something outside of senut. But it is important to be mindful of the means by which these interactions took place, to know what is faithfully reconstructing ancient practice and what is better described as my own homebrew animist work with a bit of Kemetic flair. It is vitally important to acknowledge the source of things, that we might discuss our multiple paths with others, respecting each method as distinct while not discounting its validity.

 

Kemetic Round Table – Daily Battles

The Kemetic Round Table works to connect Kemetic bloggers of various practices and paths in order to provide helpful information for those new to Kemeticism. More information about the project can be found here.

Members of the Round Table were given the following prompt: “How does being a Kemetic effect your daily life? Does it? Do you do things differently than you used to because of your faith/religion?”

This post is highly personal, but I share it in the hopes that perhaps it may be of use to others. The follow trigger warnings should be noted: discussion of depression, suicide, and self-harm.

I believe I was seven when I made my first threat of suicide, telling another young friend that I was going to throw myself off a bridge because I had started to recognize the cruelty of other human beings and the unfortunate futility of my own existence. My mother’s conversation with me that evening, minutes after my friend’s father called home to report my announcement, taught me to hide those feelings when they recurred in the years to come. I did my best not to make her, or anyone else, ever have to weep again over my strange, existential angst, and channeled the feelings into a daily ritual I referred to as “watching cars.” To most it would appear that I was zoning out, watching local traffic go by. Only in my head did I visualize throwing myself in front of them and only in the privacy of my bedroom, during the winter when long sleeves covered any damage, did I ever take a small blade to my forearms.

In college, finally living apart from the parents I protected by never speaking of my feelings, I finally found the nerve to seek counseling. Medications and a few less-than-stellar counselors generally made the situation worse, not better, and in my junior year I made a noose from a belt, attached it to a ceiling pipe, stared at it for awhile, and eventually walked outside to inform my roommate that I was committing myself to the college’s mental health services for the subsequent 48 hours.

While things have recently improved a great deal, I still don’t know what it is to go through an entire day without being aware of the presence of depressive thoughts. I have described the sensation in the past as a bottomless pit, a gaping hole in my peripheral vision that tempts me. I want to turn to face it and toe the edge, full well knowing what would occur if I allowed myself to actually jump in. On the best days I am too busy, too fulfilled with the tasks I’m working towards, to think of it much. On the worst days, the days when I have nothing to do, nothing to strive for, it is as if that pit is the only thing I can think about, and the longer I dwell on it, the harder it is to look away. Depression is experienced differently by every individual, but for me it has always been something of a mind game. The past year or so of mindfulness and cognitive behavioral techniques (CBT), the first “therapeutic regimens” to genuinely seem to improve things for me, has made this all the more apparent.

In my personal experience, my daily Kemetic practices solidly align with and enforce these strategies. To oversimplify the matter a fair bit, much of CBT relates to a sort of re-programming of your thoughts, cutting off the panic or mental self-abuse before it spirals out of control, re-directing your thoughts elsewhere. There is a prayer to Set from Rev. Tamara Siuda’s Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook which I haven taken to using in these situations. If my anxiety begins to rise and I recognize that I am beginning to slip back towards that “pit” of disproportionate reaction, I do my best to pray rather than simply lose myself in the self-abuse.

Storm Lord,
Pilot Who sails over evil Ap-p’s Back
Captain of the secret Boat!
You Who bind Ap-p, bring me a Boat,
Make me a strong rope so I can sail forth. 

I repeat this four times, focusing on the visual imagery of the boat carrying me away from the emotions, the strength in my own body becoming a rope, holding me taut, keeping me from falling into the current of irrational thoughts and emotions. I also recite this prayer preventatively, any time that I sit in shrine, as a reminder of my goal to keep Ap-p bound, to keep my mental tendencies of self-hatred and self-destruction caged.

A less structured aspect of my daily practice that also contributes to my mental health is simply the sense of awareness (“mindfulness” could also apply here) that I have developed over the past two years. I am more open to receiving communication from my gods, be it through speech, visualization, or even what is going on in the physical world around me. As I have grown more accustomed to tuning in to Their words, so have I become more accustomed to tuning in to myself. I am more conscious of when I begin to feel a certain way, where those emotions are coming from. In developing this consciousness, so have I also developed a means of accepting those emotions and moving forwards. Sometimes I can do this of my own volition, other times I seek Netjer’s aid. Set in particular is quite, ah, “skilled” at telling me to get my ass out of bed when I’m feeling lower than dirt, to physically move and get the endorphins flowing, to work my way to the shower to purify physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Finally, there is the significance of heka in a more general sense. The power of the spoken word cannot be overstated, and there has been more than one occasion where, in the midst of an anxiety attack, repetitively speaking aloud “I breathe. I stand. I walk.” has gotten me up and functioning when little else could. Shaping these positive statements into something more, something magickal, something intended not only as self-help but also praise and prayer, only strengthens their intent: “Serqet makes me breathe. I stand in Set’s strength. I walk at Bast’s side.” Here is my own will reinforced by my verbal supplication and devotion to the divine, and in this, I have found that I am able to overcome even the bad days.

So yes, in this sense (and indeed, in many others as well) being Kemetic has changed my daily life. It has provided me with a means of overcoming my own mental health concerns, and I remain incredibly grateful for this. Dua Netjer!

Kemetic Round Table – Facing the Prospect of Fallow Times

The Kemetic Round Table works to connect Kemetic bloggers of various practices and paths in order to provide helpful information for those new to Kemeticism. More information about the project can be found here. 

I genuinely struggled with writing this. In part, because I think the prospect of a spiritually “fallow” time — a time when, for whatever reason, we cannot hear our gods and lack the energy to complete our usual rituals — can be particularly frightening for those of us who have yet to really experience one.

I am new to faith. I sat in church throughout childhood, but never felt comforted by it, never felt like I needed it, should one day my father decide he no longer wished to go. I have meditated and journeyed, gained much from both, but even this was different from what I would call “faith.” My teachers in that part of the unseen generally only came to me if I reached out first. It was very much a matter of my asking for their help from the start, and spiritual entities of various shapes and sizes offered assistance only after deeming me worthy. I knew, from the get go, how things worked. If I didn’t close my eyes and journey to visit them, I should not expect a response.

But the gods of Kemet found me. Bast during my early adolescence, Set about two years ago. They offered Their comfort, Their strength, without my seeking it out. They have loved me and aided me at my worst, pushed me to try again when I needed a good solid kick in the arse to get moving. They’ve challenged me to do what I didn’t think I could, celebrated my successes, picked me up when I failed. They shoved past my cynical disbelief, gave me the proof my academic’s mind needed to permit myself to believe in something beyond the secular. The prospect of losing that connection, that contact, is horrifying.

My sibling said something to me the other day that I’d like to record here:

“With Set and others in your life full-force, you’re no longer just dealing with embers. You’ve fanned the fire back up to a healthy blaze.”

For the first time in my life, the fire within is fully lit. My fields are vibrant and alive, filled to the brim with healthy crops from my labors. When the seasons of my life shift and the appropriate time comes to take action, I will be ready for a tremendous harvest. I will pick the fluffy ideas off the stalk, shuck the ears off the creative endeavors I’ve grown and start them cooking into fully fledged projects for change and growth, ready to nourish me and my community.

And then, when the work is done, I will stare across a vast, empty field, and I will wonder: what now?

There are other members of the Round Table who have written of the usefulness of a fallow time. The good that can come of letting yourself rest and rejuvenate. They’ve suggested putting your energy into other aspects of your life while you wait for the spiritual field to be ready again, dedicating these new efforts to your gods to stay connected during the time apart.

Yet it can be so difficult to predict what that time will be like. Painful, to imagine what will happen when, for the first time, you hear only silence on your end of the “god-phone” after seemingly having a direct line that got you through so many trials. For me, it’s tantamount to thinking too long on the future of any relationship. Some day, the way things are now will come to an end. Such is the way of things in a world of transience and mortality.

How do I accept this?

For one: Be present. When I am in shrine, when I speak with my gods, I cherish those moments. I try to give Them my full attention. I thank Them when ritual concludes. I fully live in the time with Them that I have.

Two: Trust. They showed up when I needed them. Chances are, if and when They eventually grow distant, my gods are doing so for a reason. Perhaps depression or grief needs my full attention for recovery. Perhaps there is another project that merits greater focus. The gods don’t abandon, but They do give space, if space is needed.

Three: Take heart in cycles. Kemetic faith is a faith of constant return. Consider the concept of Zep Tepi, the first time, which comes with the rising of the sun each morning, bringing new opportunities, new chances. Consider the changing of the year and the seasons, if our spiritual life has dried out, eventually the flood waters will come again. Nothing is static, for good or ill.

Four: Reach out. Talk with your gods and the other members of the Kemetic community about your fears. As you can see from the other posts in this week’s Round Table, plenty of other more experienced Kemetic practitioners have gone through this before, and come out the other end. Perhaps they were changed, but as mentioned above, this is a natural thing, and can often lead to insight.

I hope this proves helpful to you, from one neophyte Kemetic to another. When the fallow time comes, we may not be ready, but we will be okay.

Kemetic Round Table – Ritual Purity

The Kemetic Round Table (KRT) is a blogging project aimed at providing practical, useful information for modern Kemetic religious practitioners. We noticed that many beginners in the Kemetic community have a lot of the same questions, and that there is currently no solid (and newbie safe) resource for newcomers to gain knowledge about the faith and practice. So we decided that every few weeks, a group of Kemetic bloggers would tackle a common new comer question and answer it as it obtains to their own personal practice. We’d then post our responses where others could read and learn about how other Kemetics are practicing. –  What is the Kemetic Round Table?

As many of us take our first steps into this exciting new blogging project, it seems fitting that we begin with a discussion of the preparations we make before stepping into sacred space, participating in Kemetic ritual. A number of contributors have already written excellent posts on the matter. I highly recommend Sarduriur’s post at Shadows of the Sun for a discussion of the history behind matters of ritual purity, Helmsman of Yinepu’s post at Kemetic Reconnaissance for a definition of “w’ab” or “clean,” and Qednofretaset’s post at Seven Scorpions which provides a clear-cut explanation of ritual purity requirements for the Kemetic Orthodox practice of senut, which I will touch on below.

I do identify as a member of the Kemetic Orthodox faith, having recently taken Shemsu vows to my gods and my community. Many who have found this particular flavor of Kemetic worship to fulfill their spiritual needs will complete the state rite of senut daily, effectively connecting themselves to the the rest of our community through very specific designated recitations, actions, and prayers. Before senut, practitioners are asked to wash their external body and orifices with a combination of natron and water, over which a particular blessing has been given. Once clean, they wear white clothing used solely for ritual made of neither synthetic materials nor animal skin. They are also asked to obstain from senut if they are bleeding (this includes menstruation) or are feeling particularly ill.

I very much enjoy and respect the process of preparing for senut. It provides a sense of connection to other members of my community to go through the steps, to know that many others have gone through these same processes, and may, somewhere, simultaneously be experiencing something similar to what I am experiencing in those moments of bathing, cleaning myself physically and emotionally, speaking sacred words aloud. It counters the loneliness of having no local Kemetic community, builds unseen bonds across the miles to friends and acquaintances.

This said, I generally only do the full state rite of senut once a month.

This is not for lack of faith or loyalty to my community! I sit in shrine several times a week to provide offerings to my gods, to play music for them, to simply sit in the presence of their icons and find comfort in a candle’s glow and the shadows of my Parents and Beloveds as they dance upon the wall. In preparation for all of these varieties of ritual I do purify. However, due to circumstances related to both my reproductive health and my schedule as a graduate student, I can only meet the full requirements of purity for senut on very rare occasions. Through much deliberation, both individually and with my gods, I decided that the best way to honor my commitment to Kemetic Orthodoxy is to make sure that when I prepare myself to purify for senut, I prepare myself for senut as the community proscribed. When I cannot meet those standards, I simply do something other than senut while in shrine, using none of the prayers associated with the rite, and feel neither guilt nor shame for the necessity.

And what does “something else” entail? Showering if I have time, often incorporating a bit of energy work. It’s an old trick I used long before my Kemetic days, where I envision the water rushing through me as well as over me in a stream of silver, breaking up the darkened bits, revitalizing connections between chakras. It takes tremendous focus, and even on days when I’m having a hell of a time pulling myself out the maelstrom of worries whirling around in my skull, if I’m going to be successful at the visualizaton, I must let go of the day-to-day concerns. I generally feel fantastic, inside and out, when I step out and begin the walk down the hall to the room with my shrine.

If I don’t have time, I will at least make an effort to wash my hands, my face, brush my teeth. I think there’s something about the deliberate choice to engage in the process of making myself clean, no matter to what degree, that helps me separate the sacred experiences to come from the secular experiences earlier in the day.

And personally I acknowledge that purity is on a gradient. The instant I step from the shower, whether this was a moment when I spoke the words of senut and washed with natron, or instead completed a visualization exercise, I’m going to need to use the towel I likely used the day before, my cat is going to rub up against my ankles and “share” her fuzz with me while I walk down the hall. As I dry and sweat in the heat of a small apartment mid-winter, I will lose the physical sense of purity gained a minute earlier. Whether I put on ritual whites or another clean outfit, there will be fuzz from the sweater that was hanging next to it, a bit of dust from that closet shelf I’ve been putting off wiping down with a damp cloth.

This doesn’t matter. What matters was the effort, the process of purifying, the deliberate choice to make myself ready — in mind, in body, in emotion — to sit with my gods, to separate myself from that paper that needs to be written, that phone call that needs to be made.

I call Set “Father,” Bast “Mother.” If I were to travel to visit my biological parents, I know that they would want my full attention and love during the period of time I stayed with them. I see the purifying process as a similar display of respect and affection.

For you see, in my acts of purification I am both traveling from a profane state to a numinous one and readying myself to focus solely on my gods for however long I am in shrine. If I intend to do senut, I complete the act through the methods required for senut, and I do so whole-heartedly with great attention to detail. If I am unable to meet those standards, or choose to worship in a way outside of senut, I purify in my own unique way. Out of respect to the community of Kemetic Orthodox to which I belong, I do not mix the two, but I certainly do not see one as more or less valuable and effective than the other.

The purpose, the shift, will happen either way. That, to me, is what counts. Your mileage may vary.