Ekunyi's Embers

Posts Tagged ‘Shrine’

PBP 2013 – D is for Discipline

I struggle with maintaining a sense of discipline in my practice. Picking a day to sit in shrine and sticking to it, constantly meeting the goals set forth by my gods. There’s no mystery to this problematic inability to establish a habit — I don’t make it a priority.

Spiritual time, in my head, feels like a luxury. It’s forced relaxation. I shower, purify, enjoy the feel of tension released at the heat of the water, the pleasant sense of the day’s work washed away, the scent of incense filling me with each breath, the comfort of candles’ glow.

Yet if I haven’t accomplished enough that day for work, if I haven’t met whatever (often unreasonable) scholastic goals I set for myself that day, I genuinely feel like I haven’t earned the pleasure of sitting in shrine, of being with my gods.

This, my friends, is really stupid.

For one, as I’m sure occurred to many (if not most) of you upon reading the above, it’s not just about me! We worship/walk with/study under gods. No matter what way you spin it, no matter which way the balance tilts, it’s a two-way relationship, built on trust, time, and effort.

And, as was pointed out to me this evening, I’m starting to reach the extreme where even purification is tainted by stress and to-do lists, creatures of the mundane. I was washing my mouth out with purified natron-water and Set just rumbles, What are you doing?

I paused, “Purification.”

No, what were you doing. It certainly was not pure.

And the truth of it? I had been thinking about the fact that I’d forgotten to provide extra comments for a student’s essay who’d requested the more detailed response. I then started to mentally berate myself. While I was swishing natron around in my mouth.

I acknowledged this, apologized, began to re-rinse my mouth… and promptly caught myself doing it again. This time making a to-do list in preparation for the meetings I have scheduled tomorrow afternoon. 

I genuinely struggled, the rest of the shower, to not think about work. Instead, I just tried to release those self-accusatory thoughts and shift myself into a more neutral state of mind.

Yet even once in shrine I realized: great job, self. It’s Sunday. You completely forgot to do something dedicated to Bast today as you’d promised.

I sang one of the songs I’d written, but my heart wasn’t in it. This was an afterthought. It was not the journeying She’s asked of me for months, it was not quality time with Sammi, it was not even a new creative work. This was not good enough.

And yet, I received no anger from Her or Set, despite how He had mildly expressed His discontent earlier in the rite. From Set, I was told only to recite my favorite prayer related to Him, to memorize it, to let the words become a mantra of calming and mental clarity when next my worries and self-accusations ran off with my thoughts again.

From Bast, I was shown the tree that I have been instructed to care for while I attempt to regain my skills at “seeing” while meditating. It sprang from where it was rooted my heart, up through my chest and out my head, branching off in countless different directions. She placed a massive black paw on the bark that I visualized filling my chest, and the outline of the tree flared golden-red as Her energy coursed up my chakras, clearing them, and leaving me feeling far more… alert and energized than I have in days.

I didn’t know what to say in the moment beyond thank you.

Looking back, a few hours later, I am beginning to wonder if my mental fog will be cleared by allowing myself to become as disciplined with the spiritual matters, both in shrine and in journey, as I have been with academia.

Balance. Always balance.

 

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: