Grave Moss & Stars

bearing light from darkness

It’s Imbolc, one of my favorite non-Kemetic holidays: the Day of Fire.

I sing for Brigid, and I light a candle in the darkness beneath Her cross, next to a necklace that makes me think of Her spirit and a dark-blood stone from Sekhmet’s altar. I let the flame burn a while before returning Brigid’s cross to my throat, and I contemplate the fire of winter.

There’s a lot to be said for burning away the chill, but I live in Texas right now, and it’s not so very cold and snow-drenched.

Instead, I focus on the light itself. It has been a very dark autumn and winter, and I want to make February a month of bringing back the light. So I will think of small, tangible ways in which I can do that.

For now, I leave you with this from my private journal, which mentions Netjer but embodies Brigid’s spirit as well:

May the work I do
by voice, limb, and hand
be strong in structure,
stable in foundation,
beautiful in form,
and long in longevity.
All creations are art
and all art is my work,
my good work, born by my flesh,
sacred to me.
May it all bring honor
to Netjer, Who blesses me
and provides me the world(s)
in which I create and serve.

Red Week 2015

Last week, Kemetic Orthodoxy celebrated “Red Week,” a modern festival honoring Set, strongest of the gods. People got together in person to enjoy fellowship and perform heka; people came together online to do the same. Individuals wrote, sang, and made art for Set. He was studied, explored, discussed, and, ultimately, better understood by the end of His week. We even pulled together a devotional anthology for Him.

Set, also known as Seth or Sutekh, is an easily-misunderstood god. His reputation changes throughout ancient Egypt’s history, going from a warrior to a rebellious god to, in some eras and areas, being downright villainized. Some have equated Him to Typhon, the most deadly of all Greek monsters; others have blatantly equated Him to Satan. Set’s myths and stories are as varied as His reputations, showing Him in diverse lights: the proud contestant for the throne, the killer of His brother so that Wesir (Osiris) can become king of the dead who have no king, the protective warrior who shouts down the sea demon, the lusty god who has no qualms about chasing after skirts or trousers both, the mighty guardian of Ra’s barque who kills the Uncreated One every dawn so that the sun may rise again.

Likewise, modern Kemetics and polytheists have had a melting pot of experiences with Set. Some know His strength and draw on that strength to help survive their challenges; some feel Him in the very whirlwind of challenges that they are tasked with surviving. Some use His brazen fearlessness and loudness to help themselves learn to be bold and speak up; some feel themselves on the receiving end of that relentlessness and volume. Some embrace change, and some fear it. Some hail Him as god of foreigners and outcasts; some are unsettled by His strangeness and liminality.

During Red Week, we all had an opportunity to explore more of Set. For those of us who knew Him fairly well, we got to know Him better; those who didn’t know Him at all could make an introduction. For those who felt Set left a bad taste in their mouths, they had an opportunity to hear from those who loved and respected Him and to see His other sides—to see all the good He does in the world, for gods and people alike. He brings the sunrise and brings us strength.

For myself, I’ve known Set as long as my sister, Saryt, has known Him. But I’ve always known Him through her, and every interaction I’ve had with Him has been informed by and colored by the lens through which she views Him as her Father. I am very fond of Set and respect Him immensely, and He is always welcome in my shrine, but He and I do not have a one-on-one relationship outside of the occasional hello and offering of jerky.

I see Set as a master of the Kemetic version of drunken kung fu. At any moment, He may appear to be out of control, lost to rage, stumblingly drunk, caught up in lust, distracted by emotions—but at all times, He is aware and canny. Set is never stupid. He is intelligent, and His metaphorical strikes are always well-planned and well-aimed. What He does, He does intentionally. Not to say He doesn’t feel the emotions He displays, but that He doesn’t lose Himself to them. He is still capable of doing what needs be done, even when it’s hard. (Again, this is only my personal view; your mileage may vary.)

Last week, as I poured all of my available time and energy into the layout and editing of the Red Week anthology, I was slapped with a minor epiphany. Even as I’ve been struggling with the worst depression this fall and winter in recent years, I’ve been doing my best to take care of projects and people—both at my job and at home—as best I possibly can. And when asked why I’m doing what I’m doing, or why I’m the one who has to do it, my answer is often, “Because I can.” Or because I’m the best available person for that particular job.

It hit me, then, that I’ve been living by a Set-ism.

Set kills the Uncreated One every morning because He’s the strongest of the gods—because He’s the only one Who’s strong enough to do it. And I, unconsciously, have been mirroring that conviction by putting myself forth, whenever I’m able, to do what needs done when I am suited to do it. By no means am I always the best one for the job, but when my efficiency, or endurance, or speed happen to be the highest stats in the current party… well. I step up, no matter my weariness or other concerns. It is a character trait, for better or for worse. And I’d never realized it before now.

Thanks, Set. Looks like You and I have something to talk about one-on-one after all.

Dua Set!

Celebrating Christmas as a Kemetic

Spoiler Alert: Totally took Christ out of Christmas.

My partner and I put up the tree on Christmas Eve, dressed it in purple and gold garlands, strung it with purple and cool white lights. The first ornaments were brand new gifts to each other, as part of our new tradition: a solstice pagan scene and a Brigid’s cross, purchased from an Etsy artist. Then last year’s gifts, a white raven (my partner’s) and the Celestial Cow (mine), as well as a pair of owl siblings (from Saryt). The tree was my mom’s mother’s tree, and I built it so my partner could decorate it with all of their childhood ornaments, mine having been lost in too many moves. Christmas music played: The Piano Guys, Pentatonix, Heather Alexander & Alexander James Adams, Heather Dale, and Saryt’s Moomas carols.

We were up until 2 am. I put bows on the unwrapped packages that had arrived in the mail and slid them beneath the fake boughs, then woodburned a small gift for the person who’d invited us to a close-friends-only holiday dinner on Christmas day. A fire flickered in the fireplace, more a source of light than heat, for all that Texas had seen fit to fall to about 40*F that night.

This was the first Christmas in a long time that neither of us were going home to family. No epic roadtrip back to the snowy mountains of Nevada—and it had been half a dozen years or more since I’d made the longer trek back to the Appalachians to have Christmas with my own mother. It was just us, and it was cozy and happy, though we missed our homes-away-from-home.

Under the tree was a gift to my Mother Nebt-het from me. Pagan and Kemetic songs mingled with Christian ones in my playlist. My partner is best described as an agnostic pagan, and I’m happily Kemetic with a side of eclectic pagan. Neither of us are Christian, but there we were, celebrating Christmas.

And that’s okay.

Plenty of pagans and polytheists don’t want to touch anything Christian with a ten-foot pole, which is also okay. Each person can make their own choice about how to interface with other religions and traditions. Myself, I grew up with Christmas being more of a cultural holiday, and it brought me joy; I’ve chosen to keep that joy with me as an adult, as a Kemetic. For me, Christmas is about family, about warmth, about light, and about love, all in a season of darkness and cold and scarcity—and while I acknowledge that it has come to represent to many modern Americans negative things like commercialism, excessive materialism, and blind obligations, it doesn’t mean that to me.

I find it’s important to remember that a thing that brings one person joy can also mean something else far less joyful to someone else, and vice versa. But that shouldn’t stop us from finding joy where we can, especially in a season of long nights and cold weather.

Happy holidays to you all, whatever you may celebrate. And if you celebrate nothing at all, I wish you warmth, peace, and joy.

a lesson from Nebt-het

My Mother is a complex goddess. She is a Lady of Shadows, guide to the dead, comforter of the grieving. She is a seeker, a danger, a death-bringer, a protector. She is an Eye of Ra. She is a Lady of the House of the Sky. She is Seshat, is Nit, is Herself, is Tasenetnofret.

To say She has many lessons to teach is an understatement.

The very first lesson She taught me was that I was enough and what I did in the moment was enough. Not “enough” in the sense that I could stop trying and stop doing, but “enough” in the sense that I didn’t need to feel unworthy, disappointed, shameful, apologetic. The very concept was mind-boggling to me.

This lesson is equally important: it is never to late to start, even if one cannot finish in the same sprint.

I bought a tiny, handmade, spiral-bound notebook months ago, intending to write my akhu’s names in it for use in ritual and to keep on my akhu shrine. It was left untouched until my last senut, when my Mother gave a very inescapable look to my akhu shelf and reminded me that I had promised them.

So often I get caught up in the human trappings of time, the sense of “it’s too late, why bother even starting now” or “why start, I won’t be able to finish before ___ anyways.” But those artificial constructs of my mind aren’t shared by my akhu or my gods. My akhu didn’t forget. Nebt-het didn’t forget. They remembered and were patient.

It was 11h35 pm that night when I unwrapped the book and wrote my grandfather’s name on the first page.

It’s never too late to start.

Di Wep Ronpet Nofret!

I have had, in short, an amazing beginning to the new year. For the second year in a row, my sister Saryt and I were able to go to Tawy House to celebrate with our Kemetic Orthodox family—and this time, we drove up together, making a roadtrip out of it.

I cannot possibly write about all the things that happened over the epagomenal days (the five days between the end of the old year and the beginning of the new) and the first few days of the new year in one post. Please accept this voucher for many future posts, and give me a shout if I am too slow to deliver. :)

I do want to share Aset’s oracle for the new year, which belongs to Her, Mistress of Magic and most clever of goddesses. From Kemet Today:

Awake, Children of Netjer.

Awake, to see the splendor of Ra.

Awake, to feel Shu and Tefnut.

Awake, to walk upon Geb under Nut’s belly.

Awake, to the care of Wesir, of Heru, of Nebt-het.

Awaken, to welcome the year that is coming.

Awaken, Listen, Speak, to the Year that is Mine.

I am Clever of Speech.

I am Aset, Great of Heka, Mistress of Heaven.
I am all that you think you know. I am nothing like what you think you know.
So too will be this Year.

This is the year that brings its own heka.
This year will be as simple as the first breath. As simple as one word.
This year will be anything but simple.

Speech may be clever. Speech may be simple.
Speech may not be clever or simple.

In this Year, My Year, you may understand what you do, and do not do; what you speak and what you will not speak, what is appropriate for you, and what is not.

It will not be what you think.

It will not be simple.

In addition to that wonderfully cryptic and portent-filled oracle, there was a powerful theme of community throughout the Wep Ronpet celebrations. Gods and Kemetics alike talked about loneliness, about reaching out, about forming strong bonds, about connecting with others, about not having to be alone. This was a particular poignant and unexpected pattern for me, since I tend to be a quiet hermit and I’d slipped away for nearly half a year to more private practices. But I missed my Kemetic community, I missed more regular time in shrine, and I will be more active once again.

I wish you all a clever, eloquent, grounded, supported year in ma’at! Dua Netjer!

Quasi-Guest Post: Happy New Year!

Like they did last year, my non-Kemetic partner celebrated Wep Ronpet in fabulous style by feasting on the flesh of evil. (They make such a good Kemetic ally.)

Sidenote: If you are new to Wep Ronpet, it’s the Kemetic new year. One can celebrate by creating a symbol of the new year’s potential badness, illness, misfortune, etc, and then ritually destroying it in order to break its power over the new year. In the past, I’ve done pansnakes at home with my partner and snake-cake at Tawy House with my Kemetic Orthodox family.

Behold, the delicious destruction of Ap-p in the new year!





Omnomnomevil.

A Workout … Ritual?

Why yes, I have written a ritual for working out; it is simple, adaptable, and only requires a form of hydration and a deity/entity willing to “sponsor” you (as a source of blessing and support). Before I get to the rite itself, though, I’d like to share the thoughts behind its creation and design.

Part One: Theory

First, the purpose: I made this ritual for myself and only myself. I find that I do poorly without a sense of accountability and encouragement, and as I am pretty terrible at being consistent at anything but breathing, I figured I could ask for help. (I also find it harder to squirm out of a stated intention if it’s witnessed by a god Who doesn’t buy my flimsy excuses. *cough*) At the same time, I didn’t want to be guilted or lambasted into working out by a drill sergeant–just to have a sustainable, flexible structure that would support my efforts and a little extra mindfulness.

Second, the use: You are more than welcome to use this ritual, adapt this ritual, share this ritual, and/or totally ignore this ritual. I have made this with Kemetic (ancient Egyptian) deities in mind, but you can adapt it to any deities Who seem suitable in your own practice, or even non-deity entities, including totems and land spirits, if they’re willing.

Third, the disclaimers: By creating this ritual, I neither imply nor directly state any opinion on anyone’s health, nor do I offer any implied or explicit opinion on whether or not one “should” work out. As stated above, this is for me. I’m sharing it in case it may prove useful, but dear gods, please don’t think that my sharing it is a judgment or a holier-than-thou. Fitness and health and size and shape are very personal, subjective, individual variables.

Now that I’ve explained the thoughts behind the ritual, let’s get to the ritual itself, shall we?

Part Two: Ritual

First, the sponsor: You’ll need a sponsoring deity or entity Who is capable of blessing you with energy, willing to hold you accountable, and pleased to be offered your physical exertion in Their name. Try to choose carefully to fit your own personal needs—do you need a hard-assed trainer or a gentle but persistent encourager? Do you want a sponsor Who is constantly reminding you to jump on the bike, or do you want a sponsor Who is only there when requested? Once you have a deity/entity in mind, ask Them ahead of time if They’re willing to be your sponsor. This ritual is very bare-bones, and you won’t be terribly pure (what with the sweating, the panting, the workout clothing, and the likely mental cursing), so make sure They’re not offended by the state you’ll be in during the workout and directly after. If nothing else, feel free to name Netjer instead of a particular god.

Second, the heka (authoritative utterance, or spoken magic): Sit down with a pen and paper. Take anywhere from a sentence to a paragraph and describe, in firm and positive language, why you’re working out. Make it deliberate. Put your intentions, your hopes, your goals, your passion into words. Avoid negative language and avoid uncertainty. Use “I will” or “I want”. (Examples: “I want to be stronger.” “I want to be healthy.” “I will feel great about myself.” “I will honor [deity] by tending my body.”) Be careful not to psyche yourself out or state impossible goals; be kind to yourself, be realistic, and make sure what you write resonates within you. Once you’ve gotten your final result of heka, write it afresh on a new piece of paper to keep with you before a workout.

Third, the preparation: Preparation is wonderfully minimal. The only requirement is a form of hydration: a bottle of water or Gatorade or whatever you drink before/during/after the workout. I also include the use of a small offering, such as a candle or incense, for the end of the rite. I would recommend a larger candle that can be lit and extinguished multiple times, depending on how often one wishes to work out. (A word of caution about incense: if you are in any way sensitive to smoke, avoid smoky incense after a workout when you’re breathing heavily. Essential oils or other smokeless scents work just fine.) You can also offer a bite of food instead of something flammable.

Fourth, the ritual itself:

Set up your offering (candle or incense unlit) wherever you deem fit. It’s up to you if you want it on your main shrine or in a separate area due to purity reasons.

Read your intention heka, preferably aloud and in a strong voice. Give yourself a moment to tap into your passion and your hope. Remember why you’re doing this in the first place. Try to stay positive without being unrealistic.

Get your workout drink and offer it to your chosen sponsor. Speak aloud: “Hail, [name]! I offer You this [drink]; may it please and satisfy You. As it fuels You, may so it me. Bless my efforts as I honor Your name.”

Do the workout, be it weights or jogging or biking or dog-walking or martial arts or yoga or whatever you like, and stay hydrated! Remember that what you drink has been blessed and charged by your sponsor, Who lends you Their energy.

When you’re finished, come back to your offering. Light it (if applicable) and offer it, saying, “Thank You, [name], for Your blessings and assistance. I offer You this [flame/smoke/etc] in gratitude.”

… and you’re done! Told you it was short. ;)

This ritual may not be pure, or fancy, or long—but it does keep one’s intentions in mind and get someOne involved to help one feel accountable, encouraged, and motivated… which is the whole point!

If you try this ritual or adapt it for your own use, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences! Now for a lot of test-driving to see how it holds up…

mundane ma’at

Sometimes the most sacred thing I can do is take care of my home and my family.

I serve with my hands and my feet, my mouth and my mind. I serve with vacuum and skillet and incense and embrace. I won’t make it into shrine tonight, but I have taken care of my partner, who has the flu, and I have taken care of our home. I have taken care of all of our animals.

And in sitting still for a little while, eating blueberries and listening to Scottish music, I am taking care of myself.

Sometimes I forget that pushing myself beyond my limits in an effort to do All The Things is not ma’at. It is not desired nor requested by my spirituality or my gods. Burnout is not the goal.

Ma’at is, in part, balance. Restoring my house to cleanliness and health is restoring ma’at, and that is my worship today.

It is enough. I am enough. Nebt-het taught me that. I am not as unworthy or insufficient as I so often feel.

Dua Netjer! Help me recognize and honor ma’at in the mundane Seen world.

telling

After I bow out of shrine, I have a sake-cup of water that I’ve offered fourfold. Because one of those four offerings was to the dead, I don’t drink the water myself, so I’ve taken to pouring it out into our main household plant, a dogged ivy. Since I am notoriously bad at remembering to water plants regularly, this is frequently the ivy’s only source of moisture.

As you can see by the photo, my time away from shrine has had noticeable effects. Some leaves have yellowed; others droop listlessly. There appears to be an unfortunate dragon infestation. The ivy is thirsty, and I find myself reminded of my own spiritual thirst in turn. Fallow times are natural, as are mundanely-busy times, but I still feel a little dehydrated when I can’t spend time in shrine or engaged in devotional activities. However understandable, however occasionally unavoidable, those times apart still leave me dry.

Rather than curse myself for being imperfect and curse my life for being unpredictably hectic, I will water the ivy, cup by offering cup, as I am able. It is a very stubborn, patient plant, my ivy, capable of withstanding periods of little moisture—and I am no different. We will drink up together, and we will weather future drought with rooted grace.

for all my mothers

Thank Netjer for the mother who bore me, who birthed me,
who reared me to be kind and fierce and smart,
who taught me that independence and improvisation were key;
thank Netjer for the mothers who adopted me,
one east and one west, who welcomed me,
who call me family and kin and child;
thank Netjer for all the many mothers of my bloodline,
who tended each child, who counseled each adult,
who created with hands and hearts the legacy of my heritage;
and thank Netjer for the goddesses Who are my Mothers,
Who made me, Who inspire me, Who protect me,
Who teach me how to be myself in Their images.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my mothers, and to all mothers everywhere!

returning

I slink back into shrine like a teenager returning home well past midnight, guilty and full of half-valid excuses. Overtime at work for weeks on end leading up to early April, then burnout, then there was this other project, and I’ve been meaning to dust off the altar…

My Netjeru have been in my prayers every morning as I drive to work, but I feel the lack of seeing Them in shrine—of offering Them water and incense—like a hollow pit of nervousness. Too long “apart,” and I start to wonder if They even want me back.

Nonsense, of course. But still, I tiptoe around the edges of my shrine, washing my hands before I dispose of old candle tins and incense ashes. I place fresh candles and incense, gather simple offerings of cinnamon and chocolate, and take a breath.

I pour water for my akhu, my family, my ancestors. Happy birthday, Grama—I’m really sorry I missed the actual day.

I light a candle for my gods so I may see Them and They me. I love You, my Mothers, my Beloveds.

The smell of incense transports me instantly. There is no sense of time with scent-memory, and it’s like there’s been no long absence at all.

I recite Sekhmet’s heka and look at the firelit faces of my gods, grateful for Their continued presence in my life and for Their immortal patience. And it won’t be so long before I return again to this physical housing of my spiritual practice.

KRT: Being Publicly Kemetic

This post is part of the Kemetic Round Table, which aims to answer some of the most common questions and provide a wealth of diverse options for the Kemetic novice to explore.

How public are you about your beliefs and practices?

I am remarkably “out” about most things: I’m openly queer and genderqueer, even at work and to family. I publicly support non-mainstream religions and personal identity choices—and I’ll even flip the coin to support the right to choose a mainstream religion against those who would tear that down, too. (Freedom of choice, and freedom of speech, apply to everyone equally, goshdernit.)

So, it’s hardly a surprise that I’m openly pagan/polytheist (yes, even at work, and even to family). I wear a lot of Kemetic-themed jewelry (which admittedly isn’t ankhs everywhere, so it’s not as obviously Kemetic) and talk excitedly about ancient Egyptian mythology when given half a chance. I haven’t often encountered a situation where I’m queried about what kind of pagan I am—quite honestly, in Texas, it’s usually enough that my religious choice goes uncontested. So, in that sense, I am less “openly Kemetic” and more just “openly pagan.” Which I am quite fine with. Being public about my beliefs means not avoiding or lying about them, but not shoving them down anyone’s conversational throats, either.

It’s worth noting that I am more public about my beliefs than my practices. I’ll happily talk about my practice and my relationships with my gods to fellow pagans/polytheists/Kemetics, but I do a case-by-case judgment call on sharing those details with people outside the sphere of paganism. If someone’s just looking for ammunition, I’ll be vague; if someone’s genuinely seeking more information for a greater understanding, I’ll share.

How has being publicly Kemetic impacted your work life and your familial and friendly ties?

In the sense that being Kemetic impacts how I act and how I choose my words, it’s had a major influence on all the facets of my life and all my relationships. However, being publicly pagan hasn’t really impacted much. I serve as a walking reminder that not everyone is part of a given religious majority, but with few exceptions, those who aren’t pagan don’t discuss the topic with me much. It doesn’t feel like a point of tension, but simply a non-issue.

What advice would you give to uncertain Kemetics about how to approach either telling or not telling others about their beliefs?

I always advise a safety check first. I have the enormous privilege of being able to be out of various closets safely, but not everyone is so fortunate, and it’s important to consider one’s physical and mental safety first and foremost. While someone may be served best by being boldly open about their beliefs, another person may be served best by remaining private and unchallenged. Society can be quite aggressive towards things it doesn’t like, and certain places and groups of people embody that hostility more than others.

If, however, one passes the safety check and deems it an acceptable risk to be out of the … what, ankh closet? What’s our equivalent to a broom closet? Khopesh closet? Barque closet? That’d be a big closet… anyways, I digress. If one chooses to be publicly Kemetic, one can take many paths to sharing their beliefs, among them the “sit down, I’ve got something to tell you” (which I did with my parents, in the days of yore) and the “tiny comments here and there” (which I do at work and with basically everyone) methods.

For the people who live with you or who are deeply, vitally important to you, it will probably be more effective to have a solid conversation, where you explain what you believe and can answer their questions in real-time, before misconceptions form and fester. The best way to handle that is to be honest and serious; I often ask someone to hear me out and not interrupt until I’m done, so I get a chance to get the full spiel out before they start in with questions. (I’m really blunt, so that method works well for me.)

For everyone else who doesn’t need the full explanation up front, just be open. Conversations will naturally turn in directions where you can gently correct their assumptions that you’re not Kemetic. I’ve found patience and politeness goes a long way in these gradual reveals; people may not pick up quickly on the hints you’re dropping, so just be persistent and don’t worry about it. (If you’re worrying about it, you may want to try the full-conversation option.) I find this method exceptionally useful for being non-confrontationally “out” as a queer and genderqueer person, though I’ve had to be blunter about the misgendering because most people don’t think past the male/female binary.

Above all, be safe, and remember that you can be selective. If you want your significant other to know, but not your blood-family, that’s fine—just make sure to tell your S.O. so they know when to censor themselves around others. If you want to tell your friends but not your coworkers, that’s fine, too. However public or private you are about your beliefs is entirely your choice; there is no “should” or “should not.” Be safe and find your own path to happiness and comfort.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out other takes on being publicly Kemetic by my fellow Round Table bloggers!

the horned serpent

The horned serpent has fascinated me since I was but a wee pagan, and its associations with Cernunnos, regeneration, and abundance have only helped its image in my eyes. I’ve doodled horned and antlered snakes for well over a decade, and it was only a matter of time before they showed up in my newer forms of art.

The above is a slice of tagua, vegetable ivory, a renewable resource and durable material for jewelry and other uses. The horned (well, antlered) serpent upon it is woodburned, freehand.

There may be an entire series of these to come. :)

PSA: Did you know I’m a commissionable artist? If you’re interested, you can drop me an email at itenumuti at gmail or find me at my Etsy shoppe, Mythic Curios.