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.
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!
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!
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…
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
Along the side of the house I grew up in, we had a row of ferns. They have so thoroughly ingrained in me my definition of “fern” that seeing the more common Christmas fern, with its gloss and its simple fronds, makes me recoil with the sense that something is subtly but definitely Not Right.
This is my fern, I think, after some searching: the marginal shield fern, Dryopteris marginalis, soft to the touch and not a stark, shining green.
They are not impossible to kill, but they are far from fragile, natives of my Appalachian forests and prone to becoming shin-high carpet between trees. They love the shelter of other plants and rocky ledges, happy in the shade and the damp soil.
They are not blooming plants, nor are they quick-lived plants. They are patient, hardy enough to outlast temporary extremities in temperature and moisture, able to survive even snow-dumping winters with aplomb.
From these ferns, as a child, I learned how to seek the shade for relief and how to unfurl all my many limbs into whatever shapes and strengths they could take. With these ferns, as a child, I rolled and played and dug and grew.
And from these ferns now, as an adult, I relearn the importance of patience, of hardiness, of receptivity to sun and shadow, to water and soil. With these ferns, as an adult, I am rooting and stretching, unfurling anew, and welcoming the slow nourishment freely given by the world.
Yesterday and today were one of Set’s rare feasts from historical calendars, so I’d like to compile a few links to offerings created by others, then add one of my own.
(Please note that I don’t mean to imply that either Mortira or Nicolas are Kemetic; I simply wish to share their gorgeous work here.)
In the past, I’ve wound up making quite a few little things for Set, including god dice, mini-hieroglyph paintings, a larger painting with Him and Bast, and most recently, a necklace with a double-sided woodburned tagua pendant. My partner J even made Set-inspired guitar dangles. (This is what happens when artists have siblings who like Set…)
Lastly, from myself comes a new offering for the Lord of the Oasis on this, His feasting day:
Dua Set, mighty in the prow of Ra’s barque!
Strike down the bastard snake and spill the blood of dawn.
Whet your blade on Uncreation’s glittering scales
until only ma’at is left, pure and proven.
Tear down the broken pieces in a maelstrom,
and we will grow anew on ash-fertile fields.
Isfet will not stop us, nor challenge, nor scars.
Your legacy burns in strong shoulders and steady eyes.
Dua Set, strongest of the gods, lord of storms!
I have a curious relationship with fear. On one hand, I have a strong flinch reaction to certain things, often inconsequential ones; on the other hand, working with Sekhmet for so long as numbed me to certain kinds of fear, like the fear one might normally feel in the face of dangerous gods.
I am not afraid of any god. I am wary of many, and I will flinch away from many, and I have a healthy respect and avoidance of many, but I am not afraid of Them. If put in a room with only me and a god that would otherwise terrify me, I’ll stand openly and await Their first move. Maybe I never lost that adolescent feeling of invulnerability when it comes to spiritual matters. Maybe my faith in “my” gods outweighs the concern that gods Who may not care as much will toss me around; I’ve got backup, after all. Throughout all the twists in our relationship, I’ve never had any doubt that Sekhmet would step in if I were in a tight corner—and now I know other Netjeru would intervene, too. It’s a very good feeling to have that safety net.
But that doesn’t mean fear plays no role in my practice. I am afraid of unpredictable tragedies, like losing my partner or my animals or my friends to random and sudden accidents or illnesses. I am afraid of people with lethal amounts of venom at their disposal and a willingness to use it indiscriminately. I am afraid of the destruction of my body, in whole or in part.
I think those are probably relatively common, or at least understandable, fears. I’ve seen an awful lot of prayers and hekau and rituals designed to protect our loved ones, to protect ourselves, and to preserve or restore our health. I’ve seen some of those prayers, hekau, and rituals actively go forth to remove or destroy enemies and illnesses. Most people don’t want to lose anyone or be wounded, so it makes sense to have those common themes of protect-and-heal through our religions and our magic.
But there are more subtle ways fear can manifest. Turns out that my fear of venomous people is linked to feeling vulnerable in someone’s presence, which can show up even when I’m interacting with (or thinking about interacting with) deities. It’s hard not to feel vulnerable around entities Who are much more vast and powerful than I am, and sometimes I just want to curl up like a pillbug until They look the other way.
Similarly, I give certain deities a wide berth if They remind me of venomous people—Aset (Isis) is a great example for this, because of the enormous power She wields and the extents to which She will go to serve Herself and Her son, Heru-sa-Aset (Horus the Younger). I mean, She poisoned Her own father, Ra, in order to learn His true name and have access to that power, which She shared with Her son. I have no illusions about Aset’s cunning and resourcefulness, so I give Her a healthy respect and do not engage with Her unless I know I’m on sure ground. (Please note: I don’t dislike Aset; I’m just cautious with Her.)
And yet, I’ve still had the pillbug-urge around deities Who are not threatening to me. Gods Who look at me closely often receive that flinch-away response; I am uncomfortable when seen in too clear a light, because I am afraid I’ll be found unworthy. Deities of judgment or royalty (man, Aset again makes a great example) often evoke this reaction, as I’m pretty convinced my informal appearance and attitude are not up to snuff for any court, let alone a court of the gods. Not to mention all the internal imperfections that loom so large when I look at myself (but probably aren’t nearly so obnoxious from the outside looking in).
It can be a challenge to balance reasonable wariness born of mindfulness (that stuff that tells me maybe I ought to dress up and purify more than usual before greeting Aset) with flinching fear (that stuff that tells me maybe I ought to hide in a corner until She moves on). It’s worthwhile work, but such effort is nothing to sneeze at. I’ve seen a lot of people have to fight with their own flinches in order to approach the gods, and let me tell you, my friends, your courage is amazing and inspiring.
Please keep shining and pushing away the darkness of fear. You are not alone in the work you do, and the harvest you reap will be even more bountiful for the toil you undergo now.