Set and Aset: Epagomenal Days 3 & 4

This post will have to be short, but suffice it to say:

Set’s day was one of finding my passion in my work once more, while realizing the things I would have to cut out or away in order to succeed.

Aset is a determined, disciplined Queen who helps the world move through successions. I will need to be determined as ever if I’m to get through the next 6 months. I’ll also need some healing…no sacrifice, cutting away, and intense passion comes without a drain in energy.

This day, Aset’s birthday, felt very special to me. She was the first Netjeru that came to me, and my relationship with her has changed over the year. It is now at its most complex, but also at, what I think, is its most genuine. I see her in myself, in strong women, in rain, and in green plants. Maker of Kings, may we all become Kings.

Dua Aset! Dua Set!

The Birth of Wesir: Epogomenal Day 2 + Lammas

If yesterday’s theme was that of confidence, strategy, and diplomacy, today’s theme, for me, was that of sacrifice.

Today is also Lammas, and I did something of a slight “combo” – capitalizing on Wesir’s role as Lord of Grain to celebrate Wesir’s birth and Lammas together. It was a little odd to celebrate his birth on one hand while acknowledging the fact that he dies and is established as King in the Duat eventually in the same day…but for this moment in my life, it works. Especially given the fact that in my neck of the woods, it still is and feels very much like late summer. Its unfathomably hot and humid. Everything is crazy green…but my cucumbers are coming along swell, and other people have already harvested plenty of tomatoes. Its the peak of life for many critters and plants, and the harvests have been arriving for a while in this temperate zone.

But, the days are shortening, and the summer fruits will soon give way to their autumnal cousins. Wesir is the certainly the god of life, but there’s also a foreboding reminder playing in the background…the memory that life and death are cycles, not static states. The process of one giving way to the other. The promise of bread in a field of ripening wheat. 

I am a few months away from a huge comprehensive exam, one that requires memories numerous citations and article summaries in order to create a handful of essays over the span of 6, 8-hour days. If Heru-Wer pressed me to believe in my ability to do it, Wesir pressed me to sacrifice. Specifically, the sacrifice in my time (and, honestly, at least a little bit if not more of my well-being) and efforts to studying is due. On top of everything else I have, I am to spend about 5 hours a day, each day, until mid-November studying for this exam. Its a tall order on top of a 40+ hour work week, but its got to be done.

Year in and year out, as I see it, Wesir sacrifices himself for all of us. Plants and crops are planted, sprout, bloom, and ripen their fruits, simply to sacrifice those fruits, seemingly, to other animals for food, or the ground. But that sacrifice is not for naught, because it perpetuates the species or feeds other species. Wesir was established as King of the Duat, and in the mythology, this meant “a place for the Akhu”. It meant the King (and eventually, anyone else) could live like him. I don’t necessarily believe that verbatim, but the metaphor is endearing – the old gives birth to the new; without sacrifice, little survives.

O Wesir, you who sacrifice for others, teach me to sacrifice for myself.

The (Re)Birth of Heru-Wer: Epogomenal Day 1

My Epogomenal Days have started (I’m celebrating Wep Ronpet on August 5th). Today, I learned a bit more about this Netjer, and how I personally allow myself to “tweak” the gods to fit my own time and space in the universe. *UPG ahead, folks*

I’ve had a great experience with Heru-Wer. Traditionally, I’ve seen Him as the forces of victory, confidence, power, justice, and the sky. But today, I tried something new. I felt the “push” to see Him even more as the sky, as well as diplomacy, a uniter, ambition, and a clever and cunning planner/strategist/thinker. When He arrived in ritual, these were the feelings, thoughts, and wisdom that were shared. I think the role of “uniting/conquering with diplomacy, strategy, and peace” rings particularly true because this is what our society needs most right now (particularly with the systemic racism, unjust justice system, instances of police brutality, the murdering of police, and the general misunderstanding and fear of one another that occurs in general in society). So today, I came to see Heru-Wer as a force to be reckoned with, one of great brute strength and power, but also a Name who knows this type of conquering has a time and place. I came to see him as  a Name of diplomacy, of talking it out, of listening, of understanding, of using wisdom and enlightenment to forward peace and unity. I came to know him as a Name of solidarity, of fraternity, of harmony. I came to know him as a Name of confidence, ambition, will, and discipline. I came to know him as the Uniter of Lands.

Heru-Wer is without a doubt a strong and fierce warrior, but his strength is not limited to the battle ax or the chariot or the sword. If anything, I think I’ve come upon the conception of this King as one who saves these things for when they are needed and first relies upon his brain and words (and the brain and words of others) to pave the path to victory. We’ve already tried brute strength and violence to solve our problems. Sure, sometimes this is the answer…but I don’t think that’s the answer right now.

The sky is limitless, open, and rests above us all…no matter who or what we are, the same sky blankets us. Heru-Wer is the day time sky…the one we all rest beneath, the atmosphere that protects us all from solar flares, the sky that gives us breath and beauty alike – each of us, without exception. We share the earth, whether we want to or not.

I know this isn’t traditional, but I am also of the mind set that (1) the Netjeru can change over time; while the core of what they are remains stable, the fringe can morph…mainly because our understanding morphs. Heru-Wer is primarily a Netjer of victory, kingship, and power to me – a uniter of people. This core is the same, but the understanding has shifted. In ritual, when he comes to me, he is a strong and confident force, but it is tempered with eloquence, logic, and inspiration. (2) The Netjeru can bring us what we need. I feel, right now, in the US, we don’t need war or a great conquerer. We need understanding and boldness without fear. More than anything, we need to cast away our unhealthy relationships with power. (3) I don’t see the Netjeru as “big men and women in the sky” so much as they are forces in the universe/the universe itself. In ritual, they come to me as “people in the sky”, but I feel they are more than this, and that this perception is based on the capacity/attempt of my mind to grasp certain things. These forces speak to me in this manner during ritual – its how I connect to them. Because of the belief that the Netjeru are the forces of and the actual universe itself combined with the ways in which I perceive those forces, I feel free to allow these new, nontraditional associations to become incorporated into my path, especially when I feel they better serve to provide wisdom in our current situations.

Dua O Distant One, King of the Sky, Uniter of Lands! Here is the prayer I wrote during my rite today.

Distant Hawk with bright eyes
who feathers are mottled with cloud and wind
who scales the heights of the airy dome above us
who rests beneath his mother, Nut
Whose wings cover the Earth, from horizon to horizon, and cast a mantle of blue
and white over his father
Eldest of the Five, King of the Sky, You are victorious in all your battles
ambitious and unstoppable, but peaceful enough to unit all people
Your eyes are alight with glory and cunning
what you will is done, Eternal Victor
The heights of your ambitions and ideas pierce the blue above
You bring together what was apart
You join all men in solidarity and seat them at the table of fraternity and peace
O Netjer of unmovable strength and power
Whose discipline and tenacity is a steady gale
whose diplomacy is sweet
who fixates on goals and achieves
I sing to you, O Distant One!
Just King!
I laud your praises, Heru-Wer,
God of the Wild Blue Yonder,
Lord of Heaven
He of Dappled Plummage
Uniter who brings society together

 

On Nut and Geb’s Pain

worshiping the sun

milky-way-1031138_1920

In order for there to be life, in order for there to be space on Earth for life to be, Nut, the sky, was ripped away from her husband Geb, the earth. She is held in place above us by her father and mother, Shu and Tefnut. But despite this, Nut struggles to get back to her husband; she struggles so hard that her mother is sometimes brought to tears.

Nut is the mother of the netjeru; of Ausir, Sutekh, Heru, Aset, and Nebhet. Because she was cursed by Re, she carried them long past her due date, suffering until Djehuty finally found a way to relieve her pain. Even then, her pain still wasn’t over; Sutekh himself was said to claw his way out of her.

Nut’s separation from Geb, and the pain that she subsequently felt due to it, is something that I think about every time I see the…

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We are the Pharaoh, we uphold Ma’at

This is an interesting article about how we are all, each of us, a King. I found it when VeggieWolf reblogged it on her blog.You can read the article for further details, but I thought I’d connect it to my own thoughts. Go ahead. Go read it. I’ll wait. Here’s the link to the original post: Hills of the Horizon: A Defense of Sacred Kingship

So, as someone who works with Aset, one of whose epithets is “Maker of Kings”, I share many sentiments within this article. I do feel that, as moderns, using the King/Pharaoh as a symbol for what any of us can be in reaching our potential is apt. As the King /Pharaoh was, at least according to what the state material would tell us, literally Ra/Heru on earth, so can we also be Ra/Heru on earth. The Netjeru are as much us as they are the world about us. For me, Aset is one who can help you to plunge the depths of your mind and development, discover your desires and demons and strengths and weaknesses, and mold you into the Pharaoh you can become.

As much as the King/Pharaoh was responsible for upholding Ma’at, so are we responsible for upholding Ma’at. The King/Pharaoh works through us; we can all become Kings/Pharaohs when we uphold Ma’at and strive for our potential (I’ve read that even the ancients eventually democratized the afterlife, allowing all people to access eternity after death. I think its an interesting idea to extent the other perks and responsibilities as well). This article focuses on social justice, but there are other aspects of Ma’at as well (well, in my version of Ma’at. YMMV, of course😀 ). There is “personal Ma’at”, which is akin to learning to accept and understand your inner “demons” or “shadow”, learning your strengths and weaknesses, learning who you are, what you want to be, and how to get there, learning to be disciplined but also self-compassionate, and striving to be contented and “successful”, however you define those things. There is also “ecological Ma’at”, which entails doing your part to either help the environment/world you live in or avoid doing harm. I’m sure there are many other forms/versions of Ma’at…things that are “orderly” or most beneficial for all persons. But in any arena, while we usually aren’t entirely responsible for the outcome of whether Ma’at is established/upheld, we are connected enough to the world about us to have an influence.

In short, we can all “bloom”. We all affect the world around us. We are one way the gods can uphold Ma’at in this world, because the gods are within and around us. In a sense, as the Pharaoh was seen as a Netjer, so are we Netjeru.

I am very much reminded of part of St. Teresa of Avila’s poem, “Christ Has No Body”.

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Intuitive Understanding and “Divination”

Atheopaganism

I read Tarot cards. Not as much as I used to, but I still do it.

I don’t think of it as “fortune telling”. I think of the Tarot as a magnificently complex set of symbols from which I randomly choose, creating therefrom a narrative which draws up my intuitive understanding of a situation or question and illuminates it in complex, interesting and often surprising ways. In a way, Tarot is like a Rorschach test, only with much richer set of available symbols and a long history of interpretation and lore.

Besides, it’s really, really cool. Tarot by candlelight, with a bit of incense? You won’t feel much witchier than that, short of dancing naked around a fire.

In the Atheist community, I see a lot of hyperfocus on rationality, and discounting of intuitive thinking (and of emotion, generally). What cannot be logically explained is often dismissed entirely, to a fault…

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Reblog: How the Present Changes the Past

For whatever reason, I can’t reblog this, so I’ll put the link here and you can check it out.

Nimue Brown discusses briefly how the meanings we attribute to graves can send our biases to the past. An interesting thought experiment. What are your opinions? Is there credit to questioning the meanings we assign to objects found with bodies in graves and the inferences we make from them? Is it more relevant in some cultures (from which we have more information from the mouth of the culture itself via art or writing) than others?

https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/how-the-present-changes-the-past/

Shame, Trust, Safety and the Freedom to Make Magic

Atheopaganism

Shame. It impedes so much.

It’s easy to succumb to the impulse to think that it’s something to be overcome, and that’s the end of it. Freedom, eh?

And yet…

Someone completely without shame is a sociopath.

Shame is a guide. It can help us to understand how best to fit to the fractal puzzle which is human relations. And once having learned its lessons, it’s time to let it go.

But we don’t.

Unfortunately, we tend to seize it too closely, to internalize its voices, to make into Big Truth About Me what should really only be a gentle nudge, a wise voice about how to be a Better Me.

And because Shame is so powerful, we can learn to cower from its view. We can learn to be timid about expressing ourselves, for fear of feeling shame.

And so we come to the challenging work of Letting Ourselves Shine…

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Integrating into a community: Bringing Geb and Nut to Beltane

So, back home (roughly 4 hours away), my pagan friends are getting together to celebrate Beltane/May Day. The themes will center around life/rejuvenation/fertility, but there’s also a strong theme around children (we will crown May Queens and Kings and they will dance around a May Pole). Among other themes, the myth of Rhiannon will also be recited/celebrated/reflected upon.

This circle is very inclusive. While the overall feel is pretty “generic pagan”, there are touches of secular, Egyptian, and other influences, however small or brief. The coordinators have gone through some great lengths to make sure people have a sense of ownership with respect to this ritual, should they choose. For example, everyone is invited to bring something sacred to the ritual and place it on the altar to be blessed. The point here is celebrating together. Everyone comes together to celebrate something we all celebrate and could have celebrated on our own (spring). Togetherness is emphasized by allowing for ownership, input, and voice from the community. There is always the danger that you could wind up with something incoherent…a jumble of traditions and mythologies and ideas that never really form a narrative. However, with focus and careful revision, I think those planning this day have created something that allow everyone to get the biggest bang for their buck, balancing the elements allowing for personalisation with those that provide a generic enough experience that most can partake in (considering it is a public ritual).

The ritual was written by a number of people together. Everyone was allowed to comment, suggest, or change the ritual. While a core group of people ensured that there was consistency and a lack of complete juxtaposition among elements in the ritual, anyone could contribute. The core group wrote the draft and revised it over time. As suggestions were made, they incorporated them. They asked others for input (present company included).

This allowed the group to decrease (hopefully)  what I think can be common phenomena in many pagan get-togethers can be. So many pagans do their own thing that when its time to get a diverse group of pagans together for a public ceremony, that public ritual just feels very “generic”, sometimes too generic to be meaningful (not always, but for me, usually). Obviously, there is merit to generic rituals…it means no one is left out or left feeling out of place by something that is said or done. In this way, it actually increases the likelihood that people will find something meaningful when you aren’t sure who is coming to the ritual. Without mentions of specific myths, symbols, deities, or traditions, you lower the chances any participant will encounter something incongruent  with their personal practice.However, sometimes we can feel “left out” by what isn’t said or done.

Obviously, groups that practice together as a circle/temple/coven don’t have this issue nearly as often (because everyone is working from the same paradigm). But many of us in this area (and I suspect others) either (a) don’t feel any coven in the area suits their needs, or (b) do not have many/any covens available to them period. Thus, a diverse group of people must come together to do what they can to feel a sense of community.

Wait a minute though. It sounds like I’m looking the gift horse in the mouth. I mean, finding others to practice with, period, is a luxury. Why whine when you experience a few things that don’t jive with you? I agree. Completely.  But at this time, we were given the chance to be inclusive (given the powers of facebook and our smaller numbers). I’m sharing not because “We will do it better and everyone should do it this way.” I’m sharing because I’m proud of my community, I’m proud to be a part of it, and I want to share the experience in case anyone is able to replicate.

So why does it matter that it speaks to people on a personal level?

Consider, for example, if one person, Peter, believes in invocation but another, Paul, does not. If part of the ritual involves drawing down the moon, Paul may not get much at all out of this rite while Peter is having a profound experience. If the ritual didn’t draw down the moon, Paul might feel as if something is missing while Peter is happy with the ritual. In both instance, someone misses out. But, to really feel the most connected/get the most out of it, the symbols and actions in the ritual have to “jive” with the everyone in the circle. The jive can be aggregated to the group level at this point, and have even better effects. In public ritual where people from all walks attend, that’s hard to do because people think/feel/do so differently from each other. I think this group circumvented this (or tried to) by providing voice.

The guy that orchestrated this really went out of his way to give everyone ample time and opportunity to say their piece. Maybe someone out there thinks letting the kids dance around the May Pole is dumb, but no one has said anything, so hopefully that means that even if it doesn’t “jive” with them, it also won’t kill their buzz. But I can honestly say that he did listen and try to incorporate everyone’s feedback and suggestions.

Granted, we don’t call in many different gods; I suppose for many people, that might allow for the biggest feeling of “jive” that there could be. I’m sure somethings were compromised to some degree. But you have to draw a fence around something. If we put everything into the pot, it goes back to being very generic and feeling as if all the elements are juxtaposed against each other. Instead, we incorporate different symbols, phrases, poems, and songs that pull from different people’s traditions. I certainly don’t deal with Rhiannon, but I do feel close ties to the overall theme, many of the songs used, and pretty much all of the symbols used. There’s a tension to keep between specificity and generality, and that tension is easy when the group is small and voice is used.

One portion of the ritual involves blessing/offering objects everyone brings. They are small trinkets that will soak up and serve as reminders of the energy we drum up and wallow in during May Day. They can be anything, so long as they don’t take up too much real estate, and they will all be placed on the altar with other offerings. This is one of the portions meant to allow people to individualize to their hearts’ content.

Enter the Netjeru.

I’ve already celebrated Heru’s coronation and the marriage of Aset and Wesir earlier at the equinox, so I was thinking of focusing on the love/products of the love of Nut and Geb. Nut and Geb are especially appropriate at there will be a May Pole. Most of us have seen the images of Geb laying beneath Nut, and the idea of seeing the May Pole as Geb’s manhood seems quite appropriate. Also, I think this celebration shifts focus from Aset and Wesir (who, though they are connected to Nature, deal mostly with the intersection of humanity and nature – agriculture and kingship are both examples of how we relate/respond to nature and civilization) to purely “natural” Netjer – the sky and earth, Nut and Geb. I know it’s not totally traditional to do things for Nut and Geb, but I always have incorporated them into my practice, especially Nut. I also like how the “sneakiness” inherent in the story of Nut and Geb (namely, the conception and birth of their kids) ties into the sense of mischievousness and celebration of love/sex inherent in Beltane (I know mischievousness might not be there originally, because its a celebration of sex and thus counter to the “naughtyness” we impose upon it falsely, but I like the playfulness it brings).

Had I thought of this earlier, I would have suggested something to the group. But at this point, I would like to simply (a) dedicate my time to Nut and Geb and (b) bring an item that I use for Nut and Geb/could use in the future when offering to Nut and/or Geb.

An offering to the pine

The past two days have been days of realization.

We have a very big test coming up, and I have the next 7 months to study for it. While this seems like more than enough time, the task is large and my career (and everything I’ve put into it for the past year and a half, including my savings account) rests upon its outcome. Starting to focus on this task has been difficult, as the other things on my plate are not leaving. I still have obligations at school and at work. Other people are are affected by the decisions and efforts I put forth…people who are in the same boat as me.

My adviser discussed with me my ability to take some things off of the plate today. I know it has to be done, but it’s hard to let go. I don’t want to let others down, and I want to amass as much experience as I can. But, I know he’s right. I have to finish a research paper (which is akin to a thesis which replaces the proposal and defense with an open and continuous dialogue [which can feel like a continuous proposal and defense at times]) in order to qualify to take the exam (whose date is not movable). This paper takes a lot of time and is included in the school obligations.

I sat outside today to polish off my literature review and refine my methods section. And I was reminded of something else entirely about mid-way. The smell of grass and sun and shade mingling with the sounds of AC units and traffic reminded me of the summers and springs of my childhood. I remembered sitting and playing in the grass, letting the shade grow deeper and darker until the grass looked blue in the twilight. I remember my mother calling from the porch that it was either time for supper (when I was at home) or time to go home (when we were visiting my grandmother).

It made me  nostalgic. It gave me a sense of comfort, a sense of joy. It made me happy. But why was that? Was I running from the work I aimed to do (totally possible – when I’m not doing things a week in advance I am procrastinating with the best of them)? Was I longing for a simplicity that I since lost? I don’t think so.

So I put my work aside and sat in the grass, a grass which was much less uniform and much more diverse when you are out among its blades. There were different types of plants and flowers which from afar all seem a bright green homogeneous blanket of foliage. But from the intimacy afforded by my new proximity, it was revealed that this blanket was really a host of clover, toadstools, butter cups yet to bloom, “yard grass”, and lots of things I couldn’t identify. And it reminded me of the grass I used to play with as a girl. So that’s what I did.

I took a pine cone from the tree near my house and started to decorate it with the leaves and clovers nearby. I plucked a buttercup from a plant that had another to spare and then realized that it wasn’t the most ecologically-conscious thing to do, so I made it the last addition. This started a spiral of thoughts about how connected we all our in our ecosystems, how much the land gives to us, how much we take (either benevolently or by force) and how the ripples of our actions chisel out our futures in the passage of time. For example, the tree near my home gives me shade, which lowers my (sometimes obnoxiously high despite all my efforts) electricity bill, gives me oxygen, and drops the pine cones I use for fall decorations and fires.

And I think of how lovely it is in the world, and how nice it is to have a space to work outside. Which starts to bring me back to my nostalgia. It is then that I realize that my memories of childhood summers and my momma’s voice remind me of a time when I was very happy. While I cherish that happiness (and everyone that aided in the creation of that happiness), I also have happiness now. It’s the sun and grass and world around me that connects the happiness that founded me to the happiness I am currently building, with my own efforts (after having “escaped” a time and mindset of being unhappy).

A happiness I am building…which reminds me again of the work I had temporarily forsaken to reminisce. It reminded me of the present, of which I should be mindful. At the moment, I found myself needing to work but also a blip in a beautiful world, sitting near the tree shadowing my home. When I was “back home”, I used to connect to the trees there, thinking of their age and strength and function. So I connected to this one. I let it be a god in my world.

It is older than I am. It stands stationary, guarding my home, not intentional, but as a byproduct of its life. It waits. It watches the time pass. Day by day, it grows a little. It may stand a good 40-50 feet tall now, but once upon a time it was only a seed from the cone I held. It got there over time. It is patient. And while it probably doesn’t look forward to or anticipate the future in any of the ways I do, that’s a good lesson to learn…to wait.  To grow incrementally. To make strides each day, small as they are, to reach a goal. I wonder, I ask, “Has anyone every prayed to you? Cause I think I might. You have a lot to say.” It doesn’t need to say anything though. Its speech is its standing. It answers my prayers with its sway and its sap and its stance.

I have to know when to get rid of things that aren’t so useful at the moment (like the pine sheds its cones), and then just do a portion of the work, each day, a little at a time (like the pine grows a little each day).

I left my decorated pine cone at the bottom of the tree. I thanked it for its lesson and its shade and beauty. And I left it towering over the hill, looming over the road, peering over my roof, to return to my work. But its roots are near (and likely beneath) the foundation of my apartment. Its branches are over my head, and its teaching is in my heart. Its smell, the piney musk, it’s still on my clothes and feet. It gives and gives, with its leaves and its stance and its metaphors and spirit. So today I tried to give a little bit back; I offered to it that pine cone which it dropped so casually in its efforts to reproduce. But, even in attempting to be generous, I think I still took home more than what I offered.

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