A Reflection on Nature’s Cycles

The environmental timetables of Ancient Egypt don’t always align with my own.

I do not live along a river in the desert. Canals engorged with a scarce and sacred liquid do not slather their revitalizing refuse upon my baked fields. The crops which herald from the banks of the Nile are alien to our land. Yet, one garden in my life mimic’s the habits of old Kemet’s farmlands. It is concerned not with the vegetation we grow in soil, but with the blooms and buds of society and intellect. Despite our differences in latitude, the routine of the garden of my work mirrors the march of Ancient Egypt’s agricultural calendar.

Like the Kemetic calendar, the school year begins in August. With each Wep Ronpet (New Year), with each Zep Tepi (First Time), there is a fresh spattering of students. Though it may not be my first time, it will most likely be theirs. Each new class comes with its own obstacles to overcome and victories to herald. Past mistakes can be fodder for an improved performance on my part.

Compliments of the USDA

Compliments of the USDA

Just as a farmer readies the fields, so must you ready the learning environment: make last minute revisions in light of the classroom population, teach the procedures for daily routines, and set expectations. The start of the school year can be overwhelming. There’s a lot to document or discover: pre-tests to administer, reading levels to find, groups and materials to organize, IEPs to consider. Furthermore, students must have a sense of “ownership” in the classroom. This means introducing, discussing, and creating together those visual displays (e.g., a poster of class rules) and regular activities which will serve as tools throughout the year. It also means establishing community resource centers and areas for the display of student work.  The first few weeks set the tone for the year. Students learn how to behave so that transitions are seamless and lessons are productive later. The first two weeks of school are largely for teaching procedure (from the teachings of the well respected Wongs (and this Wong, too!)). Easier said than done, but critical to success.

Akhet is the season of appearance. The fields are submerged beneath waters which forget their treasures upon the ground: black, fertile silt . In the first month or so in the classroom, you manifest your classroom community and environment. Your children’s most clearly observed needs, interests, strengths, and deficiencies come to light (which is not to say that they ALL come to light, but stay with me). You model how to act, speak, and feel. You attempt to make everyone feel included. BUT, you can’t take too long to drain the flood: time is valuable and there is NEVER enough of it.

The next season is one of emergence: Peret.  Once you have deposited your silt and the waters recede, you slowly sow the first seeds with the first lessons, assuming little and explaining much. Then, when we know where we are headed and how to get there, we are on a roll. The seeds you plant will sprout; if they don’t, you have to decide what is inhibiting growth and resow. You must tend to your students as the delicate heirlooms they are: unique but also similar, fragile in some ways, resilient in others. Yea, things can get cray cray. But by now, you are really in the swing of things (ideally…hopefully…ok maybe).You diligently monitor the progress, keep parents involved (again…ideally), assess your own performance, and constantly remediate, enrich, inspire, and validate your students. Grow, my babies, grow!

And then, there’s the harvest. The Shemu of the school year is any point when you realize how far your students have come, but the end all be all is whether they have grown by May. Did they improve in the targeted areas? Did they meet your objectives? Did they pass? What did they learn, and what did YOU learn? Did your methods pay off? Come summer, there is a need for celebration and enjoying the fruits of your labor. You use last year’s reflections to revise your methods, and in the sweltering heat of the sun, you can bask in the shine of your achievements (or shrivel from the lack thereof). It is my nature to get restless when I’m not kept busy; by mid to late summer, I start to get restless. I ache for some sort of work, some nourishment. I wait for Sodpet’s promise of those waters to dump another load of silt upon my banks so that I can begin again.

Obviously, the analogy isn’t perfect. There are differences in the school year and the Ancient Egyptian agricultural year, but the spiritual journey is similar. It is true that during Akhet, the flood waters brought the hope of renewal, but the mixture of heat and water could also bring disease. We have to be flexible with this symbolism in some instances. However, the crop (or classroom) renews itself each year with a fresh batch of fruits and seeds, which may well go on to produce more seeds (i.e. have their own children). How you grow the parent crop influences the hardiness of their own offspring. Secondly, a large part of my identity is composed of the success of my career, and I learn a great deal of life lessons in reflecting on my attitudes and actions in that domain of my life. As Ma’at is reflected in the cycles of the year, I hope to manifest Ma’at in my classroom.

In closing, I must confess that in August (hopefully), I will have my first classroom. I have experience teaching–though it is minimal and largely academic or vicarious.  Thus, the implications of this August are HUGE. Not only is it the start of a school year, it will be my own first official year as an educator where I am wholly and singly responsible for the failures and successes in my classroom. It is the Zep Tepi to begin all other Zep Tepis. It is the first beginning in a long cycle of beginnings.

511px-Hops_page_1371This calls for beer: for celebrating the accomplishment of such a dream, and for assuaging the anxiety that is sure to ensue.

****It should be noted that we can relive myths on the spiritual plane (and thus influence the physical world) when we enact myths through ritual. Thus, when we celebrate the creation of the universe at Zep Tepi, it is a literal start over–heralded by the rising of Sirius (aka Sodpet) and the (at the time) usually coinciding inundation of the Nile****

The Fool’s Journey: (I) The Magician/Juggler: I Will

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Prospero and his daughter Miranda from The Tempest. William Maw Egley, 1850

Our last card, the Fool, was outside of the established order: playful, chaotic, without direction, naive, sometimes insightful, simple, fancy free. There is wisdom in his approach, but few progress by his methods alone. Thus, we wait patiently for our Fool to cultivate other friends.

The Magician is associated with “Beth” on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. As such, it is connected to the planet Mercury (Case, 1947). The powers of intellect, logic, science, and communication are all under Mercury’s domain, and influence the meaning of this card. Beth is a letter of breath or communication as well as creation (Gnostic Instructor, 2009). Creation also contributes to the Magician’s persona. But, the Magician has more to offer us than these might suggest!

This card has been known by various names: Le Bateleur, The Juggler, The Magician. In my research and interpretation of this card, there are two main “sub archetypes” that emerge. I shall call these two the Performer and the MageMore

Some one is rapping gently at my chamber door…

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I am in awe of Aset.

She is a force to be reckoned with. She is determined, calculating, clever, eloquent, strong, persevering. She can be completely accessible as a Name while remaining aloof and subtle. Disciplined and courageous, She is unafraid to steal the Name of Re. She is a force of life, attending the birthing the sun each morn. She is the power behind succession, the throne, and the crops. She is a force of death, a Goddess of mourning. She is one of the Tree Goddesses who offers the souls of the dead sustenance in their travels. She is Great of Heka, and pitiful as a victim. Her eloquence will elicit sympathy from other Netjeru. She is a slayer of Apep and an Eye of Ra.

What isn’t to love?? When She came, I wanted Her. I saw myself in Her. I needed Her. Her lessons were ones I readily accepted: courage, discipline, determination, becoming a strong woman who could contribute to/change the world positively. Even still, I knew She was there for at least 2 years before I took any action at all (research or otherwise).

It is also easy to honor deities like Heru or Amun-Re. As just and courageous leaders, They emphasize duty. They do not sit idly on Their thrones; They are active and confrontational. These are things I would readily embrace.

Not all the lessons we need are the ones we embrace. Some Netjeru come when we NEED Them. More

KRT: Ritual Purity

I just finished a page trying to vaguely explain my practices. I said I might write a more detailed post about purity one day. Oh, wait, that’s today!

Ancient Egyptian religious practices involved some level of cleanliness. They are not the only ancient culture to do this. For example, around the time of Christ and in that area, washing people’s feet was a common favor for guests. **EDIT: I would like to state that my purposes for ritual purity in my practice revolve around differentiating the time spent in prayer/ritual from the time I spend elsewhere. I am making an effort to be the best that I can be for the Netjeru, and I am helping to create a state of mind conducive to communicating and offering to Them**

More

The Offering of Time

There are many things that people offer to others or the Netjeru: food, drink, jewelry, projects, favors, sacrifices/altruistic acts, creations of their own, etc. However, whenever we offer any of these things, or even when we sit in contemplation or prayer, we are simultaneously offering something else: our time.

And if you think about it, that is probably the biggest offering we could make. Time is something we cannot win back.  You can push aside other desires or obligations and “make up” some of the time you lost at 11am so you can do the things you wish at 3pm. However,  you are simply shortening other activities in order to fit in yet another activity in the same time slot. You cannot make time. You can only edit your schedule to accommodate for the limited time you have. There are only 24 hours in a day; if you wish to get more done in those hours, the nature of the activities is what must change.

Time is life itself. No one lives forever, and most of us are trying to figure out, each in our own way, how to make the most of what time we have. When we are faced with choosing between two opportunities, it is often hard because many of us feel that we cannot do both; opportunities or resources will expire in time. You cannot ever watch your daughter grow up again. At the same time, the time spent at home could also be spent at work, earning money to feed her or give her more opportunities later in life. Which do you choose? Can you do both?

Time is money. For many of us, money is how we earn a living and make a place for ourselves in the world. If you want to make more money, most of us need to invest our time: whether its in gaining more training, finding a better job, or putting in more hours in the workplace. Conversely, there is the tragedy of needing more hours at work and being unable to obtain them. In this case, we are struck with the reality that we could be paid for our time when we are most willing to work and yet cannot win the ability to do so.

There are many things we can start anew, but we can never weave more fibers of time into the tapestry of our lives. And when we have come to the end of our spool, we are no longer able to spin the story of our lives.

When I spend time offering up a project or food or whatever, I am definitely giving  those specific things. However, I am also giving up something that, as a human being, is vital to my living and which I can never get back. Though I may not always realize it, that is personally one of the greatest things I can give.

Perhaps this is the reason that regular devotion is so precious: it is a cumulative offering of a nonrenewable resource.