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!

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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

 

Community

Recently, I ventured to an Easter Vigil mass with a friend of mine. It was held by the Episcopalian Church in a small town, and one of the priests leading the service is actually a Celtic Christian who has been invited to use the church for his services whenever he might need. During and after this service, I had a number of reflections about the role community in religion and spirituality. My friend was also a friend of the Celtic Christian priest, and the three of us (along with the Father’s partner) ate dinner together. It was a small community of our own, temporary but sure. And it was at this dinner that I learned how some of the Christian communities within this small town faced similar challenges as the pagan community back home and the pagan community where I am. I suppose this post is my reflection on my own perceptions of a lack of “real life” community, and how I think these sorts of real-life relationships and practice can add to a practice (which is not to say that they are necessary for practice at all, only that they can have perks).

The Episcopalians in this town were few, and those with any interest or identification with my Celtic Christian friend’s denomination were even fewer. And yet, standing in a church that couldn’t have been larger than about 12 X 25, I realized how powerful group belief and practice can be. While the East Vigil is focuses on the Resurrection of Christ, it also focuses on the reintroduction of two very important symbols into the church building: water and light. During Lent, the water is taken from the church (for example, at the entrances, where people generally make the sign of the cross in Catholicism). I’m not entirely sure where the water is taken from at the Episcopalian church (as I’ve forgotten), but I believe they drain the baptismal fount (but I could certainly be wrong). The Pascal candle is also taken away, a symbol of light. On this day, the light and water return. There were many passages read that allude to these symbols – to light and water.

While it is  a stretch to say one could easily use this as a template for Neopagan or Kemetic services at this time of year, there are some parallels to the use of these symbols and my own practice: At the Spring Equinox, the light overtakes the dark. I associate light with Heru, Ra, and Aset.  Water, for me, is a symbol of rebirth and life, ushering in the green of the world (with the help of the sun). Aset, in my practice, brings life-giving rain. I see Wesir in rivers and lakes. Water and light are strong symbols to me. While these services were neither Kemetic nor Neopagan, the use of these symbols made me feel connected to those around me. Further, the use of these symbols to create a space and mark the passage of time was especially powerful. It was ritual at its finest – each symbol had many layers of meaning, and all the participants were transported to a space of reverence and celebration.

We began the service outside, near a bonfire. We lit the Pashal candle from this bonfire, then proceeded in the church. Within the church  was a pall of darkness. Only the flicker of the Pashal candle shone in the little church. From it, every member of the congregation lit another candle, and the warm light lit our faces but little else. When the moment came in the service to signal the resurrection of Christ, the lights came on, revealing the Easter lilies in the windows and the smiles on each others’ faces. It was a powerful use of symbol, even for someone who was not a part of the tradition. But I think what makes it powerful was that this experience is shared.

Before I continue, I feel its important to state that I do NOT think one can’t have a legitimate spiritual practice as a solitary practitioner. However, I do think there is something to be considered about a group experience. There is something that amplifies the space we create when we share the experience with others when done right (in my experience).

Gathered around the bonfire or exchanging “Peace” within the church, I was made aware of the ritual space that shared belief and practice can create. There was a moment when the children would open the doors to go outside in the middle of the service, and for a moment the outside world peered into our affairs: the music from next door, the pedestrians in the street, a woman waiting in a Jeep at the intersection. It felt as if we weren’t apart of that understanding of the world – rushing to supper or home or a party. Instead, we were a part of a different interpretation of that same world,  celebrating its underlying structure. But the passersby didn’t seem particularly interested; they either didn’t notice or simply moved along. Interestingly, we acted the same…the interruption was hardly noticed and not at all legitimized. The priest continued with his reading, everyone remained with heads bowed. It’s as if a boundary had been made by our songs and focus, and when the outside world was let in, it was hardly a distraction. With so many people focused on the same idea or purpose, it was easier to keep that feeling of, “Something special is going on, right now.” When the wooden door closed softly, muffling the music and traffic, it was all the easier to attend, once more, to the things in the church, if one’s attention ever even left it.

I do not get this feeling of “boundary” when I practice on my own, at least not very often. For one thing, if the outside world interrupts what I am doing, my first reaction is to safeguard my privacy. I’m still very closeted, and the last thing I want is for my upstairs neighbor to over hear my prayers or for the land lady to look curiously at my shrine or statues or whatever and ask questions I don’t want to answer. I’ve experienced this at public, group rituals as well. If we are at someone’s house and a new car pulls up in the driveway and we can see it, everyone cranes their necks to see who it is, if they are a friend or an outsider. If we are in an isolated park, though we know its public, there are still some of us (myself included), who feel the onlookers’ gaze and allow it to interrupt our affairs. They notice, and at least some of us notice. The boundary is weaker. I’m sure the fear of being discovered adds to this weakness, and overcoming this fear is still a lesson I’m learning.

Another is that, through these group experiences, I think, our experiences are validated, in a sense…well, I don’t know if validated is the right word. It provides a sense of belonging and a sense of shared reality. It’s one thing to feel and do on your own…it’s another (and sometimes more powerful thing to share this with others) And, I think, the boundary is stronger when its shared…its no longer my focus alone that makes this time and space special, its a shared focus, which is harder to break or penetrate. From practicing together, we can create traditions together, which can be passed from one generation to the next or from one family to the next. Sure, I’ve had great things happen on my own, and there are certainly times when only solitude can gift you certain experiences…but the same can be said for community.

I think this idea can be seen in Pagan meet-ups, public (or web-based) rituals, and pagan festivals – we are widely dispersed and often differ in our labels, opinions, and practice, but even still we find ways to come together and partake of a community. We are social creatures, after all. And we seek, I think, to build these palpable boundaries, shared experiences, and communal realities in safe and accepting places.

***

So this space that’s created…I don’t think it’s just during the rituals or services we do as groups. I think there is also a space created within the group that continues outside of formal ritual. Groups have informal social rituals (for example, Suzy and Arianna always text each other on Friday night) and traditions, either formal or informal. I’ve written about traditions once before, but this seems like another appropriate time to bring it up – I think traditions can be more easily cemented when they are shared with others. There’s something about celebrating with others externally that makes it seem even more concrete. Having others share in the same actions and profess the same commitments or joy makes it feel “real”. While we should never strive for the approval of others and while it is as real as you allow it to be, religion is socially constructed, and so it helps to construct with others. Even those of us who practice a solitary path, we are connected through others and we are practicing with others…via the internet where we share ideas, disagree or agree, and co-create an amalgamation of religions.

But the type of traditions we see in other churches are hard to recreate in the pagan community. We are more orthopraxic while they are orthodoxic. They gather regularly and have a long line of (often) bureaucratic records of their traditions. Some in the pagan community who belong to real life groups do have regular meetings and a long line of well-recorded traditions…but some of us do not. Some of us build our traditions slowly, over time. Some of us practice those celebrations alone. And while we can discuss it online with others, discussing together is not the same as doing together. What’s more is that without time and experience and the help of others, the layering of symbols (which I find, personally, to make ritual all the more rich) can be harder. At least, it has proven to be harder for me. For example, water can mean many different things in any one tradition. It can be tied to many different experiences and stories. However, the more time that passes, the more experiences and resources we can tie back to that symbol. The more people there are to connect to that symbol, the more richness they can provide to the traditions and rituals using it. A single person can certainly reach that level of symbolic depth…but I do think it will take more time and practice usually (two heads are better than one, sometimes).

***

Reflection on my Ma’atian Celebration: The End of Lenctene

This spring, have tried to further tie my Kemeticism to the nature around me and embrace some aspects of my akhu I once paid little attention to.

For forty days, I attempted to give up sweets. I gave myself one “cheat” day on which I could eat one somewhat sweet thing, like jam or a small candy. This went well for the first 4 weeks, but I ended up cheating more than I was supposed to. That being said, I have less sugar cravings than I did when I began, so I feel like I am on a healthier path, and I hope to keep some of this momentum going.

I also attempted to do a small, daily rite, focusing on Ma’at as the natural and human “order” in the world and on a value I have each day. This also went well the first few weeks. I spent some time away from home and was able to maintain the routine about halfway through the trip. It was hard to get back in the swing of things once I returned. The daily practice has its benefits, and the shorter time commitment made the commitment easier to keep. I also hope to continue this practice. I’ve done it before, when my schedule was less hectic. It was nice to see it can be done at this spot in my life.

As for the connection to my akhu, I’m not sure observing the practice of “giving something up” this time of year had the effects I’d hoped. However, my grandmother, who paints icons, has offered to paint an icon for me in the middle of this period. At first, I wasn’t sure. It would be a Catholic saint of my choosing, but I wasn’t sure I could really appreciate the gift, not being Catholic. Certainly I am appreciative, but I wouldn’t feel the same delight or “connection” to the image since it would be something to which I didn’t readily relate. I thought about asking for something with a “pagan” bent or history, but a friend reminded me that she likely puts a lot of thought and energy into these icons, and to try to circumvent those efforts could be disrespectful. My grandmother does pray with the icons once they are done, and she even gets some of them blessed, so I figured this was prudent advice.

In an effort to make the most of the gift, I looked into the patron saint of the Cajuns – Our Lady of the Assumption – and the patron saint of the diocese where I grew up – Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Both of these are visions of the Blessed Mother. She is a force I’d enjoyed and felt close to as a child when I attended Catholic school. She is very gentle and always seemed to evoke a mood of acceptance, mercy, and compassion. So, it was her image I chose.

This process actually got me closer to my akhu than my Lenctene experiment, as I learned about an entity in a new light and had to consider her in new ways. I am thankful for this experience.

At the same time, I have come to better understand and rediscover Aset, a Netjert I have honored since the first day I became Kemetic in any sense of that word. I’ve learned that despite all my trying, sometimes you won’t get it right until you learn to be open to experience and failure. I’ve learned that you just can’t control certain things, like when you discover a deeper meaning or when you will “get it right”.

I think that the whole experience, making sacrifices (not eating sweets), giving more time and effort to my practice this spring (through a daily rite), and trying out new experiences and perspectives (rediscovering Aset and being reintroduced to the Blessed Mother Mary), has made me take a new look at humility and change. There are other experiences I am having in my professional life that are making me question the assertiveness with which I usually approach things.

So I think my take away from this experience is about humility, rest, and rediscovery. Taking a break from the old way of doing things, rediscovering what you thought you knew (and had eschewed), and having enough humility to learn from both.

I think this experience has also allowed me to put a few steps on some new paths – new ways of practicing my spirituality, new ways of relating to others, and new ways of relating to myself. I hope to reformat the rite I used during Lenctene this weekend and make it amenable to daily use. I also hope to take my new found openness and continue to explore myself.

It’s as if there is a spiritual spring as well as a natural one.

Piety, Relationships, and What-if-I-make-it-all-up

Yesterday, I posted about whether the rewards of religion extend past what the gods can give us. 

And while I answered my own question…some things still weighed on my mind.

The one thing I am thinking of at the moment is whether piety/devotion puts you in the favor of a particular god. I said that I didn’t think this was fair. But. But.

In many ways, I see the relationships others have with their deities to be very reflective of human relationships. They wax and wane. There are times of distance and times of intimacy. Some deities take time to “get to know”; they want to see serious commitment before they really reach out. Others seem to embrace anyone at any time. There are those that are in your “inner circle”, and those that are periphery (like the girl at work you only ever see when you go to pick up your paycheck because neither of you have direct deposit yet).

In human relationships, people vary with respect to how readily they offer help. Some will give more freely of their resources, others are very selfish. And yet, unless people are at one extreme (Siddhartha Gautama, who gave away all of his possessions to mark the start of his journey to enlightenment) or another (Ebenezer Scrooge), I don’t really bat an eye over their decisions. They have their reasons for giving or withholding, and though I might not agree, their aid is theirs alone to distribute. Wouldn’t this same kindness, the right to distribute one’s possessions as one sees fit, be due to the Netjeru as well?

A pivotal question at this point is: Do human-netjer relationships have the aforementioned variations because this is the way the Netjeru actually operate, or because humans merely perceive them that way? In other words, Do humans influence the perception of the relationship so much that we actually dictate how hard-to-know/generous/interactive deities are? Or are the Netjeru really as “human” as we are?

For example…Let’s say John is a very passive, conflict-avoidant guy with low self-esteem and a reserved (but still healthy) libido. John is the antithesis of Set in a couple ways, and thus this lack of “commonality” may make it hard for John to establish a relationship with Set, even if he wants to. Set (or any deity) may (hypothetically) kick off every relationship with the same amount of openness…but the roadblocks stopping John from cultivating a relationship with Set dictate how easily this openness is perceived (much like if John met a super-sexual, confident, in-your-face human in real life).  (Forgive me if the example isn’t perfect).

A different example may be: there is a “cultural understanding” in some forums that Aset is a “tough love” kinda gal. Jarrel, who is coming to know Aset, becomes aware of this collective mental model. He also begins to notice that his relationship with Aset is of the “tough-love” sort (confirmation bias, yo).  In both cases, our human tendencies set the tone for our relationships with the Netjeru. The traits we give the gods shape our perceptions of and relationships with the Netjeru (one could take a very atheistic/agnostic view and assert that the Netjeru are entirely manufactured by us, anyway, and thus have very few if any characteristics we don’t give them).

In these cases, human-netjeru relationships mirror human-human relationships because its all we know how to do…humans can only go so far out of the “human box”, and the Netjeru may have to meet us half-way.

But what if this ISN’T the case? What is the gods really DO vary in how they interact with people (i.e. different Netjeru behave differently from each other, and Netjeru behave differently towards humans)? What if we aren’t perceiving these differences, but they actually exist? But most importantly…Does this absolute truth really matter, since all we can ever know is what we can perceive? In which case, the Netjeru interact differently with different people.

From these thoughts, the following key points arise:
(1) People have different relationships to different deities, and vice versa.
(2) Human-netjer relationships can mirror human-human relationships
(3) Humans vary in how selective they are in sharing their resources.
(4) The relationship a human has with the would-be recipient influences if and how much they will give.

**EDIT: I have to stop here to clarify something. When I say that someone is a recipient, I do not mean they receive physical things. I personally don’t think the gods can do much on that front. I’m speaking more to psychological things…awareness, insight, that sort of stuff. **

So, if human-netjer relationships mirror human-human relationships, wouldn’t the Netjeru be selective in their giving?

Which takes us back to piety (finally, right?). Those who have a more “devout” relationship may be more likely to to have more intimate relationships with the Netjeru, which would, for one reason or another, afford them a stronger connection and possibly more resources (whatever they may be) from that Netjeru.  The intimacy of the relationship may afford some the same benefits the intimacies of human relationships affords us. This could be because the Netjeru act (or are perceived to act) as humans in these relationships. But that’s not the biggest reason why this intimacy affords more devout practitioners more “benefits”.  From our end (the human end), a greater intimacy can allow us to more quickly “connect” to our Netjeru.

Following this logic, the “pious” are favored, but perhaps not because the Netjeru play favorites. Maybe its just because they have more practice connecting to those things which bring them peace, wisdom, and joy? Maybe its because devotion hones certain abilities or thought patterns so that we can manifest positive changes ourselves.

Reaping What You Sow: Does Religion Reward (Even If It Doesn’t)?

*CAUTION*: As I look back over this, it seems very Christian. I come from a Catholic place and a Catholic school system and a (mostly) Catholic family…and I’m fine that my practice still has some roots in this tradition (so long as the roots nourish). I think the theme here is, “Humans seek control in a chaotic world….religion helps humans achieve this to some degree.” I think this theme can be found in many religious or spiritual paths, including paganism. But if you feel this type of content might be triggering for you, please tread with care 😀

I was thinking of a church camp I attended as a kid. They taught us that by putting God first, you actually put yourself first (because you get grace and eternal life and all that jazz). In this light, piety seemed selfish: put God first, get good prizes!

So I wondered, “Would I still practice my faith (pray, meditate, give offerings) if I didn’t think I would get anything from it?”

I try not to think of offerings/piety as a bartering system. I don’t think the gods play favorites, and I don’t think it would be fair if a large amount of piety and devotion got one person into a more persuasive/lucrative position with the Netjeru as compared to someone without that relationship. I sometimes do acts of devotion to cultivate some spiritual virtue, but I don’t think I’m showered with more privileges because of that. I am not so ignorant as to fail to admit that some portion of my success stems from the many privileges I am afforded, which stem from being white and “educated” and living in a “first-world” country that allows me many freedoms and priveleges. There are definitely aspects of my life that I cannot control that contributed to my success. There are also aspects of my success that I can control. There are many things that I did (perhaps unknowingly at times) that contributed to my success. There are both things I do and do not control, things that I did or things that are simply products of society, that contributed to “how my life is turning out”.And while I am very blessed, I have bad luck, too… the Fortuna Rota always turns.

My opinion is that we do have control over our own futures…actions have consequences, and hard work, awareness, and responsibility can pay off. Even still, sometimes good or bad circumstances can happen to people regardless of the work ethic, level of awareness, or level of responsibility. Fortune or misfortune aren’t always black and white indicators of the correctness of someone’s choices. Even when they are, I don’t think its wise to live by the maxim that good or bad circumstances are a product of that person’s piety. Full transparency: Aside from the fact that I htink this maxim goes against Ma’at, I often struggle with whether or not the Netjeru can affect things outside of my own psyche (i.e. things in the world around me). Though two separate issues, they affect each other.

That being said, I am only human. There are moments when I experience such duress (or such joy) that all I can do in these moments of either fear or ecstasy is cry out to my Netjeru and ask for aid, mercy, health, laughter, their presence OR thank them for allowing me the pleasure (because even when it is of my own doing, as my accomplishments certainly are products of my own hard work, I still feel appreciation is warranted). Yet I’ve noticed that I do (unintentionally?) have a tendency to think (whether this is logical, ethical, or correct) that serving the gods, in whatever small ways I might do so, does allow me certain benefits.

I grew up in a very Catholic place, where novenas and rosaries and candles and prayers and fasting are given in an effort to win grace…and perhaps divine aid. And there’s a part of me, as illogical as it is, as unfair as it is, that feels that maybe if I do selfless acts of piety or charity, with the intention of helping someone else or myself on a particular, articulated issue…I can. That maybe these relationships (with my Netjeru) I’ve cultivated might afford me some benefit when dealing with stress or poor judgement or bad luck. That prayer and offerings and devotions over the years offer me something that can directly help in times of need. In times of true duress, I wish that this “something” is direct divine intervention… that the hand of the Netjeru can touch my situation and change it.

In times when I am more level headed and philosophical, I doubt that such a thing would occur…because in essence, it conflicts with my own belief: I don’t think the gods play favorites, and I think outcomes are the result of a myriad of causes.

Offerings, prayers, devotions…are these acts of both piety and magic? Do they direct energy and will in and of themselves? Are they a mix of spellwork and persuasion, convincing the Netjeru that a deed is worth doing while also psychologically preparing us to do mundane actions towards the same goal? Could a human even convince a Netjer of anything? (The 42 confessions and various stelae seem to say so…but that’s a tangent).

I don’t know. Part of me does feel that prayers and devotions send out energy. And part of me also feels that the Netjeru are often merciful, and that under the right circumstances, if you have cultivated a relationship with them over time, they might help you out in in whatever way they might be able. Maybe they can offer something when you show you really need it and are ready for it. Now, whether this mercy and compassion from the gods is substantiated in formal Ancient Egyptian belief…I still need to look into that. But honestly, while I don’t think they “live” to do us “small kindnesses”, I would like to think that Netjeru have some place in their hearts for us, if only because I feel they care for all of creation and we are a part of that. If anything, I feel that when we cultivate relationships with the Netjeru, we awaken a part of us (a part of our ka) that allows us to be…more aware?…which in turn allows us to gain wisdom from hardship and carry on with resolve. (*teaser alert*)

So…my Vulcan Mind tells you all that I don’t barter, but my Human Heart (or perhaps more accurately, my Freudian Id) obviously does.

So back to the original question: If the Netjeru don’t go around interfering on our behalves, would I still cultivate a relationship with them? If they couldn’t offer me anything other than the stories surrounding them and the practice I do for them, would I still practice?

…..Yea.

The biggest thing I get out of my practice is a sense of peace which allows me to better cope with all the shit that comes my way. It’s that “awakening” or that “connection to the Netjeru” I was talking about earlier.

And that’s the bottom line for me. That’s one of the biggest goals of religion (for me). Spirituality, for me, serves the purpose of allowing me to meet my potential, be “happy” (whatever that means), and experience a sense of calm. Keeping me mindful and aware of what’s important and CALM to deal with things that are stomach-churning or anxiety-producing…that’s a huge payout. And, frankly, its probably the most important, because it affects how I can change my own situations. Even in circumstances when I am powerless, it gives me a little bit of control over the only thing I can actually ever really control…myself.

Days Upon the Year: Game plan & Attempting to cultivate wisdom

I’ve been waking early in order to celebrate the epagomenal days. Yesterday was Heru-wer’s celebration, and today was Wesir’s. I think I may post a picture on the day of Wep Ronpet. I may also type up some of my reflections from each day and post them as small “mini-posts” (compared to the diatribes I usually post). I am pretty psyched. This is the first year I have a full and planned calendar beyond Wep Ronpet, and I have an awfully nice structure going as well.

Each day consists of offerings, praise, a short song for the occasion (no…its not “Happy Birthday”…not the traditional American “Happy Birthday” anyway), and a contemplation.

Recipe for Celebration: The process for creating and completing the contemplation/meditation is as follows:
– I looked at the myths, epithets, and themes surrounding each Netjer. I came up with 4 to 6 words embodying those themes for each epagomenal day.

-Using those themes, I wrote 4 to 5 questions for each day to guide my reflections on that day. The questions invite personal development. For example, two of the themes for Heru-wer’s day were “victory” and “courage”. From these, the questions, “What do I fear?”, “What are my goals?” and “Why I will succeed anyway(what are my strengths)?” were born. These overlap with the other two themes as well. Making sure questions address multiple themes ensures that I had only 4 to 5 questions, and not 50.

-For each celebration, before eating the offerings, I meditate. I contemplate the themes. Then, I read the questions, think about them, and write the answers on small strips of paper. I placed the paper in a jar I painted a sickly green (in my head, Apep/uncreation is a sickly yellow-green and/or blueish black).

-On Wep Ronpet, I will write the “positive” things and things that give me direction (e.g. plans to overcome any negatives) on card stock. I’ll refer to them regularly during the year. I’ll rewrite the “negative” things on paper strips and put them back in the jar.

– I’ll soak the papers in a little wine in that jar, screw the lid on tight, and write the major themes from the “negatives” with a black sharpie on the outside of the jar while the paper soaks up the wine.

– The jar goes in a ziplock bag with the air squeezed out (and placed inside another bag in case any rips happen). I’ll smash the jar and its contents with a hammer. Finally, I’ll throw the whole mess away. Execration complete. Enjoy cake.

Thoughts on cultivating wisdom. Today, some of things I thought about were “How can I cultivate my own wisdom?” and “How can I be more just/live Ma’at?” I came to the conclusion that wisdom is largely a product of (a) having experiences (which may mean actively seeking out experiences), (b) being self-aware and observant during those experiences, and (c) reflecting on the experience afterwards. I don’t think its a failsafe plan, but I think its a good place to start.  After some reflection, I also concluded that a large part of justice often entails kindness. I want to collect these thoughts and make a separate post on them later, but I figured they were worth mentioning now.

Self-awareness. During both today’s and yesterday’s meditations, I realized how much the experiences in the past year have changed me and made me aware of the full extent of some of my traits (good and bad). A different environment highlights different aspects of the self that were before unseen or peripheral. While we all grow and change constantly, the next year or so of my life will possibly expedite this process, painful as it may be. And yet, I’ve come to find that this painful pushing often lends itself to an overall well-being and sense of happiness, accomplishment, and confidence.

Creating a Calendar: One Possible Method

Introduction
I’ve gone quite a while (7 years) celebrating just a few, sparse holidays: Wep Ronpet, an Akhu festival, and a moment of reflection at the two solstices (while not inherently Kemetic, I am a nature lover at heart and always incorporate a few natural cycles into my practice). Needless to say, my religious year is a quiet one. During the year, when secular or Christian holidays were celebrated, I had always thought it would be nice if they had some religious meaning for me. Without holidays that are religiously meaningful, its up to the holidays of my country and/or culture to celebrate and remind me of my religious values or events via their own themes (which may or may not be directly important to me).

The idea of creating my own calendar was daunting, for the reasons outlined in this post. If you don’t know too much about the Kemetic calendar, I recommend you read that post before continuing to this one; it will give you a reference point. This morning, I FINALLY sat down and created my own calendar. For those of you hoping to do this yourselves, I’d like to share with you how I did it, just as one possible approach you might have at your disposal. For those of you have who have already created their calendar, if you have any input, I would really love to get it. My method uses some UPG and less strictly-reconstructionist methods, but I’ll tell you when that occurs and you can decide what you think. More

Who Knows the Words of Power

The current KRT topic is Heka. I will admit, I’ve really let these posts slip through the cracks, and this doesn’t really fall under the scope of the KRT…but despite my lack of punctuality and ability to follow basic directions, I hope to this KRT inspired post can help someone out!

Heka proceeds the gods, as we are told in the Coffin Texts: “…to me belonged the universe before you Gods had come into being. You have come afterwards because I am Heka.” Heka is the force which creates all things in the universe and allows them to continue to be. It is the link tying the spiritual and physical together, the means through which the spiritual becomes physical. That being said, it is helpful to reference the creation myth where words were the vehicle of creation (Ptah’s words, specifically). Heka is often thought of as “right speech”. It is one who knows the right words and has knowledge of their pronunciation who can change the world. Hieroglyphics could be used as a form of heka as well, the written word itself holding power and allowing things to become. However, heka also alludes to knowledge of truth in general, which allows one to manipulate reality.

Many times, heka also alluded to a myth from the Zep Tepi (First Time). It sought to harken back to this time (although, according to Naydler, there was no “going back”, the Zep Tepi was recreated on a daily basis and accessible at any moment under the right circumstances). It was as if one stepped into the Zep Tepi  and recreated a myth in order to create change in the present. (At least, this is my understanding. I could be wrong, if I am, please correct me!!!)

Heka was used in medicine, along side observations and traditional remedies. Amulets and jewelry were used in heka, some of the popular symbols being the Eye of Heru and scarabs. The seat of one’s power was said to be the belly, and it was not uncommon to see spells where one eats gods or other critters to gain their power.

As I thought about all of this, I was not particularly inspired to do a post. Until I sat down for my daily devotion. Somewhere I had read that heka was the concept and manifestation of the divine power of creation. That night, I focused on Aset as a magician: the Great of Heka, Excellent of Speech. And then…it hit me.

For a long time, I had a hard time making the connecting to Aset as a goddess of life (it seemed “wrong” or off despite the Osirian myth cycle. I know, I’m nuts). I accepted Her as a goddess of magic and knowledge, though the magical aspect never intrigued me much (I don’t do too much magic). But in reflecting and researching for this post, I reflected on heka as the thread pulling creation from the spiritual realm into the physical…and it is Aset who commands heka! It is Aset with Her knowledge, skill, and eloquence who manipulates reality to restore life and maintain the cycles of succession and renewal (both in the Osirian myth and the myth where She learns the name of Ra). It is because of heka that Aset is the Lady of Green Crops and the Lady of Life. More so, Aset was, at some points, taught some aspects or forms of heka (by Djehuti or by gaining it from the knowledge of Ra’s true name). This implies that it is something that can be learned (hence, you and I can master it, as much as humans can).

And while words are not the only vehicles of heka, they certainly are strong ones. Aset knows the Words of Power. But there is something more mundane in this phrasing. Let’s talk about talk…self talk.

Words bring things into being. Naming something gives it power and makes it spring to life. The are the means through which something comes into existence.

For me, Aset is a Name of confidence, power, determination, will, and victory.

Self talk is how we talk to ourselves, in our heads, everyday.

What am I getting at? How we talk to ourselves literally allows us to manifest our reality.

Ugh, that was so stupid! I always embarass myself! I’m so awkward…why do I try?

Of course I forgot the presentation at home…things never work out anyway. Oh well.

These tryouts are only for the best of the best. I shouldn’t even bother.

When we tear ourselves down, we engage in self destructive heka. But, if we are observant, realistic, and more optimistic, our daily heka can build us up and enliven us. It can give us power and confidence and realism. Aset has helped me to watch my own self talk, to watch how I treat myself, and realize that the eloquence in my head is just as important as the eloquence in my rites, in my work, and with my friends. Of course, speech has the power to hinder or heal in these areas too, just as in magic. But self talk sets the stage for how we wag our tongues in all of these areas long before we open our mouths.

I know it sounds really new age. Honestly, I learned about negative self-talk in my Abnormal Psych class. And you know what the first thing I thought was? How ridiculous. As if how you talk to yourself in anyway influences your mood. And I proved my own point.

Naydler, Jeremy. (1996). Temple of the Cosmos. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions.

David, Rosalie.(2002). Religion and Magic in Ancient Egypt. London, England: Penguin books.

Dollinger, Andre. (2003). Heka: The magic of ancient egypt. Retrieved from http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/religion/magic.htm

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