Grave Moss & Stars

how it feels

I sit with a feeling I have missed, a feeling I’ve barely felt in over a year. It had come in hints, wisps, little blips on my spiritual radar… but now, the door is open, and I can hear it. I can smell the wind through the woods. I can feel the sunset, the sunrise. The moon’s many silvered faces are no longer strangers. The clouds are a daily miracle of art.

I can feel my gods, my spirituality, calling.

And this feeling stretches beyond Kemeticism, beyond the burning sun and the painted sky, beyond the touch of light on stone and sand and silt. I can feel streams in loam under shadowing trees. I can feel moss and ferns and fallen leaves turning to wet mulch. I can feel cool breezes through a willow’s young boughs.

I have been pagan for longer than I often realize, and this sense of the world – this ability to sense the world – runs deep now. And as depression starts to lift, as I feel a little more human and a little more me, I can stretch out and remember what the rest of the world feels like.

It’s all an echo chamber, a familiar song that I have very much missed, and I find myself humming along. Sometimes off-key, sometimes forgetting the melody, but this lullaby will never be fully alien to me.

A Mundane Recap

Hello, dear friends and readers.

It’s hard for me to break the silence here. Like my physical shrine, this blog has gathered dust and has a thick quiet to it. But like my physical shrine, I can clean it. I can revive it.

And so I do. But first, a little glimpse of my mundane life.

I have experienced SAD (seasonal affective disorder) for well over a decade. I have been able to manage it through spirituality, through self-care, through food and bodywork, through animal therapy, and with my support network. I’ve also experienced varying degrees of social anxiety, which I’ve managed with the same tools (along with, admittedly, a high level of hibernation).

But a year and a half ago, things changed. My migraines had gotten to a frequency that necessitated preventative medication. I was put on a drug that worked brilliantly to knock them down from three times a week to maybe once a month.

Unfortunately, that drug was also used to treat bipolar by flattening out the manic spikes. It’s almost never prescribed without an antidepressant accompanying it, but I was only taking that drug for migraines.

I hit severe depression–clinical depression. The kind of stuff that isn’t ameliorated by sunlight and longer days. The kind of stuff that didn’t give a damn about my personal toolkit and all my self-care.

I didn’t recognize it at first, because my personal life was going through a lot of changes and challenges, too. My partner of seven years and I opened our relationship up when we became polyamorous; we started dating someone; my work was spiraling into a toxic environment with frightening speed. The learning curve for being openly, actively poly was harsh when it’d been years since either of us had been poly (and we’d never been poly together). Coupled with increasing depression, I nearly couldn’t cope.

I stopped taking the anti-migraine meds. My migraines returned, and I expected the depression to lift. I worked very hard to help it lift. And it didn’t change.

I made it to Wep Ronpet, our Kemetic new year, a solid year after I first took the anti-migraine meds. I threw myself into zep tepi with ferocity and a hint of desperation. I had six weeks of a reprieve, wherein which I started dating someone new, adjusted the prior S.O. relationship to something healthier for both of us, and fell in love with my gods again.

…and then the crash. NRE and force of will can only do so much, and depression came back with a vengeance. I got fired for the first time in my life. I was barely able to function; there were nights where I couldn’t manage to feed myself. My imagination constantly, involuntarily served up terrible imagery and terrible ideas. I couldn’t escape my own self-destructive brain, and my body suffered; my immune system faltered, and I got sick half a dozen time in half a year, hitherto unknown to me.

I clung to what helped me through and dropped absolutely everything else. I found a new job and was honest with my boss about my challenges with energy levels. I stopped kicking myself for being unable to do a single project–all I could manage was work, then falling over once I got home. My animals became my only hobby, and they were already my therapy. My partner picked up the slack without complaint.

I decided I had tried enough, worked my ass off enough, and burned myself out enough. What I could do by myself was insufficient. I needed help, and so I turned to a psychiatrist.

Brief tangent: There’s a lot of stigma around mental health and psych meds. I support an individual’s choice to decide if and when they want to try them, and I support education about how much of a process it is to try out different meds and different dosages until one finds what works for oneself. Brains are different; situations are different; meds are different. Meds should not be used as a magic pill, and there’s a lot of non-med work a person with depression and anxiety does to help the process along. Some people can get to a point of getting off meds again, or to the point of only needing them during particularly harsh times; some people need them long-term. There is no shame there. It’s no different than taking insulin for diabetes for the rest of your life or having a cast on a broken leg until it heals.

That said, it’s been five weeks since I started medication, and I’ve begun to experience a higher baseline energy and less frequent crashes. I’m at a strange, alien point where I can actually do things beyond survive–I can manage work, chores, animal care … and maybe a game. Maybe read a little. Maybe write a little, like I’m doing now.

It’s still a process, and will continue to be a process, as we adjust which meds I’m on and their dosages for the best possible effect and the lowest possible side effects.

But I’m getting better. And that feels amazing, given that I had begun to doubt my ability to hold down a job at all not that long ago.

This post is not a promise to resume blogging immediately; I’m still not at a point where I can reliably commit to a consistent anything. But I wanted to write it and share with you my situation, so that you know where I’ve been, and so that you know things are improving bit by bit.

A Month of Written Devotions #6 – Light

Some part of me registered the change of
quality of light from daylight-golden to
post-sunset-grey, inching towards blackness,
and my heart twinged before my eyes
could even look towards the clock for confirmation.
“It’s hard to shake a decade of SAD,” I told her.
My neurochemistry is as wired to sunfall
as a watch’s gears are wound to second-tick precision.
I wondered if it was too warm still
to be able to light a fire in the hearth.
(So long as it’s under 70*F, right?)
I felt the restless itch, the tumult burning
just beneath my skin, and was already
thinking of ways to combat the darkness
and the wave of depression it towed behind it
when You came.
I hadn’t even been thinking of You, but
in You swept, a fierce orange brightness,
a warmth, a weight, an undimmable light.
And I couldn’t see the twilight anymore.
I couldn’t feel the shadows encroach.
I knew they lingered, just outside the bounds
of Your radiance, but You were all around me
and they could not touch me.
I felt like I was standing inside a lit hearth
and was somehow immune to ever burning.
Just like that, in that moment, You righted me.
And I am grateful beyond words.

A Month of Written Devotions #5 – Forgiveness

The halls are silent and golden-brown.
Sunlight slants through at late afternoon angles.
No breeze stirs the dust that rests on the floor,
and each moment is warm and still.

And yet I walk forth, the touch of light
on my hand a familiar and welcome heat.
I know this geometry of bright and shadow,
tall walls and not-quite-straight path.

I would return to You, except
You never left me.
I would ask Your forgiveness, but
You never needed to give it.

The halls are the throat of a lion,
and here I belong, living
amidst the heka You speak
and the ma’at we breathe.

New Year Resolutions

It is the second day of the Kemetic new year, and we have entered into Heru-sa-Aset’s year. It is a year of victory, of strength, and of working hard to achieve what we desire. It is a year of community, of shared burdens and shared strengths.

I am overjoyed to leave last year behind, to start anew with Zep Tepi. As part of that, and as part of the wisdom of planning my work before I work my plan, I wanted to make a post on my overall “resolutions” or goals for the year. Public accountability, in this case, is a great thing, and I encourage any of my readers, friends, and Kemetic family to call me out if you see me forget or fall short of my own goals.

In keeping with the power of four, I have organized myself in four sections, with four items in each.

I will do less of these things: fewer overwhelmingly social-and-busy weekends, fewer social events with a particular group of people that I like but inevitably leave me too stressed and anxious, fewer large projects, and less placing myself in the position of people-handler for the less-organized.

I will do more of these things: senut once a week, physical activity and exercise, fiction and blog writing (blog once a week), and work on my tiny Jamberry business.

I will maintain a baseline of these things: sleep (yes, I do have to list it, because I tend to deprioritize it), nutrition, tending the house, and tending/handling my snakes.

And, lastly, I will not devote consistent large chunks of time to these things (unless I am happily beset with sudden free time): art (including painting, woodburning, and doodling), music (from practicing to writing new songs), community service (yet!), and everything else that acts as a time-sink.

That last paragraph is the hardest for me; I hate saying no to things I love. But I am spread thin, I am low-spooned, and I need to focus on the core things that make me into a strong, healthy, happy person. No doubt I will still sporadically engage in things that are not in the second and third paragraphs, but my resolution is not to quit everything cold turkey, only to ration and limit the time I spend on side-projects in order to advance my primary goals.

The final, and perhaps most challenging, year goal is heka—not the heka of spells and rituals, but the heka of what I say in my head and in my mouth and in my hands. Depression is an insidious decay of speech patterns, and I will fight its deprecation and pessimism. I will endeavor to clean up my humor a little bit, speak more ma’at in conversations with others, and support a healthy self-image in my thoughts and deeds. I have spent nearly a year putting myself, my wants, my needs, and my health as the very last item on a very long list, and I am done with that. (It only took like a dozen people and two gods to knock some sense in my head. *cough*)

With this, I make public my resolutions—which is heka in and of itself, you know—and I step into the new year with an open mind and a willing attitude.

Di wep ronpet nofret! Happy new year to you all! ♥

A Month of Written Devotions #4 – Beginning

Wash my face with the waters of Zep Tepi,
the First Time, before all was said and done.
Break my eyes open with Your light;
lift me up in Your great, gentle hands.

Yesterday is gone and away, as ancient
as the first inundation and the last pyramid.
Today is fresh and pure, ripe and vibrant.
There is hope anew, another chance at choice.

Let us walk together, You and I.
In companionable silence, we will range
far and wide, knives and truths to hand.
Protect me as I, too, serve Ma’at in my way.

And when the sun-that-is-You sets
in a blaze of orange and glory,
I will walk the night through in Your shadow
to reach the dawn’s Zep Tepi again.

A Month of Written Devotions #2 & #3 – How & Together

How did you become involved with your devotional topic?

I stepped outside at sunset, into the thinning heat of September, wary but open. Ma’ahes had asked me to meet Him, but I was more cautious than enthused–I had no idea what He wanted. No god had ever called on me before; I had always been the petitioner.

A sense of intense orange flooded my senses, moving like levitated liquid paint the color of long sunsets. I told Him that I was here, that He was welcome, and invited Him to sit with me on the edge of the patio. When nothing happened, I placed my palms on the stones of the deck and shaped the area–the patio, the horseshoe-shaped house at my back–into the ocean. It had been a while since I had displayed any prowess with energywork, but I had always loved painting my environment to feel different to me.

“If I can do this,” I told Him, “surely You can reach me somehow.”

The hovering orangeness vanished, and with startling abruptness, the part of the world I faced–the part that wasn’t ocean and open sky and briny wind–was brilliantly orange sand, the sky sunset-red. When I could sense it just as easily with open eyes as I could with closed eyes, I grinned.

I asked Him to sit with me again, and when He still didn’t, I shaded my half of the world to shadowy waves and teal-purple skies. We evolved our halves for a little while; mine darkened into a thunderstorm, flickering violet and silver, all my colors and all my Water, staining the back half of me dark river-teal. His sky darkened towards more red, less orange, and then shadows blacked out a long stretch of sand from the horizon to my feet. It took me a few moments to realize that something must be blocking the sunlight for that to happen, and realized that He had appeared, very far away, a lion-man indistinct.

I spoke to Him as He slowly walked towards me, growing more visible; He was orange, that particular opaque sunset-orange, but ember-like, magma-like, shining orange through cracks of blackened stone, a living statue of sunset-lava. I could see Him better than I could see most Unseen entities, especially His leonine face. (I am particularly bad at faces.)

He sat with me, silent, and our halves of the world mellowed, my sea shifting to more an oasis at the edge of His desert. And when the sun was nearly set, He stood and left, walking across the vivid sands the way He’d come.

This was to be the first of many sunset meetings with Ma’ahes.

What’s your relationship with your devotional topic?

From that first enigmatic meeting, Ma’ahes stymied me. Here was a god Who wanted me to come see Him, to include Him in my life… but, at every turn, refused formal offerings. He accepted, gladly, the painting I made of us and our peacock display of color and environments that first evening. But water, incense, food, prayer, devotional activity–refused.

He was, quite simply, just happy to see me.

And I had no idea how to respond to that. Under no circumstances do I think I am special to the gods any more than every single human being is special to them, so why would Ma’ahes just… want to be near? What did He gain? How did I benefit Him? I kept asking, receiving no clear answer. The closest thing to a hint that I got was a reference to my innately Water nature and how it complemented His dry, solar essence.

It took me months before I warmed to Him and responded to His patience, His kindness. He was strength without anger, duty without arrogance, righteousness without bloodlust. Everything I read on Him historically suggested that He would be… more vehement about His role as an Eye of Ra, but the Ma’ahes I got to know was silent, radiant, and gentle. He was wholly unexpected, and He persisted against my constant questioning, my doubt and skepticism, and my expectations.

And when He showed up in my RPD, I felt more relief than I could’ve imagined. This unconditional god would not one day disappear just because I couldn’t figure out what He wanted from me; He would always be a part of my life.

Ma’ahes is a solid, constant, tangible presence when I need soothing or protection. (It is a very different feeling of protection than, say, Serqet, or Sekhmet. Or Nebt-het. Nothing is so terrifying as Nebt-het with knives.) He can hold me without making things worse; He can accompany me when I can’t stand company. I call Him Brother because I love Him and do not fear Him, and because He allows me to be so honored as to be part of His chosen family.

A Month of Written Devotions #1 – Who

It’s been a hard winter, and a not-easy spring, but I have scrubbed my shrine clean and lit fresh candles. And I would like to do the metaphorical same here, in my beloved-but-neglected blog.

Some of my friends and kin are doing A Month of Written Devotion, started on Tumblr but spreading quickly to non-Tumblr blogs. While I will endeavor to write every day, I will also not lynch myself if I don’t; I’ll be participating with the goal of simply finishing and reviving this blog, rather than keeping to a strict schedule.

I am grateful for the opportunity to write, to be honest with you. My time and energy has been so vice-gripped, so clamped down, that the mere idea that I am free enough to be able to write here is… liberating, refreshing, relieving.

With that, I’ll give you the brief quote of what this whole month-long shindig is all about (copied from the above-linked Tumblr), then get started.

For one month, take time to write out a devotional piece to a selected deity(ies), spirit(s), or someone/something you devote yourself to spiritually. The first three day prompts introduce who/what you are writing to and establishing your relationship and the remainder of the month are word prompts to help you elicit some type of feeling or memory to write for that day. If a prompt doesn’t inspire you but there is something else you want to write for that day, go for it! This is just a list to inspire or bring about memories. And the final prompt for the month will be simple, personal, and a good way to wrap up your month of written devotion.

The most important thing to remember is write from the heart, write with sincerity, and remember, you’re writing this for not only the one you are devoted to, but for yourself as well.

Who? – Deity, spirit or chosen devotion for the month

I rolled my god die, a handmade wooden cube with each of my primary gods’ names in hieroglyphs on each side. “Which one of You would like to be the subject of my written devotions for a month?” I asked, looking up at the freshly-cleaned shrine and all Their paintings ranging above it.

Ma’ahes, the die answered, His name looking up at me with its eye.

Ma’ahes is a male Eye of Ra, one of very few. (The Eye of Ra is usually a leonine goddess like Sekhmet or Bast; the Eye is Ra’s executive, active power usually acting in a protective or punitive role.) Ma’ahes is a lion god of war and execution, tightly linked to the intense summer heat and the solar powers of the sun. As with most warrior deities, He can be called on for protection of people and sacred places. Through His various connections to Heru (Horus), He is linked to horizons; through His connection to Nefertem, He is linked to perfumes and scented oils. The Greeks (and I) saw Him in storms. He is the son of Bast, and He serves Ma’at as an active, dynamic god.

While He is typically a fierce and sharp-knifed god, He is extraordinarily gentle and patient with me. To me, His power is without rage or bloodlust; He acts assertively, without hesitation, with all His strength, but He does not glory in the execution of isfet when that is His task. (Seeing Him as largely emotionless about His job, albeit very devoted to it, is undoubtedly UPG and probably really uncommon, given traditional epithets.) With me, He asks for nothing and provides everything, and He was the only one of my gods to initiate and insist upon an interactive relationship. He is present for me in an opaque swath of orange, warm and attentive; only rarely does He take His more traditional forms of lion-headed man or full-bodied lion. I think of him at sunset, when the sky tints His shade of orange. I adore Him.

Ma’ahes’ shrine, next to Sekhmet (left) and Hethert-Nut (right):

At the top is a (very old) painting, one of my first; to the right is a Kemetic showpiece dagger, a gift from a good friend. Below are lion statues, including one made of coal from my home state of West Virginia and a handmade, antiqued beauty by Nicolas of Shadow of the Sphinx. There’s a wooden mandala-type string of beads, and lastly, a gorgeous wire-and-crystal piece by Kythryne Aisling of Wyrding Studios.

I have a hard time explaining my way of seeing Ma’ahes, and our relationship, to others… so I feel it’s very apt to be writing about Him for a month. Ma’ahes elicits a particular brand of adoration from me, and I look forward to putting that more into words.

For more research-styled info on Ma’ahes, you can check His page here.