Grave Moss & Stars

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.

bearing light from darkness

It’s Imbolc, one of my favorite non-Kemetic holidays: the Day of Fire.

I sing for Brigid, and I light a candle in the darkness beneath Her cross, next to a necklace that makes me think of Her spirit and a dark-blood stone from Sekhmet’s altar. I let the flame burn a while before returning Brigid’s cross to my throat, and I contemplate the fire of winter.

There’s a lot to be said for burning away the chill, but I live in Texas right now, and it’s not so very cold and snow-drenched.

Instead, I focus on the light itself. It has been a very dark autumn and winter, and I want to make February a month of bringing back the light. So I will think of small, tangible ways in which I can do that.

For now, I leave you with this from my private journal, which mentions Netjer but embodies Brigid’s spirit as well:

May the work I do
by voice, limb, and hand
be strong in structure,
stable in foundation,
beautiful in form,
and long in longevity.
All creations are art
and all art is my work,
my good work, born by my flesh,
sacred to me.
May it all bring honor
to Netjer, Who blesses me
and provides me the world(s)
in which I create and serve.

Red Week 2015

Last week, Kemetic Orthodoxy celebrated “Red Week,” a modern festival honoring Set, strongest of the gods. People got together in person to enjoy fellowship and perform heka; people came together online to do the same. Individuals wrote, sang, and made art for Set. He was studied, explored, discussed, and, ultimately, better understood by the end of His week. We even pulled together a devotional anthology for Him.

Set, also known as Seth or Sutekh, is an easily-misunderstood god. His reputation changes throughout ancient Egypt’s history, going from a warrior to a rebellious god to, in some eras and areas, being downright villainized. Some have equated Him to Typhon, the most deadly of all Greek monsters; others have blatantly equated Him to Satan. Set’s myths and stories are as varied as His reputations, showing Him in diverse lights: the proud contestant for the throne, the killer of His brother so that Wesir (Osiris) can become king of the dead who have no king, the protective warrior who shouts down the sea demon, the lusty god who has no qualms about chasing after skirts or trousers both, the mighty guardian of Ra’s barque who kills the Uncreated One every dawn so that the sun may rise again.

Likewise, modern Kemetics and polytheists have had a melting pot of experiences with Set. Some know His strength and draw on that strength to help survive their challenges; some feel Him in the very whirlwind of challenges that they are tasked with surviving. Some use His brazen fearlessness and loudness to help themselves learn to be bold and speak up; some feel themselves on the receiving end of that relentlessness and volume. Some embrace change, and some fear it. Some hail Him as god of foreigners and outcasts; some are unsettled by His strangeness and liminality.

During Red Week, we all had an opportunity to explore more of Set. For those of us who knew Him fairly well, we got to know Him better; those who didn’t know Him at all could make an introduction. For those who felt Set left a bad taste in their mouths, they had an opportunity to hear from those who loved and respected Him and to see His other sides—to see all the good He does in the world, for gods and people alike. He brings the sunrise and brings us strength.

For myself, I’ve known Set as long as my sister, Saryt, has known Him. But I’ve always known Him through her, and every interaction I’ve had with Him has been informed by and colored by the lens through which she views Him as her Father. I am very fond of Set and respect Him immensely, and He is always welcome in my shrine, but He and I do not have a one-on-one relationship outside of the occasional hello and offering of jerky.

I see Set as a master of the Kemetic version of drunken kung fu. At any moment, He may appear to be out of control, lost to rage, stumblingly drunk, caught up in lust, distracted by emotions—but at all times, He is aware and canny. Set is never stupid. He is intelligent, and His metaphorical strikes are always well-planned and well-aimed. What He does, He does intentionally. Not to say He doesn’t feel the emotions He displays, but that He doesn’t lose Himself to them. He is still capable of doing what needs be done, even when it’s hard. (Again, this is only my personal view; your mileage may vary.)

Last week, as I poured all of my available time and energy into the layout and editing of the Red Week anthology, I was slapped with a minor epiphany. Even as I’ve been struggling with the worst depression this fall and winter in recent years, I’ve been doing my best to take care of projects and people—both at my job and at home—as best I possibly can. And when asked why I’m doing what I’m doing, or why I’m the one who has to do it, my answer is often, “Because I can.” Or because I’m the best available person for that particular job.

It hit me, then, that I’ve been living by a Set-ism.

Set kills the Uncreated One every morning because He’s the strongest of the gods—because He’s the only one Who’s strong enough to do it. And I, unconsciously, have been mirroring that conviction by putting myself forth, whenever I’m able, to do what needs done when I am suited to do it. By no means am I always the best one for the job, but when my efficiency, or endurance, or speed happen to be the highest stats in the current party… well. I step up, no matter my weariness or other concerns. It is a character trait, for better or for worse. And I’d never realized it before now.

Thanks, Set. Looks like You and I have something to talk about one-on-one after all.

Dua Set!