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A Month of Written Devotions #1 – Who

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.

lateness is not the same as failure

lateness is not the same as failure

I studied Sepa’s painted face, lit by flickering candlelight, and told Him I was four weeks behind. After Wep Ronpet, I had planned to do one entry in the Obscure Gods project every weekend, and I had only managed an average of one every other weekend.

I did not make excuses to Him. When He agreed to be the sponsor of my project, I had given Him the ability to hold me accountable for my promises and my work—in exchange for attention, time, offerings, and prayers that would flow His way every time I cracked open my books. I needed someone to invest in this project with me so I didn’t simply peter out and give up when the going got hard.

Well, the going was hard. I wasn’t capable of my usual style of catching up; I couldn’t do more than one entry in a day, not when one entry consisted of several hours of research, essay-writing, and creating prayers and hekau. It was exhilarating and exhausting and gratifying and draining, worth every minute and every word and every straining synapse… but not something I could rush or speed-write.

Sepa does not use words with me; we don’t have a particularly close or emotional relationship that might warrant words. He does His duty, purifying the dead, fighting isfet, and guarding against poisonous creatures, and His overwhelming efficiency and work ethic inspire me to get off my ass.

“Right,” I told His image, turning to the stack of books at my feet. “I’ll catch up.” My progress will be gradual, constrained by realistic estimations of my time and energy, but being late isn’t the same as failing to do it at all.

After all, there are little-known Netjeru waiting for some extra attention out there.

akhu work

akhu work

When I asked if I should explore my genealogy in service to my akhu, Nebt-het answered with a firm yes.

So, two weeks ago, I picked up a 14-day free trial to Ancestry.com, which seemed like a good place to start. At the time, I only knew two names of my akhu, my ancestors: my dad’s dad and my mom’s mom, both of whom passed when I was a teenager.

My research exploded. In a single night, I found some 40+ new names of my akhu. Some I had heard in passing from family members but hadn’t memorized; others were entirely new. I found out that my great-great-grandmother’s nickname was the same as the one I bestowed upon my sister when she was 12ish and still use to this very day, which was a delight. I discovered that my great-grandfather is buried three hours away; I had no idea any of my bloodline had been in Texas.

Ironically, my ability to find older generations along either of my “named” lines (that is, my parents’ last names, rather than those who married in) stymied me until my mom sent me a tiny family tree that filled in a couple crucial names… and, last Sunday, I put in more hours following those leads. Determined to make the most of my free trial, I was up until 3 am (thank gods for a holiday weekend!) that Sunday, going through records and tracing the ever-widening web of my akhu.

I found out that my great-aunt was an artist… and an amateur drag-racer in the sixties. I saw pictures of her husband as a child. I came across my great-grandmother, whose name grabbed and held my attention like a punch every time I saw it, and despite having zero personal information for her or photos of her, I realized I had a strong and persistent mental image in my head, unbidden. I found out that an akh-by-marriage had served in the First Special Service Force in WWII, and that his unit’s name was almost identical with the name of the elite unit of a military fantasy novel I’ve been writing. I found pictures of that akh’s sister, whose personality and badassery shone brightly through those photos.

I have been, throughout this entire process, utterly floored by not only what I’m discovering, but at my own reactions to the process. I have never been attached to or overly interested in my blood family outside of my very direct relatives (parents, three grandparents, and my mom’s sister). My own emotional responses as I’m finding photos, obituaries, and just raw names of my akhu are strange and new and strong. This is definitely work I need to do, work that is worth doing, but it is sobering and exciting all at once. One of my akhu lived to 101; one of them died at 15. There are stories here that I can sense under the surface, but that I will probably never know, except possibly by personal gnosis.

This is hard, and good, and worthwhile, and I am grateful to Nebt-het for pushing me to do it, and I am grateful to my akhu for being my akhu.

PBP Fridays: Q is for Qebshenef

PBP Fridays: Q is for Qebshenef

Qebshenef is one of the Four Sons of Heru (Horus), a group of netjeri (spirits) associated with the canopic jars that hold the organs of the mummified deceased. The Four Sons also protect the throne of Wesir (Osiris) in the Unseen and assist the deceased through the Duat. Each of the Sons is protected by one of the funerary goddesses and associated with one of the cardinal directions.

Qebshenef, whose name means “cooling his brother (with water),” is hawk-headed and holds the intestines. He is guarded by Serqet (Selkis), the scorpion goddess, and associated with the south.

Imset, whose name means “the kindly one,” is human-headed and wears the nemes headcloth. He holds the liver, is guarded by Aset (Isis), and is associated with the west.

Duamutef, whose name means “praising his mother,” is jackal-headed and holds the stomach. He is guarded by Nit (Neith), the Great He-She, and associated with the north.

Hapy (not Hapi, god of the Nile), whose name means “runner,” is baboon-headed and holds the lungs. He is guarded by Nebt-het (Nephthys) and associated with the east.

While the Four Sons have the above associations in regards to their canopic jars, they also assist the deceased in different ways, including carrying or lifting up the deceased, preparing a ladder into the sky, protecting against attacks and decay, preventing hunger and thirst, bringing the deceased a boat “which Khnum built,” and steering that boat.

The Sons themselves are alternatingly stated to be sons of Aset (Isis) and Heru-wer (Horus the Elder) or Khenty-irty (Horus of Khem), but were also implied to be sons of Heru-sa-Aset (Horus the Younger) by virtue of being the grandchildren of Wesir (Osiris). They’ve also been described as the bau (souls) of Pe (a city in Lower Egypt) and Nekhen (a city in Upper Egypt), along with Heru Himself. In various texts, they’re identified as stars near Ursa Major, as emanations of Heru or as Heru’s bau (souls), and as the king’s “children’s children” (the king being as Wesir, Heru’s own father). They’ve also been identified in spells as the hands, arms, fingernails, and/or feet of the deceased or described accompanying the deceased through the Duat.

Sources:

  • http://kemet.org/names-of-netjer
  • http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/religion/sons_of_horus.htm
  • http://henadology.wordpress.com/theology/netjeru/horus-sons-of/

Henadology’s article is particularly well-fleshed-out and worth further reading, as my entry here merely summarizes the basics of the Four Sons.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Friday: P is for Polyvalent Logic

PBP Friday: P is for Polyvalent Logic

Kemetic Orthodox and many other Kemetics employ polyvalent logic, more commonly known as fuzzy logic, to understand and integrate many of ancient Egypt’s myths. Polyvalent logic proposes that true/false is not a binary, a switch to be flipped on or off, but a sliding scale instead—and with that increased vagueness, more than one thing can be true at the same time (even if one is frequently slightly “less” true than the other).

For example, there are half a dozen or more Kemetic creation myths, none of which reference any of the others; rather than choosing one to be the singularly “true” one, they’re all considered to be true. (With the caveat that most Kemetics don’t take them to be literal truths, but metaphorical or symbolic ones.) Similarly, all the gods involved in those myths are all called creator gods, none excluding the others. Nit (Neith), the Great He-She, Who gave birth to the sun and thus created childbirth as well as all of creation, and Khnum, the artisan, Who created Himself in the primordial waters of the Nun and Who shapes each human’s body on His potter’s wheel, are just as much creators as Ptah, the Master Architect, Who made creation from the thoughts in His heart that He spoke aloud. Neither the gods nor Their stories negate each other as true.

This is, in part, because Netjeru are bendy. They flow into each other’s roles. Over time, one can become equated with, syncretized with, or aspected with another. Older gods will get consumed by the popularity of newer gods and fall into obscurity… or They’ll combine, creating an entirely new Netjeru with properties of both. Depending on how you tilt your head, the Horus that you greet may be Heru-wer, the solar warrior and Set’s twin; Heru-sa-Aset, young king and son of Aset (Isis); Heruakhety, of the two horizons; Heru-behdety, the winged disk; Heru-pa-khered, the child; Heru-em-akhet, the divinization of the Giza Sphinx; or others.

I am extraordinarily grateful that Kemeticism supports polyvalent logic, as I have a hard time thinking in true/false binaries myself. I can acknowledge Nit as the Creatrix and Ptah as the Maker of All in the same breath, and neither is false, neither overrides the other. And that fuzzy logic can extend outwards and make room for multiple belief systems in the world, none of them a singular truth and none of them invalidated by the rest. There are many paths we can take, be they spiritual or not, and they are vastly different, and none of them are wrong.

Standard Disclaimer: I do not support paths that promote hatred, unnecessary violence, bigotry, etc. But there are plenty that have a core of love, peace, balance, respect, responsibility, and humility, and those are the ones I write of here.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: N is for Neper

PBP Fridays: N is for Neper

Neper (also Nepry, Nepri) is an ancient Egyptian god of grain—He is, in fact, the personification of grain and considered to be immanent in it. Often described as the son of Renenutet, a cobra goddess of the harvest, Neper is linked to Hapy, god of the yearly inundation, and to Wesir (Osiris), Who became associated with grain and the fertility of the land as His cult grew in popularity.

He is depicted as a man holding sheaves of wheat, with wheat in His hair, or covered in dots representing wheat or barley. He can also be shown as an infant suckling at Renenutet’s breast or as Hapy-like with an exaggerated belly and breasts to indicate the abundance and fertility inherent in Their aspects.

He is invoked in an apotropaic spell that possibly references a scorpion come from the grain fields or barns:

Oh Nepri-heti, stretch your arm towards it, scratch and drive away what you have brought!

In the Coffin Texts, there’s a particular spell (Spell 330) for becoming Neper, which is one of the rare times a god is said to live and die; the spell covers not only the cyclical death of the grain and the god, but also its/His pseudo-immortality as part of the cycle of life, as the grain feeds humans and animals, and Neper-as-ma’at (“truth” below) feeds the gods:

I live and I die, I am Osiris, I have gone in and out by means of you, I have grown fat through you, I flourish through you, I have fallen through you. I have fallen on my side, the gods live on me. I live and grow as Neper whom the honoured ones cherish, one whom Geb hides, I live and I die, for I am emmer, and I will not perish. I have entered into truth, I have upheld truth, for I am a possessor of truth. I have gone forth in truth and my shape is raised up . . .

Neper is invoked and identified with in other Coffin Text spells, often in the dual role of providing a supply of grain for the deceased and also feeding other Netjeru, netjeri (non-god, non-human-ghost spirits), and still-living humans. Neper is also called the “god of smoked grain,” which seems to be linked by fragrance or smoke to conveying the deceased soul to various places or even helping manifest the soul visibly. He may be linked to the visual manifestation of souls because grain was such a foundational element for “manifesting” civilization. See Spell 101 for Sending A Man And His Soul:

Go, go, yonder soul of mine, that yonder man may see you in your living face wherever you are. He stands up and sits down when you are in front of him. … It is this grain-god who lives after death and who removes you from the portal of the sunshine, and you go forth from it . . .

Dua Neper, god of all grains, Who feeds Netjeru and humans alike with His essence!

Sources:

  • The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts (R.O. Faulkner)
  • Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts (J.F. Bourghouts)
  • The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt (R. Wilkinson)
  • Nepry on Henadology

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: I is for Ihy, The Musician

PBP Fridays: I is for Ihy, The Musician

I am writing this late, but yesterday was III Shomu 12, the day of Ihy’s birth… so it is not inappropriate that I catch up on this entry now. :)

Ihy is a child god, son of Hethert (Hathor) and Heru-wer (Horus the Elder), though He is occasionally described as being the son of other Netjeru. His name has been interpreted as “sistrum player” or “musician,” as well as “calf” (being that Hethert often took the form of a cow)—He is called the Bull of Confusion, the Lord of Hearts. He is the youthful patron or creator of music, the sistrum, and the jubilation that emanated from both sound and instrument. While He is primarily a joyful, musical god, He was also linked to the afterlife as “the lord of bread” and was “in charge of the beer,” a boon both for mortal offerings and the cyclical pacification of His mother in Her name of Sekhmet. He has also been linked, as other child gods were, to the blue lotus that represented renewal and birth and was called “the child who shines in the lotus.”

He was usually depicted nude, with the side-lock denoting youthfulness, often with a finger to His mouth; however, he was not always depicted as child-sized and was occasionally shown as large as adult Netjeru. To the right here, He’s shown wearing a uraeus and holding a sistrum decorated with His mother’s face. In some birth houses, He was equated with the king, and scenes celebrated the conception and birth of the divine child, which identified the king with Ihy and bestowed upon him the powers and protections of the child god Himself.

Spell 334 describes His birth:

My awesomeness precedes me
As Ihy, the Son of Hathor,
I am he who begets a begetting,
I flowed out from between her thighs,
In this my name Jackal of the Light,
I broke forth from the egg…
I escaped in her blood,
I am the Lord of blood. I am a turbulent bull…
I came into being, I crept, I traveled around.
I grew, I became tall like my father

In the Coffin Texts, Ihy’s resemblance to His mother Hethert is described:

My perfume is the incense
which my mother Hathor uses for her censing,
My efflux is the sacred oil
which my mother Hathor uses for her flesh…
My intestines are the beads of her menat
which my mother Hathor places at her throat,
And my hands are her sistrum
which my mother Hathor
Uses for her contentment.

And, for His (one day belated) birthday, a modern offering:

A song for You, O Ihy,
most musical of all Netjeru!
A song for You and a song for me,
that we may sing together!
As You shake the sistrum for Your mother
that She may be made glad,
so I shake the sistrum for You
that You may share in my joy!
A song for us, O Ihy,
to exult and celebrate life!

Sources:

  • Egyptian Mythology (Geraldine Pinch)
  • The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt (Richard Wilkinson)
  • The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses (George Hart)
  • Hathor Rising (Alison Roberts)

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

Last year’s second I post was on isfet.

PBP Fridays: I is for Iah, The Moon

PBP Fridays: I is for Iah, The Moon

To ancient Egyptians, the deities associated with the sun were usually goddesses, typically playing the role of the protective and vengeful Eye of Ra, and the deities Who were associated with the moon were usually male. Iah, Whose name means “moon,” was not only a lunar god—He was the moon itself, in much the same way that Aten was the sun in the physical-ball-of-boiling-gasses sense. While most of Iah’s attributes were usurped over time by more popular gods like Djehuty (Thoth) and Khonsu, He was originally associated with the symbol of the crescent moon, the ibis, and the falcon. Iah can be shown as the “adult” version of Khonsu, Who is a child god, when Iah wears a full wig instead of Khonsu’s youthful side-lock. In addition to the wig, Iah is depicted with a beard, a tall staff, and a headdress of either the full moon and crescent moon (shown right) or the Atef crown, most commonly worn by Wesir (Osiris), atop the moon symbols; rarely, Iah can also be seen with an ibis head.

While Iah never gained great cult importance or popularity, the moon as the left eye of Heru (Horus) had plenty of mythic significance. In the Contendings of Horus and Set, wherein which the two gods battled for the throne that Wesir (Osiris) had vacated upon His death, Set wounded and/or tore out Heru’s eye. The waxing and waning of the moon reflected its destruction and restoration; that Djehuty often aided Heru in finding or healing His eye only linked Djehuty more strongly with the moon. Lunar eclipses could also reflect tumult among the Netjeru and damage done to Heru’s eye; some myths suggest that Set took the form of a black pig and swallowed the moon whole, only regurgitating it at Djehuty’s intervention. The lunar cycle has also been linked to Wesir’s own destruction and rebirth as the king of the dead, which may tie into why Iah is occasionally depicted with Wesir’s Atef crown.

As a small modern offering:

Hail, gleaming Eye of the moon!
Iah Who shines as the sun in the night,
Whose form is silver and ever-shifting,
I meet Your gaze and admire Your beauty.
Hail Iah, the moon at every shape!
Your face is always turned towards us below
even as You slice into darkness
and then back into purest light.
Hail Iah, Who gives us sight in shadow!
Hail Iah, the falcon’s watchful Eye!

Sources:

  • Egyptian Mythology (Geraldine Pinch)
  • The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt (Richard Wilkinson)
  • The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses (George Hart)

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

Last year’s first I post was on immanence.