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PBP Fridays: H is for Harpy Eagles

PBP Fridays: H is for Harpy Eagles

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing harpy eagles in person for the first time at the Fort Worth Zoo. The walkway is enclosed beneath their habitat, and the male perched on the wire ceiling of the walkway with his meal while the female periodically flew from one side to the other. We could feel the wind off her wings; she was twice his size. On her last pass over our heads, a tiny piece of white down fluttered down through the wire mesh right in front of me, and I captured it carefully in both hands before it hit the ground.

I don’t usually connect strongly or easily with birds, but there was something special about the harpies (and Andean condors, but that’s for another post). My first step, when an animal catches my attention in that particular way, is to do some basic research and see what I can glean from that on a more symbolic/totemic/mythical level. If my interest or gut instinct continues to ring bells, I’ll do more in-depth research and study to continue interpreting science into symbol. (Yes, I am a zoologist-totemist. Best of both worlds!)

Harpies are very large eagles (but not the largest, as they are often described as being); they live in tropical lowland rainforests, and their wingspans are somewhat short for their overall size so they can maneuver in the dense forests. [Being sizable without forsaking agility; navigating a cluttered environment.] Like other eagles, the females are nearly twice the size of the males, but both sexes will take very large prey, up to their own weight, which is a startling feat of strength when we’re talking flying off with a live animal. [Choosing worthy and challenging targets instead of the easiest possible targets; operating at a level respective to one’s own strength and proficiency.]

Apex predators, harpy eagles primarily feed on arboreal mammals like sloths and monkeys, but will also eat other birds, reptiles, larger ungulates (even deer), or (very rarely) livestock. [Being versatile enough to find nourishment in many forms; being capable of seizing a variety of targets successfully.] Harpies have the largest talons of any living eagle, with claws longer than even a grizzly’s at 5.1 inches; their feet are immensely strong and capable of easily suppressing prey. [Extraordinary innate power, which can be used to anchor oneself or to seize and hold a target; ability to overpower and strangle.] Harpies tend to perch-hunt, scanning for prey while perched on boughs between short flights from tree to tree, but also still-hunt, which involves staying in one location and swooping down on prey when it’s spotted. They can also chase flying birds. [Versatility again in methodry; ability to keep moving or to wait motionlessly or to full-fledged chase, depending on the need.]

Harpies tend to be quiet when not attending their nests; they mate for life and raise one eaglet, ignoring their second egg unless the first fails to hatch. [Vocal when at “home” with family; focused on one partner and one offspring alone.] The nest is large, made of sticks, and frequently built in one of the tallest trees of South America, the kapok tree; it can be used for several clutches, which are spaced 2-3 years apart. [Finding safety and home-ness in high places; having a more stationary sense of home.] Both sexes will incubate the egg and bring back food for the other; the eaglet is fed and tended for the first year or more of its life. [Shared responsibilities, despite inequality in size; devotion to offspring past the point of strict necessity.]

Harpies tend to be aggressive and fearless of humans, leading them to be targeted by hunters, even though they pose no actual threat to human life as predators. [Persecution based on appearance instead of action; fearlessness in defending offspring and home.] Threatened primarily by habitat loss, they are anywhere from Critically Endangered to Near Threatened, depending on the area, but overall are classed as Near Threatened globally.

Overall, I’m getting an impression of lessons in strength (without forsaking agility), versatility (in both prey and hunting methods), and fierce devotion to (a small) family. Two particular tidbits that perked my ears were the boldness around humans and the size and strength of harpies’ talons. I am finding myself very interested… which means I get to do more and better research to see what else I can uncover. :D

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

Last year’s first H post was on heka (Egyptian magic).

Procession of Nebtu

Procession of Nebtu

Today is the last day of Peret, the ancient Egyptian season of growing; tomorrow is I Shomu I, the first day of the first month of Shomu, the beginning of the harvest and the heat. Today is also marked, on the Kemetic Orthodoxy calendar, as the Procession of Nebtu.

According to Henadology, Nebtu is a little-known consort of Khnum; Her name means “mistress of the region/district,” which sounds like as much a title as a proper name. A litany at Esna involving Her seems to indicate that She was regarded as a goddess of plant growth, especially edible plants, and so linked to the nourishment that comes from the land. With that understanding, it makes perfect sense for Her to enjoy a procession today, walking on the cusp between peak growth and first harvest.

Yesterday, I enjoyed a dinner with my partner and a new friend, who contributed fresh vegetables to our homecooked meal; today, my breakfast was leftover veggies, and half my dinner was a fresh salad. I did not know about Nebtu until I looked at my calendar and found the Henadology article on Her, well after both meals, but I would like to thank Her nonetheless for the green, delicious food I have had yesterday and today.

Hail, Nebtu, Lady in Green!
May You bless our fields,
which grace our tables with crops,
which satisfy our bellies!
I give thanks to You
for every green thing I eat
and for the fertility of the land.
Dua Nebtu!

Sepa, Centipede God

Sepa, Centipede God

Today is a Feast Day for Sepa, the centipede god of ancient Egypt. Sepa is considered to be a protector against poisonous bites and stings, which is a common attribute among deities of venomous creatures, including scorpions (Serqet) and snakes (Wadjet and others). He’s also invoked against the Uncreated One in its serpent form, reinforcing Sepa’s ability to protect mortals against everyday snakes.

The Kemetic Orthodoxy calendar lists Him as Heru-Sepa, or Horus-Who-is-Sepa, and as a son of Sekhmet. Unfortunately, on short notice, the most reliable information I can find on Sepa is the aforementioned link to Henadology, and the primary reference for that article is in French (which is fine) but not among my personal collection (which is less fine), so I can’t verify it first-hand. Nothing in the Henadology article, nor in the quick’n’cursory research I did, shows me how Sepa is a form of Heru; it seems like Sepa is more thoroughly linked to Wesir (Osiris) and funerary purifications, only encountering Heru when He brings Sepa (linked to the inundation) to Cairo. I freely admit that my initial spark of curiosity about Sepa was due to His being a son of Sekhmet, but without knowing from whence that came historically, I am hesitant to put my full weight on it as a bridge to Him.

All the same, I have been thinking about seeking out Netjeru with Whom I am unfamiliar or unacquainted and saying hello. Centipedes freak me right the hell out, so why not start with their god? (I have a strange sense of what constitutes a good idea.)

Things I have been extrapolating, inferring, and/or contemplating, which I have not verified in any historical source:

  • Most centipedes are primarily carnivorous and only eat vegetable matter when starving, but are otherwise opportunistic feeders. That means I feel pretty good about offering meats and/or cheeses to Sepa, but not fruits, and not really sweets (which are frequently grain-based).
  • Centipedes tend to be nocturnal, which means approaching Sepa after dark is not only a-okay but potentially downright preferential.
  • Centipedes are heavily dependent on water, since they dry out easily, so cool water is an exceptionally appropriate offering for a centipede god of the desert.
  • And since centipedes are so water-dependent, perhaps that partially explains Sepa’s link to the inundation: centipedes flourish as the flood courses through the land, providing them the essential moisture to thrive.
  • Some (unverified) online sites suggest that Sepa is associated with fertility for one or both of these two reasons: centipedes follow along after earthworms, which fertilize the soil as they pass; and Sepa has been depicted with the head of a donkey, linking Him to donkey manure used in fertilization of the fields.
  • Likewise, some sites suggest that part of Sepa’s protective role, especially in regards to protecting Wesir, is due to the fact that centipedes will eat the bugs that feast on a dead body.
  • Sepa has been depicted as a mummiform man with two small “horns” on His head; I wonder if these horns correspond with centipede forcipules?
  • Here (unverified site; I want to look this scene up in a book soon), Sepa is invoked as a god of the east in a purification by a sem-priest; I can only imagine He’s being called upon to purify the body or ka of all toxins.

So, tonight, I did a light purification and laid a modest offering spread for the Feast of Sepa: sausage slices and sharp cheddar, cool water, incense, and a candle. I invited Him in to partake of the food and drink and spent most of the time in shrine contemplating what little I had learned of Him and what other parts I was guessing at. I wondered if I was the only Kemetic who, in that moment, was offering to Him, as He is not a well-known god, but rather than feeling the enormity of a mostly-undistracted Netjeru’s direct attention, I got the distinct sense that He stays quite industrious in the Unseen, in the underworld, working to protect Wesir and to purify the kau who come to be weighed against Ma’at’s feather. I did have the pleasure (eh-heh) of receiving a few impressions of a rather large centipede, enjoying the offerings I’d laid out on my altar; I haven’t the faintest whether it was my imagination, one of Sepa’s netjeri, or Sepa Himself. Took a bit of self-control not to flinch, either way!

I reverted the food offerings, but left the water on the shrine to evaporate naturally (a slow process in a humid environment), my way of providing a longer-term offering symbolic of that which sustains all life—including centipedes.

Dua Sepa! May You never thirst!

Celebrating Feasts, Festivals, Processions, etc

Celebrating Feasts, Festivals, Processions, etc

When I was planning my Pagan Blog Project topics, earlier in the year, I listed “Feasts and Festivals” for one of the weeks of F. The Kemetic calendar has a lot of types of holidays, and I thought it would be really useful to my practice, and potentially to my readers, to figure out the differences and how I’d celebrate/observe them.

And then another Kemetic blogger beat me to the punch with a really well-written post about keeping Kemetic holidays, based on what we know and are willing and able to celebrate. *shakes fist!* :)

In all honesty, though, having that post already written sort of nullifies my need to go into great detail, so instead, I’m linking to it for my readers’ benefit and will do a quick, mostly-for-my-own-reference breakdown below.

Please note that I’m discussing how I myself do or will celebrate, not suggesting it be the end-all for anyone else! Holidays are a learning experience for me, and I don’t really do any of ’em the same way twice. Also, I do not actually celebrate every single Kemetic holiday… especially given that there’s one or more almost every day of the year! I pick and choose, based on my available time, my purity, and how close I am (or would like to be) to the Netjeru in question.

Feast: The perfect excuse to have a little extra awesome in one’s diet! I dedicate the meal of the day to that particular god, or offer Them a special small treat or drink.

Festival: No holds barred! I’ll usually base my activities/offerings on the characteristics of the Netjeru in festival and what They’re associated with, such as martial arts for Sekhmet or music for Hethert-Nut.

Procession: This is a hard one for me, as I don’t normally celebrate them currently. My ideas consist of taking a physical representation of the god on a walkabout, or taking myself out for a walk/drive and offering the time and experience to the god in question, almost like a walking meditation.

Saq (Appearance): Like festivals, these can be very flexible holidays, but I think I’d like my fallback idea to be a candle and incense in offering, and a few minutes of quiet contemplation/interaction in shrine. I feel like a Saq is a time for me to be receptive and attentive, rather than proactive and celebratory.

God Birthday: A time for gifts! Offerings of activities (like music-making) or physical presents (like art or flowers), as well as more traditional offerings of food, drink, candles, and incense. Like festivals, offerings and gifts will be Netjeru-specific.

Lunar Celebration: I’m not close to any of the traditional moon gods, so I currently don’t do anything here. What I’d liiike to do is establish one Netjeru as my go-to lunar deity and begin actually getting back into touch with the cycles of the moon…

Major Holiday: There’s usually enough information on the big holidays, like Wep Ronpet (New Year) and the Mysteries of Wesir (Osiris), that I don’t have to invent my own way of celebration, happily.

The Ancient Egyptian Calendar–At Your Fingertips?

The Ancient Egyptian Calendar–At Your Fingertips?

The ancient Egyptian calendar is amazing. It is scientifically measured and absolutely filled with festivals, feasts, processions, celebrations, and holy days. Tamara Siuda, accredited Egyptologist, has provided Kemetic Orthodoxy with a month-by-month calendar for years, and I have used it on a near-daily basis for over a year now. It has informed my practice and intrigued my inner reconstructionist; it has brought me closer to my gods, introduced me to new ones, and given me a broader taste of history and ancient Egyptian religion.

And now that calendar is coming into the world as a book!

This Kickstarter was funded in the first two hours, so it’s already going to happen. We get an ebook, huzzah!

But there’s so much more we could get, too. A coil-bound printed copy. Or even a mobile app. How’s that for insanely freaking useful and awesome?

Please, if you can spare a few dollars, back this project and help us bring even more forms of the the Ancient Egyptian Daybook to the public. I’ve been plugging in each new month’s Kemetic calendar into my Google calendar and synching it to my phone; I cannot tell you how excited I am at the prospect of an actual app to do this in a more efficient and user-friendly manner!

If you can’t afford to back the project, please take a few moments and spread the word. The Daybook is of interest not just to Kemetics, but to anyone who loves or studies ancient Egypt; this is both a spiritual and a historical project, and I can’t wait to see it completed!

Kemetic Resources and Academic Discernment

Kemetic Resources and Academic Discernment

This is a short post to let you know that I have, after a lot of foot-dragging, updated my Kemetic Resources page with a load of goodies: free and legal book downloads, links to scholarly sites and blogs, and other top-notch resources for new and seasoned Kemetics alike. I compiled these links myself, and though I have done my very best to include only reliable and informative sites/books, I cannot lay claim that all of them are 100% perfect. If, however, you have recommendations of links to add (or warnings of links to remove), please do chime in with a comment!

In direct relation to this, I’d like to point you all towards Sarduriur’s Academic Sources Guide for the Unversed, which explains how to discern a poor academic source from a trustworthy academic source. (Please note that this applies to research-based information, not personal experience and UPG!)

God Bios: Seshat (Seshet, Sesheta)

God Bios: Seshat (Seshet, Sesheta)

Please note, lovely readers: All of this is a work-in-progress. It will change as I continue digging through books and other sources. Do not take this as a rock-solid encyclopedic entry at any point. :)

Hail Seshat, She of the Golden Scrolls and Infinite Ink!

attributes

– libraries
– all forms of writing and notation
— said to have invented writing (whereas Djehuty gave it to humanity)
— census
— accounting
— record-keeping
— recording lives and deeds of men on the leaves of the sacred persea tree
— recording the pharaoh’s speeches
— recording the inventory of foreign captives and goods
– involved in starting the foundations of major building projects (“stretching of the cord” ceremony)
— architecture
— surveying
– astronomy
– mathematics
– history

appearance

– a woman dressed in the long skirt and leopardskin of a Sem (funerary) priest
— the leopard/cheetah spot pattern of the Sem garb represented the stars, a symbol of eternity, and was associated with the night sky
– crowned by a seven-pointed star or rosette, crowned by downturned horns or a bow
— the horns/bow may be related to a crescent moon shape and thus to Djehuty, Her father or consort
– holding a palm stem, which is notched to denote years (especially the years of the pharaoh’s life/reign)
– holding other tools, such as the knotted cords used to survey land and buildings or a stake and mallet

relationships

– equated with Nebt-het and Nit
– consort to Djehuty (Thoth)
– daughter of Djehuty
– sister of Djehuty
– occasionally considered “just” a female aspect or version of Djehuty
– mother of Hornub, “gold Horus”
— linked to Aset (Isis)

epithets

– The Female Scribe (meaning of Seshat)
– The Seven-horned (Sefkhet-abwy)
– Mistress of the House of Books
– Mistress of the House of Architects
– Lady of Builders
– Foremost in the Library
– Mistress of Books
– Mistress of Potters

notes

– Seshat was the only female depicted in the act of writing, though others have been shown holding scribe implements.
– Spell 10 of the Coffin Texts states “Seshat opens the door of heaven for you.”
– She had priests, but no formal temple.

primary sources

– Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt (Geraldine Pinch)
– Nebt-het: Lady of the House (Tamara Siuda)
– The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt (Richard Wilkinson)
– The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses (George Hart)
– The Ancient Egyptian Prayer Book (Tamara Siuda)

PBP Fridays: L is for Lugh

PBP Fridays: L is for Lugh

When I wrote about Brigid, I said I’d also write about Lugh when the time came. Well, we’ve reached the Ls in the Pagan Blog Project, so time to step up! As with Brigid, I’m going to finally do the basic research I didn’t do as a pagan youth and really dig into Lugh’s mythology and characteristics before talking a little bit about my personal experience with and opinion of Him.

Please note, lovely readers: All of this is a work-in-progress. It will change as I continue digging through books and other sources. Do not take this as a rock-solid encyclopedic entry at any point. :)

attributes

– master of all skills
— He is a wright, a smith, a champion, a swordsman, a harpist, a hero, a poet and historian, a sorcerer, and a craftsman
— gained entrance to King Nuada’s court in Tara by having all these skills in one man
– harvest
— fertility of crops
– light
— the sun (this is only in modern interpretation; there is no historical basis for this)
— lightning
– storms
— creates storms when He spars with Balor
– warrior
— His spear was Gae Assail, the Spear of Assal, one of the four treasures of the Tuatha de Danann; also called “the famous yew of the wood” and/or “a yew tree, the finest of the wood”
— another spear was Areadbhair (“Slaughterer”), whose tip had to be kept immersed in a pot of water to keep it from igniting
— Lugh’s spear was so blood-thirsty that only by “steeping its head in a sleeping-draught of pounded fresh poppy seeds” would it rest and cease struggling to be let free to slay
— His sword was Fragarach, Manannan’s sword
— uses a sling-stone/sling-shot
—— “Lugh’s sling rod was the rainbow and the Milky Way which was called Lugh’s Chain.” (snippet from an untried online source)
– king
— Nuada of the Silver Hand made Lugh king of the Tuatha De Danann
– druidry
— shapeshifting
— magic
– games of skill, including ball games and horsemanship
— credited with creating Fidhchell, the classic Celtic boardgame
– oversees journeys (Julius Caesar)
– oversees business transactions (Julius Caesar)
— Lugh’s name may be derived from lugios, “oath”
— the Irish word lugh connotes ideas of “blasphemy, cussing, lies, bond, joint, binding oath”
– threes (triplets keep showing up in His myths)
– ravens
– lynxes

relationships

– Lugos was a consort of Rosmerta, a nature goddess
– Lugh was a consort of Dechtine, granddaughter of the Dagda
– husband to Bui and Nas, daughters of Ruadri, king of Britain, and Echtach and/or Englic
– father of Cuchulainn (by Dechtine) and Cnu Deireoil and Ibic (by Nas)
– son of Cian Mac Diancecht of the Tuatha de Danann and Ethniu Ni Bhaloir of the Formorians
– brother of Ebliu, wife of Fintan
– half-brother to Muirne of the White Neck
– foster child of Manannan Mac Lir and Tailtiu, wife of Eochaid Mac Eirc
– grandchild of Dian Cecht, Balor of the Evil Eye (whom Lugh slew in battle), and Ceithlenn
– His horse was Enbarr of the Flowing Mane, on loan from Manannan
– His dog was Failinis
– slain by Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht, and Mac Gréine; drowned near Loch Lugborta

names and titles

– Lugh or Lug (Irish)
– Lú (Irish)
– Lugos/Lugus (Gaulish) (lacks the “master of all arts” attribute)
– Llew Llaw Gyffes (Welsh)
– Lugh Lámhfada (Lugh the Long-Handed)
– Lugaid
– Lugaidh
– Lonnansclech
– Luga
– Lámfada
– Lugh the Light
– Samildánach (“All Skills”)
– Ildánach
– mac Céin
– mac Ethlenn
– Maicnia (“boy-warrior”)
– Lonnbeimnech (“Fierce Striker”)
– “The Bright One with the Strong Hand” (Lleu’s epithet)

notes

– Lugos was the patron of Lugodunum (Lyons, France) in Gaul.
– Worshipped during the 30-day Lughnasadh festival, along with Rosmerta.
— Fertility magic during this festival was used for good crops and harvest.
— In Irish Gaelic, the word for August is lunasa.
– As king, He led the Tuatha de Danann to victory over the Formorians, slaying His grandfather, Balor of the Evil Eye, with a slingshot and turning that eye’s power back on the Formorians.
– Was prophecied to grow up and slay Balor of the Evil Eye, so Balor locked his daughter away; Lugh’s father found and seduced her, and she bore triplets, two of which were drowned, but Lugh survived and was rescued and fostered.
This is a great article about learning at Lugh’s feet.
A summary of some of Lugh’s myths and attributes.

My experience with Lugh was with Him in a strongly solar role; He was the first pagan god I encountered and spent time following, and I’ll probably always remember Him as the god in the sun Who taught me about the cycle of the seasons. True to my then-Wiccan roots, I followed Him as He crested in high summer, celebrated in August, and died with the harvest; as the sun, He was reborn at Yule, and I waited all the dark winter for His strength and light to return to my part of the world. (It’s important to note that this was about when I first started experiencing SAD – seasonal affective disorder – and so the mythological death of my god each autumn became inextricably linked with the physiological and psychological effects of winter-time depression.) Though Lugh as the sun was of primary importance to me, His mastery of all skills and patronship of human jacks-of-all-trades came in as a close second; as a scanner with a great deal of interests and hobbies, I was delighted to find a god who had more than one single specialty.

I later parted ways with Lugh, amicably and with gratitude, to follow in the footsteps of another deity: Sekhmet. I still feel a great appreciation for what He taught me and a great respect for Who He is.

In parting, a prayer to Lugh, found here:

Great Lugh!
Master of artisans,
leader of craftsmen,
patron of smiths,
I call upon you and honor you this day.
You of the many skills and talents,
I ask you to shine upon me and
bless me with your gifts.
Give me strength in skill,
make my hands and mind deft,
shine light upon my talents.
O mighty Lugh,
I thank you for your blessings.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.