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Home is a Goddess

Home is a Goddess

I was born into the arms of a goddess, and it’s taken me nearly thirty years to realize that.

In October, I stood on the front porch of the house I grew up in, where my mom and her love now live, and looked out at the night. It was cool and crisp and damp, just like every autumn I’ve ever known at home, and brilliantly colorful where the porch light touched the turning leaves.

I don’t know why it hit me in that precise moment. Something about the shape of the yard, curling upwards towards the dirt road; something about the darkness and the trees and the stars overhead, outnumbering any city sky’s view.

But my first home, where I was born and raised, where I make my faithful yearly pilgrimage, is a goddess in and of Herself.

Her name is West Virginia.


source: sugarandcloth.com

I find it relatively easy to describe how I perceive and relate to Kemetic deities—even more experiential and less intellectual Celtic gods don’t tangle my typing fingers too badly. But trying to describe West Virginia as a goddess stymies me.

The endless rolling mountains with their soft curves and bald patches where tumbled rocks jut sharply outwards, the riotous green forests with their undercoat of briars and brush, the vibrant colors of autumn countered by the chill of grey rain, the enormous sacred silence when two feet of unpolluted snow fills the yard and hides half the cars, the abundance of running water in all directions and in all sizes of earthy beds, the white-tailed deer and squirrels and rabbits and black bears, the smell of honeysuckle in the evening and fog in the morning, the winding roads that crawl up and down the knuckles of the hills.

That is the body of my goddess, and Her heart holds the first twenty years of my life safe within it.

Making my adoration of Her a formal thing seems contrived. I will not have an altar or a shrine; what does such a thing serve when She is a place far greater than my paid patch of land outside Her borders? I don’t know how to connect my sense of Her with how I honor and interact with my other, more humanized gods.

But I have always felt it in my bones when I go home, when I stop being too far away to feel Her, and now I understand why I will always belong in the Appalachian mountains, regardless of how many other heart-felt homes I may have, regardless of the fact that I will probably never live within Her again.

To West Virginia, my goddess, my first home, I send all the love I have in me.

elevating darkness to the realm of stars

elevating darkness to the realm of stars

From When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams:

I want to feel both the beauty and the pain of the age we are living in. I want to survive my life without becoming numb. I want to speak and comprehend words of wounding without having these words become the landscape where I dwell. I want to possess a light touch that can elevate darkness to the realm of stars.

I am awestruck with how deeply these words resonate with my understanding of my Mother Nebt-het and my own purpose as Her child.


Art by Euphreana.

PBP Fridays: X is for Xeric Gods

PBP Fridays: X is for Xeric Gods

Xeric is an adjective meaning “adapted to a dry environment” (thanks, Dictionary.com!). Just as each pantheon is adapted to the environment in which its culture lives and dies, so too are the Egyptian gods well-adapted to the dance of desert-and-flood of the Nile river valley. In other words, the Netjeru are xeric deities.

I’ve always found it intriguing to compare the Netjeru I’ve come to love with other, often more popular, pantheons. While it’s certainly true that we human devotees have a tendency to categorize deities across cultures – the “mother goddess” or the “young king” or the “magician” are deity archetypes that persist around the world – the gods of ancient Egypt are often strangers to their pantheonic counterparts.

For example, Kemetics lack an explicit god of the sea… or of snow (outside of a blizzard)… or of forests… because Kemet lacks snow and forests, and the sea was the realm of outside-Kemet, of foreigners. We must then extrapolate and infer: Well, Set is a god of foreigners and foreign lands, and there is a myth where He tamed the angry sea, so perhaps Him—or gods associated with the Nun, the primordial waters, such as Nit. Set is also hailed as a god of all kinds of storms, so blizzards are His – but what of gentle, restful snowfall? I found myself associating winter with Nebt-het not too long ago. And for forests, ancient Egypt had deities of papyrus marshes and tree goddesses, but neither of those truly matches the sum of what a forest is.

Coming from the northern Appalachians with a grounding basis in Celtic mythology, I still struggle sometimes to relate the land in which I live to the gods that I worship. I’ve certainly gotten better over the past couple years, having pondered how to match the Kemetic yearly cycle with my local region’s cycle and how I travel with Egyptian gods on American soil. However, given that the tree-furred mountains of my home state and the endless tides of the sea command so much of my heart and ka, it’s still a little strange to lack a Name to put to those natural forces, short of the ones I can intuit or logic-leap to.

On the other hand, I find it fascinating and an enjoyable intellectual exercise to figure out how to fill the “gaps,” so to speak. Need a god that suits the alpine tundra of Nevada and Colorado? Well, it’s a harsh and dry and often-cold place outside of civilization, which makes Set an appropriate choice. Need a god of waterfalls? Given the abundance of water and the force as it falls, Hapy as god of the Nile might suit—or one of the deities of the inundation specifically, like Anuket. Need a god of, say, computer languages and software or website coding? Well, Seshat created the system of writing and all written symbols, and She’s the Lady of Builders to boot, so if you’re making a digital “house” with a particular language, She might fit!

Even though it’s occasionally a challenge to relate to gods so well-adapted to a vastly different environment than the one I live in, I still love the challenge of exploring Them and Their nuances to find where the borders touch and the lands overlap in Them.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: X is for Being an Example

PBP Fridays: X is for Being an Example

(Look, we have to get creative for words that start with X, okay. :D)

Whether it delights us or intimidates us, we are living examples of our chosen and unchosen labels. Pagan, gay, furry, poly, atheist, Christian, genderqueer, scholar, artist, mechanic, writer, husband, mother, boss, entrepreneur, introvert, Aspie—whatever we can be categorized as, we also humanize by our very existence. It’s easier to hate and fear the unknown than to stare at your older sister when she tells you she’s transgendered and choose to hate the sibling you grew up with and already love.

We are polytheists, pagans, witches, reconstructionists, revivalists, neo-whatevers, eclectics. We have chosen to strike out on a path that was not the one into which we were born (in most cases). We have chosen to forge our own spirituality that fulfills our needs and satisfies our desires and aligns to our truths.

We are examples of our choices, of our paths, of our principles. Even if we’d rather not be in the spotlight, we are; it is part of human nature to observe and form opinions about other people. It’s how social animals function.

Look in the metaphorical mirror. Are you the kind of example you would be proud to show to those looking from the outside in at your path? Would you be able to say, “Look at this person! This person is imperfect and growing and learning from their mistakes, but you know what? This person has their heart and spirit in the right place, and they are doing the work they feel needs to be done, and they are living up to their beliefs.”

If not, what will you do to change that?

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: V is for Voice

PBP Fridays: V is for Voice

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.

~ Maya Angelou

How do you speak when you’re in ritual, in worship, working magic, making prayers? Do you speak aloud, or does your voice stay between your ears? Is your voice whispery, mumbling, humming, projecting loudly, flat, crackling?

It took me months before I was comfortable speaking the words of ritual outloud, and even then, it took me months more—and a voice lesson on CD—before I used my voice’s strength and pitch to support the words I was speaking.

Now my breath and the sound that is me both support my heka and my prayers without conscious effort. It was worth the challenge of starting.

Music is the voice that tells us that the human race is greater than it knows.

~ Napoleon Bonaparte

The human voice is the organ of the soul.Have you ever sung in shrine, in circle, when you’re alone (with all the gods and ancestors and spirits watching)? Do you sing praises, or songs, or prayers, or the very words of magic as though spellwork and songwork are one and the same?

It was my sister who first had the idea to sing the words of purification and offering in the Kemetic Orthodoxy rite of Senut. It was Hethert-Nut Who first requested songs of me in shrine—not even Kemetic songs, but just any songs, because She liked the sound of my voice. It was hard for me to sing into the silence of Her expectations.

I sing for Her and my other Netjeru regularly now, songs I’ve made for Them and songs from others that They and I both love. It’s still hard to break the silence in shrine—and still so worth it when I do.

The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.

~ Neil Gaiman

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

the Feast of Heka

the Feast of Heka

Now I am Heka. What I said was good, and what came forth from My mouth was good, and what I now say, the same shall be performed, for I am Heka.

~ Coffin Texts, Utterance 325

Today is a feast for Heka, the god Who is the manifestation of heka, the innate quasi-magical power of authoritative speech. It is a very good day to ponder which words come from your mouth and fingers, what impact those words might have, and what power your own voice holds to effect change in your life and this world.

And, since it is a feasting holiday, I would encourage you to also contemplate what you are feeding the mouth that is the conduit for such influence that your words hold.

To Heka, I offer all good and pure things, may they please and nourish You. As You are fed and strengthened, so my own heka is fed and strengthened; as I feed and strengthen my own heka, so You are fed and strengthened.

KRT: Bargaining with Gods

KRT: Bargaining with Gods

This post is part of the Kemetic Round Table, which aims to answer some of the most common questions and provide a wealth of diverse options for the Kemetic novice to explore.

Bribing and Threatening the Gods: Can you do it? If you can, how so? And is it somehow ‘blasphemous’ or ‘immoral’ to do so?

Can one bargain with, bribe, or even threaten a god? Absolutely. It’s even historically attested. (Here’s a great treatise on ancient Egyptian magical practices. Click on the arrow next to “4th edition” for a free and legal download!) Now, whether or not doing so is wise or will be effective is not as straightforward an answer, and whether an individual considers it blasphemous or immoral is up to that person’s own value system. Again, it was done in antiquity, so it is not automatically seen as outside of ma’at.

For myself, I don’t like the terms “bribe” or “threaten,” though they’re both accurate in some instances; I prefer “bargaining.” Bargaining gives the impression that all parties involved have agency and the ability to accept or deny the proposed bargain, and that said bargain is a compromise created to provide a win-win situation for everyone. While I have bribed gods with extra offerings in hopes of extra blessings, and I have threatened to not do X for a god if I don’t get Y from Them, I do try to stay within the positive and collaborate realm of bargaining.

When I first met Sekhmet, this is how I worked with Her. I knew She had no reason to give me something for nothing, so I would trade an offering for a blessing or a favor for Her heavy-handed assistance in something Really Important. It never struck me as strange at the time, and years later, I learned that this was pretty standard practice for ancient Egyptians. I also know better than to try to bargain for something that would fall outside ma’at; I don’t think that would end well if I did, whether I got what I was after or not.

To elaborate on that point for a moment: things that fall outside of ma’at would fall outside of the natural balance of our existence. If I need protection from a malevolent person, that’s one thing and well within ma’at; if I’m seeking vengeance on someone who wronged me by accident and not malice, that’s entirely another. Curses were part of rituals and spells in antiquity, but I don’t engage with them in my reconstructive practice; it’s a personal choice, so I wouldn’t involve a god in trying to curse someone for me.

Now that I work with gods other than the Red Lady, I’ve learned that some Netjeru do, in fact, give blessings or help out simply because They love me and They care. And, likewise, sometimes I give offerings or favors simply because I love Them and want to honor Them. But bargaining still comes into my life on a regular basis, especially when I feel like I’m asking for something that falls outside the realm of “casual” blessings. Asking my partner to grab me more tea when he gets up is a casual ask; asking my partner to clean the entire house by himself is something I would feel the need to repay in some fashion. Similarly, I want to at least offer a token of my gratitude if a god’s going to help me out in a more major way, even if it’s not a perfect one-to-one return on the god’s investment.

As for the “how” of bargaining with a god, I’ve found absolute transparency to be best. Tell Them up front that you want X and you’re willing to give them Y in exchange for Their help. I also tend to be very specific, both in what I’m asking for and what I’m offering; the biggest trade I can make is for an open-ended I.O.U. of the god’s choosing, and I offer that as rarely as possible. More often, I’ll exchange an extra food or drink offering, or a piece of art, or a service in Their name, and I always try to match the effort needed in my request to the effort I’ll expend on the offering. A god can certainly do a lot more than a mortal like me, but I still want to show appropriate respect for Their time and assistance.

It’s also worth noting that not all gods will want to bargain, while some gods may not be willing to give a petitioner everything asked of Them without being compensated in some way. Respect and humility is key to any relationship to a god, whether or not bargaining is involved.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out other takes on bargaining with the gods by my fellow Round Table bloggers!

PBP Fridays: T is for Ten Things Lists

PBP Fridays: T is for Ten Things Lists

Few years back, I took a course on gratitude mindfulness, and since then, I have used the “ten things” method to bring some perspective to my bad days and foul moods. If I’m feeling terrible, I’ll make an effort–and it is often a real challenge–to list out ten things that make me happy or for which I’m grateful. Sometimes they’re very simple, like “wind” or “Ma’ahes” (those two are on almost every list), but I try to go beyond the “norm” of gratitude (so I don’t wind up listing “being alive” all the time, even though I am definitely thankful to be living!).

This has proven to be an enormously worthwhile exercise, and even if it doesn’t help shift my headspace in the moment, it does remind me that not everything is in the gutter. :)

Today is not a bad day, so instead of giving you a list of ten things that make me happy, how about a list of ten ways in which I am subtly spiritual:

  1. I befriend the traffic lights and elevators that I frequently use. They are gatekeepers.
  2. I watch the clouds. They are my Mothers’ dresses.
  3. I know the color of the sun when it is Ra, when it is Heru (Horus), when it is Heru-Ma’ahes, and when it is Ma’ahes.
  4. I stand in the downpour on my porch to greet Ma’ahes, Who is as much storm as sun to me.
  5. I wear jewelry for my gods on a daily basis. It keeps Them close to me.
  6. I surround myself with color that fills my heart, particularly water-colors (for me) and sunset-oranges (for Ma’ahes). My workspace at the dayjob is not at all greyscale.
  7. I watch the birds, the constant grackles and the migrating flocks that darken the skies. They are fascinating and wonderful in and of themselves, and they help me look up.
  8. I press my palm against tree bark, because it’s one of the most grounding things in the world for me.
  9. I learn from everything that can teach me, including people I know and people I don’t, animals I see and animals I read, and every canny moment I witness.
  10. I live in ma’at. She is my compass.

What would be on your Ten Things list, whether it’s about happiness, gratitude, or spirituality?

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.