I have a curious relationship with fear. On one hand, I have a strong flinch reaction to certain things, often inconsequential ones; on the other hand, working with Sekhmet for so long as numbed me to certain kinds of fear, like the fear one might normally feel in the face of dangerous gods.
I am not afraid of any god. I am wary of many, and I will flinch away from many, and I have a healthy respect and avoidance of many, but I am not afraid of Them. If put in a room with only me and a god that would otherwise terrify me, I’ll stand openly and await Their first move. Maybe I never lost that adolescent feeling of invulnerability when it comes to spiritual matters. Maybe my faith in “my” gods outweighs the concern that gods Who may not care as much will toss me around; I’ve got backup, after all. Throughout all the twists in our relationship, I’ve never had any doubt that Sekhmet would step in if I were in a tight corner—and now I know other Netjeru would intervene, too. It’s a very good feeling to have that safety net.
But that doesn’t mean fear plays no role in my practice. I am afraid of unpredictable tragedies, like losing my partner or my animals or my friends to random and sudden accidents or illnesses. I am afraid of people with lethal amounts of venom at their disposal and a willingness to use it indiscriminately. I am afraid of the destruction of my body, in whole or in part.
I think those are probably relatively common, or at least understandable, fears. I’ve seen an awful lot of prayers and hekau and rituals designed to protect our loved ones, to protect ourselves, and to preserve or restore our health. I’ve seen some of those prayers, hekau, and rituals actively go forth to remove or destroy enemies and illnesses. Most people don’t want to lose anyone or be wounded, so it makes sense to have those common themes of protect-and-heal through our religions and our magic.
But there are more subtle ways fear can manifest. Turns out that my fear of venomous people is linked to feeling vulnerable in someone’s presence, which can show up even when I’m interacting with (or thinking about interacting with) deities. It’s hard not to feel vulnerable around entities Who are much more vast and powerful than I am, and sometimes I just want to curl up like a pillbug until They look the other way.
Similarly, I give certain deities a wide berth if They remind me of venomous people—Aset (Isis) is a great example for this, because of the enormous power She wields and the extents to which She will go to serve Herself and Her son, Heru-sa-Aset (Horus the Younger). I mean, She poisoned Her own father, Ra, in order to learn His true name and have access to that power, which She shared with Her son. I have no illusions about Aset’s cunning and resourcefulness, so I give Her a healthy respect and do not engage with Her unless I know I’m on sure ground. (Please note: I don’t dislike Aset; I’m just cautious with Her.)
And yet, I’ve still had the pillbug-urge around deities Who are not threatening to me. Gods Who look at me closely often receive that flinch-away response; I am uncomfortable when seen in too clear a light, because I am afraid I’ll be found unworthy. Deities of judgment or royalty (man, Aset again makes a great example) often evoke this reaction, as I’m pretty convinced my informal appearance and attitude are not up to snuff for any court, let alone a court of the gods. Not to mention all the internal imperfections that loom so large when I look at myself (but probably aren’t nearly so obnoxious from the outside looking in).
It can be a challenge to balance reasonable wariness born of mindfulness (that stuff that tells me maybe I ought to dress up and purify more than usual before greeting Aset) with flinching fear (that stuff that tells me maybe I ought to hide in a corner until She moves on). It’s worthwhile work, but such effort is nothing to sneeze at. I’ve seen a lot of people have to fight with their own flinches in order to approach the gods, and let me tell you, my friends, your courage is amazing and inspiring.
Please keep shining and pushing away the darkness of fear. You are not alone in the work you do, and the harvest you reap will be even more bountiful for the toil you undergo now.