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a lesson from Nebt-het

a lesson from Nebt-het

My Mother is a complex goddess. She is a Lady of Shadows, guide to the dead, comforter of the grieving. She is a seeker, a danger, a death-bringer, a protector. She is an Eye of Ra. She is a Lady of the House of the Sky. She is Seshat, is Nit, is Herself, is Tasenetnofret.

To say She has many lessons to teach is an understatement.

The very first lesson She taught me was that I was enough and what I did in the moment was enough. Not “enough” in the sense that I could stop trying and stop doing, but “enough” in the sense that I didn’t need to feel unworthy, disappointed, shameful, apologetic. The very concept was mind-boggling to me.

This lesson is equally important: it is never to late to start, even if one cannot finish in the same sprint.

I bought a tiny, handmade, spiral-bound notebook months ago, intending to write my akhu’s names in it for use in ritual and to keep on my akhu shrine. It was left untouched until my last senut, when my Mother gave a very inescapable look to my akhu shelf and reminded me that I had promised them.

So often I get caught up in the human trappings of time, the sense of “it’s too late, why bother even starting now” or “why start, I won’t be able to finish before ___ anyways.” But those artificial constructs of my mind aren’t shared by my akhu or my gods. My akhu didn’t forget. Nebt-het didn’t forget. They remembered and were patient.

It was 11h35 pm that night when I unwrapped the book and wrote my grandfather’s name on the first page.

It’s never too late to start.

a Kemetic Halloween?

a Kemetic Halloween?

Although I’m not huge on most of the mainstream holidays, my earlier years as a Celtic neopagan have cemented the solstices and equinoxes into my mental calendar. October 31st is a big deal to many of my friends and chosen family, whether they celebrate it spiritually as Samhain or culturally as Halloween. So I decided to contemplate how I could celebrate Samhain in a Kemetic fashion, because hey, why not?

Warning: Some spiritual blending ahead. Proceed with caution and a grin.

According to the Kemetic Orthodox calendar, October 31st this year features several gods in festival: Nebtu, Behdety (Heru-behdety, the Winged Disk), Heru-wer (Horus the Elder), Hethert (Hathor), Anuket, and Heka. That’s a whole lotta gods! Abundance of the land, victory, rightful action, joy, the river and its blessings, and magical speech, all in one day.

Add to that the non-Kemetic associations of Halloween with the dead and the veil between Seen and Unseen worlds being very thin, and we’ve got the makings for a very complex and powerful holiday.

I admit, my first thought on celebrating October 31st was to honor my Mother Nebt-het (Nephthys) and my akhu and leave it at that. I find it challenging to try to incorporate all the gods in festival on that day to that original idea… but it’s no different than drawing a sigil from several very different letters that are all part of an overall meaning. So let’s see.

Nebt-het is the Lady of the dead, the one Who guides the deceased through the Duat, one of the goddesses waiting in the West to welcome the newly-arrived kau (souls). Honoring the blessed dead, our ancestors, our akhu, honors Her. But what of the others?

Nebtu and Anuket are both goddesses related to provisions and abundance, Nebtu from the growing lands and Anuket from the river. Sounds like a rich offering of food and drink is in order!

Behdety and Heru-wer are both warrior Names Who uphold ma’at and protect the living; perhaps those of us residing in the Seen world owe Them special thanks, since we’re still on this side of the veil. A hearty respect and gratitude is due both of Them (and perhaps mead or rum, for those who drink it!).

Hethert, Who is joyous, the beautiful and powerful Gold of the Gods, reminds us to enjoy what we’ve got while we’ve got it and to celebrate life–including the lives of those who are now among the stars as the blessed dead. A gladsome partying atmosphere should go along with all that food, then!

And lastly, but far from least, Heka, the god Who embodies the power of authoritative speech. With the veil so thin, Heka makes an appearance and lends extra weight to our own utterances, be they spoken or written; it’s a day to take especial care of what we say… and to use that power well, to thank the gods for our lives, and to celebrate with our ancestors to remember their good lives.

Yeah, I think that’ll do quite nicely. :) What will you be doing on October 31st?

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.

beading for the dead

beading for the dead

I’ve been thinking about making a beaded necklace for my akhu for a while now. One night, a week or so back, I got the compulsion and started digging through my stock to see what felt right. All I knew is that I wanted beads of roughly the same size.

I wound up with no bead repeated, beads “the color of laughter,” and some of my most treasured: lapis lazuli and turquoise. There are beads for my mom’s fiancé’s heritage and an amethyst and a grey-black stone bead as a nod to Nebt-het and Yinepu, as well as glass, painted wood, various other stone beads, cloisonne, and tiger’s eye.

It had turned into a bracelet, with even the gold and silver of the magnetic clasp alternating. And I love it.

Dua akhu!

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day

To my Lady Mother, Nebt-het, Who fashioned my soul,
and to Mama Hethert-Nut, Who also fashioned my soul,
and to my mom, who created my body from her own,
and to my partner’s mom, who welcomed me into her family,
and to all the mothers of my blood, stretching back in time:

Thank you for my life and your love. I love you.

a short akhu prayer

a short akhu prayer

I say this while pouring a libation of water for my ancestors, then lighting a white candle. The words are inspired by and in small parts taken from a beautiful Kemetic Orthodoxy rite that’s performed every month for the blessed dead.

Hail akhu, known and unknown, true of voice, shining as stars in the vault of Nut! I offer to you cool water and a thousand of all good and pure things.

May you go outdoors every morning and return every evening, in all the forms you wish to assume. May you enter this, your house of the living, in joy; I bid you welcome and burn a candle for you here.

Dua akhu!

shrine update

shrine update

I’m toying with the idea of posting photos every month of my shrine, just to see how it changes. Right now, it’s had a definite expansion: I oil-painted two small shelves to give me more surface area, which means more of the things inside the altar itself get to be placed in open air.

Here’s the shrine in total; you can see my corkboard up on the wall where I keep my religious/otherwise sacred jewelry when I’m not wearing it, including Sekhmet’s pendant and Serqet’s amulet:

To the left, I’ve added a red-painted shelf for Sekhmet alone, as I have the most icons of Her and I feel they deserve a special place:

To the right, I added a teal-and-purple shelf. I wasn’t sure Who it’d be for while I was painting it, but I knew I wanted a place to showcase my non-Sekhmet, non-RPD gods icons, so here we have Twtw and Renenutet:

I did a second painting recently for Hethert-Nut, which She requested; She liked the first one, but She prefers the iconography of Mehet-Weret, a golden cow with deep blue stars. I added the dark indigo background as tribute to the royal purple color I associate with Her. (Also, as most of my paintings, this one is metallic, so it takes poor photos. Also also, I did not use a reference for the cow shape, which is why She looks slightly deer-like.)

And lastly, I acquired a gorgeous statue of and for Ma’ahes, made by the ever-fabulous Nicolas of Shadow of the Sphinx. (He also made my little Sekhmet votive and both Twtw’s and Renenutet’s statues.) People, if you ever need any Egyptian statuary, go to this artisan first – there is no one better in terms of courtesy, skill, affordability, and receptivity to custom work.

Today I do senut, which I intend to make a regular practice as a full-fledged, formal ritual on the first weekend of every month. In it, I will offer my gods the following, and then ask each of Them for a message concerning the month ahead, via my divination tools (cards or coins, whichever They each prefer).

hetep-di-nisut, an offering which the King gives:

To Sekhmet, I offer Her the red shelf, a sacred place of Her own.

To Nebt-het, I offer a black bone ankh and a stormy grey-violet amethyst.

To Hethert-Nut, I offer Her the second painting, may it please Her, as well as night-sky-with-stars beads I found today.

To Ma’ahes, I offer the lion statue.

To Serqet, I offer a banana-milk smoothie. (Don’t look at me, She requested it.)

To Ma’at, I offer a white bird made of shell.

To Set, in thanks for His oracle assistance, I offer peppered jerky and two slim jims, as promised.

And to my akhu, I offer a painting of us; may I always think of my ancestors fondly. (I will finish it before senut today and post a picture of it later.)

Dua Netjer!

finished akhu painting

finished akhu painting

I did this painting of and for my akhu, my ancestors, the blessed dead. It was made with their guidance, which was considerably lighter/subtler than I receive when painting with Netjeru, but I still do feel they had a hand in it. (As usual, forgive the awkwardness that is photographing metallic paints. I swear I will figure out a good way to do that someday.)

Hail akhu, true of voice, shining as stars in the vault of Nut! May you receive a thousand of all good and pure things.