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bearing light from darkness

bearing light from darkness

It’s Imbolc, one of my favorite non-Kemetic holidays: the Day of Fire.

I sing for Brigid, and I light a candle in the darkness beneath Her cross, next to a necklace that makes me think of Her spirit and a dark-blood stone from Sekhmet’s altar. I let the flame burn a while before returning Brigid’s cross to my throat, and I contemplate the fire of winter.

There’s a lot to be said for burning away the chill, but I live in Texas right now, and it’s not so very cold and snow-drenched.

Instead, I focus on the light itself. It has been a very dark autumn and winter, and I want to make February a month of bringing back the light. So I will think of small, tangible ways in which I can do that.

For now, I leave you with this from my private journal, which mentions Netjer but embodies Brigid’s spirit as well:

May the work I do
by voice, limb, and hand
be strong in structure,
stable in foundation,
beautiful in form,
and long in longevity.
All creations are art
and all art is my work,
my good work, born by my flesh,
sacred to me.
May it all bring honor
to Netjer, Who blesses me
and provides me the world(s)
in which I create and serve.

Red Week 2015

Red Week 2015

Last week, Kemetic Orthodoxy celebrated “Red Week,” a modern festival honoring Set, strongest of the gods. People got together in person to enjoy fellowship and perform heka; people came together online to do the same. Individuals wrote, sang, and made art for Set. He was studied, explored, discussed, and, ultimately, better understood by the end of His week. We even pulled together a devotional anthology for Him.

Set, also known as Seth or Sutekh, is an easily-misunderstood god. His reputation changes throughout ancient Egypt’s history, going from a warrior to a rebellious god to, in some eras and areas, being downright villainized. Some have equated Him to Typhon, the most deadly of all Greek monsters; others have blatantly equated Him to Satan. Set’s myths and stories are as varied as His reputations, showing Him in diverse lights: the proud contestant for the throne, the killer of His brother so that Wesir (Osiris) can become king of the dead who have no king, the protective warrior who shouts down the sea demon, the lusty god who has no qualms about chasing after skirts or trousers both, the mighty guardian of Ra’s barque who kills the Uncreated One every dawn so that the sun may rise again.

Likewise, modern Kemetics and polytheists have had a melting pot of experiences with Set. Some know His strength and draw on that strength to help survive their challenges; some feel Him in the very whirlwind of challenges that they are tasked with surviving. Some use His brazen fearlessness and loudness to help themselves learn to be bold and speak up; some feel themselves on the receiving end of that relentlessness and volume. Some embrace change, and some fear it. Some hail Him as god of foreigners and outcasts; some are unsettled by His strangeness and liminality.

During Red Week, we all had an opportunity to explore more of Set. For those of us who knew Him fairly well, we got to know Him better; those who didn’t know Him at all could make an introduction. For those who felt Set left a bad taste in their mouths, they had an opportunity to hear from those who loved and respected Him and to see His other sides—to see all the good He does in the world, for gods and people alike. He brings the sunrise and brings us strength.

For myself, I’ve known Set as long as my sister, Saryt, has known Him. But I’ve always known Him through her, and every interaction I’ve had with Him has been informed by and colored by the lens through which she views Him as her Father. I am very fond of Set and respect Him immensely, and He is always welcome in my shrine, but He and I do not have a one-on-one relationship outside of the occasional hello and offering of jerky.

I see Set as a master of the Kemetic version of drunken kung fu. At any moment, He may appear to be out of control, lost to rage, stumblingly drunk, caught up in lust, distracted by emotions—but at all times, He is aware and canny. Set is never stupid. He is intelligent, and His metaphorical strikes are always well-planned and well-aimed. What He does, He does intentionally. Not to say He doesn’t feel the emotions He displays, but that He doesn’t lose Himself to them. He is still capable of doing what needs be done, even when it’s hard. (Again, this is only my personal view; your mileage may vary.)

Last week, as I poured all of my available time and energy into the layout and editing of the Red Week anthology, I was slapped with a minor epiphany. Even as I’ve been struggling with the worst depression this fall and winter in recent years, I’ve been doing my best to take care of projects and people—both at my job and at home—as best I possibly can. And when asked why I’m doing what I’m doing, or why I’m the one who has to do it, my answer is often, “Because I can.” Or because I’m the best available person for that particular job.

It hit me, then, that I’ve been living by a Set-ism.

Set kills the Uncreated One every morning because He’s the strongest of the gods—because He’s the only one Who’s strong enough to do it. And I, unconsciously, have been mirroring that conviction by putting myself forth, whenever I’m able, to do what needs done when I am suited to do it. By no means am I always the best one for the job, but when my efficiency, or endurance, or speed happen to be the highest stats in the current party… well. I step up, no matter my weariness or other concerns. It is a character trait, for better or for worse. And I’d never realized it before now.

Thanks, Set. Looks like You and I have something to talk about one-on-one after all.

Dua Set!

Celebrating Christmas as a Kemetic

Celebrating Christmas as a Kemetic

Spoiler Alert: Totally took Christ out of Christmas.

My partner and I put up the tree on Christmas Eve, dressed it in purple and gold garlands, strung it with purple and cool white lights. The first ornaments were brand new gifts to each other, as part of our new tradition: a solstice pagan scene and a Brigid’s cross, purchased from an Etsy artist. Then last year’s gifts, a white raven (my partner’s) and the Celestial Cow (mine), as well as a pair of owl siblings (from Saryt). The tree was my mom’s mother’s tree, and I built it so my partner could decorate it with all of their childhood ornaments, mine having been lost in too many moves. Christmas music played: The Piano Guys, Pentatonix, Heather Alexander & Alexander James Adams, Heather Dale, and Saryt’s Moomas carols.

We were up until 2 am. I put bows on the unwrapped packages that had arrived in the mail and slid them beneath the fake boughs, then woodburned a small gift for the person who’d invited us to a close-friends-only holiday dinner on Christmas day. A fire flickered in the fireplace, more a source of light than heat, for all that Texas had seen fit to fall to about 40*F that night.

This was the first Christmas in a long time that neither of us were going home to family. No epic roadtrip back to the snowy mountains of Nevada—and it had been half a dozen years or more since I’d made the longer trek back to the Appalachians to have Christmas with my own mother. It was just us, and it was cozy and happy, though we missed our homes-away-from-home.

Under the tree was a gift to my Mother Nebt-het from me. Pagan and Kemetic songs mingled with Christian ones in my playlist. My partner is best described as an agnostic pagan, and I’m happily Kemetic with a side of eclectic pagan. Neither of us are Christian, but there we were, celebrating Christmas.

And that’s okay.

Plenty of pagans and polytheists don’t want to touch anything Christian with a ten-foot pole, which is also okay. Each person can make their own choice about how to interface with other religions and traditions. Myself, I grew up with Christmas being more of a cultural holiday, and it brought me joy; I’ve chosen to keep that joy with me as an adult, as a Kemetic. For me, Christmas is about family, about warmth, about light, and about love, all in a season of darkness and cold and scarcity—and while I acknowledge that it has come to represent to many modern Americans negative things like commercialism, excessive materialism, and blind obligations, it doesn’t mean that to me.

I find it’s important to remember that a thing that brings one person joy can also mean something else far less joyful to someone else, and vice versa. But that shouldn’t stop us from finding joy where we can, especially in a season of long nights and cold weather.

Happy holidays to you all, whatever you may celebrate. And if you celebrate nothing at all, I wish you warmth, peace, and joy.

Di Wep Ronpet Nofret!

Di Wep Ronpet Nofret!

I have had, in short, an amazing beginning to the new year. For the second year in a row, my sister Saryt and I were able to go to Tawy House to celebrate with our Kemetic Orthodox family—and this time, we drove up together, making a roadtrip out of it.

I cannot possibly write about all the things that happened over the epagomenal days (the five days between the end of the old year and the beginning of the new) and the first few days of the new year in one post. Please accept this voucher for many future posts, and give me a shout if I am too slow to deliver. :)

I do want to share Aset’s oracle for the new year, which belongs to Her, Mistress of Magic and most clever of goddesses. From Kemet Today:

Awake, Children of Netjer.

Awake, to see the splendor of Ra.

Awake, to feel Shu and Tefnut.

Awake, to walk upon Geb under Nut’s belly.

Awake, to the care of Wesir, of Heru, of Nebt-het.

Awaken, to welcome the year that is coming.

Awaken, Listen, Speak, to the Year that is Mine.

I am Clever of Speech.

I am Aset, Great of Heka, Mistress of Heaven.
I am all that you think you know. I am nothing like what you think you know.
So too will be this Year.

This is the year that brings its own heka.
This year will be as simple as the first breath. As simple as one word.
This year will be anything but simple.

Speech may be clever. Speech may be simple.
Speech may not be clever or simple.

In this Year, My Year, you may understand what you do, and do not do; what you speak and what you will not speak, what is appropriate for you, and what is not.

It will not be what you think.

It will not be simple.

In addition to that wonderfully cryptic and portent-filled oracle, there was a powerful theme of community throughout the Wep Ronpet celebrations. Gods and Kemetics alike talked about loneliness, about reaching out, about forming strong bonds, about connecting with others, about not having to be alone. This was a particular poignant and unexpected pattern for me, since I tend to be a quiet hermit and I’d slipped away for nearly half a year to more private practices. But I missed my Kemetic community, I missed more regular time in shrine, and I will be more active once again.

I wish you all a clever, eloquent, grounded, supported year in ma’at! Dua Netjer!

Moomas With Family

Moomas With Family

For the unfamiliar, Moomas is the nickname of the Establishment of the Celestial Cow, which handily falls on December 25th. You can read more about the Establishment here, or check out The True Meaning of Moomas and this post, which includes Moomas carols. For a more meditative note, I recommend these two posts from Egyptologist and Kemetic Orthodoxy leader Tamara Siuda: Winter Holidays and And There Were Stars.

I was driving during the winter solstice and Return of the Eye, and I was immersed in family on the 25th, so I did no ritual for my Mother Hethert-Nut’s big day. But my partner’s family loves the game Fax Machine, where a group of people write down a sentence, pass it to the left, draw a picture based on the sentence (and hide the sentence), then pass it again, so the next person writes a sentence based on the picture. This proceeds until each person receives their original stack of papers again, then the resulting picture-and-sentence “stories” are read and shown aloud, usually resulting in a lot of hilarity.

I started mine the best way I could think of, since it was Moomas. The sentence is mine; the drawing is my partner’s. :)

I hope everyone had a wonderful Moomas, however you may have celebrated it!

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?

in the year of Heru-sa-Aset

in the year of Heru-sa-Aset

For Kemetic Orthodoxy, this Kemetic year is the year of Heru-sa-Aset (Horus the Younger) as the victorious king. It is one of the most positive oracles I’ve ever read, and I am very hopeful about how this year will turn out, both spiritually and pragmatically. I’ve always considered Heru to be a get’r’done Netjeru, and I look forward to making a lot of progress on various projects on my plate. (Obscure Gods project, I’m lookin’ at you!)

I have worked with Heru-wer (Horus the Elder) before, and I have brushed up against Heru-Ma’ahes once or twice, but I’ve never interfaced with Heru-sa-Aset. Perhaps this year will change that and deepen my understanding of Who He is.

A prayer for the year of Heru-sa-Aset, written August 15:

Hail Heru-sa-Aset in this His year!
Hail the golden child now grown!
Hail the sacred lotus in full bloom!
Hail the son of the Mistress of Magic!
Hail the shining heir, son of His father!
Hail He Who survived the terrors of youth!
Hail He Who was forged by storm and sting!
Hail He Who yet walks among the people!
Hail He Who upholds Ma’at in all things!
Hail He Who knows the secret name of the sun!
Hail He Who brings victory to the Two Lands!
Hail the mighty falcon, wearing the uraeus!
Hail the many-chambered heart of the king!
Hail Heru-sa-Aset in this His year!

KRT: Learning and Celebrating Kemetic Holidays

KRT: Learning and Celebrating Kemetic Holidays

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.

What about holidays? Do we need them? How do I figure out when holidays occur? How do I celebrate holidays? Can I make up my own holidays?

“Need” is a strong word. I myself find great value in the various Kemetic holidays, and while I don’t celebrate all of them by any means, various holidays large and small have provided me touchpoints with Netjer, introductions to new Netjeru, and ways to build my relationship with the gods I’m devoted to. I’ve known other Kemetics to invent their own modern Kemetic holidays, which I think is pretty awesome, too. :)

As for the meat and potatoes of the entry, please forgive me if I direct you to three different places to answer the rest of the questions:

  • Earlier this year, I wrote about Feasts and Festivals, which covers this topic from my own perspective (albeit in Cliff’s Notes format).
  • In the above post, I linked to another Kemetic’s well-written and thought-out post on celebrating Kemetic holidays, which is very useful for a novice and for those of us who are slightly less new to the path.
  • Lastly, I would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t direct the curious Kemetic to The Ancient Egyptian Daybook by Egyptologist Tamara Siuda, founder of Kemetic Orthodoxy. The Daybook will be released in December 2013 and will provide a detailed, thoroughly-researched Kemetic calendar reconstructed from antiquity. You can preorder copies from that website if you so desire, too!

If you enjoyed this post, please check out other takes on Kemetic holidays by my fellow Round Table bloggers!