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it’s been two years already?!

it’s been two years already?!

On November 21st, 2011, I underwent the Rite of Parent Divination and was divined a child of Nebt-het (Nephthys) and Hethert-Nut (Hathor-Nuit) and a beloved of Ma’ahes (Mihos) and Serqet (Selkis).

Two years ago to the day, I was excited and nervous out of my mind, a relative newcomer to Kemetic Orthodoxy, waiting to hear the results of the divination that would determine the core components of my spiritual family. Other Netjeru could and would come along, and perhaps leave, but these divined gods would be with me for life. Learning Who They were was a commitment to Them in and of itself; I was prepared to accept Them into my practice and honor Them as best I could.

For me, that was a life-changing decision—and a very good choice.

Nebt-het clarifies my own nature and gives me a path to follow in being the best of myself; She gentles me to compassion and does not let me be weak, for in weakness I cannot aid anyone, including myself. Hethert-Nut opened doors to new forms of creativity and showers me with unconditional love; because of Her, I have written songs—with musical accompaniment!—and painted and made jewelry, none of which I had ever done before Her.

Ma’ahes has been a cornerstone of strength and comfort for me, offering His unshakable surety as a security blanket when I need one and His infinite nature as a desert landscape for me to explore as I’m able. Serqet has protected me from poisons and taught me how to handle venomous people and situations, which is a lesson I have needed and still struggle to fully integrate.

And in the span of these two years, I went from having zero relationships with my akhu—my ancestors, the blessed dead—to having a strong and positive one. I know more of their names than I ever thought I would (thanks, Ancestry.com) and honor them regularly with cool water, a white candle, and incense. I feel loved and more connected to my blood family, both living and deceased, than I ever have in my life.

Beyond the staple of my personal spiritual life, I’ve connected with the Kemetic Orthodox community, which is full of diverse, creative, and absolutely wonderful folks. I’ve never been so welcomed or so supported in both personal gnosis and academic research. The friends I’ve made and the spiritual family I’ve adopted have changed my life for the better, and getting to meet many of them face-to-face for the Wep Ronpet retreat last summer was quite simply amazing. I look forward to more events, online and in person, with all of them.

I am immensely, profoundly grateful for my path, my gods, my akhu, and my community. Here’s to another year of growth, experience, and change!

PBP Fridays: V is for Venom

PBP Fridays: V is for Venom

Venom is, specifically, a poisonous fluid that certain creatures excrete and use on other creatures by biting or stinging. Poison is, in general, a substance which impairs or destroys health or life.

In other words, venom is poison with a purpose.

Among the gods to Whom I am devoted is a scorpion goddess: Serqet. The bulk of Her lessons to me revolve around poison (the avoidance of and the healing from) and protection (the hardy carapace that guards rather soft innards), which are both particularly useful for an empathic individual. She is, in ancient Egyptian myths, largely hailed as a goddess of protection and healing, and modern Kemetics often consider Her also able to help with some forms of addiction, interpreting a substance to which one might become addicted as a poison. I myself have referred to Her as Our Lady of Poisons.

But Serqet’s realm of wisdom reaches beyond general poison. In myth, She has purposefully stung more than one person. She understands the active use of venom, not just the healing required when its effects have taken hold on a body. In myths that I have read, She is not portrayed as a patient and gentle lady: She is quick-tempered, a little fickle, and overall deadly—which is why She is pacified by such extravagant epithets, sweet prayers, and offerings.

I think one of Serqet’s most potent strengths is knowing when to use Her own venom… and how to deal with others using theirs against Her. It’s a painstaking lesson for humans to learn, but full of worth. How many people squander their own venom against over-exaggerated threats, poisoning those who don’t deserve it and reducing their own supply of last-ditch defense? How many people passively accept envenomed strikes by others, shrugging it off as accidental poison as though they were dropped as a sponge into some haphazard puddle and not sought out as targets?

Those who work with animal medicine may recognize the concept of being precise, accurate, and decisive when using one’s venom; it’s a Snake lesson, too. And, as snakes exemplify, venom is used to survive (hunting for food) and in defense—not for random or unnecessary aggression. Many animals display a tendency towards conserving their own energy and resources for circumstances that genuinely need the effort, and most venomous creatures also reserve their own potency for food or serious threats.

I feel that many people would hesitate before using their own venom, in whatever form that may take, even against a person or situation that has proven its malice and persistence… but is it really worse to strike out in self-defense to save oneself and establish strong boundaries than to suffer in helpless misery, wracked by the throes of someone else’s suffocating poison? There is a balance to be found between striving for peace, giving second chances, and compassionately trying to see a situation from another’s point-of-view—of which I am a hearty proponent—and consciously excising a harmful and useless person or situation from one’s life. To cut away a toxic influence is common sense; to defend against and depart from an influence that is deliberately attacking should be, as well.

If venom is poison with a purpose, then we should be purposeful and rational when we use our own in circumstances that truly merit the force—and we should understand that venom from others is equally purposeful and should not be tolerated.

When I started writing this post, I had really hoped Serqet would guide it, perhaps reveal some tidbit of wisdom that would be beneficial for others to hear. Instead, She has worn Her perpetual grin and said nothing, letting me find the lesson in Her. She is not one to do my work for me, after all. So take this post as the contemplation of a student, not as handed down from the master. :)

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

simplicity

simplicity

I stepped into the room, exhausted, and looked at my shrine. I had neither the energy nor the focus to perform even my bare-bones daily rite, not after a full day of work, three hours of a root canal, and an evening of thoroughly cleaning in preparation for a house inspection the following morning.

I dug out three tealights: one red, one cream-colored, and one pumpkin-y. I set them on the offering plate and lit them.

I didn’t say any fancy words or even wash my hands to purify. I simply thanked Sekhmet and Serqet, Who helped me through the dental work, and Ma’ahes, Who comforted me when I was afraid and in pain.

Sometimes, it really is as simple as a candle, a whispered word of gratitude, and a feeling of relief for having made it through.

PBP Fridays: Q is for Qebshenef

PBP Fridays: Q is for Qebshenef

Qebshenef is one of the Four Sons of Heru (Horus), a group of netjeri (spirits) associated with the canopic jars that hold the organs of the mummified deceased. The Four Sons also protect the throne of Wesir (Osiris) in the Unseen and assist the deceased through the Duat. Each of the Sons is protected by one of the funerary goddesses and associated with one of the cardinal directions.

Qebshenef, whose name means “cooling his brother (with water),” is hawk-headed and holds the intestines. He is guarded by Serqet (Selkis), the scorpion goddess, and associated with the south.

Imset, whose name means “the kindly one,” is human-headed and wears the nemes headcloth. He holds the liver, is guarded by Aset (Isis), and is associated with the west.

Duamutef, whose name means “praising his mother,” is jackal-headed and holds the stomach. He is guarded by Nit (Neith), the Great He-She, and associated with the north.

Hapy (not Hapi, god of the Nile), whose name means “runner,” is baboon-headed and holds the lungs. He is guarded by Nebt-het (Nephthys) and associated with the east.

While the Four Sons have the above associations in regards to their canopic jars, they also assist the deceased in different ways, including carrying or lifting up the deceased, preparing a ladder into the sky, protecting against attacks and decay, preventing hunger and thirst, bringing the deceased a boat “which Khnum built,” and steering that boat.

The Sons themselves are alternatingly stated to be sons of Aset (Isis) and Heru-wer (Horus the Elder) or Khenty-irty (Horus of Khem), but were also implied to be sons of Heru-sa-Aset (Horus the Younger) by virtue of being the grandchildren of Wesir (Osiris). They’ve also been described as the bau (souls) of Pe (a city in Lower Egypt) and Nekhen (a city in Upper Egypt), along with Heru Himself. In various texts, they’re identified as stars near Ursa Major, as emanations of Heru or as Heru’s bau (souls), and as the king’s “children’s children” (the king being as Wesir, Heru’s own father). They’ve also been identified in spells as the hands, arms, fingernails, and/or feet of the deceased or described accompanying the deceased through the Duat.

Sources:

  • http://kemet.org/names-of-netjer
  • http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/religion/sons_of_horus.htm
  • http://henadology.wordpress.com/theology/netjeru/horus-sons-of/

Henadology’s article is particularly well-fleshed-out and worth further reading, as my entry here merely summarizes the basics of the Four Sons.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

Sekhmet and Serqet

Sekhmet and Serqet

(…make a pretty good team.)

I rarely experience my gods together. I relate to Them one-on-One, for the most part, though I suspect there occurs the spiritual equivalent of passing in the halls and giving each other a nod and a wave when I involve Them sequentially in ritual.

So it was with some surprise (and an immense wave of gratitude) that I realized that both Sekhmet and Serqet were present when I settled into the dentist’s chair for five hours of less-than-pleasant necessary procedures. It helped to focus on Them instead of the sounds, smells, and sensations of the work being done on my body.

Sekhmet overlaid my dentist (a lovely, skillful lady) with Her crisp I’m-working-right-now red, a sharp difference from the normal stormy, hearth-red that I associate with Her. I knew I was in good hands, both human and divine.

Serqet was a yellow scorpion, roughly as long as my hand, perched on my solar plexus like a cat might sleep atop me. She (or one of Her netjeri?) was a comforting, protective weight keeping me still and calm.

When my focus started to drift too far, I remembered the neopagan tune that goes with the chant, “Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna,” and adapted it:

Sekhmet, the Red Lady, guides the surgeon’s hands;
Serqet the Scorpion guards me.

I am immensely grateful to Them both for a successful procedure and for Their companionship through those hours… and still a little awed at how right it felt to have both of Them there, working together, in that situation.

Dua Sekhmet! Dua Serqet!

Exultation for Serqet

Exultation for Serqet

I worked about 55 hours this week. My company is ramping up for their biggest event of the year, and the entire creative group is flooded with requests for assets and new projects. As newly-promoted manager of the department, I get to herd all the cats, from usually-unavailable executives to overworked designers. It is, to say the least, an intense and hectic position, and the crazy won’t ease up until mid-April, after the event.

All week, I have relied heavily on Serqet to lend me Her carapace as protection against the stress and chaos of the fast-paced, long-winded days. I will probably continue to lean on Her until the peak of activity passes and things calm again.

In thanks to Her, I offer this, along with such treats as I create and pour and bake and cook this weekend and in coming days:

Hail, Serqet!
Lady of the Golden Carapace,
She of Strongest Skin,
Your radiance is the sun’s light!
Those bathed in Your glow
kiss the ground before You.

Hail, Serqet!
Lady of the Stinging Tail,
She of Venomous Kiss,
Your mercy is the sun’s blessing!
Those spared from Your touch
kiss the ground before You.

Hail, Serqet!
Lady of the Living Breath,
She of Fearless Heart,
Your power is the sun’s wrath!
Those shielded by Your shadow
kiss the ground before You.

Hail, Serqet!

PBP Fridays: P is for Primary Gods

PBP Fridays: P is for Primary Gods

I know I’ve missed several PBP posts, and I will be writing and posting them when I can; in order to keep from falling further behind, I’m going to try to keep up with the “current” PBP letters and backdate as I’m able.

When one has more than one god, occasionally one runs into the problem of… well, rationing one’s time, energy, and offerings between Them. While I am only speaking for myself here, I imagine other pagans have run into this particular quandary, and I’d love to hear how you portion your attention to your gods!

Since late 2005, I’ve been following Sekhmet; my beginning relationship with Her was trepidatious, but over time, I became very attached and devoted to Her. From meeting Her up until the springtime of 2011, She was my only god. Sometimes She was barely present; sometimes I prayed to Her daily. A dear friend gave me a Sekhmet pendant, and it became daily wear for years; it was, and is, the easiest way for me to reach out to Her. I was a one-god pagan, and happily so.

But in 2011, I took the Kemetic Orthodoxy’s beginner course, and I began interacting with other Egyptian deities over the spring and summer. I met Set. I had rich, fleeting interactions with or impressions of Twtw, Renenutet, Ptah, Yinepu (Anubis). I prayed to Serqet, Our Lady of Poisons. Ma’ahes knocked on my door and met me outside at sunset. I met Nebt-het and bonded quickly with Her.

Summer cooled into fall. In November, I underwent the geomantic Rite of Parent Divination and found that my spiritual parents are Nebt-het and Hethert-Nut, my beloveds Ma’ahes and Serqet. I was both surprised and not surprised that Sekhmet was not present. As I began deepening my relationship with those four gods, I found myself spending more time with Set (thanks to my sister’s relationship with Him), too.

It has been a year since I met my Mother, Nebt-het; over a year since I began praying to Serqet, and just under a year since I met Ma’ahes. It has been almost seven full years since I began studying and worshipping Sekhmet.

And I find myself saturated with deities that I love and admire and wish to offer good things to, but no real hierarchy. In Kemetic Orthodoxy, one’s Parent(s) come(s) “first,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that one has the closest relationship with Them, or that one spends the most time with Them, or that one even gives Them the most/nicest offerings. “First” is a very nebulous definition that I’m still seeking to explore for myself, especially since I am still emotionally closer to Ma’ahes and Serqet than my Mothers.

For all intents and purposes, I have five or six deities in my life on a consistent, long-term basis, and I have no particular hierarchy for Them. I have situations in which I call on one or another first; I have acts or objects I offer to one or the other first, based on what They like and appreciate. All my physical exercise and martial arts practice is an offering to Sekhmet; my keeping a prayerbook is a service in Nebt-het’s name. I call on Serqet when I need Her protection or on Hethert-Nut when I need comfort and love.

On occasion, it perplexes me, my lack of a primary god. So many pagans have patron or matron deities; so many of my Kemetic brethren have one Netjeru to Whom they are the closest. I struggled with “letting go” of Sekhmet as my only deity, even as She pushed me down this path that ascertained other gods would come into my life. Sometimes, out of habit, I will think of Her as my only, as my primary; but I wear jewelry for Nebt-het, Hethert-Nut, Ma’ahes, and Serqet on a daily or near-daily basis, and I do not forget that my life now includes Them, too.

Having been a person with a “matron deity,” if I can give Sekhmet that non-Kemetic label, I do occasionally miss the simplicity and purity of it. It has been a challenge to give what I deem fair amounts of attention and time to each of the gods Who are active in my life, even when only a couple at a time are standing at the forefront. But all in all, I adore each Netjeru I know, and I feel blessed by Their presence, gifts, and lessons in my life.

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

my daily prayer

my daily prayer

Slightly expanded from my original morning and nighttime prayers, since I proved incredibly bad at remembering to say the nightly prayer before sleep. This’ll be said in the morning, probably as I’m driving to work.

Good morning, Netjer and Netjeru.
Thank You for all good things of yesterday,
for all the wonderful souls I have been blessed to know,
and for the zep-tepi of each new day.

Thank Nebt-het for compassion and grace,
Hethert-Nut for joy and creativity,
Ma’ahes for strength and affection,
Serqet for guidance and protection,
Sekhmet for will and rightful action,
and my akhu for family and life.

May today be positive and productive;
may I walk with Ma’at in compassion, peace, and joy.
May I and my loved ones be free of pain, injury, and illness
this and every day.
May I rise to every occasion.
Today is good. Kheperu. Dua Netjer!