O Sekhmet, Eye of Ra,
Protectress of those whom She created,
O Sekhmet Who lights up the land with Her flame,
Who gives life to everyone:
Come, Sekhmet! Free us!
Save us from the misfortunes of this time.
May they never have power over us, forever.
Powerful One of Fire,
Who makes the virus tremble with fear of Her,
Come to us! Stop all calamity!
May our beginning be life, our middle be health, and our end be strength.
May there be cooperation between us.
May there be protection against all our enemies, living or dead.
Appease in our favor the Great Nine;
Appease in our favor the Lesser Nine;
Appease in our favor all the blessed dead,
as Ra is agreeable to His following,
in this time of our need.
O Pure Mother,Rev. Dr. Tamara L. Siuda, March 20, 2020
grant that all of the peoples of our world,
the generations we know and generations still to come,
be pure of all evil contamination,
of all bad winds,
and all bad journeys for this time.
It’s been almost a year since I last wrote here.
I want to start making excuses — to write about all of the upheaval in my personal and professional life, explain what’s kept me focused on other things, and try to transform it into some useful metaphor for devotion to the gods or other spiritual practice. It’s not going to work. What has kept me away from this blog (and distanced me from my devotions) has been a combination of professional burn-out and a depressive episode that crept up on me in spite of my attempts at vigilance. The burn-out has been abating due to a new job that is more fulfilling, and the depressive episode… well, I’m hesitant to say too much and risk jinxing it, but things finally seem to be moving in a good direction.
I won’t commit to writing here more often. What I will commit to is re-invigorating my religious practices, which dwindled to the barest necessity over the past several months. With any luck (for this website, anyway) that will be enough to re-invigorate my blogging practices. Wish me luck?
My ma’at feather necklace had been missing for a few weeks. I couldn’t quite recall where I had taken it off; normally I would have laid it on the nightstand with my wedding ring, after taking off my jewelry for the day. At some point I had deviated from the norm, and it was missing. I muddled through in spite of its disappearance.
I didn’t have much time to think about it. I worked 10 days without a break, sometimes 18 hours a day. I pushed myself into socializing, into taking on responsibilities, into sneaking into my work email to check on things even when I was supposed to be relaxing. I pushed and pushed myself. I spent my one day off doing chores and cleaning, and I hurt my back cleaning the cat litter. I kept working. I kept pushing.
I had fallen into a pattern of neglecting my own needs. It went beyond trampling my own boundaries at work — I wasn’t eating well, I wasn’t sleeping well, I wasn’t giving myself the space to breathe in my daily life.
Finally, on a Sunday, I caught a cold. Just a cold, complete with runny nose, scratchy throat, and fatigue. I worked Monday, and pushed through feeling run-down and crummy. That night I fought with myself. Would I push through and go to work, or would I pull back, rest, and allow myself to do better the rest of the week? Finally, I put my own foot down. I would rest.
On my sick day, I was fluffing the couch cushions to prepare for some extra-strength Doing Absolutely Nothing when something caught my eye between the cushions — a silver chain. I picked it up and there it was — my ma’at feather.
All at once the symbolism of the moment struck me. This was my life. My priorities were all mixed up. I was working too hard and ignoring my needs. My self-care was in the toilet, and ma’at was shoved in between the couch cushions. Pulling my life back into ma’at by taking care of myself allowed me to pull my pendant back out from hiding.
This is my new commitment: to focus back in on what is important and necessary to live according to ma’at. To balance my work–which very much feeds my heart and soul, but is also emotionally draining–with my religious practice and social needs, but also with basic self-care: making time to eat right, sleep well, and care for my physical and mental health.
A question was posed to me by a good friend of mine. He’s Catholic, so his religion does not condone the use of divination, and he asked me how I resist the temptation to turn to divination constantly for answers — which is a darn good question!
I think everyone comes to their own understanding of their boundaries with divination. I hardly ever use divination for myself, as the result of an agreement between me and my gods; but plenty of others consult it regularly for their own guidance. The thing I’ve noticed is that most people who use divination regularly aren’t looking for concrete answers. They aren’t asking questions like, “Will I get a job this month?” or “Should I invest my money in the stock market?” They’re asking things like, “Will this job be a good fit for me?” or “What changes do I need to make to achieve success?”
The prevailing opinion that I’ve encountered is that divination isn’t capable of providing concrete answers, so turning to divination for everything would be meaningless. Even fedw, which offers yes/no responses, doesn’t give definite answers — only a glimpse at what may be if all things remain as they are currently. The future is too malleable, under the influence of the consequences of our actions and those of others. What is the point of asking for constant reassurance if the answers could change soon anyway?
Divination is also not something that passively provides answers. Most diviners I know find that things get funky after a while. Maybe they start getting meaningless answers. Maybe there’s a reading that means “knock it off”. Either way — many say that it is nearly impossible to chain reading after reading without getting garbled answers.
In my own experience divination simply fails if I get too persistent, so perhaps my experience isn’t very informative here. How do you all resist the temptation to constantly seek divination for reassurance?
I recently had a fantastic conversation with my husband. We were doing our weekly grocery shopping, and I was browsing the candy aisle for something to offer in shrine while idly discussing the options with hubby. Our conversation prompted him to ask why I choose to offer foods I enjoy to the gods, over things that They like, but I don’t.
From my husband’s understanding, it makes more sense for a priest to sacrifice their own enjoyment and make offerings that the gods prefer. For example: I don’t particularly care for red wine, but I know Sekhmet Herself likes it very much. For the sake of my husband’s argument, let’s say that it is Her favorite offering, above all other things1. Her enjoyment of red wine would therefore take precedence over my preference for other offerings She enjoys less, such as pomegranate juice or beer. The fundamental assumption here is that the purpose of making an offering is to provide the gods with something They like, to make Them happy. It’s a reasonable assumption, but it oversimplifies what an offering actually is.
Offerings do more than just satisfy the gods with the things They like; they create an exchange between devotee and deity. Making an offering requires the expense of time, effort, and energy. The devotee chooses the offering, prepares it, engages in the offering ritual (however simple or complex it may be), then partakes of the offering, thus sharing it with the deity. All of these steps are as much an offering as the food or drink itself. The deity partakes not only of the Unseen essence of what is offered, but also the energy and time spent in making the offering. The devotee not only receives the blessing of the deity by partaking of the offering, but develops their relationship with the deity through this exchange.
If the purpose of making offerings was purely to give the gods Their favorite stuff, then it would make sense to prioritize what the gods like rather than trying to compromise. Making an offering is more than just giving a god something They want. In reality, negotiating what will be offered is a part of the process, and contributes to the meaningfulness and appropriateness of the offerings. It is an exchange of time, thought, devotion, and effort (and sometimes money, though I find the gods often include that under effort already).
Time is spent choosing the offerings, preparing them in advance of the ritual. Thought goes into choosing an appropriate offering to share, which both god and devotee can enjoy — as well as the logistics of making the offering. (Will I offer loose tea leaves, or brewed tea? Raw meat, or a cooked meal?) Devotion prompts the desire to make offerings and spend time in ritual with the god, to show appreciation or ask for help. Effort goes into finding, preparing, and purchasing the offerings. Our work provides the money we spend; our research the knowledge of where to find what we are looking for; our physical energy the act of getting up and going out to get it.2
Next time you make an offering, consider these four factors. I have often made “simple” offerings and felt guilty for not doing more. When you consider the offering from a holistic perspective and acknowledge the time, thought, devotion, and effort it takes to arrange, even the simplest offering can feel elaborate.
1. I have no reason to believe that Sekhmet prefers red wine over any other red beverage — but in my husband’s example, there would be a “favorite offering” which would take precedence over all other offerings. So we will pretend for a moment.
2. This is why I find that what I call “macaroni art for the gods” is so well-received — that is, rough or clumsy-looking offerings made in earnest, like a piece of macaroni art made by a small child lovingly hung on the refrigerator door by their family. It takes time, thought, devotion, and effort to make these kinds of offerings. A first attempt at baking bread or a simple devotional necklace can be as effective as store-bought, if done sincerely.
My style of celebration is best described as “casual”. 😅 What I do will depend on what festival I’m celebrating and how important it is in my personal practice (or the State religion).
For your average holiday, my go-to is making a special offering in Senut to the gods in festival. For instance: we have the solstice festival of She-is-led-back, or Intues, this season. I celebrated with the House of Netjer through the simulcast ritual led via IRC; I offered Hethert a glass of milk and a raspberry chocolate cookie. That’s all! For something more elaborate, like a festival of one of my Parents, I will spend more time in shrine, and will make more elaborate offerings. One festival I offered a bouquet of flowers, a bottle of wine, and a plate of gourmet chocolates. Even though the offerings are more elaborate, it still fits the same format: offerings and shrine time.
Occasionally, when I am able, I will celebrate with other Kemetics. When this happens, the celebrations vary depending on the festival. I’ve participated in overnight vigils for the Mysteries of Wesir, sunrise rituals for Wep Ronpet, paper-boat-making and candle-lighting for Aset Webenut, and more.
Even non-Kemetic holidays can take on a Kemetic spirit. For example: my ancestors would have celebrated Christmas, and I spend the 25th of December celebrating with family who still observe the holiday. I spend the day reflecting on family and my Akhu, and make offerings to my ancestors in honor of their traditions. If I have to go to church, or engage with any non-Kemetic religious practice, I take the opportunity to reflect on my Akhu and meditate on their role in my life.
I’ve learned that celebrations don’t need to be elaborate to be satisfying — especially when celebrating on my own. A little quality time and a special gift for the gods goes a long way.
My gratitude for my religion is vast and complicated. I am grateful for the relationships I have forged; for the experiences I have had; for the opportunity to honor the gods and serve as Their priest.
I am thankful, because I came to this religion as an adolescent, still developing my sense of self, my moral code, and my way of thinking about the world. Growing into adulthood in this religion has helped to shape who I am and how I approach the world.
Above all else, though, I think I am grateful for the attitude towards gratitude that I have learned through this community. Hemet (AUS) places a great deal of emphasis on gratitude in her teachings – gratitude to the gods, to the ancestors, to our teachers. The first prayer I offer to my gods each time I enter my shrine is “thank You”.
(Forgive the slightly disjointed ramble; I am trying to exercise the philosophy that it’s better to write poorly than not to write at all.)