9.

You have two parents and two beloveds. Would you like to guess?

For the self-discovery;

For the connections and relationships;

For the self-improvement and crucial lessons;

For opening my eyes to everything I needed to see but hadn’t;

For the last nine years living deeply as Your child;

Thank You.

All images from my personal collection.

The crash.

I remember being new to Kemetic Orthodoxy. Everything felt exhilarating. For the first time in my life I had a direct line to communicate with the gods. I felt when They were near me keenly, as vividly as I felt any human presence. I could hear Them speaking when I calmed my body and centered my mind. I was feeling things I’d never felt and experiencing things I’d never experienced. I loved Them deeply, and I was overwhelmed to feel how much They loved me.

Time passed. My relationship with the gods began to normalize. When Wepwawet’s voice spoke through the songs on the radio, I was first thrilled, then touched, and then… mildly bemused. The things that once caused my breath to catch and my spine to tingle were suddenly a part of everyday life with the gods.

And it sucked.

I felt abandoned. The excitement was gone. I began to wonder whether the gods were angry with me. Were They pulling away from me? Had I done something to offend Them and make Them withdraw? Was I losing my ability to communicate? All I knew of religion was ecstatic intensity, and suddenly I couldn’t feel that anymore.

Any new relationship is exciting, and religion is no exception. It puts us in dialogue with something greater than us, and calls to our deepest self. It is more powerful than any secular relationship — and yet it is not immune to the same pitfalls. As time passes, the thrill we feel in a new relationship fades into something calmer and more constant. We don’t live with our friends or romantic partners eternally giving us butterflies the way they did when we first met. So, too, do we not live in the same intense space that we occupied when we first met our gods.

When I felt this natural ebb for the first time, I panicked. I blamed myself. I frantically tried to reach for the powerful joy that They had brought me, and — finding only contentment and happiness — felt lost. It was frightening to think I had lost something that had brought me so much joy already.

I write about this now in an attempt to reach those new to the worship of their gods, to head off those fears and normalize this natural experience. It’s normal to lose the intensity in your relationship with the divine. It’s normal to go through cycles in your devotion. Just breathe and let it happen, be as present with the gods as you can, and keep moving. It’s a process.

 

Love of the gods.

I’ll be the first one to admit that my perspective on all things Kemetic is fairly insular. I don’t look too far beyond the Kemetic Orthodox community. I browse Tumblr but don’t really engage much. So anything I speak about is going to come either from what I’ve learned in the House of Netjer, or what I’ve learned through my own interaction with the gods. All this is to say: I’m not the most informed on what other people believe, so I’m speaking purely from ignorance here and nothing more. (It’s possible that, given my ignorance, I should just keep my mouth shut — but where’s the fun in that?)

I’ve noticed huge diversity in how people describe their divine relationships. There’s some who almost give off a sense of distrust for the gods, as though They were so capricious that they might turn and bite their devotees on a whim. There’s some who seem to have a very casual relationship, coining cheeky nicknames and describing drinking matches. There’s god-spousery, which I have such trouble grasping for myself that I can only say “you do you” (and I mean that earnestly, not dismissively). There’s the business relationships, where devotees give offerings and are given heka in return. What I don’t see much is sacred love.

My love for my gods is massive. It swells up inside me so vast that my breath catches, and I want to lay at Their feet and sing Their praises every day. I believe in Their fallibility, and that sometimes They’re going to try to protect me and fail. I believe in Their beneficence, Their positive intent and good will. When They challenge me, I thrill inwardly that I am strong enough to be challenged. When I kneel in Their presence I feel Their brilliance renewing me, and I am overwhelmed with happiness to know Their grace.

I know there’s not a lot of emphasis on this kind of ecstatic love in antiquity. There’s enough, to be sure, in the stelae and inscriptions that carry messages from ancient devotees. It’s not the first thing that comes to mind when discussing the distinguishing qualities of ancient Egyptian religious practices, however. The precision, the purity, the constancy with which the priests attended to their gods all get much more attention, and rightfully so. The ancient priests had honoring the gods down to a science.

Maybe it’s just my quirk. Maybe it’s a holdover from my Catholic days (which are soon to be less than half my life, somehow). Or maybe it’s just not a topic of interest to other writers right now. I’d love to see more of it though. I have my casual days too. I sing along to “Back in Black” for the Jackal and offer my Mother the first sips of beer when I’m relaxing. But it’s that love that moves me to Their shrine again and again; it’s the warmth and light They radiate, and the way my heart swells when I am in Their presence.

All this is meant not as criticism, but as a call to share. If you feel the same ecstatic love I feel, wax poetic. If you don’t… well, what do you feel? What keeps you coming back to the gods?

Featured image from https://unsplash.com/grakozy .

Ten years.

2016 will be the tenth year since I was first called by my gods. I remember being new to Their worship and thinking ten years felt like an impossibly long time to be anything, let alone a devotee of a deity.

Part of that probably had to do with my age at the time. I was 17 and just out of high school when I “met” the gods of Kemet. I had identified as pagan for several years at that point, but had been aimless and disorganized in what I believed and practiced. It felt impossible that I would ever be able to spend ten years with these gods. Ten years was more than half of my life.

Each time a year ticked by with my gods, I would feel a giddy rush of glee. One year closer to a decade. One year closer to a lifetime. With each year that passed I felt myself inching closer to some invisible goal marker. I never felt like I’d been Kemetic “long enough” to have experience or be worthy of engaging in intelligent dialogue with others, and I believed that eventually, after long enough, I would reach some invisible goal and become enough. Even now, having been in practice for 9 years, I question whether I have anything of value to offer. (Which is why this blog is so quiet.)

Perhaps it’s time to stop questioning when I will be experienced enough to have anything of value to say, and just start talking. If ten years hasn’t done it, I doubt eleven will, or twelve, or twenty.

Have confidence, fledgling devotees. Do your research and start your devotions. Honor your gods in small ways or large. Remember: you have value too.

 

Awkwardly…

After eight years of knowing my gods I feel like I’m starting over.

I feel like I had reached a certain place with Them, where I knew my work and They knew that I would do that work and we were all on the same page. Now things have changed, and I’m not certain where I stand or what They really want.

They’ve made it abundantly clear that I’m not done doing Their work, but there’s no hint as to what I’m going to do in the intervening months, nor how I’m going to get back to work for Them. I’ve been slowly trying to ease my way into a ritual practice that suits the overworked schedule of a grad student who happens to be working for pay and interning at the same time. And when I say slowly, I mean glacially. I’ve been doing nothing but purification since Retreat, intentionally. I finally allowed myself to do Senut today, but kept it short, sweet, and to the point. I refuse to fall into the trap of “too much too fast” for returning to regular devotions.

And I feel awkward. I feel like a novice, kneeling uncertainly before my lit candles with a bowl of candy offerings. I waited a few minutes after the offering prayer wondering “now what do I do”? After the elaborate rituals of priesthood, Senut is anticlimactic. I wait for the touch of the Netjeru to come from my little statues, and it doesn’t — not as strongly as my open Icons, anyway.

I need to learn how to feel Them without the tools, I think. To allow myself to reach Their presence as I did before I had the knowledge of a priest. I would find Them so easily when I was new; and then I learned the “right” ways to reach Them and gave up all the others. But I had more time then, still — so who knows. I’ll just do Senut until it clicks.

I don’t question too hard these days. I get up, I work, and I come back to bed when I’m done. I’m Doing, and I’ll think about what I’m Doing when it’s Done.

I’m a Bad Kemetic.

I have been a bad Kemetic.

I have been a lazy priest. I have rushed my rituals and gone through the half-assed motions. I have made skimpy offerings of bread and cool water rather than digging through my kitchen to put together the food and tea I set aside earlier in the week. I have been tired, and distracted, and angry, and bored at the feet of my gods.

I have used heka to feed my anxiety. I have nervously chewed my nails, speaking and re-speaking my intention into glasses of water, into mirrors, into burning flames. I have yelled at the gods when I did not get my way. I have greedily grabbed whatever tools on hand, demanding they effect change right now. I have refused to plan my heka, taking my chances on whatever I could throw together.

I have ignored ma’at in favor of getting what I want. I have talked about others behind their backs. I have omitted the truth because it was easier that way. I have lied because it was convenient. I have been self-important, and dishonest, and arrogant. I have complained when Her scales swung me back into order.

I have let my shrines get dusty. I have shrugged off the call of my gods, whispering under my breath to come listen to Them. I have let the cool water of the akhu run dry. I have let flowers die on my altar, withering and becoming smelly. I have let ants get into the offering bread and let mice chew on the candles. I have let the home of the gods in my home become stale. I have been a bad Kemetic.

I have been a good Kemetic, too. I have closed my eyes and felt the gods calling and let myself drift in Their presence. I have recorded the names of my akhu, I have spoken their names, and I have encouraged my family to speak their names too. I have spoken for ma’at when Her words were not easy. I have given of myself to improve the world, and honored the gods in doing so.

I have brought my gods wine, beer, flowers, incense, spices, chocolates, gemstones and jewelry, tea and coffee, red meat and cool, refreshing water–and They have been satisfied. I have done heka earnestly with the skill granted to me by the gods, and I have changed my world. I have been Their diviner, Their priest, Their shemsu and Their child. I have served Them daily, bringing Them ma’at and bread and water, letting love and adoration wash over Them every day like zep tepi.  I have been devoted with my heart and with my hands.

I have been a good Kemetic.

I have been a good Kemetic, and I have been a bad one. I have done right by the gods, and I have done wrong. No matter what I write in this blog–no matter how much I may share about how deeply I love my gods and how deeply I want to live in Their service–I have screwed up as much as I have done right. Sometimes I screwed up in my inexperience, clumsily fumbling until I knocked over candles, or spilled the libations, or called one god by another’s name. Sometimes it was circumstance–the mice that got into the shrine were certainly uninvited, as were the ants.

And sometimes? Sometimes I just dropped the ball. I got lazy. I wanted to sleep in instead of greet zep tepi. I thought I knew better. And it’s okay. I’m human, and you’re human, and we’re all just doing the best that we can in the presence of beings who can be terrifyingly, awe-inspiringly magnificent.

I intend to keep screwing up, too–because as long as I am doing this, I’m going to screw it up too. If I’m not making mistakes, I’m not trying. If I’m not dropping the ball, I’m probably not carrying it either.

I will be a good Kemetic, so I will have to be a bad one too.