Beware the Pigeon-Hole!

I recently had lunch with a handful of friends for the sake of discussing Wepwawet. It felt good to really dig into a conversation about Him with others who were interested in really engaging — something I’ve missed. I’ve held back from writing about all but my most outstanding experiences with Him over the past few years. I haven’t felt like my perspective was worth sharing, nor did I feel it would be well-received. So I kept quiet. In sharing at lunch, however, I was reminded that even those I consider well-versed in Jackal lore enjoy a good conversation — so I’ll give it a go.

I think we are coming dangerously close to pigeon-holing Wepwawet as “God of Opening the Way”.

Yes, that’s what His name literally translates to — but there’s much more than that. He is connected with the legitimization of the rule of the King; with transforming the King into a royal akh after death; with guiding the dead and opening the mouth; with war and victory; and more. He can be called the First Son and is often associated with Heru-sa-Aset, especially as Heru-Nedjitef, or Avenger of His Father.

It’s important to acknowledge that our gods are multifaceted and complex. Hethert, for example, is a goddess of love and women, but also of the dead and the afterlife. Set is the storm and the Outsider, but also the champion of Ra. Bast is a goddess of creativity and joy, but also a fierce protector and a powerful Eye of Ra. Even if we never need Wepwawet to connect us with the royal ancestors, or to authorize the King to rule*, or to guide us into war, it’s important to acknowledge that this is a part of His work. We don’t pigeon-hole our friends and family, and it would serve us not to do the same to the gods.

* if you’re Kemetic Orthodox like I am, you do need this part of Him!

 

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.

Why all the photos of altars?

I had a bit of a run-away train of thought this afternoon while I was buying a set of lenses to enhance my iPhone photography skills. One of the brief stops was to wonder just why it is that during every Kemetic Orthodox group ritual I’ve attended, we pause to take photos of the altar — and not just one or two quick snapshots, either. There’s a good ten minute chunk of time devoted to making sure that each assemblage of candles, offerings, and images of Netjer is properly documented. We very occasionally take pictures of our fellowship before and after, and almost never take any photos during the ritual. It’s become something of a good-natured joke, now, that for every 20 photos of an altar, you’ll find one or two from the rest of the day.

I can see some sense in not taking pictures of each other relaxing and socializing. For one, not everyone is open about being Kemetic, and it can be hard to know who might be concerned about privacy and keeping their identity under wraps. For another, many people just don’t like being photographed, and don’t particularly want to be in front of the camera lens no matter how nice it would be to share photos of the event later.

I can see quite a bit of sense in not taking photos during the ritual. Taking photos during a sacred experience is distracting both to the photographer and the participants. These rituals are meant to be experienced in the moment. Even though having images to share with those who are unable to be physically present could be an asset, it would detract from the overall experience so greatly that we might lose more than we gain.

Still, I think a part of us wants to capture the closeness of community and the beauty of ritual without transgressing either of these boundaries — and what better to capture the spirit and essence of group worship than the altar around which we all gather? The ritual revolves around this focal point, and our fellowship revolves around the ritual. An altar is a carefully constructed place of devotion, and often for group worship we build it as a group. In lieu of photos of each other or of the actual ritual, therefore, we take pictures of the center point that draws us all in.

What we really seek to share, after all, is something intangible. The feeling of grace kneeling before the gods. The closeness in sharing laughter with others who believe as we do. These things can’t be captured on camera. From that perspective, why not take dozens of photos of the same altar? It is the nearest thing that can represent what we truly share when we worship together.

Fighting for Her

Presently, I find myself in a position where I need to assert myself rather strongly in order to receive the professional respect I deserve, as well as resources and opportunities that were agreed upon at the outset of a professional undertaking. I am being necessarily vague. The details are not important, but the subsequent result is: I need to fight for myself.

This is not a battle of human rights; I have not been oppressed or abused (although there may be some questionable gender and age dynamics at play). I am a successful, professional woman, and I am not being afforded the respect, honesty, or ethical treatment I deserve by my professional superiors. And so I will fight for it.

I offer this fight to my Mother. I offer my righteous indignation to Her. I offer the straightness of my spine when I walk into a superior’s office; I offer the friendly smile I flash at those who I know have tried to stab me in the back. I offer the carefully constructed cadence of my speech and every contact I make in trying to make this right. I wear Her colors, Her sacred jewelry, the cosmetics and perfumes I have offered to Her in the past.

You do not mess with a child of Sekhmet the Queen.

Featured image: “Lioness with bloody muzzle” by Tambako the Jaguar / CC BY-ND 2.0

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.