Celebrations, great and small.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

How do you celebrate Festivals and Holidays the Kemetic way?

My style of celebration is best described as “casual”. ūüėÖ¬†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.

Gratitude

What are you thankful for in this religion? How are you blessed?

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.)

Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

Nebt-het, Consoler and Comforter.

[content warning: suicide; death]

One of Nebt-het’s many roles is as the mourning Sister of Wesir. She feels the sharp pang of His loss, and grieves his death with Aset. As such, She is often called upon to comfort those who mourn. In this role, She stands beside those who are grieving their own losses, serving as an example that loss can be endured–even overcome.¬†I have felt Her presence near another kind of grief, in the course of my work in the mental health field. I have felt Her standing with those who are suicidal.

Nearly a year ago, I started working as a clinician for emergency psychiatric services in a hospital emergency room. It’s hard and humbling work.¬†When I started working, I noticed I felt Her with me as I sat with people struggling with suicide. A quiet, tearfully tender presence, She filled the background space of my days as I stepped in and out of people’s lives during their most painful moments.

To be suicidal is to feel a kind of grief. Both grief and suicidal ideation can be overwhelming, suffocating, and feel inescapable. Both tell the lie that there can be no return to happiness or peace. As Comforter and Consoler, Nebt-het walks with those who suffer. She offers Her love and reassurance that pain is survivable.¬†She offers a quiet plea to all those who suffer: “no pain will last forever.”¬†She has also greeted those who have come to Her by suicide, and seen their pain as they mourn their own loss.

Suicide is one of the most painful experiences, be it loss of a loved one to suicide or recovery from a survived attempt. Nebthet the Mourner is with all of us as we grieve and as we struggle.

O Nebthet, Great Consoler,
may You watch over and protect all those who suffer.
You, who endured the loss of Your brother,
Who stood by Your sister as She wept
and felt Her heart breaking, as our hearts break too–
may You help them hold steady;
may You stand by their sides;
may You embrace them and their pain
and may You bring them peace of mind. 

[NB: this prayer may be used for oneself, for a loved one, or for those who suffer in general. To use for oneself, the first line will end with “protect me, who suffers,” and in all other lines ¬†the third person pronoun changes to first person. To use for a specific person, the first line will end with “protect [name], who suffers,”, and all other pronouns will change to third person singular.]

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, I urge you to seek support from a mental health professional. Reach out to a friend or loved one. You are loved, and you are not alone.

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“You are My priest.”

The lights in the conference room were dimmed, and in my memory candles are flickering on Her altar, though no candles were lit besides the fake ones that the venue permitted. She had come before Her people embodied; Sekhmet the Great sat before us, enthroned.

I knelt before Her, offering gestures of praise before She bade me to rise and sit with Her. We spoke together of my fears; of the things that have been holding me back. She listened. She offered quiet reassurance. And suddenly, She took up a bottle of frankincense oil, wet Her fingers with it, and placed Her hand on my head. She smiled, and I wondered what She would do.

“You are My priest,” She said, “and you are His priest.”

I smiled and sighed deeply as I realized what She had done.

Earlier in the week, myself and the other lay priests who were present at Retreat were offered the opportunity to take on legal ordination. The distinction between the two priesthoods is muddy, but the main difference is that ordained priests are responsible for pastoral duties as well as liturgical duties. We had planned to announce this formally on Nebt-het’s day, or Wep Ronpet Eve, as is typical for elevations during Retreat.

It would seem Sekhmet had other ideas. The ordination blessing is conferred via anointing with sacred oil–just as She had done. After the ceremony, a fellow priest told me that she knew what Sekhmet was doing the moment She reached for the oil. She knew I was being ordained before I did.

And here we are–I am legal clergy of the House of Netjer and Kemetic Orthodoxy. This does not, and¬†will not change the fact that nothing written at this blog constitutes an official statement from the House of Netjer or Kemetic Orthodoxy. I will continue to share my experiences and my thoughts as they happen, without any sort of authority or official meaning. It has always brought me great joy to do so, as has serving the gods as Their priest.

Back to Reality

Once again the year has reached its end and then its beginning, and I am returning from the House of Netjer’s annual Wep Ronpet Retreat. This year was different. Rather than being held near the House’s temple building in Illinois, the retreat was held in Portland — Oregon, not Maine, as I found I would have to clarify multiple times when talking with family and friends.

I was worried that holding our celebrations outside of a formal temple environment would diminish them, somehow. Instead, I found that it reinvigorated them. First: the Kennedy School, where we held our celebrations, was absolutely delightful. The accommodations were well-furnished and pleasant, the conference spaces were comfortable and beautiful, and the staff were respectful and even curious about our activities. In past years, we were asked to make our own arrangements for dining. This year we were served multiple meals and ate together as a group, sharing breakfast and having comfortable, easy conversation in the bright light filtering through the windows. The room where we held our pre-Retreat priests’ meeting was furnished with soft couches for everyone, for goodness’ sake!

More to the point — the gods and ancestors were present. From the moment we opened with amulet-making to the dawn rites of New Year’s morning, They made Themselves known. Sekhmet was present in Saq at Her ceremony — made even more special because it is Her year. The gods were pleased with our morning celebrations, with Ra appearing and blessing our rites. And the Ordeal of Weshem-ib went smoothly, bringing four more children of Netjer into the order of the Shemsu-Ankh.

Change is good, it would seem. And also inevitable. Change is part of being human, being mortal. Even the gods Themselves have been known to change, temporarily and permanently. I am looking forward to sharing some changes here, and making changes in my personal life and religious life. It will be good.