“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.

Welcome back to W’ab Wednesday

Note: this post contains opinion, not doctrine of any kind, and is intended as thought-provoking contemplation rather than instructional writing.

W’ab Wednesday is a series I started for writing about purity. To recap, in brief: I am a lay priest, or w’ab priest, in Kemetic Orthodoxy. In this context, the word w’ab translates to “pure”, “purity”, or “to be pure”. My job is to be a ritual technician, and a large portion of that means maintaining something called “ritual purity” — meaning, a state of spiritual and physical cleanliness in which the highest rituals may be performed.

Ritual purity isn’t a requirement for worship of the gods. Prayer and offerings made without ritual purity still count. So why bother?

To state the obvious — the gods don’t live where we do. They live in the Duat, while we live in the physical world. When we pray or make offerings, we are trying to communicate from one world into the next. The more ritually pure we are, the more effective our interactions with the gods and the Duat will be. Impurity — things like physical dirt, Unseen dirt, distractions, etc. — is the static that interferes with our communication.

This is partly why I believe so strongly in the concept of purity as a continuum. We will never have 100% effective communication to the Duat as living humans. The more we can shed the dirt of everyday living, the closer we can scoot to operating at full capacity (which will vary from person to person).

When doing State rituals, like the priests’ rite or certain holiday rituals, we want to be sure there is as little “static” as possible — hence the requirement for more purity. There is bigger heka here, so it’s easier for the static to get in the way. Informal offerings and casual candle-lightings are harder to mess up, so the purity requirement is much lower.

On sabbaticals.

Taking time off from serving as a priest of my deities has been one of the greatest blessings I have ever received. When I made the decision to temporarily suspend my service, I grieved a little. I felt like I was giving up, like I was losing a piece of myself, like I was a failure. My inability to remain committed to my worship felt like a personal fault, rather than the natural consequence of increased academic and professional requirements.

In response, I withdrew from everything. I stopped doing Senut and stopped tending my shrines. Everything came to a halt, until I slowly picked up one thread at a time. I briefly engaged with other pantheons. I worked at connecting with the most basic forces that drew me to polytheist — the spirits of the land and the Divine Itself. I began to feel enthusiastic about engaging with the Divine again. By Wep Ronpet, I felt like engaging with the gods again — and engage I did, worshipping with fervor during Retreat.

Senut began to feel fulfilling again. As I was doing my priest work, it had started to feel meaningless, like a lot of vague hand-waving that didn’t do anything.

More than that, my desire to serve the gods rose in me again. It had dwindled over the past four years, to become vaguely burdensome. I found myself planning research, sketching out festival rites, envisioning my reconstructed shrine.

I dropped everything, and then picked up one piece at a time, and it has been restorative in a way I never imagined it would. I am patiently waiting for my internship to end to consider returning to service with renewed purpose.

Happy Year 23: Another Year of Heru

Another year of Heru-sa-Aset. It’s going to be a very different year for me. I’ve established this already, by withdrawing from priest service until my degree is finished, but the overall theme I received from my gods during the new year’s celebrations is that I need to change. Things need to change. I am too divided and overworked and I am not better for it. I will need to prioritize and choose my path carefully, and let things that do not serve me go.

I’ve decided to let my Tumblr presence go for now, to that end. I have nothing against the site but it is a huge time sink, and I don’t have time to spare right now. I don’t plan on deleting my account but I did uninstall the app from my phone. I may still post but it will likely be sporadic, and I don’t expect to engage much.

This year my focus will be inward, on growing my own relationship with my Parents and Beloveds, and on living my religion more authentically. On keeping ma’at in my heart at all times. I cannot bring Her to the people until I have brought Her back into my life again. Once I have achieved that, then I will return to the work of my gods as Their priest, and will return to giving of myself to my community. Perhaps then I will go back to the larger inter-Kemetic community, perhaps not. I will try to write about it here, but even this blog might go dark while I listen carefully to my gods. There is too much at stake not to focus this year.

Dua Heru-sa-Aset! Nekhtet!

The more things change…

"Sage Advice" by Randy Helnitz is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

I am no longer serving as a w’ab priest in Kemetic Orthodoxy.

I made the decision to end my service after reflecting on the changes that are coming up for me in my secular life. My career is shifting, my academic pursuits are reaching culmination, my married life still needs my attention. (Let me make it clear, in case the following paragraphs do not: I have no bad feelings toward Kemetic Orthodoxy and the House of Netjer, nor am I withdrawing my membership. I remain a Shemsu-Ankh, as devoted as ever to the community and the gods.)

When I asked about serving as a priest, I felt like starting my service before these changes came up would allow me to integrate w’ab service into my life, so that when I got busy, I would already be used to prioritizing the gods. I never could have predicted that after one year of service, my father would become seriously injured and then ill, causing my brother to move into the room that housed my shrine. I never would have imagined that the ground floor of our house would be swept by flooding, displacing me and my family for months. I never dreamed I would be getting married, nor did I have any clue that getting married would be the overwhelming, over-saturating event that it would turn out to be. Now I am finishing my Masters degree, which requires three semesters of practical training and two comprehensive exams.

Finally, a challenge I expected.

Because I had the luxury of knowing what was coming, I took some time to think about whether this would become a roadblock to my service. And the answer was yes. Spending even more time away from home, with no less need for things like laundry, food, sleep, social interaction, etc. was going to cut into the time I could devote to actually doing the work of a priest — something I had already begun to feel too cramped to accommodate.

In fact, ever since coming back after the storm, I’ve felt disorganized and aimless in my priest work. I’ve been unmotivated. I’ve loved serving the gods, but something wasn’t right. It is my hope that if it is appropriate for me to return to serving as a priest, this time to serve and honor myself will help me find direction again. While I do feel a sense of loss having given up my service, I also feel excited at the opportunity to know my gods in a freer, less business-like setting. To explore myself and my relationship with Kemet again. To simply light candles and sit in Their presence and feel like it is enough. My life is changing dramatically in so many other arenas that I cannot imagine that my relationship with the gods would not change too.

Here’s to letting change change me.

Featured image is “Sage Advice” by Randy Heinitz, licensed under CC BY 2.0

KRT: On Priesthood.

I wrote this really long post about priesthood for the Kemetic Roundtable, and then WordPress cruelly devoured it. I’m going to try to re-create it, but honestly? I was so damn proud of that post. Anything I write about it now is just not going to be as good.

What about modern priesthood? What does being a priest mean in the modern era?

The way I see it, priesthood is about service. It’s about doing something – heka, ritual, whatever – on behalf of a deity, for the benefit of someone besides yourself. If a god is asking you to do something of the sort – congratulations, you’re more or less doing the work of a priest.

I try to be fairly transparent about being a Kemetic Orthodox w’ab priest, though I don’t always blog about my experiences as such. Within Kemetic Orthodoxy, you are not only working for the gods, but you are backed up by your training – your knowledge is supported and verified by another group of people, and you are held accountable for what you know and do. A modern priest, therefore, is someone who performs rituals and heka on behalf of their deity or deities, and who is supported in their work by their community.

Being a priest is not about:

  • Getting it right all the time
  • Knowing what you are doing all the time
  • Having a clear and infallible connection to the gods
  • Feeling constantly competent
  • Being universally acknowledged for your service

As a priest, I spend a considerable amount of time running around going “Is this what You want? Am I doing what You’re asking me to do?” all the while trying not to act too much like I am flailing around in confusion. I don’t always understand what They want, or how to do what They are asking me to do. I can’t even always fulfill Their requests for practical reasons. Sometimes I sit before the shrine feeling no different than I would if I were sitting at my computer. And in spite of all the confusion, I do it anyway, because serving Them is what I do; and that’s really what it means to be a priest in modern times.