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…

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.

More on Perfection

I have to admit: a huge part of why this blog fell silent for so long had to do with perfectionism, and equating purity with perfection. Things in my life did not go according to plan. In October 2012, Sandy came through the New Jersey shore and put my family and I in a hotel suite for months. Even when we moved back in, we were living without a shower, without heat, without fully functioning electricity. And then my dad was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. And then it was finals for graduate school. And then it was time for my students their spring performances. Engagement, moving into my own apartment, holidays — it all snowballed, and my life became something I’d never expected. My faith took a hiatus, my priest work went to the minimum.

Through all of that, I was scared to write here. In my head, I heard endless criticism: You’re a priest, why aren’t you doing more? If you were a good priest, you wouldn’t be so focused on other things. If you aren’t going above and beyond, you don’t deserve to be called a priest. In my anxiety I felt that if I were to write something revealing my flaws and my struggles, then my audience would lose confidence in the community of priests, perceiving all priests as flawed. My suitability for the priesthood would be questioned. I’d be demoted. The gods would hate me.

I despise anxiety.

It’s all ridiculous, and I know that now. While I am held accountable for my writings and for my actions as a member of an organized priesthood, the likelihood that anyone is going to lose faith in priests and in the House of Netjer as a result of my writing? That’s probably pretty low.

Thus, my drive to strive for purity, not perfection: my words may be pure, but I am not perfect. I can speak truth, I can uphold ma’at, but I can’t be perfect. I am facing new battles, both large and small. I did not come to this point in my life without getting dinged up around my edges. I think it’s time to stop being so afraid to let the dings and scratches show.

 

Settling Back In (or, Starting from Scratch).

Things are starting to come together into a comfortable routine in Sobeq-land. It’s been a hell of a journey here. This time last year, I was just settling into a hotel suite to wait for my childhood home to be raised ten feet, and rebuilt from a total disaster zone. I’d spent two months living in a gutted structure where only two rooms had electricity, no hot water, no shower, no kitchen, no bathroom walls. Now, I have a place of my own with a loving fiancé; I am planning a wedding, my sister is having a baby, my family is mostly healthy (or at least, physically stable) — things are good. It is time to rebuild everything else, take steps back to stability in my personal and spiritual life.

It honestly feels like I am starting from scratch. I have lost the momentum I had before the storm. Psychologically, there is motivation simply in having had a consistent practice. It is harder to break a streak than it is to continue it. Now, it has been so long since I was able to maintain a daily ritual practice that inertia is keeping me down. A priest in motion tends to stay in motion; a priest at rest tends to stay at rest. I suppose.

Building that momentum is harder too, now. As I prepared to become a priest, I built my momentum with excitement and anticipation. I did Senut every day, knowing that soon I would open my shrine for the priesthood’s daily rite. I was proud, my gods were proud — it felt new, joyful, full of promise.

Now I feel guilty. It is true, when we came back from the hotel suite our house still had no shower. It is true, I could not do the Rite while I had contractors milling in and out of my rooms, leaving screwdrivers on shrines and tracking dirt and debris. It is true, that not long after that ended, I got engaged and my life became a flurry of activity; and then I made plans to move, and the semester started, and the holidays came upon us… and now here we are. It is true that all of these things make it difficult to come back to shrine, and that I could never have anticipated any one of them until they happened. And yet I still  feel guilty, I like I should slink back to my shrine with my tail between my legs. Every time inertia gets the better of me, I feel worse.

I think that’s what makes it harder to get back up when we fall — that wave of guilt that comes with having stepped back. Not only are we trying to battle inertia, but our own internal monologue of shame. If each time we tried to rebuild we could access that flurry of excitement and anticipation, would it be easier to come back from hiatus? I think so. It’s that guilt and shame that can lead people to give up on their goals; we consider even the rebuilding process a failure, because it feels so uncomfortable. What if we could see it for what it is? What if we recognized that this is the same process we went through once before with joy?

The Christian New Testament has that lovely parable of the prodigal son. Kemetic thinking has Zep Tepi, the world made new each dawn. Weeks ago, my Father said something to the effect of, “don’t worry about what you were doing yesterday; do it today like you’d always been doing it this way.” In other words, forget how many times you went to sleep instead of going to shrine. Forget how many times you could only bring your prayers, not your purity. Forget all the times you knelt before the shrine emptyhanded, because you could not bring offerings. Come as though you’d always come, pure and eager, with arms full of incense and flowers for the gods. And so I go, each day that I can, as though the last day were the same as the present one.