Five years ago…

… I sat breathlessly in the shrine at Tawy, barely able to watch as Hemet (AUS) – who I had only just met, then – cast handfuls of shells into a tray. I was anxious – I had been overwhelmed, strangely, by my Akhu reading. Partly because the deities who were associated with that reading were Heru, Set, and Yinepu – which made me worry that Wepwawet would not be a part of my divine lineage, something I had been quietly confident about, though I swore I would approach the rite with an open mind.

The night before, we had sat in the shrine singing and drumming quietly, because we enjoyed each other’s company and the presence of the gods; the RPD candidates slept in the shrine, our mattresses lined up on the floor. The morning before that, I was welcomed with hugs and warmth from a priest of the temple – something I will never forget.

The moment of my divination is a blur of clattering cowries, whispered conversation from the observers behind me, and the rustle of papers that Hemet used to take notes. What I remember most clearly is the announcement that I had two Parents and two Beloveds, and the question: did I want to guess? I didn’t, and that seemed to be met with surprise.

I replay this moment repeatedly at this time of year. Each anniversary takes on a different meaning, as my role within the faith changes. By the second anniversary, I had done Weshem-ib and was a Shemsu-Ankh. By the fourth, I was a priest. And even beyond my changing place in the temple, my own life changes. When I was divined, I was a college freshmen, just starting my second semester. I went through my entire college career, which literally changed everything I thought I knew about myself. I bought cars, I lived on my own, I moved back home, I had relationships and heartbreak. I got bitterly wounded by both strangers and those I thought I could trust. I took on responsibility and I ran from it.

I will never stop being grateful for that day, for the gods who stepped forward to look after me, for the gods who came later, for the community I have come to love, and for every blessed moment within it.

Five years is such a long time for something that takes no time at all.

I know we already have a myth for why the sunrise is so colorful, but I choose to believe this as well:

When the sun rises, and the uncreated lays bleeding on the horizon, broken and defeated by the Son of Nut, Ra and His daughter move into the sky, and She dances. She touches the hem of the night with Her joy, stitching in the seams of dawn with red and golden thread. She sings the clouds into a fury of color, and each step of her slender feet sends neon splashes darting over our heads. She celebrates Her father’s triumph, and sends Him to rule the day with all the beauty Her love can create.

—-
I am particularly thinking of Bast here, but you can substitute any Eye you’d like. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Shrine Tour

I’m a little under the weather this week, it seems. So instead of trying to kick my brain into gear for an actual post, have a tour of the shrines in my home. I just undertook a huge cleaning of my room, which included tidying the shrines in my life. Have a look!

This is my Akhu shrine. It’s full of things that remind me of my ancestors, by blood, by kinship or by faith. There are little pyramids and Egyptian style images for the people of Kemet, whose gods I worship; there is a hymnal, some prayer cards and a rosary for my Catholic ancestors; there are a few pictures of my ancestors, tucked in there in places, and little things that the people who I knew would like – a miniature clarinet, flower shaped candles, stained glass hummingbird, a doll’s tea set.

This is a tiny shrine to Djehuty, kind of. This sits next to my computer desk, as evidenced by the external hard drive and the speaker. I’m not sure it’s a shrine to Djehuty as much as it is a shrine to wisdom and prosperity in a myriad of forms. It’s got an owl, a little toy Djehuty, a fountain pen and a few other things that seemed appropriate at the time. Most of the things here were given to me as gifts.

This is a very small shrine to Khonsu, and kind of also Mut and Amun-Ra. A few years ago, Khonsu demanded my attention. He insisted I add Him to my shrine, and listen to Him – obviously I listened. On His shrine are some white beads, a clear glass ball, a nutty essential oil perfume, and some white shells.

This is my shrine for the year of Zep Tepi. I have a small electric tea-light for each season of the year, and ribbons for each of the gods assigned to each season: Ra, Mut, and Mehet-Weret. The blue bowl is full of water, for the Nun, the potential from which Zep Tepi occurred.

This shrine is for my Beloveds, Bast and Nut. Bast is on the right, and Nut is on the left. Bast’s shrine has offerings of a small fountain, a tambourine, a christmas ornament, seashells, sea glass, smooth stones, perfume and jewelry. Nut’s shrine has offerings of feathers and dried flowers, a milky-way paperweight, a stone egg, blue stones and coins, and a drawing by Shemsu Kefetmisenu. The image of Nut I am using is not specifically Her, but it is the representation She said I should use.

Last but not least is my personal shrine, my Senut shrine. Here are offerings to my two Parents, Wepwawet and Sekhmet-Mut. They have two christmas ornaments, their shenu (in the silver boxes under candles), my Shemsu-Ankh scarab, an hourglass, a stone box full of coins, perfumes, a glass prism, tea leaves, rose quartz, jewelry, obsidian, arrowheads, and more things I can’t even begin to count. Wepwawet wears a snowflake obsidian bracelet and a wooden skull necklace; Sekhmet-Mut wears an amber bracelet and a hematite/rose quartz necklace.

So those are my shrines – small pictures, yes, because I only have my phone to take pictures. I know that when I was first starting out on my path, seeing other people’s altars inspired me to build one of my own; and now, seeing another person’s shrine is like getting a physical glimpse of their relationship with their God(s). So there you have it – God takes up a lot of space in my life, and has a lot of my stuff. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Episode 21: Initiations: Divination and Shemsu Naming

Remember: the stuff I write about my faith is my own experience and my own opinion. If you are curious about our rituals, beliefs and practices, please go to netjer.org to learn more. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve been thinking about what I could say about the Rite of Parent Divination and Shemsu Naming that isn’t just the same old ‘define the rite and then talk about my experiences’ schtick. It’s hard, because it is such an emotional experience, and I really do love talking about it. It’s been done to death, however, so I’ll just save it and give you the synopsis.

About four years ago, I underwent the Kemetic Orthodox ritual of the Rite of Parent Divination. This ritual is a divination meant to determine the deity (or deities) who are the spiritual Parent(s) and Beloved(s) of a person. The role of the Parent and Beloved deities varies from person to person, but the majority of people honor their Parent(s) as patron(s) and their Beloved(s) as some kind of auxiliary patron(s).

My RPD validated in a huge way many of the experiences I’d had. I was divined as a child of Wepwawet and Sekhmet-Mut, beloved of Bast and Nut, and got a strong but neutral message from my ancestors. Then, a few weeks later, my Shemsu Name was publicly revealed to be Sobeqsenu.

So much emphasis is put on learning one’s ‘lineup’ (a very silly word to use) and one’s name that the rite of passage aspect of these rituals is pretty well ignored, in my opinion. At their heart, I think the function of the RPD and Naming ritual is not just to spit out data, but to connect the candidate with three previously unlinked worlds: the ancestors, the gods, and the living Kemetic Orthodox community. The RPD provides a framework for communication with the dead and with the Divine, while Naming provides a formal welcome amongst the Shemsu, the followers of Netjer. Some people who have gone through these rites remark that they feel more ‘tuned in’ to the Unseen world afterwards, and I think that on many levels that’s what the RPD does. It is like installing a three way phone line in your head.

I placed an enormous amount of weight on the information gained during the RPD. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important. For me, it revealed the framework underneath my identity – explained parts of me that I never understood or explored. But at the time I never considered the implications beyond that. Now as I was ruminating on my experiences with the initiatory process, I have come to the realization that I was given much, much more than just Gods to worship or a new nickname to use.

Episode 12: My Gods – Beloved: Bast

Now I get to write about two gods I should know well, but really don’t. My beloveds: Bast, the feline goddess of joy, music and protection, and Nut, the night sky and mother of the Akhu.

A few weeks ago, Bast declared Herself a festival in Her honor – really without much warning. I didn’t complain. Who would complain about celebrating joy? Not long ago, though, I would have been cringing.

Bast’s domain of emotions and joy and sunshine made me uneasy for a long time. The idea of letting go of all the internal walls I had spent my life building and just spending time with joy, peace, even grief or anger, was not one that I really relished. That’s what She asked of me – to allow myself to experience Her domain fully. I did nothing for Her for a long while. I left my shrine for Her untouched. I would go on and on about how I just didn’t understand my Beloveds.

Until the last few weeks, of course. She came to me on my drive to work (as many of the gods do), as a young dancing maiden. Many people see Bast as a fiercely protective Mother, but apparently She is very young for me. She challenged me to celebrate Her joy that day, so I did. I told jokes, shared smiles, and at the end of the day felt satisfied that I had honored my Beloved. One day was not all She wanted, however. The following week She reminded me of that promise. And the week after that, too. Bast has declared that every Tuesday I honor Her in some way – and so I do.

No other deity in my life has claimed a day like this, I should add, even though I have offered and arranged my week in a sensible way for it. I know others who honor specific deities on specific days, and find it very satisfying. But neither my Parents nor my other Beloved nor anyOne else seem at all interested in a weekly devotion. Just Bast, who asks me once a week to honor Her with my joy.