#teamsekhmet

I’m going to put it straight to you: The House of Netjer¬†needs donations. The only way for the temple to survive is if temple members donate — and only a small number of members actually do so.

I’m putting a call out to my siblings in Sekhmet to change that, this month. I don’t care how you do it — if you donate yourself, if you offer to sell services in exchange for donations, if you pester everyone else until they donate — but the children of Sekhmet are going to smash that donation goal this month. #teamsekhmet, are you ready? We have 31 days to get it done. Let’s do it!

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Money – it’s a drag.

Thanks to Pink Floyd for the title inspiration. ūüėČ

Money is a fraught subject, especially when it comes to donations to religious organizations. Most polytheists and pagans are converts from “mainstream” religions, where collection plates are passed around during services each week, and tithing from one’s paycheck is to be expected.

We are also taught by concerned friends and family that we need to beware of groups that seek our financial contributions. We are warned away from religions that require numerous financial donations, because they could be dangerous cults.

And culturally (at least in the West) we are taught that one should never spend money without getting something in return.

A request for donations from a religious group, therefore, can feel like a major affront. What will I get in exchange for my donation? Is this the start of a sinister series of attempts to drain my bank account? This is just like my Christian church, isn’t it.

Let’s be real. Any organization incurs operational costs. If the organization has a website, that’s a cost right there — for web-hosting and domain registration and general upkeep and maintenance. Does the group have insurance? That’s a cost. Does the group own property? That’s another cost. Is the group tax exempt? Does the group employ an accountant or any other external vendors to help manage operations? Does the group pay any full-time clergy or staff?

It adds up fast.

So what do you get in exchange for your donation? You get all the services and resources that you enjoy as a member of your organization. Sure, nobody is going to turn you away if you don’t make a contribution, but the costs are still going to be there.

How can you tell if a donation request is genuine or an attempt to steal all your money? Well, is the group pushing you to go beyond your means, or are they asking for a donation of “whatever you can contribute”? Is the group trying to sell you on expensive retreats or equipment that you can’t afford, and then questioning your dedication if you don’t buy in? Is the group open to you whether you donate or not? A dangerous cult will push you beyond your means, and ridicule you or shun you when you can’t exceed them. A group that is asking for donations in earnest will encourage you to give what you can on a regular basis, and be understanding when you can’t.

Is this just like your Christian church? Maybe. Part of the reason Christian churches do so well is that there is an expectation that members will make contributions to the operations of the church. Many churches and parishes have financial support from a central leadership — and many pagan or polytheist groups are the only one of their kind, so they lack that support.

Don’t be hasty to judge a group for asking for money. If you participate in a group, and you have some cash to spare, consider making a donation towards the services you receive as a member. It’s not rude, or money-grubbing, or sinister to ask your members for money. It’s reality!

The House of Netjer is asking for money. We are asking our members to make whatever contributions they can to the operations of our temple. If you are a member, and you can make a contribution of even $5, it can go a long way. (Does anyone else remember that commercial with Roma Downey for some children’s charity — “With your $5 and your $5…” — just me? Right, then.) And if you can’t spare $5, then don’t.

Even if you aren’t a member, if you believe in supporting organized polytheist religion, you are invited to contribute. We may not honor the same gods, but we do well when we support each other.

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Click here to make a donation.

What the heck-a is heka?

I am often asked to write about heka1. The problem with me writing about heka is that I really don’t do much heka. My heka work is limited to prayers, offerings, and the occasional execration. I ignored these requests for a long time, until I remembered that I happen to be good friends with one of the most powerful hekau2 I know: Abby (secular name) aka Ubenet (Shemsu name). She was more than willing to talk shop with me for my blog, and so we spent a while talking about her experiences and her advice for new hekau.

If you like what you read, Ubenet offers charms and more at her Etsy shop, Wire and Roses. I can personally attest that her charms and heka are both beautiful and effective!

Sobeq: So first of all – what would you call your kind of heka/magic, if you had to label it?

Ubenet: Hmm, that’s a good question. Bricolage, maybe. Bricolage is a word we stole from the French that basically means “putting stuff together from whatever’s available”. I mix together stuff I’ve learned from all kinds of things with intuition and just sort of… do stuff.

S: Where do you draw your techniques from?

U: I’ve learned a lot from books on ancient Egyptian stuff, hoodoo/rootwork, and modern witchcraft. Those are probably my main influences, plus whatever I run across on the Internet that resonates.

S: If you had to break it down into percentages (which could be difficult) what would it be?

U: [Laughing] That is indeed difficult! I feel like my sensibility is always Kemetic — I’m always deciding that I have the authority to do this thing, so I will do it. But the actual mechanics vary – yesterday I was more on the modern witchcraft side, when I made a charm for myself out of gemstones, for example.

S: What do you mean by “I have the authority to do this thing, so I will do it”?

U: It’s like, I realize this thing needs doing, and I’m going to step up. I’m my Parents’ daughter, so I can use the power They gave me.

S: Gotcha. How do you decide which approach is going to work best?

U: That’s a good question! Intuition, I guess. Sometimes it’s just like, “This needs to be a bottle spell,” or “This needs to be embroidered,” or “This needs to be a charm”.

S: Do you think there’s any tendency for certain kinds of magic to trend towards certain kinds of spells?

U: If it’s something short-term that I think needs to be near the person, it’s likely to be a charm, and if it’s something long-term that doesn’t, it’s likely to be a spell bottle. If it’s short-term and doesn’t need to be near the person, usually it’s a candle spell, and if it’s long-term and does need to be nearby, it’s embroidered. Actually, I hadn’t really put that together before!

S: It sounds like those are your go-to spells! Bottles, charms, candle magic, and embroidery.

U: Yup! Oh, and I forgot the dragons I make – those are like a combination of bottle spell, embroidery, and charm. I put a wad of herbs wrapped tightly in duct tape (for washability) in the stuffing.

S: Nice! What’s the process of prepping for a spell like for you?

U: I figure out what I want to happen, and then it depends on which direction I’m going. If it’s an embroidery spell, I make it into a sigil and pick colors; if it’s a charm, I pick stones that either have associations that match what I want, or I look at the stones I have and see which ones are going “pick me, pick me!” If it’s a candle I’m dressing myself, I find herbs with the right associations or that are going “pick me, pick me!” and make a list and putter around finding where I put them.

S: Do you do any sort of ritual work or purification beforehand?

U: Sometimes, if I feel like I need to, but usually it’s more like the energy is building up in my hands and I need to use it or lose it.

S: Timing is everything!

U: [Laughing] Yup!

S: Have you ever had something go awry while working a spell — either with the execution of the spell (i.e., spills, things on fire) or with the magical results?

U: Sometimes when things go “wrong,” it’s actually telling you something. I lit a crucible of courage candle for my friend when her son was dying. The label burst, and the glass broke, and that night he died. When I saw that it had gone kaboom, my first thought was “none of the pieces hit Fritz3, did they?” (they did not), and my second thought was “it’s going to be tonight”.

S: Are there any indicators that tell you a spell is going to go well or be particularly effective?

U: Sometimes it just feels good! Like, there’s usually a sort of “yes, I have done a thing” satisfaction, but sometimes it’s more like “yes, I have Done A Thing”.

S: Do you ever find yourself going “against the book” so to speak, because it’s what your gut tells you?

U: Sometimes! I have a habit of using nutmeg to represent myself, which is not in any book, but I’m from Connecticut4. In hoodoo, nutmeg is used for luck, especially for gamblers. Most people wouldn’t be like, “ah yes, a nutmeg, this symbolizes My People”.

S: Was there a point in your magical practice where you realized “yes, this is thing I am skilled at?” For example, there’s people who can cook, and then there’s chefs, and I feel like as far as heka goes you’re the latter.

U: Oh wow, thank you! I don’t know, I think I realized I was competent when somebody told me that something I made them made them feel better, and then it’s been sort of steadily increasing.

S: If you had to give advice to someone who was just starting out, what would you say?

U: I would say, do things! Try different things, read about different things, and see what makes your heart go “yes, that’s right” or “no, that’s not right, it should be like this instead”, and then do something with it.


Footnotes:

1. magic
2. magician
3. Ubenet’s hedgehog familiar
4. See this link for background on the connection here.

There is always love.

See to it that love continues. It is left to you to tend this work. We cannot do it for you alone. You too must serve. 

from the Year 24 Kemetic Orthodox Oracle of Aset

When I read the Oracle for this year, I was ecstatic. I am all about divine love. Love is basically the key word of my religious practice. The word ‘love’ appears more than a dozen times in the Oracle.

Love is such a big word. It encompasses so many things: friendship, family, religion, sex, partnership, enjoyment, and on and on. Love can be comforting and soothing, or so deep it causes pain. It can be so much more than four letters could ever contain. And yet – four letters contain love in its entirety.

Love is a command, it is a sensation, it is an action; in the Oracle, it is all these things. We are reminded that the gods love us — so much so that They bring us into being, suffused with this love from cradle to grave. We are commanded to act always in love — not in romantic¬†love or friendship, but the love that recognizes that we are all children of the gods, and as such deserve respect, honesty, and dignity. We are given the power to love ourselves, to care for ourselves and our world, and reclaim our innocence.

Love is the foundation of my worship. Everything springs from love. The gods love me, so They call to me to honor Them. I love the gods, so I bring them offerings and kneel before the shrine. I learned about the term bhakti yoga (or bhakti marga) in my brief study of Hinduism, and it springs to mind every time I try to describe my religious ideology. Bhakti yoga can refer to the path to moksha, or freedom, attained by love and devotion to a god or to the Divine as a whole. The goal is to be devoted without pretense or desire for reward; to love God for the sake of loving God, and to allow oneself to become absorbed by the love that joins God and devotee.1

I sometimes describe this feeling as grace, though that word has its own Judeo-Christian connotations. There is this lightness, this breathless joy that I feel when I walk out of Their shrine drenched in Their love. It is this feeling that I try to carry with me through the world. It is this feeling that inspired the name change of this blog. This love is powerful and intoxicating. It changes everything it touches. It has certainly changed me.

We are tasked to serve love, this year. We are instructed to ensure that the love They have given us — pure, strong love — continues to move through the world with us. We are expected to share love with each other, to heal each other and support each other.

I am so ready to carry Their love.


  1. This is a way watered down summary of the concept of bhakti yoga. If you are interested in learning, you may wish to seek out someone currently practicing Hinduism who may be more deeply familiar with the concept. My study of Hinduism was purely academic.

Milestones

Well, I did it. I finished my master’s degree in counseling. I also passed my licensing exam. Now the only thing standing between me and my dream job is a boatload of paperwork — and hopefully not too many job applications.

I’ve been longing to do this work since before I even knew what it was. My youthful drive to be a teacher was spurred by my desire to be a source of support and an open ear to my students. It wasn’t until I had already sent applications to get my bachelor’s degree in music education that I realized that what I really wanted was to become a therapist.

I didn’t know what that meant when I started my undergraduate work in psychology. I figured I’d learn what I needed to know by the time I got to the end of my bachelor’s degree. I didn’t. I took a year off to get my ducks in a row, and took up a master’s program in mental health counseling.

Through it all, I knew that the work I was learning to do is the work that I was meant to do. Even as an undergraduate, I felt driven towards this goal. It feels like a service to my gods, to heal and to serve. I walk with my clients as their guide through their troubles, and I show them compassion and help them to heal. I see this as the greatest offering I could make – to give my daily work in service to my gods. And now here I am.