In Service.

I have made bright Ma’at which Ra loves, I know that He lives by it;
it is my bread too; I eat of its brightness.

Inscription of Hatshepsut at Speos Artemidos
The public washing of hands marks my official consecration of a w’ab priest.

10 years ago yesterday, I stood before the Shrine of the Truth and the Mother, taking a vow of service to my gods. I am stunned that somehow, while I wasn’t paying attention, 10 years crept by — and now I have spent a decade in the service of the Netjeru.

But life changed. My household was significantly impacted by Hurricane Sandy. My father, also my employer, became seriously ill, and I stepped into his role at work. I moved into a 1-bedroom apartment with my fiancé. I got married. I did a year-long unpaid internship. I finished graduate school. I got seriously ill (and recovered, dua Netjer). I moved into a bigger apartment with my husband. I started working in my field. I changed jobs. I bought a house. I moved again. And now, a global pandemic. Not to mention the challenges within the religion itself during that time — changes and conflict are a matter of course when you work with other people, and the temple is no exception.

I struggled at times. I found myself feeling like it was impossible to continue my service some days because I could not maintain the consistency with which I first approached the priesthood. If I couldn’t live up to what I had done in my first year of service, how could I call myself a good priest? If I couldn’t observe every festival, show up for every event, greet every sunrise — how was I carrying ma’at to my gods and Their people?

When I came to the priesthood, I assumed that integrating that work into my life would mean establishing strict routines and prioritizing religious work over other things. I tried that, for a while; it didn’t work. I am a human being before I am a priest; a human who wants to be in relationship with others, have hobbies, and have a meaningful career. At some point in the last year — I couldn’t pinpoint if I tried — I dropped that approach. I dropped the judgment. I set boundaries for myself. If I go to work, I don’t go to shrine; if I don’t go to work, I go to shrine. I think that eased the pressure for me; now instead of judging myself for “missing shrine” five out of seven days of the week, I celebrate when I go both Saturday and Sunday. It also taught me that the trick to service is not in pushing harder, or doing more, but in being deliberate and finding that sweet spot of balance. Ma’at, anyone?

I am grateful for the growth that being a priest has permitted me — personally, professionally, and spiritually. I am proud and honored to serve the gods in ritual, and in all I do. I am optimistic that as I continue this work, I can continue to carry my gods to the people who love Them, continue to grow, and continue to serve Them to the best of my ability.

(I’m also hoping to write more — even short snippets here and there — because I really do miss blogging. So hello again — I hope I can be more present here this year.)

Prayer to Sekhmet for the Vulnerable

The following is a litany to Sekhmet that I wrote for use during this time of COVID-19. It focuses on protecting those who are especially vulnerable. It is not an exhaustive list, and I am open to suggestions for groups to add.

Refrain after each verse:
Sekhmet the Great, be with us now;
save us from danger, watch over us all!

Sekhmet the Great, Mother of All,
Whose Majesty is pacified after Her rage;
be peaceful, be gracious to us, Your children
in this, Your name of Pacified One.

Watch over those who are suffering sickness,
those struggling to find their way back to health;
drive out their illness and chase death away
in this, Your name of Lady of Life.

Watch over the medically vulnerable,
those at greatest risk of sickness or death;
block the path of any disease, and keep them from harm
in this, Your name of Protector.

Watch over those who are pregnant,
whose bodies are working to support two lives;
let them have enough to live and keep illness at bay
in This, Your name of Mighty-Hearted.

Watch over the very young,
those whose bodies have not yet built their defenses;
protect them as Your own children
in this, Your name of Who Protects Her Son.

Watch over the elderly ones,
those whose lifetimes have worn down their defenses;
protect them as Your own family
in this, Your name of Who Protects Her Father.

Watch over the mentally ill,
those who suffer most deeply from isolation and fear;
comfort them and fill them with Your light
in this, Your name of Who Illuminates the Two Lands.

Watch over the victims of violence,
those quarantined with abusers of any kind;
let them know safety and protect them from danger
in this, Your name of Devouring Flame.

Watch over the queer and trans people,
those for whom prejudice raises barriers to effective care;
let them find compassion when needed and let them stay well
in this, Your name of Lady of Kindness.

Watch over the undocumented and the migrants,
those who travel and those without the support of their homeland;
let them receive kindness and the resources they need
in this, Your name of Who Keeps the Two Lands Alive.

Watch over those incarcerated,
those who deserve dignity, as members of humanity;
let them know peace and mercy
in this, Your name of Who Hears Prayers.

Watch over the Indigenous peoples,
those marginalized by colonizers in any land;
grant them safety and the resources to thrive
in this, Your name of Great Noble One.

Watch over the un- and underemployed,
those financially strained by loss of work;
grant them prosperity and keep them stable
in this, Your name of Golden One.

Watch over the sex-workers,
those whose work brings them into intimate closeness;
bring them stability, safety, and freedom of choice
in this, Your name of Beautiful, Magnificent One.

Watch over the doctors, nurses, and all medical personnel,
those fighting against disease, to keep us safe;
keep them strong and free from illness
in this, Your name of Who Wards Off Evil.

Watch over the farmers, grocers, and food-service workers,
those tasked with keeping the people fed;
protect them from disease and from fearful, ill-tempered patrons
in this, Your name of Lady of Nourishment.

Watch over those whose work is deemed essential,
in retail, in law, in public service;
help them keep order and keep them healthy
in this, Your name of Who Destroys the Riot.

Sekhmet the Great, Lady of Jubilation,
be with me and all those I love.
Walk with us until we are safe again,
and bless us in Your many names.

Money – it’s a drag.

Thanks to Pink Floyd for the title inspiration. 😉

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.

Hand Crafted (1)
Click here to make a donation.