Gratitude

What are you thankful for in this religion? How are you blessed?

My gratitude for my religion is vast and complicated. I am grateful for the relationships I have forged; for the experiences I have had; for the opportunity to honor the gods and serve as Their priest.

I am thankful, because I came to this religion as an adolescent, still developing my sense of self, my moral code, and my way of thinking about the world. Growing into adulthood in this religion has helped to shape who I am and how I approach the world.

Above all else, though, I think I am grateful for the attitude towards gratitude that I have learned through this community. Hemet (AUS) places a great deal of emphasis on gratitude in her teachings – gratitude to the gods, to the ancestors, to our teachers. The first prayer I offer to my gods each time I enter my shrine is “thank You”.

(Forgive the slightly disjointed ramble; I am trying to exercise the philosophy that it’s better to write poorly than not to write at all.)

Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

Nebt-het, Consoler and Comforter.

[content warning: suicide; death]

One of Nebt-het’s many roles is as the mourning Sister of Wesir. She feels the sharp pang of His loss, and grieves his death with Aset. As such, She is often called upon to comfort those who mourn. In this role, She stands beside those who are grieving their own losses, serving as an example that loss can be endured–even overcome. I have felt Her presence near another kind of grief, in the course of my work in the mental health field. I have felt Her standing with those who are suicidal.

Nearly a year ago, I started working as a clinician for emergency psychiatric services in a hospital emergency room. It’s hard and humbling work. When I started working, I noticed I felt Her with me as I sat with people struggling with suicide. A quiet, tearfully tender presence, She filled the background space of my days as I stepped in and out of people’s lives during their most painful moments.

To be suicidal is to feel a kind of grief. Both grief and suicidal ideation can be overwhelming, suffocating, and feel inescapable. Both tell the lie that there can be no return to happiness or peace. As Comforter and Consoler, Nebt-het walks with those who suffer. She offers Her love and reassurance that pain is survivable. She offers a quiet plea to all those who suffer: “no pain will last forever.” She has also greeted those who have come to Her by suicide, and seen their pain as they mourn their own loss.

Suicide is one of the most painful experiences, be it loss of a loved one to suicide or recovery from a survived attempt. Nebthet the Mourner is with all of us as we grieve and as we struggle.

O Nebthet, Great Consoler,
may You watch over and protect all those who suffer.
You, who endured the loss of Your brother,
Who stood by Your sister as She wept
and felt Her heart breaking, as our hearts break too–
may You help them hold steady;
may You stand by their sides;
may You embrace them and their pain
and may You bring them peace of mind. 

[NB: this prayer may be used for oneself, for a loved one, or for those who suffer in general. To use for oneself, the first line will end with “protect me, who suffers,” and in all other lines  the third person pronoun changes to first person. To use for a specific person, the first line will end with “protect [name], who suffers,”, and all other pronouns will change to third person singular.]

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, I urge you to seek support from a mental health professional. Reach out to a friend or loved one. You are loved, and you are not alone.

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Carrying Their Light, Every Day

I’ve known for years that I was meant to work in a service-oriented position. In elementary school I thought that meant being a teacher. In high school, I waffled between psychology and music education. As an undergraduate student, I landed squarely on the side of psychology, in a tiny corner called “counseling”.

The funny thing about counseling is that you don’t really get to experience it until you’ve already expended significant effort training in it. The work of counseling is so delicate that you have to be carefully trained – and even then, it takes years of supervised practice in most states before you’re permitted to launch your own counseling practice. So for years, I was chasing a goal that felt as alien as the moon — and yet as dear as the grass beneath my feet. How could I love this field so deeply without experiencing it? Real talk — I have no freaking idea. I loved counseling wildly for all four years of my undergraduate training and for all five, laborious, snail-slow years of my graduate training, and I have no idea how.

Now I have the luxury of sitting in my office, embracing the trials of the clients who come through my door. I love every minute of the chaos, of the heartbreak, of the frustration, of the anxiety. I love seeing the face of someone who hears “I’m in your corner” from another person for the first time. I even love the hard stuff. I love sitting with someone in the depths of psychosis, sick and scared and a world apart, compassionately assessing their needs, and advocating for their treatment. I love extending my hands to hold someone’s grief with them for a short space of time.

I first met my gods when I sought out gods for the work that I wanted to do. Sekhmet was the first deity of healing I encountered; Wepwawet just felt right, for reasons I have difficulty articulating. Wepwawet opens the door to healing, creates the space of safety I try to create in my office. Sekhmet illuminates the space with Her light, chasing away the darkness. My Beloveds, too: Bast brings music and joy, the compassion needed to embrace sorrow; Nut brings patience, endurance, wisdom; Khonsu, the surgical precision that carves out pain and exposes bitter truths; and Nebthet, most recently come to my shrine, brings quiet comfort, a gentle mirror to gaze into and reflect.

Even on the hardest days — the days when I’m leaving job #2 at 11 PM after starting job #1 at 5:30 AM, after I’ve been yelled at, told off, had my training questioned, written and re-written assessments, made mistakes and cleaned them up — I still walk out full of joy, with my chin up, feeling like I am finally in the right place.

My goal since becoming Kemetic has been to carry the light of my gods wherever I go. Through the work I’m doing now, I believe I can.

The Return of the King

I felt completely lost when it came to the Mysteries of Wesir when I first became Kemetic. Wesir was hard for me to grasp, having quite a bit in common with the gods of the faith I had just left — died, resurrected, ruling in the place where dead people go — so maybe I steered clear of Him “accidentally-on-purpose”.

I tried to wrestle with the holiday when I was in the midst of my existential crisis. I wanted to understand it so badly. I felt like if I understood it, maybe I wouldn’t be so scared of it. I threw myself at it, and didn’t have much luck — trying to understand a god by force doesn’t work all that well, I discovered.

This year, somehow, celebrating the festival felt right for the first time. I traveled down to Virginia for a vigil ritual hosted by one of the temple’s ordained clergy, Reverend Heruakhetymose. As myself and fellow w’ab Shefytbast headed south, the landscape became more and more rural, and we noticed how the changing of the leaves mirrored the season of the death of Wesir.

The vigil itself felt like an ordeal we undertook with Wesir, standing at His side as He underwent the mysterious journey from death to life in the Duat1. Each hour, on the hour, we entered the shrine room in silence. The room was variously lit in a dim purple glow or by candle light, and I took up a drum to count the minutes until the hour struck. At the second of the hour I let the drum fall silent, and myself and fellow priests performed the ritual while the rest of those gathered offered henu. After the ritual concluded and we spent a few moments in silent contemplation, I took up the drum again, and we left as silently as we came.

And then we passed the hour until the next one.

We played games, we had snacks, we watched silly videos and talked about everything and nothing. We sat curled under blankets and watched parts of The Mummy. We shared our time and our kindness together — until our alarms chimed that it was time to prep for the next hour’s ritual, and we took up the mantle of silence for Wesir again.

By dawn, we were exhausted. Many of us had napped at least once, but we were pretty punchy. And yet, as we entered the shrine room in silence for the final ritual of resurrection, an unexpected lightness carried us onward. The gods felt… not joyful, but at peace, where the previous hours felt heavy with mourning and transformation. Wesir assumed His throne in the Duat, caring for our ancestors, and providing a home for us after our lives are done.

We made our final offerings of the day to Wesir after we had all had an opportunity to rest and sleep some. We celebrated His re-establishment to life in the Duat, we thanked Him for His sacrifice to create a home for us after death, and we thanked Him for being with us. And then — we snacked on offerings during the day. We wrapped ourselves in blankets and watched cartoons, shared stories, and laughed quite a bit. We watched a wintery storm roll in and ate leftovers. It felt like being with family. And in the end, I think that’s what He wanted: for us to be together, to honor His journey together, and to rise together after the ordeal of the vigil and come together again.

I won’t say I properly understand His mysteries now; but I will say I feel much closer to Him, and that I’m grateful for the opportunity His mysteries gave me to grow closer with my community.


Footnotes:

  1. Underworld, or afterlife, or “Unseen World”. Generally, where gods and ancestors live.

Seasons and Gods

My gods seem to have an arrangement. In the summer, when the air is thick and humid and the sun is an unforgettable presence in the sky, my Mother comes forward. She teaches me about healing, about mercy, about justice. I feel Her wrap Her arms around me as the heat presses against my skin and the sun beats down on my shoulders. It feels like a dance, spun with red linen and turquoise, gold and lapis.

Slowly, as the heat wanes, She retreats and my Father comes forward. As the trees turn burning red and shed their leaves, He starts to whisper in my ear. He teaches me about magic, and authority, and the power to move effortlessly between any two places or roles. He is as crystal clear as the frigid air that starts to show my breath; strong and steadfast, the silence space between the mountains.

I am always my Mother’s child, and I am always my Father’s child — but as the seasons shift, so do They. Perhaps my Mother follows the Wandering Eye myth cycle, being distant at the winter solstice. Perhaps They just want to make things easy on me. Perhaps I’m the one making the division. Who knows? There are some things I just… don’t question, when it comes to the gods. 😉

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.