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.

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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Divine Relationships

Having a relationship with the Divine isn’t as easy as one would assume.

I thought it was very simple, for a long time. I assumed that Netjer (God) would be there for me no matter what, and that all I had to do was keep smiling at Netjer and that It would keep smiling at me. It was a very naïve way of looking at things. I didn’t realize, at the time, that a relationship with anyone, divine or not, requires effort from both parties. It’s the kind of thing you know in the back of your mind, but unless someone gives you the word for it – reciprocal – you wouldn’t be able to name it. I wasn’t entirely unique in this assumption by any stretch. I saw it often in my time in the Catholic church. I mean no offense to Catholics, but I’ve been closer to Catholicism than I have to other religions, barring neo-Wicca and paganism. I noticed the tendency to assume that God would automatically be active in the lives of His followers. I see it in pagans, in Muslims, in Jews and agnostics. God is mighty and will come to the aid of His followers whenever they should call.

I ask this, though: why should a relationship with the Divine be so different from one with other people? Why doesn’t God want a healthy, reciprocal relationship? If we treated our friends and family members the way we treat our Gods, we’d have extremely unhealthy relationships. We’re acting like that friend who only talks to you when they need something from you. I’m sure you’ve know of situations like that, where an individual comes to you only for money, advice or other kinds of assistance. You start to lose patience with their constant pleas for help, and wonder if they really only come to you for your possessions or your abilities. Sometimes, it’s true. They only care about what you can do for them and don’t want to know you any further. Sometimes it isn’t – but that doesn’t make it any less hurtful.

Why, then, would we want to treat our Gods – the Ones who made us, Who inspired our existence, the Divine Beings to Whom we are infinitely dedicated – like we’re that kind of friend? I can understand this relationship in the context of a ceremonial tradition, where the goal is more of a business-like relationship with deities, but not within a tradition where you are dedicated to one or two deities Who then play an integral role in one’s life for a long, if not infinite, stretch of time. I’ve heard parents get frustrated when children treat them like an ATM more than once. If we are meant to have a close relationship with our deities, why should it not be reciprocal? We are so close with the friends who come to us just to be with us. Imagine how close we would be with our Gods if only we went to Them before we needed something, sometimes.

I’d been sitting in the midst of something of a spiritual drought prior to this revelation. When I am at home, I spend time with my Parent Names regularly – at least once a week, if not more. Last year in school, I had more quiet time in my room, where nobody was in either of the dorms and I felt like I could perform my shrine rites in peace at a traveling shrine set up. This year, I haven’t had that luxury. I’ve been reaching out to Wepwawet and Sekhmet-Mut still – but not giving back to Them, not coming to Them for simple reasons, just to say “Hello, I love You.” They grew quiet. I grew lonely and scared, frightened They had abandoned me. Then I started to pray every day. Not for anything, no; I spent a few moments at the corner of my desk, on which I have two small statues and an LED candle, reading a hymn for each of my Parents and a hymn for my Akhu (ancestors). Gradually, slowly, the feeling of a consistent connection with Netjer came back. As I sit here, writing this, looking over at the small shrine at which I pray, I feel nothing but radiant love raining down on me.

Why bother blogging about this topic? I hear a lot of people complaining about feeling unwanted or disconnected from Netjer or their Gods. Make no mistake – praying every day won’t give you great thunderous revelations. It hasn’t even done that for me. What it has done is give me a feeling of connectedness with Netjer, a feeling of give and take. A feeling of knowing that Netjer knows where I am and “has my back”, because I’ve been in touch. You can’t get that with anyone by only coming to them when you are in need. It’s a result of a relationship, of communication with no strings attached.