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.)

“You are My priest.”

The lights in the conference room were dimmed, and in my memory candles are flickering on Her altar, though no candles were lit besides the fake ones that the venue permitted. She had come before Her people embodied; Sekhmet the Great sat before us, enthroned.

I knelt before Her, offering gestures of praise before She bade me to rise and sit with Her. We spoke together of my fears; of the things that have been holding me back. She listened. She offered quiet reassurance. And suddenly, She took up a bottle of frankincense oil, wet Her fingers with it, and placed Her hand on my head. She smiled, and I wondered what She would do.

“You are My priest,” She said, “and you are His priest.”

I smiled and sighed deeply as I realized what She had done.

Earlier in the week, myself and the other lay priests who were present at Retreat were offered the opportunity to take on legal ordination. The distinction between the two priesthoods is muddy, but the main difference is that ordained priests are responsible for pastoral duties as well as liturgical duties. We had planned to announce this formally on Nebt-het’s day, or Wep Ronpet Eve, as is typical for elevations during Retreat.

It would seem Sekhmet had other ideas. The ordination blessing is conferred via anointing with sacred oil–just as She had done. After the ceremony, a fellow priest told me that she knew what Sekhmet was doing the moment She reached for the oil. She knew I was being ordained before I did.

And here we are–I am legal clergy of the House of Netjer and Kemetic Orthodoxy. This does not, and will not change the fact that nothing written at this blog constitutes an official statement from the House of Netjer or Kemetic Orthodoxy. I will continue to share my experiences and my thoughts as they happen, without any sort of authority or official meaning. It has always brought me great joy to do so, as has serving the gods as Their priest.

On sabbaticals.

Taking time off from serving as a priest of my deities has been one of the greatest blessings I have ever received. When I made the decision to temporarily suspend my service, I grieved a little. I felt like I was giving up, like I was losing a piece of myself, like I was a failure. My inability to remain committed to my worship felt like a personal fault, rather than the natural consequence of increased academic and professional requirements.

In response, I withdrew from everything. I stopped doing Senut and stopped tending my shrines. Everything came to a halt, until I slowly picked up one thread at a time. I briefly engaged with other pantheons. I worked at connecting with the most basic forces that drew me to polytheist — the spirits of the land and the Divine Itself. I began to feel enthusiastic about engaging with the Divine again. By Wep Ronpet, I felt like engaging with the gods again — and engage I did, worshipping with fervor during Retreat.

Senut began to feel fulfilling again. As I was doing my priest work, it had started to feel meaningless, like a lot of vague hand-waving that didn’t do anything.

More than that, my desire to serve the gods rose in me again. It had dwindled over the past four years, to become vaguely burdensome. I found myself planning research, sketching out festival rites, envisioning my reconstructed shrine.

I dropped everything, and then picked up one piece at a time, and it has been restorative in a way I never imagined it would. I am patiently waiting for my internship to end to consider returning to service with renewed purpose.

My New Gods.

No, this is not a post about getting new Gods. This is a post about the same old Gods, seen a new way; little snippets of life with the Precious Two in this year of Zep Tepi.

I have always thought of myself as a servant to my Gods; as a conduit for Their work in this world. Now it seems They’re starting to call me on this, asking me to bow, showing Themselves in a different light.

Most of my brothers and sisters in Wepwawet, for example, find that He doesn’t prefer a lot of bowing and scraping from them. Lately, I find that He demands it. That I bow before Him, and submit myself to Him as subject and servant to His lordship. I had a conversation recently with one, who said that she had been explicitly told in shrine NOT to fully bow before Him. After I mentioned His recent demands, she tried some more bowing. It did not go over well. Me, I feel Him pressing me down to the floor, and I bow.

I kneel before Their shrine, looking up at Their faces lit only by candlelight, and am totally swept away. Sure, I thought Their images were beautiful, but They have taken on an extra beauty now– the beauty of something incredibly powerful: a raging fire, a roaring beast. Of course They were always powerful, but now I am pressed right against that power, my nose right up against the glass dividing us from blinding, divine might.

I am captivated by Their immense magnificence; on Their intense power and beauty. They are the Gods before Whom I fall in awe of Their glory, the Gods Who bring the light to the dawn, Who shine brighter than all the Gods. I have been translating many of Mut’s epithets from the Lexikon der ägyptischen Götter und Götterbezeichnungen. Many of her epithets give testament to Her radiance, to Her magnificence. She is called “Die Mächtige und Prächtige” – the Magnificent and Powerful. There is something striking in that epithet. Magnificent, resplendent, glory enthroned – and power beyond power, to make kings and shatter lives.

Our relationship had been casually loving, at most; words of encouragement, requests, gentle shoves in one direction or another, and the occasional brain-breaking message from the Unseen. Now my New Gods are Here. Now. Demanding, pushing, roaring in my face. And I will, too – roar Their song against the night with Them.

How about those big, life changing moments?

So a while ago I posted about some exciting things that were happening that I wasn’t going to post about until the time was right.

Well, the time is right.

On August 6th, 2010 I was consecrated as a W’ab priest of Wepwawet and Sekhmet-Mut. W’ab priesthood is lay priesthood; I don’t get the title “reverend”, I don’t have any sort of pastoral or clergy responsibilities. What I *am* responsible for, in a word, is purity. Purity of ritual participants, my own purity, purity on behalf of all the Remetj.

This has led to some interesting reflections on purity, for me. What, exactly, does it mean to be pure? It has its obvious meanings: being clean physically, psychologically, and ritually – which all go hand in hand in consideration for purity for rituals with requirements – and living in Ma’at and eliminating isfet, doing that which is right.

In one sense I’ve found that it means to be true to oneself; to know what is and is not necessary in one’s life, and to remove that which is completely unnecessary and inappropriate. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on who I am and what I need, what is really important to me feeling like myself, rather than someone who is going through the motions. Faith, friends, family, the ability to retreat into my own solitary space from time to time with a cup of tea and my own thoughts… these are the things I need. These are food for the ka, things that feel good and are good, not just cheap fixes to patch a deeper hunger. Snark, bitterness, judgment, I do not need.

In this way, I think purity is simplicity: not a lack of ornamentation or excitement, but a lack of willing involvement in unnecessary strife.