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.


After eight years of knowing my gods I feel like I’m starting over.

I feel like I had reached a certain place with Them, where I knew my work and They knew that I would do that work and we were all on the same page. Now things have changed, and I’m not certain where I stand or what They really want.

They’ve made it abundantly clear that I’m not done doing Their work, but there’s no hint as to what I’m going to do in the intervening months, nor how I’m going to get back to work for Them. I’ve been slowly trying to ease my way into a ritual practice that suits the overworked schedule of a grad student who happens to be working for pay and interning at the same time. And when I say slowly, I mean glacially. I’ve been doing nothing but purification since Retreat, intentionally. I finally allowed myself to do Senut today, but kept it short, sweet, and to the point. I refuse to fall into the trap of “too much too fast” for returning to regular devotions.

And I feel awkward. I feel like a novice, kneeling uncertainly before my lit candles with a bowl of candy offerings. I waited a few minutes after the offering prayer wondering “now what do I do”? After the elaborate rituals of priesthood, Senut is anticlimactic. I wait for the touch of the Netjeru to come from my little statues, and it doesn’t — not as strongly as my open Icons, anyway.

I need to learn how to feel Them without the tools, I think. To allow myself to reach Their presence as I did before I had the knowledge of a priest. I would find Them so easily when I was new; and then I learned the “right” ways to reach Them and gave up all the others. But I had more time then, still — so who knows. I’ll just do Senut until it clicks.

I don’t question too hard these days. I get up, I work, and I come back to bed when I’m done. I’m Doing, and I’ll think about what I’m Doing when it’s Done.

W’ab Wednesday: Ritual purity or ridiculous purity?

AKA “Yes, Netjer wants you to wear deodorant.”

When I first became Kemetic, I was obsessed with ritual purity. I was dedicated to being as ritually pure in all things as possible. I was more than a little misguided. I read somewhere that the processed chemicals present in my body washes and shampoos were technically ritually impure. I ditched my cheap grocery store products and sprung for goat’s milk soap and all-natural shampoos and conditioners. I entirely changed my daily bathing routine and offered it to the gods. I felt wonderful; I felt as though I carried some kind of purity with me wherever I went. And in the event that I had to put something on my body that included something deemed ritually impure (read: synthetic or derived from a waste product), I waited until after all rituals were finished.

This unfortunately included deodorant.

Thanks to the magic of air conditioning and cold winter climate, I never had a problem going without deodorant in shrine. Senut isn’t a particularly lengthy ritual, and my shrine never got particularly hot. I found myself feeling not-so-fresh during a few online ritual simulcasts, but since those were attended at a distance, I didn’t mind. Then I went to the House of Netjer’s annual Wep Ronpet Retreat for the first time. In August. Where many rituals took place without air conditioning.

Let me just apologize now to anyone who sat next to me during those rituals.

Eventually I took up the priesthood as a full-time w’ab priest, which meant I spent more time in shrine, more frequently. I started working full time, and also enrolled in graduate school. The time I had to spend washing up for shrine, doing the rites, and then attending to my own physical self-care, became limited. I started to skip moisturizing because I couldn’t fit it into my routine. I ignored my skincare routines. Effectively, I was avoiding anything that I would have to postpone until after shrine, because my time and energy were more limited.

I started feeling stressed out and neglected, and I wondered whether the gods really cared if I put body lotion on in between finishing my purification in the shower, and starting Their rituals. It would keep my legs from itching, and being distracted by constant dry skin sounded like a detriment to purity to me. I tried it out. When the gods didn’t come screaming from Their shrines, I wondered out loud at Them whether They would mind if I fit my missing self-care in between purification and ritual. Their answer surprised me.

To summarize what They said: attending to oneself is a kind of purification too. It doesn’t do the gods any good if you walk around feeling crappy because you spent so much time in shrine that you didn’t get to pluck your eyebrows, or if your skin dries out and you spend so much time scratching your shins furiously that you start bleeding. Sometimes sacrifice is necessary. Sometimes, giving something up or making serious changes to our routine can bring us closer to the gods. And sometimes, it’s just a roadblock to doing real, important work. Or it makes us smelly and our neighbors uncomfortable.

The moral of the story is that the point of ritual purity is to avoid carrying unnecessary dirt and ickiness into the presence of the gods, both physically and metaphysically. Obsessing over ritual purity to the point where you start directly bringing these things into the presence of the gods is entirely counterproductive. Wash up before shrine, but don’t let it get in the way of living or being presentable for the ritual. Learn from my mistakes.

W’ab Wednesday: In Defense of Ritual Purity

I’ve written about purity before. I think about purity a lot. I’m a w’ab priest — the word w’ab means pure, or purity. So, I’m a purity priest. I have been presented before my community as pure in the service of the gods. The purity thing is kind of my job, so I feel like it makes sense for me to think and write about it often.

Lately I’ve been poking my head out of my own community bubble. I made an auxiliary tumblr, which carries on the original name of this blog, and through that platform I’ve seen more of what independent Kemetics do with their practices. There’s some really awesome things happening for the gods. I’ve seen some truly beautiful altars, inspired rituals, powerful hekau — it’s good stuff. One thing I do notice is that purity is given far less importance. It’s fascinating, to me, to see how others conceptualize purity and preparedness for ritual. (When I say I think about this stuff a lot, I truly mean a lot.)

I will say this, as a disclaimer: when it comes to personal piety, I don’t know that ritual purity is always necessary. I’m not here to control what anyone does — even more so for those who are not within the community I serve. I can only speak to ritual purity in the context of Kemetic Orthodox state (or formal, standardized) rituals. Those are things like Senut, or the daily priest rite, or certain festival celebrations. Even further, I can only really provide insight into my own experiences, which take place in my own shrine, with my gods, in the particular manifestations They choose to reveal to me. In other words: it’s all context-specific.

That said, here is where I stand. I absolutely believe purity is necessary for state and formal rituals. I absolutely believe that purity is necessary in the presence of an open Icon of the gods. Furthermore: I absolutely believe purity can be helpful and have a positive impact on practicing personal piety.

In ritual contexts, being ritually pure puts you on something like an even playing field with the gods. The gods exist outside of the physical world. They are free from things like dirt, mud, sweat, or blood. They don’t deal with the daily frustration of commuting to work, having restful sleep interrupted by an alarm clock, or coming home to find a stack of bills in the mailbox. They aren’t bombarded by mindless advertisements, terrifying news reports, or anything else the media offers. They exist entirely outside of this paradigm.*

Purification takes all of those things away for a time. Even if I don’t physically feel different after a purification rite, I know I have been set apart from that mundane static. When ritually pure, I am meeting the gods closer to Their level, thereby strengthening our connection and my closeness to Them. In a state rite, that’s kind of the point; we come as close to the gods as we can. The benefit we get from Senut, for example, comes as much from our proximity to Them as it does our offerings and obsequies. In the case of personal piety (meaning any non-standardized, non-formal rite), it’s not a necessity, but the benefit of being closer to Their level still remains.

On the gods side: I think it makes Them a little more comfortable to deal with us when we’re coming from more common ground. It makes it easier for Them to get Their jobs done, because there’s less static getting in the way. They don’t have to use as much force to make Themselves known to us.

Some of the pushback against ritual purity comes from the idea that if you are struggling with a chronic condition, you sometimes can’t be pain-free, or anxiety-free, or dismiss the manifestation of your condition entirely. To some degree, being ritually pure requires one to be uninjured and able to focus on the rites at hand. However, purification gives us the opportunity to lessen the amount of physiological and psychological crud that we carry. It’s not something that will cure our anxiety or get rid of our chronic headaches, but I think that it lessens the amount that these things will get in the way when we try to connect with the gods — and it will lessen the amount that the gods notice the chronic conditions we carry with us as a result of living in imperfect bodies.

Ritual purity is often likened to physical cleanliness, and the motivation behind purification is likened to the need for physical cleanliness in the presence of those we respect. I’ve written about it that way before, and that will always be a part of why I think purification is important. It is worthwhile for more than just its face value, however.

And that’s my abbreviated defense of ritual purity. I cannot and I will not ever try to convince others to do things according to what I believe, but as a purity priest who has lots of thoughts about purity, I figured it couldn’t hurt to share.

* = I do believe the gods get annoyed, and frustrated, and have Their own distractions from what They are trying to accomplish. I just think it’s coming from a different place than all of our own frustrations and distractions. I also think the gods will take care of Their own business when They need to come be with us; though, I have had the experience of trying to sit in ritual with Them and being told “not now, We’re busy”. Take that as you will.

A journey, a confession, a word of comfort.

Before I get to the meat of this post, I need to write a disclaimer: this post is in no way meant to be advice, counsel, or a suggestion for anyone’s practices. This is only my story, shared in support. I actually don’t recommend following my path, here. I chose it, and I know deeply how much it has helped me – but it is by far not going to be the best path for many. Please accept this post in the spirit of its writing: know that I have been there too, I still find that place sometimes, and I am standing with you.

[trigger warnings: self harm]


The first time I wanted to do Senut, during my Beginners class, I was kicked out of shrine. My eagerness was met only with disappointment. The Jackal, even then the lord of my heart, folded His arms before me.

I told you the consequences, came His quiet reproach. My stomach ached with regret. I did know the consequences. I knew my agreement with Him. And yet, somehow I had hoped that the gods would be more lenient; maybe They would let it slide the first time, because it was supposed to be my first time.

I tried again, ending with disaster: I spilled the natron water all over my ritual script. I dropped the water bowl and shattered it in the shower. Company came by early, which put that day’s efforts to a complete end. All the while I felt Sekhmet shaking Her head gently.

Not now, not yet. You made a promise.


Eleven years ago, I hurt myself for the first time, more out of curiosity than anything. There were an infinite number of reasons: I felt alone, I felt unwanted, I felt scared, like I could never succeed or be good enough — and on and on. By the time I found my gods (or They found me), I was feeling more stable, more healthy, and I desperately didn’t want to hurt myself anymore. But self-harm is hard to shake; it clings and nestles in the mind, directing thoughts and actions. So while I wanted to be well, I wasn’t, yet.

As my relationship with the gods of Kemet deepened, They began to gently nudge me about my habits. It hurt Them to see me hurting. When we had forged a strong and constant relationship, They offered me a challenge: if I hurt myself, They would consider me in the same state as though I were menstruating until any wounds healed. That was what They offered, to help me achieve my goal – and I accepted.

When I went to approach Senut for the first time, I had hurt myself the day before. They would not let me even try. It was not a punishment, just a fact. It is what They asked, and I freely accepted. I wanted Them to pat me on the back and let it slide. I wanted to be told, “We’ll let it go this time.” It didn’t happen. I learned that if I wanted to serve my gods, I needed to take care of myself.

It is never about shunning me, or putting me down for what I’ve done. It is an agreement, as clinical as a legal contract: If x, then y. It is Their intervention, Their method of teaching me a better way. As I’m typing this, it sounds harsh, and I wish I could find a way to make it sound less so. Believe me when I say, it never felt harsh. They never turn me away or fall silent for my mistakes; often They are most present in these moments. Even now, when I forget myself and reach for old habits, the rules have not changed.

And I do forget myself, and I do slip back into old cycles. I am human, and I have learned a behavior that is, unfortunately, very effective — and so I turn back to it, now and then. I have skills in place to help me choose better ways to cope with the things that would have broken me in the past, but even so: I still feel those urges, still feel the nagging at my heels that says, “this is easier.”

And then I struggle with myself, because I am a priest, and this affects more than just my purity. It affects my work, it affects my responsibilities. It is a part of what I need to consider in my personal purity assessment, before I do any rite requiring purity.

Under no circumstances is my approach appropriate for everyone. I have been actively working to break these habits for years, and abstaining from formal ritual was Their practical solution. I firmly believe, and repeat often, that purity is between you and your gods. Care for yourself however makes the most sense. Connecting with the gods is foremost how so many of us find grounding and healing when we are feeling fractured and worn, myself included. Never deny yourself the company of the gods simply because you are hurting. If that means handling purity differently than I do, good. No one else can dictate what you do in your personal shrine unless you want them to.



Why am I writing this now? Today is Self Injury Awareness Day. I know there are other Kemetics who struggle with the same urges. Self-harm is a unique purity issue for me, and I’m sure there are other Kemetics who feel uncomfortable or impure dealing with this themselves. I am a priest in my community; I know there are people who read my blog and look up to it. I need the community to know that it is okay to struggle, that the gods will not abandon you for hurting yourself, that you can feel hurt and impure and yet zep tepi will come, the wounds will heal, and so will you.

We are given the opportunity, every dawn, to recreate ourselves. Every dawn is a new universe. If you are actively working to stop hurting yourself, remember this: that from the beginning of this creation, from the moment today’s new world came into being, you have not hurt yourself. You are made, today, as someone who has not hurt themselves at all. I find so much power in this, and I hope you can too.