Back to Reality

Once again the year has reached its end and then its beginning, and I am returning from the House of Netjer’s annual Wep Ronpet Retreat. This year was different. Rather than being held near the House’s temple building in Illinois, the retreat was held in Portland — Oregon, not Maine, as I found I would have to clarify multiple times when talking with family and friends.

I was worried that holding our celebrations outside of a formal temple environment would diminish them, somehow. Instead, I found that it reinvigorated them. First: the Kennedy School, where we held our celebrations, was absolutely delightful. The accommodations were well-furnished and pleasant, the conference spaces were comfortable and beautiful, and the staff were respectful and even curious about our activities. In past years, we were asked to make our own arrangements for dining. This year we were served multiple meals and ate together as a group, sharing breakfast and having comfortable, easy conversation in the bright light filtering through the windows. The room where we held our pre-Retreat priests’ meeting was furnished with soft couches for everyone, for goodness’ sake!

More to the point — the gods and ancestors were present. From the moment we opened with amulet-making to the dawn rites of New Year’s morning, They made Themselves known. Sekhmet was present in Saq at Her ceremony — made even more special because it is Her year. The gods were pleased with our morning celebrations, with Ra appearing and blessing our rites. And the Ordeal of Weshem-ib went smoothly, bringing four more children of Netjer into the order of the Shemsu-Ankh.

Change is good, it would seem. And also inevitable. Change is part of being human, being mortal. Even the gods Themselves have been known to change, temporarily and permanently. I am looking forward to sharing some changes here, and making changes in my personal life and religious life. It will be good.

Secrets secrets are no fun…

…unless they help you grow into a fuller human being and understand your role in the Universe.

That doesn’t rhyme very well, but I’m finding that it sums up my opinion of oathbound (aka secret) knowledge in religion. I was listening to a discussion in which the consensus was reached that secret knowledge is basically unnecessary. I disagree. Having participated in oathbound rituals, I will fervently support the movement to keep some wisdom out of the public eye.
Much of the “secret” material I have become privy to is kept thus because it would lack weight and meaning, were it revealed in any other way. It would lack context, and thus cease to be meaningful. This wisdom becomes valuable by the sheer fact that it is not widely distributed. Without that veil, it becomes nothing. It is the act of being given this wisdom – the context in which it is imparted – that infuses it with power.

Meaning is something that humans often make of the random happenings around us. I have recently suffered through a really rough period of a few weeks. I chose, initially, to attribute all of this to my gods. I blamed Them, and my lack of attendance in shrine due to occupational conflicts, for the pain I was experiencing. I’m still not certain I don’t believe that, but I have also attributed the meaning of these events as a realigning of my life more fully into Ma’at, like the splinting of a broken bone. Similarly, meaning is what we make it, in terms of sacred secrets. We can experience wisdom in a sacred context that would never hold any weight in a secular revelation, and thus attribute deep, holy meaning to it.

I won’t say that there are no sacred secrets which are simply kept because group members feel the privilege should only belong to certain people, or to control others. It does happen, and that is a clear abuse of the spiritual relationship formed between students of a religion and its teachers. This should not mean that true wisdom, a true experience of sacred oathbound knowledge, should be discredited entirely. When appropriate, it is never done to exclude. It is never done to shame those who have not yet partaken of the experience. When appropriate, the secrets are kept so that at the right time, each devotee may have a transformational moment, in which they are blessed with an understanding of themselves, their spirituality, and the nature of whatever sacred secret has been revealed.

Episode 22: Initiations: Weshem-ib and becoming Shemsu-Ankh

Writing about being a Shemsu-Ankh is hard, because it means so many different things to so many different people. I can only write about my own experiences, and the work that I do that is part of my role as a Shemsu-Ankh.

Just to clear up any misconception: Shemsu-Ankh doesn’t mean ‘shemsu for life’ (necessarily). Ankh can also mean ‘vow’ – and it does, in this context. Shemsu-Ankh are Shemsu who have taken a particular set of vows. The process by which one becomes a Shemsu-Ankh is not public besides that.

I went into that process knowing little but the fact that I wanted to go through it. I wanted to be a Shemsu-Ankh, based on my interactions with other Shemsu-Ankh and their discussion of what it meant to them.

It means responsibility. It means examining myself carefully to bring my life more fully into balance, into Ma’at. It means guardianship of my community. It means making Netjer and Its children a priority in my life.

I became more accountable. The gods hold me to a higher standard now – if I make a promise or am asked to do something, I’d damn well better do it. Ma’at is my responsibility, as a role model for other Shemsu. So is self-awareness and self-control.

It is hard to describe, not because I am afraid to give away secrets, but because I have a hard time remembering what it felt like not being Shemsu-Ankh. I became more purposed, more devoted to a life of truth and balance, and more connected to the group of people surrounding me in faith.

How do I guard and support that community? I welcome newly divined Shemsu. I work as a new member imy-ra, as a contact point for those joining the community. I am friendly to fellow Shemsu, I pray for their intentions, and offer advice and support when necessary. And – because it is impossible to have interpersonal interactions without friction – I stay cool when people argue, and encourage others to do the same. It’s simple work, but it feels terribly important. To me it is – it is how I fulfill my vows.

Finding the Way Home

This will be my fourth Wep Ronpet celebrated, my third as a member of Kemetic Orthodoxy, and my second as a Shemsu-Ankh. These thoughts, coupled with the fact that my boyfriend has been showing a strong interest in Kemetic gods and Kemetic Orthodoxy, has had me thinking long and hard about my path to Kemetic Orthodoxy and my decisions along this path.

I first heard about Kemetic Orthodoxy on a generic pagan forum, as a 15-year-old. I lightly looked into it, but dismissed it for a variety of reasons – the main one being that I felt strange worshipping Egyptian deities as a young girl with German-Irish heritage. I thus desperately ignored every hint or clue I was given that Kemet was where I belonged spiritually. It was not until two years later, at age 17, standing outside on the beach at night with a friend, that I felt an overwhelming call. It was strong, it was powerful, and it settled deep inside of me, a slow ache that overtook all my sensibility. Who was it? What was it? I knew only that it was a strong, female deity. I spent some time mistakenly praying to Venus, until one day I was idly searching for deities of healing. My chosen profession is in the field of psychology, and I wanted the guidance of an appropriate deity as I started my college career. The name Sekhmet stood out among all the others, but I still felt the same uneasiness. After reflection, I had a peculiar dream – Sekhmet and Yinepu (Anubis) standing in the dark, laughing idly at me, joking about Egypt being scary, and reassuring me that it’d be okay for me to follow Them.

And so began a wild ride. I’ve made choices I regret, to be sure – I regret being so obsessed with purity, for one. I’ve recently reworked my shrine so that I can keep up my offerings, heka and worship when I am not in a state of ritual purity. I don’t claim to be the wisest Follower in Their retinue – but I love Them, very very much. I have learned many things, most of them completely wordless gifts from my gods. Over the last three years, I have waffled between hard polytheism, soft polytheism, and everything in between – now I just sit comfortably at “God is God, and if It wants me to believe any differently, It will tell me.” I have learned that heka is everywhere and everything – rituals and ceremonies have their place, but words and deeds have power, and personal symbols can often effect more change in the Seen world than any old ritual pulled from a dusty book. I have learned to listen to my ka, speaking in a quiet voice. I have learned to interpret the quiet whispers of the Gods, hissing through the daily agenda. I have learned to live with my Gods – to turn my faith into something that winds through every breath I take.

I spent much of my first year learning – much as a child would, giddily showing off my Parents and Beloveds, my shiny new Shemsu name, taking in the newness of this love I felt. I believed I was uniquely blessed, to be Sobeq, to be the child of Wepwawet and Sekhmet-Mut, and I wanted to talk to anyone and everyone who could talk about MY Gods. There was distinctly a focus on building a relationship with Them. My second year was spent building a place for myself in the community – a place of service and friendship – fostering a love of those around me, and a desire to serve them more deeply. This culminated in the Weshem-ib. Now, in my third year, I am weaving these things into the tapestry of my life – living fully in service to my Parents, to my community, both spiritual and mundane, and my Nisut (AUS). My fourth Kemetic year as a child of these Gods – we shall see what it shall bring. Four is a very blessed number in Kemetic numerology – it is perfection.

Of course, I will still be learning. Always learning. But it is a joyous path home.

Where have I been?

Where have I been. Well, well, well.

If you’re reading this, you probably know I’m a member of Kemetic Orthodoxy and the House of Netjer, a child of Wepwawet and Sekhmet-Mut, beloved of Bast and Nut, at least if you read my little bio and/or the page describing this blog. Well, now in addition to all that, we can add “fedw” diviner, and Shemsu-Ankh of the House of Netjer. Yup, I got my butt to the House of Netjer’s annual Wep Ronpet retreat, and it was lovely. I learned a lot, both about Netjer and myself, and I really learned just why it was that I decided to stick with Kemetic Orthodoxy over any other Kemetic temple (or remaining solitary, for that matter): the community is big, and also awesome.

Why does this mean my blog has been silent? Well, over the summer, work got busy. Then, I had some personal crap come up. Then, I went to Retreat. Since then, I’ve been putting my head back together for blogging. Today’s as good a day as any to get back in the swing of things. Sorry for the unannounced hiatus, my friends!