Trail Blazing: Being Called to an Unusual Path

This month the Kemetic Roundtable asked: What happens when the gods throw you for a loop? What do you do when the gods present you with a situation that doesn’t seem “normal” for a Kemetic? How do you handle things when your practice wanders off the map?”


I strived, for a time, to blend in as much as I could with the Kemetic Orthodox community. It served as an odd counterpoint to my younger self, who strived to be brashly different than those surrounding her. Back then, I wanted the acceptance of my elders. As a teenager, I already feared my age and inexperience being used against me, I didn’t want to have any other oddities stand out.

In the years since I joined the House, my perspective has changed a little. For one, I now belong to multiple Kemetic communities, not one. I have friends – both Kemetic and non – who will listen to me earnestly and provide their input on my ideas and experiences, regardless of differences in traditions. The broader community has changed too, becoming more accepting of diverse views.

For a while, I’ve been presented with ideas. “Make this thing for me,” my gods have asked. “Write this myth, this hymn. Arrange this ritual. Ask the community to participate in this event.” Largely, I am expected to make these things out of nothing more than a prompt. I am asked to delve into my brain and pull an entire holiday out of it – or scarier still, to listen and write what I hear, somehow discerning what is Them and what is me.

And for years, I rejected this.

“It is too far from the path we’ve worn. It is too different from what others do. It is not historically informed. I do not want to be the subject of mockery.” But is it? Does Satsekhem not also pull holidays together from mere dates and titles? Does Sobekemiti not write the most beautiful myths? Have you not felt inspired by the ritual and song works of Shefytbast?

Reflecting on the works of these and more has helped me to walk away from the main trail. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am being asked to do something new. It is not always perfect – I will sometimes come up with something, only to have later research tell me that I have to re-write the entire festival, because I was misinformed on it. Others will question why I am doing something, and my confidence will shake until I give the honest answer, the truth of it all:

“Because I was asked.”

Because this is what pleases my gods. Because doing something imperfectly beats not doing it at all. I am building up regular shrine practice again, regular offering giving again. I have taken up writing, long since abandoned. I have immersed myself in community and building up who I am.

I am wandering off the beaten path. I am writing stories about the gods: about how They came into existence, how They fight, how They relax. I am writing and arranging rituals, to pair with those myths. I am developing cultural practices, to carry Them with me outside of shrine. When I am so lucky, I continue to read books, to talk to my elders, and to cross-reference ancient knowledge with modern ideas. I am their scribe: one who collects, creates, and curates information for the gods.

I once strove to stand out. I once strove to fit in. Now, I only wish to be myself. I’ve come to understand that those who can’t stand new ideas have no place to stand within my world, and that I am surrounded by people who – whether they agree with my practices or not – are willing to at least hear me out. If you find yourself being teased off the trail through the woods, just remember: it is okay to do it. It is okay to not do it. It is okay to do it later. No matter where you choose to walk, you will find support in the community, as long as you’re willing to look.


For more Kemetic perspectives on being called to an unusual path, visit this link to check out the Kemetic Roundtable.

Day of Making Health and Long Life

III Peret 14: The Day of Making Health and Long Life

In a world as fast paced as ours, it is easy to forget to take time for ourselves. We have so many responsibilities – making money, paying bills, caring for family members, keeping informed on current events – that our own well being is sometimes the last priority.

Today, make yourself your first priority.

Take care of your body. Feed your ka. Check in with yourself.

If you have a medical need, try to make that appointment. If it’s been a while since you had something frivolous that you love, now’s a good time. If you think that there’s something you can do to better your quality of life, start moving toward it.

Self-care comes in many forms. It is going to be different for everyone. Some people self-care by stopping, and just letting life be. Some self-care by keeping a structure that defines their days. Some self-care by eating candy; some only eat foods they know will be good for their health. Some people need reminders to take care of themselves.

Today, I plan to go to work, and to come home and honor myself. Magic accompanied by practical action: making medical appointments, accompanied by a heka to “make health and long life” with Sekhmet. Offerings of my favorite foods, to myself. Affirmative statements arranged to by a hymn, to myself. Dressing to the nines, because that is what makes me feel good. Spending time with my temple family, because they make me feel good.

How do you self-care? How do you feed your ka?

You can see more of our discussion here, on tumblr.

Relevant Reading:

Worshipping Yourself,” by The Twisted Rope.

Making Health and Long  Life,” by Sobeq.

My tumblr tag for this holiday.

They Get What They Want

alternate title: Onions are the Ultimate Metaphor for my Religious Life, apparently

In November, I decided to put on a speculative version of a festival I had been building in my mind – a Mysteries festival that focuses on Ptah-Sokar rather than on Sokar-Wesir. I had intended to plant an onion during that time, as the Day of Planting Onions fell during my Mysteries. While I accomplished most of my plans for the makeshift holiday, planting an onion was not one of them. No big deal, I thought. There will always be another year.

Fast forward to January. I was rummaging through the pantry to gather my offerings for Red Week when I spotted something odd in the corner. A green leaf. I had no idea what it was, where it had come from. I warily reached for it, only to pull up an onion – leftover from a dish made nearly a month prior – that had grown a large stalk.

Well. If you insist, Father.

My friends and I had a good laugh at my growing onion, and it got put to the side while we celebrated Set’s festival. As I set up my Senut shrine later that week, I said, eh, why not, and threw the onion into an offering dish.

Sokar, Bast, and Their Onion

It’s a funny thing. In the weeks since, this onion has flourished. No soil. No water. Minimal sunlight. Yet it’s grown a second major stalk, and branched out on the original. Last spring, I wrote about how onions can be symbolic of transformation. Now I’m starting to see something new. Onions are hardiness. This single plant is determined and resourceful. It grew from what most would have seen as dead, nothing left to give.

This onion, not unlike my relationship with Sokar, grew from nothing. Looking at this plant, I feel as though Sokar, that other aspect of my beloved Father, Whom I have neglected, is reaching out, saying: “I am here. I am growing. You are growing too. Even though you feel like there is nothing there to support you, you can grow. You have all that you need within.”

Tonight, Ptah-Sokar’s onion got planted in a small pot lent to me by my roommate. When New England’s frigid weather thaws into spring, I’ll move it outside. Come March 4th, a few sprigs will come off the plant to be offered to Bast. Some day, flowers will bloom. The onion will go to seed. And in November, come the Mysteries, Sokar will have a more formal day of onion planting.

For now, I have something beautiful, something that’s ours, and (finally) something to connect my foremost gods in festival.

Dua Ptah-Sokar, dua Bast, lord and lady of the onion field!

Why I Chew Onions

"Onions," by Sleepy Neko on flickr.

“Onion Harvest” by sleepyneko on Flickr.

Onions are kind of a shitty food.

They’re hard to peel, with all the paper you have to tear away.
When you cut them open, they release a chemical that burns your eyes.
And when you eat them, they burn at your throat!

The most famous holiday of Bast falls on March 4th this year. We know little about it; we don’t even know why they celebrated it. The name of the festival makes our instructions very clear: it is a day of Chewing Onions for Bast.

Given a childhood of picky eating, it may not surprise you to learn that when I first heard of this festival some five years ago, my response was something along the lines of “no, fuck you.” As it stands now, I’m still not very partial to onions, but I am a sucker for anything fried. Throw a stack of onion rings my way, and we’re all set. I don’t mind them caramelized on a burger, either.

But you know, there’s something more important than whether or not I enjoy this onion chewing. It’s all about why I chew them.

As I said, onion cooking is not a pleasant process. It smells, it stings, it gets frustrating. I find myself crying and, more often than not, cursing myself for having wanted to make something with onion in the first place. But when the onions are diced and simmering in a pan, things start to change. The harsh aroma lightens and becomes something sweet. The pale onions become darker and richer in colour. Before long, they are combined with other ingredients to make something filling and delightful.

"Walla Walla Sweet Onions," by ady_Fox on Twitter.

“Walla Walla Sweet Onions,” by Lady_Fox on Flickr.

Onions are thrust whole into the dark, smothered by earth, yet they reach out toward the light and water. They spring up from the ground and bring forth even more onions than before, rejuvenated by the light of the sun. Earlier in the Kemetic year, a festival of planting onions for Sokar celebrates the process of rejuvenation the dead through this process – chewing those same onions for Bast in merely a continuation of it.

For me, the onions become symbols of transformation toward joy. Thrust in the dark, bringing about tears and pain, they grow toward something better, filled with sweetness that only multiplies. The onions I chew are an affirmation of the growth process Bast has put me through, a reminder that in pain, there is a sweetness to find and produce. My growing process has not been easy. I too have been thrown in the darkness, filled with burning feelings, wondered about the point of it all. Onions can be an excretion of that pain.

That’s why I chew onions for Bast.

The Feast of Tawy (the Two Lands)

II Peret 21 marked the beginning of a ten-day feast to Ptah and Amun; the 11th Day, III Peret 1, marked the Feast of Tawy (the Two Lands). The Kemetic Orthodox calendar noted this as a date celebrating the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, and remarked that it would be a good time to focus on reunification of opposites within our own lives. With the encouragement of some fellow Kemetics, I reached out on tumblr to ask others to join me in celebrating Ptah, Sekhmet, and Nefertem while working to make whole the opposite things in their lives.

You have no idea how we struggled with the casserole.

Offering spread: blue hydrangeas, raspberries, green bean casserole, apple pie, steak, “Glitter & Gold” by DAVIDsTEA, the heka, and burned down amber incense.

I set out to bring the Memphite triad a feast and (having pacified Them with food offerings) ask for Their aid. Ptah and Sekhmet have played active roles in my self-improvement process, and I hoped that asking for Their continued blessing, and thanking Them for the work They’ve done so far, would go over well. Ptah in particular has focused on the merits of imperfection, and of patience (two things a perfectionist busybody like myself is lacking in, two things that bring me a lot of agony!). While browsing tumblr, I discovered kintsugi – a Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold, making it more beautiful and valuable than before. Over and over, kintsugi showed up in my life. It was on my tumblr dash, it was on the MFA advert on my bus route, people mentioned it in conversations… and slowly, it became my inspiration for the Feast of the Two Lands.

I would seal the cracks within myself, and paint over them with gold.

Across the ten days  of Ptah’s festival, I meditated on the gods of the Triad, and found myself fixated on beauty. Not necessarily outer beauty, but the beauty of the compassion one shows to others, or the beauty of someone who has a quick wit. What made me beautiful? For a long time, I’ve denied any such thing within me, going so far as to try to convince myself and others of the opposite! And the heka of saying I was a bad person worked, actively taking apart the good within me as I focused on my negative personality traits.

The  drawing isn't good, but considering imperfection is my lesson, that's quite alright.

I own my imperfections, I overcome them. I grow my strengths into beauty.

What makes me beautiful? I asked again and again, and slowly I found answers. What should I improve about myself? I asked, and I found within many wonderful traits beginning to bud? What toxins should I  remove from myself? I asked, and viciously I tore at the developments I wanted gone.

Inspired by SatSekhem, I also laid a metaphorical feast before my gods. My toxins, that they would be torn from limb to limb, as the enemies of the King are destroyed. My seedlings, that they would blossom into a better self to serve the gods. My beauty, that it may bring honor to the Netjeru of Kemet. I laid a votive offering of myself beneath the glasses full of my attributes, a reminder that I belong to Them.

Festivities completed, I walked away from the offerings, exhausted and humbled. A week later, still working on finishing off the offered pie, having lived through an emotionally intense weekend, I feel closer to whole. I hope the same can be said of Sat, who also participated in the Feast of the Two Lands by focusing on her own shadow work. I think that our goal is a good one – there is no true nation of Kemet these days, only the practitioners. It feels fitting to pay attention to ourselves, now that we are Kemet, during celebrations of the nation that lives in our hearts.

I daresay I consider this first attempt at a modern rendition of Ptah’s festivals a success; I can’t wait to come to it again next year, with hopefully more to offer.

Everywhere, Everywhen.

In catching up with a blogroll that I have neglected since April, I came across this post by Kaye. She discusses being overwhelmed by the juggling of gods and spirits, trying to sort Them into a schedule that allows her the time to give Them all honor. It’s familiar to me: it seems like every time I build some grandiose schedule of plans, everything falls apart.

My recent major fallow time came with my brief relationship with Persephone and the way it managed to quickly crumble under my feet. When I moved back to Boston at Wep Ronpet, I finally began to pick up the pieces. As I am currently couch surfing and subletting in my attempt to find a long-term place to stay, I move frequently. In my second location, I had a private room, where I made the large windowsill into a shrine. For a few weeks I did a daily rite (Senut), and it felt grand. Then I moved into another location. Here, I am on a couch in a living room with no privacy. My shrine goods are packed away, to be unused until I can find some safe space for them again.

It hasn’t taken long for me to feel empty again. I reached out to the community on Tumblr and received a lot of great suggestions, but have yet to really act on them. It’s taken me a while, but I think it’s time to have Zep-Tepi in my life again.

So, I can’t do Senut – not by traditional means, at least. Not even a travel shrine is happening where I am. I can, however, return to crafting, learning, and writing. These are all things I have done in the past, why stop because I can’t put together a shrine? I can start to figure out how to do pocket magix – little pieces of heka drawn onto folded up papers from my pocket book. I can knit my hippos, I can write my modern myths. I can read Pinch’s Magic in Ancient Egypt, which I picked up at the Harvard Coop, and with which I have been very pleased. I can continue to reach out to the rest of the Kemetic and pagan communities via forums and Tumblr and Facebook.

I am a deity-focused polytheist. The devotee-Divine relationship is something I have hungered for since childhood. Being as head-blind as I am, it’s hard to remember that Netjer is with me regardless of what rituals I may – or may not – be performing. They are manifest everywhere! They live in the people of Kemet, those bloggers and friends that I keep in touch with; They live in the joy of creative work; They are in the reading of fiction and non-fiction that I have begun; They are in this city that I adore.

I only need to begin to look.