May 27, 2013

Gardening with Gods

Posted in Being Kemetic, Home and Temple, Netjeru, Stalking Beauty, Tending the Shrine at 6:01 pm by

Garden madness has struck, I fear. I succumbed to the need to have all the plants, which now means I have to plant all the plants. In our lovely clayey New Jersey soil. I spent several hours today and got half of the irises in. Little by little I’ll get there.

Before I began, I set up a small shrine outside and brought out Bast and Wenut to oversee the work. There’s something remarkable about being in the midst of hard digging and having a sudden cool breeze bring you a powerful waft of incense. Sweetness from the bower of the Gods!

 
Here they are enjoying some of the annuals that are still to be planted: snapdragons, marigolds, verbena, and fragrant alyssum. Dua Bast! Dua Wenut! May You be satisfied!
gardening-gods

March 9, 2013

Pieces of Kemet

Posted in Being Kemetic, Festivals, Home and Temple, Netjeru, Thoughts and Reflections at 10:15 pm by

A collection of bits on variously honoring the Gods….
 

It was snowing fairly heavily on Friday, so I wore red for His Redness, the Lord of Storms. I’ve posted before about the incongruous-but-not-ness of seeing the master of the desert as the master of winter too. It just occurred to me yesterday that that makes Him lord of the Red Land and also of the White land, and thus He embodies in Himself the traditional unity of red and white. Set-sematawy. Hmm.

* * * * *

I spent much of this morning trying to sketch out and/or list all the interrelationships of Bast with various Gods, and to put some kind of system to it. When my head started hurting and I was on the verge of falling asleep, I pried myself off the couch and went out to run some errands. After that I did some yard work, reclaiming odd corners from the wild raspberry bushes that, in alliance with the multiflora roses, are trying to take over the property. This was a much better use of my time — it fed all my soul/bodies and did service to my Mother and Her shrine. I always have to watch out for getting too abstract and up in my head.

And when I was done and had showered, I sat on the moss on the southern slope, put my face down among the early spring crocuses, and spent a while in their tiny, low-to-the-ground world.

* * * * *

Great festivals with extensive offerings are wonderful, but it’s also a real pleasure to give the Gods small, simple things, things that are easy to give when the Gods suddenly up and request them, that make the Gods happy. On Thursday night, Wadjet really wanted dried cranberries (Craisins!!). Last weekend, Wenut got a very soft, salmon-peachy scarf, which spent most of the week snuggled around Her metal rabbit candle holder. I wouldn’t have thought it was Her color, but She was very passionate about it, in Her quiet way. Both Ladies might be piping up because last weekend was the Feast of Ra and the Eye of Ra, and this weekend is the Feast of the Udjat, and both of them are Eyes of Ra.

Today, in fact, is the second and last day of the Feast of the Udjat, which I’ve been using this year to honor Wenut. I set up my temporary shrine with a white cloth and Her scarf; last night I offered warm milk with honey and spices, and tonight She got salad, at Her request. This afternoon, I gave Her four crocuses afloat in a bowl of water, first of the spring flowers. (The snowdrops don’t count; they’re more like late-winter flowers.) They’re on Her festival shrine right now, but earlier I put them and Her rabbit in the sun for a little while to enjoy their beauty.

Working on my personal festival calendar and rituals would also be a better use of brain space than abstract theology. The new moon is coming up, and I haven’t got anything for it yet. This festival, too — I don’t have a specific prayer or reading for it, so it’s mainly just various offerings, and a little bit of singing.

* * * * *

And speaking of getting out of the abstract, I am long overdue to link to this entry by Kiya on teaching yourself how to have a mystical practice. Go, read, live.

(And don’t forget the sunscreen.)

November 15, 2012

In Sandy’s wake

Posted in Home and Temple, Thoughts and Reflections at 1:50 pm by

It’s been…quite a couple of weeks. Superstorm Sandy put my household in the dark for eleven days, and we got off lightly — only one tree down near the house (and not on it, fortunately) and no flooding. Our major inconvenience was the lack of heat and water. Other people, including my friend and fellow priest Sobeq, are still struggling with the aftermath. My thoughts and prayers continue to go out to them.

(This photo from the storm coverage gets me whenever I see it — it’s the underground Hoboken PATH train station, and I used to commute through there when I worked in the city. That water is pouring in through the elevator shaft. Yikes.)

For people who want to help, the following groups (among many others) are currently taking donations:

Volunteer Center of Bergen County (coordinating volunteers for various organizations and working for long-term recovery throughout New Jersey)

American Red Cross

Hurricane Sandy Recovery Fund (run by the governor’s wife)

NJ Food Bank Sandy relief efforts

Best Friends Animal Society (helping local animal shelters and rescue groups)

– via T. Thorn Coyle: Solar Cross Temple (in association with OccupySandy)

My temple and shrine service has been sporadic for the duration. This week things have gotten back into gear, at least as far as ritual observance goes, but I still feel unsettled, and not just because of the storm. I’m fluttering in place like a one-winged moth, and I can’t seem to stop or go forward. It’s very exhausting. I’m hoping that it’s mostly monthly hormones.

Some things I’m pondering:

– Whether it’s possible to do a media fast while still posting to this blog. I don’t think my boundaries are quite that good at the moment, but it seems a shame to pop in for one update and then disappear again. (Of course, given my current level of brain static, I might do that anyhow.)

– Whether to attend the Between the Worlds conference next month. I think that at best I’m at the lower end of their preferred range of experience (intermediate to advanced), so it might be a little over my head. I also wonder whether this might not be a distraction (“ooh! shiny!”) from other things I ought to be doing. But it would be a great opportunity to meet and listen to a number of very interesting people.

And that’s about all the thoughts I have for now.

September 30, 2012

Jackal shower

Posted in Home and Temple, Netjeru at 2:57 pm by

About a year ago, I found a cement Egyptian jackal statue at a local garden center. I didn’t get him at the time, but I’ve thought about him often ever since. Today, on impulse, I went back to look for him. He was the last one they had, the company has stopped making him, and they offered me a good price because he had some minor damage to his ears, so I brought him home.

On the way home, it started to pour with rain, even though the sun was still shining brilliantly. All the spray thrown up from the cars and trucks refracted the light, so it looked as though every vehicle on the highway was riding on rainbows. In Japan, a sunshower is said to mark a foxes’ wedding.* I’ll always think of it now as a jackal shower.

Hail to You, Great Jackal! Welcome home!**

 

* It turns out that in some languages (Afrikaans, Pashto, an Iranian dialect), the sunshower is actually a jackals’ wedding. (No, I’m not marrying Him.)

** It’s Wepwawet’s week, too.

 

September 11, 2012

Ways of knowing

Posted in Home and Temple, Thoughts and Reflections at 3:24 pm by

I’ve been thinking about the different places that “knowing” can come from on a theistic devotional path.

There’s reading, of course — historical and archaeological texts are pretty fundamental for any reconstructionist/revivalist work, and just about any path benefits from at least basic research. Traditional stories evoke both the Gods and their home cultures, and accounts of others’ experiences give us a benchmark for our own. (And let’s include oral tradition in here as well — it’s subtly different from reading books, but it shares in the concept of collected knowledge that we take in from other people.)

Somewhat related to this, there’s the intellectual/aesthetic “click,” where we think something makes sense given what we already know, or it appeals to us, the way it seems to fit the patterns as we understand them. This is our mind talking, and it may be full of shit and have nothing whatsoever with what the Gods actually are like or want, but it could be genuine insight. We can either file it away and be satisfied with it; or we can try it out, experiment with it, play with it; or we can bring it to the Gods and see what they have to say, if anything.

If we experiment, then we get into the realm of results. Does something happen? Something relevant? Tricky with God-stuff, where so much dances on the web of synchronicity or the subjectivity of interpretation, but possible, I think, with discernment.

Then we start getting into the woo.

There’s divination — going to the Gods/spirits/Higher Self for more-or-less direct answers to specific questions. The clarity of signal here can vary depending on the talent of the reader and, if using a method that involves interpretation and/or intuition, how much personal bias bleeds through. (The Fedw will give you a flat “yes” or “no,” which makes them a great conduit for “I really didn’t want to hear that” experiences.) But answers you will get, of some kind. Then you have to figure out where to go with them.

For greater woo, we start getting into direct communication with or from the Gods. I’m going to stick with my own experience here as regards some different levels of connection; others’ experiences may (probably will?) differ.

At the lowest level, there’s the “nudge.” An impulse — something seems Significant; Someone wants something — there’s a resonance that seems out of the ordinary. Personal omens arise here (as opposed to omens derived from traditional lists, where, for example, birds flying in one direction mean one very particular thing), as do all sorts of intuitions. As with the mental/aesthetic frameworks we create, this could just be our own static, the chatter of our desires and fears. How do we tell the difference? Questioning, experiment, experience. Trial and error. Often a lot of error. But we do get better at this over time, I believe.

(Sometimes the nudge is just a sense of Presence. One thing I’ve learned is that the feeling of Divine presence doesn’t necessarily mean that something meaningful is going on or I should be doing something in particular. Sometimes God is just…there. Which is a nice thought.)

A step up from that in clarity, there’s the translation of the nudge into the inner voice. This is what I call the “[God] voice,” where it’s my own mind putting words to that initial wordless impulse. It’s not unlike having fictional characters “talk” inside your head, but it seems to “ring” more — the words echo and repeat like chimes, lingering persistently in my memory. Like the nudge, this is highly subjective and liable to be wish fulfillment, but here you’re more likely to receive the kind of surprising, often disconcerting comments that tend to be authentic experiences.

And then there’s God directly talking in words right inside your head. This has only actually happened to me once or twice, but wow is it on a whole other level than anything else, by several orders of magnitude. I don’t envy the people to whom this happens all the time.

(Some people go a step further and have experiences of full-on physical presences and conversations, but I can’t speak to that.)

Oh, and there’s also possession, which I nearly forgot. I think I would classify this as somewhere on the continuum near divination, given that, as with a diviner (although possibly to a lesser extent?) you do get the filter of the priest/horse between yourself and the message.

Floating around in the midst of all this are things like dreams and journeying, which depending on one’s talent, skill, God connection, and ability to keep one’s head on straight can probably come in at any of these levels.

All this by way of talking about my recent oops. To recap, I’d come up with a set of Gods of the week, which I’d tied into Flylady’s cleaning zones in order to help me bless and maintain the different areas of my house. For the kitchen/basement, I’d settled on Wenut. This was one of those “makes sense at the time” things; to be honest, right now I can’t remember what exactly made me fit Her in there. My actual follow-up on the Gods of the week has been sporadic, so it wasn’t until last week that I finally installed an image of Wenut and made an offering to Her in the kitchen.

The response was…kind of nil. A whole lot of blank. And when Wenut feels happy, She feels happy. So clearly something was not quite right.

I thought that maybe She didn’t like the amulet picture and wanted something else. So the next day, I banged around in the early morning before work, trying to print out a different image. And everything went wrong. I found the picture on my desktop computer but mysteriously couldn’t access any of my email accounts to mail the file to my laptop (which is currently set up to use the printer). I finally went to the laptop and logged into the other computer via the network (after several tries). And then the picture wouldn’t print, either from the other computer’s hard drive or from the laptop. At that point I had to leave for work, so I gave up.

Out in the garage, I hit the automatic door opener. And as I walked around the end of my car to get in, I found on the threshold a brilliantly colored scarlet kingsnake, which had snuggled itself up under the door.

“Ooh!” I said.

Oh…, something in my mind said.

Snake! Wenut said (in the Wenut-voice, not directly).

And it was suddenly clear to me that I had the wrong Goddess in my kitchen, and that it ought to be Renenutet. Which in hindsight is screamingly obvious, being that She’s a Goddess of nourishment, and I don’t know what I wasn’t thinking, except that I had never quite connected with Her. (Other than the time She laughed at my grandiose gardening ambitions. Okay, maybe I was still sulking a little over that. She was right, though.)

So now I have an image of Renenutet in my kitchen, and so far…no direct response, but it feels right. Time will tell if I finally got the message.

Ultimately, I think the hardest thing about spiritual work of any sort is getting out of one’s own way and seeing what’s really there, even — especially — if it’s not what we expect.

What does knowing look like for you?

September 6, 2012

Oops

Posted in Home and Temple, Netjeru at 7:54 am by

Aaaand I think I installed the wrong goddess in my kitchen. More details to come.

September 5, 2012

For isfet is driven away

Posted in Home and Temple, Netjeru at 9:34 pm by

 

Done tonight, finally. Last night I came down with a tremendous air-pressure-change headache and ended up having to go to bed early, but tonight the kitchen got cleaned. Two hours work, and I didn’t quite get to the windows or to washing the floor, but I did an awesome job on the stove, if I do say so myself.

And thus Wenut is installed among Her offerings: brown basmati rice with mixed vegetables, sweet grapes, milk, and spirea flowers. And thus the first step is taken toward getting right with my home and with my life.

Ma’at will return to Her throne,
for isfet is driven away.

    — The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook

Dua Wenut! Nekhtet!

 

April 8, 2012

G is for gardens

Posted in Home and Temple, Pagan Blog Project 2012, Tending the Shrine at 7:42 pm by

For the Pagan Blog Project:

I was surprised a while ago, while reading a book on the garden in ancient Egypt, to learn that the people made gardens around the tombs. Surprised, but I can see it now, given the textual and iconographic depictions of the dead amidst the shade of trees, cool water, and greenery. And there were temple gardens as well, of course, but you don’t think of that, don’t envision that, as you walk around what remains of temple and tomb in today’s Egypt. The gardens are missing, along with the other adornments, the paint on the figures, the pennants flying, so all that’s left is the bones, majestic but bare. Philae is perhaps the exception, lovely with bougainvillea and sycamore figs, a hint of what might have once been.

Herodotus’s description of the temple at per-Bast speaks a great deal of the trees lining the canals and the roads and surrounding the sacred precinct. And I’ve seen Bast there in my mind’s vision, seated on a throne in Her pavilion, surrounded by moon-cast shadows, the murmur of the waters, and fragrance on the cooling breeze.

I have ambitions toward temple gardening myself, but limits on time, energy, money, and, to be honest, focus have been standing in my way. (Once, in a flash of brief-lived but intense passion, I asked Renenutet to help me fulfill my vision of my property as a garden paradise. Knowing me better than I did myself, She laughed at me.) So for the present, I’ve scaled back my ambitions. First priority is to maintain what I have, keeping the multiflora and wild raspberries somewhat in check, mowing and weeding, pruning and raking. And after that, to add a bit at a time: to create little nooks of beauty, a butterfly bush here, a wildflower patch there, miniature garden shrines to stumble upon.

I would love to have a glorious garden for Bast, full of color and perfume and bright wings of butterflies and birds. And maybe someday, piece by piece, I’ll have it.

Imagine this, but about forty times wider and with temple walls rising up above the greenery at the end of the road; I’d guess that would give us a fair image of the road to per-Bast according to Herodotus. (Photograph of Kitchner’s Island botanical garden, Aswan, from Wikipedia.)

Dua Bast, appearing in beauty! Nekhtet!

December 27, 2011

Purity and priority

Posted in Home and Temple, Tending the Shrine, Thoughts and Reflections at 9:28 pm by

I’m a little bit tired today; it was a slow, rough, frustrating day at work. Fortunately my festival calendar is clear until the end of the week. Or perhaps not so fortunately after all. Some festivity might rejuvenate me. Well, instead here I sit with a peppermint hot chocolate and two sleeping cats being ridiculously adorable as I try to put some words together in meaningful patterns. There are much worse ways to spend a rainy evening.

I’ve put in my request to be reinstated as a W’ab priest of the House of Netjer, and while I wait for official confirmation I’ve been continuing to sit with my thoughts and feelings about the job, as well as with my goals and priorities for my life in general. I think I’ve finally managed to set aside the pages-long list of things I think I want to do, or should do, or that might be cool to do if twenty thousand equally cool-seeming things weren’t jostling for my attention and energy. I have myself down to just four general categories now: priest work, relationships, writing, and care of self and home. Of course, each of those by itself is infinitely expandable. The secret is going to be to keep balance among them, and also to hold onto that simplicity of focus when the next shiny distraction comes along.

I had a dream a few nights ago that I was at some sort of convention or fair, and I found this amazing wolf pelt on a table of hides. (In the dream it was identified as “coyote,” but recalling it, it seems too large and heavy-furred to be anything other than a wolf.) It was pale silver-grey and white, and it glittered as though tiny fragments of mirrors had been stitched to it like sequins. I woke up briefly, and when I went back to sleep I was trying on the wolf pelt in front of a mirror, pulling the head down over my face. I made a singularly unconvincing wolf.

I think it comes back to the question of what is and isn’t my work, and acknowledging that just because something may seem beautiful and wonder-filled and intriguing doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a good fit. (In fact, the dream came just as I was on the verge of chasing down one of those enticing rabbit trails.) I’m still figuring out what the right fit actually is, but I think I’m circling in on it. Or at least drawing the circle to exclude what it isn’t.

I walked into work this morning and found my dictionary open to the word “purity.” In shrine one time I received the message Purity is priority. Not only that purity is a priority for a W’ab priest, but that purity lives in what we set as our priorities. What we keep foremost in our hearts.

May I be pure.

December 31, 2010

Cleansings

Posted in Home and Temple, Parks and Rivers at 12:31 pm by

I haven’t been getting outside enough lately — between one thing and another, I’ve been spending far too much time glued to the computer (she says, writing in her blog). And for all the beauty to be seen and appreciated while I’m out driving, it’s really not the same. Yesterday I finally had a chance to rectify that, as I took a break from cleaning out and reorganizing my desk drawers to take a walk down to the river meadow just as the sun was setting.

And I could feel the shift as I stepped off the road and onto the winter grass, like the release of a vast sigh. Walking on the damp but still frozen ground, breathing in the cold, snowmelt-flavored air, touching the airy grace of the taller, plumed grasses and the catkin-tipped branches, listening to the fluid murmur of the river as it purled over stones and welled up through holes in the ice — it was a different kind of cleansing, a purification, and one that was very much needed. The river brings renewal, as it always does, washing against and cooling the heart; the light-struck sky brings peace, uplifting the spirit. And home ground underneath one’s feet brings stability, a sense of center that feeds the ka.

From tending the home to being tended by the home, from restoring order to being restored: the cycle of give-and-take continues.

O Netjer, may I remember and return, again and again, to Your wellsprings of life.