December 28, 2013

The power of primordial Wenut, or, why I’ve been quiet here lately

Posted in Creative Fire, Doing Heka, Netjeru, On Writing, Thoughts and Reflections at 3:33 pm by

Around the middle of October, I performed a predawn ritual for the Saq-Khmun festival. The focus of the ritual was on a primordial form of Wenut, Wenut at the time of creation — a UPG/inspiration “discovery,” so I have no idea whether there’s any connection to ancient Kemetic myth or practice, but, well, She is definitely a Force. As I described in the earlier post, the ritual was designed to evoke creative energy and to help me get back to writing. And that energy came, all right, but I made two major mistakes: I didn’t have a specific project in mind into which to channel that energy, just a nebulous desire to do something; and I hadn’t addressed what was blocking me from writing. So there was this tremendous surge of creative force that had nowhere to go. I ended up driving around that afternoon for two aimless hours, then went home and went completely mental for the rest of that month. I’m not terribly proud of that period.

At around the same time as I conceived of the ritual, I commissioned a pair of statues from Nicolas of Shadow of the Sphinx, a primordial Wenut and an apotropaic/Eye of Ra Wenut. It took about a month and a half for us to work out all the details and the statues to be completed; they arrived at the end of November, and on December 1 I welcomed them home with offerings. During the time they were being worked on, I was in a sort of retreat, concentrating on rest and on clearing the way of all kinds of anxiety and overwhelm. By the time they got here, I was poking at some story ideas. And I knew that having invited primordial Wenut into my home, I was going to have to engage with Her power in a more constructive way.

This was confirmed when I did a Wepwawet Stone Oracle reading for myself around the end of November. I’d been having that feeling of being stuck in my life, and I asked Him, What should I do about this? Is there Someone I should talk to? How can I move forward? And the reading…could not have been more explicit if glowing words had appeared on the divining cloth. Only one stone landed in the main part of the cloth: the ben-ben, the primordial mound of creation, face down, signifying blocked creativity, lying where Tefnut and Shu, the heart and the mind, are reunited and seek reconciliation. The other four stones all drift in the Nun, the sea of possibility, not currently manifest: the journey toward sweetness (sun barque near Nefertem), perfection’s becoming (four near Khepera), the constructive engagement with the critic-shadow (ibis face down near ram-headed Ra), the fulfillment of service (copper near Atum).

 
Picture of the stone cast (click for larger version).

 
Well. So that was where I committed myself, that writing had to be my priority. And since then, and since Wenut came home to me, I’ve been working, making real progress for the first time in…I can’t even remember how long.

(When I say “writing,” what I mean is not the songs, the rituals, the blog posts, which are all certainly writing and worthwhile creative endeavors. I mean fiction writing, the dance with the characters, the sharing of their stories, that kind of falling in love.)

I’ve been on part-time priest service for the last couple of months while I figured all of this out. And I’ve been trying to work out where my service is going to go from here.

Even before this whole journey of crash and burn and renewal, I had known this: that if for some reason I could absolutely not do both and had to choose one, writing or priestwork, I would choose writing. Some people would probably say that this makes me a terrible and unworthy priest of Bast. But it is what it is. Bast knows, and She has not ever judged me for this. Writing is my service to Her too; She who subsists on joy is made glad by that which brings me joy.

But I want to try to balance them. I truly do. (And I’m not really sure why it’s so hard.)

So for right now, I’m seeing how well I can maintain with part-time priest service and with intensive writing taking place mainly on the weekends. (Of course, I’m off-pure at the moment, so the balance issue is less immediately pressing.) If I can manage to get back to full-time service that would be a plus, but I’m not going to stress out over it.

I’m looking forward to this upcoming year; I think 2014 is going to be a turn-around point for me. It’s definitely going to be dedicated to finishing at least one novel-length original fiction work. (And some long-abandoned but fun fanfiction works as well.) FYI, I do my writing progress reports and other related babble on my Livejournal, if you’re at all curious, though I only started posting there again recently.

So anyway — here’s to a year of creativity!

Dua Wenut in Your Name of Lady of the First Time! Nekhtet!

 
My two commissioned Wenut statues. Primordial Wenut: head of a lion, ears of a hare, body of a snake, coiled about the egg of creation. Apotropaic Wenut: lion-headed woman with the ears of a hare, carnelian sun disk, and uraeus, holding a knife. There are more and better pictures at Nicolas’s store. He has done some amazing work, but I think he really outdid himself here.

February 22, 2013

Falling into Fallow Times

Posted in Kemetic Roundtable, On Writing, Thoughts and Reflections at 12:08 pm by

I think there are a number of ways to fall into fallow times, just as there are many ways to approach and experience the Divine.

One way, strange as it may sound, is an inability to let go — in particular, to let go of results. I come to this as a writer who has largely gone without writing in the last couple of years (other than sporadic blog posting, and the songs, of course, which are short and quick enough that they can come through in bursts, taking advantage of any little window of opportunity). Writing has its fallow times too, the well-known and dreaded writer’s block. When I have difficulty writing, inevitably I’m getting in my own way, paralyzed by perfectionism. Can I achieve what I want to do with this piece? Can I make it through the whole long, slow process of putting the words down one by one in order to get to the completed work? And then do it all over again for the next one? I see the trilogies yet unwritten, not the sentence that lies ahead of me.

Something very similar happens when I start looking beyond the present moment in my devotions. What will happen way down the road if I take another step, if I initiate something new or go on to the next level? Can I follow through on the commitment that this implies? Will it be too hard? Will I fail? Will I succeed, and in succeeding lose everything that’s familiar to me? If I become stronger, will there be more demands, demands that I don’t think I can face?

When I’m caught up in this whirl of brain noise, I have trouble hearing the Gods. And then, funnily enough, I start to panic. “Are you there? What’s wrong? Why can’t I hear you?” And the more I push for a response, the less I hear, so it becomes a vicious cycle. In my anxiety, I both want and don’t want the intimacy of a relationship; I cling to my Mother in terror of rejection even as I shrink away from what I imagine my service will require.

Until at last my brain shuts down, and I collapse. In my exhaustion, I give up the fighting, let go of the fear of success and failure, of right and wrong paths, of all the potential too-muchness, and just go silent in Her presence. And then, in the stillness, I can remember the good, the bright moments, the things that feed my ka. And I can feel Her again — Her love, which never judges me as I judge myself. Bast neither steps back to let me rest nor steps forward to pull me out of my funks. She just is — She is there, and it’s up to me to find the still point in my heart, to find Her presence within and around me, and to make the choice or do the action that’s before me at that moment. To try without trying, to do without doing. To be in Her embrace.

I make things so complicated sometimes. I wring myself up so tightly that I drive all the renewing moisture out of my life, leaving it arid and barren. I don’t blame myself for my fallow times — but I can make better choices, and I know it.

May I learn the wisdom of equanimity, the coolness of the cool water that restores and makes pure.

In peace, Mother — in peace, in peace.

(Links to other Kemetic Roundtable posts on facing the fallow times can be found here.)

 

February 17, 2013

Slightly disjointed update post

Posted in Administrivia, Creative Fire, Festivals, On Writing, Thoughts and Reflections at 10:40 pm by

I’m back again, after another short posting hiatus. For the main part I’ve been absent because everyone else in the Kemetic blogosphere has been making such great posts that I haven’t felt as though I have anything really significant to add to the conversation. Silly, I know! My energy is picking up again — hello, spring! hello, season of Peret! — and with it I’m hoping to find my voice once more. I’ve been enjoying the Kemetic Roundtable posts, so maybe I’ll take part in the next round of that.

My shrine service has been steady since my last leave in December, and this weekend I’ve been winding up a couple of projects. I just finished making a new bag for my Wenut oracle, and tomorrow — Netjer willing and the Nun don’t rise — I should finish making the tokens for yet another divination system. No, I have no idea why the Gods keep downloading these things into my brain. Not that I’m complaining. I’ve also started moving forward with one of my original fiction projects, and I think Bast is also nudging me toward a rather different type of writing project. So there is productivity and progress and various types of activity going on.

Speaking of doing things, this is a deep and true post by Elizabeth at Twilight and Fire on how love is an action rather than just a feeling. Elizabeth is a pagan monastic in service to Loki, but what she has to say is wise advice for anyone who serves a God, or indeed serves anything. It has special resonance for me because I struggle with exactly what she describes, the impermanence of feelings or enthusiasms. I’ve had to learn that when excitement flags for one thing and picks up for something else, it’s not necessarily a sign that I should leap to change direction and follow it. Right now I’m finally managing to balance the two things that have pulled me back and forth the most consistently in the last few years — writing and service to Bast. Neither one is lighting me up like crazy, but both are being served. And in that service, there is love, enduring love. And it’s good.

In a show of synchronicity, her post ties in as well with my observances of this month’s Procession of Nesret, a festival honoring the Lady of Flame, aka the Eye of Ra. My personal devotion on the actual day of the festival turned on examining what is truly important in my life, while the heka I wrote for today’s Tea with Bast online ritual chat took that further to begin a process of setting specific goals for service to those most essential things. The process is ongoing; it’ll be interesting to see where I am a few months from now.

Finally, I’m late to the game, but Rev. Tamara Siuda is running a kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of her Ancient Egyptian Daybook. This is going to be an awesome resource for Kemetics. The initial goal of $3000 has already been reached, but you can still help contribute to the project’s extended goals (and potentially earn pledge goodies).

January 9, 2013

Songs and the Procession for Singing

Posted in Administrivia, Creative Fire, Festivals, On Writing, Rituals, Songs, Poetry, and Prayers at 10:11 am by

The light is already visibly increasing, the sun rising earlier and setting later. It seems to have come sooner this year for some reason. Not that I’m complaining! Or maybe I’m just paying better attention.

I can tell for certain when I’ve taken a better spiritual turning — the songs start coming again, both new ones and new inspiration for finishing old fragments. I posted four songs to my song blog last night:

– “Chant for Offering Ma’at to Netjer,” relating to this post;
– “Come, Heru-wer!” written for the Heb Wer festival last week;
– “Hymn to Heru-Sobek,” for tomorrow, when we have a conjunction of the Rekeh Wer for Heru and a procession of Sobek; and
– “Hymn to Temu in His Barque,” a bit of Kemetic research geekery.

Plus I just wrote another one this morning. It started with me singing a little nonsense song to myself about how I didn’t need to take fruit to work because I already had fruit there, and somehow the tune acquired new words and turned into a song for the Udjat “Procession for Singing” celebration, which is part of the Rekeh Wer and takes place today. (My creative process can be very strange.) So…hurray for fruit?

(Oh! I just realized that I have oranges that I can offer to Heru at the Rekeh Wer chat tonight! Nekhtet!)

With this morning’s song, I’ve now finished 94 songs. Counting the ones that are still in progress, I’ve hit 100. This is extremely mind-boggling to me.

Wow.

Hail to You, Netjer, on Your festival of the Procession for Singing! Thank You for inspiring me with Your beauty and Your love. May I praise You all the days of my life.

Dua Netjer! Nekhtet!

April 9, 2012

Windsong and words

Posted in On Writing, Stalking Beauty, The Wild Sky at 11:51 am by

I love to hear the wind whistle outside my office window, to see the blowing cherry petals flashing bright-dark-bright against the eggshell blue sky and the few slowly sailing, fray-edged clouds. If I lean forward at my computer, I can see an arch of the weeping cherry itself, the branches lashing like horse tails and then falling still, the flowers catching light. The wind flutes again, long notes like a Japanese shakuhachi; something about the angle of the corners or the windows here bows it, makes it sing.

A tiny dark spot moving across a cloud, impossibly high — a bird? I glimpse something golden that might be sun on wings, and then it leaves the cloud’s face and I lose it against the blue.

Another cloud growing larger, growing closer, almost seeming to descend as it fills my window, as if it were about to collide with the building…and then it passes over and is gone.

Now my office mate has her window open, the blind flapping, and I can feel the wind as well for a few moments before the blind flies up suddenly on a strong gust, and she hurries to close it again —

— * —

So I went out for a walk over my lunch hour (the wind was too much to resist), around the athletic fields, picking my way through drifts of violets, the sun’s warmth coming and going on my skin — walking into the wind, spreading my fingers like flight feathers and feeling the air curl around and behind them to lick against my palms. Feeling as if I could lift off and fly.

Walk, my Mother urges me. Write. Again and again. The things that I know are good for me, that lift me out of anxiety and depression. That turned my weekend around, from apathy and exhaustion to engaged activity. Clothes sorted, yard work accomplished, blog posts made, weekly offerings and prayers presented, and all because I put pen to paper and let the words flow, because I got outside, into the open air, beneath the sky. Breath of the wind and breath of the words, both raise me up, both raise up my heart.

O Bast, may I remember. The wind. The words. This wonder.

February 3, 2012

C is for creativity

Posted in Creative Fire, On Writing, Pagan Blog Project 2012 at 10:34 pm by

(I wasn’t sure I would be able to squeeze out this Pagan Blog Project post. Because the songs just wouldn’t stop coming….)

Kemet is rife with creator Gods, and we, their children, are creators too. Our words take on life, the breath of our mouths as we speak or sing or laugh; our hands with their skill give form, color, and texture; our bodies are eloquent in movement, tracing the shapes of our emotions, our patterns of our relationship to the space around us. Even if we don’t necessarily consider ourselves “artists” or “talented” — we write, we draw, we do crafts, we sing alone in the car, we arrange our homes or our rooms or our shrines, we collect things and put them together in ways that speak to us, we weave magic and rituals, we build, code, problem-solve, design, embellish, and adorn. And so much more. In so many ways, we shape worlds, and we fill them with what’s in our hearts.

Writing is my own main form of creativity, although I also dabble in various others. Whatever form it takes, though, my creativity tends to be compulsive, cyclical, and all-consuming. I get swept up by what I’ve taken to calling “enthusiasms,” which feel very much like what I imagine the Celtic experience of “fire in the head” must be. (“Fire of the sun” in a Kemetic context, I suppose. Or maybe “fire of Sia.”) Once I’m struck, there’s no letting go until the energy has burned through me. And then it passes, and I don’t quite know what to do with myself until the next round begins.

Sometimes it can be exhausting. Especially when I’m working on a song and I end up singing a tune over and over and over waiting for the words to come — my voice gives out, my brain feels hot and raw, scraped by the repetition of half-finished lines, and I just want to whimper, “Please, God, make it stop!” But I don’t really want it to stop. Because then I would miss the extraordinary joy and triumph of accomplishment when the work is finally done and ready for me to let it go. That feeling never dims, never gets old. Each creation is unique in its process, its challenges, its significance. Each one shines with its own light.

The work is part of my service, too, to my Mother Bast and all the Gods. Whether it be songs or poetry, fiction or blog posts, plays or rituals, it’s one of the gifts that I have to offer. I always hope that some reader finds pleasure in it, or insight, or fellowship, or even a moment’s distraction. But even if no one ever read me at all, I think I would still have to dance with the words. For the sake of connecting with and telling the story of whatever it is that inspires me. For the sake of the worlds that want to be born.

A glowing ball of pulsating light
that fills up the space before the dark night,
the thing that shines on the world below
and on me and you, wherever we go.

— my first poem, written at age seven

All You Creator Gods, may You bless the work of our hands and hearts! Dua Netjer!

November 10, 2010

Mystery of creation

Posted in Creative Fire, On Writing, Thoughts and Reflections at 9:46 pm by

A briefly golden morning, the sun slanting upward through a narrow gap in the overcast east to emblaze hilltops, thinning cloud trails, the highest branches of the trees. A lotus-light, fleeting and magical.

Amun-Ra statueLast month I wrote my fiftieth song for the Netjeru.* I’m still a little incredulous at this, considering that I’d never imagined I would be writing songs at all. And it was for Amun-Ra, who started the whole thing nearly four years ago, as I knelt before His shrine and wondered aloud what special service I could do for Him. Sing! He told me emphatically, and from that moment, that first awkward, self-conscious rendition of the House of Netjer classic “Ankh, Ujda, Seneb,” which was the only vaguely appropriate song that I knew at the time, has somehow arisen a whole repertoire of songs for many different Gods and festivals.

The sources of creativity are certainly mysterious! But it makes perfect sense that it would be Amun-Ra who set me on this path. As the syncretism of Amun and Ra, He’s always seemed to me an embodiment — an en-God-ment? — of the creative process itself, the journey that extends from the Hidden to the Manifest, from the first leaping electricity of connection and inspiration to the particular luminosity of the finished work. And now that I’ve been reminded of this, I plan to offer my nonmusical writing projects to Him and to seek His help in getting those off the ground as well.

Dua Amun-Ra, Lord of the Hidden Wind, Lord of the Radiant Sun! May You bless all the works of my mind and imagination!

—–

Photo of my Amun-Ra shrine, with the statue featuring the new plumes that I *finally* made for Him this past summer (detail; click photo for the full shrine.).

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* And in the time it’s taken me to get around to writing this post, I’m already up to song #53. Note to self: Life does not stand still and wait for you to blog about it.

October 19, 2009

Walking the valley

Posted in Home and Temple, On Writing, The Wild Sky, Thoughts and Reflections at 4:43 pm by

On Sunday I went for a walk down the road and around the school, the first time in a long while that I’ve taken that particular walk. I often go for similar walks on my lunch break at work, around the university campus, down by the lake or along the canal, but they don’t have the sense of exhilaration that yesterday’s walk did. Was it something in the wind? Or was it because it was that wind, gusting down the length of the valley, that sky arching overhead, from hillside to hillside, that roll of the land and the rivers, the scattering of orange leaves like a drift of fire on the hill leading up to the cow farm’s main house, the pines along the athletic fields swaying against the ragged and illuminated clouds? Because it felt like coming home?

I’d never even realized that I’d been away, and yet, in some sense, I was. And is it a coincidence that I also spent much of the day writing, something that I’d been too busy or too anxious to do for a long time? There are a lot of distractions, a lot of ways to be absent to one’s self and one’s life.

O Netjer, may I be truly present. May I live. May I live.