December 29, 2010

In all Their Names

Posted in Netjeru, Stalking Beauty, The Wild Sky at 9:37 pm by

On Monday, shoveling my driveway after the season’s first blizzard, I paused to look up into a sky of the most extraordinary blue, only a couple of shades lighter than lapis. I murmured a prayer to Hethert, the Lady of Heaven. Only a moment or two later, I glanced up again to see a hawk riding the tumbling currents of the air, the pale undersides of its wings flashing as they flared first to one side and then the other, like a dancer’s fans.

Dua to Heru, dwelling in joy in His House; dua to She Who Takes Wing as the Female Falcon.

Yesterday, as I was driving to work in the morning, the sky was overcast with rumpled red clouds, like a sailor’s warning. The sun hadn’t yet risen, when from behind the eastern horizon a pillar of red light reared upward, striking across the face of those clouds like a searchlight’s beam.

Dua to Ra in His sun barque; dua to Set standing upon the prow, spear raised against the uncreated one.

This afternoon, on the way to order more tile for the ongoing bathroom project, I was stopped at a traffic signal, and the westering sun blazed in through my car’s rear window, pouring the warm beauty of its light across my dashboard. I reached out to cup a handful of gold.

Dua to Tem in His completeness; dua to the Peaceful One, His firstborn Daughter.

Hail and praise to all the Gods, who ensoul the world.

Dua Netjer! Nekhtet!

December 15, 2010

Ten days of joy (2010): Day 2

Posted in Stalking Beauty, Ten Days of Joy, The Wild Sky at 7:54 pm by

Today’s joy was the sudden touch of sunrise light falling on my face — both the simple beauty of it, and the wonder of its uniqueness. Every morning on the drive to work is different — sometimes gray, sometimes gold, sometimes silvery pale, sometimes struck with piercing brilliance or with flushes of deep, vivid color — transforming the daily commuting routine into a celebration, a meditation. Every day is Netjer’s gift.

Dua Netjer! Dua Bast! Nekhtet!

December 13, 2010

Warmth

Posted in Stalking Beauty, Thoughts and Reflections at 10:09 pm by

After yesterday’s rain-washed mild temperatures, today proved to be windy and surprisingly cold when I went out at lunchtime. I picked up soup to bring back with me, then decided to detour to the flower shop to find something for my desk, as it had been far too long since I’d had flowers.

Yellow daisiesAfterward, walking back to the office carrying three bright yellow Gerber daisies, I felt as though I was carrying warmth with me, tucked into the crook of my arm. A trace of fleeting sunlight flickered through wind-thinned clouds, gilding the bare trees and turning the remaining dry, brown leaves to bronze — and warmer than the sun, the heat of awareness, the delight in beauty, an inner fire of enthusiasm that feels life’s echo everywhere, even when the world might so easily be mistaken for a frost-gnawed, barren shell. The heart, already lifted, leaps! And the dance goes on.

Tomorrow begins my annual observance of the Ten Days of Joy that lead up to and include the Festival of Bast Guards the Two Lands. But it’s good to be reminded that joy can be found at any time, in even the simplest things, and that every day has the potential to be special — today, now, and always.

Dua Bast, Mistress of Joy! Nekhtet!

October 12, 2010

Autumn fire

Posted in Stalking Beauty at 6:07 pm by

Yesterday I turned around, and suddenly all the colors of autumn were underway. As I drove the kittens to the vet for their check-ups, the slopes of Schooley’s Mountain rippled with flame; the highway was lined with shimmering, Impressionistic trees, and in the evening the dark green tunnel of my road was lit up with gold, all the west side glowing with yellow leaves in the twilight. Even the shrine to Ra was autumnal during my weekly offerings this Sunday: the golden brown of gingersnaps and the orange of mandarin slices, the red of raspberry-pomegranate juice and the darker red-maroon of a chrysanthmum in a dish of water. (Although Ra, as it turns out, would appreciate having His offering earlier, when the room isn’t quite so dark.) It all seems to have come out of nowhere, this swift, flickering fire, quick as laughter. The Wandering Goddess pounces before She heads south! And the season is upon us in all its beauty.

Dua Ra! Dua Nesret, Eye of Ra, Great of Flame! Nekhtet!


Western shrine room at twilight
The western wall of my shrine room at twilight; from left to right, candles for the Seven Arrows of Bast, Ra, the Akhu, and Nut. (Bast and Amun-Ra’s candles are out of view to the left.)

August 14, 2010

Cats, I’ll dance

Posted in Stalking Beauty at 9:13 pm by

So I was in shrine early this morning, planning out my day, recounting how I was going to do this, that, and the other thing.

…and dance, said the little voice in the back of my mind.

Mrrr, I thought, but I already have a lot to do, and it’s a long way to go to get a class, and I don’t feel like dancing by myself in my room…. As the resistance was kicking in, my eyes fell upon an object in my shrine, a six-sided die with a picture of a cat on the one-pip side, which had been given to me by one of my Bast-sisters at Retreat, along with the message “You need more Bast in your life.”

“Cats, I’ll dance,” I said, and rolled the die.

…cats.

Did I really expect any other answer?

So I went to the Saturday morning Nia class — which, it turns out, was actually just what I needed — and danced in celebration of balance to honor the Lady of Grace.

(And I’ve only just realized tonight, after the fact, that at the prayer chat on Tuesday I had prayed “that there be more dancing.”)

Dua Bast, You Who sometimes works in mysterious and whimsical ways! Nekhtet!

May 4, 2010

A prayer for Nefertem

Posted in Rituals, Songs, Poetry, and Prayers, Stalking Beauty, Thoughts and Reflections at 11:35 am by

Hard rain yesterday, although fortunately it had eased off each time I had to go outside; a hard month last month, although not as hard as it was last year at this time. I don’t know why I tend to go off the rails in April. Maybe it’s all that energy, pushing outward to grow, to bloom, that exacerbates my tendencies toward anxiety and overwhelm and leaves me not knowing what to do with myself, with my life.

At any rate, here we are in May, and it’s the beginning of a new Kemetic month as well — the second month of the season of Shomu, the season of heat and harvesting. Only three more months until New Year and Retreat. Soon I’ll start going through my journal for the last year, looking at the patterns, the questions asked and the answers that I may have received without even realizing it.

What does it mean, to live? That question was posed to me the other day by Nefertem, god of the unfolding lotus blossom, lord of perfumes. Of the Seven Arrows of Bast, He’s the one I’ve struggled the most to feel connected to. So to honor Him, and to try to foster that connection, I’ve begun reading a prayer to Him each morning, the first thing I do when I get out of bed.

Nefertem, You are awakening.
Nefertem, may I awaken.
Nefertem, You are awake.
Nefertem, may I be awake.
Nefertem, You arise.
Nefertem, may I arise.
Nefertem, You go forth into the world in beauty.
Nefertem, may I go forth into the world in beauty.
O great Creator, may I see Your beautiful face.
May I live. May I live. May I live. May I live.

What does it mean when I pray, “May I live”? What am I asking for? Walking through my days, doing my work, praying to my Gods, is there any time when I’m not alive? Or is it just that I forget, closed up breathless inside the shell of myself, tensed against the twin pressures of fear and blooming?

Yesterday and today, I read my prayer for Nefertem. And yesterday and today, the gardenia on my desk at work, which has limped along for the last year with shriveled buds and yellowing leaves, has put forth white flowers, perfuming the air.

Dua Nefertem! Nekhtet!

March 22, 2010

Unexpected perfume

Posted in Stalking Beauty, Thoughts and Reflections at 11:07 am by

Magnolias in bloom

Last Friday I went back up to the library to renew a book (The Role of the Chantress in Ancient Egypt, if you’re curious). By the corner where I was overwhelmed by fragrance, the magnolias had come out, their flowers flaring white and dazzling in the sun. And I found myself glad that I’d been there just a few days earlier, before the magnolias were actually in bloom, because, like a number of other passersby I overheard, I probably would have assumed that heart-catching perfume had to be coming from those great, glorious, shining flowers. I might never have guessed that it wasn’t the magnolias at all, but the low, dark green shrubs around their feet. Because obviously it’s the showy and beautiful flowers that have the sweetest scent, right?

But sometimes it’s the smallest, most ordinary, least remarkable of things that hold the perfume of the Gods.

A whisper on the wind, a glimmer in the dust, the small, comfortably smooth weight of a pebble, a nubbly little flower no bigger than a dime. You never know where (or in whom) you might glimpse something wonderful, an astonishing instant of beauty, a spark of light from the creator Gods’ zep tepi.

Maybe, if you look closely enough, in everything.

I brought a sprig of the sweet box back to work to share it with my office mate and told her the story above about the magnolias. Magic, we agreed –

It’s magic.

Sweet box shrub

January 20, 2010

Seeing home

Posted in Stalking Beauty, Thoughts and Reflections at 12:50 pm by

I finally went to see James Cameron’s Avatar last weekend. It was splendidly done, no question, a visual spectacular, showing a satisfying triumph of beauty and spirituality over corporate greed and blindness. I enjoyed it greatly, and yet I came away from it not feeling profoundly moved. My reaction may have been colored by the issues of romanticized racism that have been raised elsewhere — the idealized and pure native peoples needing to be saved by the Great White Soldier-Hero — but it wasn’t only that. It may have been that the characters didn’t hit any of my particular triggers (aside from being felinoid, which is always an attraction, blue or not), but it seemed that there was something more. And as I thought of the luminous, otherworldly forest that the movie depicted, the vivid and brilliant wings of the irkan and the toruk flashing against the sky, the perfect union of the bond, the realization came, sudden, startling, and sure:

Beautiful, yes. But not as beautiful as my Mother’s eyes.

The green-tinged gold of the winter hillsides; the moss of my lawn, lush in the brief, damp thaw; the flawless, living clarity of the brook — the caress of the sun; the wind’s sweet, subtle stirring; the leap of my heart, the sense of presence like an embrace; Her warm and endless regard holding me, always. The kinship of those who care for me and whom I care for, of those who hear echoes of the same callings, a silver, flickering music.

I feel a little sad for the people who come out of the movie theater pining for a place that they’ll never get to. The connection to something larger, to the universal web of beauty of which the self is one part, isn’t out there, on Pandora. It’s right here, right now, in the eyes that see, in the heart that opens itself in exhilarated joy and welcome like the outstretched wings of a bird.

The day after Avatar, I went for a walk to the local nature preserve and sang an offering to the stream’s spirit; at home, I raked leaves, cut back perennials, and hauled firewood, alive to the contours of the land beneath my feet, to the fall of the light. Whatever its flaws or its virtues, I’m grateful to Avatar for this: for reminding me of what beauty truly is and where it lives.

I see you, the Na’vi greet each other.

What do you see?

December 16, 2009

Ten days of joy: Day 1

Posted in Stalking Beauty, Ten Days of Joy, Thoughts and Reflections at 10:38 pm by

[From today, the new moon, through the Feast of Bast Guards the Two Lands on December 25, I'll be doing posts for Ten Days of Joy. This was an exercise for the Shemsu and Remetj of the House of Netjer, a couple of years back, which honored Bast by sharing with each other daily that which brings us joy. It seemed like a good thing to revive.]

Today’s joy was in contrasts: sun and shadows sliding beneath bare branches as the chill wind blew, tiny pillows of intensely emerald moss nestling amidst the brown winter grasses. It feels so good to walk outside, even in winter — especially in winter, perhaps, when everything is stark and clean, and the smallest traces of life and movement stand out so vividly.

Dua Netjer! Dua Bast! Nekhtet!

December 8, 2009

Praising the beauty of Set

Posted in Netjeru, Rituals, Songs, Poetry, and Prayers, Stalking Beauty at 11:15 am by

After yesterday’s post on the gifts of Set’s storms, a thought occurred to me, although it’s actually rooted in a realization from the day of the snowfall itself: from standing in the shrine room, having just offered candle flame and rum-flavored iced tea to Set, gazing out the window at the darkening afternoon, and being struck with the sudden beauty of it, the gentle and relentless descent of the snow, the world beneath the clouds possessed of a profound stillness and yet also of a dynamic energy, a subtly electric tension.

There’s a danger in constructing a false dichotomy where Set is all wildness and chaotic upheaval and Heru is all beauty and transformed, purified order. Like the Taoist yin-yang symbol, even though They’re opposites, They also contain the seeds of each other. Heru has His wildness too, in the tearing claws, in the battering power of unfettered wings, in the unleashed might of the King as warrior, like a lion in the carnage of battle. And Set is beautiful in and of Himself, not merely for what He gives way to. “You are beautiful,” I told Him in the shrine room that afternoon, awed. It seemed to amuse Him. So here are a few more words on the beauty of Set.

 

Praising the Beauty of Set

O Set, I praise Your great and implacable beauty:
in the looming majesty of the thunderhead,
in the shivery hush of snow falling at twilight,
in the lightning-edged whorls of the fractal,
in the wind-carved austerity of the desert at high noon,
in the fierce and subtle glitter of its sands.
Your ecstasy is in the howl of passion, of exertion,
in the stretch of the body driven beyond all rational limits,
in the hot, animal confusion of desire and of war.
Your rage is in the cold, burning weight of the iron blade,
perfect in balance, the shuddering slip of the faultline,
the swift-swelling wave that rises, curling and smooth, to block out the sky.
In all of Your wonder and Your terror, You are beautiful:
You are all things exotic and rare and deeply strange.
Your hands are scented with myrrh, with frankincense,
with perfumes from far-off lands that have not yet been named.
Son of Nut, Your smile is the nuclear flare of an exploding star,
expending its light and heat without limit into the black void of space.
You are the crocodile-jawed storm of destruction,
You are the raw shout of defiance snatched away by the teeth of the gale,
and You are the defiance that remains sealed within the heart, silent and pure.
In Your two hands, You hold despair and hope.
In all things, O Set, You are beautiful.

 

Dua Set! Nekhtet!