February 21, 2015

Coming back from the field

Posted in Netjeru, Tending the Shrine, Thoughts and Reflections at 4:45 pm by

I had a dream the other night in which I had left my Seven Arrows of Bast statues hidden in the tall grass around the edges of a field. I was going back to look for them, and I was afraid that someone else either had found them or would find them before I could get there. I located Wenut, and I was so glad to hold Her beautiful statue in my hands. I also was reassured for some reason that the next several statues, going clockwise around the field, were all going to be lions (which they aren’t actually — only Nefertem’s statue is actually a lion, although Heru-hekenu and Wadjet could both be depicted in that form).

It was a very vivid dream; also somewhat disturbing. I also came away with an unsettled feeling that Wenut wanted something from me. I thought about offering to Her, then put it off, then wondered if She was angry about that. Today I finally got up and dealt with it: I went into the shrine room, lit the incense that I had offered to Khonsu-Heru on the new moon (why not, since I was in there anyway), and offered Wenut one of Her favorites, warm milk with spices. I still couldn’t quite figure out what, if anything was going on, so I did some divination using Her oracle, which told me that the dream was indeed significant, but that there wasn’t any specific task I was supposed to. (Nor had I done anything to make Her unhappy, which was a relief, because I kept imagining that She was upset with me.) In the end, what She finally got across to me was, Just sit. Sit with Her, drink the milk, spend a few minutes in Her company. My mind stayed jittery, but even so. It was peaceful; it was good.

I think the dream might have been saying that I’ve sort of left the Seven Arrows “out in the field,” as it were. I haven’t been paying them a lot of attention — well, I was largely out of the Kemetic action for nigh on a year, getting my brain meats back in order, and coming back, my first priority of course has been Bast. But I need to not forget about them, even if I’m not doing anything large or profound in relation to them. I need to bring them back to my house.

How long does it take to sit in quiet reflection and drink a mug of warm milk? How long does it take to let a stick of incense burn down until the last pale swirls of smoke have faded? Not long at all. And yet it can make a great difference.

Hail to You, Wenut, She Who Is, She Who Exists. Nekhtet!

Divining with the Wenut Oracle.
Wenut oracle

February 5, 2015

On the Day When the Eye of Ra Calls the Shemsu

Posted in Being Kemetic, Festivals, Tending the Shrine at 9:29 pm by

Today was the festival known as The Eye of Ra Calls the Shemsu. In Kemetic Orthodoxy, it’s a time to contemplate the vows that we’ve taken (or that we might be considering taking). To celebrate the festival, this evening I performed a small ritual of reading my vows, making offerings, and singing songs.

Tonight was also the night that I reopened my State shrine after nearly a year of hiatus. It felt like an auspicious night for it, since my shrine is after all named for the Eye of Ra (“The Eye of Ra Watches over Them”); and it also served to underscore the importance of the service that I’ve pledged myself to. So here I am, back again, renewed in Zep Tepi, ready to do my Mother’s work once more.

Shrine for the festival The Eye of Ra Calls the Shemsu
Shrine for the Eye of Ra

Dua Eye of Ra! Nekhtet!
 

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

May 29, 2012

Onward through the fog

Posted in Tending the Shrine at 8:54 pm by

Yesterday was one of the struggling days. It was hot and cruelly humid, our AC wasn’t working, and I was feeling run down and out of sorts. I’d just taken a shower and purified in preparation for the Rite, and I was already dripping with sweat. As I knelt in front of the shrine, I was overcome with “ugh, no, can’t,” to the point where trying to touch the shrine cabinet brought on an almost physical sense of repulsion. I was looking surrender in the face, sure that I wasn’t going to be able to do the Rite that evening.

Well, almost sure. But because I’m aware that I’m still wrestling with the inertia of having been off for a month, and because I wasn’t getting any clear signals from Bast, I decided to turn to the Fedw for confirmation.

“May I continue with the Rite?” I asked the sticks.

Meh.

Long pause for thought.

“Am I getting in my own way?”

Yes.

I put the sticks away and went on with the Rite. And while it wasn’t stellar, the work got done.

Tonight was better — still hot and AC-less, but a storm was coming in, and the faintest breeze slipped in through the open shrine room window. And Mother was so happy — sometimes Her statue seems to dance, and tonight was one of those nights.

No inspiration for PBP posts yet, but I expect it will come. Or something else will.

Hail to You, Bast, arising in joy! 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.

June 19, 2011

Thoughts before the solstice

Posted in Being Kemetic, Netjeru, Tending the Shrine, Thoughts and Reflections at 8:37 pm by

I spent a little time outside today, enjoying the dappled sunlight under the trees, the gentle wind, the sweet, green smell of early summer. It’s nearly the solstice, the peak of the Eye of Ra’s presence before She turns toward the south. And although my Mother isn’t the face of the Eye who departs for other regions, Her presence was strong today as well.

As I sat outside, I was thinking and writing in my journal on what my work for Her truly is. My train of thought was inspired by reading Dver’s blog post on mysticism as vocation. I’m one of those who struggle to balance priest work with the demands of being a home owner and having a full-time job. (I don’t have family commitments to further complicate the issue, fortunately, but I do have four rather demanding furry children, in the persons of my cats.) And I often wonder, should I be making other choices? Is it possible to be a real and proper priest under these conditions, when in ancient times being a priest was a full-time vocation? On top of that, I’ve been badly off-kilter the last few months, wrestling with galloping anxiety that’s affected all aspects of my life, to the point where I was barely functional on any level and was seriously considering leaving the priesthood. But somehow I’ve hung on, and with a new therapy program and medication I’m slowly beginning to regain that precarious balance, and to be able to think again about where and how to best put my energy and attention.

What I hold onto is that Bast seems to be satisfied with my service. There are things that She would like me to do, but as far as the more complicated ones are concerned, She appears content to wait until I get other parts of my life sorted out. And as I’m getting better, my ability to hear Her directives has been improving once more — and this time, so has my will and focus to actually follow them! At least this is some progress on the path.

Speaking of the path, what is it, then, that I need to be doing in order to be Her priest? Trance work, spirit work, oracles and prophecy don’t seem to be my primary tasks. I’ve been through an ordeal of late, which has taught me lasting lessons, but my work isn’t the work of ordeals. I’m not the edgewalker, bridging the liminal gap between worlds. I read the blogs of other people, who do perform such functions, and I sigh with relief: This is someone else’s task, not mine. It’s a good feeling to realize that I don’t have to do everything, that there are many ways to serve as there are practitioners, as many as there are Gods.

So what work does Bast desire of me? Tending this place, my home and Her temple. Making my offerings. Blogging for Her. Lighting candles — bringing the flame into my life, and the sweetness of perfume. Praying for the benefit of others. Bringing Her Name before the ears and eyes of all the people.

The last couple of days, Bast has wanted me to dance in shrine, to be present there in movement and in great joy. This is the most important thing, I think — to move, to live, to love life, to dance to Netjer’s song of creation. And this, I think, I can do — I only have to remember, to open the space in the midst of all the other commitments and complications in my life. If I am truly living, alight with my love for Her and my appreciation of all Her gifts, then I am indeed serving as Her priest. In fact, I can do nothing else.

O Bast, may I live, may I dance for You, may I serve as Your priest in Your temple, now and always!

October 12, 2009

Living from here

Posted in Tending the Shrine, Thoughts and Reflections at 2:45 pm by

Sometimes when life seems too busy, when it seems as though there’s so much to do and so few hours in which to do it, this anxious and rebellious small voice pipes up to protest spending time in shrine. So it was at the end of last week. I was sitting before Bast’s icon, having just come to grips with the fact that I’ve been letting resistance get the better of me lately and that I need to put more conscious effort into all the many facets of tending the shrine. Somewhat plaintively, that inner voice blurted out, “Does that mean I’m supposed to live my life in the shrine?”

No, Bast replied.

Live your life from here.

Begin it here and end it here.

Trust a God to turn your perspective sideways. Consider the difference between spirituality that takes the place of day-to-day life and spirituality as a ground and context from which that life arises, between ritual as obligation and burden, something that consumes you, and ritual as source of renewal, that which gives life and energy, and as a source of rest. Like a home that you go out from every day and to which you return, again and again…that’s the distinction I need to embrace, as a palliative against that resistance, which ultimately arises from nothing more than a mind clouded by tension and fear.

So for the present I have a new practice, where every day I go to my shrine as the first thing when I get up and as the last thing before I go to bed. It only needs to be for a few moments, just long enough to calm myself, to remind myself, to center myself by touching that wellspring of life. We’ll see what comes of it.

Dua Netjer! Dua Bast! Nekhtet!

June 10, 2009

Renewing the pledge

Posted in Tending the Shrine, Thoughts and Reflections at 2:20 pm by

The temptation is very strong to delete the first line of the previous post, considering how embarrassingly I’ve failed to live up to that aim. But that would be sort of dishonest, so I’ll leave it. At any rate, I got lost again, which is always so confusing, because when I’m most lost it always seems as though there’s someplace else I ought to be, and it’s not here — it’s anywhere but here — and I go frantic trying to answer that call…but it’s only when I stop looking for the place where I “should” be that I stop feeling lost and instead begin to feel at peace. You’d think that I’d learn after the third or fourth or tenth time. And it all sounds so simple and obvious when I write it like this, but when I’m in the throes of that desperation all I can think of is escape.

I thought that I wanted a writer’s hermitage, spare and clean and far away, all twilight and simplicity. And when the dust settled, I looked around and realized how much I’ve been neglecting the home that I have now, the place of my shrine, that I dreamed of making beautiful for Bast. Those are the two poles that keep pulling at me — far flight into the abstract and remote, and settling into the specificity of honoring the place where I am. But it’s not really as simple as a straightforward polarity. I need to balance both, to thread them through each other, warp and weft.

Two weekends ago, finally in recovery after a long stretch of the crazy, I took on some very overdue yardwork, cutting back the multiflora roses and mowing the trails to the brush piles. As I worked, I pledged to Bast that I would reclaim the overgrown and weed-choked places, that I’d make this land her well-loved temple after all. And in the days following that — the songs! Suddenly the floodgates opened, new songs began to pour through, and old songs in progress leaped closer to being done. Clearly this was a step down a good path, or at the very least a creative one.

Dua Netjer, Dua Bast! Nekhtet!