The Dance

Don’t invite anyone in unless you know for sure you can trust them, obviously.

I go to my room and shut the door. I turn the music on and take my place. My eyes are closed. I listen to the music beat. I hear the notes call, but I don’t move.

I remain still. I wait for him to understand my patience.

I feel his breath within me, small and quiet. I listen.

Slowly, my hands move. Slowly, he listens to the music’s call.

Everything is small, as listening turns to understanding. The music begs me to move, but we do not rush. We wait, for hands to float, for hips to sway. We ride upon the music together.

Then we dance.

His body talks about the burning sun and sand. I see the adobe houses. He does not take No for an ending. I feel him call for the black earth to grow underneath them. He dances for the people. He dances for their arts and livelihood.

The music changes. I see feathers on his arms. He flows with white fire. He hears her call. He listens and responds with life and hope.

Now it moves faster. The fire grows hot and the hunt begins.

My muscles shaking and trembling I collapse on the bed. I drink water. Then I return to the floor.

The music has changed again. “This one is yours, Lunatic. Show me.”

I trade the tightly controlled movements that made my legs shake for something freer. I move around swiftly with no real reason or care. I dance about my frustrations, uncertainties, and doubts. I dance out my love and my worries, and can I ever make it right? I want to make him understand what it’s like on this side.

Then it’s over. I lay on the bed and stare at the ceiling. I know my muscles will be sore. That will be my offering, as if the entire thing wasn’t already an offering. As if my every day of living wasn’t an offering. I feel him wrap his wings around me. Until next time.

Chop Vegetables, Build with Water

I’ve been spending time with Clifford lately. Clifford is not his real name, but I needed something to call him. Clifford is the big one. He’s my life’s work, or maybe I am his. He was the first Heru I ever met, Heru-on-the-cliff. He is a branch off of Heru-sa-Aset, who became Horus, who became that broken mess of a god who watched it all fall down and drown under tons of blowing sand. What good is a king when the country is gone? The Apocalypse has already happened as far as he’s concerned. Of all the great and mighty gods out there, how did I end up with this one? That’s a stupid question. Remember the post about shards? Mine came from Clifford. If I was in it for the ego boost, I really should have “chosen” someone else.

What am I going to do with Clifford? What is he going to do with me? I invited him into my house (More like kidnapped and dragged back, but he let me do it.) awhile back, and I remember seeing him there, dressed in casual jeans and a button down shirt with his dark curly hair, chopping vegetables at the counter. He seemed quiet and interested in grounding himself in mundane tasks. What was he thinking?

I jumped inside his head recently. The clothes, the vegetables, they were just empty gestures, but he wanted to appear “normal.” His mind was deep and quiet, and not very human. (It was this same inaction and passivity that allowed me to drag him away from his cliff. He didn’t lift a finger to stop me.) He saw me desperately flailing around, trying to fix things while having no idea what the hell I was doing. He thought I was a lunatic, but that wasn’t necessarily meant as an insult. I caught on to his word game. Lunatic came from “moon sick,” being affected by the phases of the moon. Heru’s wounded, and healed, left eye is also the moon. I see what you did there.

He also said that my thoughts and ambitions were too shallow. Too shallow how? He saw me as this chaotic flash of colors near the surface, while he sat below the ground like the giant magma chamber under Yellowstone. Up here on the surface, all we’re able to see is the occasional plume of steam. (To think that I “dragged” him anywhere! Ha!)

So answer me this, if the gods were there the whole time, biding their time underground, then what’s with the whole depression act, Clifford? Obviously I’m still missing something.

We’ve been dealing with themes of destruction of home and rebuilding. He can’t go back to his wasteland because I planted trees there and told him not to go back. He remodeled my apartment, and I’ve been having trouble getting back there. Fair is fair I guess, but there’s more to it than that. He wants me to explore these lessons further. I started playing Landmark again, which is a building game like Minecraft, but with better graphics. I had been working on an ocean resort, but then he told me to delete it and start again somewhere else. He wants me to practice this. Build, destroy and build again. Another place, another cliff, this time with a waterfall. More green, more gardens. Playing with light and shadow. Why destroy? He doesn’t want me to get attached to the wrong things. The right things will come back in the next build. What is worth rebuilding and what isn’t? We’ll study this together.

 

Don’t Be A Dick

This is the official unofficial Kemetic motto. We should embroider it on doilies and carve it in stone. If nothing else, write it on a note with a marker and stick it on the edge of your computer monitor. Go ahead and draw a dick on it to go along with the message. You know you want to.

“Don’t be a dick” is a modern interpretation of the idea of living in ma’at. There are many interpretations of what exactly ma’at entails, but I see it as the balance that holds the world, as we know it, together. It keeps us alive and healthy. It keeps our communities strong. It makes for a well-tuned ecosystem, among other things. We rarely achieve perfect balance, because the world isn’t perfect, but as long as we live, we can keep working on improvement.

One of the central images of Kemeticism is the image of the deities, most often Set, but sometimes others are shown, fighting against a giant snake Apep. We strike out its name because we never want to add to its power. It is an embodiment of isfet, the force that goes against ma’at. If the snake wins, the sun is devoured and we can kiss our rear ends goodbye. Ma’at nourishes our gods, while isfet, makes the snake stronger. We REALLY don’t want it to win, not even once.

So, live in ma’at, or else. What is the or else? The gods will punish you? Maybe, depending on how badly you’ve screwed up. But no, the “or else” is that when you don’t, you are picking at the threads that hold the world together. (You know that place where you live where you keep all your stuff?) It doesn’t take a belief in gods to get behind that reasoning.

Let’s bring it back to “Don’t Be a Dick.” There is a lot more to ma’at than whether or not you’re a jerk to others, but it’s a good place to start. It’s simple. The “or else” here might not mean the end of the world, but when you act like a dick, especially in public, either outside or online, you are picking at the threads that hold your community together. You know, that place where you like to hang out? That second family? The place where you post your stuff?

Try to speak within ma’at. Tell the truth, as you understand it, but don’t use it as a weapon to cut others. You win nothing by “winning” arguments on the internet. Building a community is a win. Helping others is a win. Making people feel welcome and safe is a win. Teaching those who want to learn is a win. Listening and learning are huge wins.

And if someone tries your patience so badly that you’re just not feeling the ma’at, then execrate them as we execrate the snake. That’s what the block/delete/ignore button is for. Don’t let anyone drag you down to their level. You don’t owe them anything.

Why Believe?

At my core is this feeling that I need the gods and spirits around me to feel whole. I discovered this when the Lady of the Mountain told me she was going away and I panicked. It was confirmed while traveling and finding a place where no spirits answered my greetings. It made me want to curl up and hide. I could blame it on the chunk of Heru I’ve got inside me, but those memories aren’t mine. I know why he feels that way, but why do I feel that way?

It is my belief that humans need gods and spirits. We’ve been interacting with the unseen from the earliest times. Evidence of spiritual thinking is practically a marker for the development of human consciousness. The scientist in me might suggest that it’s directly tied to our capacity for abstract thought. A lot of modern scientists might argue that we’ve grown past that and have no more need for “imaginary friends,” but I disagree, obviously.

Like most modern Kemetics, I wasn’t born into the religion. I’m a convert. Like many other converts, I still have baggage from my previous belief system to contend with. I don’t believe that I’m going to hell when I die, because I’m not sure that there even is a hell, or a heaven, or a duat. Is it all in my head? Is it just a random firing of nerves and a mixing of chemicals? The comfort is, that if the atheists are right, I won’t have any time to worry over it when I’m gone. So I might as well live the kind of life that feels right to me now.

If the atheists are right, then that means that my worst nightmare is already true. That still doesn’t explain why I see it as my worst nightmare. Ok, second worst nightmare, the first would be the end of the world and everyone in it, but I wouldn’t have much time to mourn that one either. My gut reaction is that the world would be a much emptier place without them.

On a personal level, they sort of fill in the gaps. They’re around when I’m tired or depressed or lonely. They’re like a second family. They’re not just for my comfort, however. They challenge me to see other perspectives. They push me to be a better person. They remind me to care. I tell my skeptical brain that those are all very good effects whether their existence is literally true or not.

Atheists like to harp on the evils of belief, as if that is what has caused all the problems in the world. (Belief is often the excuse, but rarely the cause.) They don’t like to recognize the good that it does. I have this construct in my head that makes me act like a better person. It’s a sounding board for developing ideas and organizing priorities. Sure, I don’t have to call it a god. I could call it a mental exercise, but honestly, it wouldn’t be as effective if I did that. If I didn’t believe in this inner counselor, then why would I bother listening to it? There are plenty of psychological exercises that do something similar, role playing, visualization, dream interpretation. But if your visions have no life breathed into them, they’re not going to be as powerful. I’m more likely to follow through if a living, loving, god tells me to do something than if my own mental construct says to do so. Yes, I do sometimes tell the god to eff off, but I always listen first.

I hear arguments about the virtue of objective truth, but to me, they are self-defeating. If death simply means Game Over, then why should I care about the virtuousness of objectivity? There are no cookies in it for me. If my subjectivity offers me advantages, then there’s no reason not to use it. So, that is basically how I tell the skeptical side of my brain to shut the hell up. This is how a rational, intelligent person can believe in gods. I haven’t even gotten into my arguments about symbolic and metaphorical truths that help explain the human condition. I’ve got a bunch of those too. In short, it works, so I use it. Experience has shown that I am not better off without it. I’ve tried.

It is my belief that belief itself is a basic human need. When people want to control others, they hijack their belief systems and hold them hostage. The wealthy and the powerful demonize those aspects of spirituality that are accessible to all in order to put their priests in charge. Why do people not simply abandon belief itself? I don’t think it is that easy. Every culture that I know of has had some kind of spiritual belief system. (The Soviet Union was an experiment that didn’t actually work so well, and there were plenty of people still practicing their beliefs underground.) That indicates to me that it does fill a need of some kind. It is a thing of value. Why else would the wealthy hijack it? Why else does it actually work when that happens? Not every person believes, but within a population, it persists. It’s built in, much like our capacity for mathematics or language. And it is the hijacking of belief that everyone points to when things go wrong. Belief isn’t the enemy. Taking it away from the people in order to control them is.

And that begs the question. How do we do it right this time? Is it even possible to prevent it from being screwed up? Screwing up also seems to be a built in part of human nature.

Momma Aset

“You are insane, my son. I’ve always known that,” she told me.

It was a relief to hear her say so. I waste so much effort pretending not to be, especially to myself. “It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an I.” I don’t know where that quote originated, but I’ve seen it floating around and it always seems relevant.

My “I” is not very strong. Maybe that’s not completely true. When I complained about being weak, she argued. Afterall, I am still here. I just have other, stronger priorities. When I open my heart to discover what it really wants, I find the Netjer, ALL of Them. It is a love that is too big for my body. It is too big for my “I.” I inhale Ra’s fire and I want to bring that warmth to all of them. Then I ask, “What’s that burning smell? Oh, right, it’s me.” Aset cools me. She cares more about my “I” than I do. I cannot and do not want to live without them. Somewhere in my soul is a memory of that nightmare when they faded from sight. Die for them? Kill for them? Whore myself out? Why not?

But Aset says no. At least, not that first one.

Back in college I had a dream where I was at a party. We were celebrating Gandhi’s enlightenment and ascension. I found him sitting alone on a blanket and he looked sad. I asked him what was wrong. He said, “My mother won’t let me die.” No ascension for you then. I understood how he felt. There was the story of Aset and baby Heru when he was poisoned. She stopped the sun in the sky to make him live. I imagined Horus in those later years watching his family fade away and secretly hating her for the magic that would not allow him to join them. “My mother commanded me to live,” he told me.

But they’re not gone. I can feel them. This new seedling is small, and I don’t know if it will live, but that is how all seedlings begin. It seems healthy and that gives me hope.

Aset loves me in the same way that I love Them. Years ago, I prayed to a winged blue goddess. Part of me knew it looked like her. Part of me wasn’t willing to admit the connection, so I called her by a made up name. I kneeled before her with my fist over my heart. I told her everything. When nothing else in my life made sense, I knew that the blue goddess loved me.

When the sunlight burns too hot, she cools me. Ra is the crown and Aset is the throne. I am not myself without either of them. She asked me to wear her pendant so she could keep me cool. The necklace broke a few weeks ago. I replaced it with another one with a falcon head. Wasn’t it time for my own god to take care of me? Wasn’t it time for me to take care of myself? Meanwhile, my energy started running wild again. Sunrise felt like torture in a way that it hadn’t in a while. I’m wearing Aset’s pendant now. I thought I could handle it on my own. I tried covering my heart, denying it. I wanted to pretend that “I” was strong enough. But, I’m not. I still need her. She lets me follow my heart. She helps me handle Ra’s fire without tearing myself apart.

So Mom, what do you think? Can we do this? Will you show me how to breathe fire without tearing myself apart? Can we keep them warm?

In Gods We Trust (?)

Lately it seems that trust in deities has become a hot topic. Should you trust your gods completely? Should you work on your negotiating skills and (try to) read the fine print? Should you not trust at all because they’ll probably screw you over no matter what you do? These are not easy questions to answer.

Most of us carry on with the belief that deities both care about us and know more than we do. Like parents, they may ask us to do things that we don’t like, but they do so with a greater understanding of the world we live in and the possible consequences of our action or inaction.

Then we must wonder if our assumptions are true. Do they really know what is best? Do they really have our best interests at heart, or only their own? Even if both of these are thought to be true, the way in which the gods present the relevant information, or no information at all can try the patience of a saint.

What is a mortal follower to do?

I’ve heard plenty of stories about followers being tricked by their deities into one thing or another. I also hear that most, but not all, of these stories work out for the best in the end. Maybe the deity really did know what they were doing. Maybe they really did have the followers best interests at heart as they led them across the metaphorical hot coals. I also hear that communication is a huge issue, that if the deity had actually explained and asked nicely first, things would have been different and less bitter. “Perfect love and perfect trust” sounded like a nice idea back when I was starting out, but in actual practice it doesn’t seem very practical.

I have been all around the map on this issue with my experiences with Ra. He hurt me badly years ago, without asking first, without any explanation, and while I was actively screaming at him to stop. I hurt myself while trying to fight him off. And yet, to this day, without a direct explanation from him, I go back and forth between calling it abuse of the worst sort, and thinking that maybe he had a good and justifiable reason for it. It actually is possible that he thought he was helping. Maybe he actually was helping. The only thing he has ever said on the subject was, “The Thunder Beings made you strong enough to accept my gift.” Frying me from the inside out was a gift? Maybe it was, but damn it hurt.

Needless to say, this led to a huge ball of trust issues. He kept asking me if I trusted him. He wanted me to trust him. Nope. Couldn’t do it. I could work with him. I felt obligated to because I swore an oath sooner than I should have and without fully thinking it through. Well actually, I went ahead with the oath because it felt like he already owned me so what difference could it make? The difference is that I didn’t feel comfortable just walking out when I really wanted to.

In the process of working with him, I learned more about him. I understood him more. I understood both his strengths and his failings. He really believed that I could do good and amazing things and he wanted to help me do them. I realized that he did not have a good grasp of what my limitations were. I also realized that I really wanted someone to follow who validated me, and I was slower to say no than I should have been. What good is a safeword if you don’t know when to say it? Not that we had one of those. The god did care about me, but he didn’t understand me as well as I thought. Still I opened up to him. I let him in more and more. I tried to overcome my misgivings. That didn’t end well.

Now I’m giving it another try. He knows that if he screws up again I will leave. Heru will back me up. Djehuty will back me up. It’s good to have powerful friends in these circumstances. Certain things are not his to touch. I had to decide what those things were. I had to stick to them even when I wanted to surrender again like I used to, because doing that would not help either of us.

And now, after the lines have been drawn, now that I know he will be held to those lines, now that I feel confident enough in my own judgement to defend those lines, now I trust him. You see, it wasn’t just about him behaving himself. It was also about me not giving away more than I could afford to give. It also helps that there are others who can step in if something goes wrong. I trust him more now than I did before, because I’ve made a decision about what he can have and what he can’t. I’m not going to offer everything and then feel betrayed when he takes it.

Relationships like these are complicated. I’m not judging anyone for how theirs has turned out. I’m not saying that drawing lines in the sand will solve everything. It probably won’t. My solution was a bit more complex than I’ve laid out here, and I have no idea what it will look like a year from now. Will it actually work? I don’t know. He does have the power to screw me over again if he so chooses, lines or no lines. The difference is that now, I’m more likely to trust that he won’t.

I’m actually pretty excited about working with him again, because despite our past issues, I still think he’s pretty awesome.

Defending My Space (With Gods)

I did say something about a part two, so I guess I have to write a part two now.

Back in December I split up with one of my major deities. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t like him. The problem was that I forgot what boundaries were or how they worked. I was to the point where I would do anything he asked of me, even if it went against my personal values. Some would argue that’s what being a good devotee is all about. I disagree. Ra and Heru also did not agree with that premise. Heru pointed out the problem to me and told me it was time to leave. Once I explained to Ra what was happening and why I left, he apologized. Getting an apology from Ra feels like a once in a millennium occurrence. It proved to me that he took the situation seriously. He did NOT want his will to supersede my own.

This wasn’t the first time he’d made that clear. When I first started serving him I felt confused about what he wanted from me. He can seem very stern without giving away any of his thoughts. In frustration I kneeled before him, wondering if that was what he wanted. He smacked me across the floor. No, that wasn’t it at all. I would be worthless to him as a mindless follower. I needed to be strong enough to stand up to him if I was going to be strong enough to stand up for him.

It wasn’t that I gave away my will on purpose. Ra is just that powerful. We were working very closely and I got dazzled by his energy. I loved him deeply.

So I went back to Heru and I got a lesson in open doors and closed doors as it applies to energy work. You can share energy with someone without giving them access to everything. He wanted me to practice making conscious choices about what to share and what not to. I didn’t need any reason other than, “I don’t feel like going there today.” He also wanted me to recognize and respect these doors in others. These might seem like very simple concepts, but somewhere in my otherkin mind I have memories of being a guard, a soldier, an energy being, who was linked to something similar to a hive mind. I had no expectation or desire for personal space or even identity. And in war, who has time for respecting boundaries? I knew I couldn’t go back until I learned how and why to keep some things to myself.

It’s been about four months. I started working with clay again, and it seemed like I kept wanting to make Ra things. I thought I was making a Heru falcon, but then it needed an obelisk, and wouldn’t a sun disc be nice too? Then I made a Ra figure in a boat. There was no mistaking that he was on my mind again.

The first time I went back did not go well. I took everything I learned and threw it out the window. I took in too much Ra energy and then was astrally trying to hoark it back up. It made me sick. But I’m not very good about leaving things alone. The next time I went to see him, he told me to pause and think about what things I didn’t want him to change. I didn’t want him to compromise my morals, and there were other things that still felt too sensitive to let him touch. I walled those parts off in a cocoon of feathers. That time I maintained my shields as he energized me. That time it worked. I felt better, not sick at all. It’s not quite the same ecstatic abandonment that we used to share, but it is healthier and more stable.

Then he tells me to keep reading Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts. That’s when I got to the verse about Ra feeding the pharaoh and calling him son. Then the pharaoh turns into a bull and visits several goddesses in a row. This is sort of how my service to Ra has gone. He empowers me and then he expects me to use that power in various ways, usually doing energy work in the astral. You can see why that moral thing was an important point to make with him.