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Lent without the Ash (and the Christ)

22 Feb

Today, I decided to give up meat for Lent. I’ve never participated in Lent and didn’t even know about it until middle school or high school. If there are any symbolic elements to Lent that are connected to Kemetic spirituality, I don’t know of them. I just feel a desire to participate, and so I will.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately of how to combine my culture as an American with my practices as a Kemetic. I want to create traditions and live more richly. Holidays such as Veterans’ Day are easy to bring to life: I honor those in our community who have served in the military, as well warrior Netjeru such as Sekhmet and Heru-wer. Christmas, Yule, and “Moomas” mesh into a season of family, giving, and joy. Even the Mysteries of Wesir and Thanksgiving played together well last November.

Lent, to me, is a cultural holiday as much as a religious-Christian one. Because – as much as we seek to be a secularist nation – I do live in a Christian culture, especially as many of my close friends are varying shades of Christianity. Although this is self-imposed, I join them on what I consider a journey of discipline. Meat and I are so closely attached that I consider it something “essential” to my nature. For me, this is my chance to rise above something that I know does not have the importance I place on it. I get the feeling that on April 8th, I’ll appreciate meat a lot more than I do now.

Please comment if you wish to join me – ashes and sackcloth are not required.

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Thoughts after visiting NEHM

9 Nov

Yesterday, one of my classes took a walk down to Haymarket, to visit the New England Holocaust Memorial.

Not unsurprisingly, the class went from chipper to somber as we approached the glass towers. My friend Leney read aloud from the quotes inscribed on black granite and green glass, pausing to react with horror at the terrible things that happened at these camps.

The entire group wandered onto our T platform in quiet reverence, but as I sat down on the bench, I sobbed. Leney, holding the hand of our upset professor, trying to comfort her, asked me what was wrong. I shared with her a few of the things on my mind, and I will now share them with you.

On the most basic level, being at the Holocaust memorial haunted me simply because of the deaths it had represented. My queer sisters and brothers were killed in the death camps named there. A family dear to my heart could have never existed, had their ancestors not left eastern Europe in time. Even without these personal connections, the horrors inflicted on our cousins, those who share our blood, is mortifying.

However, more than that, is a memory I share with that place: the memory of my eighteenth birthday. It was the first and only time before yesterday that I saw the memorial. I was quite horrified then, but the excitement of being in Boston, about to visit dear friends, kept the tears at bay. Being back reminded me of the bittersweet trip to Caffé Paradiso to meet up with my friends: the café where Esther spent an evening of her Make-a-Wish with our friends.

What I didn’t share, however, was the reverence and awe the memorial invoked in me for Wesir. Though I respect Wesir greatly, He is difficult for me to wrap my head around. I suppose part of this is because He’s dead, and death is fundamentally hard for me to understand. The night before this visit, I had been doing a lot of thinking and reading about the Mysteries of Wesir. Hemet’s words on her old devotional blog struck a strange chord in me.

God is dead.

Not dying; not about to be resurrected. Wesir is a dead god, a god that goes to the otherworld/afterlife/netherworld/whatever you want to call the place where dead people are and doesn’t come back. Ever. He is as gone from us as gone can be. His voice is no longer heard among the other gods as They gather; His face no longer lit with the rosy glow of life itself. … Wesir will not come back to us shining in bright white robes as an angel rolls back the stone. He will not come back to us at all; only through the memory of His life, and His sacrifice, will we continue to understand Him and know Him and love Him.

For God to be dead is one thing. I can understand the idea of gods dying and losing their power. But I had never really considered the deadness of Wesir until that night, and the words of the Nisut (AUS) came back to me as the millions of numbers etched into the glass stared into me.

This god loved people so very much that He was willing to forsake His immortality to make sure they had a god wherever it is that they go when they die, and a brother Who loved Him enough to help Him achieve death.

Wherever these people are now, they are not alone. Wesir is with them: protector and leader of those who have lost their lives. Amenti is not the Christian heaven. The dead do not gather around an ever-living god and sing His praises. They meet a King Who is just as dead as they are. Like the Holocaust victims, like those who have perished in our Middle Eastern wars, like Esther… Wesir is dead. They will be dead for the rest of eternity, never to return to life. One day, we will die and be like our ancestors and like Wesir.

I fear an afterlife of isolation. I am terrified of being alone with my consciousness.  I have honored three gods who are considered kings of the dead: Hades, Jesus, and Wesir. Hades is immortal. He is ruler of death through his inability to be dead. Jesus died, but rose again on the third day. He is master of death because he bested it. Wesir was immortal, but allowed Himself to die. He is lord of death because He is dead Himself. Each of these reasons – because You cannot die, because You died and came back, because You are dead – make for fair reasons to be King of the Dead. But it is Wesir who eases my pain: because with Him, I know I need to fear to be alone. Jesus is separate from those of the dead who do not join Him in heaven; Hades had little relationship with his citizens; but all of the dead remain with Wesir.

Maybe this is why I’m Kemetic Orthodox. Perhaps this is why I believe in these ancient gods: because with Them, I am no longer alone. I pray that this  belief of mine is the truth, because I do not know if I could bear the idea of the millions of souls who brought me to think of this being alone any more than i can bear the idea of being alone myself.

edit on 13 Feb 2010: fixed some typos.