Tag Archives: Akhu

H is for Headcovering

1 May

When I was in eighth grade I had a scarf.

It was long, flowing, a variety of shades of pink. It started light, and the color deepened throughout, before fading again as it reached the end. I always found it particularly beautiful, but I couldn’t figure out exactly how the scarf should be worn. Around my neck? As a belt? On my head?

In the end, I did decide that covering up my ears (chronically sticking out where I didn’t want them) and hair (which even at my shoulders, felt too long) with the scarf was the way to go. The contrast it made against the school uniform was beautiful. When I moved into public school the next year, I had found a black scarf that I wore bandana-style over my hair. It stayed there until a group of boys began to make fun on me and call me a nun.

About a week ago (the 20th, I believe), I had a yearning to cover my hair again. I went into my mother’s room, took an old square bandana, and tied it loosely around my head. It’s stuck with me since – usually in the form of a pseudo tichel (my hair is way too short to do a proper one). For months, I had been reading blog after blog about pagan/polytheist women who covered their hair. Usually, they were god-spouses or Hestia’s women. It marked modesty for most of them. And while I thought it was beautiful, I didn’t think it would work for me. My goddesses did not seek for me to be modest, but to stand out and shine like Their own solar selves. My Fathers, I figured, did not particularly care about my looks. There was no Kemetic reasoning, ancient or modern, to convince me to cover my hair. As for myself, “modest dress” was something I did when insecure about my body, which my goddesses were teaching me to celebrate.

Hence my confusion at the compulsion I felt. At first I thought it might be Wepwawet asking me for this. Compulsion admittedly did not seem His style, but even less so was it Ptah’s. Ptah might be a king and creator, but His style is much subtler than Wepwawet’s has ever been in my life. It definitely wasn’t Sekhmet, Hethert, or Bast. I went with it, confused, and giving credit in my mind to the crafty Jackal I call Father.

As I began to cover more, I got a little less clumsy with the scarf I had. The four family members who have seen me all asked why when we met (“Because I like how it looks, and it feels right”), but did not object or push about it. My partner seems to like it (especially taking it off or putting it on), though his family remains curiously quiet. The only feedback I get has been positive, and I feel great. Some people say that head-covering helps them block out other energies, but it feels more like a filter to me. Yes, it blocks negative feelings from affecting me, but I feel much more in-tune with spiritual energies now, none more so than the ones who sent me this way: my ancestors.

I have never had a strong relationship with my akhu. They seem happy enough with me. The only akh I really feel like I knew in this life was Esther, and this isn’t her thing. It’s different akhu together, much older than her. Ones that are blood relatives, for one. I’m not sure how far back they go, or where they’re from, or anything, really, other than that they are women. They want me to connect with them, and this is the first step. I’m not sure where it’s going to go. I’m in their hands though – our blessed dead are why my family is where it is at today, and I won’t turn them away on good faith.

I wanted to get to know them anyway!

As for modesty and head-covering, I’m not sure how to treat that. I just got to the place where I like my body. I’m not going to lose the shorts, or start lengthening my sleeves, not in a summer drought. I know I’m not going to wear a hijab, as I am not a Muslimah and do not want to provide others with confusion (I already keep having to explain that I’m not a Unitarian-Universalist…) It’s all learning from here on out…

Dua Akhu – shining as gold in the arms of Nut! Help me to learn your ways, and honor you in ma’at, in all that I do.

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F is for Four Libations before Ritual

20 Mar

I offer cool water to my Akhu.

Our ancestors – known and unknown, family in blood and in spirit. They came first. They came before us, they paid with their lives to make us who we are. And so we honor them first.

I offer cool water to Wepwawet.

The Opener of Ways, the lord of the crossroads, the first scout. He stands on the king’s banners, leading the army on. We invoke Him second, and ask for His aid to facilitate communication with those in the Unseen World.

I offer cool water to my Sebau.

Our teachers – and not just the ones from school. Those living people who have taught us major life lessons, who helped shape us into better people are our Sebau (meaning “those who give instruction”). They are, perhaps, leaders in our spiritual lives as well – priests, god spouses, and lay people who help us understand the mysteries of our gods. We must remember what we’ve learned from them as we live our lives – and that includes our ritual work.

I offer cool water to Ma’at.

The goddess embodying the nature of the universe – of balance, of justice, of truth. Ma’at comes last, because She is first. We seek to live up to Her ideals, we seek to bring ma’at into the world with our actions. She is grounding, a centering moment as we leave the prescribed words of our rites behind to our person practice and prayer.

 

I’ve previously discussed that I want to begin an esbat practice, a phrase which here means a weekly practice honoring the phases of the moon. This is separate from my senut rite, and not unrelated from our Kemetic Orthodox duas at Pesdjentiu (the New Moon) and Tepy-Semdet (the Full Moon). And so the structure of ritual that we have as Kemetic Orthodox now begins to inform my fledgling constructions for lunar ritual.

Calling Quarters is traditionally a matter of the Four Directions or the Four Elements that comes before an esbat. I don’t have a strong connection to the elements, nor do I particularly associate them with the moon. I have no connection at all to the points of the compass (except in the context of sunrise and sunset), if anything, my directions are six: behind, ahead, above, beneath, side-to-side. For a long time, I have thought that things must be done in a certain way – and in some contexts, they should. Senut is senut because of the way the words are patterned, the Our Father is the Our Father for the same reason. Esbats are not a Kemetic Orthodox practice. What I do to mark the journey of the moon is irrelevant to my fellow Remetj and Shemsu. It is not relevant to the Unitarian-Universalist church I attend, and I am not a member of a coven that has a specific ritual for the lunar cycle.

This is Personal Religion: something that exists regardless of if you’re Catholic, Buddhist, Wiccan, or anything in between. It’s a chance to try new things, to create tradition, and honor the world as Oneself.

 

Examine your own faith-life, if you have one. Feel free to share what you do that separates you from others in your spiritual practice below.

Link

PBP: Eve from a pagan feminist perspective

9 Mar

PBP: Eve from a pagan feminist perspective

I saw this post in the PBP archives for last week. I think it’s time that Eve went on my Akhu altar!

A is for Ancestors

20 Feb

Today I tweeted at one of my Akhu. I then proceeded to tweet about how the ancient Kemetics probably never expected that change in religious technology. And then Scott asked a Good Question: “I thought that Akhu were the spirits of the ANCESTRAL dead? Am I wrong?”

The answer is simple: Yes, but my tweet was aimed at an Akh who is not only younger than me, but not even related to me! The confusion makes sense, so I’m going to try and clear it up.
I define ancestor as “one who has gone before.” So, in terms of writing, John Green’s ancestors might include Fitzgerald and Salinger. In terms of religion, my ancestors are those old Egyptian polytheists of both the ritualistic and peasant variety. And, in terms of being among the Blessed Dead, they include Esther, Lou Ann, and my partner’s grandfathers – despite not being related to them, or having physically met the latter two.

I was always very Kemetic, but when I happened upon the Kemetic Orthodox forums, it was in a eclectic, Wiccan manner. I was young and shy, but curious. I didn’t post, only watched. Ancestor veneration – one of KO’s five central practices – was unusual to me, but I had never been scarred by death. Knowing this, it might not surprise you that my first post on our forums was to ask a question a on September 24th, 2010: a month after the day Esther went into the ICU for the last time.

“Forgive me for dragging life to an old thread, but I was wondering: aside from unknown Akhu, I have no blood relatives I have lost. I am estranged and secret to one side of my family, and both sides would likely oppose me trying to communicate with them, because of their religion.

However, a month ago tomorrow, a very dear friend of mine passed away. She made a strong impact on my heart and life. Would she be someone I could consider Akhu?”

The answer was a universal “yes,” along with messages to remember that people change after they die, and not to discount them (however, I’ve been fairly awful at trying to learn more about those unknown ancestors).

 

You may be saying: “that’s great, Avs, you talk to dead people. What’s the point?” The point? THE POINT?! What isn’t the point? Esther was my friend. Plain and simple. Lou-Ann was a wonderful grandmother. Why wouldn’t I want to continue to grow those relationships, despite the major differences? (And let’s be fair… talking via twitter to Esther and talking via thoughts to Esther are both really weird to non-Internetians.) Further, if I’m worried about Hannah, then who should I ask to help her – a god she doesn’t believe in or an Akh who she knows and love? If I have a problem with my online friends, should I talk to a spirit who was on this earth generations ago, or one who I know and love because of this online community? It’s a lot more practical. Even someone who doesn’t believe in spirits can see the sense in that.

But there is something a lot  more important to this. It helped me to cope. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I was not prepared for Esther’s death. Having slowly gone from functioning as an agnostic, to a Wiccan, and now a Remetj, I was becoming more in tune with the idea of something more. I went from being afraid of the idea of spirits to loving the Blessed Dead. Had I not undergone that spiritual change before she passed away, I don’t know how I would have been able to handle losing her. As it was, it was rough. But being able to go to shrine at the end of the day and light and candle for her and all my ancestors made things better. It allowed me to remember her in peace and work through my grief with love.

She’s my most important Akh today, and she will always be valued by me – family or not.

 

“Oh, you who are high in the stars, you shall never die!”

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.