December 22, 2009

Homeward Bound - The Return of the Eye

Home where my thought's escaping
Home where my music's playing
Home where my love lies waiting
silently for me

- Simon and Garfunkel

The Winter Solstice is upon us here in the Northern Hemisphere. As the longest night of the year, the Mother Night, it is dark and cold. This year's celebration graced the grounds of Tawy House with a small bit of falling snow; I can look out my window and watch it slowly, tenaciously, bury the yard and the gardens and the cars in the streets.

While the phrase "Mother Night" belongs rightly to European indigenous religions, we can apply it as Kemetic Orthodox even if we are not in the Northern Hemisphere, because the Solstice belongs to a Mother: the great Eye of Ra, mistress of Kemet, the Wandering Goddess Who went southward starting back at that solstice in June.

In Kemetic mythology, the Creator initially had two children, a boy and a girl, Who are referred to as His Eyes. Shu was the first and Tefnut was the second. Whether They are twins or elder brother and younger sister is not always clear, but the story says that at some point, Tefnut took offense at something Her Father said... and left wherever it was that They were all living, wandering off in anger.

Later versions populate the myth with more gods, who are upset at Her leaving as the Wandering Goddess is a solar divinity and Her leaving causes daily sunlight to lessen the further she gets from home. Eventually, either one or two gods are dispatched to find Her and bring Her back.

Shu is the first god usually given the job of finding His sister; once He has done so He gains the title-name "Anhur," or "bringer of the distant one." If a second god enters the story it is Djehuty, ever-present companion and wise helper of the Creator, Who tells the alternately bored and raging goddess fables and jokes until She calms down enough to come home.

There are people who say one of Aesop's fables about a lion and a mouse is originally Kemetic and was part of Djehuty's stories for the Wandering Eye; I can't confirm or deny it but it certainly makes an interesting thing to imagine, with the goddess standing around on the hot rocks of Lower Nubia while Shu and Djehuty try to get and keep Her attention.

Eventually, Shu/Anhur (and Djehuty) are successful. Suddenly She is filled with a desire to go home as quickly as possible. Whether it was the mention of all the great things She was missing, or the people She'd left behind or She'd simply run out of anger and changed Her mind is never detailed. Evidently that's not important to the myth, but the trip homeward is.

The Eye-Sun "breaks free of Her sojourn in Nubia" and starts north again. Various cities and towns are filled with rejoicing and laughter and music and song as She passes, racing northward, to be with Her family again, at the time of the Spring Equinox. Happily the gods welcome the Wanderer with open arms.

Maybe She'll stick around this least until something sets Her off again.

This myth isn't historical truth in terms of the Seen World. It's a story used to explain the flow of seasons: why it gets dark and cold in winter and warm and sunnier in the spring, only to start turning darker again after the summer solstice. It's far more entertaining than "it takes 365.25 days for the earth to complete its solar rotation, during which time the poles are shifted on the axis of..." (Well, if you're an astrophysicist or really like astronomy the latter might be really entertaining too, but many cultures have myths around explaining the turning of the year so we seem to like to use poetic language for such events as a species).

Even if it's not "true" the myth has value, whether or not we live in the Northern Hemisphere. Those in the Southern Hemisphere can both give thanks that the Lady has finally come to Her senses and is going home; and wish Her well on the journey that takes Her away from them for half a year now, knowing She'll be back.

As a story it is entertaining. As myth it is something we can use for a holiday meditation, and beyond. From this myth, we know that time comes and goes but some things can be relied upon, like the changing of the seasons and the "wandering" of the Goddess. We understand that even gods are allowed to have emotions and to express them - and that They can be negotiated with and even change Their minds.

How wonderful is the divinity that can be free to do what She pleases - and then think better of it if it turned out not to be the best thing to do? How can we beat ourselves up about our own mistakes, our own wanderings, when we are given a myth that says that even gods sometimes have to take time out and that time away from the things that make you angry might be healthy? Or that no matter how far away you might wander, it's never too late to go home?

I'll have lots to think about while this snow keeps falling. It'll get even better when I see Her symbol, the sun, shining above it as it finishes rising. Happy Return of the Eye. May She bring all good things to you as She brings renewed light, and love, to the people Who have been waiting for Her to come back home.