December 25, 2013

And there were stars: How a time out turned into the nighttime sky

Have you ever been angry with other people?

I'm not talking about being annoyed with one or two particular people, or general frustration. I'm talking about the kind of seething, frothing misanthropy that makes you furious at the human race in general, the kind of rage and disgust that makes you think, "If I never see another human being again, I could live with that." This is the kind of all-consuming anger that makes you sick of trying to get along with anybody, that has you cursing everything and everybody and just wanting to be left alone.

This is how angry Ra was with human beings, according to the myth where Sekhmet was born. In His rage – and mind you, as far as the myth goes, He was right to be angry – He sent Hethert down as the Lioness of the Blood Red Garments and told Her to chew up evil. Then She got carried away, and started chewing up everybody, not just the evil ones. Her rage was "pleasant to her heart," and She would not stop.

So Ra came up with a clever ruse with the help of a small army of priestesses and a large quantity of beer and hematite powder. Transformed into a lake of "blood," this red-tinted beer was poured out alongside the town where Sekhmet had gone a'slaughtering, and once She found it, She drank it. And once She drank it, She fell asleep. End of angry lion, end of destruction, end of story.

Or was it?

November 16, 2013

Nothing that is original can perish: Lady Olivia Robertson, 1917-2013

Bear with me. This will be long and full of feelings, but these are things I haven't been able to talk about for a very long time. In the spirit of Olivia Robertson, an amazing spiritual woman who always had the knack to be able to be herself without judgment or censorship who passed to the Beautiful West yesterday, I'm going to present my thoughts here, in her honor, and in her memory. I will miss her more than I know how to express.

I read about it in the back of Rolling Stone when I was 13. "Fellowship of Isis," the little ad said. "International Goddess organization."

The ad caught my attention at a curious time. I'd recently lost my maternal grandfather, and his final words to me, "what are you going to do with your life?" were a mandate. I'd asked my parents for a hiatus from church. Sitting in the place where I'd had to watch that funeral was the last place I wanted to be, plus I was dealing with my emotions around well-intentioned but misguided behavior from relatives who suggested in televangelist-fueled wisdom that Grandpa might not have gone to heaven, due to his not having attended church. I didn't blame God or Jesus – I was more than certain that Grandpa was right with Them – but I found myself dissatisfied with a structure that suggested heaven was only something you got if you had enough punches on your churchgoing card.

It wasn't a typical teenage rebellion. I didn't go running to some opposite. Atheism held no appeal, and neither did Satanism. Instead, I spent a lot of time in the woods, in the library, in solitude thinking about what my grandfather had taught me by his life. I considered every Christian sect and then everything outside Christianity. After my review, I became a Buddhist. Meditation was helpful and I enjoyed the practice, but found myself troubled by that First Noble Truth. While I could agree that life is often suffering...I couldn't agree that it was suffering all the time, that everything was always doomed. I loved the world and the people and things in it too much. And if I couldn't get past the religion's first tenet...well....Of course, now I know better, even having had the honor to speak about it personally with the Dalai Lama once, but that's a story for another day, and I wasn't meant to be a Buddhist apparently.

So I retreated into the Egyptian mythology I'd read off library shelves since elementary school. I wondered what the world would've been like, had the Battle of Actium ended differently, or Julius Caesar had opted to listen to his wife and stay home on a certain March morning. I wondered whether ancient Egyptian deities even existed anymore.

And then I saw the ad, and I wrote a letter, and my adventure began.

August 19, 2013

For the ancestors (Akhu): The Wag-Festival

Tonight is the eve of the Wag festival, one of ancient Egypt's earliest-attested celebrations. Tonight and over the next two days, those who continue to honor the gods of ancient Egypt will tend to the graves of their loved ones, remember their beloved dead, and honor Wesir (Osiris) and various other gods and goddesses associated with life, death, and renewal. Kiya did an excellent job of gathering some sources about Wag (also called Wagy in some texts) last year, and it's worth a read.

Other than knowing that Wag is to be pronounced to rhyme with "dog," and not "wag" like what that dog's tail does, what else do you need to know about this festival?

It seems simple: Wag is a little like the Day of the Dead in Mexican tradition, only earlier in the year, and, perhaps sad to say, without a single pharaonic sugar skull in sight. It is a time to remember our ancestors, those who have gone before us, and to re-establish our connections with them.

Many of us will be visiting cemeteries to serve the dead, with offerings or prayers, or even just by helping clean the graves of strangers. We will gather in festival and ceremony to give honor to Wesir, called the "lord of wine" at this time of year as the grapes begin to ripen, and to bake bread and make beer from the first harvest grains. The cycle of life, of grape and wheat and sun and stars and animals and human beings, turns, and we turn with it, in praise and in wonder.

This year, Wag also coincides with the first full moon of the Kemetic Orthodox new year that began a couple of weeks ago, and thus creates a doubly-strong holiday in honor of Wesir and His silent land.

What will you do for Wag festival?

August 16, 2013

There are no words.

A month ago, I posted to say a little something about current events in Egypt. I sincerely hoped that the intervening month of Ramadan would cool tempers and promote more discussion amongst various factions.

The events of the last several days have proven me very, very wrong. I don't even know what to say, beyond that I've heard from almost all of our family and friends in Egypt, and they are all right, but the whole situation is discouraging, depressing, and scary.

I will try to gather my thoughts. In the meantime, I can only hope for something better than violence and chaos for Egypt and every Egyptian. Our new Kemetic year of Heru-sa-Aset promises that everyone will get what they put into this year, whether it is good or bad.

We need so much more good to be going on right now.

August 3, 2013

Happy Kemetic New Year! (di wep ronpet nofret)!

A little before sunrise this morning, I put on clothing and regalia that I only wear once a year. The jewelry needed polishing, and I'm a little embarrassed to say that my robes are a little tighter than they once fit, but everything was clean and in good order, and once I'd gotten myself into the official clothes, I headed out of my office and down the hallway at Tawy House to the Truth and the Mother Temple room itself.

Priests were streaming in and out of the room: bringing in the portable air conditioner, sorting out where the offering mats would go, reading through the ritual scripts to make sure no tool had been forgotten and that no part had been neglected. One of the priests, unable to serve at the altar due to ritual purity requirements, could still serve in another capacity. She stayed downstairs and greeted each member as they entered the building, directing them to where they could change into ritual whites, or wait to be allowed to enter the temple on this most special of all mornings this year. There is always much to do, and many hands to share the work, and that work has incredible meaning.

This morning, the sun rose for the first time under Kemetic Orthodox Year 21, under the zep tepi, the "first time," of the new Kemetic year.

July 31, 2013

Year 21: Oracle of Aset

Each year, during the Aset Luminous festival, an oracle of the goddess Aset (Isis) is recorded, to discuss the year to come. These years are numbered by Kemetic Orthodox custom beginning at the heliacal rising of Sopdet (Sirius) over the main temple of the faith in Joliet, IL. This year, Wep Ronpet, or the "opening of the year," is marked beginning August 3, 2013. We share the Aset Oracle publicly for anyone who might be interested. This year is to be marked under the special protection and blessing of the god Heru-sa-Aset (Horus, son of Isis and Osiris), and is given the colors white and red, after the two crowns He wears in victory. Dua Aset! Dua Heru-sa-Aset! Nekhtet!

The sky abides.

July 10, 2013

About Egypt

I've been asked more than once in the last several days about why I haven't made some sort of official statement about current events in Egypt, where the first elected president, Mohammed Morsi, was removed from office by the military.

Was it a coup? Is it bad for democracy? Will things get better? Will El Baradei end up being President? Will Mubarak-style Egypt somehow come back? What happens to Egyptian tourism? What about the Copts? Is the Muslim Brotherhood going to turn into (or go back to being, depending on who you ask) a terrorist organization?

Don't you care what's going on in Egypt? Aren't you going to say something?

June 28, 2013

Book reviews available

I recently learned that two of my books were reviewed (and more than once!). You can check them out here: Ser's review of The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook Devo's review of The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook Ser's review of Nebt-het: Lady of the House I was a bit surprised to read that the Prayerbook was interpreted by both reviewers as somehow intended solely for a Kemetic Orthodox audience, as I never intended for it to be just for them. Perhaps that just shows that you can never control how people interpret your work, once it leaves your head. I suppose that it is also easy to mistake me for the religion I founded, though the latter has quite a life of its own. It is very good, however, to get some feedback and review of the books in the larger world. Many writers don't read their reviews. I understand that motivation; it's not always easy to read negative reactions or be on the receiving end of internet disdain. But I think it's important, if you actually do write for people other than yourself, to have some idea of what interests them, what they respond to, and how. It's not so much to write in a way that caters to them. Unless, of course, that's why you write. The intention of receiving that feedback is to make your next work that much more useful/better/accessible. Or maybe I'm just a masochist. Who knows? In any case, I am grateful for the reviews, and for any reviews, of my work.

May 2, 2013

Two years on...coming back to the Two Lands

Two years ago, I consolidated this blog with my personal website. At the time, it made sense, as I was trying to disengage from a fragmented life, where I wore many hats and functioned as many people in different parts of my life. I was making a statement –  I am me, not my job(s) – and I was also trying to simplify my online presence.

It worked, for that time. Now, my needs are changing once again, and I've got more to say that specifically applies to the religion I founded, Kemetic Orthodoxy, and its main temple, The House of Netjer. It's time to have a separate blog for things Kemet again.

So I've remade the old site, with a new design, and a new URL, This blog will be for things related strictly to my Kemetic faith, and the wonderful people and wondrous deities I get to share that faith with. You'll still want to check out my personal page for information about my various writing projects or my "secular" life, and soon enough, there'll be more content on my other religion-related website pertaining to Haitian Vodou, but for now just know that Kemet Today is back, and it's not about two years ago anymore.

How's it looking on your browsers and/or your mobile? Let me know. We have the technology to improve it!

Looking forward to our future discussions.