Year 20: Year of Nut

We are a few weeks now into the new year. Wep Ronpet has come and with it a new hope and perspective. For me, an exciting year is planned. On a secular side I am in a new house, starting a semi-new position at work, going into a new semester, and potentially applying for doctorate programs to enhance my career and education. Spiritually it is a new and exciting year as well. I just received ordination in the House of Netjer and have an awesome role to fill working with my fellow priests and my teacher. I received a new name and have the awesome responsibility of living up to that. I am receiving a few more degrees this year in Scottish Rite Freemasonry and am finally going to get to spend more time in Lodge since my class schedule agrees this semester. Yes it is defiantly a new and promising year.

Last year, many things were built. Ptah taught me to lay strong foundations, so as to prepare for that future. This message is still present. I may have laid those foundations in the past, but new foundations will constantly be laid.

This year is Year 20 of the reign of Hekatawy I in the Kemetic Orthodox Faith. The Netjer presiding over this year is the goddess Nut. Nut is my first Beloved, and she has always been a slight mystery to me. I think it is because of her vastness. She is such a large, somewhat abstract name. She is the sky, but not just the blue thing above us, but the expanse beyond that as well. For me she holds the stars, quasars, asteroids, nebula, galaxies, and universes. She is huge. She is beyond simple human understanding.

She is the one who holds our ancestors within her belly. The stars decorate her. She holds them within her womb like she held her 5 children. She nurtures them, loves them, cradles them, and protects them. One day I too will be held by her and experience that sweet embrace.

For me, Nut is about feminine love, the kind that comes from a mother. Love which is different than what a father, brother, partner, or friend can give. Her love is different. It just isn’t unconditional love, but love that knows no bounds at all. It is encompassing and complete. Look towards the myths and you can see that love. The love she had for Geb, which was so intense it required their father to separate them in order for us to live.

The Oracle this year promises balance. After foundations are laid, we must understand what things need to occur next, so as to make sure the structure we are building will stand for a long time. We must constantly thrive for this. If we are lazy, weak, or disinterested then what we hope to accomplish will not last for long.

So I look to Nut this year. When I feel overwhelmed with tasks I have agreed to take on, or when I feel like hiding under a rock and running away for the world, let me look to Nut, for she never tires. She constantly holds the balance for everything to exist. She separates herself from her deepest desires. However she is not alone. She has the help of her father, and so do I. When I feel I cannot go on, may I remember the strength of Nut and how to ask for help when I am in need of it.

“O my Mother Nut, stretch Yourself over me,

that I may be placed among the imperishable stars which are in You,

and that I may not die.”

Easter – spes mea in deo es

I wanted to blog today about what Easter means to me and I am not very sure where this is going. It is an important holiday in Christianity, and so that means it is important to my ancestors. And this is why I still honor this day. I honor it for my grandmother who taught me that god is indeed real and that He loves me just the way He made me. I honor it for my Uncle who always cooked the best ham and fixings on this day. I honor it for Dale who showed me that god wants us to be happy in life. I also honor it for those people whom I admire that lived their life for god.

This morning I burned incense at the ancestral shrine. I wished all my ancestors a very happy and blessed Easter. I then read the story of the resurrection from the Gospel of St. John. They were pleased. After this I got cleaned up and went to Mass locally at St Francis Solonus Church. There I celebrated this special day for Bondeye, my spirits, and my Christian ancestors from the Catholic side.

Although I don’t follow the Christian path I am very aware of what this day means to its followers – hope. Hope in an afterlife. Hope in a continuance. Hope in god. Without hope, despair can easily infiltrate.

The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry has a motto which says “spes mea in deo est,” which means my hope is in god. It comes from the 31st degree in the Northern Jurisdiction. In fact this emblem is on my car, so that whenever I look at it, I am reminded where my hope lies.

I place my hope in god, because my heart is filled with love for Him. Not for what He can give me. Not for promises He made. But because He loves me.

Don’t get me wrong I do hope for an afterlife. I hope for a happy life. I hope for career fulfillment. But these aren’t just prizes for having this hope. These are separate.

As I look at the hope that Easter Sunday brings millions across the globe, I can share in that hope with them, even though I don’t share the faith. Every zep tepi for me renews my hope. When I look at this scarab I wear around my neck, I see the hope it symbolizes. It is the hope of things becoming. Of my ideas coming to life.

Khepera was frequently associated with the rising sun, the dawning of day from the darkness of night. He represented the embodiment of hope to come. The following spell for the dead reflects the hope the ancients had in Khepera

“I am the god Khepera, and my members shall have an everlasting existence. I shall not decay, I shall not rot, I shall not putrefy, I shall not turn into worms, and I shall not see corruption under the eye of the god Shu. I shall have my being, I shall have my being; I shall live, I shall live; I shall germinate, I shall germinate, I shall germinate; I shall wake up in peace. I shall not putrefy; my bowels shall not perish; I shall not suffer injury; mine eye shall not decay; the form of my countenance shall not disappear; mine ear shall not become deaf; my head shall not be separated from my neck; my tongue shall not be carried away; my hair shall not be cut off; mine eyebrows shall not be shaved off, and no baleful injury shall come upon me. My body shall be established, and it shall neither fall into ruin, nor be destroyed on this earth.”

May Khepera always be my hope. May my hope always rest in Netjer who is my protector and defender. Nothing can harm me. For I am embraced by the gods, and forever bound to their names…

Today may you share in my hope and the hope generated by millions today and everyday.

7. Beliefs: Death and the Afterlife

I grew up in a semi-religious household. My father believed in God, but didn’t really practice anything. My mother and grandmother on the other hand were Pentecostal women and went to an Assembly of God church. As a child this was my religious knowledge. I was told two fates awaited me when I die. There was Heaven, a place where everyone lived in a mansion along streets of gold. Only good people who have accepted Jesus into their hearts would be there. Then there was Hell, a fiery pit filled with pain and suffering. In Hell you would be tormented by the Devil and his demons for all eternity. This was my first experience into what the Afterlife might be.

Before I go too much further into my beliefs I would like to say that I do not like the term “afterlife.” I am using it in this context so that what I am talking about is easily understand by everyone reading it, and it is a popular term we all use. What is it I don’t like about this word? Well, the whole “after” part. It gives the impression that this life isn’t important, only what comes after, and everything before is just bad prequels.

The afterlife is just a continuation of a part of us in the Unseen world. As we live and breathe here in the Seen world, we also exist simultaneously in the Unseen. There is a part of us that is eternally there. We can gain glimpses of it in our dreams at night. If we are lucky enough, sometimes through various rituals we can enter the Unseen as well.

Our culture does not like the idea of death. I have spoken before on this, so I won’t repeat myself. I have been a registered nurse for many years. I have comforted the dying person, been with people as they died, consoled family, and taken care of the physical remains. It is part of my life. It is part of my spiritual life with the Akhu and my father, the Good God. So I have thought about and mediated on my own death. I am not going to lie to you; the idea of death scares me. How do I know for sure that the essence of who I am will continue? The simple answer is I don’t. I just choose to believe it. It’s all based on my constant choice of faith.

The Ancients tell tales of treacherous journeys after death, obstacles to overcome, and finally judgment before the gods. One must be in balance with ma’at in order to pass judgment, or otherwise oblivion will occur. What awaits the transfigured soul is a paradise, a field of reeds, fertile land, and reunion of families. Doesn’t sound too different then what I discussed at the beginning of this blog.

What is important here is that continued existence is dependent on being in ma’at. We are eternal beings. Our hearts which hold so many troubles, disappointments, sadness, anxieties, hatreds, joys, and loves must not be too heavy with what we have experienced in the Seen world. Our hearts cannot also be too light, indifferent, or non-caring in order to find continuation in the Unseen. We must be balanced people. We must find a way to deal with the happiness, sadness, and anger which make up the emotions our hearts feel. We must find a way to be complete.

I do not remember if I ever told this before, but I will repeat here if I have. I once asked Wesir…

What is the meaning of it all? What is the purpose of life?

His response was simple and profound.

To live.

Our purpose is to live life to the fullest every day, every zep tepi.

I leave you all with a quote from the Book of Going Forth by Day which I frequently use as a prayer to remind myself of what I find important.

O my heart which I had from my mother,

O my heart which I had upon earth,

Do not rise up against me as a witness in the presence of the Lord of Things;

Do not speak against me concerning what I have done,

Do not bring up anything against me in the presence of the Great God, Lord of the West.

6th Day Festival

The sixth day of every Kemetic month marks the 6th Day Festival, which is a festival in honor of the blessed dead, also known as the Akhu. The blessed dead are those people who have lived here, have died, and passed judgment. They are sometimes called transfigured, which from my understanding is they are considered as something more than just a human. They have the ability to help those here in the Seen World, and influence events if called to. The gods love us and desire our happiness, but the Akhu understand what it is like to live our lives. They understand our feelings and they know the challenges of being human. A good practical relationship with one’s ancestors is important in the spiritual life.

During retreat this year, the Akhu made sure it was known to us that they are feeling neglected. My fellow priest Sobeq writes about this in her blog .  Why is it important to remember the Akhu? It is important because who we are today comes from them. Their desires and triumphs have affected who we are today, and even the fact that we are here today. Something we need to remember when we discuss the Akhu is that they are real people. They were not perfect. They had their failings. If we look at them as being very much like us, we understand who they are and how they are important in our lives right now.

Celebrating the 6th Day Festival can be something very simple or something on a grander scale. The Akhu are just happy with you remembering them and don’t require much else. Some things you can do for the Akhu are pouring cool water, speaking their names, telling someone a story about one of them, or visiting their grave sites. Today marks the beginning of a new ritual which I hope will be a monthly staple of the Kemetic Orthodox faith. While technically today is not the actual 6th day (the actual date was January 5) we will still celebrate as it is. I hope all of you can be there and if you can’t make it today, please make it next month.

Dua Akhu! Nekhtet!

6. Beliefs: Spirits and Other Unseen Creatures

Besides the gods, other inhabitants are in the Unseen world and interact with us: the ancestors (Akhu) and spirits (netjeri). Occasionally they cross the veil and come into contact with us in the Seen world, and this is how we know that they are present.

In Kemeticism the ancestors are called the Akhu, which means “shining ones.” The Akhu are the transfigured spirits of dead humans who have passed judgment and become something great. They are our blood relatives who have passed on. They are those people whom we considered family and have moved on.

I have numerous Akhu. I have family members, friends, Kemetic akhu, and Masonic Akhu. Some of these I adopted into my life, and they have adopted me as well. I have had one Kemetic akhu follow me home from a museum and find her place on the ancestral shrine. I gained a multitude of akhu when I was initiated into Freemasonry. Our Lodge is quite old, and filled with a rich history of great men whom I call brother.

Spirits are generally referred as netjeri, which means “powerful” or “divine.” These spirits are non-human residents in the Unseen that are not a god or an akh. The spirits can be servants, messengers, nature spirits, or the various spirits from cultures around the world.

Another less common spirit is the muuet, meaning “dead ones.” These are the kau of humans who for one reason or another have not gone to judgment. Sometimes they are referred to as angry, but just like living humans they may be just confused or lonely. Muuet that are bothersome to humans generally go away on their own, but if for some reason you feel the need to have added protection, pray to your own Akhu to help the spirit move on, and that Yinepu will guide them.

Specifically I work mostly with some select Kemetic Akhu. These are servants of my gods and are used for specific purposes. I own four shen which each has a netjeri attached to it, which helps me with various specialty which those gods are generally associated with. They all have names that I am allowed to call them, but they are not their real names. These netjeri are not specifically attached to those shen, as they share themselves with other people as well.

I do not work with nature netjeri very much, but living near the river all my life, and growing up on the river I do have a connection to the spirit in the Mississippi. At times the river is peaceful and tranquil. Other times it is very angry and would not hesitate to take your life. The river deserves great respect from all. Every now and then, when there is a feast to the Nile or Hapi, I go to the river and throw coins or some other offering to placate the spirits. This is especially useful during flood season when the river is at the height of its power.

Other spirits I work with are the spirits of Haiti. These are the spirits that live under the water. They are the spirits unique to Haitian culture and community. I have many experiences with them and consider one to be my guardian angel, which has been with me since birth. They are truly unique and wonderful. I also have acquired some ancestral netjeri, from the Irish-side of my family. One particular one hangs out around the house that I affectionately call the house elf. What type of spirit it is I am not sure, but it is definitely a bit of a trickster.

As you can see, the Seen and Unseen worlds are filled with inhabitants. Some spirits are easier to get to know than others, and some do not want to be known at all. Get to know you spirits. Set out some sugar and milk, and tell them to have some. They can definitely enrich your life.

Mysteries of Wesir: Day 6

The Mysteries of Wesir continue today with the Feast of the Food on the Altar. We celebrate His kingship today, and what can be better than some good food and friends. Food brings people together like nothing else can. Whenever there is an important event, there is always good food. And it is no different in the Unseen.

Let me share a dream I had once. I was walking in a small valley between two hills. The hills were covered with the greenest grass imaginable. As I come out of the valley I overlook a deeper valley. In the center is a small town in the distance. There are houses and some roads. Activity is going on near the main strip but I can’t really see what it is. Anyways, there are some animals running around, dogs mostly. A black dog sees me and runs towards me. She greets me with a jump and friendly kiss. As we walk closer to the town, I start to see people. A beautiful woman comes up to me, smiles, puts her arms around me and tells me they have been waiting so long for me to arrive. The party is just getting started. She takes me into town and tables line the streets, filled with the most succulent food imaginable. People see me, smile, wave, and invite me to join them. They all are radiant, and each and every one of them is familiar.

You see, they are my family and friends. They are the people who I no longer get to see every day. I do not get to touch them, hug them, or smell them. The joy and love I felt in this dream was so immense that I wish I could stay forever. And then I woke up, and realized that it was a dream. That I am not there, and they are not here.

As Kemetics, we believe the gods and ancestors can speak to us in our dreams. I believe mine spoke to me in this one. From past pet, to my grandmother, and to my uncles, I realize that they are happy and as alive and vibrant as anyone. Even in the Duat, they feast and have fellowship. Even the dead have to eat, and I am sure they eat well. But why do they eat if they are dead? We do it for physical nourishment, but why do they?

I talk about Wesir’s death often. It is important to me. I never quite got the “green” Wesir, the life-giving, plant growing, nature sort of deity. To me, Wesir is dead, but not in the same way we all understand what dead is. Being dead doesn’t mean that you can no longer interact with each other, at least not in my life. The dead have always come and gone around me, and really it is abnormal when it doesn’t happen.

So as I write this, I am thinking of what it is I want to say.  Life is not much different than death. They are different words for a similar state. In both we eat, drink, work, enjoy family and friends. But they are so very different as well. We have life for a reason. It is a special gift from the gods, and it takes meditation, and experience in trying to find what we feel it is.

I asked Wesir once, what the purpose of it all was. I got an answer back, quite immediately. He said, “To live.” What an amazing purpose! I am not to sit and contemplate the mysteries of the universe in a closed shrine room all day. I am not to wrap myself up in a digital world online all day. I am to live and experience life.

And when the times comes for me to depart, when I approach the Hall of Two Truth, and bow before His majestic throne, I know He will ask me what I learned. My answer will be, “I lived.”

Dua Wesir!

Mysteries of Wesir: Day 4

Today the Mysteries of Wesir continue. Today He remains gone. He is Sokar. Sokar is the embodiment of Zep Tepi. He represents that which is yet to come. He is newness and hope. He can be whatever He desires. Sokar resides between the Seen and Unseen, that middle place where one is not yet the other. He is the darkness itself. If we view Wepwawet as a doorkeeper, then Sokar would be the door itself.

So why am I bringing up Sokar? Tonight is the night when Wesir is changed, when the dead king becomes something more. He does not return to life as we think of life. He is different. He goes from being a living god, to a dead god, to a god who is dead. I equate it as being similar to a man. You have a living man, man dies and is a dead man, and then man is transformed into a glorified Akh. Wesir did that too. In fact, He did it first.

I have been thinking about death, the dead, and the afterlife these Mysteries. It has stricken me with a powerful question. Do the dead realize they are dead? All the living die, and all the dead live again, so is the reversal true? In the Unseen do they understand that we think of them as dead? Do they think of themselves as living? What do they think of us? We are in another world to them. To get the answers all I need to do is look at Wesir and my heart. And there I can see my answer.

Tonight life stirs. Sokar stirs. Something is happening. My mourning and sorrow will not remain. I will take it and transform it, like the Great God does this night. Nothing in this world last and remains forever. Everything changes. For each day is a new Zep Tepi, a new beginning, and flickering of hope.

I see that hope now, burning in a flame sitting on His altar. Tonight I anticipate His return. My hope is in god.

I leave you with a hymn which I find especially meaningful this time of year.

Holy darkness, blessed night,
heaven’s answer hidden from our sight.
As we await you, O God of silence,
we embrace your holy night.

I have tried you in fires of affliction;
I have taught your soul to grieve.
In the barren soil of your loneliness,
there I will plant my seed.

I have taught you the price of compassion;
you have stood before the grave.
Though my love can seem
like a raging storm,
this is the love that saves.

Were you there
when I raised up the mountains?
Can you guide the morning star?
Does the hawk take flight
when you give command?
Why do you doubt my pow’r?

In your deepest hour of darkness
I will give you wealth untold.
When the silence stills your spirit,
will my riches fill your soul.

As the watchman waits for morning,
and the bride awaits her groom,
so we wait to hear your footsteps
as we rest beneath your moon.

Holy darkness, blessed night,
heaven’s answer hidden from our sight.
As we await you, O God of silence,
we embrace your holy night.