Posts Tagged ‘ma’ahes’
Next month, my partner and I will make our yearly roadtrip to visit my family; we’ll stay with my mom and her fiancé in the Appalachian Mountains where I grew up and spend a weekend in Ocean City with my sister and her family. It is one of the high points of my year to see the people I love and be in the places that crack my heart open and let the sun in. The mountains I come from and the sea I pilgrimage to are both beloved places for me, and they nourish my ka like few other areas can.
I live in Texas, and it was not until I was living here that I really encountered any Kemetic gods outside of Sekhmet. I will not always live in Texas, and I’ve thought many times on how the change of land will affect my spirituality and my relationship with the Netjeru in my life. Traveling to see my family – in the Appalachians, in Ocean City, in Seattle, in Nevada – gives me a glimpse of how my gods manifest in vastly different places.
Ma’ahes, in particular, is intensely associated with aspects of Texas: the sweltering summer heat and the long, orange sunsets. When I go to the mountains that I love, be they the Appalachians or the Rockies or the Sierra Nevadas, I don’t see His orange light in the west at the close of every day. In most of these places, the particular combination of humidity and 100+ degrees doesn’t occur. When I walk outside in the summer in Texas, the first breath I take is His, and He thaws me from the ice of the overwhelming air-conditioning that most public buildings provide.
But when I leave Texas, Ma’ahes changes subtly, and I find Him in other summers, other sunsets, other flashes of His vivid, liquid orange. In the Appalachians, He is the autumn leaves; in Nevada, He is the stretching, dry desert; in Colorado, He is the red rocks of the mountains.
And Ma’ahes is not the only one to adapt to His shifting surroundings. Nebt-het touched my face with snow last winter in Nevada, and I stood breathing Her chill until I was covered in slow-motion flakes; I had never before realized She was snow, but in that moment, in that place, She stood with me outside a warm house and wrapped me in Her calm, cold presence like a cloak against the wind.
So I take my gods with me where I go, and it is both a challenge and a delight to spot Them in Their other skins, the bodies They form out of the land around me.
I stepped into the room, exhausted, and looked at my shrine. I had neither the energy nor the focus to perform even my bare-bones daily rite, not after a full day of work, three hours of a root canal, and an evening of thoroughly cleaning in preparation for a house inspection the following morning.
I dug out three tealights: one red, one cream-colored, and one pumpkin-y. I set them on the offering plate and lit them.
I didn’t say any fancy words or even wash my hands to purify. I simply thanked Sekhmet and Serqet, Who helped me through the dental work, and Ma’ahes, Who comforted me when I was afraid and in pain.
Sometimes, it really is as simple as a candle, a whispered word of gratitude, and a feeling of relief for having made it through.
I don’t really like lions. This is hilarious for two reasons and understandable for the third:
1) I draw some hefty parallels between the behavior and physiology of the extinct-in-the-wild Barbary/Atlas lion and myself. I don’t consider the Barbary lion to be totemic—it’s not an external entity to me—but I do find it to be a disconcertingly accurate mirror into my own instincts, intuition, internalized sense of self, and social patterns (or lack thereof). If you stuffed a baby Barbary lion into a human suit and raised it as a person, it might turn out a lot like I have. This is both a sorta-cool thing and a frequent disadvantage in normal human life. :)
2) Two of my gods, Sekhmet and Ma’ahes, are leonine deities. I never see either of Them as purely human; They always appear as animal-headed people or full lions, often wreathed in flame (Sekhmet) or magma-skinned (Ma’ahes). The traditional symbolism of the African lion (power, nobility, dominance/lordship, the sun) and African lioness (ferocity, motherhood, the tribe, the sun) is very intense in Them and reflects a large part of Their characters.
3) I freaking love spotted hyenas. African lions are pretty much meh in comparison. I also think they’re kinda over-hyped, and as I am secretly a hipster, I tend to stray away from anything “too” mainstream. I prefer investigating the obscure and exploring the little corners, rather than strolling down the big ole well-trodden pathways.
A large part of the disconnect between me and the African lion is not just thanks to my adoration of hyenas or my elemental-lion impressions from my Netjeru—it’s due to the drastic differences between Barbary lions, with which I identify, and the African lions that everyone’s familiar with. Barbaries weren’t pride animals; they lived alone or in hunting pairs. While males and females were still sexually dimorphic in terms of size and mane, they didn’t serve different social or gender roles; each Barbary still had to hunt, claim and defend territory, and find a mate. And, speaking of territory, Barbaries lived in the Atlas Mountains in northern Africa, where the terrain was, well, mountainous, and the climate was semi-seasonal instead of the hot savanna’s whomping dry-wet cycles.
So the lions I grok are not the lions everyone refers to when they say “lion,” and while I am appreciative of the uniqueness of African lion social structure and other facets of their physiology and behavioral patterns, I just don’t admire and geek out over them like I do other animals like hyenas, scorpions, and snakes. The physical reality of the animal doesn’t win me over, even as I can respect the power that the lion wields in mythology and symbolism. Even with Barbary lions, my reaction is more “welp, that’s me” instead of “HOLY CRAP THEY ROCK.”
That said, I still love lion gods:
Last year’s first L post was on magical language.
As a Shemsu (follower) of Kemetic Orthodoxy, I have undergone the Rite of Parent Divination, a geomantic divination which reveals my divine Parent(s) and Beloved(s). I have two Parents, my Mothers, Nebt-het (Nephthys) and Hethert-Nut; I also have Sekhmet as a pre-divination “surrogate” mother-figure, and I will frequently call Her my mother. Some of my dearest Kemetic siblings, including the wonderful person who introduced me to Kemetic Orthodoxy and my own sister, have a divined Father; in fact, one of my close friends was divined with two, like I have two Mothers.
But I don’t have any deity I unofficially call Father, and I’d like to explore what it’s like to have such a female-centric divine family.
(What do polytheists call the grouping of their deities that they interact with and worship? I want to say “personal pantheon,” but that’s not quite dictionary-accurate. In Kemetic Orthodoxy, it’s our “lineup” or divine family if referring to the Netjeru we were divined with, but I need a term for the Netjeru of my divination plus Sekhmet…)
I have one god consistently in my life, and that is Ma’ahes, the Living Lion; I have called Him brother for nearly as long as I’ve known Him, and He is not paternal in the least with me. Other male Netjeru, all of Whom happen to be my sister’s or friends’ Fathers and Beloveds, will infrequently touch base but aren’t a part of my daily practice so much that we have a strong one-on-one relationship.
So, as things stand, I am a goddess-worshipper. Sekhmet devotee, born of Nebt-het and Hethert-Nut, protected by Serqet. Ma’ahes is so supportive and non-obtrusive, letting me approach Him instead of actively demanding time and attention, that He doesn’t radiate the traditional “lordly” vibes that many male deities do. (Heru-wer, I’m lookin’ at You.) Ma’ahes, the only male Eye of Ra, an executioner personified by the sweltering summer heat… is extremely gentle and patient with me. He is, in fact, as kind as the most compassionate of my goddesses, Hethert-Nut.
This is probably due to my own nature: I am a non-Newtonian creature and will react to blunt force or aggression by steeling myself and raising my defenses, or simply sidestepping and walking away, whereas slower and softer movements are allowed access to my vulnerable insides. In other words, any deity approaching me with any kind of “macho” attitude would not find a berth in my practice. I am mindful, rational, emotional, and compassionate, and I don’t relate well to a lot of posturing or strict hierarchy. (This is also why I don’t deal with many gods of royalty. I respect Them—I just don’t grok Them.)
Perhaps that’s why I didn’t end up with a Father or a kingly god in my divination; it would take a very special sort of god to fill a paternal role without rubbing me the wrong way. Of the hundreds of ancient Egyptian gods, Ptah is one of the few male Netjeru Whose demeanor jives very well with me, and the only Netjeru I could envision having a positive paternal relationship with me. I adore Him and His myths, and the fact that He is Sekhmet’s consort only endears Him further to me. If He were willing, I would happily involve Him in my regular practice and accept that added paternal flavor… but that has yet to happen, mostly through my own inaction.
I’ve wondered if my bias towards goddesses has anything to do with my transition away from Christianity, but I wasn’t brought up so religiously that it left a bruise. Even my human role-models were both strong women and compassionate men, individuals who were solidly good people without being restricted to any extreme of gender stereotype. Being genderfunky myself, I don’t seek out one sex over the other for friendship or company; I tend not to judge at all based on sex or gender, but based on personal characteristics that mesh well with who I am. I find myself very comfortable with many goddesses, but I have not been exclusionary towards gods; it’s been something of an accidental ratio of female-to-male.
So I am a goddesses’ Kemetic, sort of the polytheist version of a ladies’ man, albeit not through any conscious, deliberate choice. Given the wealth of joy and contentment in my spiritual practice, I can’t say I’m complaining—just curious about how the dice fell. My Mothers and my Ladies are beautiful and fierce and fathomless, and I adore Them wholeheartedly… as I do Ma’ahes, as I would any god or goddess Who won my heart.
Last year’s first F post was on five pillars of Kemetic Orthodoxy, which later became a permanent page.
I know I’ve missed several PBP posts, and I will be writing and posting them when I can; in order to keep from falling further behind, I’m going to try to keep up with the “current” PBP letters and backdate as I’m able.
When one has more than one god, occasionally one runs into the problem of… well, rationing one’s time, energy, and offerings between Them. While I am only speaking for myself here, I imagine other pagans have run into this particular quandary, and I’d love to hear how you portion your attention to your gods!
Since late 2005, I’ve been following Sekhmet; my beginning relationship with Her was trepidatious, but over time, I became very attached and devoted to Her. From meeting Her up until the springtime of 2011, She was my only god. Sometimes She was barely present; sometimes I prayed to Her daily. A dear friend gave me a Sekhmet pendant, and it became daily wear for years; it was, and is, the easiest way for me to reach out to Her. I was a one-god pagan, and happily so.
But in 2011, I took the Kemetic Orthodoxy’s beginner course, and I began interacting with other Egyptian deities over the spring and summer. I met Set. I had rich, fleeting interactions with or impressions of Twtw, Renenutet, Ptah, Yinepu (Anubis). I prayed to Serqet, Our Lady of Poisons. Ma’ahes knocked on my door and met me outside at sunset. I met Nebt-het and bonded quickly with Her.
Summer cooled into fall. In November, I underwent the geomantic Rite of Parent Divination and found that my spiritual parents are Nebt-het and Hethert-Nut, my beloveds Ma’ahes and Serqet. I was both surprised and not surprised that Sekhmet was not present. As I began deepening my relationship with those four gods, I found myself spending more time with Set (thanks to my sister’s relationship with Him), too.
It has been a year since I met my Mother, Nebt-het; over a year since I began praying to Serqet, and just under a year since I met Ma’ahes. It has been almost seven full years since I began studying and worshipping Sekhmet.
And I find myself saturated with deities that I love and admire and wish to offer good things to, but no real hierarchy. In Kemetic Orthodoxy, one’s Parent(s) come(s) “first,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that one has the closest relationship with Them, or that one spends the most time with Them, or that one even gives Them the most/nicest offerings. “First” is a very nebulous definition that I’m still seeking to explore for myself, especially since I am still emotionally closer to Ma’ahes and Serqet than my Mothers.
For all intents and purposes, I have five or six deities in my life on a consistent, long-term basis, and I have no particular hierarchy for Them. I have situations in which I call on one or another first; I have acts or objects I offer to one or the other first, based on what They like and appreciate. All my physical exercise and martial arts practice is an offering to Sekhmet; my keeping a prayerbook is a service in Nebt-het’s name. I call on Serqet when I need Her protection or on Hethert-Nut when I need comfort and love.
On occasion, it perplexes me, my lack of a primary god. So many pagans have patron or matron deities; so many of my Kemetic brethren have one Netjeru to Whom they are the closest. I struggled with “letting go” of Sekhmet as my only deity, even as She pushed me down this path that ascertained other gods would come into my life. Sometimes, out of habit, I will think of Her as my only, as my primary; but I wear jewelry for Nebt-het, Hethert-Nut, Ma’ahes, and Serqet on a daily or near-daily basis, and I do not forget that my life now includes Them, too.
Having been a person with a “matron deity,” if I can give Sekhmet that non-Kemetic label, I do occasionally miss the simplicity and purity of it. It has been a challenge to give what I deem fair amounts of attention and time to each of the gods Who are active in my life, even when only a couple at a time are standing at the forefront. But all in all, I adore each Netjeru I know, and I feel blessed by Their presence, gifts, and lessons in my life.
This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.
Slightly expanded from my original morning and nighttime prayers, since I proved incredibly bad at remembering to say the nightly prayer before sleep. This’ll be said in the morning, probably as I’m driving to work.
Good morning, Netjer and Netjeru.
Thank You for all good things of yesterday,
for all the wonderful souls I have been blessed to know,
and for the zep-tepi of each new day.
Thank Nebt-het for compassion and grace,
Hethert-Nut for joy and creativity,
Ma’ahes for strength and affection,
Serqet for guidance and protection,
Sekhmet for will and rightful action,
and my akhu for family and life.
May today be positive and productive;
may I walk with Ma’at in compassion, peace, and joy.
Today is good. Dua Netjer!
Set and Ma’ahes are brothers in the storm.
Grey clouds thick from horizon to horizon,
blotting out light like blood clots save an open wound from the kiss of cold air.
The fire-orange Eye of Ra is closed from the world,
and Ma’ahes becomes the bunching heat trapped beneath the ceiling of the sky,
no longer the distant, burning sun that sears and purifies.
Set is the storm, the fury, the wool-grey electricity of the thunderheads,
His laughter sharp and lighting the world with jagged spears.
The wind is caught, catching, drawing clouds together in great bursts of sound,
and They meet there, unlikely comrades, perfect friction,
imploding heat and crashing change.
Guys, this whole making-jewelry thing is kind of addictive. Just sayin’.
Necklace for Ma’ahes, the Living Lion, with a nod towards His Nubian Name of Apedemak:
Necklace for Serqet, Our Lady of Scorpions:
Dua Ma’ahes! Dua Serqet!
I’m toying with the idea of posting photos every month of my shrine, just to see how it changes. Right now, it’s had a definite expansion: I oil-painted two small shelves to give me more surface area, which means more of the things inside the altar itself get to be placed in open air.
Here’s the shrine in total; you can see my corkboard up on the wall where I keep my religious/otherwise sacred jewelry when I’m not wearing it, including Sekhmet’s pendant and Serqet’s amulet:
To the left, I’ve added a red-painted shelf for Sekhmet alone, as I have the most icons of Her and I feel they deserve a special place:
To the right, I added a teal-and-purple shelf. I wasn’t sure Who it’d be for while I was painting it, but I knew I wanted a place to showcase my non-Sekhmet, non-RPD gods icons, so here we have Twtw and Renenutet:
I did a second painting recently for Hethert-Nut, which She requested; She liked the first one, but She prefers the iconography of Mehet-Weret, a golden cow with deep blue stars. I added the dark indigo background as tribute to the royal purple color I associate with Her. (Also, as most of my paintings, this one is metallic, so it takes poor photos. Also also, I did not use a reference for the cow shape, which is why She looks slightly deer-like.)
And lastly, I acquired a gorgeous statue of and for Ma’ahes, made by the ever-fabulous Nicolas of Shadow of the Sphinx. (He also made my little Sekhmet votive and both Twtw’s and Renenutet’s statues.) People, if you ever need any Egyptian statuary, go to this artisan first – there is no one better in terms of courtesy, skill, affordability, and receptivity to custom work.
Today I do senut, which I intend to make a regular practice as a full-fledged, formal ritual on the first weekend of every month. In it, I will offer my gods the following, and then ask each of Them for a message concerning the month ahead, via my divination tools (cards or coins, whichever They each prefer).
hetep-di-nisut, an offering which the King gives:
To Sekhmet, I offer Her the red shelf, a sacred place of Her own.
To Nebt-het, I offer a black bone ankh and a stormy grey-violet amethyst.
To Hethert-Nut, I offer Her the second painting, may it please Her, as well as night-sky-with-stars beads I found today.
To Ma’ahes, I offer the lion statue.
To Serqet, I offer a banana-milk smoothie. (Don’t look at me, She requested it.)
To Ma’at, I offer a white bird made of shell.
To Set, in thanks for His oracle assistance, I offer peppered jerky and two slim jims, as promised.
And to my akhu, I offer a painting of us; may I always think of my ancestors fondly. (I will finish it before senut today and post a picture of it later.)
In November, I started my personal prayerbook, a spiral-bound unlined notebook that I filled with the prayers from and for my community, written in a script called Kalash. To date, I have filled over a third of the book; I have just finished doing some major catch-up work that took me over an hour to record. (This means that, my siblings in Kemetic Orthodoxy, if you have requested prayers, I have prayed for you, even if I didn’t leave a comment in the forums.)
More interestingly, though, is that I’ve gone from simply scribing to making it a mini-ritual. Purification requirements are light – clean hands and a clean space – and the tools are simple: a candle, a single offering cup, and incense. I light the incense, light the candle, offer my Mother Nebt-het Her favorite drink, and leave a small bite of chocolate for Netjer. It’s all done at my computer desk instead of my altar; I need the computer to go through the prayer request forums.
And now, instead of simply writing the prayers, I write them and then speak aloud my requests, calling upon the Netjeru in my family to help. I realized, not too long ago, that I essentially have a god for every occasion with me, and it only makes sense to name Them when I pray for others. Nebt-het, guide of the dead, comforter of the mourning. Hethert-Nut, Who provides love and joy. Ma’ahes, protector and upholder of ma’at. Serqet, Who can help with any poison, be it mental, physical, or emotional. Sekhmet, Who is the patron lady of doctors, especially surgeons.
It feels very right to be maintaining my prayerbook this way, involving my gods and making it a mini-rite. I genuinely feel that doing this is an act done in Nebt-het’s name, and that brings me joy and a sense of responsibility and accomplishment.
Dua Netjer! May You hear the words of Your children and bless them.
I place myself in the center of the turning world;
the center is still.
~ A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book, Ceisiwr Serith
May the dark places in my spirit
be only the folds in Nebt-het’s cloak.
May the dark places in my heart
be only the fields in Hethert-Nut’s starry sky.
May the dark places in my body
be only the marrow of Ma’ahes’ bones.
May the dark places in my mind
be only the shadow of Serqet’s upraised tail.
May the dark places in my life
be only the dusk before Sekhmet’s dawning.
May I remember that darkness
only exists where there is also light.
In the past little while, I have accumulated a startling number of offerings for my gods, to the point of having one for each of Them. Tonight, I felt the urge to sit in shrine and give Them Their gifts, since I found myself physically and mentally pure enough to do so in good spirits.
I put on background music – my own personal mix CD of god-songs and spirit-songs – and washed my hands. Lit incense, lit candle, knelt down. Poured a libation of green tea in four cups – I only have four, but I was offering to five gods, so I gave Sekhmet the candle for Her own. (She didn’t seem to mind.)
To Sekhmet, I offered a statue of Her, gold and standing tall, a gift from a good friend.
To Nebt-het, I offered the painting I’d done, and I rededicated to Her the rosary that J had converted to a necklace for me.
To Hethert-Nut, I offered the pendant I’d crafted and the accompanying necklace that J had made, an effort of love from both of us.
To Ma’ahes, I offered a lion plaque that I’d had for years that seemed to suit Him, as well as an ornately decorated Kemetic dagger, another gift from the aforementioned good friend.
To Serqet, I offered a small gold statue of Her in Her form of a woman, a gift from my sister.
I sat with Them and talked for a while, comfortable in front of my beautiful shrine and the objects that represented my spiritual family. I also shut up for a while and listened, counted my breath in time with the song that was playing, relaxed. I thought of more things I want to do for Them – Sekhmet’s painting, a full-length song for Nebt-het, Hethert-Nut’s other painting, a sculpey-ture for Ma’ahes, and the song I’m working on for Serqet.
I was happy. I told Them goodnight, reverted the green tea libations, thanked the candle and blew it out, and found the little Serqet statue something to stand on so She could stay in Her preferred corner, in the shadow of my akhu shelf-shrine.
I am happy. Dua Netjer!
Cripes I wrote a war song.
So, I’m still pretty new to this whole song-writing business, right, and since I’m participating in FAWM, with the challenge to write 14.5 brand new songs in the month of February, I’m a little intimidated. It feels like it did before my first NaNoWriMo – exhilarating and terrifying. I think the month will give me a heap of experience in songwriting, music-playing, and being creative consistently and frequently, but that makes it no less daunting to leap in head-first!
I was listening to the FAWM Jukebox all day at work yesterday. I was getting really excited and impatient to get home and start trying to make music. And when I got home, I had dinner, then started brainstorming. Too many ideas, none of them rooted enough to start playing with. I picked up my classical guitar, then traded her for a scandalous affair with J’s electric guitar (and got lost for a little bit in the fun of amp effects). I got a simplistic chord progression and a crappy first verse for… something that just wasn’t clicking. I put the electric back.
I hit that unfortunate-yet-common spot in the creative cycle where my brain says ALL I DO SUCKS AAAGH and got sad. I kept trying, wanting to push through; I hit that low point when I was doing Nebt-het’s painting, too, but that came out alright! I can do this! …but eventually, tired and whiny, I stopped.
See, I did not realize that Ma’ahes wanted a song.
My sister clued me in when we briefly chatted and I begged her for musical help. I started writing a couple lines for Him, got distracted by other things, and it fell by the wayside. After I got tired enough to quit, my stubborn side reared its bulldog-like head and sent me into the (quiet, distraction-free) bedroom to write down the lines and see if I could, at least, make a little more progress on them. Anything to make this evening not be a musical wasteland. Some better note (pun intended) to end on, before I slept.
Some short time later, I had a song for Ma’ahes. It did not merely flow as I wrote it down; it poured out like water over a broken dam. And it is not like anything I’ve done or attempted to do before. It’s rough, of course, but that’s the idea of FAWM: to create, not to spend endless hours polishing and perfecting. And I think I really do like it.
If you’d like, you can listen to it and read the lyrics right here.