Give Me Ubiety

I wish I knew exactly where I am, and where I’m going.

I’d love to feel that I were in a definitive place, a specific location, and that my religious, spiritual, and philosophical journey had mile markers, and rest areas, and scenic turnouts where I could admire the view before ending up at a planned destination with a soft bed, climate control, and room service.  I also have a sneaking suspicion that I am not alone in this wish, but I know I have trouble remembering that it is the journey that is supposed to matter when I’m hot, tired, and in need of some sort of spiritual shower?  I want a destination, goddamn it!

Yes, I’m whining, and I’m continually reminded that this doesn’t make me (or anyone else) less worthy, or less Divine, but gods does it make me feel boring and gods does it make me wonder why I haven’t thrown my hands up and called it a day when I see other people pay lip service to parts of my path that I cling to, tooth and nail.  Why do I keep putting one put in front of the other, sometimes at a run but more often at a crawl, when there is fulfillment in just pitching a tent where I am and half-assing the rest of the journey?  Why do I need so much from my religious and spiritual life when other people are happy to coast?  When the hell am I going to get where I’m going and feel that overwhelming sense of ubiety, of being in that definitive place?

(And now, I’m wondering why I have so many questions, and why the majority of my sentences are so much longer than other people’s sentences.  Gah.)

When I try to answer these questions, I often get stuck in one of several loops – I begin arguing with myself about judging my own actions based on what other people do, or I enter a cul-de-sac of my own making where I check and re-check that I’m actually on a real religious path (and go in circles in the process), or I freeze in place and close my mental doors to anything new out of the fear that I am getting it wrong.  I remember the heartbreak I felt when I realized that I would never find my place in Christianity, that the overwhelming love of God that the people around me had would never be mine, and I freeze in place, terrified that I am once again walking in a direction that will lead to despair.  I hate these loops, and I’m sure that at least part of why I get into them is related to Depression.

The other part?  Well…all humans have doubts, even if they don’t admit them, and it is perfectly natural for me to look at my path, and where I’ve been, and where I think I’m going, and say, “How do I know this is right?”  I don’t have anything to measure my experiences against – there is no mile marker, or sign post, or scenic turnout to show that I will end up at a specific point that is recognized as The Ultimate Destination.  And, for my path, I have to keep remembering that, well, that’s the point.  Walking the path of the FlameKeeping Kemetic (or Kemetic FlameKeeper, depending on the day), and the path of Words Mean Things, means that I won’t reach a definitive end in this lifetime because the journey is the point.  To move through my life, to learn new things and use them to grow myself and my connections, is my destination.  To bring things into being through words, which are action, is my goal.  There is no Xanadu in front of me; no mounting wave will roll me shoreward, and I will not lie, indolent, eating of lotus.  The Journey, the Road, is my destination, and I have ubiety as long as I keep going.

…The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet…
“Roads Go Ever On – J R R Tolkien

TT – Reading 5

I used the Tattooed Tarot with a random significator and a two card pull to answer the following questions:

  • How is the querent’s change in path going to affect their spiritual life?
  • Is the deity the querent originally contacted as part of this new path still willing to work with them?

Significator is the Eight of Pentacles – Apprenticeship; Discoveries; Craftsmanship.

First Card – Three of Chalices – Friendship; Amusement; Freedom; Sincerity; Truth

Second Card – Ten of Wands – Libido; Obsession; Gambling; Addictions

 

Reading of the Cards

Listen to those who can teach you in order to increase your skills.  Let yourself experience the joy of living.  Be as carefree as a child.  An excessive passion can consume all your resources.

 

Interpretation

In your current spiritual state, you are seeking and questing.  Continue to do this: question everything, and seek knowledge from those who have more experience.  Your skill set will improve as you go.  This new path will open you up to new experiences that enrich your life.  Keeping caution in mind is always a good thing, but stop worrying about what might happen and instead focus on what you can control.  The deity in question will work with you, but try taking smaller steps rather than jumping in head-first; you’ll be less likely to feel you’re over your head and want to back out.

 

Images of the Cards and the Spread

TT - Eight of Pentacles

TT – Eight of Pentacles

TT - Three of Chalices (Cups)

TT – Three of Chalices (Cups)

TT - Ten of Wands

TT – Ten of Wands

Spread for Reading 5

Spread for Reading 5

Imhotep

Statuette of Imhotep at the Louvre

The first word that comes to mind when I think of Imhotep is apotheosis which, although appropriate, feels ironic to me because it is a Greek word and I tend to try to pretend the Greco-Egyptian period didn’t exist.  (That last bit is even more ironic when you consider that the statuette in the photo above is from the Ptolemaic period.)  Anyway, apotheosis, for those who don’t know, is the elevation of an individual to god-like status.  Roughly two thousand years after he died, Imhotep was raised to deity status as a god of medicine and healing.

A commoner at birth, Imhotep rose to be a high official of king Djoser during the Third Dynasty and was the architect behind Djoser’s tomb, the Step Pyramid at the Saqqara necropolis.  He is sometimes credited with inventing the method of stone-dressing a building, and also with being the first to use columns to support a building, although sources for these claims aren’t available despite Imhotep also being credited with writing a book of “instructions”.  The Step Pyramid, though, is the first non-mastaba tomb for a king of Egypt.

Imhotep is also known for his medical prowess as a physician, and the information contained in the Edwin Smith Papyrus is credited to him, although the papyrus itself dates to the 16th and 17th Dynasties.  It is posited that the information was copied from an earlier text that was written by Imhotep.  The majority of the papyrus is dedicated to trauma and surgery, along with some gynecological and cosmetic items and descriptions of 48 medical cases and the Edwin Smith Papyrus is unique in that it is the first medical-based papyrus that is not based solely in magic.  It contains only eight spells on the verso side, and mentions spells in only two of the medical cases.

(A side note – there’s a really cool interactive version of the Edwin Smith papyrus here.)

Imhotep was venerated after his death as early as the New Kingdom, when he was called patron of scribes and said to personify wisdom.  In the Late Period, he was deified and became a local god of medicine and healing in Memphis.  Imhotep was also identified (conflated?) with Djehwty as a god of architecture and mathematics.  Stories exist that that call Imhotep the son of Ptah and the stepson (or son, depending on the tale) of Sekhmet, and his amazing accomplishments during his life are attributed (sometimes) to his divine parentage.  The Greeks syncretized Imhotep with Asclepius, god of medicine, and temples to him existed through the invasion of North Africa in the seventh century CE.

Usually, Imhotep is portrayed in priestly garb, carrying a scroll.

I don’t know, off-hand, how many modern worshipers Imhotep has – he is not one of the netjeru I’ve seen referenced by other Kemetics.  Were I to hazard a guess as to who might worship him, though, I’d say he would be a good patron for architects, mathematicians, physicians (especially surgeons), and writers.  Since he was called upon to act as an intermediary between humans and other gods, and because of his association with Memphis, Imhotep might also be a good choice for someone who worships Ptah and Sekhmet together.

Tefnut

It feels strange, to me, that Tefnut fits into the category of forgotten gods.   I thought every Kemetic knew her but it turns out that direct information isn’t easy to find.  As far as I can tell, Tefnut is mainly known for two things:

  1. Being “born” of Atum, along with her twin brother Shu
  2. Joining with her brother-husband Shu in the first physical act of sexual intercourse, and then giving birth to Geb and Nut.

Now, I don’t worship Tefnut but perhaps I should. Not only is there the connection with Nut whom I do worship, but there’s overlap with Sekhmet as both the Distant Goddess and the Destroyer of Mankind, and potentially some overlap with Ma’at as Order.  These links speak to me, as part of my religious work is the strengthening of connections, and for Tefnut to have so many tempts me to add her to my personal pantheon.

(One of these days, I’m going to worship too many gods.  I can feel it coming.)

So, what do I know about Tefnut?  Well, as mentioned above, she and her twin brother-husband Shu were born of Atum (sometimes in syncretized form as Atum-Khepri).  As Utterance 527 from the Pyramid Texts says:

…Atum created by his masturbation in Heliopolis.
He put his phallus in his fist,
to excite desire thereby.
The twins were born, Shu and Tefnut… (Mercer, 204)

Another version of the birth of Shu and Tefnut from The Book of Overthrowing Ap-p:

…After I had made excitation with my fist, my desire came into mine hand, and seed fell from my mouth; I spat out Shu and expectorated Tefenet.  When I had come into being as sole god, there were three gods in addition to myself, and two gods came into being in this land; Shu and Tefenet rejoiced in the Nun, in which they were…(Faulkner, 41)

Tefnut, herself, is most often portrayed as either a lion-headed woman or in full lion form; the latter is often paired with Shu in the form of a second lion and, when portrayed this way, the two are called Ruty (“The Two Lions”).  Atum and Ruty, or Atum, Shu, and Tefnut, exist as a creator of and within themselves, and this is mentioned in the Pyramid Texts in Utterance 685:

…The two mountains divide, N. comes into being, N. has power over his body.
Behold N., his feet shall be kissed by the pure waters,
which come into being through Atum, which the phallus of Shu makes, which the vulva of Tefnut brings into being.
They have come to thee, they have brought to thee the pure waters which issue from their father;
they purify thee, they fumigate thee, N., with incense…(Mercer, 304)

She is also seen in full human form complete with wig and in this form, and in her lion-headed form, she has either the uraeus or uraeus with solar disk on the top of her head.  In her lion-headed form, Tefnut is distinguishable from Sekhmet (and other lion-headed goddesses) by ear shape.

Shu and Tefnut are sometimes viewed as Atum’s male and female aspects, and although they initially dwell in the Nun with Atum, they must separate from him in order for creation to continue.  This separation, and subsequent return to Atum, is seen when Atum sends out his Eye to search for them.  It is unclear how long the separation lasts, and how long it takes for the Eye to find them, but it appears that the Eye returns with Shu and Tefnut as adults, and it is after this (insofar as we can determine a timeline in this mythos!) that Shu and Tefnut join and she gives birth to Geb and Nut.

(Also as part of this tale: Atum-Ra is created as/with the first sunrise, but that’s a topic for another post.)

In addition to her role as creator, Tefnut is also one of the Eye goddesses, and is found in both the story of the Destruction of Mankind (as the Destroyer who is soothed by beer) and in the tale of the Distant Goddess (where she is sought out and convinced to return by Shu).  You likely know both of those stories with another goddess (or three!) in each role, so I won’t reprise them here.

(Incidentally – I find it fascinating that she is both the Eye itself and one for whom the Eye searches (as seen above), and it’s a perfect example of the constant overlap of roles (and timelines!) that make Kemetic myth so…jumbled up.  The best way I’ve found to wrap my head around it is to throw up my hands and say, “All of it is true.  ALL OF IT.”  I also tend to practice the kind of polytheism where I treat the netjeru as distinct and separate except when I am told otherwise.  Yes, my life is interesting.)

As the goddess of moisture, dew, and (potentially) rain, Tefnut’s main cult centers were in Junu (Heliopolis), where she had a dedicated sanctuary and was part of the Ennead and Taremu (Leontopolis), where she and Shu were worshiped as a pair of lions.  An interesting fact I came across – while the Greek name Leontopolis means “City of Lions”, Taremu means “Land of Fish”.  Perhaps the Greek name had to do with all those temples to lion-headed goddesses?

Were I to worship Tefnut today, I’d approach her with the same reverence and honor that I do Nut and give her the same offerings I give to Sekhmet – cool water, bread, and beer (red beer, when I can get it).  I’d also go outside while dew is on the grass (which is when I leave for work in the morning) to say the waking prayers.

Resources Used

Faulkner, R.O. “The Bremner-Rhind Papyrus: IV.The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 24.1 (1938): 41-53. Print.

Pinch, Geraldine.  Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.  Print.

The Pyramid Texts. Trans. Samuel A.B. Mercer. Toronto: Longmans, Green and Co., Inc., 1952. Print.

Utible

(Today’s title is brought to you from the Compendium of Lost Words at The Phrontistery.  I keep mentioning this site…because it is fascinating!  And, very utible.)

On my religious path, I am required to act.

This isn’t a new thing; if you’re a regular reader, you know I mention action from time-to-time and you’re probably sick of reading about it.  If you’re not a regular reader, before you lies the potential to become as sick of reading about it as anyone else and all you have to do is click the Follow button.

(Couldn’t resist some minor shilling there.  Sorry.)

I am a FlameKeeper, and I am a Kemetic, and both paths require that their adherents act rather than do nothing.  Combining them means I pretty much have no choice about it – I will not sit still and watch things happen around me.  It’s not in my nature, anyway, so it is just as well that I am on a religious path that suits my sensibilities on the topic.

In addition, all of my actions need to be directed toward a specific goal: upholding ma’at.  Now, contrary to popular belief, ma’at is not about what is good or what is moral, per seMa’at is about Divine Order, about connections between beings, about continuing creation and growth, and about justice.  There isn’t really one word in modern English to pinpoint the definition of ma’at – it is many things in one thing, and it is the keystone in the arch of Kemetic religion.

FlameKeeping has a concept similar to ma’at; as we recognize that everyone and everything are Divine, we recognize the connections between all things, and that the action of one part will impact the whole even if that impact is not immediately knowable.  It therefore makes sense to keep those connections in mind when we do things and to act in ways that promote growth and improvement rather than stagnation or devolution.

I know, I know.  You’ve read all of this before.  It’s hardly a unique viewpoint, but I believe that the results, and consequences, of what we do are far reaching – as Tolkien wrote, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”  In fact, I’d go so far as to modify the quote – the smallest person changes the course of the future every day.  But, when we think about action to uphold ma’at, and action to encourage the strengthening of the connections between us, we also need to remember that these things are done through utible action.

How is utible action differentiated?  It’s simple, actually – utible actions are useful actions.  Here’s an example: I went down to my parents’ house to help watch my niece and nephews a few weeks ago.  While there, I played Mario Kart with my niece.  Now, I own Mario Kart (for multiple systems) and I can play it any time I want, but playing it with my niece at that particular moment not only gave my father a well-deserved break, but it strengthened the bond between my niece and me.  So, playing Mario Kart on my own is fun, but playing it with my niece was utible and in ma’at.

Here’s another example – I teach swimming lessons at our local YMCA in the evenings and on Saturday mornings.  I also swim laps for my own enjoyment and for exercise.  Now, it is easy to see how teaching swimming lessons is utible, and upholds ma’at, but what about swimming laps?  Well, swimming laps is not only self-care, but it strengthens my bonds with others in the lap swimming community because we’re doing the same thing.  In addition,  it improves my health which also strengthens my bonds with my family and friends (community) because I am more able to spend time with them if my health isn’t wonky.  In this example, both actions are utible, and both uphold ma’at.

The secret to utible action is that there isn’t a secret, really.  We’re each able to tell if what we do is useful, and it is in those useful things that we change the course of the Universe.

Tyromancy

If I made a list of all the things I do not know, assuming I knew all the things I do not know, that list would likely stretch around the world at least once, and it would include tyromancy.  That is to say, I’ve never, ever, done divination using cheese, and I wouldn’t even know where to begin if I suddenly got the notion to try it out.

Why tyromancy in particular, you ask?  Well, I often peruse The Phrontistery when trying to come up with titles for posts for the Pagan Blog Project, and the word (and its brief definition) jumped out at me.  I wanted to know more about what seemed to me to be a fairly obscure practice, and what I was able to find online solidified that position.  While several people have referred to it in blog posts, or online word compendia (compendiums?  See, here’s another thing I don’t know – what is the appropriate plural for compendium?), I am unable to find anything that indicates it is practiced now.

(If anyone knows differently, please let me know!)

So, what did I find when I went a-looking?  Well, most of the mentions appear to be derived (some word for word!) from an entry on Occultopedia:

“Derived from the Greek tūros (“cheese”) and manteia (“divination”), it (tyromancy) is the art and practice of divining the past, the present and the future by interpreting omens found in cheese…”

The entry goes on to describe the characteristics that were used for interpretation (among them: shape, number of holes, mold patterns) and to note what types of predictions were made (love, money, death).  I have to say, my favorite recreation of Occultopedia’s entry can be found on a blog with an amazing name – Medieval Cheese Forum.

(The name of the blog is why the entry is my favorite!)

So, by looking into tyromancy, I’ve learned some new facts to be filed away in one of the many bins in my brain (probably Miscellanea, under the heading Divination).  I’ve also been hit in the face (again!) with the fact that the more I learn, the more things there are that I haven’t learned.  That’s actually one of the more interesting things about life, I think – no matter how much I learn, there will always be more things to learn.  No matter how much I know, there will always be more things that I don’t know.  And, in fact, I will never know ALL THE THINGS.

I am human, and I cannot know everything – the amount of time and space I have will not allow for it.  To realize this, and the attendant fact that there is no way I can possibly know everything, is very freeing; it makes stating that I don’t know something a necessity, and therefore easier to do.  It makes asking questions about things I want to know a requirement.   It means, if someone acts surprised that I don’t know about watchtowers, or chakras, or whatever thing all pagans do, I can remind them that asking questions is how humans learn, and that no one knows everything.

And, I can do it with a smile.

Susurrus

You were in the dream I had, all heat and shifting sands;
I could hear each grain move against the others with your steps.
Your breath was the burning wind, even as your face was hidden from me
In the gathering clouds.

If I could paint you, in all your glory, my strokes would stripe the canvas,
My colors would convey radiance and movement, awe and change;
Eyes seeing it would fall into an awful depth of vision.

If I could write you, in endless phrase and stanza, my notes would fall like pounding rain,
My phrases would be building crescendo on crescendo, agonizing fermata after fermata;
Ears hearing it would fall into an awful depth of resonance.

Awful is an agonizing state, though it has its benefits.