The psychic said if I keep flying so close to the sun I’ll burn my skin and melt my wings, but she doesn’t understand how good that heat feels when it’s enveloping you in bright white radiance, when you are consumed and infused by divinity, nor does she understand how you’re glad to burn when that blazing force is the love of the divine, searing in its intensity, perhaps, yet uncompromising and unconditional, pure joyful affection which warms you to your core, and so I do not begrudge her words even as I tilt my wings to capture the next updraft into my solar mother’s waiting arms.
I dreamed I stood before a great altar full of Kemetic statues. I touched each piece with trembling fingers: human, avian, reptilian; feline and canine and bovine; creatures that were many of those, or all of them, or none. I knew these figurines were ancient, that they had once graced temples and altars in a time when the gods they portrayed were at the height of their worship. To see them at all was a wonder and an honor.
“They’re magnificent, aren’t they?” I glanced over toward the unknown voice. A beautiful African woman stood beside me, watching with quiet humor as I reverently admired the icons. She was made of curves; her round, smiling cheeks, her generous bosom, her shapely hips. Gold jewelry gleamed against her ebony skin and winked within the cascade of her tightly coiled hair as it caught the light. Most of all, though, it was her dazzling white smile that stunned me. There was such joy in her expression, such boundless love and affection; it was like her body could barely contain her overflowing personality.
I suspected who she was, but her presence here seemed impossible and so I had to know for sure. “Are you…” I hesitated. “Hathor?” The woman nodded, her grin expanding, and I burst into tears. I cried so hard I had to grip the edge of the altar to keep from sinking to the floor. They were primarily tears of awe, for never had a spirit blessed me with such direct contact, but I wept also in relief to have this undeniable manifestation of the divine right before me. If this radiant woman was Hathor, then all the gods I loved were real. With a single nod she banished every last scrap of doubt within me until I was pure faith.
The gods appear to us in the forms they choose for a reason.
Bast appears to me close at hand as if I’m a small child and She’s holding me in Her arms. She is an older woman with a face graced always by a gentle, loving smile. Freckles are scattered across her cheeks like stars and perpetual laugh lines gather at the corners of her golden eyes. She is muscled yet soft, in the way a woman who has given birth to many children is simultaneously rounded and strengthened. Her dress is of white linen, Her jewelry of gold, amethyst, and lapis lazuli. Her dark hair is woven through with beads and charms which jingle softly when She moves. She is the quintessential mother goddess with a soft breast to cry on and strong shoulders to lean on. I can feel in Her embrace the latent energy of the war goddess, and know She could change in a heartbeat if any danger came my way, yet to me She always appears in this maternal form.
Inanna appears to me veiled in red silk and firelight so I may only see Her soft belly and pendulous breasts and that sacred place between Her hips for which songs were sung. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of red hair, full lips, a proud hawk nose, but otherwise Her specific features remain uncertain. She is almost close enough to touch but always just out of reach, the way a dancer moves away from your embrace with the fluidity of water. Her face is hidden in shadow and because of this She might be any of the wild, unbound goddesses men have tried to shame for eons: Inanna, Ishtar, Lilith, Babylon the Great. She takes this form so I must face Her innate physicality; if I want to work with Her, I cannot avoid Her divine flesh.
The Morrigan appears to me only from afar as a shadowed figure backlit by heavy red skies. I cannot make out Her face but I can feel the weight of Her gaze, the immensity of Her presence. She is tall and thin as a finely honed blade, and like a blade there is a patient tension in Her form, a promise of deadly grace. She has long, dark hair, I think, and pale skin. She is not young; if I could get closer I would see lines on that gaunt face, especially at the corners of Her mouth and between Her eyebrows. Neither, though, is She frail; beneath Her dark cloak is a body spare yet strong as steel. This is all the Morrigan will let me see just now: the sovereign of the battlefield, the goddess of war and bone.
The gods appear to us in the forms they choose for a reason. What these forms show us – and do not show us – always hints at what we have to learn from them. Bastet is my mother; Inanna is my mentor; the Morrigan is my guide down a dark road.
Long before humanity learned to whisper Her name in reverence or cry it in exaltation, my mother walked this earth. Long before humanity crept from its caves to build crude homes with mud and sticks, my mother stalked this earth. Her eyes gleamed yellow in the firelight; Her fangs glowed like twin crescent moons. In ancient Kemet they called Her Bast, Sekhmet, Mafdet, but in the time before language they simply knew Her as a swift and awful death. Long before they understood what She was, they understood what She could do. Humanity has not always worshipped my mother – but they have always feared Her.
I dreamed I stood on a raised platform in the entrance to a church. Anubis stood at my side, tall and dark and silent. He handed me a thin gold wand; when I touched it, both ends lengthened until it became a staff with a sun on one end and two long prongs on the other. I glanced down and spotted a similar wand, only silver, laying on the floor at my feet. I bent to retrieve it and handed it to Anubis. When He took the wand it began to grow as the other had, lengthening into a silver staff with a crescent moon on one end and a single sharp point on the other. He gestured then toward the far end of the church, indicating I should walk forward, and though He didn’t speak I somehow understood part of his meaning to be “do not be afraid”. I stepped off the platform and found myself standing on air. I took another step and the invisible path held; in this way we made our way down the aisle of the church with the pews laid out below us. As we approached the altar something appeared in the air before us; a dark, twisting mass which radiated menace. I knew even before it began uncoiling itself that it was A/p/e/p, the chaos of absolute nothingness manifested as a great black serpent bent on the destruction of all existence. It opened its fanged jaws and struck at Anubis, who repelled it with the sharpened end of His staff. The creature then lunged for me and I did the same with my own weapon, bellowing as I drove the points into the serpent’s armored face. I think I might have spoken as I beat it back, might have yelled out the names of its victims, my lost loved ones, but I can’t remember. I do know I held their images in my mind as I struck and found some measure of comfort in harming the force which took them from me. A/p/e/p fled after this and from there the dream changed, yet I will never forget the fury with which I fought, nor the quiet, solid presence of Anubis at my side.
Sometimes I’m so envious of Christians in America. What does it feel like to be part of the dominant religion, I wonder? To see evidence of your faith everywhere, even in completely secular environments? What is it like to know everyone around you has at least a rudimentary understanding of your beliefs – your gods, your morals, your holy books and the stories therein – or to have your holy days treated as national holidays? I yearn for that total cultural saturation and the confidence, the validation, it must instill. No hiding. No lying. No fear of being ridiculed or attacked or simply dismissed. Do they understand how lucky they are, how unique their experience actually is? If I woke up tomorrow to a world where my gods were not only well known but celebrated and respected, I would never take it for granted. I would feel blessed every day I could express my beliefs without any hesitation, let alone worship in a temple or celebrate holy days with others who believe as I do. It’s hard to even imagine that freedom. What a gift!
(This is where the story gets hard for me to write. I keep deleting it. Ignoring it. Pretending I can’t see the scene so clearly. I can, though. And I want to tell it, I do, but it’s like my hands just… stop working. Revert back to heavy, lifeless clay. Not this time, though. Come on, just get it out!)
At the threshold to the Field of Reeds my father asked a favor from Wepwawet. He had left behind a teenage daughter, you see, and he worried for her safety. She wasn’t a very good driver, for one, and was often scatterbrained or easily distracted. Would Wepwawet look out for her as she moved through the world, just to make sure she got home each night in one piece? He gave my name and Wepwawet must have smiled, maybe even said something like, “She’s already known to us,” and assured my father He would keep an eye on me. And He has ever since, though He’s probably had to save my butt more times than I can count and I’m sure it’s a stressful promise to keep. But they’re kindred souls, I can feel it, and every time I feel Wepwawet’s presence I feel my father’s as well and know I am doubly blessed.
[ Hey, I added a “dad stuff” tag if anyone’s interested ]