#2448

“The serpent tries too hard,” the Nameless tells me as she lounges against the oscillations of Egyptian dunes. “It’s almost embarrassing. Do I strive against your desert gods each night in hopes of wresting control of the universe from their grasp? Of course not,” she pops galaxies into her mouth like hothouse grapes, “because I know, as they do, that the ultimate fate of the universe is a return to the primordial chaos from which it first emerged. It’s just a matter of time. Why rush entropy?”

She is right at home on these white hot sands, her monstrous body a black void against the dancing heat waves. In my dream last night she murmured in my ear, “We have always been here,” by which I understood she meant that this dark triad I serve – Chaos, Desire, and Death – is older than even the gods of ancient Kemet. Older than gods themselves, for they are the concepts from which gods are crafted. Thus the Nameless is part of A/pep, just as a shadow of Daren can be found in Set, a fragment of Tanim in Osiris. Their triad belongs to no single place, time, or pantheon but runs through them all, encoded like DNA in every deity that will ever exist.

“You are a slow learner,” the Nameless laughs, licking plasma off her sharp fingernails. “But you get there.”

#2434

In my dream, myself and two girls were led to a room where women in beautiful robes crafted elaborate porcelain masks. One of the women sat us at an empty table amid the group and served us tea in delicate china cups. Just one sip of tea sent us all into some sort of trance state and it suddenly seemed as if my face was submerged in a pool or bowl of bright water, yet I could still breathe easily. 

I blinked and then before me in the water I saw the square of a great ancient city. Where the branching streets met in the center of the square stood what looked like a big fountain, though I couldn’t make out its shape. Then it moved and I realized it was a living statue in the shape of a lioness with white marble skin. The statue sat up, golden eyes blazing out of a lean face, and then on its head raised up a white serpent with matching gold eyes. I recognized Her immediately – my mother, the goddess Bast. Identical statues on either side which I had not noticed moved as well to mirror the pose of this one. Then another feline head, far larger, rose in the sky above the middle statue. Its eyes were as big and as bright as the sun; they were the sun. I knew then this was Bast, yes, but specifically the royal Bast, Bast as the Eye of Ra, the blazing sun, Queen of the Gods crowned in the sun disk and uraeus. I think I was crying from happiness, honored to receive a visit from Her in a dream. 

The image faded and in the water I saw next the sweet, smiling face of a domestic cat. The little cat said something like, “You see but you don’t understand. Understand.” It was ‘understand’ with the implication of trust, though, like I can see the truth of divinity but I’m not letting myself trust enough to embrace it fully, or to trust that it’s meant for me, and that’s blocking my ability to fully grasp the gods’ messages. Something like that. I just felt so much love from Her, filling and overflowing every corner of my being. Then the trance state lifted and I was back in the room with the mask-makers. The other girls were too. We looked at each other in wordless wonder for what we each had separately experienced, tears streaming down our faces, then hugged each other tightly. The woman who had served us the tea smiled and escorted us out.

#2420

When your raging heart demands justice
and you can stomach no more sour lies
cry out to the Goddess.

Hers are the swift claws of judgment.
Hers are the red teeth of retribution.
Hers is the molten heart of the sun
that annihilates all shadow.

Even Ra the Great and Powerful
sends forth His bright-burning daughters
when evil demands holy reckoning.

#2419

This January marks six years since Bast called me to begin walking Her path. Like a kitten first opening its eyes to glimpse the warm presence which has nurtured it from birth, comprehending now that Mother is an entity unto itself, so I went from stumbling agnosticism to sudden unwavering faith. With eyes wide open I saw so clearly all which had seemed before too good to be true; spirits, magic, witchcraft, other realms, and of course the gods.

Bast kindled my conscious spiritual journey that year. Under Her patient tutelage I waded into the waters of polytheism and the modern pagan community. Though I had long believed in “something”, even felt as if that something watched over me, only now did I have a name and established frameworks to build from. There was so much to learn! So much to unlearn! I felt every bit the uncoordinated kitten, yet an uncoordinated kitten who could take chances and make mistakes in the safety of mother’s watchful presence. 

Other gods came in time – Inanna, Wepwawet, the Morrigan, Hathor – and their paths often required more focus than Bast’s, yet She remained always at my side. Even in my deepest depression, when I questioned not just the existence of the gods but the very concept of the soul and all that animated the universe, still I felt Her beside me in the darkness. I could not doubt Her existence when Her inextinguishable flame burned in my own chest. I am a child of Bast; it was She who shaped my soul into existence and it will bear Her mark for eternity.

So here I am, six years along on a journey I never imagined I’d take. My spirituality threads through every aspect of my life and plays a major role in all that I do. I am many things now – proud kemetic, proud polytheist pagan, proud witch – and no longer the uncoordinated kitten, though neither am I yet the confident adult. I’m still learning and unlearning, making mistakes, discovering new paths and identities. Through it all Bast is here to guide me and I remain so honored, so humbled, to walk Her path and do Her work in this world.

#2394

Pass by, hungry flames
this land is not yours to consume!

Bast your Mistress stands with me
I command you to pass by!

The Eyes of Ra stand with me
I command you to pass by!

The Netjeru stand with me
I command you to pass by!

I command you to pass by!
I command you to pass by!
I command you to pass by!

#2376

Oh Starry Cow, your beauty fills the sky!
At dawn flowers open toward your radiant smile
Daisies, poppies, sunflowers, roses
At dusk flowers reach up to your starlit eyes
Jasmine, lilies, orchids, water lilies
And all through the day, all through the night
We your children dance beneath your benevolent gaze
Oh Golden One, your beauty fills the sky!

#2369

“Wepwawet”

Your halls are sandstone monoliths
Your garlands flowering succulents.
Rattlesnakes shake their sistra tails in joy
Coyotes sing your praises to the moon.
Awoo, they cry, great is our Lord the Divine Jackal!
Awoo, they carol, great is our Lord the Giver of Life!

#2365

The first day after I swore an oath to Wepwawet to take up deathwork, I found a desiccated vole on the front porch. I have no idea how a mummified rodent would appear there, out of range of any overhang one might potentially have fallen from. It didn’t appear to have been snacked on much, though enough skin was missing on its face that my wife was able to rescue the skull fairly easily. It’s so small and fragile I’m afraid to touch it with my clumsy fingers. Was it a gift? A confirmation? I’m not sure.

The second day after I swore an oath to Wepwawet to take up deathwork, I drove past a dead cat in the middle of the road. It was just a few blocks from work and early enough in the morning that the road wasn’t too busy. I pulled over and gently lifted the poor thing – stiff, but not overly so; he hadn’t been dead long – and set him on the grassy sidewalk. He had thick gray-white fur and the healthy roundness of a well-fed pet. Someone will be looking for him (I hope), so I left him there for his family to find. Instead I just lay my hand on his soft fur and said a prayer over him, then went on with my day. But I can’t get his blood-splattered paws out of my mind, or his shattered hard palate. I hope it was quick. I hope it was painless. It probably wasn’t.

I never imagined I would walk this path. I can’t imagine where it might lead. I hope I’m strong enough.

#2362

When I first began praying to Wepwawet it was for good parking spaces and light traffic.

See, back then I thought, He’s the god of travel, right? Opener of the Ways? Why not? And admittedly, he didn’t seem to mind. But eventually my half-joking prayers became more legitimate requests and thanks for his continued protection as I travel. I set up an altar and bought him an icon, and over time I came to associate him with my father due to their shared love of ships, cars, planes, and other modes of travel. I liked to think my father had met Wepwawet after he died and asked the god to watch over me. Wepwawet’s presence felt a bit like he was doing someone a favor – not in the sense that he was obligated to keep me safe, but in the sense that he asked very little from me in return. For several years he was just the quiet, chill god who I thanked for saving me from my own terrible driving, a god who seemed happy with whatever offerings I had and never demanded anything more. This was our relationship for so long that I just assumed it would always be this way.

Oh, what fools these mortals be. Every god brings change – when will I learn?

Cut to the global shitshow that is 2020. I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted, lost in perhaps the worst depression I’ve ever experienced. I desperately want to leverage my privilege to be a force of good in our world but I’m struggling with how exactly to do that. I’m no warrior or leader or orator, nor do I have a huge following I can leverage to enact real change. I’m also limited by my own physical and mental health issues, and now have the added concern about catching covid-19 at some public event and passing it to my high-risk wife. So what can I do on the individual level that will still have a real impact for others? What can any one person do to push back this tide of darkness?

I keep coming back to deathwork. So many lives, both human and animal, are needlessly sacrificed on the twin altars of capitalism and white supremacy, and many of those lost don’t have anyone to grieve for them. Lately other pagans have started sharing their rituals to honor the dead, especially spirits who are related to us not by blood but by marginalized identities and shared suffering, and their work is inspiring. I’ve been toying with doing something similar yet neither Inanna nor the Morrigan, the two gods I follow who are most connected to death, seemed to be urging me to take this up with them. So the idea of deathwork has just been sitting in the back of my mind (like so many other spiritual things I tell myself I’ll do “soon” and then never do) – until last week.

When I do my weekly devotions with my gods I usually only briefly connect with Wepwawet to give thanks for his protection and to present an offering. This time, though, as I watched the shadows dance across his statue I was just… struck, I suppose, by this sudden understanding that my journey into deathwork is meant to start with him. It was so obvious! I whipped out my tarot deck to get further clarification. I don’t usually use indicator cards but one grabbed my attention and demanded it be set at the top of the spread. After that I drew three more cards. Here are my interpretations:

  • Indicator card: The Emperor – I’m not dealing with chill, informal Wepwawet now; this is Wepwawet as Lord of the Duat and Opener of the Way. The hard work is coming.
  • Where does your path for me begin? Page of Wands – Here and now! Wepwawet is confirming he will be my guide and that I need to take the plunge. No more hesitating.
  • Where does your path for me lead? The Magician – Harnessing creativity, willpower, and unseen forces to master new skills. A deeper understanding and relationship with magic and/or deathwork, perhaps?
  • What must I do next? King of Pentacles – Plant the seed and begin to nurture it with passion, hard work, and patience. Again, my time of uncertainty and hesitance is over; it’s time to begin the real work.

This feels like a strong confirmation that not only should I move forward with deathwork, but Wepwawet will be the main god to guide me through it. I’m excited to work with Wepwawet in a more formal way and I hope this will help me feel like I’m doing something constructive to uphold ma’at and destroy isfet.

#2354

Oh wise Anup who weighs the hearts of the dead, how heavy mine feels today! Be gentle as you hold it else I am sure it will burst from sorrow. How can any heart which beats in these dark times remain lighter than a feather? How can any empathetic heart not soak up all this pain? Even ravenous Ammit would spit out my heart, bitter as it is! Oh chief healer, I beg you take your sharpest knife and lance my septic heart so I may bleed out this toxic isfet. Empty my heart of this impotent rage and never-ending grief, that I may refill it with love and peace!

#2322

The face Bast shows me is not young. Artists always depict Her with the ripe, vibrant bloom of the maiden, all hourglass curves and taut brown skin, but this isn’t how I see Her. My mother’s face is lined by little creases above Her brows, the corners of Her eyes, the edges of Her lips. Silver hairs glint in Her long black braids. There is a softness to Her breasts and waist like one who has given Her body to the birthing and raising of many children. Her beauty is not that of potent sexuality; it is the beauty of experience, of wisdom, of time and its endless flow of joys and sorrows. It is a beauty shaped and weighted by so much care that only a goddess could bear it – but oh, is She all the more beautiful for bearing it with pride!

#2318

In my dream my mother and aunt wrap their bodies around me, skin to skin, and I am like a babe in their arms, my weary head resting on their pillowed breasts, my small hands clutching at their warm skin, and I am safe, so safe, so safe.

#2312

Reveal yourself!, I command the raging spirit as it snarls at me. Reveal yourself! It bares long fangs; its red eyes roll wildly with a feral madness. Reveal yourself! It lunges but I do not back down and I do not lower my outstretched arms. Reveal yourself!, I cry and the monstrous spirit howls in fury as my words finally dismantle its menacing facade. It shifts, shrinks, and by the time it regains its true form the howl is only a pitiful wail of despair. I kneel and pick the tiny spirit up, cup her in my hands and hold her close to my heart. She’s just a baby, a kitten barely six weeks old. That’s all the life she got this time around – six weeks. Six short weeks of fear and pain, enough time to experience the world’s cruelties but not enough time to understand them, and then death. She’s not even given the dignity of a grave because there is no one to mourn her. No one to remember her. No one to name her, even posthumously, so her spirit might know peace.

Fear, pain, death. No wonder she became so warped.

I realize I’m weeping, curled over this trembling little soul as if I can shield her from the horrors she’s already faced. Mother, I sob. Mother, I can’t do this. I can’t do this. How am I supposed to do this? I’m not strong enough to bear the weight of these truths; I’m not brave enough to open my heart to these sorrows. I fear they’ll drive me mad as well, that I’ll become a monster if I can’t gentle this awful tide of despair rushing through me. But that wouldn’t be fair to this spirit or the millions just like her who deserve recognition and empathy. If I can’t change the world completely, if there will always be innocent lives falling through the cracks, I should at least offer the solace of grief. Someone should carry the memory of all those lost souls so their brief lives weren’t in vain. I am a daughter of Bast; it is my duty and my honor. I don’t think I’m strong enough, it’s true, but I know my mother thinks I am. I must trust that is enough.

#2287

I am known as a goddess of love
And yes, I am a lover, a mother, a teacher
Yes, I can be gentle and kind
But do not forget my claws and teeth
Or the blood I have shed on the battlefield.
I have always been a goddess of war;
There is a reason my children are born knowing how to eviscerate their prey, after all.
I have always been a goddess of war;
The war between life and death
Between survival and failure
Between order and chaos.
Love makes life worth living,
But war is how you defend it.

#2280

Hathor is the embodiment of energy in its most kinetic forms. Her eyes glitter with excitement; Her tightly coiled hair bounces with every movement; Her lips pull back in a wide, joyful laugh that shakes Her bosom and belly. She is constantly in motion, existing in the vibrant now with no burden of the past or care for the future. She is the yes to every maybe, the why not? to every why? Her unfaltering dance is a celebration of birth and rebirth that smites isfet and nourishes ma’at. To those in Her graces She offers access to this well of pure, primal energy if only you are willing to open yourself to its possibilities. In order to embrace Hathor’s vivacious energy you must lay down your fear – fear of failure, fear of change, fear of the unknown – and leap into the moment. You cannot fall with Hathor at your side, only fly.

#2253

I will never have words enough to express my love for the divine, nor ways enough to express my gratitude and honor to live in its presence. If I repeat my praises too often, or if I reuse the same phrases because no others seem as worthy, please forgive me; I am just so often overflowing with awe that if I do not release some of it into the universe I may drown completely. Oh, the stunning beauty of Hathor! The humbling benevolence of Bast! The terror of the Morrigan, the ferocity of Inanna! Oh, to bathe my modest mortal soul in the pure glory of their divine radiance! How can I not sing their praises ceaselessly when everywhere around me I see evidence of their blessing? A word for every breath I take, every moment I live, every year, every decade, every life, still would never be enough!

#2237

Dua Bast, Lady of the East, Lady of Flame, Lady of Truth
Vengeful Eye of Ra, Protective Mother Cat!

Dua Het-heru, Lady of the West, Sweet Sycamore
Bearer of Joy and Bringer of Prosperity!

Dua Wepwawet, Opener of the Way
Shepherd of the Path, Unique and Adorned One!

Hail Inanna, Queen of Heaven, O Radiant Star
She Who Descended and Arose Again!

Hail to the Morrigan, Phantom Queen and Prophetess
Sovereign of the Battlefield, Carrion Crowned!

Hail to the Sun and Moon, Lords of Darkness and Decay
Lords of Light and Love, of Sacrifice and the Solstice!

Hail and thanks to all!

#2236

Bast is the Lady of Joy, yes, and the Lady of Love, and yet She is also the Lady of Mourning. These are not such disparate concepts. To be a goddess of joy is to weep at its loss, to feel every cruelty and injustice in the world as if they were done to you. To be a goddess of love means to be a goddess of mourning, for there is no love without life and no life without struggle and death. Bast is beside every cat in need, though Her children number in the hundreds of millions. This means every starving stray, every sick or wounded feral, every abandoned pet waiting in some high-kill shelter for euthanasia. This means every cat caged for breeding, for research, for torture, for extermination. This means every cat who right this moment suffers from pain and terror and loneliness. Think how many precious, sacred lives that is! How endless the tide of grief! To be a goddess of love is to be present in those moments of greatest agony so those you love are never truly alone, and thus Bast remains with all Her children in their need. What could be the result but continuous mourning?

Oh Mother, who holds You in their arms when You weep? Who lifts the burden of the world from Your shoulders so You may rest for a moment? I am no goddess, I cannot carry Your mantle of responsibility for You, much as I dearly wish I could. Yet I am Your daughter; I can at least share a portion of Your grief so You need not mourn alone. Let me weep with You; let me wail with You; let me bear witness with You. For those of Your children whom I cannot save or offer solace, let me at least acknowledge their pain so someone on this earth mourns their passing. We will grieve together, Mother.

#2233

Dua Het-heru!
Dua Het-heru, Lady of the West, Sweet Sycamore
Dua Het-heru, Bearer of Joy and Bringer of Prosperity

Lady, you are wondrous to behold
You are rivers overflowing
You are gardens overgrowing!

Your beauty is boundless
Your charms are countless
Lady, you are wondrous to behold!

Dua Het-heru, Victorious Eye of Ra, Mother of Mothers
Dua Het-heru, Glorious One of Many Names
Dua Het-heru!

#2230

Mother, under Your bright gaze I become a child again!
I am the Six of Cups dancing in the forest
I am the Three of Wands yearning for a new adventure

Mother, under Your patient gaze I become a child again!
I am the generosity of the pentacles
I am the curiosity of the swords

Mother, under Your loving gaze I become a child again!
I am the Fool’s fearless freedom
I am Strength’s courage and the Star’s faith

Mother, under Your holy gaze I become a child again!