Put it all on Trial

Maybe I have the words I didn’t have when I pulled this quote. Maybe. Because maybe it’s enough to blame Set for a natural death, to put the devil on trial there, but there are times this is not adequate, there must be co-defendants. (And I am pondering my thoughts here in relation to this post on blaming the devil.)

On a cosmic level: put the ur-murderer on trial. Sure. Rage and scream and tell Him we hate this and that He has done something we cannot forgive. Let us do our rituals to cast this out onto Someone who can take it, and who can take it away, the holy scapegoat of our tradition.

But we do not live on the cosmic level. And if we listen to Him, we can be certain that He will agree with another chaos force and say, “OH. WELL, THEN STOP.

Put it on trial.

Put on trial a culture, religiously influenced in this regard but not religious, which considers it acceptable to treat LGBT people are subhuman, as less than. A culture where the hospitalised survivors of the Pulse are at risk for losing their jobs because they were outed by their choice in club. A culture that means that there are people who have to find places where they’ll not be treated as zoo animals, places where they are safe to be themselves for a little while, because the rest of their lives cannot provide that. A culture where the sight of a loving couple kissing can be blamed for a mass murder, and where that reason is not a shock. A culture that has forgotten the Upstairs Lounge, besides.

Put on trial those religious cultures that condemn. Put on trial the world where a man can be shocked that homophobia fed his son’s mass murder and protest “only God can punish homosexuality”. Put on trial the churches and leaders who last week were crying out for something to be done about “the gays” and this week cry their crocodile tears now that someone did. Put on trial the beliefs that might make a person twist around his own theorised desires enough to drive him to commit bloody slaughter on those whose pains from the world do not prevent them from seeking an honest joy.

Put on trial the waves of racially directed hatred that might feed into targeting Latinx Night at the Pulse, that made the victims primarily Puerto Rican. Put on trial and acknowledge how hard it is for many Latinx people to come out, how important it was to be able to be there and queer and brown and among their people. Put on trial the “they’re bringing drugs and crime and are rapists” thought, and put on trial the wall.

Put on trial the cultural acceptability of transphobia, that might feed into targeting a night a trans performer was headlining the Pulse. Put on trial the bathroom bills and TERFs, the gatekeepers and those who demand perfect passing, the assumption that a trans death is barely worth noting, especially if it is a trans woman, especially if it is a trans woman of colour.

Put on trial everything that degraded those precious, irreplaceable lives, that meant someone could do the math that traded them for a bucket of bullets.

Put on trial every single impulse to wipe those away, to say “This was an attack on the American way of life” or “This was an attack on Orlando” or “this was an attack on” something other than it was – these communities, these intersecting communities. The only “American way of life” that was under attack was the one that lets marginalised people scrape out a little space where they can be, for a little while, the important ones.

Put on trial a culture that doesn’t recognise the problems of a history of domestic violence. Put on trial a culture where over half of shootings with more than four victims are domestic violence, for that matter.

Put on trial a culture that pretends that military weaponry is useful for hunting or self-defense. Put on trial a culture that excuses the deaths of LGBT people at a club, that excuses the deaths of children in a school, because those precious and irreplaceable lives are somehow a reasonable price to pay for access to weaponry that a Marine veteran of tours in Afghanistan recognised immediately when it fired – recognised and started getting people out, out, out because that is no accident, that is war.

Put on trial a culture that only recognises war when it is perpetrated by someone who says “Daesh”, even when the tools are the same. Even when the effects are the same.

(And put on trial all the things I have forgotten to include from this, or did not know, of which I know there must be many. Put on trial that which means I can’t see all the patterns, all the intersections, of how my siblings must navigate the world.)

Put on trial the thing that says nothing happens now. That all the above is an unchangeable law of nature, part of the Natural Order, that there is nothing to be done. It may not be maat, but it is hopeless.

But no. No it is not.

Let us put Set on trial, let us cast all these things out, let us put them on his back as Wesir’s bier is carried to the place of mooring, let us convict him, let us convict ourselves of our places of complicity, the places we did not see, the places we may have helped arm the evil to do its worst.

And then let us call on Set, Great of Strength, who takes these things and transmutes them, who becomes strong from the weight of the evil He carries, who becomes the force that can be brought to bear against all such evils, who stands foremost in the prow of the Night Boat, who in the dark night of the pain of loss and of recognition can raise His spear and say, “NO” and turn the annihilatory aside.

We must be both.

“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.” – Mother Jones

Death On Trial

Every death is to be traced back to the influence of something evil. This evil is personified by Seth, who is held accountable. The Egyptian myth, however, goes one step further. It not only portrays the violent character of death but also its injustice. It constructs its image of death on the basis of the distinction between right and wrong, thus providing an opening for ritual action. Every death is an offense against what is right, the truth/justice/order that the Egyptians called maat. It was thus possible for them to call it to account, to denounce it, to bring it to justice. They could do something about it and restore the order that had been destroyed. Because death was not natural, because it did not lie in the nature of things, they could not accept it, they could and had to do something to counter it. And so they initiated a legal proceeding against death, with Seth as the accused and Osiris as the complainant.

Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt, Jan Assmann

I am being topical. I do not have functional words beyond these borrowed ones.

Loops and Transitions

During the first six days of the lunar month, the six parts of Horus’ injured eye were collected. The sixth day was a festival day. Since the wall on which the Horus cycle is inscribed has six panels, this numbering may be significant. However, there does not appear to be any more compelling reason to relate this particular cycle with a sequence of lunar festival days. Symbolism relating to natural cycles–the daily solar cycle, the monthly lunar cycle, the yearly seasonal cycle, etc.–often appears in rituals celebrating one of the others. When one natural cycle was at an important transition point (eg. the moon was blacked out), references to natural cycles not currently in a critical transition (eg. the sun shining in the sky) could lend stability to the transition. Thus, the presence of a focus on lunar symbolism does not indicate that a cycle was for a lunar festival.

Katherine Eaton, Ancient Egyptian Temple Ritual.

This strikes me as relating to both last week’s quote of the week and my post about the underlying logic of the Great Festival of Djehwty.

Back to Work

I had a doctor’s appointment and thus wound up sitting and reading on my tablet while waiting for her to show up, which meant I found this glorious tidbit:

The burial of the king and the burial of Osiris employed the same symbolic motifs and the same types of ritual actors. after all, a primary goal of the king’s mortuary ritual was to facilitate his transformation into Osiris. Thus, these features do not set the DRP apart from other ancient Egyptian ritual cycles. Both the veneration of kings, living and deceased, and the manipulation of the Horus and Seth motif are ubiquitous in ancient Egyptian ritual as it was performed every day. Moreover, the fact that these features were part of the fabric of everyday life, and therefore familiar and perhaps even comforting, gave this special application of the rites the power to reduce the anxiety of the fraught transition of royal power (if that was indeed its purpose). As with mortuary ritual, the desire was not to celebrate, or even mark the potentially dangerous change, but rather to incorporate it into the fabric of everyday life as much as possible, thereby conquering the potential for chaos.

Katherine Eaton, Ancient Egyptian Temple Ritual.

One of the things I’ve said on and off is that Set’s role in the cosmos may be as an antagonist, but he is ultimately the antagonist that becomes part of the system. I tend to approach this as an outsider – a system which is large enough to contain and encompass Set is large enough for people like me. However, this is an establishment perspective on the same thing, that even the form of Set which is the usurper and murderer is part of the system, because by ritually wrestling with his presence in the cosmos, we become prepared to deal with the inevitable disruptions that fall within his domains. Basically, it’s ritual PTSD/grief therapy which can be done in advance of loss, into which the experience of actual non-ritualized loss can be sorted, normalized, and accepted.

Holy shit, guys. This is brill.

I’ma sit with this for a bit now.

A publication announcement…

My latest publication is out: a story in Les Cabinets des Polytheists, a book from the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, edited by Rebecca Buchanan. The book is a collection of polytheistic fairy tales of various sorts.

So, a summary of the setup for my contribution, “Spine of the World”:

Three brothers, out on the sacred hunt according to the customs of their land, manage to offend an apparent witch in the vicinity of a mighty tree, who lays a curse upon them. When the oldest brother dies and the middle brother goes mad, it is upon the shoulders of the youngest to venture forth in search of a cure for the affliction… or perhaps he is simply caught in the throes of his own form of the doom.

His quest will take him through the halls of several Powers, and he will get guidance along the way from a number of interesting beings, such as a blue-skinned androgyne named Flood, a mysterious black dog with a golden collar and a tendency to stare, and a giant snake….

(My first readers had fun playing Guess Which God That Is.)

Timing On This Was Funny

Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II must have been very willing to allow himself to be depicted in an ancestral ritual, thus demonstrating his legitimacy as king and, perhaps more importantly, the legitimacy of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, reaffirming its right to govern Egypt. By worshipping his Ancestors he established a link between himself and those who had been kings of Egypt since time immemorial. From the point of view of the priesthood, this was a desirable thing. It did not matter to them that the king whose legitimacy was being proclaimed on the Naos of Edfu Temple was a Macedonian, a foreigner, a fact that is made abundantly clear in the scenes in which Euergetes II is depicted wearing Greek dress. To the priests of Egypt, especially those devoted to Horus, the royal god par excellence, it was Kingship itself and not any individual king that was all-important.

The House of Horus at Edfu: Ritual in an Ancient Egyptian Temple, Barbara Watterson

I found this hilarious because I happened to read that chunk a couple of days after my latest Hills of the Horizon column was posted: A Defense of Sacred Kingship. Which approaches a similar point from a catastrophically different angle.

(The passage in the Watterson goes on to note that the priesthood was interested in preserving the customs of Egyptian ritual kingship until they could get rid of the %$*&# Greeks, mind, which is oblique of the thing I found funny.)

(… please excuse weird errors in my transcription, there’s some damn autocorrect on and it changed the author name and introduced other errors and WTF.)

Drink the Good Intoxicating Drink

A very common expression in the liturgies of wine offering is “may you be powerful through it (wine)”. This could have been a pun on the name of Sekhmet if viewed through the Hathor-Sekhmet myths. It may also have been simply a description of the condition after wine-drinking. This condition of being “powerful”, however, is perhaps more than a state of mind or physical prowess after the stimulation of alcohol. Rather, it refers to a rejuvenating power that was embodied in wine. Thus a text read:

The wine you like is offered to your divine ka; its vineyards flourish in Edfu, the Eye of Horus (i.e. wine) of Imet which rejuvenates (snrp) your heart, together with inmt (wine) which came from Bahria — may you be powerful through it; may you eat (i.e. taste) it; may you drink it. It is pure.

Similarly, another text reads:

May you be dignified through wine (š3); may you be rejuvenated through wine.

Wine and Wine Offering In The Religion of Ancient Egypt, Mu-Chou Poo