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Thus, wine is depicted being offered, often by statuettes of the king on the palanquin, or within the shrine; incense is burnt; libations are poured; bouquets and piles of offerings are presented. These are among the most common ritual acts depicted on temple walls and called for in temple liturgies. Priests practiced these rites daily. They also practiced them in processions on a regular basis. Thus, there were only a few special episodes, such as cutting the grain, which were not acts performed at least several times a month by the performers. This repetition stabilized the festival celebration and incorporated the powerful–and potentially dangerous–elements of the festival into the predictable fabric of everyday life.

Ancient Egyptian Temple Ritual, Katherine Eaton

I think this may be one of the hardest things to really get under the skin about Egyptian stuff, this idea that breaks in the daily routine are perilous, more prone to things going wrong, and need to be normalised.

I think that a lot of people are more accustomed to an idea of festival time as celebration, as special, as holiday, and certainly there are aspects of that to many festivals, but the precariousness of non-standard time is also a thing that has to be handled gentle, and hemmed in with normalcy, to keep it all grounded.

“This I Believe”

Among the things that I do is attend a UU church. Last week, the ministerial intern asked if anyone would be interested in volunteering to give a little speech on the topic of “This I Believe”, based on NPR’s ‘This I believe’ series, and I said I would be.

This is the thing I did.


It has always sort of seemed to me that things fall apart in the summer. All of the ideas and energies of spring encounter the blistering heat and fade away into nothing. Perhaps when I was younger I felt crises didn’t have enough space to fit into my schedule during the school year, so they would wait until there was time to properly consume me.

Some years ago, I started work with a spiritual mentor, and one of the first things she asked was “What is your year like? When do you tend to get ideas? When do you tend to fall in love? When are your good times? When are your bad times?” And, dutifully, I went and wrote it down, and said, “Oh. No wonder,” because there were these gaps in the summer and the winter where I just had a hard time doing anything. It was impossible to build up any momentum.

Then I learned that I have an autoimmune disease. That the pain in my joints was not a normal thing that everyone has to deal with. That the mental fog isn’t universal. That a whole bunch of things.

That I am abnormally and particularly sensitive to extremes in temperature.

**

It was like being reborn. Like a sudden cool drink in the desert. Not that it made everything better, but it made everything make more sense. This was something I could get a handle on. And I started rebuilding my year, with these two tools – my mentor’s questions, my understanding of the failings of my body – using my own religious background as a tool.

So, yes. Things fall apart in the summer.

And then come the waters, and they wash it all away, everything that’s come apart, and in that clean new place, things grow again. And eventually – inevitably – it will work its way around to summer once more, and sure, it will all go to pieces.

But the waters, eventually, will come, and they will destroy everything that is there to be destroyed, but also, they will bring relief. They will bring a fresh start.

**

Happy new year!

I know it’s probably not any of yours, but it’s mine.

To be precise, Thursday was my liturgical new year. I celebrated yesterday with a number of people, and it wasn’t their new year either, but that doesn’t matter. Community is what matters, that thing that makes people flow together like water, that makes them find each other and support each other and develop that interdependence that means that when our worlds fall apart, someone is there to bring the flood again, to wash away the debris, and to say “We will make something grow.”

I’ve told any number of people this over the summer, so I will say it again: I was here five years ago or so, when my family lived in Billerica, when my oldest child was a toddler, and I kept telling people every time I came to Bedford, I knew that the sermon would be about a particular form of justice that is about relationship with and among people, about community, about the values in the particular affirmationt we recite. I don’t expect anyone to think of it in the terms of my specific religious background, but it kept calling me back; and when my family moved, I would say, occasionally, “I really mean to get back to Bedford”, but never managed it, not before that oldest child started asking me all these questions. And I said, “I know where to go for questions.” And so we’ve been back.

Last week, Joshua read a bit of the Book of Amos, saying, “Let justice roll down like the waters.” And it has been quite a summer, looking at the world, things falling apart in so many ways, but we can look for the waters to come. We can look, and we can dig the channels to get it flowing to our fields and grow good things, and we can do the work to find them and help them flow.

Because this I believe: that the world is made good. That every summer’s falling apart, that every plunge into darkness, has in it the chance to find the waters, to clear away the debris, and to be reborn. That dawn will come again, and so will the chance for things to grow. And that it is our responsibility, as human beings, as a community of people, to make space for the waters to flow, to drink deep, and to make certain that nobody goes thirsty.

Happy new year. May the promise of the waters coming sustain you through the summers in your life, and the certainty of dawn carry you through the dark nights of the soul. Drink deep.

Wp Rnpt

The most important of the Decan stars was Sirius. This star was represented by a goddess known as to the Egyptians as Sopdet and to the Greeks as Sothis. She was shown as a woman wearing a crown surmounted by a five-pointed star. Each year the period when Sirius rose above the horizon at dawn coincided with the coming of the inundation. This event also marked the start of the Egyptian year. In the Pyramid Texts, Sopdet is named as a manifestation of the goddess Isis. Later in Egyptian history, Sopdet was equated with the Eye of Ra and the heliacal rising of her star was linked to the myth of the return of the Distant Goddess.

Egyptian Mythology, Geraldine Pinch

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.