It’s not just mysticism that has me thinking about the Blessed Dead, not just the transformational cycle of Nut that leaves me pondering the mysteries of the Midnight Sun.
It’s other things, too.
One of my favorite bits of the Pyramid Texts is the bit where the Creator puts his arms around Shu and Tefnut “like the arms of a ka”, “that his ka might be in them”. Hug your children so they have souls. This embrace, this essential thing, passing life-energy and beingness from parent to child, is fundamental. (There are other ways we feed and nurture the ka, of course, but that’s not the point here.)
The point is this: this ability to live, to thrive, to taste and eat and love and fuck and work magic and all these things that are ka-driven – it’s an inherited thing. It comes from our parents, that bloodline, and the bloodline goes back and back and back. So many incarnations of a ka.
And that makes for complicated inheritance.
I went to the lab today to get blood drawn. I have an autoimmune disease – easily treatable, not a great worry – and we’re still getting my medication sorted out, so we’re testing my levels and all that fine medical stuff. But the thing is, this is something that is twined in with my DNA on some level; one of the primary risk factors is “does it run in your family”?
My grandmother had it. (Or something like it; she was on fundamentally the same medication I’m on, except mine is synthetic.)
And when I got my diagnosis, I called my blood kin – all of whom have issues that are comorbid with this particular thing – to say “Hey, I have this thing. You may want to keep an eye on that. Just in case.”
Because we come from the same source.
Genetic glitches aren’t the only thing we can inherit, though. And really, this is the easiest stuff to accept – the thing that can be looked at under a microscope, teased out of a blood sample, sequenced in the magic of our amino acids.
Wounds to the soul, spiritual wounds, mental wounds, those are heritable too. But that’s something that feels embarrassing, at times, or shameful, or irrational, or blaming one’s parents for one’s own flaws, or something else.
I wound up in a conversation about “white nationalism” recently. And I learned something about myself there. I learned of places where my ka bleeds – not for my own sake, not for the sake of the world and my loved ones who have to live here now. It is an old wound, inflicted upon this soul before it was mine.
I don’t even know how to talk about it here, with its bloodiness and its scarring. The pain is not mine, but it is mine to heal, because I am numbered among the living. I have worked with this pain before – done magic, done heka, done witchcraft, done therapy, to try to pass on a ka with less suffering to my children. There is more to it than I had faced, and I am left with the strange awkwardness of it, the knowledge that this pain was part of why I feel I have so little from that line of family, because some was actively destroyed, and other parts hurt too much to touch. (When I first went chasing reconstructionist paganism, I went looking up that bloodline, trying to find the thing I was missing – and missing that what I needed was far more personal, entirely.)
It is not enough to put Death on trial, to condemn it for its act of murder and pay reparations to the Dead by giving them the life they lost in the new venue of the hereafter. That is only a beginning, a ritual declaration that wholeness will happen, not the actual process of becoming whole. Death itself, even in this most judicial of models, is only the last thing, and many people’s lives have more than one thing unmended. And sometimes the Holy Mother Death can mend more than just the transition – it is not uncommon for people who deal with the ancestors to comment that the Dead are much more reasonable people than the Living, having as they do a different perspective on life and its priorities.
There are other wounds than the fatal ones, wounds that need to be healed. They left their marks on our ancestors, and those marks have, some of them, in some form, passed on to us.
To heal myself is to heal my ancestors, and it is also to heal my children. If I am established, Wesir is established, this is the old chant, the old ways. If I am hale, he is hale. We learn over time how to mend ourselves, and perhaps we also learn how to offer the cup of that grace to those on the other side, who might find some peace in it.
If I can sacrifice two vials of blood on a regular basis to heal the physical legacy my ancestor gave me, can I not also offer space to stop the bleeding of our shared ka? To let my ancestors open to joys they may have been denied, to have forgiveness even for the things that wounded the living, to become whole?
I did magic to stanch the bleeding once. It is only a beginning. (And I think there is probably a chapter on this in the book I’m not currently reading. Among other things, other traditions, other ways of seeing these lines and the inheritance that comes of sharing the soul.)
We can heal. We must heal. And as we heal our ancestors, there is more opening to life.