Nut Cycle: Hour Three, A Month Late; The Teeth

Okay, trying to pick up threads of thought again.

Teeth. Teeth are an alarming thing. (One of the times I was discussing the Nut cycle with people, months ago, one of them commented that of all the forms of death symbolism, teeth were perhaps among the most alarming.) There is a certain brutality to being eaten, a certain visceral something, which for all I know is what some people like about zombie stories.

Nonetheless, like the Death card in the Tarot, this is not an annihilation; it is a transformation, of which death itself is simply the most complete. Like the shamanistic death, dismemberment, and rehabilitation, crossing this gateway renders the traveller into pieces so that they may be reconstituted anew. (And many, many funereal texts will explicitly say: You have your head. You have your limbs. You have your heart. You have your name. Each member is named, invoked, put into place, and re-bound from the dissociated state which is death, or maybe dream, or of course initiation.)

The gate’s name is “She who lights the fire, the quencher of embers, with sharp flames, quick in killing without hesitation. She from whom there is no protection. She by whom one cannot pass without harm. The one who rears up towards her lord.” The uraeus is here, guardian of Ra, manifestation of the Eye of Ra, whose flame (which always strikes me as a way of referring to the poison of the cobra) is turned against his enemies.

What is the enemy of Ra? That which would dissolve ma’at, that which would put the cosmos out of order and send it spinning into nothingness. That which is not in its appropriate place, and threatens to put other things out of place.

Existence demands the risk of isfet. So long as the creative potential that allows things to change – and stasis is another form of unbeing – flows through all beingness, there remains the possibility that that change will be for the worse. And that potential for change for the worse resides in all things. Nothing can pass by the uraeus without harm, because everything contains these seeds, these possibilities, and she will strike, as the name says, without hesitation.

This is why, to reach the Mysteries, one must face the teeth – one must have these seeds exposed and scorched, to keep them from sprouting. The Mysteries must be protected. The teeth separate the parts, the gate herself purifies them with fire, and then – beyond – this physical cleansing can be healed.

The long title for the traveller from the second hour – the shining bull who is with the Unwearying Stars – is now simply the Bull King. whose guide is the Bull of the Two Lands. The powerful, virile king figure seeking

Working on a New Book

As an attempt to make up a little for my complete absence this last month or so, here’s a little bit I just wrote – a bit of introduction to my new book project, dealing with the theology of the ka in what I hope will be practical and accessible terms.

(Unlike the Guide, I do not expect this one to be more full of jokes than my ordinary conversation.)

Sometime when I was a child – I do not know where or when – I saw a particular bit of line art somewhere in a book. The large figure was a seated man with the head of an animal I did not recognise, with wavy horns extending straight out on either side of his head. He stretched his hands out over a pair of human figures that appeared to be standing on a low table. I loved that drawing with the uncomplicated affection of a child: the gentle smile on the animal muzzle seemed so kind, so gracious, so benevolent. He seemed to me to care deeply for the little naked people standing on the table.

I did not really know – at any meaningful level – that this was a drawing of a god. I just knew, with that profound and clear simplicity, that the strange man seemed like a nice man. Gods, when I thought of them, were the lavishly illustrated humanoids of my D’Aulaires, whose stories were detailed by Edith Hamilton in her Mythology, or the mysterious figure that was explained to me in church sermons, who didn’t appear to have any particular interest in me, and thus lost my interest in return.

I got older. I learned things. I forgot things.

Somewhere along the line I learned that the two naked figures were standing on the potter’s wheel, and they were a human body and that body’s double or ka. I didn’t have the theology for what that meant, really, or a lot of interest in taking it deeper; I filed it away in the packrat-nest of information in my skull and carried on with my life.

When I stumbled into Kemetic religion, I turned back towards that friendly man with the strange head, which I had learned belonged to an extinct species of ram.

I returned in the end to Khnum, the first god I had ever loved, the craftsman of the ka.

Senetjer

If I look to the left, I see the candle at the shrine. The room is still mostly empty – everything had to come out for some semi-emergency house repairs and it has not been put right yet – but the ancestor shrine is there, tucked up in the corner up against the west wall, occupying the leftmost third of my desk.

Photo of ancestor shrine in the darknessThe pewter cup filled with cool water casts its shadow on the wall.

The candle burns securely in the old glass ashtray that, as a child, I never associated with cigarettes, thinking of it mostly that it was a fine thing to add to marble runs.

I reflect, as I set out the offerings, how little I have from one side of my family compared to the other, and how I need to fix that: to go through my things and find the little pieces of jewelry my grandmother gave me, scattered on the kitchen table as we sorted through them and she looked at me with delight when I shared her taste in baubles.

I reflect on this as I reflect on healing our blood wounds, think about her notable absence from this space as it currently is. (I do not even have a photograph. I do not have a photograph of my grandfather her husband either – or rather, the one I have is of him and also of me, and thus not to go on the shrine proper. I may put it on the wall next to the shrine.)

In the darkness on top of the cabinet, in the boat-shaped incense burner that I have, a thick resinous stick burns, frankincense and myrrh slowly filling the space, spilling even as far as where I sit on the bed.

Incense is my favorite Egyptian pun*: senetjer and sen netjer. Incense and the brother of the god.

“May this sweet smell come to you, o netjer, as your sweet smell comes to me” goes the prayer that so many Kemetics make in their shrines as they light the incense. The presence of the gods is a sweet, rich scent, a holy scent. This is the promise of numinous presence.

Perhaps the smell of incense can penetrate the boundaries between worlds.

Perhaps my Catholic grandmother can smell the frankincense and myrrh and – though my rites are not her rites – know the familiarity of it, the suffusion of holiness.

Senetjer.

(* Yes, it even beats out Khnum’s title as “the ba of Ra”. Baaaaaaaaa. Sheep heads sheep heads roly poly sheep heads.)

The Second Wag Festival

So while I was doing research for the Wag Festival previously, I learned that there are in fact two Wag Festivals in the Egyptian calendar. It was not only celebrated on 1 Akhet 18 in the civil calendar, but also 2 Akhet 18 in the lunar calendar.

Which would be today, woops. Unless I counted wrong. (Two days after the full moon in 2 Akhet, for the record, which is a day of the lunar month called ‘the day of the moon’. In this context I would explicitly note that Wesir has affiliation with the moon, as it seems relevant.)

Why the festivals fall in different months I don’t know, though it does mean that they won’t ever fall on the same date, which is something? Perhaps it allows us space to do some differentiation between how we mark them, if we so desire.

I will certainly be marking this festival with the formal commencement of some ancestor rituals that I have been gathering resources for; it seems a good and auspicious time to formally begin. I do not have the wherewithal to do the baking that I did for the fixed Wagy, however. (Anyone who is more adept with the Egyptian language than I am: is the ‘Wagy’ reference perhaps the dual form, such that the Wag Festival was often referred to in a way that indicated its paired nature?)

Relating to my other practices, I have been on and off reading a fair amount of Orion Foxwood’s work of late. And one of the things that he mentioned in The Faery Teachings is that the fairy folk are, in folklore, associated with both the mighty dead and the spirits in and of the land. My particular thought for the moveable Wag was to do honor to the changeable peoples of the spirit world, as a result. It seems to me to be a slightly different angle on much the same thing, and one with relevance to my own personal practices. I’m sure others will have different thoughts for the difference in feel between the fixed and moveable Wag festivals.

(The next hour of the Nut cycle should be up in a day or two. I hope to get my shit together soon and get back to regular posting.)