This past Saturday evening, I had the pleasure of leading a workshop on ancient Egyptian magic at World Tree Healing bookstore and metaphysical resource center here in Chicago. Called “Hands-On Heka,” the workshop I devised featured an overview on the three types of magic, as I classify them, that we know that ancient Egyptians of all social strata practiced: funerary magic, ritual magic, and everyday (sometimes referred to as “crisis-mode”) magic. From this latter category, I devised a devotional ritual to the great goddess Sekhmet, Lady of Power, which featured a historically verified spell meant to reverse the Evil Eye. The spell involved the creation of a papyrus talisman, which we did together as a group based on a hieroglyphic prayer I created to evoke Sekhmet’s aid for spiritual protection. However, there was follow-up work for the ritual participants/workshop attendees to do once they returned to their homes: once activated, the papyrus talisman had to be “put to work” in what is arguably history’s oldest form of the Witch Bottle.
I just returned home from burying my beloved animal companion of the past 12 years–my cat Thor–on my parents’ property. I am exhausted, and tears have freely commingled with sweat and snot on my dirtied, makeup-smeared face. I look like a parody of a zombie meant to spring out upon unwary, cash-paying visitors to “haunted house” attractions in this Halloween season. Everything about me feels “off” today because it’s plain that my visible manifestations of grief, what used to be publicly acknowledged as mourning, are no longer welcome in this death-denying, youth extolling, commodifying, grinding capitalist world where productivity comes at the expense of our collective humanity. A grinding world where, especially when it comes to the loss of a treasured companion animal, one is met with snide remarks of “Get over it–it’s not like a person died” or “It was just a cat. The city is crawling with them; just go get yourself a new one.”
This grinding world is the locus of disenfranchised grief, which noted grief expert Dr. David Kessler defines as “a type of grief that other people might deem as ‘less than'” (You Can Heal Your Heart, p. 136). Pet loss is the most common form of disenfranchised grief; the losses women experience after undergoing an abortion or experiencing a miscarriage are even more glaringly absent from any form of public discourse.
You know you’ve been investing a lot of energy in public Pagan rituals when it takes you an entire week to replenish yourself! That’s always a delicate balance to walk: acts of service to your Powers and your city’s spiritual community while ensuring that your own personal reserves of energy don’t get depleted. And when you add the effects of a full moon total lunar eclipse in the mix, it goes without saying that you’re going to be living in what the ancient Chinese proverb refers to as “interesting times”!
Yet it was all well and good last weekend when the 22nd Annual Fellowship of Isis (FOI) Chicago Goddess Convention held sway in the city! The time-honored tradition of FOI clergy and friends/members of the Chicago Pagan community at large and representatives of other groups and traditions/Kemetic devotees/and curious seekers gathering together for a weekend of exchanging ideas, partaking of public ritual, celebrating, and welcoming the energies of transformation is alive and well.
The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.
How I would like to believe in tenderness–
The face of the effigy, gentled by candles,
Bending, on me in particular, its mild eyes.
I have fallen a long way.
–Sylvia Plath, “The Moon and the Yew Tree” (1961, lines 17-22)
The more that I think about it, the less I believe what I experienced at 4:52 this morning was the ending of a dream. It was more of a spontaneous shamanic journey, the kind I’d had with disturbing regularity in the first two years of my brother Mark’s death. What I know for certainty was that I was in the Duat, and Sekhmet was next to me. She panted/grunted while scenting the air, Her lioness nuzzle awash in blood. Her pupils were massive, dilated, and gleaming like actual carnelian stones. Torch light either gleamed from behind or radiated from within Her. There was a wall behind us. We stood within a long, dark corridor. I knew unequivocally that Sekhmet protected me fiercely against evil entities that wanted to harm me. She fed on them. I was afraid–not of Her, but of where we were. I wanted out. And no sooner did I think that than did I feel myself being rapidly “plucked” upwards–in sheer nanoseconds. It was a jolting sensation, but I felt myself being pulled up out of the ground–even through my bed’s mattress!–before “crash landing” back into my body. I gasped and thrashed a bit–hitting my fiancé in the process–before sitting up and grabbing my iPhone from my nightstand. 4:52. Continue reading
Fellow Virgos, it’s time to cash in our karma coupons! The Big Daddy of our solar system, Jupiter, has officially entered our Sun Sign (in the 1st House of Self) and will remain there for the next 14 months! Make the most of this auspicious period and welcome Jupiter’s blessings of abundance, joy, expansion, vitality, well-being, and just plain ol’ good luck! It seems we’re way overdue for this outpouring of benevolence–the past two years have been pretty rough, eh?–so who better than the planet dubbed the “Great Benefic” to bestow this cornucopia of goodness in our Sun Sign of the Bona Dea, the nurturing Earth Mother! Boom-shakah-lakah!
If any of my coworkers happen to be reading this, they’ll learn in advance that I plan on calling in a sick day for work tomorrow, as my kidneys are in extraordinary pain. The infection I was diagnosed with last Monday has only worsened with the antibiotics regimen I commenced that day. I was hardly experiencing any pain when I saw my primary care doctor; by the following morning, a dull thud in the middle of my back morphed into a screaming, burning pain that’s only gotten worse in the course of the week.
When I’m in the midst of ritual activity, my body takes a back seat to corporeality, if that makes any sense; instead, an involuntary process of readying myself to be a fitting receptacle for engaging Powers and spirits overrides whatever biological processes I might otherwise find to be more pressing concerns (e.g., hunger, fatigue, having to relieve my bladder, etc.). Given that all last week had me in rounds of devotional rituals during the Epagomenal Days, I dismissed my kidney pain and the regimented schedule of antibiotics and other meds as inconveniences to be dealt with at a later time.
The night of July 31 witnessed the most frenzied activity and invoked many a fiery correspondence: the Blue Moon would wind up overseeing my participation in the Polytheist Day of Protest Against Daesh, wherein I unleashed a doozy of a curse with the aid of a variety of Deities I invoked from the Fertile Crescent as well as Egypt and Greece—Nebet-Het (whose birthday was celebrated in the fifth and final Epagomenal Day; She is also my Patroness), Sekhmet, Set, and the Triple Hekate I honor at both the night of Dark of the Moon as well as Full Moon: Hekate Khthonia, Hekate Brimo, and Hekate Phosphoros. The vessel for my curse was my workhorse of a massive cast iron cauldron and the roaring fire it contained; the fire was comprised of a base of rubbing alcohol (91%) and epsom salts, to which I added my own urine, cactus quills from Texas, asfoetida, and powdered ague root and leaves. Continue reading
Ognjena Marija: “Fiery Mary,” Serbian Folk Religion, and the Powers Prevailing Over the Destructive Heat of Summer
Few times of the year are busier for me in terms of religious activity than the period leading from the end of July to the beginning of August. Continue reading