Friday, November 9, 2012

B is for Bast (a case for serious inquiry into the Gods)

Last night I went out with some of my girlfriends, and we were happily plowing through a bookstore. I came across "Gift for the Gods: Images from Egyptian Temples" for 8 bucks! I love getting like-new books for next to nothing.

I'm overjoyed with it. Each item in the text is presented from multiple perspectives, particularly a bronze of Set and a gold statuette of Amun that I have been in love with for years.

"Cougar" by Neheti, 2010 - Cats and Bast, what can I say?
The one figure I didn't see in the book that I'd hoped for was the Goddess Bast.

Bast has been classed as a Goddess of so many things, most of which are erroneous. People ramble that She's the Goddess of Marijuana for goodness sake. *eyeroll* (Hint: She isn't.)

And there we get to a perfect example of one of my least favorite habits that people fall into when it comes to studying the Gods.

I guess the culprit is the structure of most books on mythology. So many of them are structured like so:

Bast (Egyptian): Goddess of Gobbledy-gook.

Well, something like that.

The reality of Gods, of any culture, is that they aren't so easily pigeon-holed.

Bast is one of the Eyes of Ra, a class of Goddesses of ancient Egypt, who serves to protect the world from isfet (uncreation) in the service of Ma'at (order.) She is also associated with perfumes, as evidenced by her hieroglyphics, which includes a perfume jar (bas).

A lot of people make the mistake of writing her name Bastet. The 't' on the end of the name Bast, indicates the fact that She's a Goddess, and with Kemetic words that end in 'et,'  that 'et' serves the same purpose. In a way, using the word Bastet is saying The Goddess of the Bas Jar who is a Woman. It's redundant.

Most modern people associate Bast with the domesticated cat, but a lot of her earlier images show her as a Lioness (which causes a lot of confusion with other Goddesses who have lion forms, like Sekhmet and Mafdet.) But Bast evolved a lot over the span of time of the early Dynasties and the Hellenistic era.

A Goddess with distinct solar attributes (after all She's the Eye of Ra - who is the Sun), by time of the Ptolemies, She was being conflated with Artemis and Selene, and had taken on lunar attributes. She was originally an independent and protective Goddess, but towards the decline of Ancient Egypt, she had come to be known as a Goddess of frivolity and joy. Herodotus shares an unlikely story that the women stand on the banks of the Nile and flash the passersby in Her name.

The complexity of a God doesn't fit easily in any one story or anecdote, and it certainly doesn't fit into a soundbite like what one finds in a dictionary of mythology. Yet that's how people tend to talk about the Gods. Artemis becomes boiled down to the Goddess of the Hunt (which She is, but She's MORE than that.) Bast gets limited down to Her cat features.

Think of learning about a God like learning about a person. It takes time and effort. In the case of a God, it means, for most of us, a lot of studying about the culture that gave birth to them.

If you or I don't fit into a one-line dictionary style definition, how in the world is a deity with thousands of years of history and His or Her own characteristics and personality every supposed to fit into a simple formulaic statement. If hoping for a good relationship with a deity, the least one can do is learn all we can about them.

For more information on Bast, check out the following links:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A is for Ancestors

Shadowe, 16 years old and spunky... but dying from Cancer.
This week, I say goodbye to a very busy year. Between saying goodbye to my 16 year old cat, Shadowe, to almost losing my father-in-law, to my very own medical situation, a lot has changed.

This time last year, I was waiting for surgery on my knee, and basically banished from walking without a brace and a cane. Now, three times a week, I'm walking dogs for over an hour. 

There's a lot to talk about with my Beloved Dead this Samhain. Ancestor worship never used to be a big deal with me, when I was younger. I didn't care about them, really, but over the past few years, my ancestors have become a larger and larger part of my practice, and the list of their names, sadly, has been growing steadily over the past few years. 

I suspect that I looked on death as one of those things that would never happen to me, or to those I loved. Or perhaps, in fact, even romanticized it. Probably a bit of both. 

I'm sure some will think I am still looking on it through a special sort of lens. I'm okay with that. 

Ancestor box waiting to be unpacked for Samhain 2010.
On my path, ancestors are worked with only rarely, but thought of, and even given gifts, often. I maintain a box that I designed just for their things. I keep the gifts I have given them, their photos, and obituaries in it. It also holds the centerpiece of my Samhain rite, my litany of names. 

I've been maintaining one for four or five years now, and each years list is in the box, waiting for this year's contribution. When I feel the veil between this world and the next thinning, as it does each autumn, I sit down and work through each name, preparing a new list. The first year, I included all the various Pagans who've died that I felt needed remembered, and that list is monstrously long. Nowadays, I focus on those who've contributed directly to my being. 

On the date of the astronomical quarter, November 7th, I will cast my circle, and remember them. Some of them are just names, but others are ever-present, and remain living in my heart every day. It is that memory, that reconnection with those who gave me my very existence or who have made it wondrous for the years that we shared, that makes Samhain my favorite holiday. 

Thus it is that my Litany of Names always begins with a quote from Helen Keller: 
"What we once enjoyed we can never lose; all that we love deeply becomes a part of us." 

May your Ancestors smile with pride at the life you are living. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012


I have this thing I do every New Moon at my bedroom altar. I take one of my oracle decks (Earth Magic) and I pull a card that will characterize the next month.

My first warning about last month should've been that I drew the Volcano: Volatility card.

Since then, I got confirmation that I have PCOS, we had a week where our A/C died and we ended up crashing at a friend's house, and I've been on two road trips (one good, one that started good and ended nightmarish.)

I've had to start medication, change my diet, and educate the heck of out myself.

But at the same time, I have answers to questions that have plagued me since I was nine, and now I have something I can do to fix it, or at least, mitigate it.

Ultimately though, the whole mess has left me feeling tender and exhausted. I have more questions than answers about the things that have happened to me around the last month or so, some of which will never be answered.

I've also learned who my real friends are, and that is a precious thing.

So what's my card for this month? Meadow: Vulnerability.

I love it... and hate it... when cards speak so honestly.

I'm also teaching a casual discussion course on magic that's meeting once a month and talking online about all sorts of topics. Our first getting together class was a discussion of the Earth Element. I pulled out almost all my stones (realized after they left just how many I forgot.) I think it went really well.

After everyone was gone and the only thing left to pick up was my monolithic rock collection, I built an altar to the Earth and simply sat with it for a while. I might take the time today to do it again, and include the stones I forgot last time. I'm very much looking forward to the next get-together.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ordinary Genius 1

A few months ago, I picked up Kim Addonizio's Ordinary Genius. It's a series of discussions on poetry, awareness, and writing. I was writing poetry long before I ever had a pencil or paintbrush in my hand. The earliest poems were typical teenaged drivel about love and about how unfair life seemed to be. (Visit Kim Addonizio and check out her books here.)

There were a few jewels. I read one about a friend who died from cocaine overdose at a poetry reading when I was 18 or so, and it went over well with the audience. 

But when poetry, and fiction writing comes into the fore, my paintings and drawings fall back. And visa versa. I can only create so much. 

I'm in the middle of painting a Shoebill, and alternately thinking he's finished and think I should paint over him and start over. And that was when I found myself picking up Addonizio's book.

The first few chapters were absorbed in a flash, and I found myself itching to write poetry. The last time that I wrote poetry, we had just come home from visiting my mother, who has been slowly fading and who had been sick. I had to do something with those feelings of helplessness and pain. One of my favorite pieces came from that period. 

Grey Leather (2011)

by ~Neheti

I wrap my arms around this leather sack
The bones click beneath the embrace
Blades of the shoulders carving me open
The grey sack smiles with grey eyes
That used to be black as night
And I peel away afraid,

I wrap my arms around this leather sack
of wasted flesh and lengthy years
and shards of femur and ulna scrape
leaving scars of pink and drops of blood
The grey sack shifts against me
worn down by time and poverty.
overcome, I want to flee
to deny what this has become.

I wrap my arms around this leather sack
the smell of old cigarettes and rot fills my nose with nausea
The jaw bones clack and snap with lazy abandon
So heavy in my heart
My tears get swallowed back
and I fear
I hear my mother's voice.

I'm sure that it needs further refining, and I've reworked it a few times since. 

But now, now I'm writing purely for enjoyment, as opposed to catharsis. There's certainly some pain in some of what has come out, but there's also humor, and joy. 

On Turning 99

No one will care if a careless fuck slips from my toothless mouth.
I'll still dance and sing and rant and
bring my best flirtations
to make my beloved smile. 
I'll lift my shirt
and remind him how much
we made each other
In my chair, I'll rule my roost with impunity (but fairly)
run off those young'uns in their sixties and seventies
unless they're cute.
I'll sing along in spit of my deafness
and embarrass my nieces and nephews. 
No one will know what to do with me
as I stomp and shimmy
my way to the end. 

I'll be glorious
and beautiful
right to that mysterious
five seconds after
my beloved finds his doom
and I follow.

It needs a smidge of edits, but it's not a bad start. It made my husband smile, and made us both tear up, which is exactly what I was going for. 

(I'm planning on continuing to share some of these poems as I go, so I guess this is a whole new blog type. ;) )

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dreaming the Gods

Dreams are funny things. Sometimes you can wander through them and point out just where each bit came from in your daytime world. "Oh, hey that's from watching such and such on TV!" you think.

Then there are the other dreams. Sometimes they're haunting, visions of the past, of ghosts. And sometimes, just sometimes, the Gods themselves figure prominently.

When I was younger, I didn't dream often at all, and if I did, they faded promptly upon opening my eyes. Or I had nightmares. If I remembered a dream, it was because it was a True Dream, one that would someday come true (and those are nothing like storybooks describe them to be - the real deal is deadly boring. I mean really, who wants to dream about listening to a class lecture that you're one day going to attend? Or about looking around a house?)  

So I keep a dream journal.  

And there are dreams that are the thing of legend. Epic, exciting, and practically made for being turned into a book.

I dreamt such a thing last night. I am sharing it with you.

Zeus Meilikkos
The Gods of Olympus looked down upon the mortals. Zeus, the Bringer of Rain, Most High, looked out and did not like what he saw, and it made his heart ache, for it would seem that the people of the Earth had forgot the laws which he had given them.
He gathered the pantheon together, considering us. The way that we dishonor the gifts that the Gods have given us. How we dishonor each other.
And he was heartbroken.

Now many years ago, Zeus had chanced upon a beautiful woman when he was wondering upon the lands of men. As should not surprise you, my friends, he seduced her, and in time, she was with child. Her son, handsome and strong, grew to be a man that Zeus loved very much.

But with the troubles that now plagued the earth, Zeus feared that it would be necessary to end the age of Iron, the age of men.
Until now, when the Gods had to discuss how to best confront the mortals. Would it be a war?

Zeus' son somehow learned of the possibility of what the Gods were speaking.
He came unto his father, and begged, argued, cajoled.
And then he sacrificed his own divine spark, his demi-godhood, becoming one of the mortals that Zeus would have to end, in hopes that the Giver of Good would not have the heart to follow through with his slaughter.

The Gods held their wrath back, and the son of Zeus returned to the world below, with hope that the troubles that mortalkind had wrought could be healed, and that the Gods would grant them but a little more time to do so.

Take it as you will. Or don't.
It is as a dreamed it, rendered poorly in my own words. In the dream, I was a witness, and nothing more. So I share it with you. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leaping into a Spa Day

Since mid-January life around here has been defined by one word: STRESSFUL.

We found out our cat has cancer, and various family crises have left all of us feeling utterly incapacitated.

Today, I decided to make all about relaxation.

Starting with a hot bath. And recipes for a new revitalized sense of self.

Honey Milk Bath

1/2 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup warm honey (heat up a saucepan of water and let the opened honey jar warm in the water at a low heat. Check on it regularly.)
2 teaspoons olive oil

Add to your bathwater and relax.

Oatmeal Spice Honey Mask
1/2 cup warm honey
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup oatmeal
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Mix well in a bowl. Pull your hair back out of your face. Apply on your face (I do it with my hands because I use this stuff while I soak in my milk bath, but you can also use a spoon or baking spatula.) Allow to sit on your face for 15-30 minutes and wash off with warm water. Then apply moisturizer.

Enjoy! I know I'm going to.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Old Charges

I'm deep into my Imbolc tradition of sorting through every drawer, nook and cranny and purging what isn't necessary. Sometimes I find treasures I could never part with, and sometimes there's a pile of donations and trash that might suggest that I'm battling some deep issues.

Every once in a while I find something really good from my spiritual path that I feel compelled to record or tweak or otherwise do what I can to preserve it. This time I thought I'd share.

What follows is a pair of re-written Charges based on the lessons written by Jet for the Dragon's Wheel Witchcraft classes. They're way more gender-balanced than my practice is today (I'm not much into dichotomy today, really... and polarity doesn't work for me at all anymore. Spectra are much better for me today.) In spite of that, I see some jewels shining here, enough that I felt compelled to share.

This is pre-Hekate, and pre-Kemetic... so likely about 2002ish? Not sure really.

Without further delay...

Charge of the Ineffable Goddess

By flame, by thorn and bloom
by ocean, by glade and desert
by blood, by pain and pleasure
I speak the wisdom of the Ages

The ages pass and are but moments for me
Yet I hear each word you speak
Long have I stood and watched you march
the progress of your days.

I am the spark that changes,
the flesh that calls your need,
the death that is a door
the cry of the newborn freed

pound frustrations in my presence
sing dirges in my sight
tell me of your romance
whisper hoarsely of your pains

I am the mother of creation
the devourer of worlds
the child you long to see
the lover's kiss upon you

My beloved here beside me
I have taught you how to sing
to dance and move with grace
and honor as your guide

cherish the gifts around you
embrace the days you see
Give thanks for every shadow
for they allow you to see

I am the marrow and the blood,
the heart of all creation
Embrace me in light and dark
sense my presence at your side

Along the path of choice
only you may ride
act not in hubris
but pursue your truest Will

For though these words be truthful
know the awful fact,
though I am known,
I am ineffable and free.

Charge of the Ineffable God

By horn, by blade and hoof
By forest, by field and glade
by blood, bone and spirit
I speak the wisdom of the ages

Ageless I am
I was young and ancient
when humanity first saw me

I am the leaping fire
of hearth and soul
the dancing of the ages
the march of time
the martial drum
the whisper of sages

Tell me of your sorrows
bring to me your joys
sing to me your rages
and shout to me your fears

I am the father of your spirit
the child of your past
the son you lost to illness
the daughter never come to pass

my lady love beside me
I challenge you to stand
strong in Will and honor
to travel your own path

Beauty shall you cherish
and thanks shall fill your heart
compassion be your guidance
and the warrior in your soul

Never shall we part
for I am within every soul
Hunt me in the darkness
perceive me in the light
Sense my aegis and my love
but do not swell too far with pride

For though these words be spoke in truth
they are too small and frail
a simple of my nature
I am ineffable and free.