I’ve been reading Carmen Blacker’s “The Catalpa Bow” recently, which is a book on shamaism within Japan.
In this book, Blacker goes over the practices and rituals that a medium or ascetic (her terms) must go through in order to gain their abilities. One of the most common themes within these regimes is pain that would break an “ordinary” person. Pain comes in many forms including a very strict, malnourishing diet, cold buckets of water poured over a person- regardless of the temperature outside, sleeplessness and repetition of numerous norito and sutras. According to the people who practice these routines, they describe the experiences as excruciating- but at the very moment when they think they can’t hack it anymore, they suddenly find themselves filled with renewed energy and gusto.
One evening, after a night of pot stirring, I was musing on the nature of death. It’s very common for me to hit rock bottom regularly, and I had been teetering above that point regularly at the time. I noted that, despite my recent low- that evening I was particularly focused and clear. Things made sense, and I felt as though my fire and clarity had returned me- however brief. While I was thinking over this, Set shows up and asks me if I had ever considered that perhaps it is death that gives me my fuel and drives me forward.
Or perhaps it could be phrased if I had ever considered if death gives me my sekhem.
And that’s when I connected the dots between what Blacker had described in her books, and what I had been experiencing all along in the Pit and the River. Whenever I hit the bottom of the bottom, I find myself in these places and I die a little death. And in the convulsions of death, I am ripped apart and I shed my old skin, and I resurface, filled with more energy to continue on another day.
Sometimes the death isn’t small. Sometimes its really really big.
Sometimes I will find myself laying in a mental anguish for weeks wondering how the hell I’m going to figure a way out of this mess that is my life. There are many times when I lay there and think that I seriously have hit rock bottom and I just can’t do this anymore.
And it never fails that when I hit the lowest of the low that somehow I am reborn. Much like the mythos surrounding Osiris, I mentally rip myself apart until there is nothing left, and then when I can’t even find myself anymore, I am hit with a sudden onset of clarity and find it within me to step forward and keep moving onward.
Tonight is one of those such nights. After weeks of rolling around in a mental and physical fog- I am struck with such clarity that my mind feels like it’s going to break open at any given second because it just makes that much sense to me. Much like the people in Blacker’s book who go through weeks of hell as a means to strip their bodies of any excess so that they may be rendered barren to be reborn anew, I have wallowed in my own mental filth long enough to break free and in so doing, have hit a type of epiphany for myself.
In this, I research about the Sekhem Scepter to further understand what Set is referring to when discussing the source of my sekhem. And it is during this search in my Reading Egyptian Art book that I find out that Osiris is heavily tied to the Sekhem Scepter. In fact, one of his epithets is “Great Sekhem” or “Foremost of Powers”. Combine this with Set’s inability to ever die and it becomes even clearer how these two form the duality that is not only my cracked out practice, but myself.
One never dies. He constantly becomes reborn and in so doing, knows how to show another how to consistently claw your way back to the surface. The other can show you the ins and outs of the process of dying and being reborn because he had to go through it himself. In fact, if you will remember – it is the undying Set who pushed Osiris into the transformation that is death. Osiris can show you the ins and outs because his brother gave him the literal shove into the process.
My new thinking is that if you work with both and you can become adept at both. You can learn how to die and yet never die. You constantly become the person to initiate the death, work through the death and come out of the death still breathing, but better for it. An endless cycle that perpetuates upon itself.
He tells me that this is the source of my Sekhem, my power. That it is a part of me. Vital to me. That it is me.
I’m not sure what to make of that.