I don’t know how many of you out there have ever had horses. Or more specifically- have raised horses. But for those of you that haven’t, there is a concept that a horse is useless to a person until they are broke.
When you take a foal and “train” it to wear saddles and tolerate bits and halters, the process if called “breaking” the horse. And one of the selling points of a horse is that they are “broke”. You can’t usually ride the horse or do anything with the horse until this process is finished, and there are a variety of methods for breaking horses – some being very humane, some being very very cruel.
This is a story about a horse being broken.
“There will always be wolves” he tells me after the fact. That is his justification for all of this. “There will always be wolves, and I need to make sure that my children (his word, not mine) can handle that.” You see, to him- raising strong, self-reliant people outranks anything else. The idea that wolves will always be present apparently drives him to break you in. Because I suppose once you’re broken enough and yet are still surviving- that means you can survive anything.
In short, he likes to make “mini-Sets”. But to understand how we got here, we’ve got to go backwards to where this all started.
You see, I hail from the astral-ghetto. I wasn’t always in the ghetto, but sometimes bad things happen, and bad people cross your path and screw up your existence for the next 3457459823484957 years. It was that kind of situation for me. I originally began to work with my astral existence only because I knew I had fallen into trouble, and I feared that my life here would be shortened if I didn’t straighten out some of the crap in my astral life.
Knowing the why behind a situation can really set a scene. It would be years after I started working with Set when I’d be kneeling down on the stone floor of the Pit, contending with all of the trappings of the astral ghetto and losing my patience with this deity. You’d think after all of the hell he had led me through that I’d be okay with anything at this point, but we all have our limits.
I have honestly forgotten how this particular conversation started, but I do remember the hard floor in particular. I know that many people know me for not being someone who worships the gods, but I do know when kneeling is appropriate. And I have spent more than my fair share of time in front of He Who Makes the Sky Shake on my knees. I remember staring at the floor when I lost my patience with him. My patience because he was slowly taking everything that he had pushed me towards in the 4 years prior and throwing it out the window.
That’s how it starts, when you break your horse in. You ween them. You ween them from all of the comfort that they knew.
Set started it with the community. This boat paddling venture is my baby. My whole life revolves around Kemetics and paddling my tiny canoe between as many Kemetic islands as I can muster. And that is where he started.
“That is more my brother’s thing” he told me that particular evening. “I really don’t care too much about what happens with all of that. I don’t need followers. If anything, you pushing more people towards me means I’ve got to fill out more paperwork. I’d probably be better off if you just stopped with that all together.”
I could feel the first cracks in my practice forming. This boat paddling, pot stirring adventure that Set had been
pushing shoving me into- was suddenly not his idea or concern.
I remember the hard floor under my knees. I drag my fingers along the grooves in the stone as I try to find some semblance of sanity in that particular moment. I ask him what on earth he wants me around for- if its not to help promote the ma’at sharing between devotees and gods. That reciprocal back scratching that we’re all supposed to be aiming for.
And as though it was nothing he states his case for me. His future that he sees for me. A future that is completely separate from anything Kemetic related. Something that would, indeed, make me into a ‘mini-Set’. A job that has been known to eat me alive in the past and would shove me ever further into the astral ghetto. A job that would keep me up at night and possibly ruin what little shred of normalcy I have in my waking life.
He looks at me as the smoke wafts up from his pipe. He’s frustrated because this isn’t how he wanted to broach this topic. No no no, he wanted to paint it into something far prettier so that I would be more inclined to say yes. But in this moment- this is how the cards played out, and this is what he has to work with.
Angry at the audacity, I ask him why on earth I would do that for him. And the conversation degrades from there.
And so I left.
Now, when things like this happen, they kinda happen slowly- in ways you don’t realize. I didn’t notice it, but Set had been chipping at this for a while. Little comments here. Little nuances there. Little things that escaped me at first. I think I sped up his timeline by forcing the issue, and so I was no longer allowed to ease into the notion, but instead had the whole house collapse on my head and around my feet. I rolled around in my anger for a couple of weeks. I quit showing up to see Set, and when I finally did speak with him again, I no longer provided offerings or incense upon arrival. I was furious at him, and refused to give him anything but the bare basics of civility.
We’d play this game for a while. We were still on talking terms, but we were nowhere near friendly. He promised to help me figure some stuff out because my life was falling apart- but he’d fall through on that, too.
It was during these months that I really began to question why we worship gods at all- when they seem to be incapable of doing anything worthwhile for most of us. Set would slowly continue to tell me things that broke apart what most of us believed made up the Kemetic practice. He’d slowly unpick every bit of religious structure that I thought was important until there was pretty much nothing left.
And one day I woke up and decided I wanted to burn what was left of my metaphorical house down.
To me the Kemetic community and my Kemetic practice are like living in a house. This blog is part of it, my Kemetic groups and Tumblr associates are a part of it. And with Set more or less ripping apart everything I thought I had known, I felt entirely ostracized from everyone and I felt like my whole “house” might not last the storm. So in order to cut it to the chase- I decided I would burn the whole damned thing to the ground.
I did this in a series of posts that I expected to completely and utterly bomb and fail because they contained hard truths within them. If you’ve been reading for any amount of time, you probably recognize them, they are: The Nuances of Non-Physical Relationships, On Being Broken and Musings on Pain and Astral Travel. Each post has documented my slow breakdown and unlearning of what I thought I had known.
In Nuances, I set up the notion that perhaps gods could overstep our boundaries and push us in places that we shouldn’t go. I set the stage for the next post where I mused over what we should do when a god fails us. These musings were largely ushered in by Set’s seeming disregard for my sanity or lack of concern for my general well-being, I fumbled around with what the hell to do if he pushed me to a point that I could no longer work with him. I rounded this out with the final post on the astral and pain where I mentioned that large chunks of my own life have been destroyed by astral work and that you should consider whether you really want that in your life, lest it consume you entirely.
With each post I worked through my anger with him and grappled with what had happened between us. What the worst part about all of it is – its exactly what he wanted.
And I knew it. I knew from the get-go that this was part of what he wanted.
As he handed the matches to me and told me to torch the whole place, I knew I was playing right into his hands, and it pissed me off even more. “I am going to destroy your stability and your life so that you can go out there and write about how horrible we gods can be.”
The thing about it is, we all “know” that gods can be jerks. We all “know” that they will push us to reach potentials and goals (sometimes our goals, sometimes their goals) and we all “know” that we can say “no”. But sometimes no matter what you do, you are playing right into their hands and there isn’t a damned thing you can do about it.
The deity in question shoves a bit in your mouth and straps a saddle onto your back and you can crowhop and buck and roll around on the ground, but at the end of the day you’re going to succumb to the fact that you are being broken.
Because you’re useless if you’re not broken.
And so in my anger of being the Tesla of Kemetics and the fact that Set gave no fucks about anything, I lit my house on fire and I watched it burn as I released each post. And the weirdest sensation overcame me. I felt liberated.
Liberated. Free. Totally and utterly free of everything as I watched with eagerness over what would happen with each post.
To go back to Blacker’s book, she talks about undergoing gyo, or trials and hardships, when you’re working on your ascetic powers. She says that many people who undergo gyo end up being pushed to a breaking point and when they can no longer take it anymore- suddenly they are filled with renewed vigor and strength- and this is how they manage to get through everything.
I don’t know if that’s what I experienced, or if it was just a case of complete dissociation with everything I had worked to build over the past few years. But either way, I was elated to announce every post that would burn down my house. I was ecstatic to see what would happen.
And now I am at the end of the venture. Despite worrying that I would alienate every other Kemetic and polytheist in a 10 mile radius, my “house” still stands (if not a bit stronger for the adventure). However, despite having come through the house-burning intact, I can’t help but feel like something is still broken.
Because much like with the membrane mentioned in my Astral Pain post- sometimes once the blindfold is ripped off of your eyes, you can’t unsee the blinding light. And even though people have appreciated what I’ve written and I understand why Set led me where he did- at the end of the day, the basics still haven’t changed. He still wants me to do things that I’m not okay with doing, and because of the mental wringer I was run through my Kemetic practice will likely never be what it once was again.
I am, for all intents and purposes, broken in some capacity or another.
I suppose that makes me a good horse in some respects, but now it begs to ask- what do I do from here?