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Healing and Destruction: Two Sides of the Same Coin

When I was younger, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals, and I thought it would be a nice idea to help heal and save the animals that I loved. That is until I realized that in order to be a vet, you must be willing and able to also kill animals when treatment was not available or working. And with the mention of that, I decided the profession was not for me. Life’s funny like that, because despite my best efforts to move away from death and destruction, my life Over There landed me neck deep in both. Over the years I have made a lot of vague passing comments about the nature of my life Over There, but I’ve never really gone into any amount of depth or detail regarding the work I do. As with most everything I do, this has been done on purpose, as I’ve always felt that talking about it would result in one of two things: people looking at me like I’ve lost my marbles while they whisper “special snowflake” to their closest friends, or people looking at me with horror while they call me a monster. Both options lead to suck so I’ve never bothered.

However, recent discussions about the nature of ma’at and the nature of the gods has led me to decide to finally open up about some of what I do Over There. I guess we can consider it getting an early start to the work Set has laid out for me this year.

Usually when I sum up my work Over There, I de-fang and sterilize everything down to “I heal and destroy”. It sounds pretty simple and straightforward, but it’s honestly anything but. I’ve noticed over the years that many people seem to have troubles understanding how these two things can live so closely together, as seen by goddesses such as Sekhmet. However, let me assure you that the two are opposite sides of the same coin, as with the veterinarian mentioned above. In order to be able to heal, you must also be adept at being able to kill, and one can easily lead into the other.

I never expected to end up in this role, and taking up this sort of “work” happened very organically- at least on my end. I still can’t tell if Set and Osiris came to me because they foresaw what I was capable of doing, or if this is all just icing on top of their already made cake. At first I tried to escape the role that lay before me. However, the more I ran, the faster it caught up with me, and eventually I ended up embracing what was laying at my feet. Anything else resulted in more discomfort. Sometimes it’s easier to find solace in what you are than to continually deny what is written in front of your face.

Much like with my gods where Set came first and Osiris followed, my work started with destruction and I didn’t learn some of the finer points of healing until much later. Destruction came very easily to me from a very early point in my astral work. This is mainly due to my ability to access the deeper points of people Over There. I don’t even have to really try, and I can fall into some of the deepest darkest parts of a person or a plane (because planes can have embodiments and cores, just as humanesque entities do), places where it’s very easy to do damage. Waking up neck deep in astral fuckery meant that I had to kill sometimes in order to survive. Sometimes I needed to destroy a place, person, or item in order to get away and restore some semblance of balance or totality to my existence. Destruction was very necessary when I first started out. I had to clear out the wreckage of my house in order to actually address the foundations below.

The need to heal people was pretty quick to follow, though. Turns out that when you’re popping up in these horrible places to collect parts of yourself, you often find other people who are just as screwed up as you are. I found myself wanting to help these people, and wanting to help heal them as best as I could. I also think that I secretly hoped that I would be able to avoid killing things because healing them was the solution to everything. I didn’t realize at the time that this isn’t really the case- healing is not always a solution, nor is it always the best solution.

Shortly after, Osiris began to teach me how to use the river to heal myself and others as well. We’d branch from using my particular river to using vats of water in general. I learned various methods of picking nasty bits out of people’s energy lines, and I began to work on learning how to heal cores and core spirits. I felt as though I might have found a solution to everything- I would heal whatever I came across instead of killing it.

The problem is, healing doesn’t really work that way.

Death and destruction are part of a healer’s arsenal. When someone from Over There opens up their proverbial medical bag, death and destruction are one of the first things to be pulled out. The first method that Osiris showed me, after all, involved drowning in order to facilitate the ability to heal. It doesn’t get much more morbid than that.

And even if you’re not using death or destruction to heal, sometimes killing is still an unavoidable side effect. Sometimes you work your ass off trying to heal someone, and the healing still does not stick. The healing doesn’t work because the person isn’t ready, or in some cases, the person doesn’t even want to be healed anymore. I had a man that I ended up calling Waffles because he kept waffling in his healing so much. Some weeks he wanted to live and wanted to stay with me forever. And then other weeks he’d withdraw entirely, and wish for death.

Eventually, the death won out. Part of being the healer is being able to put someone out of their misery if you need to (or if they want it). Another part of being a healer is being able to put someone down if they are becoming a serious danger to you or others. Sometimes death is the best way to facilitate the healing. And of course, we can’t forget the other popular end result- which is when the healing works out so well that the person passes on by their own choice, leaving you with a surprisingly empty room one morning. All of these results are not only possible, but common when it comes to healing Over There.

To bring this into a more mundane aspect, you can even see destruction in the healing we perform here on Earth. Ever taken antibiotics? That involves killing bacteria in your system in order to get better. Destruction facilitates the restoration of balance within your system. Destruction can sometimes lead to ma’at – which is exactly why we have less than peaceful deities in our pantheon. Sometimes peace and passivity are not the answer.

And perhaps that is why I have ended up with the selection of gods that I have. Set’s destruction and Osiris’ passivity give me the best of both worlds, and in many ways both of their tasks fall into the same category: healing, or the restoration of balance for a person, plane, or realm. Sometimes killing and death are required in order to restore that balance. Sometimes good old fashioned nurturing and healing are required to restore the balance. Sometimes you need both in equal measure.

I was once hopeful that I could use all of what I have learned regarding healing to wipe away all of the red on my hands from everything I have destroyed or killed. But since then I have learned that healing doesn’t wipe the red away. It simply adds to the richness of the color. Life without death does not exist, nor does healing exist without destruction, as both are inseparably linked.

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A Good Horse: 6 Months Later

Last year I had asked all of my readers to consider what they would do when a god pushes too far. To consider how they would react if the relationships they had with one or more of their deities suddenly fell apart and exploded all around them. How would they rebuild? How would they proceed with their religious endeavors?

It’s not an easy thing to answer. With something like a house, its very straight forward. You clear away the rubble and you rebuild your foundations. In short, you start from scratch. But with a relationship, especially a relationship with a non-physical entity, its not so clear cut. How do you start from scratch with a god? How to you rebuild the trust that was lost? How do you overcome the anger and hurt that you feel so that you can even look at one another again without scowling?

How do we take a relationship that has gone bad and get it back into neutral territory?

Marseille, statue, cheval, stone horse by Jeanne Menj via Flickr

Last year I got to experience first hand what happens when a long term relationship falls apart. I got to be on the receiving end of a deity that went too far and we both got to experience the results of what happens when I’m pushed to my limits. Last year, I got to experience what it was like to essentially be broken. At the time that it was happening, I knew that there was a reason for it. I knew that I needed to go through this first hand so that I could report back to everyone else and teach them how to do it better than I did. I knew that this was all part of a bigger picture plan that Set was concocting and that his words were both laced with truth and falsity all at once. And above all, I knew that there was no stopping it.

I knelt down on the ground and listened to him tell me that I was good at destroying things. I felt the lump in my throat as he told me that the community wasn’t everything that I needed to be doing. I felt that lump sink to my chest in the fall when Osiris told me that he was the other side to Set’s coin, and that their work for me would be in tandem. And then the lump fell into my stomach when fall shifted to winter and I realized that both of them were right in their own ways.

This is a 6 month check in on how I coped with my falling out with Set. This is also a story on how I have attempted to rebuild the foundations of my relationship with Set and Osiris.

_____________________

After Set and I had our initial blow up, things were incredibly tense. The next few weeks were filled with short and snippy conversations. A few weeks after that, those short conversations shifted into yelling matches. And within a month or so, we were almost not talking at all. By the time that I had released my Good Horse post, we were pretty much not speaking unless we had to. Any time I’d show up to work with Set, he’d stand there and stay silent. He figured that opening his mouth meant that he could insert his foot, and so in his eyes, silence trumped speaking.

Truth be told, this was probably for the best. As soon as Set realized he had done some major damage, he stepped back and gave me space. He got mildly better at not reacting if I yelled at him. Instead he’d stand there quietly and keep his comments to himself. I was given space because more pressure on his end would have only made it worse.

So when a god fails you, I would say that the best first step is some breathing room. You and the deity need some space to get your thoughts together. How long this period needs to be will vary. I didn’t start talking to Set again until after I got back from the Duat. That is about 2 months of yelling and barely talking, and nearly 3 or 4 months of not speaking at all.

About the same time that Set completely backed off from me, I noticed that Wpwt stepped forward. I can’t tell if Wpwt has long term aims for me or not, but I certainly know that his sudden appearance was not coincidental. I joke about how Set must have cornered him in a bar and cried on Wpwt’s shoulder about how badly he had screwed up, and how he then begged Wpwt to do something to fix it, and for all I know the joke is accurate.

Either way, Wpwt came forward and began to talk with me about the situation I found myself in. For the record, Wpwt is much smoother with his words than Set is. He offered me perspective about not only my situation, but the situation that Set was in. He highlighted the difficulties that the whole pantheon faces in this day and age, and he gave me other ways to look at things.

In other words, he initiated the process of my shifting of attitude towards Set. Had Wpwt not talked with me, I don’t know how long it would have taken me to realize these things. Even now, I am grateful for his assistance with the whole situation.

So the second step in repairing a messed up devotee/deity relationship is to gain perspective. This can be through other deities or other practitioners. Wpwt talked to me about how Set’s hands are bound in a lot of ways by the upper echelons of the pantheon. He talked to me about how things are not as smoothly running as we’d like to believe. He knocked some sense into my head so that I could, at the very least, start being in the same room with Set without throwing things at him.

He began the process of healing for the whole situation.

By this point, Osiris had taken center stage and I was preparing to fall into the Duat. Due to the circumstances I was in, I wouldn’t see Set at all until I came out the other side, and by the time the “other side” came, I found that I was angry with both deities, and that I’d need to work on figuring out what to do with both of my relationships.

But why was I so angry? That’s probably the question on everyone’s mind. I’ve been dancing around just what Set asked me last year, and what Osiris told me he had in mind for my future with him because I’ve not been sure how everyone would respond to it. But it’s really hard to follow the whole story without having the actual whole story to go off of.

The long and short of what Set and Osiris have asked of me is this:

Set would like to use my abilities as someone who can kill and destroy over in the Unseen. According to him, he is bound by paperwork and red tape, and that there are some places, realms, and people he can’t get to because of it. I would be someone he would send to a location behind the scenes. I’d go in, handle the person, and leave. The downside to this is that it creates a huge target on your back and can create a lot of problems if you realm-jump regularly. Nothing like landing in a realm only to be thrown in jail because you killed someone important. Plus, it creates a lot of mental stress for me, and I’d be neck deep in death, which I don’t like.

Osiris wants me to heal and work with dead people. He says the Duat needs healing, that the land itself needs repair. And that dead spirits need care too. He would like to see me develop these skills both here and in the Unseen.

Both are interested in my community work, but that’s more Set’s bent.

Both deity’s requests center around my ability to tinker in someone’s core. To heal someone effectively, you need to go to their source, their core. To kill someone totally, you need to destroy their source, their core. Both the life and death aspect of things are tied together through one common skillset. Both Set and Osiris are tied together in this, and they know it.

For them, these tasks are not a “you pick one or the other”. It’s more a case of “you get both of us together and you will deal with it.” These two are tied together through a death, and I think in a grand scheme kind of way, it makes sense.

Well great. I understand their link, but both of these aspects still leave me in situations I don’t want to be in. They both leave me dealing with death on a regular basis.

However, more and more I question my ability to escape some of the aspects that I dislike about my astral life. The notion of somehow falling off of the radar to live a quiet life is unlikely for a variety of reasons. At least if I had a god’s backing, it may give me some political bargaining power in at least a few realms.

After my time in the Duat was done, Osiris sent me home to rest. I didn’t leave my bedroom for probably a month while I waited for my body to heal up. During that time, I had a lot of hours to kill, and I killed them mulling the situation I was in. I weighed the pros and the cons, I concocted ways to get out of things, to circumvent things, to find a way to spin this more in my favor.

I started by leveling with them. I talked with them about what I truly needed to make this work. I asked them to give me answers about specific questions (such as: how are you going to keep me from losing my mind from all of this? How will we handle my stress from all of this? What will you do when my anxiety starts to kill me?). I am currently waiting on their responses to these questions. I began to ask better questions about what they are planning. I began to work on handling my anxiety in the Seen so that I could at least consider their proposals, which I still don’t have in a final format.

All of these emotions and anger and frustration and I’m right where they wanted me to begin with. I’m sitting down at the bargaining table, trying to at least get an in-depth understanding of what they want from me.

And that is where I am at six months later. I am still a little bitter and frustrated at them, but no longer seething with anger or rage. I’m beginning to understand that the Unseen is filled with tricksters and tinkerers, and that the gods are no exception. No one is immune to it. And so I’m trying to figure out how to make this work in my favor because I currently can’t figure out a way to get out of it entirely. It will probably still be another year before I make any decisions, but at least I can gather my information now and move forward slowly.

Although the fact that I am considering their offers really makes me wonder if I was actually broken in as a horse would be. Does this mean that they won? Is that even the correct way to look at it? I’m not sure.

_____________________

I get that this post is long, so I’m going to sum up the short version here:

When a god dicks you over, I consider doing the following:

  • Give each other space. This includes from the deity’s side. Ask them to give you time to process things.
  • Get perspective if you can. Whether from other Unseen entities/gods or from devotees or other people you know. Weigh the perspectives to see what you want to do moving forward.
  • Take things slowly. Don’t let anyone bully you into moving quicker than you are comfortable with.
  • If it appears that the relationship is too far destroyed, look into getting some godly back-up and assistance in severing the connection with that god.
  • If the relationship can be salvaged, I recommend talking it out with the god. Being honest and frank with one another with where you are at. This may take months to accomplish, so take your time. Not everything needs to be addressed in one conversation.

As for my own deity relationships:

I was pissed at Set and Osiris for throwing me into things I question if I can handle. However, recent events have made me seriously consider what they have in the future for me, and I am currently working on a number of things to see if its something I can hack. Our bargaining is on-going, and I wouldn’t expect anything final for a number of months.

 

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A Good Horse

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.

Yes, 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.

“Match” by Ian Hayhurst

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?

 
 

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