Personal Mythology: Exploring Kemet 2

The text message screen reads:


Who are you???

Who are you???

Who are you???

Who are you???

One question at a time.

Ha ha.

Would you believe I’m your conscience?

that was a sarcastic laugh btw

Yes, I gathered that.

no, i don’t believe you’re my conscience.
seriously, i haven’t spoken to anyone in weeks.
Do you know where i am? Or how to leave?

and who ARE you???

I know it may seem hard to believe, but I don’t
want to tell you who I am because you won’t
believe me.

i believe in a lot of weird stuff i didn’t last
month, and i just saw some really weird shit. try me

I am the Egyptian god of knowledge, magic
and writing, the thrice-great ibis god Thoth.


Look, if you don’t want to tell me who you are,
you don’t have to. is there anything you can tell me
about this place? ive been lost for weeks!

That, I can do.

My “thrice-great” new best friend with a weird sense of humor texts for so long I start to wonder if he’s just typing random buttons to mess with me, and then my phone dings repeatedly with each new message as one full paragraph after another pops up before my eyes, much too fast to be anything but a prepared story, copy/pasted piece by piece:

There once was a land named Kemet. It was rich and famous, powerful and ancient. Its people were convinced they were the holiest of all people, the wisest of all nations. Powerful pharaohs immortalized their accomplishments throughout successful reigns, only for their successors to deface their statues and erase their legacies in vain attempts to guarantee their own posthumous fame, at the expense of another’s.

The empire was mighty and colorful and feared by is neighbors. Its people were well-fed and well-educated, pious and eloquent, old-fashioned and proud. They were born through the pain of their mothers, played by rivers or in the burning sun; they told jokes to each other, worked hard, got drunk, fell in love, raised families, and when it was their time, they died. They hoped to join Osiris’ holy kingdom in death, to be vindicated by the feather of ma’at and allowed eternal life in presence of their gods.

There is much more to tell about these people, but unfortunately, we must focus on their demise. When it was Kemet’s time, it fell, and its people suffered and died just as their foreign neighbors had. Osiris’ kingdom slowly received less and less, until it appeared that Kemet was no more, existing only in the dreams of the living and forgotten upon waking. But dreams are a kingdom in their own right, and some strange beings can build a home for themselves out of dreams.

That is where you are, child. Kemet’s last territory: our kingdom of memories and dreams.

I read the words with a strange mix of incredulous skepticism, and a small but steadily growing anxiety at the eerie familiarity of this story. No matter how far it stretches my suspension of disbelief, it just feels true. With shaking fingers, I type a reply:

And ghosts.

We’ve got a few of those, yes.

I wonder why I expected them to deny it, and a shudder sucker-punches me with a sudden inability to ignore the growing terror. If I thought I was afraid when I believed I was completely alone, it’s nothing compared to realizing I am less alone than I would like to be, after all.

srsly, what do i call u?

Thrice-Great, if you must. And what should
I call you, O smarmy neophyte?

Like hell I’m telling this weirdo my name.

how bout u just call me smarmy neophyte?

Very well. Smarmy it is.

I spend the longest period of time in one spot that I have since I entered the ruins, asking questions and trying to convince the mysterious figure to play it straight with me. I quickly (privately) conclude that whoever it is, they’re not the sort of person I would otherwise talk to for very long. They go on informative tangents about seemingly random topics, often concluding with a moral lesson about the subject matter rather than practical answers to my questions. It’s not unlike talking to a professor who’s trying to stick to his lesson plan despite the fact that I’m lost, cold, hungry, and scared -for the moment, I’m more concerned with finding my way out than learning about Egyptology. I’m able to gather that they are claiming this place is a sort of psychic otherworldly mirror to the place’s physical ruins, one populated by the ideas, ghosts, spirits, and gods of the culture it had hosted when it lived.

I find the idea fascinating, and after witnessing this place’s bizarre magical properties firsthand, I have no reason to assume they are lying -although the claim that “the gods live much further in, if you continue trying to leave you’re unlikely to encounter them anyways” to sound suspiciously convenient for someone who once claimed to be one of said gods, but refused to talk on the phone or send a picture, claiming they “can only send words”. Give me a break. If you’re going to impersonate a god, I thought, you should at least make it sound convincing. Who does this guy think he’s fooling? I save the number in my contacts as “Thrice Great” (noting that there still is no phone number in the contact information), and jokingly start referring to him as 3G as both a callback to his absurd claim, and to the strange pockets of magical Wi-Fi that make our conversations possible.

But despite his lack of candor, my new friend obviously knows their way around this place. 3G tells me how to navigate through the halls I’ve already seen. Apparently the routes change somewhat predictably, according to the “hour of the night and the position of the stars”, and even if I manage to find my way back to the right “special dimensions”, I may have to wait until the same day and hour next year to safely travel back to Earth.

i can’t wait that long!!

Relax. There is another option.

what is it?

We’ll need to meet face-to-face to discuss it.
I’ll send you directions to my office.

im supposed to just believe you? how do I know
this isn’t a wild goose chase, or a trap?

What else are you going to do? You’ve
wandered too far to retrace your steps alone.

3G’s right; what other choice do I have? When he sends the instruction to take a left and go down that corridor until I find another Wi-Fi signal, I steel myself against the possibilities the path may hold, and take a left.

I’ll never admit it aloud -least of all to 3G- but the two hours it takes to find the pocket of connectivity 3G are among the most nerve-wracking of my life. After so long talking to no one but myself and the inscrutable writing on the walls around me, being able to text anyone at all is almost intoxicating, even without the tales of ancient magic and myth. I start to wonder if I’ve lost my mind and begun to hallucinate, so I get out my notes and sketch my path as I walk in order to keep my mind occupied.

This is unfortunate, because the path takes me through an abandoned temple of Heru, and the walls are decorated with the more grisly details of his story. A few months ago I was too green to read these hieroglyphics as I walk, being on my very first field assignment and inexperienced with interpreting the symbols without help. Now though, I’ve memorized enough of the symbols to be able to make out the gist as I walk slowly, keeping pace with the six-inch-tall birdheaded avatar of the falcon god as it transforms into a hippo and struggles with another of the dangerous water mammals, the one with the stationary hieroglyphics above the scene name as the god of chaos, Set, with his distinctive long-eared mystery animal.

I scribble “Contendings” over the sketch of the hallway I’m walking in, then look back at the next portion of the wall. I don’t need to struggle through the descriptive hieroglyphics to recognize the story the avatars are acting out: Heru’s mother Aset, moved by her murderous brother’s cry for help, flings her spear at her son. I watch, strangely fascinated as the spear moves in slow motion into the hippo’s shoulder; the avatar pauses in its battle against the other wounded hippo, and then transforms back into the falcon-headed god. He pulls the spear out of his shoulder, flings it aside, and then rushes toward the winged female avatar of his mother.

Despite knowing what happens next, I wince when the avatar pulls out its little hieroglyphic sword and decapitates his mother. The head even seems to roll once on the dirt, before the avatar for Aset fades altogether, and Heru’s avatar takes off running. To my surprise, he runs faster than I’m walking, and then disappears around a corner- the opposite way that 3G had advised me to walk.

I’m possessed by a short-lived, wild impulse to forget about the map, and follow the avatar to the conclusion of his story. It’s a bad idea. For one thing, I know how the story goes; for another, these hieroglyphics never tell just one myth at a time. One myth leads into another, or sometimes are just the justification for a lengthy, dry wall full of Egyptian spells for everything from fighting headaches, to having a healthy baby, to defeating the enemies of Ra. If I try to follow Heru’s little avatar into the desert, there’s no telling where I’ll end up -and who’s to say the route won’t change, once I leave?

Following the hieroglyphics through this maze is the quickest road to insanity. I take a right, following the path that is outlined in the text messages on my phone, rubbing a stubborn stray eyelash out of my right eye as I walk.

The next pocket of Wi-Fi is where 3G had said it would be, and as soon as I see I have a stronger signal here than I’ve had since last week, I immediately pull out the sharp iron spike I’d managed to break off a booby trap a few days in and start carving the symbol into the wall. As I finish the third, smallest curved line, my ringtone goes off, and once I’m done with my task, I pull out the phone and check my messages.

That’s the wrong symbol, you know.

it’s the wifi symbol

I know; that’s the wrong symbol. You should
be using ear stelae. I can send you an
example if you like.

those are for talking to gods. i just need
to remember where the wifi is

Haven’t you noticed the power the old glyphs
have in here? If you want to make it through
this place, it will behoove you to play by its

christ, why do you always have to talk like that?

“It would behoove you,” I mutter to myself, mocking. What a windbag.

Wait a minute.

how did you even see what i carved???

I would tell you, but you won’t believe me.
Forgive my impatience, but we both have
more pressing matters to attend to -no time
to argue every little matter. It is simply enough
that I can see, nevermind how.

this is so fucked up. you’re probably a serial
killer in a room full of screens from hidden cameras

Don’t be so melodramatic. You must trust me:
I am your ally, and once you arrive at my
office, all will be explained. For now, heed my
warning: those who try to navigate through
Kemet while denying the power of heka itself
never fare well.

Overwhelmed, I sink to the floor under the “incorrect” symbol I’ve carved, not caring if it means I lose the signal. I’d assumed 3G was someone else like me, who’d been in here so long that they lost touch with reality (and with normal social skills), become so obsessed with the magic of the place they fancy themselves a deific guide to others travelling through. He clearly was able to contact me through some kind of hieroglyphic magic, but I’d never considered that he had the ability to watch me -all in order to scold me about taking the ancient Egyptian’s magic seriously, no less!

I scroll up to re-read one of the first texts 3G sent: “I am the Egyptian god of knowledge, magic and writing, the thrice-great ibis god Thoth.” Thoth the Egyptian god would certainly feel strongly about defacing temples with non-Egyptian symbols, as well as the important of heka. Could it be…?

I shake the silly thought from my head vigorously, rubbing my eye as it begins to itch again (I must’ve scratched it when I was digging the eyelash out earlier). 3G is just an annoying pedant who’s figured out how to use this place’s magic to his advantage and likes roleplaying as a big powerful ancient god, nothing more. But either way, he clearly has great insight into how to navigate, and may even have greater power here than he’s letting on. If I play along with his delusions of grandeur and appear to acquiesce to his demands, I may be able to get further assistance -or even learn how he’s able to use hieroglyphics to halt objects flying through the air, or spy on people who are connected to magical Wi-fi. I text back:

ok, ok. i’ll change it.

I do my best to carve the top curve around, into an ear shape, and add a few more adjustments to make the signal look as similar to the ancient ear stelae that the Egyptians used to carve near temples, in order to boost their voices to be heard by their gods.

Good. Now that we’ve settled that, we can move
on to figuring out the best route forward.

tfw you’re writing a character who’s smarter than you :/ but the character still is doing the urban fantasy thing where they’re like “yeah this magic thing is undoubtedly magic but i’m 100% positive this OTHER magic thing is obviously bullshit, i’m not an idiot” even though that makes no sense :/

Personal Mythology: Exploring Kemet

So, I’m trying something slightly new here, since this idea caused me to be possessed by the spirit of creative writing and write more in one sitting than I have in months. This first entry of a short story is a sort of heavily metaphorical meditation on my experience with, and feelings toward, kemeticism and my place in the religion. I’ve been trying to start working on a personal mythology for a while, and this seems as good a way to start as any. I’ve used creative writing as a powerful magical tool before, particularly for shadow work, and I’m excited to see where this experiment takes me, as well as hoping to make some art that other kemetics can enjoy and relate to!

Due to the fantasy elements in the story, as well as my experience with religion being tied tightly to my astral experiences, it may come across as an autobiographical astral log, but I wrote it hoping for something closer to a combination of symbolism, personal history, and deeper emotional and philosophical truths in the same way legends and myths about our religious figures are. The character I’m writing about is supposed to represent the part of me that’s passionate about kemeticism and curious about the ancient Egyptians/their beliefs, but isn’t actually supposed to be a direct self-insert; I’m not going to school to be an archaeologist, and I certainly didn’t get into college with a sports scholarship, for example.

Finally, while I am doing this as religious offering of sorts, this is still just fiction, and I fully intend to make it funny and entertaining. If I do end up including gods in the story, you should see them as fictional characters based on said gods, the same way characters in historical fiction are based on actual people, but aren’t supposed to be interpreted as the author claiming those figures literally acted the way they did in said work of fiction.

When I arrive at the vast ruins of a once-great city-state that I have been hired to explore, record, and study in as much detail as I can for the next few months, I can barely contain my excitement -so much so that my co-workers tease me for having “crazy eyes” as they drop me off. As I pack my bag, my mind is full of fanciful visions of what I’ll discover here, palaces and tombs and marketplaces and temples and its famous river, the Nile, still flowing through its center. I brought my flashlight and some maps, my phone and some cheat sheets of meanings for some of the most common ancient words in their arcane script that the ancients carved beautifully into many of the more important walls, my compass and cameras, some tarot cards, some books, some courage. I know, I know -an embarrassingly inappropriate set of tools for exploring Kemet, not even a weapon in sight. But give me a break; remember, I was told the city had died long ago. How was I supposed to know it was magical?

I rushed headlong into the places where angels fear to tread, over-confident in my knowledge and ability find my way out, too excited at the prospect of studying my field from the ancient walls themselves instead of dry and boring books for a change. But despite the notes I took, despite leaving a trail and counting my steps, the doors didn’t line up with where they had been before. I tried retracing my steps and going again, but was shocked to discover the door I was looking for was in an third different place the third time I searched for it. I was lost in a labyrinth, one I swiftly became sure was changing as I walked through it. I felt a slight foreboding dread, like the first shift in the wind before a storm, as I realized this place was furthest thing from dead, although some more superstitious than I had been warned it was inhabited mainly by ghosts.

I shivered. What was this place?

The strange arcane writing of those who built this city on Earth, and who dreamed it into its current state of liminality and memories, is not the only writing to be found. To my shock, there’s no short supply of graffiti on the walls as well, mostly chipped and faded and in languages I don’t speak, but Google translate and a vague comprehension of the subject matter can do a lot if you’ve got nothing better to do than try for hours, crouched in a corner and holding a shaky flashlight over your scribbled notes and a book or two that I either brought with me, or found lying around -sometimes in neat stacks, sometimes even with food or a picture of the ancient peoples’ gods nearby. It feels wrong somehow, to disturb them, like stealing- but how else would I stay alive, and learn enough about this bizarre place to have a hope of finding my way?

But I’d be lying if I said I were in a hurry to leave. This place turns out to be strange and dangerous, littered with dilapidated infrastructure and even the occasional booby trap of varying cruelty, but it’s also full of new and exciting discoveries. I had walked in here hopeful to discover even a handful of strange uses of well-known hieroglyphics, or maybe the remains of a humble home altar. Instead I found hieroglyphics I had never seen before, next to symbols from entirely different languages, as people from all over the planet and all walks of life had apparently traveled through these halls just as I was throughout the ages. As a young scientist, barely out of school and for whom the distinction of “historian” is still well out of reach, the idea of somehow going back to Earth to show off all the pictures and notes I’ve taken in here appeals irresistibly to not only my scientific curiosity, but my ambition. Just imagine the theories I’d be able to argue for, I tell myself as I struggle to navigate through confusing and frustrating passageways, sometimes by only my flashlight and the light of the moon. I’ll be a world-famous Egyptologist for sure, just wait.

I tell myself that that’s why I’m still here, continuing to search through and document these ruins -for prestige, fame and fortune, or for the betterment of mankind through scientific advancement, when I’m feeling particularly philanthropic. All the same, part of me knows the real reason I’m here is that I’m unable to find my way out, and the reason I’m taking so many notes, is that it’s easier to focus on the exciting mysteries and magic of the place I’m lost in than to contemplate the possibility I’ll be lost forever.

Some of the walls don’t just have carvings and graffiti, some of the hieroglyphs move. They show their meaning through their interaction with the other symbols and drawings, and when I check them against my growing knowledge of their meanings, I can make out the familiar stories in the hieroglyphic’s movements: Nut giving birth. Aset tricking Ra into revealing his Name, forcing him to surrender the throne of Kemet to Osiris. Nephthys and Aset, mourning for their lost king. Horus, victorious, flanked by his mother, or holding his father’s corpse above his head, or victorious in battle. It’s fascinating, and after days of reading dry and confusing material, the boredom has allowed me to find even these slow-moving and hard to follow narratives as fascinating as movies once were.

Sometimes, in moments of overwhelming loneliness that I can no longer deny is tipping into madness, I try to talk to the hieroglyphics, my voice cracking from lack of use. I ask them how to leave. I ask them where I am, why my maps don’t match up with anything in here, although they looked accurate as anything based on satellite pictures of the place. I ask them why they’re showing me these same stories over and over, when the stories were the first thing I read -the fun part of studying, before I had to take the long, dry requisite Egyptology courses to be allowed on a trip like this- so what’s the point? Why can’t they tell us anything new, or tell me where I am, or where to go?

The symbols are implacable in their wisdom; in constant motion and interaction with one another, but never straying an inch from their paths. Their dance is an ancient and solemn one, unmoved by something so petty as a beating heart, or its eventual deterioration into the soil. I learn not to stare too long at them, but to keep my mind occupied with other mysteries besides the price these symbols paid for their famed longevity: an existence of profound indifference.

There are others exploring these same ruins. Sometimes I could swear one is just a wall or two away from me; sometimes I even think I hear them walking around or talking in jovial tones nearby, but when I call out, nobody responds. I wonder if they’re ghosts, after all. I wonder if I’m starting to lose it.

But somehow, I don’t think I am. If no one else was in here, where else would these little piles of food come from? Sometimes they’re full meals, warm to the touch even. How, if no one had been there recently?

Besides, there is the question of the graffiti. Some of it is in English, written recently, with practical advice: “Avoid the upcoming stairs on the left, they lead to a dropoff into a dungeon.” “Remember to stay hydrated in the daytime!” “This hieroglyphic is often mistranslated. Look in the book I left below for more information.” (The book is long since missing by the time I get there.) Sometimes it’s more emotional or poetic, which feels at once touching, and somehow even more eerie than the shifting walls and doors and hieroglyphics telling their bitterly identical, slow stories. “Keep your chin up! Discovery is worth the trouble! 😊” “Remember, the gods love you!” “This part was really difficult for me, but I made it. Don’t give up!”

My favorites tend to be the jokes though. I’m not quite as excited when I find one as when I find a new definition for a couple of symbols, or some very helpful advice on how to get through a confusing or booby-trapped passage, but it’s the jokes (ranging from silly puns to bitter swear words and rants at the unfairness of the moving walls, or even decrying the character of the gods themselves) scribbled over older instructions that make me feel the least alone. Heretical or not, it’s refreshing to know that other people also got frustrated and angry as they traveled through this frustrating, abandoned-but-not-quite-dead, magical, and just plain fuckoff confusing maze (which in all fairness to all of us, looked completely normal from the outside). “Fuck this place!” someone wrote, and someone else in another room wrote a bawdy joke about “The Lettuce Incident” that left me (starved for entertainment and comedy as I am) weak against the wall, shaking from laughter. How is this place both an older Pompeii, and an ill-supervised subway station?

It’s not long before I’m itching to write my own messages to future hapless explorers on the walls -I’ve discovered quite a few handy tips as I’ve wandered, and am even starting on an updated map of some of the parts that stay relatively the same each time I wind up passing through again- but I’m nervous I’d be misleading people. I’ve been here for months and have barely scratched the surfaces of the mysteries this places holds. How can I further deface these halls when I’m not even 100% sure the warnings and instructions are right? I’ve got bruises and skinned knees and more than a few scars from bad tips I took by faith as I explored -but not as many as I have from going at it with no advice at all. Besides, marking where I’ve already gone is the best way not to get lost again.

I eventually compromise with sticky notes. Better than nothing, but extremely temporary, so easy to just peel off and discard completely. I wish I could think of a better idea.

I wish a lot of things.

Whenever I find a place where my cell has service, I tend to spend hours there, procrastinating. It’s one of the few places where I ignore my inner academic screeching with fury, and carve a common symbol for Wi-Fi deeply into the walls, to be sure I’ll be able to find the spots later. Most of them are not exactly a great connection, but I’m able to research my theories and notes in my own language and most others I’ve found, with only a few seconds on waiting for slow-ass internet to load instead of hours of guesswork and comparing it with my own notes of dubious accuracy. (I went to school to become an archaeologist, after all, not a linguist.) For some reason, the battery never dies, but calling and texting people outside of this place doesn’t work. My phone will let me read, but not interact with the outside world in any way, even through tweeting. I still try it every time, and one day, the phone’s text back that it was unable to send the text to my mother because I’m still out of service, the isolation is all at once too much for me to bear. In a fit of rage and stupidity, I throw my phone down the hall as hard as I can -and since I originally got into my university on a softball scholarship, that turns out to be quite a bit harder than I expected.

I’m horrified by my impulsivity before it even begins to sink toward the ground, but as I watch helplessly my best and only link to the outside world fly through the air, something stranger than usual happens.

A hieroglyph on the wall glows red as the phone sails by it, freezing the phone in midair.

My jaw drops.

The phone sinks slowly to only a foot over the floor, and then the glow around the hieroglyph disappears and the phone thuds to the ground. There’s a puff of dust around it, like the world’s tiniest and most harmless mushroom cloud. The hieroglyph has faded seamlessly into the wall, and in my complete confusion, I didn’t recognize a single discernible trait of the symbol itself, other than its color. My mind flashes, unbidden, through scenes from movies with lasers in mysterious hallways -they usually don’t bode well for the person trying to make it through those hallways- but what I’d seen wasn’t exactly a laser, per se. I’m also pretty sure this place doesn’t work on Resident Evil logic. Besides, I just passed through that way a few minutes ago, and neither me nor my phone seemed to merit the not-laser’s attention then.

I silently pray that this place doesn’t work on Resident Evil logic, and slowly tiptoe toward my phone like I’m afraid it’ll detonate. My phone continues to sit in the dust, like a perfectly normal phone, except for the fact that it had just been levitated out of the would-be predictable, catastrophic consequences of my fit of rage. With shaking hands, I pick it up, wipe the dust off the screen onto my shirt, and turn it on.

There are no words I know, or have learned since entering this place, that describe the excitement and terror I feel when I see that I’ve got a new notification for the first time since I entered this labyrinth.

Somehow, I have just received a text.

Feverishly, I tap my entry code into my phone -annoyed at myself for changing the PIN to an 8 digit number one day, when the boredom and anxiety bled into senseless, illogical paranoia- and with shaking hands, I type the code incorrectly twice before I manage to open it.

I tap on the screen, revealing the text has only one word: Temper.

I have no reason to believe replying will work, but I can’t help it. I type back, Who are you???

It doesn’t send, and I hit the button over and over again in frustration and panic -and, if I’m completely honest with myself, the very same burning curiosity that led me to study archaeology and anthropology in the first place, to study long hours over months and years of my education in order to have the privilege to discover new things about the past with my own hands and eyes. How did this happen? What new mystery have I stumbled upon?

I remember all at once that the Wi-Fi only works a few yards behind where I’m standing, and I practically run headlong into the wall in my haste to stand where I had just been.

The symbol for service slowly creeps up to two bars, and I’m shocked when I see the loading animation for my text for a full, nerve-wracking five seconds, before my phone sends the messages I had accidentally told it to as I pressed the button over and over. The texts pop up one on top of the other, Who are you??? Who are you??? Who are you??? Who are you??? I think to myself that the repeating words and rows of question marks are strangely appropriate, as it pretty much represents my new inner mantra.

I stare into the screen, hoping against hope, dreading receiving any kind of a message, dreading receiving nothing even more than that. The text is normal except for the fact that there’s no name or number attached to it; just a blank void, another mystery.

I gasp out loud when the three dots appear over the left side of the screen, indicating that whoever I’ve somehow contacted, is now texting back.

Tune in next time to discover (along with me) WHO is texting the protagonist, WHAT the protagonist’s name and gender even are, and also WHERE the hell I am going with this!

Setian Justice

I originally wrote this post months ago, before quarantine had begun, and back when the idea of a mass popular uprising in the U.S. against the police seemed like a distant pipe dream. It was just a philosophical debate back then, but as the months have gone by and I’ve procrastinated finishing and posting this due to a series of chaotic circumstances caused directly by the pandemic (and by my community’s political leaders choosing to ignore it in favor of protecting profit and “law and order” in the streets), I’ve come to realize I’m remiss in my responsibilities if I continue to sit on this post.

Alternatively titled: A Response to ‘Horian Peace

I used to be friends with the author of the above post, until I had to cut him off when I realized I could no longer continue to make exceptions to my integrity because I enjoy the person’s company and advice. I don’t want to start shit with him, or bring him any negative attention for this post, but I am taking the risk -effectively further estranging someone who I genuinely believe doesn’t deserve to be #cancelled, because the views he eloquently expressed in this post are very, very common in both the kemetic and larger pagan community. I believe that it is one of the biggest obstacles we face as a community, that it’s at least partially responsible for the widespread racism in white pagan spaces, and I believe that it is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” kind of ideology -one that too many genuinely kind and intelligent people subscribe to, because it’s so benign and seems so helpful at first glance. I would be remiss in my responsibilities both as a follower of Set and as a political activist in general (for all you losers and haters out there: yes, I also attend protests and do political volunteer work in my real life, with my physical body; no, I will not send you evidence to prove it, thereby risking my safety or political goals for internet clout) if I didn’t address the threat this mindset presents to us, and if I’m going to choose any person or any post to represent this mindset, I’d rather it be someone who deserves the clicks, generally speaking. I’m formatting this post as a response to his post, but it’s really directed at any kemetics who share his opinions in general. I have seen only a handful of kemetics siding with “law and order” with regards to the protests and riots demanding justice for George Floyd (and all other Black Americans whose lives are forfeit according to this great holy nation we call America), and I’m hoping this post will prevent me from seeing very many more.

The post I linked above was liked and shared by several kemetics, on WP and tumblr, with whom I’ve had certain amounts of disagreements with about politics -which is my polite way of saying I think they’re bigoted dipshits who functionally oppose Ma’at while claiming to uphold it. You’ll notice the difference in tone between how I talk about said dipshits and how I talk about the Horian I’m actually responding to, and that’s intentional; enabling and emboldening bigots is not quite as bad as being a bigot yourself.

But it is almost as bad, because without people who are willing to do just that, bigots and fascists would be revealed immediately for the paper tigers that they are. But nice, normal people like my Horian ex-friend, people who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who just want to survive and be left in peace, who want crops without plowing up the ground and rain without thunder and lightning -I don’t doubt their good intentions. My fiancee (son of Tyr, and the guy nice enough to help edit this post even though he’s a Heathen redditor with no idea who or what the hell I am talking about. I love you man thanks again ❤ Note from editor: when I asked if kemetics would know who Tyr was or what “Heathen” meant I was swiftly informed that I have “Norse privilege”. Make of that you will.) often reminds me that I should assume people are stupid instead of evil 9 times out of 10. This is usually good advice, but I don’t think y’all are stupid or evil (most of you, anyways). I don’t think you’re “fluffy and naive” either. I think you’re willfully ignorant; I think you’re acting in self-serving ways while pretending to be martyrs about it; I think there’s a strong possibility that you’re a coward; and honestly, I think that you’ve been lied to your whole lives about what good and evil is. In kemetic terms, I think that you’ve mistaken the peace we defend from isfet for the refusal to pick up arms against isfet.

Horus himself recently told me “words are [my] wand” (which is his polite way of saying “watch your mouth or I’ll watch it for you”); and he’s not wrong. I don’t want to continue my bad habit of lashing out in anger when the right thing to do is stay my hand. However, ever since COVID-19 hit, and the news is full of stories of the death and destruction caused by our government’s incompetence and greed, as well as laying bare the absolute brutality and class warfare at the core of America’s police and justice system; as I realized that both the malice of the powerful, and the complacency of our society in general, were to blame for what is happening to our home, I realized this is something that is worth the fight. (Editor’s note: At time of notation, the death toll is 20+ and 11,000+ people have been arrested.) And now that I see most of the nation’s biggest cities have reached the flashpoint some part of me has expected all my life, I realized that it’s my responsibility to remind my fellow kemetics that our hearts will be judged by Anubis’s scales one day, and if you choose to side with the rich and powerful over the poor, sick, and suffering, that decision is likely to weigh heavy on your heart from now until the day you die.

Now, to bring this back to the original conversation the post is referring to: Shezep is arguing, in a nutshell, that it is better to make compromises with those that hate us -at the time, he was referring to Donald Trump supporters and TERFs- in hopes that our kindness to them will eventually convince them to see us as human beings, and treat us with the respect we are due. He decried the amount of arguing and fighting going on in the community about political differences, and claimed it was because “he knows what happens when peace fails” and that, at the end of the day, it was better to, well…turn the other cheek.

If the arguments in Shezep’s post were being used in response to any kind of violent, or even socially disruptive but peaceful, demonstrations against Kemetic/Pagan bigotry, I would be inclined to take them more seriously (even if I would still argue against them). But this is how people (including him) in the Kemetic community talk about online arguments, a lot of them more in the tone of one of the more heated debates one might hear in a college class or a professional setting, about how we should address these community issues -or rather, if we should be addressing them at all. Tell me this: if just arguing online is an unacceptably cruel and “chaotic” way to fight racism and transphobia in our communities, how in the goddamn fuck are we supposed to fight it?

If you honestly consider the risk of a flame war to be too great to justify telling a TERF to go fuck themselves as an act of solidarity towards all trans/nonbinary kemetics, you need to quit acting like you’re motivated by a desire to protect the community. You are motivated by a desire to remain comfortable and keep your hands clean, and it’s obvious to everyone who hasn’t bought into either American conservatism, or this stupid Kumbaya bullshit that American Democrats delude themselves into believing counts as “being on the right side of history”. History is written by the victors, and I didn’t see very much victory on our side until people accepted the necessity of Setian justice. The George Floyd protests and riots have achieved the following: a 75% budget cut to the LAPD, The Minneapolis city council is pushing for complete abolition of the MPD and the NYPD has had to suspend personal days off for its officers, forcing them to work 7 days a week and 12 hours shifts. These are the first of many victories to come in the next weeks and months.

So no, trying to befriend and politely explain to bigots why bigotry is bad is not a feasible plan. No matter how charming and awesome at debating you are, you will never convince enough of these people to change their minds, to even slightly reduce the threat they post to the marginalized members of our community. The only thing you are doing is setting the precedent, in the minds of the victims and the victimizer, that keeping the peace with the bully is more important than protecting the bullied. You cannot beat a bigot by agreeing to play their game by their rules:

“Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.”

― Jean-Paul Sartre

The reason this Horian’s words have gotten under my skin so much that I’ve been thinking about this post for so long after he posted it, is that I used to be friends with some truly awful, violent people and their children; people I couldn’t safely come out to, people who’d beaten me up before, people who’d done all varieties of morally unacceptable shit, up to and including joining Nazi Skinhead gangs in prison (and then grooming their children into the same cult of hate and ignorance). I usually don’t talk about it online -not out of white guilt, but because people honest to God accuse me of making it up for attention when I talk about it publicly. I genuinely cared, and still care, about some of them, despite that; and sometimes I was able to change their minds about stuff by talking to them. It’s possible, but it takes a lot of time; I would need to be talking to someone about this for months at least to make any kind of leeway with your typical obnoxious conservative, much less convince an ex-Proud Boy to start being proud of voting blue. (Not that the ones I talked to were in that particular Hitler fan club, to my knowledge, but the joke doesn’t work otherwise.) In my religious life, I’m a friend and ally to the spirits known as the Outlaw Dead, and “outlaws” include people I, personally, find reprehensible (although I do make and enforce rules declaring any hate groups or war criminals persona not grata in my practice). I understand, far better than most people assume I do, the value of loving your enemy, of forgiveness, of sometimes pursuing the “hearts and minds” strategy, of pursuing nonviolent methods whenever feasible. (For example, the National Guard in Atalanta Georgia used peaceful crowd control methods, by playing music and dancing with the protesters. This not only protected the protesters 1st amendment rights, but kept the situation peaceful as anyone trying to start a fight would be extremely obvious in that situation.)

The thing is, “winning hearts and minds” makes for a great soundbite, but it simply isn’t a strategy that could realistically be used to make the kind of changes we need in our community; not to mention that it can be actually dangerous for people to put themselves in that position. It turned out to be a pretty bad strategy for socialists in 1939 Germany, for example. Especially considering you’re not a member of all the marginalized groups you’re encouraging to take this strategy, it is completely out of line to tell them, “No, we shouldn’t be mean to your oppressors; we just need to spend weeks, months, and years making them a regular part of our lives until we form a strong enough interpersonal relationship with people who hate us, that they’ll choose our friendship over the hate they’ve made a part of their identity for most of their lives”. Even if it was guaranteed to get results (which it usually does not!), that is a lot of work, time, and resources for a relatively small amount of enemies turned to possible allies. But actually standing up and making yourself a problem for the oppressors (Editors note: It also happens to be way more fun, in case anyone’s keeping score.)? Well, then the bastards are willing to negotiate. It wasn’t until police precincts were set on fire and the police had to face mobs of angry, unemployed, scared citizens with nothing to lose that they started to realize the tear gas and riot gear can’t subdue the mob forever, and they would have to make an actual effort to do their job without randomly beating and killing anyone they can get away with beating and killing. Part of the reason the Minneapolis city council is even considering police abolition is because rioters burned down the 3rd precinct. They also forced the officers to evacuate under a hail water bottles, trash and stones. The thin blue line dissolved the second citizens stood up, the same way the divine right of kings dissolved when people stopped believing in it.

I would also like to bring your attention to a famous poem about societies being taken in by fascism:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” The man who wrote this poem was a Catholic priest who got sent to a death camp, because rather than using his influence to oppose the tyrant, the Pope was doing everything in his power to appease Hitler and his followers.

Sometimes you don’t have control over your life, particularly when you’re a kid as I was, or an “essential worker” or laid off worker in America during June 2020, and sometimes you have to look the other way to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. However, that attitude (as well as blinding faith in authority and in the illusion that we are at the end of history) allowed to run amok results in the people giving up all their political power and passively allowing the rise of poor leadership that makes selfish and arrogant decisions. When that goes on for too long, you get a nation unequipped and unwilling to do what’s necessary to combat a plague, and then unequipped to do anything but surrender when half a city becomes a mob. Setian justice is being served as I type this, across the nation; I suppose I should feel vindicated, and in some ways I do. But…goddamn, man, what a mess. What an absolute waste. What a tragedy that it took this many deaths and this much blood and this many buildings burned in order to get justice for George, for Black America, for all of us who the government has condemned to die for the sake of “the economy”. If we had made it more of a problem a few years ago -general strikes, letter writing campaigns, outlawing hate symbols, refusing to compromise any of our public spaces to a death cult that believes in America over science and White Jesus over compassion….if we had refused to compromise earlier, this blood may never have been shed.

Politics starts with culture, and if we want to avoid remaining complacent (and therefore culpable) in these manifestations of isfet in our communities, we have to first look at how we talk about these issues. Online, where all you have to do is press a button to get someone away from you, we have a responsibility to stand up for our principles, even when it makes people uncomfortable or jeopardizes our social capital in our religious groups. If we don’t, they are not principles, but lies we tell ourselves to pretend we’re good people. Trying to encourage people to be wise and merciful in how they fight, to use the required force and no more, to allow our enemies quarter and defend their human rights as well as our own if it comes down to that, to encourage compromise itself; these calls to caution and moderation, to wise and compassionate action in conflict, are not the same thing as calls for no action at all -especially when action is sorely, sorely needed. Don’t think we don’t notice who you consistently choose to defend with your cries for “peace”, and don’t imagine that the bigots don’t notice either. As bitter as it is to be in the situation where “I’ve spent more time around violent racists and fascists than you have” is a helpful card to play, I am, in fact, playing that card: I was raised by and among these people. I know how they think and act, and I know that your “Horian Peace” theory isn’t just “naive” -it is disgracefully negligent.

Look, if I could do this shit as a child in real life dealing with dangerous adults, we as a community can do this shit now, as adults in internet conversations with other adults. If you legitimately cannot do that, you really should just keep your mouth shut, because you’re more likely to hurt the cause than help it. I agree with the premise that peace must be defended whenever possible. I disagree with your definition of peace, and I disagree with the sacrifices you’re willing to make in order to defend it. In fact, I believe that your actions, words, and attitudes on the matter are more likely to lead to more frequent and escalated conflicts, because you’re not defending a positive peace, which is the presence of justice, but a negative peace, which is the absence of tension. You don’t want to accept the new normal, any more than the cops who are currently getting their last acts of brutality in while they still can, before whatever reforms coming into effect in order to keep the people from burning the nation to the ground.

And on a personal note, the condescending tone of this post pisses me off at least as much as the content. My childhood was defined (and not in a good way!) by my father’s choice to join the military, in anger, fear, and ignorance, after 9/11; my adolescence was defined by the fallout of that decision; my entire life and the lives of everyone of my generation has been defined by the wartime culture of post-9/11 paranoia, racist hate, the horrific soil that grew the seeds of America’s current neo-fascist phase; the same soil that gave us the President that got rid of the pandemic response plan created by the last guy out of pettiness and spite; that didn’t shut down the country soon enough or long enough despite being repeatedly warned what would happen; the pre/sident whose leadership is currently costing literally hundreds of thousands of lives. The same pre/sident whose supporters the Horian who made the original post had been chastising everyone for not tolerating in our spaces because we wanted our spaces to be safe for all Kemetics except the ones who’ve made an identity around excluding and humiliating others for being different.

You’re not special for “knowing what happens when peace fails”; anyone can just look outside and see it. Peace has already failed. You are risking nothing -not even an argument, not even a couple moments of awkward discomfort- and decrying the “brutality” of people who choose to risk our reputations, comfort, mental health, and sometimes real-life financial livelihoods and safety so that we can say no, actually, you can’t be racist or transphobic and be a good kemetic, much less a good person. Trying to make sure bigots are uncomfortable in our spaces is not “dehumanizing them”; it’s taking them at their word about what they want to do to other human beings. It’s doing the bare minimum to act compassionately to their targets. Another great MLKJ quote is, “Hate cannot defeat hate; only love can do that”. But we cannot focus on the love required of us toward bigots to the exclusion of the love required of us toward their targets, and that is what sanctimonious, irresponsible comments on these matters do.

To those who still think this way: How dare you condescend to lecture us about “what happens when peace has failed”? How dare you live in a self-serving fantasy to protect your ego from the fact that your inaction has consequences, and then go write self-righteous posts blaming those consequences on the victims of the pandemic and of evil, tyrannical leadership? And as for Shezep, how dare you claim that all this is “Horian” when Horus is the champion of justice, vengeance against wrongdoers, and violently opposing threats to himself and his people, to Kemet, to Order, to Ma’at? You sound like the “Setians” who are openly and proudly xenophobic -and no wonder, since whenever one of us mean SJW Setians argues with the racist ones, you and your group of “both sides are always valid” enablers are some of the loudest voices siding with the racist version of Setianism, and the racist version of Kemeticism.

The kemetic community does not exist in a vacuum, and if you’re going to talk about this like it’s a real armed conflict, you need to take into account the larger political context of these conversations. It’s one of the greatest tragedies of being a human being that sometimes, at pivotal points in history, you must choose between peace and justice. We have the dubious honor of being alive in one such period; possibly the most important one yet, due to the climate emergency and the unlikelihood of our world’s nations taking it as seriously as it needs to be taken. I don’t like it either, but right now, we literally cannot have both peace and justice. We have to choose, and while I genuinely hope this post doesn’t hurt you too much, I also hope you at least regret that you’ve lost at least one friend over this…because you have made the wrong choice. I ask that, if you can, you believe me when I say I’m singling you out because I would rather give your blog a platform on mine than any other kemetic I’ve seen making these arguments. Also, I wouldn’t write long bitchy opinions responding to your opinions if I didn’t see value what you have to say; you argued your point eloquently, and that’s why it merited a genuine response. I hope you and yours are doing well. May we all survive these catastrophes, and all others to come.


Working With the Outlaw Dead

A year ago today I did a version of a kemetic ritual honoring the akhu that was specifically supposed to honor the “unmournable” akhu in Set’s name. At the time, I thought it would just be a one-time thing; a way to release souls who had not been mourned or had the opportunity to move on to the other side. Hoping to help aid them, I even summoned most of the psychopomps I knew the names of (Anubis, Hermes, and Jesus), hoping to get everyone to their preferred afterlife after an hour or two of fellowship. I thought that would be the end of it, but it very much wasn’t.  (Spirit/astral work in a nutshell, huh?) A lot of them ended up sticking around, requesting sanctuary in the place where they’d been given food, booze, entertainment and attention for the first time in, apparently, a very long time. I hadn’t done very much of any kind of spirit work at that point, but I ended up deciding to let them stay. That ended up being a better idea than I could’ve imagined, and I’ve added veneration of the Outlaw Dead as a permanent aspect of my practice; one that’s arguably even more important than my veneration of my deities.

Originally, it was only a ritual to mourn and release the unmourned. Now, the term went from “unmournable akhu” to “Outlaw Dead”, because it includes not only people who died without being mourned or given the rites their culture required, but people who lived and/or died as “outlaws”, mourned or not; not only criminals and enemies of the state, but people who were marginalized by their societies for any reason (especially those who died because of said marginalization/oppression). And then, since the original ritual itself was specifically meant to help the “unmourned” dead move on, with only the spirits who chose to stay and work with me staying, most of the Outlaw Dead I currently work with fall under the “outlaw/outsider” category, rather than simply “unmourned”. For this and other reasons, the Outlaw Dead are great to call on for magic with an activist bent. They’re also great to ask for help in general; I’m still regularly surprised by how quickly, and how much, they help when asked. Other witchy people I’ve had over have remarked on the positive energy they sense from their altar, especially during and after rituals.

In this post I’m going to first give some general advice on working with them safely and respectfully, and then share some specifics about what I do.

General Advice

If you already have a tradition, consider looking up what they did to honor their ancestors before copying what I’m doing here. Most religions have some kind of ancestor veneration, and the whole point (originally) of the ritual I did was to give some kind of mourning ceremony to the souls who weren’t properly mourned. If you have a tradition already, think of which kinds of people traditionally wouldn’t have been mourned, and make the required adjustments to make those souls the target of your rites. If you’re a strict recon, this may not be for you, as I have yet to find any prominent traditions that included veneration of specifically “outlaws” to their own culture. Working with them has also caused some run-ins with other deities; I’m pretty sure that Hermes, for example, wanted to bring more of the Outlaw Dead to the other side than wanted to go, and I suspect there was some sort of argument between him and Set about it. (Sorry, man. I guess I owe you a beer, if I ever visit a Hellenic’s altar and they’ll explain to me how Greek offerings work.) Heru and Tyr have both claimed that the chaotic/outlaw energy and goings-on can sometimes make their space uncomfortable to be in, so at the very least, separate the spaces where you venerate them from orderly, lawful entities.

Keep in mind that when you decide to invite the Outlaw Dead into your home….you are working with at least some spirits who did not, in their human lives, follow the rules. Be prepared for them to not do what you say right away, as you’re going to probably need to bribe or threaten at least some of them at some point. If you don’t want them to stay, tell them so, and be prepared to do banishing rituals if they don’t leave…although, whatever psychopomp you know best should be available and willing to help you carry any stragglers to the light for you, as an alternative to magical violence. It isn’t required to have a god or more powerful spirit in charge of the whole operation, but it’s what I do since I still don’t consider myself a particularly experienced or powerful witch, and therefore wanted to have the Set backing me up in case of emergencies. To their credit, though, the only real problems they’ve caused were political in nature; they haven’t ever, to my knowledge, gone back on their agreement to abide by the rules I gave to protect myself, my roommates, and our cat.

If you want them to stay, though…set ground rules immediately. Explain why the rules are there; “because I said so” doesn’t cut it. Bind them with your intent, but give them plenty of opportunities to escape if they so please. It’s not a bad idea to give them specific jobs, for example, the daily upkeep of your wards and protection of your household, since when I first started working with them I got more frequent requests for jobs than offerings. It’s also likely that if more than one or two are staying, they’ll want to be put into factions; in which case, it’s a good idea to give them specific ‘anchors’ in the form of pretty rocks or trinkets that you can move around as they request. I’ve taken to sometimes carrying a few of them (who’ve consented via divination) with me after asking them for luck, or protection. For more formal spells, though, I generally just use the sigils I made for them rather than their anchors.

Here’s the contract/binding words I used, after outlining the rules of the household and what I would expect from them while they stayed and received my offerings and veneration:

“And finally, I bind you with the description of our praxis:

From each according to their ability,
To each according to to their needs;
And so long as you harm only those who must be harmed,
Do as thou wilt.

With love, admiration, gratitude, and solidarity,
-[my real name]”

I made sigils for the 14 distinct “factions” of the Outlaw dead I work with, which I am including here with their permission. I don’t think that it would be necessary for anyone else who wants to honor the Outlaw Dead to use the same symbols, but these ought to call on the ones I work with when activated. They’re divided into either functions or identity markers, and I asked them each which faction they’d like to be in when I added eight more factions for a total of 14 a few months ago.

outlaw dead.jpg

(From left to right, respectively, starting on the first row: the Outlaw Dead as a whole; Serious Business/Bureaucrats; Warriors; Nature Lovers. Second row: Sick and Mad; Girls and Women; Poor and Starving; Heretics and Religious Minorities. Third row: Indigenous People; Team Edgy; Party Crowd; Idea Outlaws. Fourth row: Racial/Ethnic Minorities; Enemies of the State; Queer and LGBT+.)

I don’t think that it’s actually necessary to use any specific ritual to summon the Outlaw Dead, but as this is the one I used that got such surprising results, I’m choosing to include a variation of a ritual Devo posted last year from Eternal Egypt: Ancient Rituals for the Modern World by Richard J. Reidy (with a few more slight changes I’ve added since the last time I posted it) in case anyone is curious.

Approaching the Shrine:

Awake in peace, Lord of the Red Land, awake in peace.
I come to you, your servant, your son, I come to you.
Your beautiful scent, it calls me forward.
And upon you filling my nostrils
I, your servant, your son, I come to you.
I have made my way and I enter into your presence.
I am one of you.
Do not repulse me on the god’s path.
My feet are not impeded, I am not turned back from the god’s place.
I have looked upon you. I know you.
Your mighty Sha have enclosed me.
I have entered this place with ma’at in my heart
In order to honor the Akh of the Outlaw Dead upon this day.

*Step forward, or open the shrine, depending on your setup*

I open your temple. I come to you.
Your warmth and beauty surrounds me as I enter. I am not repulsed.
Behold, I have come to you to offer Ma’at,
to make sound the Eye for its lord.

Presentation of Light:

The torch comes to your ka, O Set, Lord of the Oasis.
Here comes he who promises the night after the day;
Here comes the two sisters from Ra;
Here comes she who was manifested in Abdju.
For I have caused it to come to you.
Even the Eye of Horus comes to you
Because I have made it so.

*Light first wick*

Come to this Eye of Horus, Great Set.
Let its light renew your youth in peace.

*Light second wick*

Come to this Eye of Horus, O Numerous Akhu who hear my call.
Come to this light and let it renew your youth in peace.

The Eye of Horus is your protection, O Weary One.
It spreads its protection over you; it defeats all of your adversaries.
Truly, your adversaries are fallen.

The Eye of Horus is your protection, O Akhu.
It spreads its protection over you; it defeats all of your adversaries.
Truly, your adversaries are fallen.

The Eye of Horus comes intact and shining
like Ra on the horizon.
The four torches go to your ka, O Set.
The four torches are your protection, O Lord of Ma’at
You are truly Enduring because of their protection.

It is Set who causes a torch to be bright for the potent Bas in the Duat and beyond.
May you make the living Ba of each and every Akh within your Domain
to be strong with their torch so that they will not be
repelled or turned back from the portals of the West.

Through your Rebellion and Strength,
Each and every akh in your Domain flourishes.
They are restored to their true shape and form
As sure as the sun crosses the sky every day.

Purification of offering space:

*Take up water bowl/pitcher*

O water, may you remove all evil,
I give you essential water, O Destroyer of the Damned One, a tide in your time.
I bring the flood waters to purify your sanctuary.
I bring you the flood waters to purify your temple
and your statue in your place.

*wet your finger and touch the four sides of your shrine, offering table or plate, etc.*

O Set, your altar is cleansed by the water;
Your altar is purified by the incense;
You are cleansed by Horus;
You are purified by Thoth.
Water invigorates your body;
It is I, your servant,
who comes to you in the palace where you reside.

Presentation of Libations:

These your cool waters, O Set
have come from your nephew, Horus.
I have come to you having gotten Horus’s eye,
So that your heart may become cool with it;
I have gotten it under your feet.
Accept the outflow that comes from you:
So that your heart will not become weary.

*Pour the water into first cup or bowl*

This water is the Eye of Horus,
take it to your countenance,
that it may brighten your face.

O Set, take this Eye of Horus
Which has been given to you by your son
So that you may live in Eternity
Glorious and pure.

*Pour the water into second cup or bowl*

O Glorious Spirits, take this Eye of Horus
It parts your mouth so that you may you taste its taste
Accept this Eye so that you may live in Eternity
Glorious and pure.

Presentation of Offerings:
Oh Lord of Power and Strength, stand up and sit down to a thousand of bread,
a thousand of beer, roast meat, your rib-meat from the slaughterhouse, “pulled” bread from the broadhall.

*place first offering*

As you are provided with a god’s-offering, these akhu are provided with bread.
You have come to your ba, Set, ba among the akhs,
in control of all that he sees, He Before Whom the Sky Trembles.
I have given you Horus’s eye, I have allotted it to you: may it endure for you with you.

*place second offering*

O Glorious Akhu, stand up and receive this your bread from me.
O Great Spirits, I will be an attendant for you.
O Enduring Akhu, accept Horus’s eye, your bread-loaf, and eat.

As everything is for those under your protection,
let everything be for the bodies of the Outlaw Dead.

Grow aroused, you Great Akhu
Take this Eye of Horus and become uplifted.
In your place of Completeness you do not hunger. You have no thirst.
Your contentment is all you know in the land of the Duat.
Your heart becomes awash with joy
And your hearts fill with ma’at.

As you take in the Eye of Horus
You shall become as complete as every NTR:
your head as Horus of the Duat—an Imperishable Star;
your face as Eyes-Forward—an Imperishable Star;
your ears Atum’s twins—an Imperishable Star;
your eyes Atum’s twins—an Imperishable Star;
your nose as the Jackal—an Imperishable Star;
your teeth Sopdu—an Imperishable Star;
your arms Hapi and Duamutef—when you demand to go up to the sky, you go up;
your legs Imseti and Qebehsenuef—when you demand to go down to the undersky, you go down;
your limbs Atum’s twins—an Imperishable Star.

O Great Akhu, become clean through Horus’s Eye and
Make your bones firm.
O Great Akhu, become Whole through Horus’s Eye and
All of your obstructions will be removed through Set’s mighty Sha.

You will not perish, your ka will not perish
As Set lives, you shall live.
As you live, Set lives.

Sun and Thoth, take each and every akh with you,
that they may eat of what you eat of,
that they may drink of what you drink of,
that they may live on what you live on,
that they may sit where you sit,
that they may grow powerful from what you grow powerful from,
that they may sail in what you sail in.
The booth of each and every akh is plaited of reeds;
the flood of each and every akh is in the Marsh of Offerings;
their feasts are among you, gods;
the water of each and every akh is wine, like the Sun.
They will circumnavigate the sky like the Sun,
They shall course the sky like Thoth.
And both akhu and NTRW shall live in peace in the Duat.
Whole and Complete. A million times effective.

Reversion of offerings:

O He Who Makes the Sky Tremble, your enemies withdraw from you.
Heru has turned himself to his Eye in its name of Reversion-of-Offerings.
These your divine offerings revert;
They revert to your servant for life, stability, health and joy.
So that you may flourish for eternity.

I don’t do this ritual every time I offer to the Outlaw Dead, but when I have time and something special to offer or ask for, I try to. I’ve also decided to make it a custom to do this ritual on the first full moon of January, or the Wolf Moon, as that’s the astrological anniversary of my meeting them.

When working with them more casually, the process is as follows:

  1. Designate an altar space/ritual space. Mine looks like this:
  2. Light a candle for each faction you’re working with. This is the mains source of energy and focus for the corresponding spirits to dwell in while the ritual is in progress.
  3. Set out offerings.
  4. Play music. I always play this song first, and then put on this playlist.
  5. Greet the Dead.
  6. If you are going to perform magic or a ritual with/for them, describe it to the Dead and ask for their permission before beginning.
  7. End the ritual by blowing out the candles and turning off the music.

My process for performing spells calling on the Outlaw Dead for help is as follows:

  1. Using your divination method of choice for yes/no answers, obtain consent from specific factions to be used for a spell.
  2. Describe the spell to the Dead.
  3. Create a sigil for spell, incorporating the sigils for the Dead you’re calling on along with the object of the spell.
  4. Charge and activate sigil with preferred method.
  5. Spell jars can also be left on the altar for the Outlaw Dead to work on; adding sigils to the decoration of the jar describing the factions called upon and the spell itself recommended.


While I’ve added a bunch of warnings, and I do try to err on the side of caution when I work with them (as with all astral and spirit work), I would consider it unfair to say that these are particularly unsafe or malicious spirits. There have been some conflicts (such as the aforementioned issues with Heru and Tyr), but on the whole, they’ve been an overwhelmingly positive, generous, and helpful addition to my religious practice. I’m posting this with their permission and input because I hope that they can find more people to honor and work with them in the larger kemetic and pagan communities. I’m not sure anyone who asked for this post a year ago is still interested, but hey -better late than never.

It’s also a good idea to remember that “Outlaws” also includes the souls of people you, personally, would consider despicable. Personally, I just expect them to follow the ground rules I’ve laid out, and try not to inquire into exactly what kind of “outlaw” any of them were beyond the faction they requested to be sorted into. If you prefer, though, you could always add an aspect of your spell that bars, for example, the spirits of violent criminals from your space. I choose not to do this because I feel my role in my work with them is not to judge them for what they did when they were alive. The point of the practice is, as I wrote above, radical love, admiration, gratitude, and solidarity. No shortcuts to make myself more comfortable with the moral gray area all of us, especially “outlaws”, live in.

It’s not just about getting magical help and feeling like a particularly edgy necromancer (although I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t part of why I enjoy it). The core of this practice is about appreciation for other people, in particular people who it can be dangerous or inconvenient to be associated with, or hard to love and forgive because of the mistakes they’ve made. In this case, it’s dead people, but the practice of “radical love, admiration, gratitude, and solidarity” has improved my sense of empathy for other living humans, my sense of responsibility toward them, and lit a fire under my ass vis a vis activism and getting my life together so that I can one day have the power to defend the human rights of living outlaws as well. For this reason most of all, I sincerely hope other pagans find this post useful, and incorporate some level of veneration for the Outlaw Dead into their practices.

open letter to the pied piper

going through and changing all the proper nouns and so on to lowercase letters is a pain in the ass, but so is being alive in general. hail jesus and also satan. trigger warning for the usual suspects.

im about to go break a bottle of whiskey in the desert somehow, if i still have the energy after i post this. whoever knows what the future holds, anymore.

pied piper, if you can hear this, it’s 2019, and i hope you’re pleased with yourself.

no one watches over us. our parents are missing, in body, mind, or soul; they stare through us, glassy-eyed, seeing not a child but a burden. Jesus hides behind stained-glass windows, where pastors promise us brimstone and hellfire. makes it difficult to have a real conversation. the wages of sin, of shy sapphic touches and mexican ditch-weed passed between shaking, scraped-up, badly painted fingers. Holiness is as aloof as the aurora borealis; we live in the desert. some people are willing to wait their whole lives to see proof of the beautiful rumor with their own two eyes, instead of on a northerner’s instagram. we’re children, but we’re not dumb; we know we’ll never see it ourselves. our elders assure us we’ll never manage to leave the South for good. they assure us no matter what we think we want, in the end we will be happy to live and die, here in this town with nothing to do but wait to die. they seem pretty damn pleased with themselves for being so sure of that.

we go where children aren’t allowed to go, late at night, we walk through dark alleys to avoid patrolling cops enforcing curfew. Nobody watches over us but the moon. we are all silvery pales and deep inky darkness, the night sky reflected on human flesh.

you will never feel this electric again, the way you do the first time you smoke weed beneath the stars, ducked into one of the shadows the streetlamps cast, during the intermission of a garage band concert two blocks away. between the adrenaline from the show and the high and committing a felony within a mile of the police station, you feel not invincible but luminescent. knowing your family members who are known felons would beat the shit out of the kid who’s getting you high only makes it better. years older than a child but held hostage in a high school that never teaches you anything interesting until you’re old enough to be kicked to the curb for not stepping in line, all you can do is take your thrills where you can get ‘em and enjoy the company wherever you can find it. that’s the moment you make your decision, although at the time you think it’s just a realization. living here in west texas is like being in prison or the “disciplinary alternative education program” where my friends used to get high before they went in, and offer me a hit or two before the teachers showed up, and i would turn them down because i didnt need the fucking headache; it’s not so bad, except that they won’t let you leave.

i told my mom that a pedophile had just moved into the neighborhood, and she told me to go ahead and walk to DAEP anyways. she didnt want to wake up in the morning and drive me. she told me not to skateboard there and not to carry a knife. i did what the fuck i wanted to, on the way to and from the place where they let me do my school work and then read all day until it was time to leave. i was never good at skateboarding, but people kept telling me to wear a helmet. to this day, i still go around without a helmet on my head every time i’m on wheels. shocker, i know.

loneliness, anger, fear grow inside us like termites gnawing at rotting wood. the town elders assure us Christ alone can save us. we are living even as we devour ourselves and each other and any chance at salvation, we become empty. when we breathe air whistles through us, stinging the rotting places we can still feel, chilling the empty parts. we listen to the strange melodies of breath entering and exiting us, strange half-alive half-dead harmonicas. our pain molds the music we make the way a guitarist tunes her strings. when the stars align just right, one or two or three of us will sit together as we drink cheap stolen whiskey or smoke cheap weed and cigarettes, and we will tell each other about the strange elation of emptiness and the slow, never-ending grinding of worms and maggots making lunch out of our insides. we will tell each other it actually doesn’t hurt that badly, but it does always hurt. if we’re lucky and move slowly and don’t startle each other, sometimes, we’ll sit together beneath the stars and share stories as we share vices. if all goes well, we learn we are not alone. there are other queers and witches and goddamn hippies and devil-worshiping rockers among us, even here, twenty feet away from our neighbors who love to call the cops on us.

no matter what happens, we sit in some safe place outside of our houses at night, waiting for the Devil to show up and offer us everything under the sun as he tries to get us into his van. so long as we’re together, we just laugh in his face and keep drinking. i guess the town elders were right. part of us definitely died there. part of us continues to die there. the town elders continue to kill their grandchildren by insisting we will be buried in the same graveyard as them. i’m starting to remember all the things i thought i would forget forever, and i gotta admit: wherever it is that i die, i’m not gonna regret not attending their funerals. if they wanna be buried in their hometown so badly, that’s their prerogative. i’d rather let you kill me on the streets of a city they all told me i’d never be able to reach. i’d rather be a ghost that haunts the city of angels than be buried in the same dirt as my great-grandmother.

pied piper, im 21 now, and i’m still one of the children who look up towards the moon, exhale smoke in his direction, a small quiet prayer with no return address: have mercy on us. don’t judge so harshly. we are still young, after all.

-have you had enough yet? have you collected your fee, or should i keep talking?

little red

hopefully i’m done posting poetry for today. i’m trying to get my hands on a list of all the American representatives currently voting to approve a state of emergency in order to let a little-dick waste of space build a useless wall, so that we can all get this Execration Party Started, but that’s gonna take a few days at least. anyways, here’s the first fairy tale rewrite poem i wrote! if i’d written it a year or two later it would’ve been part of the “if you can hear this” series, and i really like it, so i’m gonna retcon it in now. 

“in my version the wolf makes a quick getaway with little red riding hood slipping, traumatized, out of his innards, covered in blood, covered in horror

the ax-man walks her back home and tells her to stay out of the forest but

but at night little red stares up at the ceiling of her log cabin house and her insides burn with fury. they burn with the memory of the slick warmth of that wolf’s stomach, the wolf she trusted, the wolf who lied and swallowed her whole. they burn with the knowledge that she has lost the woods and the freedom she once had to sprint through them, innocent, laughing, fearless. they burn with the knowledge that she now carries worldliness and distrust and her running is not for joy, now, it is for terror and as she thinks of the wolf that did this to her, her insides burn with a promise.

and so as little red grows up she starts to take a liking to axes, eavesdrops at the conversations of local hunters and trackers for years. she finds axes small enough for her to carry and learn to swing, pretending she is just gathering firewood, speaking to no one of how she sometimes thinks that she herself is an ax being sharpened by time and anger and the sound of a wolf howling in the dark forest where she can no longer stray without her heart beating in her ears and her skin growing cold, warning of terror

one day, when she feels ready, she re-enters the woods, her woods, where she has been too afraid to travel for so long

and at first it makes her sick to even go past the first line of trees but she goes back, day after day, each time getting a little further because she knows the wolf is still out there

until one day that very wolf looks up and sees the meal he lost, sans red cloak (terrible camouflage) but with an ax in her hand and when he sees her smile he runs -or rather, he tries

but little red had always been the faster of the two

and when she returns to her home, triumphant, she wears that wolf’s fur as her new cloak, and what do you know-

it’s red, too.”

I never liked how the story ends in deus ex machina

I’m here to file my report as the vixen of the wolf pack;
Tell Patient Zero he can have his rib back

Open Letter to Icarus

since i’m Posting, i’m gonna go ahead and add the first one (of three) of these i ever wrote. it was also the first poem i ever read at an open mike, in case that sweetens the pot for anybody.

“icarus, if you can hear this, it’s 2016 and i’ve just been given my own set of wings. freed from my own prison, for so long i’ve had to watch my step and lower my eyes, keep my voice reasonable and be careful. careful, always careful. always waiting for the fallout of accidentally sounding too bold.

they say the young think we’re invincible. icarus, i feel like soaring up above all reason and daring gravity to take me down. i want to feel the sun burn me alive -or is that just the burn of too many shots of whiskey down my underage throat, sitting in my stomach- i know the dangers. i know i carry the burden of my parents’ mistakes. i know the fall would kill me. i know i’m not immortal. but i can’t make myself stop. i ought to glide but the sky is so beautiful, so empty and inviting. i’m so tired of it all being denied to me. is our temptation really the idea that we could become divine? or is it just that we can’t stomach the word “no” anymore, the chains are gone but our minds are still full of them, maybe the heat will melt them away when my medication can’t seem to erode them and my therapist can’t talk me into believing they aren’t there.

icarus, my arms are tired. my soul is heavy and my father was not as good a craftsman as yours. his own wings were clipped and i’m feeling somewhat giddy and icarus, maybe some part of me wants to fall. drowning would be so much easier than this aching, constant struggle to stay in the air. i may as well see how high i can reach first, if the waves will claim me one day anyways.

we have both spent so long paying for our parents’ sins. we have both dreamt of freedom but forgotten to remember the burden of our own weight. what waits for us on the shore, anyways, icarus? a decade of classes i’m not interested in for a degree that may make me a hypocrite and a mountain of student loan debt? a lifetime of loneliness because we never learned how normal people act, we never understood how to connect to those raised in happy homes? icarus, is the burning we feel the wax melting down our limbs or is it the anger in our bones that may never really disappear. i, too, want to fly up to Heaven and demand whatever deities are responsible to answer for their choice to ignore my prayers, night after night, year after year. i’m used to defying those more powerful than me, and if they choose to strike me down, well, it looks like i’m heading that way anyhow, doesn’t it?

is the burning we feel, but ignore, the sun warning us we’re being reckless, is it the cigarette smoke at the back of my throat that i inhaled just because i could, is it the wanderlust and impulsivity telling me to blow all my cash and get wasted and get into cars with strangers, try new drugs i know my brain can’t handle, kiss strangers with bad intentions and let them coax me into a fall from grace. is it the way i’ve cut myself off from everyone who cares enough to tell me i’m being irresponsible, i have too much of a life ahead of me to waste it here because I started breaking the law again and no one wants to hire a junkie. is it the aching of the places where i’ve started hurting myself again just so that i could feel. am i on my way down, icarus, am i following you to our fate because i, too, have never been able to tell when it’s time to back down?

i don’t know. i don’t know. when people think suicidal they think of deadened eyes, not a Cheshire grin looking for a good time. they think giving up looks like stillness, not straining yourself to reach a height others may never dream of. icarus, i’ll try to learn from you. i’ll try to watch myself and stay below the clouds and maybe even land gracefully one day, when i finally reach land, if these half-melted wings and this broken soul can manage it. maybe i’ll survive after all. maybe one of us can make it out alive.”

if you can hear me, tell Pandora I said hi and that I don’t blame her for wondering. I would’ve opened that damned jar too.

Look who’s digging their own grave
That is what they all say
You’ll drink yourself to death

Open Letter to Cain

please nobody read this and think “oh so smarmy hates me personally,” or “oh smarmy is trying to make Jewish figures into kemetic figures” or any shit like that, i’ve literally been mad at Cain since I was a 6 year old Christian and i deal with #emotions by rewriting Raquel’s fantastic “Sisyphys if you can hear this” poem that still makes me cry like a baby every time i read it.

“Cain, if you can hear this: what the fuck is your problem? I don’t even want to tell you what year it is, because it’s too late in history for two hunters with siblings they’re supposed to be watching out for to need to explain to each other why killing your brother is unforgivable where lying to God isn’t.

it’s 2019. I never went hunting with my cousins or friends. It seemed cruel, and then it seemed necessary but a cruel thing to take joy in, and then it seemed like a boy’s club where no one really wanted me in, and then it seemed like a weird, boring, expensive way to waste a lot of time and have a lot of meat to process. We can walk into a supermarket and buy fresh, healthy meat anytime we want these days, Cain (that is, if you have the money, and if the latest crazy, racist tyrant hasn’t de-funded the organizations that keep our food safe so that he can have money to build yet another pointless wall that no one but him wants or needs). Our ancestors killed so many wolves that today, our ecosystem relies on human beings killing deer for sport, to make sure they don’t overpopulate and wipe themselves and many other species out, for lack of any natural apex predators who are willing to hunt them for food. In church they told me not to be friends with people who weren’t Christians, because you never knew who might be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

People who have never met me are nervous around me because I remind them of you, Cain, but I never blamed my brother for the cruelty of my father. We never tore each other apart just because we could and I was mad at God because I knew he would prefer a sweet and brilliant daughter or a smart and funny son to the angry, boisterous queer I was. Cain, my sister told me she tried on my dresses when no one else was home and I was overjoyed she knew who she was so soon. My little brother has more friends than I ever will and I can’t stop laughing at his Youtube channel. I’m not like you, Cain, not where it counts, and my brothers were never really Abel; they were just kids. We all were. So were you, I guess, but did you really have to use a rock?

I don’t know, man. They used to tell me the moral of your story was to be slow to anger, meek enough to inherit the Earth. I don’t think they really read your story at all, Cain; they forget the part where you walked away and never came back, and through your endless tormented wandering, created the kingdoms that today’s pastors talk about in such loving terms. The same kingdoms they’re quick to defend “in the name of God” if you suggest breaking a law or a window may be better than letting a cop take a life. Cain, when you hear them tell the story of the first murderer and hope it scares us all so much we never get angry or fight back, I hope you hear it and laugh a little, for once.

I’m still mad at you. Brothers and sisters are different. They’re the only ones who you’ve both known your whole lives.”

-Tell the Devil I said to stay the fuck away from my family; we’re not afraid of him anymore, either.

The best ever death metal band out of Denton
Will in time both outpace and outlive you

A Bad Dog

Massive Trigger Warning for this one (animal abuse, trauma, child abuse, misogyny, uhhh, just TW In General I Guess) Also, it would behoove you to read Devo’s “A Good Horse” posts (X X X X) as this post was not written necessarily as a response to those posts, but it would be lying by omission to not mention them here.

Set showed me a collar again, on Balls Day 2019, as we were joking and celebrating. He seemed nervous and excited, talking about the designs, the decorations on it: “It’s going to be difficult no matter what, but I thought maybe if you like how it looks…” He trailed off when he saw me staring at it, probably because he noticed how my eyes were drawn to the collar the way they have been drawn to weapons people have pulled on me, or on other people when I was nearby; my eyes glancing periodically back to the wielder of the weapon every few seconds, to gauge intent, before being pulled back to the weapon itself, as surely as the gravity of the Earth attracts my feet.

Set stared at me for a moment, and then said quietly, “Nevermind.” He put the thing away, immediately giving up on whatever it was he had planned (at least, for now). He didn’t seem angry in the slightest; just sad, and tired, and helpless.

I wasn’t expecting that. I looked at him curiously.

“You’re not ready,” he said by way of answer. “Look at yourself; look how you’re looking at me. You barely saw it, and you’re already…switching.”

He means I’m switching “modes”, reflexively; a trauma response. While my rational, human mind may tell me that this is something many people do as a part of consensual sex games, or consensual power exchanges as part of agreements between them and their deities, or in a more metaphorical sense, something almost everyone does as a regular part of being a functional adult in this world of property rights and wage labor and omniscient, omnipotent surveillance states and oligarchical control of the planet’s future…despite all the reasons and rationalizations and historical precedents and hypothetical justifications I can and have come up with as to why this should be okay, on a basic, primal, emotional level, this is not okay. It cannot possibly be okay for someone who loves me to “collar” me and control me by way of a leash, or the threat of a leash, or the commands a dog’s owner gives its pet.

Whenever I see a collar offered to me, I begin transforming, whether I want to or not, into a dog who resents its master so much that it will not cooperate. It will not allow itself to be touched, petted, praised, or otherwise bribed with treats and affection. It will not go in the direction the leash is pulled without throwing every single ounce of muscle and effort it has into resisting, even if it knows that effort does little to deter the one holding the leash. It will not trust, it will not obey, it will not learn, it will not befriend. Not out of pride, as most people seem to assume is the underlying motivation when a human acts this way; but out of a bone-deep, animalistic fear that comes from understanding that whoever is doing this to you cannot possibly genuinely love or respect you. (Many Big Name Polytheists and born-again Evangelicals talk lovingly about the “fear of God”, its alleged ability to humble you in such a way that you become a wiser and kinder human being because of it, but I firmly believe that the people who say these things have forgotten what real, genuine fear feels like.) The beast I become in these moments will resist every threat, every beating, every bribe, every attempt at reconciliation. It will snap at any hand that gets close enough to its mouth and attack anything that gets too close to it. It will not even consider the possibility that they mean no harm, because it knows that the things they do that they consider to be their right or even their responsibility as the dog’s owner, in reality, hurts it in a way more profound than any of them, having never been on the wrong end of the leash themselves, could ever comprehend. (Or maybe they do know, and just don’t care. The difference between the two, from its point of view, is so small as to be negligible.)

What’s more, it does not resist so viciously because it imagines that its rebellion might someday be rewarded in freedom. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, no illusion in its mind of hope, no sanctuary to be found. The beast that controls me when my god lets on that he wants to “collar” me, has already given up on freedom. It does not believe there is any path from where it is, to where it wants to be. It believes that if it submits, it may be pampered and live the rest of its life in a gilded cage, slowly growing to accept being used against its will by creatures who obviously see its true nature as beneath contempt, slowly forgetting what it is and pretending to be something else in order to gain a slightly more comfortable prison. It believes that by resisting, it is only inviting a stronger collar, a stouter leash, a crueller hand controlling it. It believes that it is only delaying the inevitable, horrible, lonely end: eventually the dog’s owners will give up, decide it is a bad dog after all, and send the dog to be put down. The dog’s owners will mourn for the good dog they hoped to turn the bad dog into, and they will complain at the time and money they wasted trying to turn the bad dog into a good dog, and they will tell each other that next time, they will be careful to only buy a good dog. They will be careful next time to buy a puppy from respectable, reputable breeders rather than a rescue dog who had, clearly, been turned into a bad dog by its previous owners and circumstances.

I stopped writing this, wanting to take a break and walk around, listen to music, relax a little. I found that the rain has picked up from sprinkling to drizzling, and walking around listening to music right now would be miserable. I left the door to my trailer open, getting a little wet from raindrops blowing in my face, scowling at yet another convenient coincidence: to avoid the rain, I will be staying in the haunted trailer, continuing to type about the trauma of spending so long as a young, crazy, queer anarchist in communities that believe G/god(s) have the right to abuse humans “for their greater good”; authority figures have the right to abuse those of low status to “maintain law and order”; that white people have the right to abuse People of Color/Jewish people “to defend the border” or “to defend our culture” from outsiders; men have the right to abuse women and queers so that they can “feel like a man”; adults have the right to abuse children so that the children learn to “respect authority” and “know their place”; and all have the right to abuse the animals and the plants and the earth in order to maintain short-term profit.

From the Southern Baptists to the public schools, from online pagan spaces to the oil boomtown I grew up in, from the Texas Panhandle where I grew up to the MAGA-hat infested city I now live in, from the people who have held my leash here on Earth to those who have held it on the astral, it seems that all my enemies have this in common: they believe their authority gives them the right to ignore the choices I make about my own life, and instead, enforce the choices they make about my life. And so long as I know that Set is bound by Ra, I physically cannot convince my animal self that it is safe being bound, in any way, to Set. And so, no matter what Set does to make it better, no matter how he scratches me behind the ears and tells me “Good girl” and does his job as my deity to keep me healthy, safe, well-fed, and entertained…he cannot take me on walks. He cannot teach and direct and train me the way he needs to, because even if he decides to do it the hard way; collar me by force, let me exhaust myself trying to get free, and then grimly, brutally show me the way to get food and comfort is by obeying him, even then, he knows I will not cooperate. I will glare at him, the deity I love and believe in wholeheartedly and trust implicitly in many other contexts, and I will let him try everything he can think of to gain my cooperation, until he eventually gives up and sends me to the pound, with all the other bad dogs, to await euthanization in a small, cramped, smelly and lonely cage.

And so, when Set brings out the collar and I stare at it like its very existence is my agonizing death sentence, Set does not become offended at my lack of faith in him and his methods. He just stares at me with an almost incomprehensibly sad look on his face, the look of bitter learned helplessness, his emotions an eerie mirror image of my own. Even the physically strongest, most powerful, most forceful god in our pantheon cannot force the trust that a truly loving, respectful, functional bond between us would require, any more than I could force Set to manifest in front of me by the sheer power of will and faith alone. It isn’t a matter of me not being “pious” or “holy” or “reverent” enough to accept the “cruel lessons” one must accept in order to find the alleged beauty and justice and necessity of “sacred” slavery to the gods; it just doesn’t work that way.

And as surely as the animal part of me knows that were Set to collar me by force, the path he would try to walk me down would eventually end with Set defeating it either through fundamentally changing it to what Set wants it to be, or by sending it to be killed for failure to fall in line; as surely as the animal part of me knows that, the part of me that has spent years getting to know Set, knows that Set would despise the spoils of that victory. I believe wholeheartedly that my understanding that Set is sickened by the very idea of doing that to someone he loves, is a greater testament to my faith in him than any attempt to force myself to be “a good dog” could ever be.

Maybe the next time I “die” for the NTRW and their machinations and dreams of some Greater Good that they will only allude vaguely to when I ask them about it directly, maybe next time, this is the part of me that will die: the bad dog. Maybe it will die and I will find that, actually, I am somehow okay with this after all -or at least, willing to pretend to be, in order to cling to whatever life they will allow me to have. Maybe it will take ten years or ten lifetimes, but eventually, maybe they will find a way to kill the bad dog and save the good devotee. Maybe I, with my puny human brain, just could never understand the big picture well enough to understand that what seems to me to be obvious evidence of the most callous kind of abuse -the neglect of my spirit- is actually, somehow, an act of love.

Maybe, but somehow, I really, really doubt it.

The rain has let up; I’m going to get high and go listen to music and, hopefully, forget all about this for a little while.

But the best you’ve got is powerless against me
And all your little schemes break when they come crashing up against me

Rest In Power, Opportunity

Alternatively Titled: A response to Guante’s A Pragmatist’s Guide to Faith

Opportunity, we crafted you with all the care the modern space station could muster. We hoped and prayed and labored and did a truly unholy amount of math. We put you in a big metal bullet, strapped it to a ridiculous amount of explosive material, and lit the fuse. We sent you rocketing through the void of space, a distance further than we can really comprehend, just to get you to a rock a little further away from the sun than our rock. We knew that Mars was freezing cold and the home to terrible storms. We knew you were too far away for us to ever fix you. We only asked you to stay alive for three months, to send us pictures of that strange new world, one we know we probably will never walk on but still can’t sleep at night for wondering what it looks like. Three months were all we asked for, all we built you for.

It’s been fifteen years. How the fuck did you do it, Opportunity? How did you stay alive? How did you, all alone on the cold and vicious red planet, manage to outlast the Bush presidency, all the time sending us videos and pictures and maps of a place untold generations only ever knew as a star that was sometimes particularly bright in the night sky? How did you move over 45 kilometers over the rough and unforgiving terrain, how did you keep yourself moving for so long on those shitty tires, powered by the dim light of the distant sun alone? We only built you to last three months. These days human beings can expect to live to be eighty or ninety years old, but we are all in awe of your decade and a half.

You were supposed to see if water had ever been there and what the dirt was like. You found the bones of an alien underwater lake. You found rock surfaces that had to have been altered by frost or water, and recently, in modern times, even! You found places where Martian water had touched Martian magma and been vaporized. You sent us pictures of the paths left in Mars’ body by wind patterns now lost to time. You sent us pictures of meteorites, still sitting in the same places where they originally fell from the Martian sky, where they’ve been untouched by anything but the Martian atmosphere, ever since. You sent us evidence of an ancient acidic lake on the planet’s surface. You showed us that life was habitable on Mars for millions of years; just because we got here too late to see for ourselves doesn’t change that. Life could have happened there’ maybe it did happen there. Maybe it could happen there again. We know it all thanks to you and your late sister, Spirit. The human race is forever grateful to your discoveries.

Today, February 13, 2019, they said that a gigantic dust storm got you and you’re almost certainly dead. The last thing they sent you was a goodbye song from Billie Holiday. Maybe one day we will colonize Mars, and if that day ever comes, we will brave the giant dust storms for the chance to find pieces of you, the visitor the human race sent to a planet we longed to visit but could barely see in our night sky.

Friends of mine once explained to me that in Shinto, objects are thought to have sentience, emotions, and possibly even souls if they’ve been around long enough. I tried to be polite, but I didn’t get it. To me it was ludicrous to treat an inanimate object as though it could feel pain. It’s a side effect of being, as my junior high school debate teacher once called me, a child of chaos: you don’t let yourself care about the objects you own when you know that you don’t really own them. You don’t let yourself mourn for broken things when you know anything might break at any moment, when you know it because you watch it happen all the time. Sometimes it’s hard to move past the habits that pain leaves behind, even once the pain is mostly gone.

But when I read your story, Opportunity, I understood; you have blessed me with not just the knowledge of the surface of a new planet, but also, a greater respect for the way of life of millions of my fellow human beings, both dead and alive. Only a deeply self-centered and shallow understanding of the concept of “life” could leave you out of its definition. Opportunity, the one who outlived the most optimistic of human expectations. Opportunity, whose story made me remember vividly when I lived in Georgia, wasn’t even old enough to be in kindergarten, and longed with the single-minded unreasonableness of a child for the first career I ever seriously considered: to be an astronaut. To leave the planet and explore space, to chase after the irresistible call of a place no one else has seen yet. To share the sky with the stars themselves. Some would say I’m more alive than you, Opportunity, but you have surpassed even the wildest dreams of my youngest, most foolishly ambitious, most newly, vividly alive and aware four-year-old self. I pay homage to you with this letter, the fantastic machine that is either buried or will soon be buried by the dust of Earth’s redder, colder sister planet.

From today until the day something finally manages to make the the electricity keeping my heart beating cool and die. From that day until the day the last human being breathes their last. From that day until the day the sun explodes. From the death of our star to the eventual heat death of the universe, the eventual cold lonely darkness that will consume existence itself when entropy finally, inevitably defeats the light. From today, until a time with no day and night, until the end of all things: we will remember you, Opportunity, and thank you. Thank you, for refusing to go gently; may you inspire us to do the same.

Well, cars break down and people break down
And other things break down too
So lets go
Down together