This post was originally posted on February 14, 2014, and it is a response to another question from the Kemetic Round Table:
Every Kemetic has to start somewhere. For this topic, we’re discussing how each of us got started in Kemeticism, and sharing any tips or stories that we might find helpful.
I grew up with an agnostic attitude toward all Deities. I didn’t experience anything to make me believe in any of Them for a long while, but I really wanted to. I knew lots of people who believed in Jesus or Vishnu, and even as a kid, I understood that I wasn’t in any position to tell anyone they were wrong. Maybe they were, I thought, but there was no way to prove or disprove it either way. Then, after seeing the original 1932 version of The Mummy, I started reading books about Egypt. That’s when I first learned about the Egyptian Gods, and if I could have believed in any Deities at all, I would have wanted to believe in Them. (Especially when it came to Anubis, who I thought was just about the coolest God ever.) However, I think I resolved myself to agnosticism forever when I finally discovered that Santa Claus wasn’t real. This revelation was a bit traumatic for me, to be perfectly honest, and the possibility of any Deities being real didn’t seem so good in that context. By the time I reached middle school, I just didn’t care anymore.
Anubis was my favorite God when I was a kid.
But listening to Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar back in 1996 caused a sudden change in me. I felt an otherworldly power in that music, and considering the strange Qabalic rituals Manson and his bandmates conducted while they recorded the album, this hardly seems surprising now. At first I thought that power was just a figment of my imagination, and I enjoyed tapping into it just for artistic inspiration. But then I started having arguments with some of the evangelical Christian kids I knew in school. They were constantly trying to convert me, but none of their claims made any sense. I always seemed to have something really intelligent to say, some baffling question or remark that made them stop dead in their tracks. Our discussions never really went anywhere, but I always walked away from them with a clearer, stronger sense of myself.
As I’ve already explained in my review of the aforementioned Manson album, I soon followed up on Manson’s claims about Satanism (as taught by the Church of Satan), which led me to discover the Temple of Set. Here was the first group of people I’d ever heard of who believed in the Egyptian Gods (in a manner of speaking, at least). I started reading everything I could get my hands on by these people, and this helped me put the energy I was experiencing into perspective. I still thought it was just a force – something I could tap into and “use” whenever I wanted to. It seemed to me that it was what caused individuality to exist, making everyone and everything different somehow, and that it had something to do with why people demonize things that are different. I also liked the idea that the oldest and purest form of this energy was the Egyptian God Seth. So I started practicing rituals to invoke Seth and to use His power for my own benefit.
Months later – sometime around Imbolc 1998 – I had a crazy dream where I was at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night. The truck stop was packed with truckers, and through one of the windows I could see what looked like a Unisys office building across the street outside. But instead of a Unisys logo, the building simply had a glowing red scarab, which I immediately recognized as the hieroglyph for kheper (“to become” or “to be transformed”). Suddenly, I felt someone sitting down next to me. I turned to look, and there was Ozzy Osbourne in a dress. He had curlers in his hair, he was wearing a pair of pink bunny slippers, and he was smoking a cigarette. My jaw dropped, and then Ozzy said, “You’re on your way, boy!” Then he winked at me, and I woke up. I won’t bother interpreting this dream here – I think it speaks pretty well for itself – but that was when I started to realize that the power I was experiencing was far more than just a “force.” It was alive, it was intelligent, and it was watching me.
An avatar of Seth-Typhon?
I admit I was a little spooked by this experience, so I decided to back away from Seth for the time being. I thought to myself, “If one Egyptian God is real, then what about the rest of Them?” That’s when I started working with Anubis for a little while. I had some truly wonderful experiences with Him during the summer of 1998, but by September of that year, I started to get the message: I could visit with other Gods if I wanted to, but I belonged with one in particular. This God made it very clear that I was to start working with Him again immediately. For the next several years, I would go through many different phases of understanding just who and what He is (and “what it means” to worship Him). I won’t bore anyone by describing each and every one of these phases – some of which lasted for up to two years, others of which lasted for mere days – but I will say that I wasn’t always sure if He was really Seth or not. The only way to test this theory was to try identifying Him by as many other names as possible. (At one point – thinking He might actually be a Goddess – I even tried identifying Him as “Ishtar.” This led to some very fascinating results, but it eventually became clear that Ishtar was someone very different.)
If any of this strikes anyone as “flaky” on my part, I must humbly admit that I really had no idea of what I was doing. It was like trying to enjoy the exhibits at a museum with all the lights off and only a couple of flashlights at my disposal. Some “flashlights” were better than others (e.g., Don Webb’s Seven Faces of Darkness: Practical Typhonian Magic), while others just made things harder to see (e.g., Simon’s Necronomicon). Even the best of them couldn’t shed a light on everything, though. Nor did I have any kind of “elder” to help me on my quest; even when someone tried to fulfill such a role for me, I rejected them. The whole thing was like a crazy Frankenstein experiment that could have gone disastrously wrong. If the One who called out to me had been a different sort of fellow, He might have totally abandoned me to all the hungry qliphoth I must have been attracting to myself at the time (and perhaps He’d have been justified in doing so). But He didn’t.
By my mid-twenties, I was absolutely swimming in the mouth of
Apophis. I won’t go into details, but I had gotten myself into a real corner and my mind and soul were really beginning to atrophy. If the Big Guy hadn’t directly intervened, I probably wouldn’t be here to tell this story right now. The first thing He did was send me on a pilgrimage to the exact spot where He and I first “met” all those years ago, when I first heard Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar. (This required traveling halfway across the continent at the time.) I know it probably sounds silly to everyone else but my brothers, but that pilgrimage turned out to be one of the greatest things I ever did in my life. The experience I had there at my own personal “Ground Zero” (a full 10 years after I first met the Big Guy, I might add) is a secret between me and Him, but I’ll tell you this much. It made me wake up and realize that Seth is real, dammit, and that He actually cares about me.
“You’re gonna be all right, kid.”
Another problem I had during my period of extreme malleability was that I couldn’t find enough dependable resources to study. While I agree with seasoned occultists and hardened reconstructionists that books like the Simon Necronomicon are poorly researched (and extremely dangerous), the problem is that they’re generally much cheaper and more accessible to the common working class teenager. It’s much harder to find (or even afford) a definitive out-of-print work like Herman teVelde’s Seth: God of Confusion, so why is anyone surprised that young up-and-coming Pagans are gravitating toward the stupider stuff? Thankfully, the situation changed somewhat when Google Books came along. While you can’t necessarily read an entire book on this search engine, you can still read quite a bit of it in many cases. I found the teVelde book on Google Books almost immediately after I returned home from my pilgrimage, and it was like a thunderbolt zapping me in the face. I had never understood Seth’s connection to the Big Dipper before, or to the Opening of the Mouth ceremony, or to the foreign Deities with whom He was identified (e.g., Ash, Ba’al, etc.). Learning about these things made me realize that Seth has a system (crazy as it may sound), and it helped me set some intelligible boundaries for myself.
The next thing Seth did was much less pleasant. He really put me through the meat grinder. He turned my entire life upside down and made me feel like someone was ripping my heart right out of my chest with a rusty spoon and flushing it down the crapper. Even while it was happening, I knew it had to happen. I knew the life I was living was absolutely terrible for me, and that it all had to come burning down so I could build something new; but that didn’t make the experience any less painful. Still, there isn’t a single day that goes by that I don’t thank Seth Almighty for driving me through that hell. That whole situation is what finally caused me to become a man. I am now a husband, a homeowner, a research technician, and I might even become a father – perhaps even a grandfather – someday. I would never have become any of these things if the Red Lord hadn’t been there for me. It might sound cheesy or even crazy to some people, but Seth-Typhon is far more than just a Patron or a personal God for me. He’s my Savior.
I realize this has gone well beyond the question of “How did you get started?” But I guess you might say I’ve had more than one “start.” I had to begin without any faith, then slowly grow one, then lose it and win it back again. Ironically, the entire process took about 13 years (give or take a month) counting from the precise moment when I first listened to Antichrist Superstar. I don’t know what Manson did during those crazy rituals he claims to have conducted while he and the band were recording that album. But knowing what I know about Western ceremonial magic and its tendency to appropriate all manner of exotic “godforms,” I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Manson said or did something to invoke Big Red (either knowingly or unknowingly) in the process. In any case, this is the (extremely) abridged version of my story; take from it what you will.
And now for some friendly advice based on things that happened to me during the course of these terrible and wonderful events…
If you feel drawn to an ancient Egyptian God or Goddess and you’re looking for advice, try to find the most dependable academic resources you can. Even if you decide later on that you don’t want to do things exactly like the ancients did them, it’s still good to know where all this stuff comes from. That way, you can make more intelligent and informed decisions about how to deviate from traditional practices, should you choose to do so. If you can’t find such resources at your local library or book store, check out Google Books. You can find almost anything on there nowadays, but be sure to maintain a healthy level of skepticism, especially when it comes to “New Age” or “Occult” books or websites (yes, including this one). Don’t believe whatever you read just because it’s there; be skeptical of everything, and put everything you can to the test. Try to read books that have been published by major universities, and preferably books that have been published since the 1990s. Egyptology books from the 19th and early 20th centuries are sometimes helpful, but many of them are extremely out-of-date. Proceed with caution.
When it comes to meeting up with other people for rituals and stuff, be wary. Here in LV-426, we don’t let anyone join up with us unless we’ve already known them face-to-face for at least an entire year. That may seem extreme, but we’ve met quite a few loonies in our time, so you need to be careful. If you’re meeting up with someone you’ve never met before, make them agree to meet you in a public place where there’s lots of people around. Have a friend or two come with you, as well. And I don’t know if people who serve other Egyptian Deities have the same problem, but Seth’s kids are sometimes drawn to some pretty dark stuff (e.g., Satanism, qliphothic magic, etc.). If you’re one of Seth’s kids and you feel drawn to any of these things at all, it’s probably because Big Red wants you to learn that they aren’t necessarily as bad as society thinks they are. Keep in mind, however, that they’re not exactly “harmless” either, and that you can draw some pretty negative energy to yourself if you act foolishly. Also remember that Seth’s a monster-slayer in the end, and that even
Apophis, the most evil thing that exists, is scared shitless of Him.