For a long time, whenever I wanted to talk about the experience of conversion when I found Kemeticism, I talked about falling in love. It wasn’t just “Oh, this religious concept works for me,” it was a passionate thing, an overwhelming thing, that sense where somehow, the world makes a new and different sense, the colors brighter, the whole thing more brilliant.
I threw myself into it. I did courses with several temples, I read discussion forums, I read book recommendations when people had them. I started delving more and more into it, reading more and more, hoarding reference books and resources and building up a little library of them. I collected, I organized, I cursed myself for all the things I learned that I hadn’t properly noted down where I learned it from. Every so often, still, I consider going through and rereading everything just so that I can footnote it, as if I could arrange all this knowledge, all these theories, into a properly cross-referenced wiki or some sort of accessible thing.
I worry, sometimes, about leaving the work unfinished, not getting it properly laid out so that other people can follow the steps. I wonder if my thinking is too elliptical and quirky, even as one thing leads into another and there are grand arcs and have you noticed how all of this wiggles if you pull on this one thread?
I wrote an entire book about the Duat – the Egyptian spirit world / underworld / farworld or whatever you want to call it – despite the fact that mortuary practices are the thing I find overall least interesting in the whole system. But it doesn’t matter where you start, you can find a thread, and chase it, and it’s not all mummies and tombs in the end. It can’t be, because the entire body contains all of its systems.
The heart, the ancients thought, was central to the functioning of the person. Heart-weary was a euphemism for death. And one knows the heart’s importance by listening, feeling, its voice can be heard everywhere in the body, that gentle throbbing that communicates, each system to each other system, in that steady rhythm of the pulse.
It is like falling in love, I said, I still say.
Once upon a time, when I was much younger, I threw myself into the world of book-derived religious witchcraft, and I tried so hard to fit in, to make it work. I swallowed as much gender essentialism as I could fit, I bought dowels at craft stores trying to make a satisfactory wand and pounded a bit of brass tubing flat in the hope that it was something vaguely like a blade, I did rituals out of those books, I tried to make my own. I felt foolish, and I kept at it, hoping that eventually the foolish feeling would go, that it would all, eventually, stop being so profoundly ridiculous.
I prayed, to the extent that I understood prayer, for that click, that sense of fitting in. For belonging, rather than always being that awkward one on the edge.
I never fell in love.
Oh, I wanted to. I had this desperate hunger to love, to be loved, and I looked for it in books, and I tried to make it happen in the world, and it was all going through the motions.
It was a relief, years later, when I fell at last. When I started discarding the things that I had tried to believe out of books, set them aside as someone else’s religion, not mine, putting down all those burdens, trying to fit in and be normal and like all the other pagans.
I had the thing that worked, I was in love. It was good. I was finding gods, theologies, concepts, even rituals that worked, that didn’t make me feel like a fool. I kind of felt like I fit in, or at least that there was something I could fit into.
And then I was told, “Go study this other thing. You need it. You won’t find what you need here.”
I had been sent back to the Craft.
But it wasn’t the book-rooted thing I had known before. It was work with a live teacher, and in a different tradition, and it was complicated and hard. And it took me a long, long time to fall in love, over two years of active work, of pursuit, of exercises and trying it to see how it went and feeling like always that I was on the outside of something.
Someone was shocked that I had found it such a strain, that the ceremonial threads slipped through my fingers so easily while I was looking for love, and I didn’t know how to explain. The intellectual stuff, the patternmaking, that part is easy.
Falling in love is so, so hard.
Eventually I found it, the beating heart, the liberatory pulse. I could feel it in every part of the body, and it was the same heart, the same rhythm, that I had loved before. Where the one pulse took its ethic in established pattern and comforting ritual, the other more wild. One to maintain the heart, the other to free it and make it sing.
And, at last, I fell in love.
I have fallen in love with the world many times. I have fallen in love with rivers and with the deep starry sky and with the arc of a hawk’s flight above me. I have fallen in love with basslines and chords, with shades of blue-green, with the wonder of splitting apart pieces of shale to find, revealed in that crevice, a perfect fossilized trilobite. I have fallen in love with a small child tucked, head under my chin, trying to find sleep, resting at last. I have fallen in love with ancient texts, with the sound of round and rolling vowels and dactylic hexameter, with intricate rebuses and layers of meaning. I have fallen in love with numbers, with the extraction of primes, with the snowflake wonder of Pascal’s triangle, color-coded. I have fallen in love with many things, and each of those things I have swallowed up and made a part of myself, nourishing myself on each of them.
The world is full of passions. Each passion is a vessel, carrying with it the pulse of the whole, connecting the organs of a life. The heart is a shrine, and its every beat sends whatever is seated there through those arteries, fueling those passions with whatever rests within. A healthy passion, a surprising joy, feeds and sustains and enlivens, and that pulse is a rhythm of beats to which the spirit can dance.
Fall in love.