Okay, so this is going to get long, and there is going to be a lot of music to listen/watch and extra stuff to read, but bear with me, it will potentially help explain where my brain has been at for the past few months. I’ve done a lot of writing, and a lot of playing around in a particular universe, and it’s not something I’ve talked much about, because it was a bit too complicated in my head, and some things were still being worked out.
But I think I’m at a point now where talking about this is not just possible, but necessary, so. This is another attempt to talk about some of my Hekate experiences, and how I’m processing them, and will cover some potentially weird territory, and a lot of fictional writing. I have, like, six years of stuff to cover before I even get to the recent stuff, and some of the initial stuff might not be obviously relevant, but bear with me, it will pay off in the end. I hope. D:
So, firstly, if you’ve never heard Sparkadia before, plz to be hitting up the Spotify playlist below the cut. It will help to contextualise what I’m talking about. Then, sit back as I ramble on about writing, Sobek, Hekate, and this gods-damned band that has taken over my gods-damned life. 😄
So, I’ve already talked a bit about this over on DW already, and if you have access to my DW, you can read about my obsession with ‘Mary’ here. You can also read the first piece of fiction I wrote inspired by that video here.
This begins with the rage 50 in 2011. Where you submit your best three music videos for the year and they get played idk some time in December. Anyway. For whatever reason, I didn’t blog about the songs I DID submit that year, but I did blog about some other songs idek. But anyway. The songs I voted for that year included:
– Jinja Safari – Hiccups
– Lupe Fiasco ft Skylar Grey – Words I Never Said
– Sparkadia – Mary
Bit of a weird selection, sure, but 2011 was a weird year, I think. But those were the three that stuck with me the most. And ‘Mary’ has haunted me ever since that time. Sparkadia’s such a weird band in a lot of different ways, and their music is weird in its own weird way. And the video for ‘Mary’ is, well. Just watch it. Go on, I’ll wait.
Okay, so. This video came into my life at a strange time. A lot of stuff was going on in my religious life, and in my fic-writing life. 2011 was the year I left Kemetic Orthodoxy, and at the time, I had Isis pointing me at Rome, which led to druidry, and to other non-Kemetic things.
As for the Mary thing – I honestly don’t know where it began, if there was even a point where it began, but I’ve had this ‘thing’ for Marian Catholicism for a very long time now. It’s always been about Mary. I can’t explain it. I mean, for some daft reason, She seems to like me. And She keeps turning up with Isis and Hekate, which is just *flails about* I have no idea how to even talk about that particular relationship, and that’s probably a topic for a separate post. But anyway. Catholicism.
So. I was raised in a fairly liberal Protestant Christian tradition – it was liberal coming from my parents, mostly, not necessarily the church itself. My mother raised me gender-neutral ffs, so. Christianity was never forced upon me; I have never been baptised. We went from Church of Christ to Anglicanism, and both have shaped my life in their own ways. Anglicanism taught me a lot about ritual and liturgy, and there are still hymns and prayers that are lodged tightly in my brain just out of sheer repetition.
So my knowledge of Catholicism growing up was pretty limited. It was down to my own research as an adult that brought more of that to light for me, and most of it was Marian. For whatever reason, that seemed to resonate most deeply out of everything else. That, and the Anglo-Catholic style of contemplative worship and ritual I really like.
One of the bouts of research I did was in 2009, when I started writing this ridiculous high school AU fic (which you are under no obligation to read), set around Catholicism, and being queer, and finding your place in the world. I never finished it, and to be honest, I still don’t know if it’s my best work, but I remember doing a lot of research into Catholicism at the time, and that led to stumbling upon this rosary program thing, where it had audio, and you could pray along with it. I think I did that a few times, because I am weird about immersing myself in a religion if I’m writing about it, and I did sense the presence of Mary when I was doing that. She felt a lot like Isis.
And so of course this builds upon itself, until Sparkadia comes to my attention with ‘Mary’, and I find myself entranced. It is probably the most distinctive of their videos, and certainly the song itself stands out a lot, too. I can’t remember the first time I saw it. I’m sure I saw it while watching rage that year, and because of everything I was going through, it just stuck with me. I never forgot about it.
I downloaded it from youtube, because of course I did, and I spent a very long time watching it on repeat, because it wasn’t just something that spoke to me, there was a story here. And there’s so much interesting imagery and symbolism in there to pick apart. It’s so interesting! I mean, that’s a whole other post in and of itself if I was to go through and analyse everything they included in that video.
It’s filmed in an old quarry up the coast (iirc) from Sydney, the name of which escapes me (I’m not from the east coast, forgive me). It’s such a striking setting, with the sea crashing behind the rocks, and the lovely weather they appear to have had. Everything about it just made me think of apocalyptic Doomsday fiction, with this bunch of pilgrims, from a variety of traditions, coming to petition Mary to save them as the world crumbles around them.
So that’s what I wrote. I never finished it, I didn’t even finish chapter two, but that’s the first thing I wrote, and has some lovely Isis-Mary crossover shit that will become important later, trust me.
I had quite a weird sense of where all this was taking place. I could see the colours (grey, brown, pine green, gold, blue) and the landscape and the places, even if they might not have had any real-world correlation. It was set in the American south east, that’s where my mind imagined this taking place. And Mary became more than just Mary. She became The Blue Lady, sort of touching on a Lady of the Stars Isis-Mary-Goddess type of being, who was more than She appeared to be, and could be who Her followers needed Her to be. I was diving into weird Roman!Isis-Mary stuff at the time, and the Queen of Heaven, Star of the Sea title became a way to talk about a group of goddesses who seemed to share similar energy.
So. Another thing happened in January 2012 that is hugely important to this story: Hekate turned up and claimed me while I was on holiday in New Zealand for my cousin’s wedding.
One of the things She told me right at the beginning, and I remember exactly where I was when She told me this, was: Aset-Nut, Isis-Hekate. She said it like a chant, and I could see the comma, and the hyphens, and what She meant when She said it.
So this drew Hekate into my Isis-Mary thing, especially as I began to research Hekate, and found the Queen of Heaven, Star of the Sea thing worked just as well for Her, too. Quanyin fell under this banner eventually, as well, but we’re not here to talk about Quanyin. We’re here to talk about Hekate.
So. You can begin to see Hekate creeping into this world, and this universe, and this video, thanks to Isis and Mary.
In some ways, nothing much happens until last year. In many ways, I keep going back to that Mary video, and just putting it on repeat, still endlessly searching for the story that’s in there. Maybe it’s not the Star of the Sea one, but there’s something there, something I need to write.
Another thing that happens is ‘Pasithea’s City’. It originally started as something I was writing, piece by piece, over at 750words.com. It began life as fanfiction, of this weird ‘ astrological dystopia’ as I liked to call it, where your fate determined how the city treated you. It’s the sort of system that is easily manipulated by class and politics and breeding and money, and that’s what it became.
I wrote Pasithea’s City in 2013, and I had about 20k worth of story there, mostly guided by Hermes. I never really knew what to do with it. I knew there was a story there, but I had five 1st person narratives, and I just could not work out what on earth to do to make them into a coherent single story. So I did nothing about it, and every now and then, I’d reread it, and I’d think about it, and maybe I’d watch ‘Mary’ some more.
Then, Apocalyptic Big Bang came along, and so I decided I would rewrite ‘Pasithea’s City’, in third person, as original fiction. While I didn’t get my draft finished for that big bang, I did get my draft beta’d, and made A LOT OF CHANGES. And armed with that, and with new gods turning up and lots of ‘Egypt in diaspora stuff’, I kept on writing. I worked on it for NaNo. I worked on it when inspiration hit. I had a month where I added 20k words to it.
And of course Hekate found a way to creep into that too, even if it was just a small part of a scene where Andreas, the MC, builds a little herm at the entrance of the cave they’re staying in, and writes (albeit badly – he’s functionally illiterate at the beginning of the story) the names of Hermes and Hekate on the wall above it as a dedication.
The plan had been, initially, to finish it in 2015, but that didn’t happen. But I had made enough progress on the story and the world that I made this post about the rewrite, to expand on and talk about the characters, and to offer a map of the world I was writing about.
Now, there came a point in my writing where I was contemplating where Andreas and the Seers might go, and what they might find, as they wandered the desert towards the city, after leaving the tribe they’d been sheltering with. One phrase kept coming back, and I suspect it came from a dream or otherwise slipped into my subconscious, that of a character known only as ‘The Black Priest’. He was initially conceived of as a wandering priest, bound to no temple or city, making amends for something he’d done. But nothing ever came of this character as I continued writing.
Stepping outside the realms of writing for a moment, I need to talk about my spirituality again. A lot of my thought processes and experiences are already documented on Per Sebek, so I won’t delve too deeply into it. Suffice it to say, I formally began building a Sobek of Shedet regional cult, and taking it beyond the surface and looking to deepen what that might look like.
Religion in diaspora has preoccupied my mind a lot in recent years, and it has crept into my fiction, too. What does religion look like, and how does it change, away from the place where it originally came from? What does Kemetic practice look like when it’s not being done in the Two Lands? Where the river doesn’t flood, where the stars and seasons and plants are different?
This bled into the desert gods from Pasithea’s City, who originally came from Egypt. I began writing down Masrai’s myths in January 2016 while on holiday in Tasmania. I picked up this sketchbook with a red cover, and for whatever reason, Masrai just began telling me Her story, and I began writing it down. And that made me think more about religion in diaspora, and how the Kemetic gods might evolve if they left the Two Lands in mythic time, and grew up in a completely different land. How the experience of being forced to leave Egypt would change them, and how they would adapt because of that.
I’ve spent a lot of time writing about gods lately, particularly Hekate. The more I worked with Her, and the more I meditated and explored things with Her, the more She crept into my writing. I did some of the creative projects over on the Covenant of Hekate page, and the last one I did was the short-story one for March 2015. Which seems like an interesting coindidence as I started the original Pillars of the Naos a year earlier, which had been its own rollercoaster ride of meditational amazingness.
That experience with the Pillars of the Naos in 2014 led to many deep experiences and things I needed to explore further. I had experiences with Hekate and Isis and Artemis, and Woden turned up at one point, and there was all sorts of stuff going on that is a bit hard to talk about without without derailing this post further.
But 2016 was where all the Hekate writing came to a head. I wrote two stories: Waiting for the Night; and Fingerprints. Waiting for the Night was written in March, and finished enough to be submitted to Askei Kataskei. That was published in July, along with one other story written for that challenge that had been submitted to AK.
Waiting for the Night has a strange sort of world going on with it. I was never entirely sure it wasn’t part of the Pasithea’s City world, being set near a coastal town in Greece somewhere. Something about the imagery I had in my head suggested a connection, but I’ve never proved it one way or another.
I will get to Fingerprints in a moment, but first, we need to go back to The Black Priest, and how that ended up part of the Pasithea’s Universe as well. I’d been toying with the idea of this character being a wandering priest of some sort, but watching ‘Mary’ again on repeat gave me the answer. There was my Black Priest staring back at me, there with his followers, with Isis guiding them. This wasn’t a story about Christianity, but one about Egypt.
The Black Priest was the last High Priest of Egypt, who fled with the last of his temple staff and followers, after the final invasion of Egypt (by the same tank-wielding people who invaded the city in ‘Waiting for the Night’? Maybe!). Because I am nothing if not good at writing about religion in diaspora, and because I am a Sobek kid, I was all, well, I could make him a priest of Aset/Heru/Wesir, or I could make him a priest of Sobek, because, c’mon, no one writes about Sobek priests.
So he became Sobek Shedety’s final High Priest, because wynaut explore religion in diaspora that’s relevant to your own spirituality, hey? Yeah! 😀 And because suddenly this cast of seventeen had become Egyptian, I needed new faces for them, because obviously they would not be (mostly) Anglo-Australian. They would be Egyptian, and maybe Nubian, and Greek, and they would have different names and backgrounds, and speak different languages.
It took a while to get that done, and not just because I insisted on knowing titles and names and roles and all this sort of stuff. I needed to get the look of the character dolls just right, and it’s not easy to find a) doll makers with dark enough skin, and b) something resembling late Egyptian-style clothing. Also, I needed a dollmaker that would let me make bald women, and that is even harder to find. So I ended up compromising and using whatever I could find, including a Star Wars doll maker, because, well. It had what I needed it to have.
A lot of the difficulty came from them wearing black clothes, which is why he’s the Black Priest. (There are other reasons, but that’s the big one.) So finding the right style of black clothes that looked right took some time. It was an alternate universe, so I could be a bit flexible with it to a certain extent, but it still didn’t mean I could just dress them in anything.
Still, I think I managed to settle on something that worked, in the end. I’m happy, at least, with what I came up with, and how they are now depicted. I made this huge character sheet, with all sorts of profile info for each of them, and slowly began filling in background info. When I decided they were going to use their pilgrimage to Bahariya as a ruse on top of their cover as a funeral party to get out of the city, I had more priests to name, though there were only five this time.
The full character list of The Black Priest can be seen here, if you’re interested, and have read this far. I’m still figuring out what to do with that wordpress site, but as a dumping ground for some worldbuilding stuff, it’s useful enough for now. (Also, if you can figure out who the characters originally were, based on the ‘Mary’ video, well, you can clearly read my mind. :P)
The black clothes mean a lot of different things. Firstly, Egyptian priests dressed in white, because it was the colour of purity. Black, iirc, was reserved for mourning. Black also represented fertility and the black mud the Nile brought with the flood. This is where Kemet, the black land, gets its name from. Deshret, the red land, is the desert. The black and red lands are in constant tension with each other, but you can’t have one without the other.
So for the Black Priest and his staff to dress in black is a radical decision, and one not taken lightly. Partly it’s down to helping them escape, because they won’t look like priests, but like mourners. But there’s also an element of mourning for the land they’ve have to leave behind, to leave it without the King, without the priests, with the gods and their temples broken and ruined and torn to pieces. It is a time of chaos, and confusion, of the world not being how it used to be. To take the holy bones of Wesir out of Egypt, to live in exile just as Aset and Heru and Sobek did…
To wear those white linen robes, to go before the gods like they used to do, seems impossible. They have to learn how to do their religion without temples, without the hundreds of staff who used to be there, to worship without the king, in foreign lands, in the middle of the desert where the dead live, where nothing good ever exists. They have to learn how they can still keep the worship of the gods alive when they can no longer live in the Two Lands.
And so they wear black, because how can you be pure in the desert? How can ma’at exist in the desert? Where there is little water, and less shade, and there is only so much food to keep them going as they walk between the oases? How can they wear white when they don’t even know where they will go? When they are walking across Libyan lands, on foreign ground, the land of old conquerors?
And while my own practice is not quite so drastic, any Kemetics outside of Egypt are faced with similar questions, including me. How do we do Kemetic religion outside the Two Lands? How does it work in the southern hemisphere, where the Sirius star and the flooding of the Nile aren’t as useful for calculating a seasonal calendar?
A lot of these questions don’t have easy answers, or they have many different answers. But hey, I am nothing if not creative, so exploring them within the realm of fiction is how I tend to wrestle with them.
So I started writing that in June last year, and while I only got about 20k in, it’s still being worked on. Because it’s the same universe as Pasithea’s City, I sort of ended up slowing down a little, just so I had time to figure out how the two stories would intersect.
Okay, so, it’s not just that. What happened was, I saw the Black Priest leading the group to the tribe’s caves, where Andreas and the Seers were staying, once the storm dissipated. So suddenly, there are these Egyptian priests meeting this tribe that was once part of Egypt, but back so long ago, the gods don’t remember who they used to be. And that unification, that connecting back of South and North, of Upper and Lower, of Masrai and Sobek, of red and black, Deshret and Kemet, this is a way to make things whole. To bring these two sides together to make the Two Lands again in their own way, in a way that works for the desert they live in.
So once I knew that, and I had written that scene, then it was figuring out how to mesh the two stories together, because their journeys take place at similar times, just from different places.
I suspect keeping them separate may work well enough for the time being. I did think about interspersing them as different stories until they collide, but to be honest, I think it would just make the story way, way too complicated, and keeping the story threads simple seems like a more productive idea.
And, yes, I am getting back to Sparkadia, I promise. See, I did that thing I am usually terrible at doing and decided to see what else Sparkadia had done, and looked for them on the youtubes. Which is a great way to waste away an evening or three, I can tell you that much. But of course once I heard a couple more songs, I was even more intrigued by this band, and a month later, when I was wandering in JB Hi-Fi, I thought, fuck it, and picked up the two albums, because what the hell. I could sense this was something I needed to do.
And then I proceeded to do what I’d been doing since The Last Shadow Puppets put out a second album, and that was to put Sparkadia on, all of it, in order, and just listen to it on repeat, over and over and over again.
If you’ve ever done this before, you will know the sort of effect it can have on your brain.
One of the first songs that stood out to me early on was Fingerprints. I remember standing on a train platform one afternoon, coming back from something, and I heard Fingerprints, really heard it, and the lyrics punched into my brain, giving me such vivid imagery. The loneliness, the longing, the confusion, the not being sure, wanting it as much as wanting to run far, far away from it. I could just see him in this small room, on this bed, just dealing with all of this. It was the sort of thing that just would not leave me alone, once I’d seen it.
I even dreamt about it. Seeing this figure, sitting on the edge of a bed in a dodgy cheap motel in regional Victoria (idk why it was location-specific, but okay, dream, let’s run with that), just staring at their reflection in the mirror. Crippled with inertia, with fear, with all sorts of emotions that come from running away.
For a long time, I had that image, alone, and didn’t quite know what to do with it. Then Spook Me came along, the annual Hallowe’en fic challenge I’ve done for the past idk how many years now. You sign up for a particular creature (or more), and you’re sent a couple of image prompts for each creature, and you write a thing. It’s the one time of the year where I really focus on writing horror fic.
Now, most years, I’ve done werewolves and vampires and zombies. But last year was different. Last year, I signed up for shapeshifter, because that dream was still running around in my head, and I had no idea what to do with it. I’d written it down, tried to turn it into a scene, wrote three or four different scenarios for who they were and why they’d run away. Running away from an ex, running away from an ex-Domme, running away from a goddess, a demon hunter running away from shit.
None of them really worked, though I entertained the demon hunter scenario for a while. I kept going back to ‘Mary’, to the keys he has hanging from his belt, to Hekate and keys (because I kept trying to figure out, why keys? of all the things?) (like I said, picking apart all the things in that video would take a thesis to unpack), and this is how Hekate and Sparkadia meet. It becomes demon hunter bound to Hekate to witch bound to Hekate, and once I had that, the rest of the story followed from there.
Once I had written my piece for Spook Me, where Hekate speaks to Her witch and reveals the trauma they don’t want to deal with, I knew there was more to the story. More that needed writing. And so that became my NaNovel for last year. Continuing the story was the goal.
It still took me a long time to discover my character was intersex. For a long time, they existed as genderless, and nameless. I couldn’t even decide what they looked like. I couldn’t see a face. I couldn’t make any character dolls. I didn’t know how to refer to them in the story. Only when it hit me that they were intersex, and ohshit I’ve never written an intersex character before and that’s a whole load of research I didn’t need but okay, sure, did their character begin to come to life.
There are so many different ways to be intersex, y’see, and it’s not enough to just say they’re intersex. Some have quite serious health issues, and have different expressions of phenotype. So finding the right condition was important.
Then came the relationship. Because that didn’t go away, and the more I listened to Sparkadia, the more weird this relationship and its fallout became, and what I felt I needed to do to write this properly. I stumbled across a research paper (Government report? IDEK) about intersex people and relatioships, and that at least helped me figure out how their condition might affect their capacity for sexual pleasure, and what might work for them, or not work.
And so all that helped me figure out how to form that past relationship, and their witchcraft practice, and to have a better handle on how the relationship went bad. I didn’t rip it whole from the music, but I let it guide me, and help me shape something that felt right for this character, even though it wasn’t the same. I think it’s better for being different, to be honest.
I listened to nothing but Sparkadia for nearly five months, and so much of it is tied up in this writing about Hekate. I just can’t separate the two. She took on a much larger role during my NaNovel writing, and the scope of that story just kept growing until it somehow led back to Cyrene, where Hermes was initially taking Andreas to, back in Pasithea’s City. That hadn’t been the plan at all, to connect the three stories into a trilogy, and certainly not one involving spacetime travel and shifting people into another dimension, another universe.
I won NaNo last year, with that story. It’s not finished, but it’s abut 60k worth of writing, and once I know where these three are all heading towards, I’ll have a better idea about the ending. And, of course, in the past couple of weeks, I’ve gone back to Sparkadia, and listening to it all over again, as well as watching the videos, is just doing terrible inspirationy things to my head.
I mean, there’s nothing specifically Hekatean about Sparkadia’s music. None of it really screams at me at being Her. There are a few interesting references, such as The Great Impression giving me a Valley of the Kings reference, and Fade From View is such a fascinating song. And I will keep going back to Fingerprints, because I just love that song so much.
Eventually, I will do both albums for 365albums, and I will give you another 5k just on the songs themselves. But this isn’t just about the music, this is also about Hekate, and writing. And it’s got to the point where this music just leads me back to Hekate, and this story. I don’t think I could rejig it to point to something else. These associations are deep, and they get under your skin.
I feel like I’ve left a lot out. I feel like I wanted to talk more about my Hekate stuff than I did, but I can’t quite find the words for that, either. Not in a direct sense. Maybe I’ll post some snippets of things, and go read over my meditation notes again, and try to write more about those specific things. But I can’t separate out the writing from that time, either. The two are related as much as the music is. To do all this intense work with Hekate, and to write so deeply about Hekate in fiction at the same time, to me, there’s a lot there that’s revealing.
Maybe that’s what I’ll use the Pasithea’s City blog for, to post bits and pieces that reflect these things, as well as progess and other things. I don’t know. But there’s a lot going on in my mind right now, and I know it’s just the beginning. I still have to finish these three stories, and I honestly don’t know when that will happen. All I know is that they will be finished, because that’s just how things are with them.
Anyway. I think this is long and complete enough for the time being, and since it’s 11pm right now, I should get this posted, then go meditate before bed. I have a lot of work to do this weekend, particularly if I keep listening to Sparkadia.