Some things creep up on you after a while.
In my case, it was an interest in the pre-Judaic religious practices and beliefs of my Semitic ancestors – the ancient Canaanite peoples. I’ve always had the interest, it began three years ago when I came out of my spiritual rut (see: this post) and started researching Kemeticism. Whenever I would petition my Akhu (ancestors) for anything, or leave offerings for them, the interest in their spiritual background would spark briefly again in my mind and heart. I would ask myself, “why did I struggle with Judaism in college, when it had previously made me happy?” The primary reason: I could no longer accept monotheism as a personal truth.
But the funny thing is – my ancestors, also Semitic, weren’t monotheists. I’ve known this for a while. I’ve read books – Jennifer Hunter’s book Magickal Judaism comes to mind, as one of the first places I read about it. And yet, I never went down that route, never really considered looking into that particular brand of mythology, that Pantheon (the ‘Iluma, They are called). I have been happy enough serving Netjer, doing Kemetic-style rituals, and partaking in Kemetic fellowship on and off-line. Somehow it was easier to try something completely new (Kemeticism), rather than extract something new from something I thought I already understood. Not to mention, I’d tried working with other Pantheons in the past, and it didn’t necessarily go as well as I would have hoped.
Just recently, though, a few things happened all at once, as these things so often do.
- (1): I got very involved and passionate about a conversation that took place in the Kemetic Facebook group I belong to concerning the right that Jewish people should/should not (in my opinion, should) have to learn about and understand their polytheistic past if they so desire to.
- (2): The Kemetic holiday of the Wag Festival came up, which specifically honors the Akhu, and I did an online “homework” assignment for it given out by Tamara Siuda of the House of Netjer, of which I belong (as a Remetj), which really (unexpectedly) made me feel deeply and powerfully thankful for my family and ancestral line (especially those Jews that came over from Europe, before the Holocaust, essentially saving my future family from torture and death). I also asked my mother to pull out some family tree info for me, for the next time I visit my parents’ house.
- (3): I spoke on the phone with the Rabbi who might be doing my wedding next October – my parents want Jack and I to have a Jewish-styled wedding, it’s very important to them, but not many conservative Rabbis will perform Interfaith weddings…we found one who might, however, and it was during that first phone call with her that I also began to feel very nostalgic for Judaism, for the community and the traditions more than anything. I suddenly missed Hebrew, I missed the Old Testament mythology I grew up with (my “ancestral heroes”), and I missed talking about ritual from a Jewish standpoint.
- (4): I stumbled – literally, stumbled (I found it through clicking various links on a whim) – onto the website for a group called the Primitive Hebrew Assembly. Even after reading about things like the Tel Shemesh project in the past, a more “Earthy”, generally Pagan-inspired Jewish spiritualism project, I had never come across an independent Jewish group claiming to be specifically interested in pre-monotheistic Semitic practice/beliefs, yet still with the identity of “Jewish.” I emailed the contact person for the group, and received some advice on what books to read to begin learning about Canaanite mythology and what she called “Jewish tribal polytheism.”
And so, because of all that, I downloaded a book on Canaanite mythology this past Monday night.
I finished the book this morning.
Two things I noticed right away:
- (1): The similarities between the mythology of the ancient Canaanites and what eventually became the mythology of Judaism (i.e. “the old testament” or Torah) is striking. It’s fascinating to me. The similarities between Amoritic/Canaanite language and the modern Hebrew I learned in Sunday School blew me away, as well. They had a harvest festival back then called “Sukkot” – same name as the modern Jewish harvest festival. I GOT SO EXCITED WHEN I NOTICED THAT. And now? I suddenly need to learn everything! If I was a little uncertain about going down this route, at least academically, I’m not anymore. I’m too fascinated, and realizing that there’s too much in this area of the world, historically, that interests me. Egypt was the starting place, but there’s so MUCH in the Levant to learn about, as well. And the thing that I’m really noticing? I feel connected to this history. It is very much alive in me: I am a part of it, still.
- (2): I feel very drawn to the Goddess Anat. This surprised me! While not the same Goddess exactly, by any means, Anat has a lot in common with the Goddess Sekhmet – and I have never felt close to or called by Sekhmet before, despite my Kemetic practice. Deities are multi-faceted, for sure; but like people, certain Deities do have certain personalities/dominant characteristics…and war-like, often vicious, physically strong Deities have never been my forte. It’s just not something I ever expected to relate to. And yet. While reading about Anat, something deep down resonated with me…in a way I am not entirely certain yet how to accurately describe. We have plenty of strong Goddesses in Kemeticism – why Anat makes me feel this way, and none of Them do, is something I’m going to have to look into. I am intrigued!
Which brings me to the point of this post: I am heading in a new direction. I’m not leaving one path and taking on a new path, I’m simply continuing forward on my general spiritual journey. I will still partake in Kemetic practice; I’m simply adding an interest in Canaanite polytheism to the mix. If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll know I was not successful in inviting a Norse God to join the Kemetic Gods in my household a while back…but something tells me the Canaanite Pantheon might be more welcome here. Something tells me They’ve always been welcome here, I just didn’t realize it. Something tells me my ancestors invited this history, this mythology, these Gods (these ‘Iluma) into my life long before I was ever born.
Next week on Thursday, I will be visiting my family for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year (we just had the Kemetic new year of Wep Ronpet; funny how close it falls to the Jewish one!). I always visit them during what we call “the High Holidays”, out of respect for my parents, and because of childhood nostalgia and community fellowship. This year, I have a new agenda, in addition to my normal one of enjoying my time with my family and my childhood Jewish friends. This Rosh Hashanah, I plan to pray, not only to Yahweh (out of general respect), but also to Anat, and to the ‘Iluma. More than that even, I will pray to my ancestors. I will sing the Hebrew words, the prayers I still have memorized even to this day, and in my heart I will praise my ancestors and ask them for guidance.
And hopefully, when the congregation sounds the shofar, the ram’s horn, the official announcement of the new Jewish year, they will answer.
A day, days passed;
from days, to months.
The Damsel Anat sought him.
Like the heart of a cow for her calf,
like the heart of a ewe for her lamb,
such was the heart of Anat for Baal.
She seized divine Mot,
with blade she split him,
with a sieve she winnowed him,
with a fire she burned him,
with millstones she ground him,
in the field she sowed him.
His flesh the birds did eat,
his limbs the sparrows did consume.
Flesh called to flesh.”
–DIE KEILALPABETISCHEN TEXTE AUS UGARIT, ED. M. DIETRICH, O. LORETZ, AND J. SANMARTÍN