I couldn’t sleep last night. It’s nothing new; I’ve had insomnia since I was a toddler and I often find myself laying awake until the grey light of an approaching dawn begins seeping through my window. When this happens, I tend to catch up on my reading, be it novels or other blogs.
Last night, I decided to browse my friend Satsekhem’s blog. She’s a Kemetic and, as a follower of Anubis, I decided to see what she had to say on Ancient Egyptian practices. I was hoping that I could flesh out my understanding of the ancient world of my patron and, in a way, I did. Though, I did not expect what happened. But before I talk about what happened last night, I must first tell you how this all came to be.
When I was ten years old, many things happened. My family and I had just moved to Connecticut after my father quit his job in Illinois for a position with Priceline. We were living in a two-bedroom loft until we closed on a house, but sadly that was short-lived. One day, shortly after the standardized testing that schools are so fond of doing in the fall, my mother sat my brother and I down. I remember my youngest (at the time) brother and sister playing in the corner and I assume my dad was nearby, but I can never remember him in this story. I remember staring at the oatmeal gray-brown carpet while my mother told me that my father had been laid-off (the polite form of being fired) and that the moving truck with all of our material belongings on it had been stolen. We learned later that the thieves had combed through the truck for anything valuable, anything they could sell, and burned whatever they couldn’t. The FBI found our truck, swept clean, and the burn site a mile off. They never found the thieves.
My dad spent much of the next few weeks searching for jobs at the kitchen table. My mom did alright, until she learned what had happened to the truck. After that, she kind of…checked out. I don’t blame her. That kind of violation isn’t something you can deal with easily. Years later, when I was in high school or college, I found her crying quietly on the couch in the middle of the night. She was crying over the poem I had written her in third grade for Mother’s Day. It, along with most of the baby pictures of my siblings and I, were burned somewhere between New England and Indiana.
Eventually, my dad got his old job back in Illinois and we packed up what belongings we still had and began the long drive back to Illinois. We couldn’t get our old house back, so we stayed in a town nearby where we had lived earlier that year. We’d only been a year in that house, having moved from St. Louis to the Chicago area just before I started fifth grade, but it had been a home. At least, as much a home as it could be. I didn’t want to go back there.
Living in that town was miserable. I had been the new kid for fifth grade and my entire class hated me, and some of the staff, too. I don’t think I’m exaggerating here, either. The first day, everyone partnered together for one of those “getting to know you” exercises in the library. No one wanted to partner with me and when I got upset and started to cry, I was locked in the computer room to “handle myself” while the rest of my class laughed and reminisced outside in the library. I was mocked, ridiculed, and insulted every day. One day, I accidentally cut my hand with a pair of scissors and was sent to the nurse. When I returned, my folder and some other belongings had been stolen from my desk. It was only after my mother threatened the teacher that she would go to the principal that she got them to give my folder back. It had been sitting on a shelf behind some books, hidden from sight. I don’t think it’s any surprise that I didn’t want to go back there.
In Connecticut, too, I was hated by my classmates. It was middle school, so the changing of classrooms was new to me and the school layout was completely foreign. Add on that a schedule that changed from day to day, and you get a very confused little ten year old. My classmates mocked me there, too. I was new, even though they were all new, too. I hadn’t done the summer work since I had only just moved to the area, so I was regarded as an idiot. I was called a liar on a daily basis. I think that last one was what infuriated me the most.
Between the two, I couldn’t tell you which school I hated more. I was glad to leave Connecticut, but terrified to return to the kids who had made my life such a hell the previous year. Luckily, I was given some kind of respite in the middle. I attended a different middle school for a short time.
It was there that my life changed forever.
My first day at that school, the social studies class was beginning to wrap up their lessons on ancient Greece. I caught the tail-end of a lecture on Sparta, I remember. Lunch was assigned seating and I was given a spot at a table full of girls. That first day, one of them had brought treats for everyone at the table, those Ferraro-Rocher chocolates with the hazelnuts, a small box for everyone. But I was new. She hadn’t planned on me. Upset at first, she asked everyone to give me a single chocolate from their box so I could have some, too. After the last year and a half of misery at the hands of my peers, I was so shocked at this turn of events. To this day, those are my favorite chocolates. They never fail to make me smile at that memory of the first one.
Two days later, my social studies class began the next unit: ancient Egypt. We were handed a book on mummification to read. Honestly, I still think it’s odd to have ten and eleven year olds reading about the mummification process in so much detail, and I wonder if He had anything to do with it.
As I read that day, I came across a name that was foreign to me: Anubis. The book told me he was the patron god of mummification and death, something I know today is not exactly right. But as I read the section about him, I realized that I was getting a strange tapping feeling, like someone was poking my shoulder to get my attention. There was a very tall jackal-headed man near me. I didn’t see him like I can see my laptop as I write this, but rather as a phantom image of a reality that overlapped with my own. We looked at each other and that was that. I was his.
Years later, as I began to formalize my study of history, I did research into the jackal-headed god that I had regarded as an older brother figure for nearly a decade. I learned that he was a deity of orphans, of the lost, of travelers. He was a guide to the Underworld, one who assisted in change, and he was associated with the moon, something I had been obsessed with since I was very young.
It made sense that he came to me then, when I was lost, feeling alone and orphaned by my parents who had their own emotional trials to deal with, moving all over the country as I was. I was an orphan, a traveler, a lost soul. He came to me, placed his hand on my shoulder, and told me it would be okay.
And it was, in the end.