November is a whirlwind of a month. The academic year is ramping up, which affects both my own coursework and my responsibilities at the college library that employs me. One volunteer position ended for the year while another looks like it’s just beginning. I’m recovered (mostly) from a nasty double infection that put me in bed for ten days, but now I’m experiencing recurring back pain and a general malaise.
Beyond my own problems — which always seem so small to me, until I remember they most certainly affect my spiritual life — November is undoubtably the Month of the Akhu. We come into the month on the tails of Halloween and then Samhain, which I think will always hold a special place in my heart no matter what tradition I follow. Día de los Angelitos and Día de los Muertos follow, this year coinciding with the Procession of Nebt-het. Not long after we see Veterans Day, Armistice Day, and Remembrance Day. In a few short weeks, Kemetic polytheists will observe the Wesir Mysteries. All of these festivals and observances, whether solemn or celebratory or a mix of the two, honor our ancestors and serve as a gentle yet implacable memento mori for the living. We are alive because our Ancestors once were and we continue to receive their blessings and guidance because they have gone west and become part of the canopy of stars above us.
I think there’s something beautiful about the symbols we use to honor our dead: blooming flowers, everlasting stars, flickering candlelight. Our Ancestors may be dead, but that doesn’t mean they’re inert. Whatever we believe comes after our physical death, those who have crossed that threshold before us still impact our lives on a daily basis. Their memory, words, actions, and deed — good, bad, and indifferent — continue echoing through their descendants, through the lives of the people they touched, through communities who will not be able to fill the them-shaped hole they left behind.
In Kemetic iconography the Akhu are shown as stars within Nut’s body, always watching over the living from the nighttime sky. Not only are the Akhu part of Nut’s celestial form, but She and they surround and protect the living.
There is comfort here, a promise that death does not remove us from the protective arms of Netjer. That what is loved, what is named, what is remembered persists — even beyond the realm of death. It may be residual thinking from ADF theology, but I see this as a promise of and gentle admonition for future giving. Our Akhu gave us life, language, culture, handing the earth over to us to cultivate on our own terms. We in turn remember them through prayers, offerings, and libations, returning a flow of gifts. They in turn continue to bestow upon us blessings, guidance, and love, so that we might give in return… and so our relationship is reciprocal and cyclical, like most best things are. We take care of our Akhu the way we take care of our loved ones still physically present on earth, and we hope that one day we, too, are remembered beyond the grave.