Tempest in front of Surel's Place sign

My November Writing Residency Starts Now! (+ Events)

As previously mentioned, I am the writer-in-residence at Surel’s Place this month. My residency officially starts on the 6th, but I slipped in yesterday so I could get settled while the local artist pop-up shop event is happening. I’m already in love with this house and I know I’m going to get a bunch of work done while I’m here. And since I spent the last month researching, my creative well is super full. I’m ready for this.

While I’m here in Idaho I’m taking part in a few events.

Workshop: Crafting Characters Who Aren’t Like You

When: Saturday, November 18th 1:00pm–4:00pm

Where: Surel’s Place, Garden City, ID

$10 Registration Fee, click here for Full Description and Tickets (There are scholarships available, just email info@surelsplace.org)


Reading: Pyramids and Punk

When: Thursday, November 30th

Where: Surel’s Place, Garden City, ID

Free and open to the public

Doors at 6:30pm | 7pm reading, Q&A follows


On Friday, December 1 I’m reading as part of Garden City’s First Friday events, details to come.

I’m also working with the local NaNoWriMo community liaison to do a write-in here at the residency house. If you’re local and part of NaNo, that information will be posted on the local board.

Egyptians Moving Large Statue

Physicists Might Be Jerks and Other Things I Learned While Researching Egypt

For the past 3 weeks I’ve been holed up in the library at Rosicrucian Park, a magnificent place that is also home to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, one of my favorite museums in the country. I needed to do some deep research for the novel I’m writing, and I figured this particular research library would be an excellent place to do just that. I was not disappointed.

One of the great things about researching there is that they have several older Egyptology books, some dating to the early 1900s (oh man… I typed that like it was some old timey century ago but that’s literally the century I was born in… ack). One of the interesting things I discovered as I went through some of these older books is that the paradigms of Egyptology that I’m used to encountering in books written in the past 40 years or so are not the paradigms that have always existed. Some scholars at the beginning of everything had different–and sometimes more interesting–ideas about ancient Egyptian culture that have fallen away. Some have fallen away due to more finds and better understanding of the language. But some seem to have dissipated for no good reason. I find it all fascinating.

One aspect of the shifting paradigms is shifting ideas about how advanced or primitive the ancient Egyptians were compared to the ancient Greeks or Romans or even modern peoples, for whatever value of modern one is talking about. I found varying views on the types of tools and simple machines the Egyptians must have had for them to have built massive monuments and temples of multi-ton granite stones, varying views on how sophisticated their knowledge of astronomy was, and varying views on the meaning of their mythologies. So much to take in!

One particular aspect of this caught my eye while researching, which I wanted to share with you. That is the supposed mystery of how Egyptians were able to move such large stones.

A few years ago some physicists published a paper called “Sliding Friction on Wet and Dry Sand,” which proved that one needed less force to pull a heavy object over wet sand than dry sand. The way science journalists got everyone’s attention when reporting on this somewhat boring topic is with headlines like “The surprisingly simple way Egyptians moved massive pyramid stones without modern technology” and “Solved! How Ancient Egyptians Moved Massive Pyramid Stones.” First of all, nothing in this research paper proves anything about pyramid stones, but clickbait headlines gotta clickbait, right?

Anyway, the reason why most people remember these articles is because of this:

It has long been believed that Egyptians used wooden sleds to haul the stone, but until now it hasn’t been entirely understood how they overcame the problem of friction. … “The Egyptians… placed the heavy objects on a sledge that workers pulled over the sand. Research … revealed that the Egyptians probably made the desert sand in front of the sledge wet.”

Adding more evidence to the conclusion that Egyptians used water is a wall painting in the tomb of Djehutihotep. A splash of orange and gray, it appears to show a person standing at the front of a massive sledge, pouring water onto the sand just in front of the progressing sled. What this man was doing has been a matter of great debate and discussion.

Egyptians Moving Large Statue

Bonn [one of the researchers] wrote in an e-mail to The Post. “In fact, Egyptologists had been interpreting the water as part of a purification ritual, and had never sought a scientific explanation…”

When I first read this my thought was: Ugh, typical Egyptologists/archaeologists, assuming something practical is ritualistic. Cuz, well, this happens often.

But then.

As I was going through older books, I came across that picture of the pulling of the giant stone statue several times, and every single time I did, the author explained the picture or captioned it with something along the lines of: Workers pulling granite statue of the pharaoh while someone pours water on the sand to help make moving it easier.

Um. But wait. I thought that “Egyptologists had been interpreting the water as part of a purification ritual, and had never sought a scientific explanation.”

HMM.

Either the early Egyptologists were smarter than the ones that came later about these things or maybe, just maybe, the physicist who gave that quote doesn’t know what the hell he’s fucking talking about and/or made it seem like the people in a different scientific discipline than he is were being stupid.

Quite honestly, it could be either or both.

I want to run over all those articles about this thing with a giant CITATION NEEDED stamp.

Science journalism has so much to answer for.

At any rate, I am very grateful for the opportunity to spend time reading these older books and widening my understanding of ancient Egyptian culture as well as some of the people who were formative to Egyptology. This research trip was made possible by the folks who support me via Patreon, and I am so, so appreciative of them! They’ve put up with a lot of lag from me, but next month I’ll be able to get back on track and start sending them chapters again.

If you would like to read more about my research finds, I’ve been blogging about them on Patreon for all patrons. I have a few more research posts coming this week. If you’re interested in seeing them, click on over!

Originality podcast logo

ORIGINality #4 and Writing Exercises

Another episode of ORIGINality is out! This one is just Aleen and myself, and we talk about the role of practice in creative endeavors. I talk in depth about how I have not seen practice emphasized in creative writing the way it was when I learned music and the way I see it valued in other arts like drawing or dance. And yet, I come across students in every class who lament that they aren’t that good at describing setting or dialogue or writing action. To that I say: if you know you’re not good at it, then why don’t you practice?

To that end, I started a new thing on my Patreon: writing exercises. All patrons get a new writing exercise each week that’s meant to be done every day. Each will be about developing some particular skill. I encourage patrons to share the exercises with each other, but you don’t have to.

Patrons who want feedback from me on their exercises can get it if they are contributing on the Learn You Some level. All patrons can ask the other folks in the community for feedback if they want.

The idea is to have a 10 – 20 minute chunk of your day devoted to writing that is just about building a skill and not contributing to your wordcount. Not all words need to be designed to be read. You can create things just for the purpose of trying out new stuff.

Listen to me go on about this in the podcast below, or subscribe so you can listen in your favorite podcatcher.

Shared or Stolen: An Examination of Cultural Appropriation by Shannon Wright

A Place For Commentary on Cultural Appropriation

Today NPR published my piece on why “Cultural Appropriation Is, In Fact, Indefensible.” I was inspired to write this article by a recent NYTimes op-ed on the matter that floored me with how the writer misunderstood the topic, conflated it with other issues, and in general did not take into consideration or seem to know about any of the many articles and posts and books that already exist talking about cultural appropriation. It’s frustrating because that often seems to be the case. That’s why my piece has so many links to so many other essays as well as to resources.

It’s been a while since I submitted a piece to NPR, and so I didn’t know that they no longer have comments (I did do a little cheer when I saw). However, some folks are super not okay with not being able to scroll to the bottom and tell me how wrong I am! And thus my Twitter mentions, the Inbox on the Writing the Other account, and comments on unrelated posts here are full of folks offering me their thoughts.

Since this is the case, I thought a post giving folks the opportunity to scratch that itch was in order. Ta da! However, since this is my blog, I have rules, and you’ll have to be bound by them.

First time commenters are always moderated.

If you’ve never participated in discussion here, then your comment will not appear below automatically. It goes into a queue, and an admin has to rescue it from the queue. Since many folks who will rush here to argue with me do not often do so in good faith and/or can’t resist wallowing in racism or misogyny as they type, I will not be looking at the mod queue, someone else will. They will let your comment out if it doesn’t have those issues. If it does, they’ll delete it and I won’t see your words.

Side Note: Someone is moderating the email address my contact form goes to as well, so I won’t see anything deemed to be mired in bigotry there, either.

Before you argue with me about cultural appropriation, read all the links.

I put a ton of links in that piece for a reason. Cultural appropriation is a complex topic that can’t be 100% covered in one 1000 word essay. So I gave all readers the opportunity to delve deeper into it via other great essays. Click every link in that piece and read what’s behind it and click all the links in those pieces as well. Only then should you come here to ask questions or make objections.

“But I don’t have time to read all that!” you might say. “I have a life to lead!” Okay. But if you don’t have time to read up on the subject you don’t have time to argue with me about it. Go do something, anything, else.

Don’t argue with me on points I haven’t made.

If you see something in those links that you want to fight about, fight about it with the person who wrote the article. The person who made that point. Not with me. I’m not the avatar of all people who have written about cultural appropriation ever. Don’t expect me to answer for them.

If you can follow these guidelines, you can submit a comment. I look forward to hearing from you!

P.S. Sorry for the disjointed nature of the comment responses below. My theme doesn’t support threading as of yet, but I’m trying to fix that now.


Top Image: “Shared or Stolen: An Examination of Cultural Appropriation” by Shannon Wright. Find more of her work on her website, twitter, and instagram.

 

A photoshopped image of tempest standing next to a camel with the great Pyramid in the background. An arrow points to Tempest, under it are the words This Could Be Me!

Want To Help Me Reach My Research Goals?

When I was in college I spent three weeks traveling the UK for a class that traced how mythology, folklore, history, and conquest all blended together. Toward the end, our teacher was able to get us special access to Stonehenge, meaning we could walk around inside and not have to settle for only getting tourist close.

All my life I’d seen images of Stonehenge, heard from experts and visitors about how impressive an achievement it is, read about the height and weight and makeup of the stones. But it wasn’t until the moment I was standing next to them, touching them, and craning my neck up to see the top that I grokked the magnitude of the accomplishment Stonehenge represents. I had to experience the truth of those facts myself before I could begin to understand them.

It was a key moment for me as a writer. It helped me realize how important experiencing a place is to being able to convey it on the page–for me.

Today we have so many tools at our disposal to help put us in places virtually. Google Earth is a treasure, Flickr and Facebook and the millions of photos you can find there from every angle are priceless, 3D modeling and 360 degree photography are everything. Still, I know myself, and I know that it’s hard to really capture what it’s like to be somewhere unless I’ve been there or been in a similar space. And there aren’t many places on Earth similar to the Great Pyramid in Giza.

I’ve wanted to go to Egypt on a research trip for many years, but events have made be wary to go until now. Yes, there’s still instability and unrest, but I think the time is finally right for me. So, I’m trying to gather funds for a trip.

The main way I’m doing this is through my Patreon. My first goal is to get to $700 per month. The next goal is $1000. I need to get to my first goal at least in order to save up enough for Egypt.

I’ve picked out a tour in May of 2018 — it’s a group package that includes all the sites key to my novels, including two sites not usually included in tourist packages. In order to go, I’ll need at least $5500.

If you are inclined to help me get to this goal, consider becoming my patron. There’s a $1 month level and everything. If you’re already a patron, or just do not have the wiggle room in your budget, would you tell your friends about my Patreon? All boosting of signal is helpful.

I’m also applying for grants and fellowships (SLF, Tiptree, etc.) to help fund this. If you know of any that I should be aware of, please do let me know.

I know I’m taking a big leap here, especially as I am not a proven novelist. I want very much to get this right, especially in later books in the series where a sense of place is key to the structure and worldbuilding. No matter what happens with these trips, I’ll keep writing and using the tools I do have to get this novel on paper and out in the world.

A stack of Clockwork cairo books

Story Notes: The Copper Scarab (in Clockwork Cairo)

Clockwork Cairo is officially out in the world! An anthology of steampunk stories on an Egyptian theme. It’s as if it was made for me. And I’m so grateful for Matt Bright’s patience in allowing me to submit a story at the last minute AND a little late. (Story of my life.)

I didn’t find out about the anthology until Matthew was almost done picking stories for it. And once I saw the theme, I knew I needed to be in it. I told him I’d write a story set in the world of my novel and then… spent a week not knowing what to write about. My ideas were only vague and, I felt, uninteresting.

Fortunately for me, I have smart and talented friends. Mary Robinette Kowal gave me her worksheet for creating short stories, and it starts with coming up with characters, who then have desires, whose desires collide with other characters’ desires, which makes for a story.

Beyond me thinking that my ideas for stories were too vague and/or uninteresting, I also got hung up where I often get hung up (so you’d think I’d recognize this as something not to get hung up on…), which is trying to adhere to the details of a sketched out idea instead of giving myself room to change and explore. In this case, the ideas I was trying to hold on to had to do with how the copper scarabs came into existence in my world.

NOTE: There are mild spoilers for the story below. Proceed with caution. Continue reading “Story Notes: The Copper Scarab (in Clockwork Cairo)”

Come for the giant steampunk scarabs, stay for the matriarchal culture

Let Me Sum Up: May 2017 on Patreon

A summary of the content my Patreon patrons got for the month of May plus what’s new for patrons plus a kitty.

May was a weird month for me. A ton to do, a con to attend (and help organize), and writing to worry over. I ended up being stalled for most of the month due to brain weasels, but did manage to get all the May content complete and up… if a little late. I’ve discovered that having deadlines is somewhat useful for me, but what’s more useful is having people who are as forgiving about lateness due to brain weasels as they are eager to read what I’m writing. Once again I say: I have the best supporters.

Here’s what they got to access last month:

Read Along ($10 per month and up)

Section 2 of the book starts here! Patrons at this level got to read:

Sneak A Peek ($5 per month and up)

I had a hard time getting section 2 of the book started, so I had several scenes that ended up being cut or completely rewritten. I posted a few of them for the patrons on this level as well as a background sketch.

AMA ($2 per month and up)

In this Q&A post I answered a question about whether I’m an architect or gardener/discovery writer.

All Patrons ($1 per month and up)

Last month my new podcast, ORIGINality, debuted. I posted a link to the first episode here, but there was also a secret, members-only episode we recorded for folks who joined the Relay podcast network. That super secret episode is also available to my patrons!

Other Posts

This post is public, though it’s likely only of interest to people who’ve been reading the novel in progress: I’m Changing A Character’s Gender, Here’s Why

New Stuff

I’m adding new patron content over the next couple of months. June’s new thing is Writing Exercises, which I explain here.

So far I’m on track with June content, and there are more chapters and background sketches coming. Thank you to everyone who stuck with me through the turbulent month of May! And thank you to all the folks who just started supporting me. You give me a reason to keep writing.

Oh, I almost forgot, here is your kitty:

Bast statue with kittens at her feet

A gold statue of egyptian goddess

In Search Of: Consulting Egyptology / Khemitology Scholar

I’ve reached a point in my research where I could really use the services of an Egyptologist, Khemitologist, or someone studying Egyptology at the graduate level or above. Someone I can ask specific questions, such as “what is the exact translation of these words?” or “Did doors in the New Kingdom have hinges or not?” The type of questions that I can’t find for myself with my limited research skills but would likely be very easy for someone studying this stuff to find.

I would likely need to email this person every now and then over the next year (one or two emails a week tops, and sometimes not more than a couple times per month).

I don’t know what kind of compensation is usually offered for this kind of thing (if any), so I’ll just say I am willing to offer some if asked and it’s negotiable.

If you are such a person, or if you know such a person who might be willing, please contact me or have them contact me through this form. Thanks!

Support me on Patreon and read my steampunk ancient egypt novel as I write

Let Me Sum Up: April 2017 on Patreon

Last month I made a significant change to my goals over on Patreon. Not the amount, but the why. Now I’m not looking for support in general as I write my steampunk Ancient Egypt novel, I’m looking to fund some upcoming research trips I have planned. Since I am writing historical fiction, albeit fantasy-infused, I have a ton of research that needs doing, plus I need to set foot in Egypt at least once in my life in order to capture the sense of place the way I want to. To that end, I published a post about how I’ll use the money donated on Patreon, which you can read as it’s public.

As to what my patrons got to read last month:

Read Along level folks ($10/month) got chapters four, five, six, seven, and eight, which brings me to the end of section 1 of the book. I’m planning on 5 sections, we’ll see if that happens.

Folks on the Sneak A Peek level ($5/mo) also got to read Chapter Eight as well as two interludes that I’m trying to fit somewhere in the structure but don’t know exactly where they’ll go yet. I also posted a glimpse into the very first draft of this novel when it was a short story (ahahaha ahahaha AHAHAHAHAAAAAA ohgodIwillneverwriteanythinglessthan6000againwillI).

All patrons got to read a background scene exploring the history between my main character and her sister.

And there are a few interesting tidbits about my writing process in the Ask Me Anything posts for folks on the AMA tier and above.

As to what’s coming up in May: More of the same! I’m moving into section two of the book where all the DRAMAAAAAA happens. And the lesbian sex. This month’s background work is going to involve a ton of research into how a minority population successfully oppresses and marginalizes a majority population. Not exactly full of sunshine, I know.

One thing that will be on the more fun times end is that I am thinking of doing a class called Writing Practice based on some stuff I’ve noticed in the last couple of years teaching Writing the Other courses. The class will be entirely devoted to writing exercises with feedback from peers. The goal is to come up with one new exercise for every day and the class will last 30 days. But first I need to do one writing exercise every day to figure out which ones I want to use. A bunch of my efforts will likely end up in the patron content for May and June.

To those of you supporting me currently: Thank You So Much! I hope you’re enjoying the content.

To those of you still eyeing all this warily, I have some ideas for more things I can add to what patrons at different levels get that won’t take away from my writing time. Perhaps even the aforementioned writing exercises.

It’s My Birthday! Have A Party Favor (i.e. a Story)

Today is my birthday! Break out the confetti and the cupcakes and the ball pit! A real ball pit, not a DashCon ball pit.

Those of you who know me know that I like to celebrate hard when the anniversary of my rotation around the sun comes around. So be warned: this is the first post of many in which I will mention that IT’S MAH BIRTHDAY.

You’re all invited to celebrate with me. So step into my virtual party and collect your party favor. (That’s a free thing you get for showing up.) I’m a writer, so all I can give you is some writing. But it’s free, so hurrah!

The story below is a bit of background writing I did for one of the characters in the Untitled Egyptian Steampunk Novel In Progress, which you have perhaps heard about? If not, there’s an explanation of it over on my Patreon. And yeah, I’m gonna mention how, if you support me via Patreon, you can read more excerpts from this novel and related writings, such as this, each month.

All right, shameless plug over, let’s get to the fiction.


Ibi’s First Dance

The morning of the equinox. The year’s first equinox. The balance of day and night before the night overtakes the sunlight hours. More time for marking the turning of the night sky and the movement of the stars. Ibi’s favorite time of year. It also meant she was closer to the Long Night, marking the end of her second year training in the Spirit House and the beginning of her last.

Two hours before dawn the sorors rang the first bell, calling for the trainees and acolytes to wake up. Ibi was already awake. Fretting. Thinking about the dance. She was a ba-adept, one of the rare people who could see the ba spirits of the dead and guide them. One day guide them. That would be her role, if she completed her training and passed her tests. She was not expected to dance the Hathor ceremony with precision and perfection. But it was her first time and she could not stop being nervous.

She knew the steps. She knew the words. She knew the notes. How many times had she practiced? How many times growing up did she see the dancers and musicians of the Spirit House perform it? Still, she couldn’t shake the fear that she would misstep, fail to hit a note, and ruin the great celebration for everyone.

A good part of her nervousness came from knowing that the Great Mother, Tani, and all the kinswomen of the Pharaoh would be at the ceremony. All of them including Ziwat. What did she look like now? Would she recognize Ibi if she happened to see her dancing?

When she was small and was Ziwat her mother’s favorite student, she attached herself to the woman almost as soon as she got to know her. Ziwat was the best person in the world, aside from her parents and her older siblings. And, like her sisters and brother, Zi grew up and left to live her own life. Natural, yes, but heartbreaking.

Now she was the Superior Engineer of the High House, the netjer Seshat in human form. Ibi was just another ba-adept in the crowd. She probably wouldn’t notice her.

The Supreme Musician of the Spirit House wouldn’t reveal her place in the formation until later that morning. The dancers would be assigned a quadrant in the festival square and stay within certain bounds as they went through the ceremonial steps. The kinswomen would be watching from the West. Part of her hoped to be assigned there, part of her didn’t. To mess up at all would be mortifying. To mess up in front of the Great Mother and Ziwat?

The second bell brought her back to the present. It was time to get ready.

She pulled on the fine, white linen dress worn for ceremonies, its skirt loose to allow for full leg movement, the arms sleeveless to display the Spirit House tattoos and make working the sheer veil easier. She wrapped the veil around her waist for the moment, then followed the other trainees to the inner sanctum.

There were over sixty of them in the columned room, and their energy–mixed nervous and excited–made them want to chatter. None did. The sanctum was only for sacred sound.

The Supreme Musician, voice of Hathor, emerged from the netjer chamber and they all stilled, waiting for her words. She said nothing for heartbeat on heartbeat until a final bell rang announcing the appearance of the Aten disk above the horizon and the emergence of the Kheper-dawn.

She then moved among them, singing the notes for the four directions and touching each of their foreheads as she did. You go north, you go east, you go south, you go west. That last she sang to Ibi; West it would be, then.

The dancers moved to the walls of the room that corresponded to their direction, waiting in no set order. The Supreme’s voice, low, sonorous, and resonant, made the walls vibrate just a touch. At some signal in her tone, instrument players came into the room and moved among them, wrapping belts around their waists and hanging two of the sacred sistrum at the hips. This instrument, only allowed during ceremonies and often only played by dancers, bore the face of Hathor and was sacred to her.

While this happened, the Supreme chanted words marking the passage of time and the role of Hathor as the guiding hand on the sun barge. In response, trainees and acolytes, adepts and sorors, chanted the mirror words. She came to each and arranged them in lines, showing where they would be for the dance. When she came to the West, the last group, she placed Ibi in the front line. Ibi tried not to break her chant, but did take the woman’s hand in her own and squeeze it, her eyes asking “Are you certain?” The Supreme only smiled and cupped her cheeks for a moment, certainty in her own expression.

That should have made Ibi less nervous. It didn’t. Now she wouldn’t even have the comfort of hiding in the crowd.

~~~

The Ra-sun crested the endless blue sky, coming to its highest point before dipping back down to the horizon. The dancers filed out of the Spirit House’s main entrance into the cheerful cacophony of the Festival crowd. They moved to their assigned positions in the Festival square without speaking, the only sound a collective sussurus from the sistrum banging against their hips. Ibi’s feet knew where to go, and she kept her eyes on them while she concentrated on getting to her place.

Around them, the voices of the majority of hetWaret’s citizens called out words of praise and respect and thanks. The dancers and musicians would deliver the grateful joy of the Khemetan people to the netjer and ensure the continuation of the world with their words and notes and music.

When Ibi’s group reached the western quadrant she finally looked up. The congregation of the High House sat on a raised platform a few yards away. Above them, on a higher dais, the kinswomen stood in front of the Pharaoh and the Great Mother, who stood in front of a giant copper scarab. The outer wings were raised halfway up, bouncing the rays of the sun back to the sky. The massive machines were taller than two tall men, wider than two wide elephants, made all of copper on the outside, which had been newly polished on this one. Likely the Pharaoh and Great Mother had come to the square riding in it.

And standing just in front of them: Ziwat. Ibi recognized her right away. Same sand-colored skin, hair twists longer now with touches of silver, wide brows still dark, complimenting her wide, red-tinted mouth. She was beautiful. How was she so beautiful? How had Ibi not remembered that?

Rapid drumbeats signaled the start of the ceremony and the crowd came to attention. The dancers did not move. Still, still, still; counting until the right moment. The first note burst from the Superior Musician’s throat and, as one, they all lifted their arms and began the dance.

Ceremonial song took over Ibi’s mind and body and transported her beyond herself within the first few beats. All nerves, all worry, all self-consciousness dissolved as she became one with the others, one with the voice of Hathor. The dancers moved in unison, each step, arc of the arm, position of the hand, note of the song carrying layer on layer of meaning. Their celebration praised all aspects of the netjer as she moved through the mill of time.

When the first verse ended all the dancers turned to face the center of the square and lifted their voices to create a note that reverberated up to the sun itself, an offering to the Hathor at the center of everything.

Now came the hard part.

They turned back and all danced into the crowd. People parted to allow them in as the front line was expected to move all the way to the back of the crowd and the base of the kinswomen’s dais. Once they were all properly dispersed, the dancers began again, this time inviting the citizens around them to join. The women in the rearmost line took the hands of children new to ceremony to teach them the movements. The lines in the middle danced with adults who knew their part in this well. The highest ranking citizens stood in the back of the crowds on all four sides and often only watched the front line dancers. Their presence was sacred offering enough. Though sometimes they were moved to join the dance.

Ibi lifted her eyes to search for Ziwat and discovered her friend was already looking at her, recognition in her wide smile and joyous gaze. Ibi knew not to approach her directly, even though she wanted to. But with her own smile she tried to communicate the same happiness at seeing Ziwat again.

At a prompt from the song, she unwrapped the veil from her shoulders and spun, the fabric rippling around her in waves. When she faced the dais again, Ziwat was there in front of her. They danced together, Zi matching or mirroring her moves in accordance with the ceremony. They were Seshet and Hathor, celebrating each other, spinning, clapping, harmonious on Earth as in the heavens.

Other kinswomen joined the dancers–more than had in many years, Ibi learned later. Her whole being overflowed with joy.

The Supreme’s voice sang out a note as the song crested toward its highest point, a signal to the dancers to return to formation. Ibi touched Zi’s arm one more time, then spun away, her veil almost wrapping itself back around her. Fingers unhooking the sistrum, feet landing exactly so, arms raised at a right angle, she joined the others in this final display of gratitude and celebration. As one, they shook the sistrum, the small metal disks strung between the cow’s horns clattering against each other. The sound came to the ear harsh at first, then transformed into a sacred vibration that reached into every body, every stone, every thing.

Ibi’s brown eyes swirled to gold and she saw hundreds of fluttering lights rushing toward them. These were the ba spirits of those who had not yet passed beyond the Door to the West. The sound of the sistrum drew them, always. Just as they had at her first Hathor Festival. She’d seem them and cried out “What are those shining birds?” That’s when her family discovered she was a ba-adept. The moment that set her on the path that led to this one.

Dancers shook the sistrum side to side, shaking or rolling different parts of their bodies in precise, isolated movements. Arms only, now wrists, hips now, one leg, then the other, the midriff, then finally absolute stillness as the song and ceremony ended and the crowd burst into cheers and praise.

This is when Ibi sunk fully back into herself, breath and heartbeat rapid, dress clinging to sweaty skin. Above all the heads in front of her she saw Ziwat, hand cupped to her mouth, her ululation directed right to her.

~End~