I used to be sleep averse. So sleep averse that I would piss away hours at a time doing whatever would distract me from having to go to bed, even when I had other obligations to meet. Because of my mental illnesses (and the traumatic incidents at the core of some of those illnesses), lying down and closing my eyes meant confronting things I never wanted to think about again. Paranoia would slither in to my bedroom to wrap me in its constricting coils. Anxiety would creep up and sit on my chest, taking the breath from my throat.
My magical sight, as it were, did not help with these issues. For most of my life I was tormented by entities that sought me out like I was the only beacon in a vast otherwise unbroken darkness. Whether these beings were spirits or born of my highly disordered mind, I will never know. (I personally think it’s both). I learned during that time too. How to shield, how to slip between worlds, how to grab and hold the void (except for when trying to do so made me want to puke, instead). How to hear the call of the Morrigan. But every moment was pure terror, or so it seemed sometimes. Ghosts took up all the seats on my couch. They crammed in to my closets. They stared back at me from all the mirrors in my apartment.
Once I met my current psychiatrist several years ago, I was finally medicated for my actual disorders (I was misdiagnosed for ten years). Things didn’t get better right away, of course. No pill is a panacea. There is nothing that will cure these chronic illnesses, and make no mistake, they are chronic and often deadly. But I realized that my sleep habits–sleep hygiene, if you will–was absolutely fucked. I resolved to do something about it.
Around this time, I realized that the unnameable force following behind and to my side was Nephthys. So trying to sleep also became trying to pray, trying to create some sort of bedtime ritual that might soothe me enough that I could fly in to the void–a different sort of void entirely than the one the Morrigan had shown me–without hesitating. As to the Morrigan, well. While her lessons were necessary and invaluable, they couldn’t provide me with the sort of empathy and love Great of Kindness could, and it was a gentle hand I needed for this particular issue. Despite the fact that Nephthys can be as fearsome as the Morrigan, She has almost always done me the courtesy of showing me Her softer side.
Anyway, the ritual began with a lavender candle. That was it. No words, no songs, no bowing. I lit the candle and I focused on it and I tried my best. I slept in my partner’s bed like a frightened child or a nervous pet. Eventually, the scent helped. It sunk in to my subconscious and started to mean sleep. This has happened to me with my altar, too. The scent of honey essential oil and Lush bath bombs orient my mind towards the gods. (Sometimes I think when She wants my attention, She makes me smell these things even stronger than normal, but who knows).
Then seroquel happened and I slept like someone had hit me over the head. I dropped like a stone in to blackness and I didn’t even twitch for twelve hours, that first night. Things slowly started to make sense. My mind grew empty and quiet. It was as if I’d been trapped in the middle of a crowded room, boxed in by thousands of people, all screaming. And suddenly, they were gone and it was just me alone in this vast space. Colors stopped pulsing with arcane and morbid meaning, and bled away until they were just shades of reality again.
So now that I feel as centered as I ever have, I’ve started looking forward to getting in bed. I remind myself that under my blanket shield, no bad thoughts are allowed to penetrate. And also, I now have the ability to craft a new ritual. This ritual, I thought, should be something I could do every night to honor the Lord and Lady of the West (I tend to see Nephthys and Osiris as a married couple that rule over the land of the dead/night) and the Morrigan, the Great Queen.
Recently I read in Eternal Egypt a thing that reminded me of why our ritual actions are so important: much like many religions, when a ritualist does an action in ritual it is not symbolic so much as it becomes real. In other words, when I light a candle and bring the Light of Ra to the ritual space, it doesn’t resemble the Light of Ra. It is His light. The water of Ma’at, the incense, whatever offerings…they sustain the Gods in a real way.
That said, this is something I’ve tried to keep simple. While the gods, in my experience, certainly sometimes appreciate it when you go all out and make them feasts and sing and dance and make a celebration in your house, more modest and arguably more personal actions can be just as powerful.
The Ritual, to be performed each evening
My altars are the top shelves on two bookcases that are next to one another. On the left, Nephthys and Osiris. On the right, the Morrigan. The Netjeru usually get honored first, just because that seems like the proper way to do it. However if the Morrigan demands otherwise, Nephthys and Osiris don’t seem to mind if She gets her due first. The altar to the Netjeru has two candles, one purple for Nephthys, and one yellow for Osiris. The Morrigan has a red candle. The altar to the Netjeru includes several water vessels, though the main one that I use every night is a cup sat in front of Nephthys’ image. Of course the specific titles I use aren’t required. Anything that fits can easily be traded out.
Approach the altar to the Netjeru. Take and light Nephthys’ candle. Place it back in its spot.
Dua Nephthys, I bring you the light.
Hear me O Nephthys, for I know your secret name: Great of Kindness.
Pour the water from the vessel chosen in to the cup before the image of Nephthys
Dua Nephthys, I bring you the water of Ma’at.
I know your secret forms, Lady of the Limit, the Useful Goddess, Lady of the Temple Enclosure.
Here I usually add some personal thoughts or adorations to Her. This could include more of Her names. For example if I anoint Her image, I might invoke Her as the Lady of the Laboratory. I associate her with nighttime and “descending with the night bark” so some titles about Her as Queen of the Night or Great Protector might also feel appropriate. I focus on my personal relationship with Her more than anything, so whatever is between us that makes Her happy, I try to give voice to considering the power of speaking aloud. If Her presence is a particularly strong, I like to keep quiet and absorb Her energy.
I will usually bracket the things I do with the Dua position, or what I feel to be the Dua position that works for me, which is hands up and palms forward. Sometimes I used to kneel and touch my head to the ground, but I sadly don’t have the space for this anymore (very small walkway between my bed and the bookshelf)
Take and light Osiris’ candle.
Dua Osiris, I bring you the light.
Hear me O Osiris, for I know your secret name: Lord of the Nile
Fill Osiris’ water vessel, if present.
Dua Osiris, I bring you the water of Ma’at.
I know your secret forms, ba of Ra, for whom the pomegranate tree flowers, Lord of Food.
Dua Osiris, for though you bring dread and grief, your heart is one of joy.
Once the moment feels right, I will blow out both candles and say a last short prayer to Nephthys in order to keep Her foremost in my mind.
The Morrigan’s Ritual
Light the Morrigan’s candle
Glory to you, Morrigu, Great Queen, Great of Magic. I bring you the hearth fire, the war fire, the fire that burns in the head and hearts of all Celts.
Hear me, for I am your warrior. May Your stout shield and sharp blade stand between me and my enemies. May Your strength empower me to continue the fight. For You are the battle mistress, the washer at the ford. You are the red heifer, the hooded crow. Thank You for Your dark gifts, given to Your chosen children: astral travel, shapeshifting, madness, fear, and death.
Know that Your people exist still, despite the many attempts to destroy us. Know that we remember Your name, a name the colonizer and the agents of genocide could not take from our lips. Bless us, O Morrigu, for Your strength is boundless.
May Your belly be filled with gore and Your lovers be many and well endowed.
Blow out the Morrigan’s candle.
In your name.
I hope this has been useful. In the morning I will drink the water from Nephthys’ altar. I wanted to somehow incorporate eating or drinking the items She had blessed without eating a bunch of bread every night, so I thought this was a good compromise. Also it’s good for you to drink a glass of water when you wake up!