Reflections On Sacred Verses By Lo
NOTE: This feature was originally posted to Lo's rotwork blog on March 12, 2022. Lo is the deeply gifted author of Art & Numen and founder of Numen Arts.
It took me a while to get through this compendium of poetry by renowned iconographer and priest Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa, and it’s taken me a while to digest it enough to have something to say.
I’ll start with the basic: Sacred Verses is 200 pages of divinely-inspired poetry. It takes, as I see it, a loosely narrative form, with Ptahmassu as protagonist, initiate, Holy Fool. Though really, we are all partaking of the mythic story, and when we read it, we are all, however briefly, Ptahmassu. We are all on the journey.
I walk with the Gods. They came before us with the rising waters, and They have never departed, even as our memory faded. They are our mothers and fathers, our beginning and our end. 33: I Walk With Spirits
The pages drip with a passion for the Gods, and a passion for personal fulfillment and transformation, with a verve one doesn’t often see outside of ritual. We are guided, step by step, through a long, intricate, beautiful labyrinth, colored by the shades of the Nile.
Not being a Kemeticist, there were some things I didn’t understand – I had to look up what a tamarisk was for instance – but on the whole, it drinks so deeply from the well of the western magical tradition that I didn’t have much other trouble following along. It speaks with such great sweeps that it calls to the innermost wordless, mythic beingness in each of us, while simultaneously delivering such specificity at times that one gets goosebumps at it’s sudden “nearness”.
Stylistically, each of the 42 poems – probably echoing a significant symbolic number in Kemetic or occult thought? – remind me of Ptahmassu’s iconographic works in their construction. They are highly detailed, laborous works, evocative of the precious stones and metals that he uses with such seeming effortlessness in his depictions of the Gods. Like his icons, too, they are bursting with color and symbol, filled with references to stars and trees and animals and layers of heaven. He writes with gilded words, gleaming in the sun.
And on less a mythic note, Ptamassu’s pieces are generally free-form, with occasional punctuations of rhyming verse that remind you of the ritualistic nature of the work. In fact, stanzas or entire poems could easily be utilized in ritual for almost any practitioner, which provides immense magical use beyond the beauty of the poetry itself.
For me, personally, the book arrived at an auspicious time in my life – when I was gathering the courage and wherewithal to finally come out to my friends and family as a trans man, after navigating the closet and pondering on identity for the better part of a decade. My earliest trans memory, as I reminded my parents in my letter to them, was of looking in a bathroom mirror at my bloodied, five-year-old face after I’d gotten hold of a blue Gillette and tried to shave. (And o, the magical repercussions of a blue-handled blade!)
So if there’s a “thesis” in Sacred Verses, it is undoubtedly on the subject of transformation, death and rebirth.
Initiation, I have found you in each of the forms I have taken in each of the ages of my life, when I change my bodies like I change my clothes. I carry on the inside what cannot be carried over on the outside, and these are the only treasures I may carry in my empty arms, when I arrive at that gap in the world where the Sun does not shine. 12: Sol Invictus
For me, more important than being a sacred set of instructions written in mythic verse, it was a reminder that this thing we call “the sacred” is manifest in mundane deliberations and decisions, because it is manifest in all things. The Gods are in all things. No movement in the universe is made without Their lubrication, no word uttered that is not grown from Their soil. “Hey mom and dad, I’m your son” is as much an invocation as drawing down the moon. Coming out to myself was one thing, but declaring it to the Other, the Outside-Myself, felt like a shift in reality. Because it was: I had just told the universe to change the gender marker on my forms, and that was the sound of a single cog being shifted in the infinitude of its sacred clockworks. I had become a slightly, yet wholly, different being. The clay had suddenly lurched on the potter’s wheel.
May the Gods open a lotus, for my face of youthful power. May the Gods open a lotus for my mirror of the dawning hour. 37: May the Gods Open A Door
Xipe Totec is one of the Teteo associated most closely with transformation and rebirth. He’s also the ruler of my Tonalli, the day sign I was born under. I never much thought about Him before I had my Tonalli reading done (by one of our very own community members on Discord!), but looking back, the theme of in-between-ness, becoming, nepantla, of ever-emerging from the “golden raiment” of the old, has been a continuously pointed theme for me. Now that I’m working on taking the mundane steps toward living as my authentic self, what that authenticity means is constantly going to be renegotiated. We are constantly shedding our bodies and growing new ones, just as we are constantly shedding old ideas and identities and shaping new ones, all on a microscopic level. I hope I don’t have to do any more lurching around on the potter’s wheel any time soon, and can instead enjoy the feeling of the fingers of the Gods steady on my wet clay, slowly, kindly shaping me into a more perfect vessel.
And I look forward to revisiting Sacred Verses when the time does come for it again.