After hours staring at the computer screen, all that my agonizing has produced is another blank page. The Queer Deities Project has been on my mind for a while. I want it to be perfect. I want it to be the opus of all of my passion and academic studies. I want it not to read like a thesis paper. Obviously, one of these things has got to give.
This first post is not about me, though. It’s about Mut. It’s about the Queen of the Goddesses of the Kemetic (aka Ancient Egyptian) Pantheon. It’s about the Lady of the Heavens and how she shoved me down the road of officially studying queer theology. And, more importantly, this is about the teaching I’ve received from her temple on the meaning of motherhood and family. I hope we’re off to a good start here.
About a year ago I went to Auset Rohn’s lecture entitled “Teachings from the Temple of Mut” at Life Force Arts Center. Rohn focused on Mut’s Six Virtues (six being a numerological symbol for motherhood) based on the work of Margaret Benson and Janet Gourley. While I came away with more appreciation for the work of female archaeologists and Mut, a Goddess I had previously never encountered either in the physical or spiritual realms, I also ended up with more questions than answers. Is there any way of focusing on motherhood and family without dealing in the archetypes of the nuclear family- a cishet parent unit and their biological children? I myself have never existed within such a structure. I’ve spent half of my life raised by a single step-father and another half with legal guardians. Now I’m trying to make plans for my own future family and children. What are my options? Do I really have any?
Mut, whose name means “mother” in Ancient Egyptian, says yes. Mut canonically says yes. Her lore doesn’t contain a single ounce of stereotypical family structures. She never gives birth (both of her sons, Montu and Khonsu, are adopted). She isn’t given birth to. Her “brother” (Set, another queer deity who engages in homosexual intercourse and is infertile) isn’t even technically related to her. Her partner (Amun/Amaunet-Ra/Raet-tawy) is a genderqueer deity. In a pagan community where motherhood is defined by the fertility-focused and cishet-biased Wiccan Triple Goddess, Mut is a bizarre and wonderful deity. Her sacred animal isn’t the bear or the mother hen or the proliferative fish but the vulture, a creature the Ancient Egyptians believed only existed in female-female (aka LESBIAN) pairs and were capable of giving birth through Mut’s blessing in the wind as they flew.
Let’s take a closer look at some of this. Like most primordial deities (aka deities who existed before or at the beginning of time, Mut has no parents. This means a lot to me. I had to sign paperwork when I turned eighteen saying I would no longer claim my legal guardians as parents. It doesn’t work that way in practice, for better or worse. But that act of signing away my status as a child left an impact on me. Mut says parents are not required to exist and have a life of power and beauty. You don’t need (or need to accept) parental guidance to guide your life and future. And I know from experience that there are plenty of people out there with strained parental relationships who need to know there is a Higher Power out there who supports them.
Mut also challenges what it means to BE a mother. She is THE mother but she never gives birth. Her first adopted son is Montu, a War God with the head of a falcon. For much of her mythos, she is Montu’s mother without a partner. She is the single mother raising a son who literally represents valor. Later in her mythos, Mut gets married to a genderqueer deity. Amun/Amaunet-Ra/Raet-tawy is actually what the kids call a “fusion” (bless you Steven Universe) of two genderqueer deities- Amun/Amaunet, Goddex of the Wind and Leader of the Gods and Ra/Raet-tawy, Goddex of the Sun. These two deities were considered to be neither male nor female, both combined and yet separate. Mut loves them dearly. She adopts their son Khonsu, God of the Moon, and together they form a family in some of the later gnosis.
So Mut now becomes for us Goddess of Lesbian Mothers through her vultures, Goddess of Children who are somehow Disconnected from their Parents, Goddess of Single Mothers, Goddess of Queer Love, and Goddess of Mothers who Adopt. But Mut is also all about choosing your family. Her brother, Set, is vastly younger than she is in the Kemetic religion. He has his own parents, his own siblings. But the two deities have chosen each other for their family, connected by their connections to chaos. (Set is the God of Chaos and Mut is an aspect of Nu/Naunet originally, Primordial Goddex of the Watery Abyss which is described in the theology as chaotic.) Set is isolated throughout history for his chaotic aspects and Nu/Naunet becomes more palatable by being reborn as Nut. Mut and Set need each other to withstand their mutual rejection. As I learned as a child, ohana means family. And family means never getting left behind. Or forgotten. This is what Mut also comes to represent for me.
So, no, this article is nowhere near perfect. But it is a start. It is one step on the path Mut started me on. How can we look at the Gods, recognize their queerness, and apply that to our lives? Mut got me to focus first on family and motherhood, but there is so much more. There is so much more.