The Gods Can Handle Our Anger

It’s okay to be angry or upset with the gods, and it’s okay for us to tell Them so as well. 

A very good friend of mine occasionally becomes profoundly angry with Set and/or the other Netjeru for not saving them from the horrific things they endured as a child. When this happens, they put away every religious icon they own. When they are especially upset, they might even smash these holy images in a fit of blind rage. Then they feel guilty and anxious afterwards, fearing the Netjeru will punish them for being so disrespectful.

(I will not go into details, but I do wish to be extra super double sure I’m making myself absolutely clear on this point: these behaviors are coming from a place of pain and fear, not from a place of pride or insolence. Any comments that assume otherwise will be removed. Thank you.)

When my friend confides in me about these occasions, I do what I always do. I gently remind them that no, they are not bad for feeling anger, and no, they are not bad for expressing their anger to the gods.

The ancient Egyptians got angry with the Netjeru all the time, even threatening to withhold offerings from Them if They failed to answer certain prayers in times of great need. Here, the god-and-worshiper relationship is symbiotic and reciprocal. We must give to the gods, but the gods must also give to us. If the gods give and we do not, They can condemn or abandon us; and if we give and the gods do not, we can condemn or abandon Them.

Mind you, the Netjeru are not mere genies who exist just to grant our wishes. It is unreasonable to condemn or abandon Them for not solving all of our problems for us. But it is at least reasonable for devotees to expect some kind of benefit from worshiping Them. We deserve to at least feel guided or supported by our gods somehow; and if a deity can’t even seem to deliver that much for whatever reason, it is only natural for a person to stop worshiping Them.

The idea that we are obligated to continue worshiping a particular god no matter what They do or don’t do for (or to) us is profoundly un-Setian. I would argue it is even un-Kemetic, since each of the Netjeru can potentially receive angry tirades or threats of abandonment from Their followers. Besides, even if you scream obscenities at a Netjer, you are still communicating with Them in a heartfelt manner. You are still engaging Them in a kind of prayer. You are just praying a prayer of grievance rather than gratitude, if you will.

So I tell my friend it’s absolutely okay for them to put away their religious icons whenever they feel upset with the gods. It’s even okay for them to smash said images when they are especially distressed (provided, of course, that they actually own the icons they smash, and no person or animal gets hurt in the process, including themselves).

Learning about the Netjeru turned out to be very helpful for my friend; yet they are still trying to reconcile their past with the idea that there are actually gods out there who care about them. If this is true, they ask me, why then did the gods allow them to be harmed as children?

There is very little anyone can say to answer such a question that is actually helpful (or even truthful, in my opinion at least). All I know is, if the gods are truly gods, They are big and tough enough to take our anger, especially if it’s coming from someone who is confused and hurting very deeply.

I also don’t believe for one second that the gods hold it against anyone for being traumatized and needing help. I think Set would actually prefer that my friend curse and smash His icons to having them traumatize any of the other people in their life. No matter what they might do to His icons, my friend can at least be sure they won’t hurt Set Himself; the same cannot be said for their loved ones.

There aren’t any easy answers for when bad things happen to good people. But if you happen to find yourself in a situation similar to that of my friend, I just want someone to have told you it’s okay. Set is not going to smite anyone just for being traumatized and crying out to Him for help—not even if the only way they are currently able to seek help is combative or confrontational. (He can always smite us for other reasons, of course; but Big Red is big enough to handle our feelings, even the really bad ones.) 

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