Continuing the series on what I learned from my gods, I wanted to write about Anapa (Anubis) next. Through my interactions with him, I have learned that he is incredibly compassionate, patient, a great listener, and always ready to offer comfort. He is my go-to for any kind of emotional problem. But I was supposed to write about what I learned *from* him. I had no ready answer to that. I guess I never felt the need to have him as a role model, since the things I see in Anapa are all things that are also a part of me (having empathy, being a good listener, etc). Still, I felt sure there’s something I could learn from him, so I brought an offering and sought his guidance.
I started again at the beginning: I had been drawn to Anapa because he is a liminal figure. I had strong associations with the idea of liminality, and liminal gods were the first ones I became interested in. I felt that they were somehow relevant to me. I couldn’t properly explain it at the time, but looking back, I had been in a major transitional phase in my life, didn’t fit in anywhere, and desperately needed to talk to someone who understood.
Let’s look at liminality. It comes from the Latin word ‘limen’, meaning ‘threshold’. It’s that transitional in-between place between two states. Dawn, dusk, birth, death, etc. But a lot of people (myself included) get stuck on the idea of being in-between, and want to stay there. That’s not liminality. Liminality is a transitional phase, and transition means moving from one state to another. You can’t live in the doorway, you have to go through it.
1. the transitional period or phase of a rite of passage, during which the participant lacks social status or rank, remains anonymous, shows obedience and humility, and follows prescribed forms of conduct, dress, etc.
2. the condition of being on a threshold or at the beginning of a process. (dictionary.com)
It occurred to me that going through any major change is often difficult. Yes, births, deaths, but also a child’s first day at school, becoming disabled, moving to a new country… not “new things” in general, but specifically those situations where your relationship to the world around you changes, and requires adjustment. You have to learn a whole new way of being, and that’s hard, so people need help during the transition. Anapa is most known for being a psychopomp, guiding souls into the afterlife, but he also has associations with birth, and I think he is very well suited to helping people through any kind of transition.
I think it bears pointing out that, while a lot of us want to stay in-between, separate from the world around us (because we feel out of place in it), Anapa works to guide people through the in-between places, and helps them adjust to a new existence on the other side of whatever threshold they needed to cross.
What I am taking away from this is, two things. First, liminal times/places are doorways, not meant for clinging to, but meant for passing through to the destination on the other side. Second, any major life change requires adjustment, which is often hard; this is when people are most in need of empathy and guidance, something our modern world doesn’t always provide. I think we all feel empathy, but often fail to turn it into anything tangible, which is what people really need. I think we should endeavor to offer more tangible support, especially children of Anapa, since this is so important to our god.
Sometimes friendship is enough. It’s not so hard to be a friend; have some tea and cookies, talk about the weather and ordinary things, just show some human kindness. Community centers often have great programs and resources, but not everyone knows about them. I like to keep tabs on what’s available in my neighborhood, even if it’s not relevant to me, so I can pass it on to someone who needs it.
I also recommend the Psychological First Aid course from Johns Hopkins University (a free online course, link is here). Like regular first aid, this is meant for responding to emergency situations, but I have found that it is also a good model to follow for reaching out to strangers, e.g., how to talk to new neighbors and make friends offline.
I think the hardest part for any of us, is to reach out to strangers offline. The internet has given us a world where we only have to talk to people who are like us, people we can get to know from a safe distance and abandon just as easily. I don’t know how many people would be willing to knock on a neighbor’s door and ask if they need any help, or just share a cup of tea and chat. I’m not saying you can’t offer support over the internet, you can, but there are so many people who need support in the physical world, and we should not neglect that.
As I was writing the sentence, “compassionate, patient, a great listener…” a thought popped into my head:
“Being depicted as a jackal (large of ear) was not only an aesthetic choice, you know.”