|Subject:||A hymn to Ra|
Going through Maulana Karenga's Maat: The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt, and finding much to reflect on. Most of it isn't anything shockingly new, but it's explored in such great detail and with such care that the reading has been an intense and wonderful meditative session every time I've found a few minutes to settle down with the book. Today I found this hymn to Ra, from papyrus Boulaq XVII:
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O Ra ... Your love is in the southern sky,
Your pleasantness is in the northern sky.
_ _ _ _ _
You are the Unique One Who made all that is,
The sole and only one Who made what exists,
From Whose eyes humans came forth,
And from Whose speech the divine ones came into being.
The one Who creates the herbage that nourishes the animals
And the fruit trees for humankind.
Who makes that on which fish in the river live
And the birds in the sky.
Who gives breath to those who are in the egg
And nourishes even the young snake.
Who makes that on which gnats live
And likewise worms and fleas.
Who supplies the needs of mice in their holes
And nourishes flying things in every tree.
_ _ _ _ _
Honor to You because You created us.
Thanks to You from all cattle.
Praises to You from all lands.
To the height of heaven, to the width of earth and the depths of the sea.
_ _ _ _ _
One Who raised the heaven and laid out the earth,
Who made what exists and created what will be.
The section I'm currently reading is exploring the implications of an ethical system based on ma'at for environmental concerns. I've often thought of ma'at as a system of relationships which, when properly balanced, leads to a dynamic sense of community and an inter-active lifestyle resulting in the maximum potential health and happiness of every member. It is such a profoundly simple concept, and it applies very well to many aspects of life. I think it's a wonderful summation of what should be the goal of the recent "Green revolution," where people are finally viewing themselves as a part of nature rather than apart from it, and recognizing that their behaviors impact on the ecosystem and that in turn impacts on the future of our own race. I'm pleased to see that this seemingly very modern application of ma'at philosophy has been spotted by someone who is far more eloquent and who has far more influence than I have.
Karenga comments on the notion of the shared origins of man and nature, and its expression in hymns to creator gods like the one I quoted above:
"This conception offers similarities to a modern scientific concept of nature which poses both humans and nature as evolving from similar substance. Especially close then are organic beings which are co-evolved and interdependent as the praise poems to the Creator suggest. This unity of being concept with its stress on nature as a biotic organism, a living web of interconnections and mutual effect coincides in a meaningful way with the ecological concept of "biotic community." Thus Maatian ethics will, of necessity, direct moral attention to the welfare of nature which means respect for and defense of its integrity, diversity, and stability."
It's fascinating and beautiful to contemplate. Although... I must admit that I still struggle to accept fleas as part of a sacred community.
It's not quite over yet, but I'm taking a break from the festivities to revel in some of the wonderful experiences I've had and stuff I've found at the convention so far!
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It's been great meeting up with Kemetics from near and far, and different styles of practice! I was a bit bummed that there weren't more Kemetic presentations this year, but so far I've spoken to two people who had put in applications for Kemetic workshops which were denied- so perhaps the con staff feels that we've been a little over-represented of late. Still, there have been and will be three presentations from three different perspectives within the community.
On Saturday morning, Tamara Siuda gave a wonderful presentation on prayer from the Kemetic Orthodox tradition. This morning, Tony Mierzwicki gave a talk on Graeco-Egyptian magic which I was sadly unable to attend. I'm not at the convention today, but I have friends there who should be taking notes for me and I look forward to hearing from them. Tomorrow morning Richard Reidy will be giving a talk, as a Kemetic reconstructionist, on ancient Egyptian oracles and divination. I'd love to hear from anyone who went to any of these presentations- let's discuss!!!
However I must admit that the main reason I'm posting today is actually because I have had such uncommonly good luck in the vendor room this year. I have pictures to share!
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Eternal Egypt is a gold mine of carefully researched and lovingly, conscientiously presented ritual liturgies for the modern Kemetic reconstructionist. Rarely am I this enthusiastic over a single source, but then again rarely have I found a book which manages to be at the same time academically responsible- with sources cited, and an abundance of footnotes- and presented in an easy-to-read fashion, geared toward the modern practitioner, and with so many practical applications. Reidy, Richard. Eternal Egypt: Ancient Rituals for the Modern World. New York: iUniverse, Inc., 2010.
This book is essentially a collection of rituals drawn from the records of ancient rituals inscribed on temple walls. The author has included descriptive notes about their enactment, along with brief discussions of the significance of each ritual and the sources from which they were drawn. These rituals have a distinctly traditional tone- they are presented much as they have been found written on temple walls. This author has worked with professional translations of original inscriptions, and endeavored to present these rituals in modern language which flows and preserves the beauty of the original works. There is a degree of completion in the rituals which I have not often seen elsewhere. The author mentions where a few things have been omitted, such as the presentation to the deity of specific pieces of jewelry and the like, which may have been prohibitively expensive and unattainable to the average modern practitioner- however these omissions are few, and as the sources for the rituals are given they are there for the enthusiastic reader to track down should you feel that you desire even more. There are also some simplified versions of important rituals given alongside the more in-depth versions. The shorter, alternate rituals are drawn from the same traditional sources and encourage those of us caught up in the hectic schedule of modern life to be able to share in this legacy of support and power which has been so wonderfully preserved for us.
A quick run through the Table of Contents shows general rituals adapted to the honoring of a handful of specific deities- for those whose deities are not among those listed, these can serve as templates from which to draw inspiration for creating your own ritual along traditional lines. There are also two rituals here for honoring the spirits of those who have gone before us- ancestors, the beloved dead, akhu, or however you prefer to know them. There are 3 formal temple rituals for warding off Apep or other destructive spirits. You will also find a ritual for the Opening of the Mouth- and I strongly caution anyone considering performing this ritual to carefully read the introduction to the rite provided. It describes the responsibilities involved in caring for an open image, as well as concerns to be weighed by any practitioner considering taking on these responsibilities. A very helpful commentary takes the reader through each step of the ritual.
This book comes in paperback and hardback versions, and is 349 pages in length including 7 pages of Works Cited and 20 pages of endnotes. There are a few line drawing scattered throughout the book, but it is mostly text. There is a Table of Contents, but no index.
Eternal Egypt appears to be written for an audience of intermediate-level practitioners, although beginners could get quite a bit out of it if they were willing to put in some extra effort to research unfamiliar topics, and old hands may well find a good deal of inspiration (and a handy reference source). I highly recommend this book to any Kemetic reconstructionist, and I am thrilled that this work is in publication and generally available.
You can find this book through Amazon.com, at:
Rating: Five scribes (A must-have for the Kemetic ritualist)
More book reviews...
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I am back from PantheaCon 2009, and there were some really wonderful presentations there this year! I've noticed a subtle shift over the years to more and more presentations paying attention to and quoting their sources, handing out bibliography lists, and all-in-all being a lot more friendly toward academic sources and the concept of research in a spiritual context. This year, there was even a panel discussion which had the word "reconstructionist" in the title, so of course I had to go.
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It was a fabulous idea for a discussion- "The Role of Mysticism in Reconstructionist Religions," and it's one of those talks which has really been sticking with me this last week. I'm glad that someone brought it up. They seem like two such different states of mind, two radically different approaches- and they are, and yet I would argue that both of them are essential for a functional spiritual life in most of the modern pagan or heathen reconstructionist faiths. Let me explain.
First, to define mysticism- this is not easy, and to my mind it was one of the most confusing parts of the panel; I don't think that all of the panelists were necessarily working from the same definition. To me, mysticism refers to an understanding of a divine entity which comes from something other than the canonically accepted written directives and mythology from Its tradition. I welcome your thoughts on this definition- especially as this essay is meant as an exploration into this subject rather than the definitive last word on it- but this is the understanding which I will be using of the subject throughout this entry.
As mentioned by one of the panelists, when one hears of Mysticism (with a capital M) it is usually framed within one of the Abrahamic religions- I suspect this is because those religions are so thoroughly Religions Of The Book that for them, a departure from the written scriptures is a really big deal. I think that the reason why one does not hear about Mysticism so much within the Pagan traditions is not because it is underdeveloped or overlooked here, I think it is rather because we often take it for granted in our culture. We don't have any single Book which is revered to the point of the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran, and so it is much more natural to us to go straight to the deity or spirit, have a personal encounter, and derive our own understanding of the religion from that. I have met some Pagans, in fact, who are so saturated in a Mystical communion with their deities that their understandings of Them are rooted in very little else; they sometimes have difficulty relating with the rest of the community, or even with articulating their beliefs to others. The more extreme among these people are often classified among the various types of "fluffy" Pagans, or described as being "out there," perhaps to the point of living in a fantasy world.
These days there is a growing tendency toward the reconstructionist religions- perhaps in part as a reaction to the aforementioned "Mystics." While none of us have, as yet, a Book of codified teachings, we do place a great deal of value on specific kinds of written resources. Archeology and academia are revered for the framework which they offer- a solid foundation of practices and their cultural context, from which we draw to build a bridge between ourselves and the gods Whom we wish to honor and from Whom we wish to learn. And yet there is a danger here, too- I have heard of Pagans who became so enmeshed in their books, footnotes, and cross-references that their spiritual lives were as dry as a desert dig site, with all the inspirational qualities of the dissertation upon which their ritual was based.
There is a crossroads here, a meeting of the ways. I propose that both experiences of the religion are vital- and present in many of our practices. The key is to be able to distinguish them from one another, and recognize each one's merits and limitations. From our research, we get a framework- a skeleton upon which to hang the flesh and blood of our personal experience. Without that enfleshment, a skeleton can not move- it can not live. But without a place to attach, a muscle can not move either- it can only lie quivering and pulsing on the floor, a weird and shapeless thing with limited biological viability. It is important to understand how each of us arrived at our current set of beliefs and values, and to communicate with one another about which of these two camps we are drawing from when we discuss our practices. It is especially important when we are discussing these subjects with people who are new to our path, because they do not know enough to make the distinction themselves. We will do them no favors if we allow them to base the framework of their spirituality on our mystical encounters, and it all comes crashing down around them if or when that personal, mystical experience doesn't hold up under the experiences which they are trying to hang on it. Nor will we be doing them any favors if we insist that every detail of their spiritual lives requires a stamp of approval from a PhD.
There will always be those who chose the flesh over the framework, and vice versa- and I am not one to argue with them, they must follow their own counsel. But in my view, in my practices, I see these two sides of approach as being indispensable. I am a Kemetic Reconstructionist, and I find strength and wisdom in the rich cultural heritage of ancient Egypt. I find a complexity of symbolism, layers of meaning, and an awesome intricacy of purpose in the cults of the gods- power in the words to be spoken which have been passed down over centuries, even millennia, of connection and use. I tend to lean heavily toward the reconstructionist side of things because I find great strength in it. However, I am also a child of the gods- having a personal relationship with and understanding of Them. I will do my best to distinguish between the gifts which both of these identities bestow upon me, to celebrate their differences and their strengths, and to avoid the misunderstandings which can threaten to devalue either one of them.
This is a read-only post, just to let people know that I have altered my last entry on Akhw offerings to add the following paragraph. The original post can be found at: http://fyrekat.livejournal.com/82676.html , and is open to comments or suggestions from any angle- which are always gratefully received (so long as they're politely stated, of course!^_~).
"HoN recently released their latest podcast which deals specifically with this question- and they seem to be taking a different approach than the ones which I gave above (which were the most common explanations given to my questions). You can download or listen to the podcast from their website here: http://kemetthisweek.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=344439 . I love these podcasts, and am very grateful for them. I think I'm probably still going to reinstate my food models, offering prayers at dinner, and sharing my own meal with my akhw however. Especially since this latest podcast indicates that some akhw offerings were eaten, and nothing more is being said of bad heka. ^_^ Offering my own meals allows me to present my beloved dead with much larger portions, and disposes of the physical aspect of the offering in a respectful way. Since my akhw gave me the impression that they preferred that route, this seems like the best option for me. Others' feelings may- and no doubt will- vary from person to person, and I am still looking for some reading which may indicate what was done with the offerings made to the ancestor shrines within the ancient Egyptian household (not the tombs, the ones inside people's actual homes). I welcome anyone's comments or suggestions, as this continues to be one of modern Kemet's sticky theological questions."
The treatment of food and libation offerings to the blessed dead is something which has been on my mind a lot lately. My first temple didn't really treat the subject very much- I knew that the akhw were an important part of my spiritual life, but didn't really know quite what to do with them. I re-established dinner as the family meal, offering up my plate before eating and then sharing the meal with them. I also set up a portion of my shrine with offerings of model foods in their memory- just in case they didn't like what I was having for dinner. Later on I began taking classes at the House of Netjer, who had a lot more to say about ancestor reverence- which was good. My akhw veneration became a little more structured, a little more conscious- I created a separate akhw shrine for them, and began to honor them more vocally in formal rituals on certain festival days.
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But then things began to get more confused. At first, a priest in the House advised me that the model foods were a bad idea because we should never offer something which we are not willing to eat. Offerings are to be consumed after ritual, of course, and real foods are always better, she said. I caught the images of my model foods in a glass of water, consumed it, and decommissioned that portion of my shrine in favor of my dinner "family meal."
That was fine, but then Hemet mentioned in another conversation that akhw offerings should not be eaten at all- they become associated with the realm of the dead, the dead keep what they take, eating them is bad heka, and all that. She said that instead of offering up my plate, I should serve my akhw (first) a very small portion of everything to be had and leave that on an altar for a period of time. Then the offerings were to be removed, and either disposed of outside or wrapped up separately before being thrown in the trash. This was a little more difficult to implement- for one thing, I got the feeling that my akhw liked our original "family meal" setup... and those who had lived through the Great Depression did not like the idea of food being wasted. I reconciled that by taking up composting- since I have no wilderness in which to dispose of my offerings, but our city does have a composting program and several of my akhw are farmers who can appreciate the value of compost. Then there were the flies which were attracted to the open platters of food and compost (which had to be kept separate from the trash)- I solved that by purchasing a covered dish and storing the compost bags in the freezer until they were full enough to drop off in a bin. And this is the way I still do things.
However, recently a local group with whom I worship and whom I particularly respect for their dedication (both to research and tradition, as well as to the gods we adore), celebrated The Beautiful Feast of the Western Valley, a.k.a. Opet. This group is not associated with the House of Netjer, and their approach to akhw offerings was much more along the lines of my original intuition: they were consumed through the same reversion of offerings which we practice with the gods. The reasoning was that our akhw were divinized spirits- and particularly that a major point of the ceremony was to identify them with the ntjr Wsyr (Ausir, Osiris). Offerings to this deity are reverted to the people as normal, and if an association with the realm of the dead were considered dangerous then surely this deity's offerings would not be consumed- and yet they were. Also, some felt that the avoidance of association with the dead came from cultures who viewed the dead as "lifeless shades," as did the Greeks, or as tormented souls as in some other religions- one would definitely not want to draw near to these kinds of existences. But as effective, justified, divinized, and living spirits- as the Egyptians viewed their dead- there would be no reason to fear close association, and indeed our dead are as much a part of our world as our gods are. Furthermore, this was a meal for which we were inviting the dead to enter [i]our[/i] world to share, rather than us traveling into the Duat to dine with them- and so it was still the food of the living which we consumed, just shared with our loved ones.
It's all good reasoning and I have to say that I'm inclined to agree- the only problem is that neither group can point to a text from the time period, or even any outside source, supporting one view over the other. I'm wondering if anyone here may have read something somewhere which could shed some more light on this question.
To eat, or not to eat?
Edited to add:
HoN recently released their latest podcast which deals specifically with this question- and they seem to be taking a different approach than the ones which I gave above (which were the most common explanations given to my questions). You can download or listen to the podcast from their website here: http://kemetthisweek.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=344439 . I love these podcasts, and am very grateful for them. I think I'm probably still going to reinstate my food models, offering prayers at dinner, and sharing my own meal with my akhw however. Especially since this latest podcast indicates that some akhw offerings were eaten, and nothing more is being said of bad heka. ^_^ Offering my own meals allows me to present my beloved dead with much larger portions, and disposes of the physical aspect of the offering in a respectful way. Since my akhw gave me the impression that they preferred that route, this seems like the best option for me. Others' feelings may- and no doubt will- vary from person to person, and I am still looking for some reading which may indicate what was done with the offerings made to the ancestor shrines within the ancient Egyptian household (not the tombs, the ones inside people's actual homes). I welcome anyone's comments or suggestions, as this continues to be one of modern Kemet's sticky theological questions.
For all those who are in the San Francisco Bay Area, there will be a talk on Kemetic Reconstructionism at Ancient Ways this Thursday! May 8th at 7:30 PM in the Ancient Ways store of Oakland, Richard Reidy will be speaking on the concept and practice of being a modern person living true to ancient Egyptian religious, traditional ideals.
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Richard Reidy is a member of the Temple of Ra, and author of several of the ritual works which were at one time published through Akhet Hwt-Hrw but are now slowly being released in actual book form. I have his first book, "Ancient Egyptian Rituals for the Modern World" and love it. This is just from me personally, but what I have seen and heard from this man has really struck a chord with what I value in the reconstructionist approach- more so even than most of the temples with which I have studied thus far, lol. Anyway, if you're in the area I really hope that you can come! The talk is open to all Kemetics, and pretty much anyone who's honestly interested in hearing another view on the subject.^_^
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As the title says, it has been an awesome year for me- and I hope for all of you as well! As some of you know, last year I decided to check out the House of Netjer community. What I found was a group of passionately dedicated people, full of inspiration and information, and a well-developed community with facilities that were fairly impressive. I'm glad that I went back to see them again, that I went through their Beginners' Class, and that I can count myself a member of their community at the Remetj level. Even though I don't always agree with the temple's approach to the religion, and my disagreement has been enough that I doubt I will ever go further than Remetj, I have learned- and continue to learn- a great deal from them, and my differences have usually been politely accepted.
This year has been, according to the KO calendar, watched over by the Bawy- a composite god combining Hrw-Wr and Stkh, in balance. Knowing Them, probably in a highly dynamic sort of balance, heh.^_^ The community was called upon to donate art for the calendar, and in hopes of getting it published earlier I finally took up a pen and came up with my own submission:
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In addition to this, I finally set up that Hrw and Stkh shrine I've been meaning to create forever. Or at least, ever since Nebra sent me that lovely pair of Hrw and Stkh icons.^_~ At this point shrines are taking up nearly every available horizontal surface in my house- including over the entertainment center and the shelf above the computer. But I found one of those corner-shelves, a nice glass and brass one, and set Them up with a red, white, and gold neckerchief altar cloth, a glass lotus-shaped candle holder with a red (or red and gold, when available) candle, and the two glass votive holders (one red, one blue) which were dedicated to Them during a celebration in Their honor hosted by the Temple of Ra. I have a pair of white ostrich plumes which I have managed to prop up behind the statues, but would love a more permanent way of anchoring to the shrine, and I'm on the lookout for a brass offering dish and small brass cup. I figured gold would be ideal, but since I'm unlikely to find (or afford) that, brass is at least gold-colored.
Speaking of the Temple of Ra, that brings me to another wonderful thing which has happened in this past year.^_^ I have been fortunate enough to find a group- here in my own area, no less!- whose commitment to a traditional approach to ritual and understanding of the religion as Kemetic reconstructionists is more in tune with my ideals and values than Kemetic Orthodoxy has been (no offense meant to Kemetic Orthodoxy, of course!^_^). Through a set of improbable events, I have gradually been steered toward a connection with these fine folks and have been grateful for it ever since! Thanks to them, I've been able to make some wonderful friends and join up with them regularly for celebrations which are far more similar to what I see in my texts when I'm researching ancient Egyptian religion than I've seen elsewhere. They've had a very comfortable, almost family-like feel to them, and I've really enjoyed our talks and after-ritual feasts together!^_^ The founder, Richard Reidy, has recently published his first book- Ancient Egyptian Rituals for the Modern World, which outlines seven traditional rituals found in ancient texts (usually, reliefs from temple walls) along with commentary on their significance within the religion. The book was formally presented for the first time at this year's PantheaCon- where he also gave a talk on the often misunderstood roles of Skhmt and Stkh in ancient Egyptian religion. I was pleased to see that the talk filled to the brim- all seats taken, people lining the back wall, and a few even sitting in the aisles between the seats. His book sold quickly, so I left others to buy it there and just purchased my copy today from a local bookstore- I will, of course, review it here once I've been able to curl up for some Quality Time with it.^_~
This year's PantheaCon was sadly lacking in Kemetic events- just Richard's talk and one other... which was scheduled during the same time slot in the room next door! But that had the advantage of concentrating the Kemetic contingent in one area, so I was able to to meet up with a couple of folks I haven't seen in years. Some old friendships may be about to rekindle, dua Ntjr! You know who you are- thanks for speaking up!
Today, in Egypt, the Nisut of the House of Netjer- Sekhenet-Ma'at-Ra setep-en-Ra Hekatawy I - is celebrating her Heb-Sed festival. This festival will be a renewal of her coronation and the seating of the kingly ka within her, a rejuvenation in body and spirit, in order for her to continue serving her community as a king and a teacher. Today, she presents herself and her work thus far to the gods for Their judgement.
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A king's first duty is to sweep away isfet and set ma'at in its place. The king is an incarnation of ma'at, in a way- acting on earth to protect Her interests and embody Her ideals. Seeing such a real, tangible manifestation of this principle gives people hope, and inspires them to reach toward their own full potential in the divine order- that one which feeds their ka and the gods on the breath and bread of ma'at, given life through their actions. As such the king must be relentless in the pursuit of ma'at, as must those who serve under him, setting the example for everyone else in the community- proving the attainability of ma'at as a way of life, and paving the way for others to follow in his path. I have noticed in life that whenever one element of a system is brought into alignment with ma'at, it becomes easier for those around it to follow in its wake- snapping into place around it. When one person lives their life in ma'at, it becomes that much easier for the other members of his or her community to respond in ma'at. The king is the foremost among us- it is his job to blaze a trail through the isfet which has built up around us, stagnating and strangling the community; it is his job to open the way back to ma'at.
I've met Hemet a total of three times so far, but it wasn't until early last month that I really got to spend a good amount of time with her and get a feel for what it is that she's teaching. I came away from that retreat with a profound sense of connection to the people around me. Before I attended I had come to understand the concept of community welfare as explained to me in my texts, the wisdom literature, and museum lectures on the ancient Egyptian economy. The responsibility to take care of others rises in direct proportion to a person's wealth and ability to do so- the king was known by the title of "Hemet," meaning "servant," and his was the greatest power, with the greatest responsibility... his every action being magically or physically dedicated to the welfare of the people. However, this responsibility was not borne entirely by the king- it fell to all people to strengthen ma'at in the land with respect to their means. Without giving up their rights to hard-won privileges, the Egyptians maintained that with privilege comes responsibility- and when those responsibilities are upheld, the community as a whole becomes stronger. I knew this, and had done my best to adopt it as a personal way of life and yet still- it had not dawned on me how incredibly powerful this concept could become when a large group of people wove it into their communal practice, on a daily basis.
This was the greatest impression that I brought home with me from that weekend visit- there really is a movement to bring this way of living back to the world, and a king who has begun to forge the way. We, the people of Kemet, have begun to weave a network of ma'at- literally surrounding the planet. Each of us can tap into it for our own welfare when needed, and each time a new person joins their hand to the group we reach a little farther. I have seen this network in action within those areas of our own community which are under the direction of the king. Since I can not live in the temple, however, in such close personal contact with the members of that community, I take this inspiration and extend the network into my own city. There are many people in need of support as they clear a path for themselves back into their lives, back toward their potential- and by giving a portion of my strength to the programs in place to help them, I strengthen those programs to help myself in turn should I ever find myself in their place. So I have been looking into shelters, food banks and soup kitchens, medical research, and environmental programs- there are many options for service and all of them are in need of assistance. I will give what I can- and what I can gives back to me, my community, and ma'at. I find that doing this feeds my ka, my life- it gives me hope and healing. And when the time comes, I pray that I am able to say proudly, "I have given bread to those who hungered, clothing to those who were naked, and shelter to those who had none. I have given a home to the homeless, direction to the weary and the stranded, and hope of healing to those who were ill. I have upheld ma'at in my heart and my domain; I have fed my ka on justice and compassion. I have not overextended my means, nor have I shirked my duties. I have made offering to the gods of my actions, for life is more precious than all the riches of the ancient temples and no offering is more pure. I have arrived as a dweller on the Earth, and I have done what is right."
I am grateful to the community who supports me and to the king who has revived the spirit of ma'at in the world- who has done so much to reawaken Kemet in the modern day, and whom I am sure will have no problem justifying her reign so far before the gods today. I'll keep doing my part.
I'm currently taking a class on Kemetic religion with some really wonderful people; it's been a great opportunity to review my own experiences and attitudes, and how I arrived at the personal relationships and understandings of Ntjr which I embrace today. One of the things we've been talking about has been our varied experiences in shrine- particularly of the response or seeming lack thereof from Divinity- and it got me to thinking again.
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This is an issue which comes up regularly in our community- whether you're new or an old hand, these sorts of questions often raise their head at some point or another. Why don't these experiences happen for me? Why don't they happen for me the way they happen for ______? Why aren't they happening right now? Why did it all of a sudden get quiet? For some reason, we tend to hear more about it from people who are new- probably because they ask more questions in general and point things out to us which help us understand our own processes of learning and interacting with the ntjrw. And for that I am always grateful to them.^_^
I think that, a lot of the time, when people ask about our experiences with the Divine we tend to give them the big impressive stories- the encounters which really made us sit up and say, "Wow, I was with God that night!" And then people start thinking that it's supposed to be like that all the time.
But it's not. There are a lot of quiet moments- it's like human relationships, sometimes you can measure the level of your intimacy with someone by how much time you can sit quietly together without it becoming uncomfortable.^_^ There are often long quiet times together with Ntjr, too.
I've had both kinds of experiences- the quiet and the dramatic- but when people ask me about my encounters with Ntjr, I know my accounts tend to range toward the more fantastic events. I just naturally do this because those types of accounts are usually more interesting to listen to, and sometimes they also illustrate some important lessons in my life which I just hadn't learned to recognize in any other way. I heard somewhere that the gods Who show up in big dramatic ways often seem to do so because They have to- if you're listening and on path to begin with, there's not much need for it.
Some gods do tend to be more quiet and enigmatic than others, just in general- although, I think sometimes we may also just need to work on understanding Their methods of communication. Spiritual practices- be they the Daily Rite, Senut, and/or meditation- can help to develop this, along with a healthy awareness of how we feel in our own bodies and what is going on in the world around us. The ntjrw can and do sometimes communicate through bodily or emotional sensations, or through physical, symbolic events in our environment.
I think that a repeated experience of a trance/meditative state as fostered in the Daily Rite actually helps to train our brain patterns so that it is more easy to tune into the spiritual forms of communication which we often have so much trouble recognizing in our daily lives. I do think that the intensity of my experiences grew more quickly over a period of time where I was doing the Daily Rite on a daily basis- but it still took a while to develop, and even though I am now unable to do the rite as often as I once did, my progress has not stopped by any means. I am still growing.
It has been scientifically proven that brain patterns develop and nerve connections actually change to facilitate easy firing of mental patterns which are used on a regular basis. That's the scientific/biological explanation for how we learn various skills and attitudes over the course of our lives. It stands to reason, then, that any regular "tuning in" to spiritual frequencies will help to trigger those mental patterns which tune us into the spiritual, and each trigger stimulates the brain to facilitate that pattern more and more readily. The more regularly you can do this, the better, but anything which you can manage is worth something. This means that those "quiet" sessions where you attempt to meditate but can't quite seem to get the response you were hoping for are still contributing toward the goal- because the more frequently you practice, the more easily it will come to you. It will get stronger as you go, so gradually that you won't even notice it until some time later on down the road when someone new to the community starts asking you about your experiences with Ntjr and you realize, "Wow, I'm having them too..."
Another aspect of the process is that some people have difficulty with the concept of deities Who talk back- it seems so crazy. And while it's really not any more crazy than any other view of divinity, I can certainly sympathize with the concern. I remember, though, a class I attended with a certain college religion professor, who told us that 97% of all religious people are certifiably insane... if you ask somebody from outside their religious worldview to judge it. So it would seem that this is really a normal part of the shift in perception from one religious view to another.
One of the biggest dangers for folks in our faith, I think, is that people get fixated on something happening a certain way, and they watch so hard for that to happen that they completely miss all the other stuff that's going on around them. My room-mate recently told me about a study which was done, where people were shown a video of six people, three wearing white shirts and three wearing black shirts. They were bouncing balls between each other, and the people who were shown this 20 second film were asked to keep track of how many balls were passed between people wearing white shirts. At some point in the video, a guy wearing a gorilla suit walks into the room with the people passing balls, beats his chest, then walks out. An alarmingly large percentage of the people viewing this film- nearly all of them- never even see it, they become too focused on the balls and shirts.
This happens in a lot of metaphysical circles, and not just ours. People look for voices, or apparitions, or scents which smell a certain way. Ntjr's means of reaching out to us are vast and deep. Ntjr has a nearly infinite number of forms, and even more ways of interacting with us. So don't let anyone (including yourself) place limitations on what you expect, open yourself to whatever may come, and enjoy the quiet moments you have with the Divine- they are precious, a blessing that we can sit in Ntjr's house with such intimacy.
I purchased Maat Revealed after seeing it mentioned as a new acquisition by another LJ user, although I was never able to get her thoughts on the book. I don't know if she's even read it yet- but if she hasn't, then perhaps this review can serve as forewarning. Although the title sounds very promising, and the author is apparently now in possession of a PhD, the book itself does not deliver on any of that promise and appears as though it could very likely have been written by a particularly angsty 10 year old. Weighing in at 80 pages of text, 33 pages of footnotes, and 7 pages worth of works cited (which were apparently cited solely to decry the failings of modern egyptology), it displays many of the same traits as an uninspired grade school paper. Complete with slightly larger than usual print, double spaced lines, endless consecutive repetitions of the same assertions and phrases in slightly reworded versions (but with very little or incredibly shallow supportive reasoning), the author also regales us with that old, familiar last ditch effort of scholarly desperation: the use of the "Conclusion" paragraph as a means of rehashing the same tired complaint which made up much of the preceding chapter while slipping in some odd little deductions which seem to have little to do with the material already covered, but give you the illusion that you're actually progressing through a theory. As you can probably tell, I wasn't very impressed with the book.Mancini, Anna. Maat Revealed: Philosophy of Justice in Ancient Egypt. New York: Buenos Books America, 2004.
Here's the main theme of Maat Revealed: modern people are so overly materialistic that we are blind to see the obvious truth embedded in the mystical symbols of the ancient papyri which are right before our very eyes. In fact, modern people- particularly scientists- have apparently done away with symbols altogether, and have no clue as to how they're used anymore. We need to rediscover our own dream language. Some people understand the dream language. Others do not understand the dream language. Many have no concept of the dream language. Particularly egyptologists. But the dream language is absolutely vital for understanding the symbols which egyptologists blatantly refuse to see because they are so thoroughly devoid of any capacity for recognizing the dream language.
Instead, they're distracted by the accompanying texts- which obviously have nothing to do with the illustrations- and that draws them away from the hidden truths of the SCENE (as the author likes to refer to the "weighing of the heart"). Egyptologists are particularly afflicted by this deplorable sense of rational study, and are way, way too literalistic and materialistic in their interpretations of this SCENE. Besides, how could anybody possibly think that the SCENE has anything to do with dead people when there are no corpses lying about in it? And a heart balancing on a scale with a feather? C'mon- muscle is much too heavy for that, so obviously the scale has nothing to do with any concept of "weighing." Those egyptologists are way too literal.
The author also claims that the ancient Egyptians were in no way religious, but entirely scientific- although she caveats that the ancient Egyptian concept of science was in no way the same as our own. She cites overtly religious overtones in temple rituals as signs of the corruption of the pure Egyptian scientific understanding of the rites (and points out that the priests in these time periods clearly had no idea what they were doing), dismisses immediately anything with magical significance, and then evidences the lack of any sort of energy exchange left in the rubble of her dissected ritual remains as "proof" that egyptian "religion" had suffered a complete break down.
And so it continues through about 53 pages of text before the author initiates us into her own concept of what maat is- which has something to do with solar energy and migrating birds. Admittedly a pretty analogy, but by that point she had so impressed me with her disgust for modern egyptological theories that I was expecting her own to be a little more insightful, or intelligible, or supported by contextual evidence, or at least something more than a rehash of the same concepts which many egyptologists have expressed in their own metaphors of the weighing of the heart.
Mancini does have some beautiful and poetic ideas about the expression of ma'at in ancient Egypt, and the nature of its flow through the human community. The first chapter presents an interesting history of our developing understandings in the concept of maat, and the last chapter proposes an equally interesting new theory for how maat is received and transmitted through human interaction. It is greatly unfortunate that what contribution this author may have made to the field is almost entirely drowned out in her tirade against scholars who have not come to the same conclusion as herself.
Rating was a tough decision here- I feel very strongly that it is a rare thing to find a book without any redeeming qualities, and to me that's what a one scribe rating really means. That being said, this one barely scraped by the two scribe mark. I advise skipping it- you won't miss much, and you're probably better off reading the Maxims of PtahHotep anyway.
Rating: Two scribes (Mostly unhelpful and bitter, but inexpensive with a few interesting concepts)
More book reviews...
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edit- I'm taking some advice and have changed all comments to screened status. Should you choose to reply to this entry rather than using my email address, only you and I should be able to see your comments, so we should have confidentiality. I admit to not being very familiar with this feature, however, so your best bet is to write me privately- the address is given below. I have not deleted any comments- just screened them so that only I can see it- so if you've already replied, I still have your comments.^_^ Many thanks to all who have responded, and those who are about to do so!
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I have a request to make of the community- it may seem like an odd thing, but it's something which has become important to me right now.
I want to know your impressions and opinions of the House of Netjer, a.k.a. HoN, KO, or the Kemetic Orthodox Faith.
Right now, I'm trying to gather a sense for the general community's response to this expression of Kemetic religion, and that temple's relative position within the wider community. To that end, I want to know what you, specifically, think of them. I want to know if you think well of them, or if you don't, and- as much as you're comfortable in telling me- why. I want to know if you've ever had any experience with them, or what you think of their approach to the religion, their internal structure, their membership, their website, and/or their effect on the rest of the community. I want to know if you have no opinion of them either way, and I want to know if you've never heard of them before. If you've never heard of them before, and this inquiry prompts you to go check them out, I'd like to hear your first impressions.
You don't have to answer all of these questions if you don't have time, or don't want to do so- just tell me whatever you think is most important. And you're free to change your mind later on, of course- I just want to know what you think right now. I will not try to convince you of my own views, either- that's not what I'm after.
I want to hear from people of any, all, and no temple affiliations. I'd like to know whether you consider yourself Kemetic, and if you identify strongly with any particular group(s) within the community. But no matter what, I want to hear from you.
In short, I want to know everything and anything you're willing to tell me about HoN and its relationship with the rest of the community- and just in case anyone has any concerns: I will swear on my life's blood, on the foundations of ma'at, and on the air which the ntjrw give me to breathe that I will never reveal any details of what any particular person has said to me regarding this interview. Nor will I ever reveal any trends of thought which I find within any Kemetic groups or organizations. I assure you that I am taking this quite seriously.
I would be very grateful for your assistance in this matter, and you may send your comments to me privately at my yahoo mailing account. The address will be firstname.lastname@example.org . If you'd feel better about posting your responses here, then please do so- but it would probably be better to do this privately through email.
Thanks so much for your help, and I hope to hear from you soon! This request will be crossposted in a few places- and feel free to forward it on to anyone you know who might want to add their voice.
Bright and early the next morning- or at least, at an hour which certainly seems bright and early when you're at an event like PantheaCon- we gathered in the Cedar ball room for the House of Netjer's panel on the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt. There were several members of the House hosting the talk- I'm not going to try to name them all because I'm terrible with names and I don't want to leave anyone out, but the panel encompassed a pretty decent demographic spread in ages, length of time spent in the group, level of commitment, and deity affiliation. Their Nisut was also there, leading the talk. By and large they seemed to be a pretty wholesome lot- good people, sincere in their love of their gods and commitment to each other, and happy to answer questions from the people who came to see them.
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( Gods and Goddesses of Ancient EgyptCollapse )
It was an informative talk, all in all- I had some questions answered and came up with a few more, which I plan on taking up on their forums (when I finally get around to posting there^_^'). The next Kemetic event came later on that afternoon- the Bast Festival!
I took some time just beforehand to change into my ritual robes, do a preliminary purification, and gather up the set of red scrubs, Skhmt amulet, my name tag, Healing incense, and a pair of ear rings which I often wore with the scrubs and amulet. I wasn't sure if it was a good idea to bring the earrings, actually, since they'd been an offering to Bast-Skhmt, Who isn't quite the same Lady as Skhmt. But I thought that this was a rare chance, and I do wear them at work, so I wanted as much of the ntjrt's presence, guidance, and protection to accompany me there as possible.^_^
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( The CES Skhmt RitualCollapse )
After the ritual, we went back to our room and prepared for the oracular Seidh- which is always an educational experience, and this year was no exception. But the next Kemetic event was the House of Netjer's panel on the Ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses, on the following morning.^_^
I'm back at home from the convention, and with a bit of rest and reflection I'm ready to delve into my experiences this past weekend. PantheaCon 2006 was, as usual, very busy and highly provocative on many levels! I feel like I grow a little bit each time I attend- certainly I tend to be presented each year with many valuable opportunities to learn and think about what I've been doing, where I'm headed, and why. It's a lot of fun, and very exhausting all at the same time- and there were certainly times this year when I wanted to just go back to my room and mull things over! But there's never enough time to do everything that I want when I'm there as it is, so it's important to take advantage of as much of it as possible! Achilles wants to go back already- but honestly, I don't think I can handle too much of this sort of thing all at once. I'm happy to wait out the year getting ready for the next visit- although there are rumors of the con becoming a biannual event.^_~
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So this might get a little bit long, and I'm thinking of posting these in multiple reports. I'd like to start off with the main reasons why I go to this convention, though- those events of a Kemetic nature. Then I'll fill in with the rest as I have time.^_^
( The Church of the Eternal SourceCollapse )
As it turns out, the next event involving the ntjrw at the con was the Skhmt ritual- and as it was a public ritual, I'll give my account of what happened to the best of my memory.^_^ However, I'm still contemplating some aspects of what happened, and I'd like to review my write up a little bit more before I actually post it.
I am so excited about PCon this year- this will be the first time in several years where I'm going to be able to afford to be there for the whole thing, and there is as rich an offering of Kemetic workshops as there ever has been! In fact, I've noticed a few more workshops in general on recon approaches to the various pantheons, as well as a couple of events centered around specific ancient sites and their historical relevance to specific cults (none of them Kemetic, unfortunately-_-).
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The PCon schedule is currently up on the Ancient Ways site, and can be found by following this link. In years past I've noticed that there are always some changes between the online schedule and the final version- and usually several last minute additions- but so far the most exciting things I see are the three (yes, three) Kemetic festivals, and two panels from two different sects on their views of the religion and pantheon. There will be the usual Bast Festival, of course- Her festival has been something of a PCon tradition, and the main reason that I go each year.^_^ There will also be a Wsyr and akhw honoring festival hosted by the House of Netjer, and a ritual in honor of Skhmt hosted by the Church of the Eternal Source (CES). The latter is a group which bubbahotep111 has often mentioned in his comments here, but they're a relatively new discovery for me and I'm looking forward to sitting in on the seminar which one of their members will be holding, discussing his view and approach to ancient Egyptian religion. HoN will also be holding a panel, with their spiritual leader, several priests, and devotees, discussing their experiences and views of our gods. I feel like a kid going to Disney World.^_^
So far, the events which seem interesting are the following (bolded and underlined text are ones I am definitely attending, which unfortunately means I won't make the others listed for those times):
( List!Collapse )
This year the schedule seems to have quite a few interesting things going on all at once, and a few stretches of time where there's nothing much of interest at all going on. But oh well- I guess that means that I might actually remember to eat this year?^_^ And there will probably be several new additions filling in those holes by the time that I actually get there- the only thing which I really regret is that the Skhmt Ritual and the seminar on diagnostics for energy healing both take the same slot. That was a really unfortunate bit of scheduling, as most of Skhmt's devotees are involved in healing in some way, and many of them would probably have wanted to go to the diagnostics seminar. But the way that I see it, I've seen fewer public Kemetic rituals than classes on energy healing- and Skhmt also gives guidance in healing work, as appropriate. So I'll go with the Skhmt ritual this year, and look for more diagnostics next year if possible.
Anybody else going?^_^
I just picked up a couple of new books by Marshall Clagett- an historian of science who apparently went to his horizon on October 21st of this year. His most recent work was an exploration of ancient Egyptian science- when he died, he was working on Volume four of the series. I don't know how far along he was to completion, but I have the first two volumes now and the third is waiting for me back at the bookstore. It looks fairly promising- the first volume has the Chester Beatty dream book and the Harris Magical Papyrus, which were my main reasons for purchasing it. The second volume has quite a bit of information on calendars and the AE concepts of time and time keeping devices- it contains some translated ritual calendars, but the frustrating part is that Clagett had decided to leave out the appropriate offering lists for each calendar! The third volume is on AE mathematics, and I will be picking it up as soon as I can. I have no idea what he had planned for the fourth volume, or if it will ever be released to the public. Has anyone else heard of this scholar, and can you give me your opinion of his books? These will probably go up on my shelves for a while until I finish with the book that I am currently reading.^_^
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In other news, I finally got around to ordering my Kemetic Calendar from HoN. I'm hoping to improve my understanding of ancient Egyptian calendars this year- and with a treasure trove of information from my friend Diana Pierce, and this new book I'm off to a good start I think.^_^ I've been using the Per Ankh calendar, but in following their calendar I've come across a few errors which just keep getting more and more annoying each year.^_^' I'm thinking that it's time to study in depth the calendrical systems of the various temples, and patch up the Per Ankh one for my own use- or maybe even write up another re-creation.
And I am sooo excited about PantheaCon coming up soon! Achilles, kefi, and I already have our room reserved and Achilles and my admissions are paid! I'm looking forward to the Bast festival once again!^_^
My roommate's making a superhero character which is based on me! He's doing a great job, especially considering his source material- this character is pretty awesome, actually.^_^ In physical appearance, interests, personality, and fashion sense so far she pretty nearly resembles me. She's meant to be me, actually, in a fantasy world in which Achilles seems to want to play out some stories later on.
( Read more...Collapse )
Her codename is Icon, after the sacred images of the gods and other spirits. In this story, I've progressed my studies of the Middle Egyptian language to the point where I've somehow stumbled upon the missing vowel sounds! Completing the words, I am now free to invoke their full power and can recite ancient Egyptian spells which transform my body into other beings (such spells can be found in the BoCFbD). I can change into anything for which I have an incantation- the broad collar has little compartments in it where I store scraps of papyrus with incantations written on them, along with whatever small physical relics/amulets are necessary to effect the change. With my newfound powers, I become a super hero who endeavors to preserve and support ma'at in the modern world. The costume is based on ancient Egyptian styles, but has a distinctly modern twist- it's gold because gold was traditionally considered to be the flesh of the gods; Icon takes her devotion and responsibility to the gods very seriously, and wears this gold in deference to Them. Also, many of the forms she takes on are of divine origin- due to the nature of the spells. Blue, in ancient Egypt, had a dual significance of the providence of the Nile waters and the waters of the Nun (from which creation emerged), and also the mystery hidden in their depths. Blue highlights in the costume reflect Icon's mysterious identity, and the gifts which she works to bring to her community.
I like the way she's turning out, so far.^_^ The design has gone through a few stages already- this is only the most recent one. Each one just keeps getting better and better, and so I just had to post this somewhere. Achilles, you rock!
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|Subject:||Because cruelty is not ma'at|
Please follow these links for an explanation of many tests which have been developed as effective alternatives to animal testing, and this list of companies who rely on these techniques to be cruelty-free. I also suggest looking through this list of products which are not cruelty-free, so that you can be on the look for alternatives if you notice one you're currently using. Please do your best to be conscious of what you buy, and help support the appropriate relationship between humans and the other inhabitants of this world which was created by and from the ntjrw!
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I'd love to see a "Kemetic Marketplace," where Kemetics can gather to offer supplies for the rest of the community. It's an idea which I've been considering for a while- I'd like to have such a resource for my own use, but I just never seemed to have enough Kemetic craftsfolk to make an appreciable list.
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If anyone in the community makes stuff which they would distribute to others, and would like to be included in the list I will be hosting here, please leave me a comment and a link to the page/post in your journal or other online site where you offer your services.
My only requirement is that the artist/creator has dedicated him/herself to the ntjrw, and that you have a URL to which I can link. When I get enough of them, I'll put up a list and link to it from the journal contents column (on the right side of my journal home pages). I may eventually add a supplement of exceptionally good non-Kemetic merchants, but I would like to make the members of our own community the focus in this project.