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 first seminar which kefi and I attended was one on the Church of the Eternal Source, led by Harold Moss- one of the founding members of the group (though not "The spiritual head of the Church," as he hastened to add). The Church of the Eternal Source is a federation of temples dedicated to the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt. CES adopts something of a "Round Table" approach and so it has no spiritual head, despite what some publications have apparently said about it.^_^ It traces its origins back to 1970 at the Council of Themis, which was a gathering of representatives from the Pagan groups of the Southwestern United States. There, several priests of the ntjrw came together and decided to incorporate under the name of The Church of the Eternal Source- which was officially completed as of August 30, 1972. Their priesthood, as a result, is varied- but from what I picked out in his talk I counted priests of Hrw, Djhwty, Wsyr, Ptah, Nit, Hwt-Hrw, Skhmt, and Anpw among them (Harold Moss, btw, being a priest of Hrw).
The most active temple currently seems to be the Hrw temple in Idaho- although there used to be a beautiful Djhwty temple in California. There are still images of that temple on their websites, and I recommend that anyone interested in seeing them take a visit to http://www.ceswebhq.org/ and look under "Local Temples." The website of the Idaho branch can be found at http://www.cesidaho.org/ , and one for the California branch is currently underway at http://www.cescalifornia.org/ . Currently they all look the same to me, but Rev. Moss assures me that the websites are a work in process, and there are several things which they intend to add to them. CES has a magazine entitled "Khepera," which explores aspects of CES practices and scholarship. It used to be published in print form but it's now shifting over to pdf format, and it should also be available through those websites somehow, or someday.^_^
Local CES branches meet for group rituals on every full moon, and they celebrate the New Year on July 19th. Anyone curious as to why July 19th was chosen for the date is encouraged to check out Khepera magazine issue #13- which I expect to do when I get a chance.^_^
CES primarily backs Henri Frankfort's take on ancient Egyptian religion (you can see my review of the book here), and most of them seem to take a hard polytheist view of the pantheon. Hornung is another favorite author, followed by Bleaker (sp?), Bob Brier, and Siegfried Morenz (although Rev. Moss wasn't too fond of Morenz- he doesn't seem to like his writing style^_~).
CES does not practice trance possession, having had a bad experience with it early on in their development via one of their first priestesses. Rather than having a god invoked into a particular priest, they view the deity as being manifested on or through the altar. Harold Moss has done some work in reconstructing the ancient Egyptian language, and so he recites his ritual liturgy in ancient Egyptian- however, he tends to use the Greek names of the deities in conversation, saving the reconstructed names for ritual use. However, in general the CES tends to avoid the use of reconstructed terms (such as "Kemetic" or "Ntjr"); their FAQ (see the website) indicates that they believe these terms only add confusion to interfaith dialogue.
During the seminar, one attendee asked that ever present question of the difference between the various Egyptian conceptions of the subtle body.^_^ Rev. Moss described the kA, or ka, as "the grasping body." He says that, as the 'glyph of the outstretched hands which phonetically represents this body suggests, this is the body which reaches out for those things which we desire. He described the bA, or ba, as "the dream body" and likened it to the astral body of popular Neopaganism. He gave the ax, or akh, as another part of the living human spirit, and described it as a spiritual body of light, which is the part of us which knows growth and development. This is not how I interpret these terms, but this has always been a difficult area to explain- and perhaps these descriptions may shed some light on CES's interpretation of AE religion.
Another bit of CES theology which was strange to me is that Rev. Moss associated Stkh with the uncreated universe. My understanding is that he associated uncreation with any state of the world where strife and difficulty are experienced by a person- and in that case I'd have to agree that Stkh's presence can often bring a difficult encounter to a head. However, I emphatically disagree with the notion of Stkh's assimilation with uncreation- and I think that there is a little more to the uncreated than strife and difficulty. CES does recognize Stkh as a ntjr, though, and they accept Him as an expression of power within the Egyptian pantheon. Part of me wonders how much this view of Stkh may have been filtered by the person who was delivering it- and perhaps one of these days I will find another one of their priests and ask.^_^'
After this, the seminar began to drift to a close, but I managed to find the local priestess and priestess-dedicants of Skhmt, and got permission to have a set of scrubs blessed at the upcoming Skhmt Ritual. I also told them the story of the bobcat that our hospital had treated, and we all had a good laugh.^_^
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.