Journal of a Modern Kemetic
20 most recent entries

Date:2005-09-18 13:36
Subject:Book Review: Ancient Egyptian Religion, An Interpretation
Mood: happy

I've received many requests for a book which provides a good starting point for beginners, and with this book I think I have come very close to finding it. Ironically, out of the entire book, it was the chapter on the gods Themselves which I found to be a bit lacking- not necessarily bad or wrong, but just not nearly as helpful or insightful as the rest of the book. So for now, I'd almost recommend skipping the first chapter of this book, but buying it anyway for the other four- which document quite nicely the way in which ancient Egyptian religion was applied to other areas of life, including politics, ethics, attitudes toward death, and art. I feel that this kind of framework is very useful for Kemetics- it gives us a model for living the religion, and does it in a way which is academically supported (and as an added bonus to those who want it, it is not subject to any particular modern Temple's influence- though it can be used with any of them, from what I've seen). This is the most important thing for anyone attempting the reconstruction of an ancient religion to obtain- a basic scaffolding, that's all. Here is an outline of beliefs and how they connect to the different parts of daily life, to which any further scraps of information which may be obtained from other sources may be attached- slowly filling in the spaces between these most basic and important concepts in a meaningful way. And while it's true that the political section ("The Egyptian State, Chapter 2") is probably not quite as applicable as the others, it is still very important to understand the role of the king in ancient Egyptian religion- because for those of us who perform the Daily Rite, we are in effect stepping into his shoes temporarily and acting in his name. Be sure that you get the year 2000 reprint by Dover Publications- this is an edited and corrected version of the original 1948 printing (which is now quite out of date). The book is relatively short, inexpensive, and easy to find- my copy is a paperback, 156 pages of text, 15 pages of illustrations, a very brief time table, and a 10 page index.

As you may be able to tell, in reading through this book I was getting very excited. There is so much useful information, and presented in a fashion which is meant to make the practical application of the religion easy to understand- which is very rare in an academic text, since they generally do not have reconstructionist Pagans in mind while compiling their data and their arguments. This is a continual sense of frustration to many Kemetics, as you have to piece together an understanding of the basics in Kemetic religion before you can most effectively identify which factlets from an academic text will be useful and appropriate, but you also have to use those academic texts to build this basic understanding because most non-academic texts are unreliable- unless you're already an expert in the field.^_^' It can be done- it just requires a lot of reading, and there's definitely something to be said for that. However, the purpose of this book seems to be to combat the notion of ancient Egyptian religion as a jumble of data fragments, and to seek to understand it as a real and powerful force in the daily lives of real (and at one time, living) people. This naturally makes it very useful for those who wish to understand it as a real and powerful force in the daily lives of real (and relatively modern) people.^_^

Some of the subjects covered within the book which particularly caught my attention were the importance of tradition or "eternal values" in ancient Egyptian religion, the method by which multiple approaches could be taken to a problem and all be considered appropriate, the nature of personal and impersonal relationships with the deities, a brief but informative discussion of several different parts of the body (here, the bA, kA, xAt, and Ax are treated in turn- but we're missing the shadow and the name), the role of myths in folk tales and literature, and an insightful discussion of the nature of the ever popular "Field of Reeds" as an expression of the afterlife.

I gave this book a four scribe rating mainly due to the disappointment of the first chapter. I'm currently working on another book to replace it (Hornung's Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt, which has looked wonderful so far), but if you must read Chapter One of the Interpretation, I suggest skipping the first five pages and starting at the first paragraphical indentation on page six. Otherwise, this book would have received top rating for the ease of its application to a reconstructionist effort, its easy availability, and the valuable framework it will provide for futher studies. I recommend this book to folks who already have a basic understanding of the religion, and who want clarification on some of the more complex details.

Rating: Four scribes (Great beginning book- but there are better sources than the first chapter)

  • Frankfort, Henri. Ancient Egyptian Religion: An Interpretation. Mineola: Dover Publications, Inc., 2000.

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    Date:2005-08-22 21:28
    Subject:Safety tips from Anubis

    Given merybast's help, I've found another site which hosts this comic. And as it turns out, this is the original source of the comic after all! Click the link below to view a very important message from Our Sponsor... and then take a stroll through the site for a look at 664 other "interesting things."^_^' Enjoy!

    Safety tips from Anubis

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    Date:2005-08-16 15:20
    Subject:Bast Project- The Light Bearer

    For our next title, I decided to go with one of my favorites- The Light Bearer. I don't know where this title originally came from, since it was one of the first few titles I acquired and at the time I didn't realize the importance of noting sources, but it has always had a warm place in my heart, and it seems simple enough to be one of the first subjects of this project.

    However, appearances can be deceiving. I have found at least two words meaning "bearer," TAw, and rmnj- both of which are appealing for different reasons.

    TAw means "bearer" in the sense of someone who carries something around. This word is specifically used to denote standard bearers, so for our purposes it is appealing in the sense that it would describe Bast as bearing Her light as a standard- a sacred flag- for all to know and follow.

    On the other hand, rmnj means "bearer" in the sense of someone who supports something- as the bearers of a processional shrine bear the weight of this sacred object upon their shoulders. In fact, the term bears a striking resemblance to the word rmn, which means "a processional shrine" ('glyphs shown to the right). This term is appealing due to the possible word-play invoking the sanctity of the shrine, but it places Bast in the possibly menial task of carrying the light's shrine around. On the other hand, a common Middle Egyptian idiom for "possession" of something was to say that the owner was "underneath" the object- i.e. carrying it. So use of this word may serve the double pun of a shrine-bearer and possessor of "the light," which will be the next subject of inquiry.

    Our first option for light specifically refers to firelight, and some of you may recognize the term rqH, also written "rekh," from the Festival of the Greater and Lesser Burnings, rqH aA rqH nDs, celebrated in the second month of Prt each year. Clearly this word has sacred implications, being associated with such a grand occasion. The main focus of this festival seems to be Hrw Bhdty, in His form of the Winged Sun Disc. In this festival Hrw burns away the traditional enemies of Kmt- it was probably a prime time for execration rituals, where the traditional enemies would be burned, cut, and trampled in effigy (and probably a few personal "enemies" made their way into the list as well). On this festival, we Kemetics celebrate the purifying power of the flame- lighting candles and fires to cleanse those parts of our lives and being which need to have a few things consumed. Not only Hrw, however, but also Skhmt and Hwt-Hrw make Their appearances in this Festival, as the Eyes of Ra. Bast is also an Eye of Ra, so the use of this word would underline the purifying power of Her flame, and draw in the associations of this festival with the epithet. Always a good thing.^_~

    However, let's look at some of the other candidates- sSp means "to be white, or bright," and when combined with the particle "n" it can be translated as "to lighten (i.e. to make the darkness brighter)." Now, I can't see us using that particle given the sort of phrase we're going to be making, and the title isn't about "lightening" the bearer, but rather about bearing the light, so we can reject this one.

    There is another, similar version of the word which holds more promise, however- Ssp also means "white or bright," but has a stronger association with light itself and can also be translated as "dawn" or "light." This word also bears a strong relationship to another term transliterated Ssp, which is show to the right and means "the image of a god." It might also be interesting to note that a completely unrelated word, ax, for which I will not give hieroglyphs at this time to avoid confusion, is translated both as "shining" and "effective," and the concepts of light and power/affluence do seem to go hand in hand in many aspects of ancient Egyptian theology.

    The grammar for this title is very similar to the last one- here again, I'll use a direct genitive (useful little construct, isn't it?^_^). So when we write our title "Light Bearer," we want to write the word for "light" last, because it will be the light's bearer, not the bearer's light.

    So, if we use this term Ssp for "light," and combine it with rmnj for "bearer," we will not only create the title of "Light Bearer," with the associations of power and effectiveness which go with the concept of light itself- we will paint a literary picture of a divine statue within a processional shrine, giving the title a second layer of existence with a distinctly sacred setting, and associating it with those festival forrays in which the image of the god was brought out among the people in celebration, ritual, and oracular consultation.

    However, if we use the term rqH for "light"- and at this point I'm still favoring rmnj for "bearer"- we invoke the purifying power of the flame, and the associations with the festival of rqH aA rqH nDs, The Greater and Lesser Burnings.

    I'm undecided at this point which is better- they both have good points which I wouldn't want to give up. For those who have followed me this far^_^- which one do you prefer?

    Back to the Titulary List

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    Date:2005-08-16 13:19
    Subject:Bast Project- The Lady of Truth

    Well, the title which Bast had originally wanted me to start with was a bit too complicated, so we decided to go with a simple yet important one first. The vocabulary for this one, at least, is fairly straightforward; there is nbt, meaning "lady," and maAt which is much more difficult to define- but I'm certain that it's the word which is meant in this title.

    The title for "Lady" is written nbt- basically it's the same as "Lord" except that we add on a -t suffix for a feminine interpretation. Simple enough- you can use this when refering to any ancient Egyptian god or goddess if you like. Just place the title before the names you call Them, for an added element of formality and respect- though some, such as Nbt Ht, already have the title in common use.

    The word for "Truth" in this case is maAt, which has a whole range of meanings including concepts of order, justice, harmony, balance, righteousness, and appropriate action. Add all those meanings up together and take an average, and you'll get a general sense of maAt. I personally view it as a system of relationships, and liken it to a great machine with many interlocking parts. So long as all the relationships/gears of the various different parts of creation are functioning as they were meant to do, then the system glides along smoothly and efficiently, and we find ourselves in a state of maAt.

    So now that we have our words, we can move on to a little grammar.^_^ For this sort of association between two nouns, "Lady" and "Truth," I'd use something called a direct genitive. Basically this means that if you take two nouns and place them right next to one another, the latter noun "owns" the former noun- or shows some sort of possessive relationship towards it (which is commonly translated with the particle "of," or simply by translating the two words without anything between them). For instance, the phrase Hm nTr, also written "hem netjer," is a direct genitive. The word Hm means "servant," and we all know what nTr means^_~, so in this case the phrase translates as "God's Servant," "God servant" (in the sense of a servant who serves God, not a God who is a servant), or "Servant of God." In other words, a priest. So when we write our title "Lady of Truth," we want to write the word for "Lady" first, because it will be the Lady of Truth, not the Truth of the Lady.

    It's important to note that the spelling of maAt which I am using specifically refers to maAt as a concept, not a goddess. The ntjrt's name is spelled slightly differently in the heiroglyphs, so this is how we know that we are speaking of the Lady of Truth, and not Lady Ma'at. However, the similarity is enticing, and titles frequently involve wordplay- so perhaps there is some siginificance implied when granting this title to a deity. All the gods live on maAt, after all, and so maAt is a part of Their essential being.

    And so- placing the two terms together in the appropriate order, we express Bast's association with Divine Order and social harmony through the hieroglyphs:

    Back to the Titulary List

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    Date:2005-08-15 19:01
    Subject:Bast Project- The Writing of Her Titles
    Mood: enthusiastic

    Today I am beginning a project which is long overdue- the exploration of Bast's titulary list through recreating each name's writing in the original hieroglyphs. Without an original source with which to compare my results, these writings will remain as my best effort and we will not know if it is exactly the way that each title would have been written in temples. However, I hope to explore each of the terms which might possibly go into the writing of these Names, and hopefully learn more about Bast and Her people in general. As Eric Hornung says, in his book Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt:

    "Thus in the case of divine names and epithets, the nature and sphere of influence of a god are extended as the number of his names increases. By using many epithets the believer testifies to the abundant nature and rich and powerful substance embodied in the god who is addressed. Just as every visible image enhances the reality of the god, so also does every name or epithet that is applied to him- hence the tendency of hymns and litanies to cloak great gods such as Re, Osiris, or Amun in a mass of epithets, and to address and praise them with ever more names...

    These are not mere glorifying phrases for the god who is being worshiped; behind every name and every epithet there is a reality of myth or cult, which is often incorporated more directly into the invocations by means of wordplay."

    If anyone has original source material to offer on confirming or expanding our understanding of each of these titles, please share! I will be using WikiHeiro to create the images used in this project- it's a wonderful free program for anyone who is interested in sharing hieroglyphic writing through the internet. If you use WikiHeiro, I've found that the best method is to use a screencap to save the word or phrase once it's been laid out in the 'glyphs, then crop and edit the image as needed. Otherwise, each 'glyph will be hosted as an independent image.

    For the purposes of this project, all hieroglyphs will be written from left to right.

    The best of these titles will be incorporated into a beautiful Bast portrait, which kefi is creating.^_~

    The list so far:

    Lady of Truth
    Light Bearer

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    Date:2005-08-07 16:11
    Subject:A rant on calendars...
    Mood: annoyed

    I'm becoming increasingly unsatisfied with my current ritual calendar. It's finally become so frustrating that I'm seriously thinking about purchasing/finding a program to track the rising of Spdt on my own, and do some reading on the subject so that I can at least re-align the old Per Ankh calendar I'd been using, and correct the bugs which I've discovered while following along through the past few years.

    It's really pissing me off, though- such an important tool to be used in aligning ourselves with the rhythm of Ma'at and it hasn't been updated since it was first posted three years ago? Not only have the existing dates not been adjusted, but the glitches haven't been addressed- is anyone over there actually following the calendar? How could they not have noticed? It seems like, as with so much stuff over there, they had a really promising start, and then nothing was ever added, what was accomplished isn't maintained, and the systems which were just being put into effect when I left have withered like a leaf cut from the rest of the plant. I know that they didn't deal well with me, personally, but I had hopes that they would at least keep up with their own facilities. What's going on over there?

    I just found a website which offers a program for calculating the heliacal rising of our star- it can be found here, though I'm not sure if this is the one being used by Akhet Hwt-Hrw. I should ask them about where they got their system- I've heard them talk about it before, but didn't really take notice since I was content with Per Ankh's calendar at the time. This site, though, offers a free test- you can calculate the heliacal rising date of Spdt/Sirius (or any star really, but do we really care about any others?^_~) for any year between 4712 BCE and 2012 CE, for any city for which you can find the latitude and altitude. Interesting- I wonder how many times they'll let me try this. Perhaps I can map out my starting dates for each of the years between now and 2012, at least- and perhaps I'll be able to see a pattern which will carry me past then? Sweet- now I just need to figure out how many landmarks go into setting the rest of the dates from there, and it should all fall into place. ^_^


    So, I just tried it and got a very surprising result- for the city of San Francisco, given a temperature of 18 degrees Celsius and 85% relative humidity Wp Rnpt begins on:

    October 8th, 2005

    Wow, that's... really different from what I'd expected.^_^' If anyone else tries out this program, for any city- but especially if you check out San Francisco- please post your results here. It looks like you only get one shot, and I'd like to gather starting dates for each year in San Francisco and see how much it varies from one location to the next. You only get one shot, apparently, and I used mine on San Francisco in 2005. After you get your date, you can further refine it by finding the average temperature and morning relative humidity in a second run with more parameters. I found my temperature and humidity on you can convert their Fahrenheit temperatures to Celsius by subtracting 32 degrees and dividing the result by 1.8. Let me know what parameters you used when you post your results.^_^

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    Date:2005-08-04 15:12
    Subject:Musings on afterlife beliefs in Kemetic religion
    Mood: contemplative

    In Kemetic tradition, there are several interpretations of the afterlife. Once the kA has been justified in a trial based on that person's actions in life, it unites with the bA and produces something called an Ax- more commonly spelled "akh"- which means "a shining/effective spirit." The words for "shining" and "effective" are the same, so it's a pun. The akhw (plural for akh) are represented as stars in the sky, and act as intermediaries between humans and spirits- being spiritual entities themselves, and yet having connections with those on earth, they are in a prime position to act as a sort of bridge. This sort of "job" is what I mostly hope for out of the afterlife. I really enjoy interacting with the modern Kemetic community, I've learned a lot from it, and I enjoy seeing the way our temples are growing and our people are learning- so I want to continue doing this after I die.

    But that's not the only place you can end up- there are many parts to the body, and so the different aspects of being can end up in different places. I'm not sure how all of these interact with each other at this point, but there's also a place called "The Field of Reeds" which seems to be an ideal pastoral setting- where the kA of a person (the energetic double, which contains the memories and personality of a particular life, and is shaped by that person's experiences as they develop) will continue living, much as they would in a similar "lifetime" setting. Here you can grow crops, practice trades, raise families if you want (yes, you can have kids in the afterlife- I wonder if they come from those who die young?), throw parties, and in some cases even rub elbows with the ntjrw Themselves. I've heard of some ntjrw having specialized areas of the afterlife where Their most devoted followers go- Mai-Hs, son of Bast, for instance, is one such god. I suspect that there are others; the afterlife is a big place, with many different fields and divisions.

    Then there is the bA, which I think of as being the essential essence of a person- kind of like a eternal spark of life, or perhaps it's like a piece of divinity which serves as our spiritual core. I'm still ironing out exactly what all the different parts do- it can be difficult since I don't think the ancient Egyptians left us a manual, and most egyptologists don't seem to care much for going in-depth on the theory, but I pick up what I can from my readings in different places. The bA is much more mobile than other parts of the body, and is usually shown as a bird with that person's head. It can travel back and forth between the realms of the living and the dead, and between the various aspects of its former body. There are spells for the bA to use to take on various different forms, so this part of a person could come back to the living world, take on a different form, and watch over/continue to be with living persons for short periods of time. I get the feeling that it can't sustain those forms for very long, but I have no idea what the limit would be- in order to sustain these abilities, however, it needs to be able to periodically reunite with the kA and either the body of the deceased, or a special image of that person's living appearance which was created for the purpose. Personally, I plan on having a small statue created for the purpose.

    However, if a soul fails that all important initial test, then the heart is thrown to the Devourer, Am-Mt, and the kA is destroyed. I see this as an opportunity to start from scratch, as nothing is said about what happens to the bA- I assume that it is placed into a new body to try again. My basis for believing this is that I know of at least one king by the name of "He of many births," there are references in the Book of Coming Forth by Day to souls who are "born again in the morning like Ra," and there is a square on the senet board- a game which approximates the afterlife journey- which is called the "Square of Rebirth" or the "Square of Good Returns," to which one is sent after falling to a perilous square immediately following the square of embalment. I interpret this as meaning that the soul fails an ordeal in the afterlife, and gets sent back to "try again." To me, this makes a great deal of sense, and there are a few other Kemetics who agree with me.

    And so I leave it at that- in the end, I don't spend too much time worrying about it, as I will simply have to cross that bridge when I come to it, and before that- unless I improve my trance journeying ability- there's no real way for me to take a good look around before I go. For now, this is my working theory of the Kemetic afterlife.

    I also believe in multiple afterlife environments, however- I suspect all the various afterlife places which are described by different religions do in fact exist, and that which one you travel to depends on what direction you're facing (i.e. where you believe you'll end up) when you die. Your soul goes to whichever place best matches its expectations of the afterlife, in other words. This makes me wonder about families and friends who follow different religious systems. For most religions, it would probably be similar to living in different neighborhoods or even different states or countries- depending on how "far apart" the afterlife beliefs of those systems turned out to be. I suspect that I could get a passport to travel between realms fairly easily from Djhwty, but then there are other afterlife realms where the inhabitants are not quite so friendly towards outsiders. Christian heaven, for instance, would probably be locked up like a fort, and I don't know how difficult it would be to visit people in there- or if those people would be allowed out to socialize with the rest of us (or more appropriately, perhaps, if they would be allowed back in afterwards). But most likely something could be worked out- I wonder if they have a mail system? I know that the living can send letters to the dead, so I suspect that the deceased can write to one another as well.

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    Date:2005-06-29 22:00
    Subject:The problem of Reconstructionism
    Mood: contemplative

    I'm a Reconstructionist, which means that I try to re-create the religion of a particular culture in a way which the people of that culture would recognize as their own. I do this because I believe that these people had an intimate relationship with the deities to Whom I have dedicated myself, and that those deities played a major role in creating that culture and shaping the form of the religion which those people practiced into a format which They felt was most appropriate and pleasing to Themselves. So basically, I do this because I feel that it is a way of showing my devotion to Their cause, and also a tried and true method for connecting with Them and learning all that They have to teach me as a human being.

    I believe in these ancient deities because I have felt Them, I have heard Them, and I have seen Them. It's not really what I'd call a matter of faith, per se- I'm the sort of person who's more prone to logic and practicality, and I base most of my philosophies on experience. But when I ask my gods about Who They are, They usually respond by sitting back with an enigmatic smile and wait for me to figure it out. So I go out searching, and for my answers I look to the people who have had the most experience with these Beings before me- the ancients whose lives were shaped by these gods. I look for my answers in books, museums, and lectures provided by respectable members of academic communities, because I value the dependability of their facts and their methods, and I gradually piece together a theology and a practice which facilitates my relationship with the divine.

    But what happens when the academics' view of history changes? From time to time a new breakthrough will be made which significantly alters the way we look at history, and we revise our theories accordingly. As scholars we may learn amazing new things, but what about those of us who had a spiritual stake in the way things were before? What do we do when our theological foundation shifts beneath our feet?

    I view my understanding of Kemetic religion as a model- it helps me to understand the gods of ancient Egypt, and it predicts the way that They and the world of Their creation will react when I behave a certain way. So far I've found it to be fairly effective in its function, though that doesn't necessarily mean that it is always accurate in its depiction. To compare it to a different field, which may help illustrate my view, it's a lot like the way we use Bohr's model of the atom to teach people how atoms interact with one another. Bohr's model shows us electrons orbiting neatly in concentric circles around a nucleus. This is absolutely not the way that electrons behave- atoms don't look anything like this, and we know this. But the model is effective for predicting how atoms bond with one another, and for teaching students the basics of this process. After this is learned, students are shown more complex models of atoms which bring them closer to understanding what an atom is really like. Likewise, models of reconstructionist religions may not be entirely accurate when they are first constructed, but at the time they are created they are tested and evaluated by how well they work in spiritual practice. Whenever we gain new insight into the nature of the subject, we should reflect on how and why our spirituality worked under the old model. Then we may incorporate that experience with the new knowledge, and create a revised version of the model which will be even more effective and bring us ever closer to a true understanding of the nature of divinity. This is a process that can, and should, reflect our growth within the religion throughout our lifetime- it is the sign of a living, vibrant, and active faith.

    This is my take on the issue; I would love to hear from other reconstructionists on how they deal with this problem.

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    Date:2005-06-07 00:45
    Subject:Ashes and Snow
    Mood: touched

    There is an exquisite photography gallery on tour right now, which anyone in an area where they stop should see at all costs. The gallery is called "Ashes and Snow," and is a collection of photographs by Gregory Colbert taken in many different parts of the world, showing the indigenous people and various species of native animals together in scenes which evoke a sense of profound harmony and balance. Colbert's goal for this series was to remove the barriers between humans and other living beings, showing his subjects not as animals who have become a member of the family of man, but man as a part of the family of animals. The complete work is composed of three parts- the gallery of photographs, a video explaining the purpose of the exhibit and how it was made, and a novel which tracks the fictional journey of a man around the world through the 365 letters he writes to his wife. Supposedly, this novel expresses the meaning of the gallery of images, and explains the gallery title. From the accounts I've heard of previous visitors, the gallery is a breathtaking experience not only in the artistry of the photographs, but also the architecture of the traveling museum which houses it. The video is something to be skipped- the artist comes off sounding arrogant and cloying. No one has yet commented on the book.

    I found this exhibit through an article in Smithsonian Magazine, and one picture in particular caught my attention. It's a scene of a youth (beautiful enough to be either a boy or a girl, I can't really tell) dancing in the "mortuary" temple of Hatshepsut with a falcon. The picture is included below, underneath a cut tab for those who would like to see it. There is one more set of two photographs of this youth in the temple if you follow the link to the gallery's homepage and chose "Images and Archives" from the menu. These photographs are absolutely beautiful- I am sitting here in tears and in awe, and wishing that I could make it down to Los Angeles when the tour comes to my area. We'll see. For now- go and enjoy these beautiful images! A small selection is available on the gallery homepage.

    Dancing in the Temple of HatshepsutCollapse )

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    Date:2005-05-29 14:44
    Subject:GlyphStudy group

    The coordinator of my Middle Egyptian study group is starting up a new group, which already has 74 members enrolled and almost that many more who have said that they intend to join. I feel that this is a group I can vouch for, since I am currently studying with this lady and I know that she is serious about her language studies and is not going to be starting up a group which will then be neglected. We've been working together for a year now, and she has been working through the book with various other study partners well before we met.

    If anyone is working through James P. Allen's Middle Egyptian grammar, has tried it before, or is interested in studying with us and would like a more structured, and peer-assisted learning environment, I highly recommend that you join this group. It's difficult to keep up the pace without people to ask when you have questions, or a task-master to keep you on track (a job at which K/maatra2- our lovely moderator- excels, which is how she earned her title as "Djhwty's strong right arm"^_~). If you are seriously interested in working with us (I will be joining the group as a review), then you should join the two associated lists.

    The GlyphStudy Yahoo list will be used for discussing study aids, special fonts, meeting times, and arranging chat study sessions for those who want them, and other administrative subjects. This is being done to lessen the post-load we will be placing on the AEL list.

    The Ancient Egyptian Language List (AEL) will be used for asking questions regarding lessons and homework, where we will have an audience of more experienced language learners (some of whom are professionals in the field) who have offered to support us. Also offering to support the group is the Center for Computer Aided Egyptological Research, which has generously offered to give members of this group a discount on a couple of their programs.

    Learning the language is a difficult undertaking, which I personally value for my Kemetic practice, but it is not absolutely necessary and it is not for everyone. If you're going to try, though, I have found Allen's grammar to be interesting- the end of each chapter has essays which feature different aspects of AE culture, which help to associate the language with the culture, and provide an informative study break/reward for making it through the preceding pages.^_~

    There is also an LJ community, middle_egyptian, which seems to have a few Kemetic members who are studying with this same book. You might consider joining both of these groups, and help to raise the literacy level of our modern Kemetic community.

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    Date:2005-05-25 08:14
    Subject:Book Review: Egyptian Religion

    Siegfried Morenz's Egyptian Religion is a tough read. The first 37 pages are frustrating and for the most part meaningless as Morenz bends over backwards trying to convince us that a magical view of the world is naive and primitive, and nothing good can ever really come of it. He also frequently cites Biblical and rabbinical teachings and uses them to illustrate his points about Egyptian religion, rather than speaking about the subject material directly. If you can make it through that first part without throwing the book out the window, though, you're in for some excellent, in-depth information. The copy I have is a paperback version, containing 257 pages of text, a 12-page directory of ntjrw (each one having only a few sentences of description), a 6-page time line (following the development of AE religion from aprox. 5,000 BCE through 640 C.E.), 72 pages of notes, a 5-page bibliography, and a 22-page Index.

    This is a book you really have to work for- it's written on a relatively high academic level, and Morenz is fond of resorting to Latin terms or quoting Greek in its original alphabet. There were times when I actually pulled out my Latin grammar and attempted a translation of his terms, and there were several times when I had to use my English dictionary as well, but for the most part you can figure out his intended meaning by paying close attention to context.

    If you put the effort into it, however, you'll find that the returns are well worth it. Morenz treats his subjects very thoroughly, and he treats several subjects which will be of significant interest to the modern Kemetic- some of the sections which I found most interesting were the Daily Service for the images of ntjr (temple religion- pg. 87), the celebration of festivals (public religion- pg. 88), a discussion of the relationship between the ntjrw and Their cult images (pp. 150-158), a particularly insightful treatment of syncretic deities (pp. 139-142), an example of how personal piety interlaced with "official" religious approaches to the gods (in this case, Amn- pp. 104-106), and a relatively lengthy discussion of the nature of ma'at (pp. 113-126). Morenz ends his book with a section describing foreign influences on Egyptian religion, and Egyptian influences on foreign religion- most notably on Judaism, and through that religion, Christianity. It can be an interesting section if you're looking for a little common ground to share with those religions, which is a very practical attitude to take since we tend to be surrounded by them.^_~

    As an aside, it would seem that at least one of the more fanatical Christian groups was even more annoyed with Morenz's comparisons between Egyptian theology and Judeo-Christian theology at the end of the book, as I was with the extensive quoting of non-Egyptian material at the beginning of the book. One of the websites I visited while looking for an image of this book's cover was particularly taken back by Morenz's comparison between the Christian Trinity and the Triad of Khpra, Ra, and Atm, and accused him of being a "flaming Modernist who doesn't even believe in the bible." ^_^' To me, there's something rather amusing about describing a man who has dedicated his life to studying ancient civilization as a "flaming Modernist."

    I gave this book a four scribe rating mainly due to the difficulty of its reading level, and those short sections at the front and back of the book where he tends to wander off topic into comparative religion. Otherwise, this book would have received top rating for the excellent quality of Morenz's reasoning, attention to detail, and documentation. I recommend this book to folks who already have a basic understanding of the religion, and who want clarification on some of the more complex details.

    Rating: Four scribes (A difficult read, and not really for the novice- but well worth the effort)

  • Morenz, Siegfried. Egyptian Religion. Trans. Ann E. Keep. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1973.

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    Date:2005-05-20 22:10
    Subject:Set: God of Confusion- reprint!
    Mood: excited

    The project for online preservation of S:GoC has been temporarily locked due to a rumor (from a reputable source) of the book's impending reprint!^_^

    I will post more information concerning the reprint as it becomes available to me, but unless it becomes clear that the reprint is not going to happen, and the book will remain inaccessible, these posts will remain locked. I don't want to sabotage the effort to get us all nice, bound editions of the book on our shelves. It has also been brought to my attention that the author may still be receiving income from the book, even though it is no longer in print. I intend to look into this subject seriously, since it is certain that we do not wish to violate anyone who has put so much hard work into finding and publishing this information for us. I promise to post updates on the reprint as I get them, and when the book is finally available, I will post links that so you may all purchase the book for yourselves.^_^

    Once the book is in circulation, we may organize a nice online study group for ourselves.^_~

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    Date:2005-05-19 12:45
    Subject:Book Review: Awakening Osiris

    I highly recommend Awakening Osiris, by Normandi Ellis, to anyone needing a bit of light reading in between egyptology texts. The cover of the book describes it as a translation of the "Book of the Dead," however even the introduction to the book admits that this is a bit of an exaggeration. A much better way to describe it would be that this book is a collection of prayers, meditation exercises, and short narratives which were inspired by the papyrus- and they are very inspiring indeed. The language is beautiful, the imagery is magnificent, and the lessons conveyed within the text are sometimes cryptic and sometimes clear- but always uplifting and empowering.

    It's very interesting to see how Ellis arrived at her interpretations of the chapters- certainly her accounts of each chapter are much longer than they were in the original papyrus, and she also adds a few chapters of her own creation. A friend from work recently loaned me her copy of Budge's translation of the Papyus of Ani, which was the main version from which Ellis worked to arrive at her interpretation, so I've had the opportunity to read through Budge's translation, then Faulkner's translation, and then Ellis's translation to see where they are similar and how they differ. Budge's and Faulkner's translations are either fairly similar, or completely different, but Ellis's translation seems to take the metaphors used in Budge's translation and expand upon them- to say exactly what it feels like to be those beings, what that means, and what happens because of it. For instance, the beginning of the "Chapter for turning into the bnnw bird," Budge translates the first few lines: "I [the bnnw bird] flew up out of primeval matter. I came into being like the god Khepera." Ellis then takes those images and lives them, and then gives us an account of what it feels like to actually be the bnnw bird, which she refers to by its Greek name, the phoenix: "I flew straight out of heaven, a mad bird full of secrets. I came into being as I came into being. I grew as I grew. I changed as I change. My mind is fire, my soul fire. The cobra wakes and spits fire in my eyes. I rise through ochre smoke into black air enclosed in a shower of stars. I am what I have made."

    I've been working on this book slowly, in between other tasks- it's composed of a series of unrelated chapters, most of which are fairly short, so it's well suited to being slipped in whenever a short break is needed. For the past year I've kept my copy of the book on the windowsill next to my bed, and on those mornings when I have the day off and can afford to wake up slowly, I reach for the book and read a chapter or two before getting out of bed. It's been a very pleasant exercise. The book itself comes as a paperback, with 222 pages of text, a Preface, an Introduction, a table which shows which chapters in the book correspond to which chapters in the original papyrus (those which are the author's creation are not listed), and a Bibliography. Ellis seems to pull inspiration for her book not only from the Papyrus of Ani (the most famous of the so-called "Books of the Dead"), but also from those of Nebseni and Nekhet.

    I am really divided as to whether I should give this book a three scribe or a four scribe rating- it's wonderfully written, inspiring, and enjoyable. But it's method of teaching is definitely not academic, so it's difficult to give it a quality rating. When a book presents information, it's relatively easy to evaluate that information, or the reasoning behind the author's conclusions, and say that this theory is well supported or this one is simply the author's creation. But Ellis speaks in feelings, in atmosphere, and in dreams. I like it, and I haven't found anything which contradicts what I've read or experienced of Egyptian theology or philosophy, but your mileage may vary. I still recommend the book, however, to anyone who enjoys poetic prose- and especially those who also have an interest in the Book of Coming Forth by Day.

    Rating: Three scribes (A beautiful, non-academic approach to a popular papyrus)

  • Ellis, Normandi. Awakening Osiris. Grand Rapids: Phanes Press, 1988.

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    Date:2005-05-07 19:44
    Subject:Taboos in unexpected places- check your shampoo
    Mood: shocked

    I just made a rather shocking discovery last night. I was reading through the ingredients on a new brand of shampoo which I recently bought, only to find that urea is on the list! This is a new brand that I've been trying out, thank goodness- I haven't had a chance to use it prior to a ritual, but if I had, it would have violated the urine purity taboo. Urea comes from urine, but a very small amount has a sweet scent so it's often used in perfume oils (which is why I only use essential oils for ritual). In light of recent events, it would seem that it's used to perfume some shampoos and conditioners, as well. So check your shampoos, ladies and gentlemen! The brand which I know uses urea is the John Frieda line of color-specific shampoos and conditioners; the one I'm using is the Brilliant Brunette, but I checked their blonde and redhead formulas when I went to the store later on and found that they were similar in this respect. Furthermore, Pert Plus shampoo/conditioner and the Caress Bodywash have something called Ammonium, which sounds pretty similar to ammonia, which is also a waste product in urine. I'm not sure if this counts or not, honestly, but I'm a little bit worried. My old brand, which I will now make a point of using for any ritual bath, is Herbal Essences- it uses neither urea nor ammonium (it's also made from organic herbs, is biodegradable, and uses recycled plastic in the bottles).

    Now, some may read this and say, "So what? Who really cares if you'd used it- the gods will understand so why bother?" They do understand when we violate taboos by accident or can't observe them for special reasons, but it does matter. There are two levels to Kemetic ritual of which I have become aware- there's the sense in which you enter into the ntjr's house in order to commune with Him or Her and build your personal/community relationship with that deity. There's also the sense in which Kemetic ritual uses heka to re-establish and renew the world in which you live. In the case of the former sense, entering into shrine while violating purity taboos- consciously or not- is like those times when someone comes over to visit me and has really bad breath. It stinks, I don't like it- sometimes it's really hard for me to hide it, but I do because I care about this person. I smile and laugh and act normal- they'd never even know that I'm secretly trying to avoid getting too close, and wondering how much longer this is going to go on. Why should they bother brushing their teeth, when I don't slap them in the face or run away on taking my first whiff? Because it's polite not to subject your host to unpleasant experiences which could have been avoided, and because it's really hard to develop a bond with a person when they're holding their breath and trying to find a polite means of backing away whenever you get too close to them. Then there's the second sense of ritual- that of heka. In this respect, a shrine is like a laboratory where you introduce various elements (deities, offerings, mythological references, etc.) and allow them to interact with one another to produce a positive outcome on a spiritual level, which affects your daily life. Most things will have a neutral effect on these spiritual reactions- meaning that it doesn't really matter whether they're present or not. Some things will have a positive effect- these are the objects we favor for offerings, virtues which we seek to cultivate, knowledge which we use to construct more effective ritual forms, etc. Those things which will have a negative effect are called "taboos," and the reason why we avoid them during ritual is because they are damaging to the overall function of a ritual. They will always reduce the efficacy of the ritual by interfering with the normal reactions of the other elements. This effect may or may not be enough to completely overshadow the positive effects of the rite, and so someone who is unwittingly violating purity taboos will not always realize that this is happening. These folks may think that the reduced results are normal, or they may decide that those who claim that ritual has positive effects were full of superstitious mumbo-jumbo to begin with, and so dismiss the possibility that the results were undermined by a contaminated workspace.

    So here we have two of the reasons why it is important to observe purity taboos in ritual with Egyptian deities- there are probably more out there, but at my current level these seem to me to be the most pressing ones. Unfortunately, we also have here an example of how taboos can turn up where we least expect them.^_^' So I advise all my friends to check your shampoos and conditioners- I have no idea how common this is.

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    Date:2005-05-06 14:36
    Subject:Some of the latest, from my favorite artist

    I still need to get around to ordering that Skhmt shirt, which I've been meaning to pick up for almost a year now it seems.^_^'

    Skhmt, as "Drinker of Blood"

    A colored version of the Skhmt portrait used on the shirt I keep meaning to buy:

    Stkh, looks like He's hanging out in the temple of Hwt-Hrw at Abu Simbel:

    Skhmt again, less scary, more elegant:

    Edit to add: The Furnation site also has a lot of more adult themed pictures, so don't go looking for more goodies if you don't want to see that kind of thing. I've picked out all the Egyptian stuff from her latest batch of updates for you already, anyway.^_^

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    Date:2005-04-15 20:02
    Subject:My Mother's city
    Mood: longing

    Basta- also known as the ancient Bubastis, and the modern Tel Basta. This is an article about what was lost, what was recovered, and what we have done with it so far:

    Courtesy of Kat.^_^ Be sure to visit- they're hosting a line drawing of lionness-headed Bast which was recovered from a carved stone basin of some sort, found on the site.

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    Date:2005-03-24 17:10
    Subject:Spring cleaning, scrubs, graveyards, etc...

    Earlier today, I finished up a round of cleaning in the house which was long overdue in coming.^_^' I opened all the windows, and the breeze and the sunlight (actual sunlight! I'm so excited^_^ ^_^ ^_^) managed to filter in nicely through the steady flow of dust I'd been thrashing out... ah, spring!

    The feeling of the air is getting so clear and revitalized these days that I've been wanting to go visit the Japanese Tea Gardens in Golden Gate Park. If you're in the area and have never been there, you should go- it's one of the most beautiful and pleasant places to sit down and relax that you've ever seen. They even have a nice little pavilion which serves tea and crackers, and a couple of ducks to watch while you drink- I can't vouch for the crackers (the Japanese have strange taste^_^'), but the tea is very good.

    Today's major cleaning project was the altar- every now and then I take the whole thing apart, dust and clean every aspect, wipe down the inside of the naos and everything in it with Frankincense water, and put it all back together again. This time, it took me four hours solid- and this is why I don't do it very often.^_^' I've heard folks from other ATRs say that you should never disturb the altar by removing more than one item at a time. They say that it annoys the spirit of the altar. I'm not sure how much this can be applied to AE religion, since technically there wouldn't have been very much to remove from a temple naos, and your average person's deity niche was far less elaborate from what we have today, as well. Personally, I have a little white whisk which I use to clean off the front of the altar every time I observe a ritual, but there are some drawbacks to using a white altar cloth... colored wax stains it, spilled herbs and oils show up very well, and there's the ever-present cat hair that makes for some BIG dustbunnies. The only way to wash the cloth is to take everything off it, and I figure that so long as I'm going to disturb the ntjrw by moving stuff around I might as well make it a thorough cleaning. Today I raised dust clouds to rival the smoke of full-blown festival incense!

    I always breath a sigh of relief after the altar's been cleaned- and I bet the ntjrw do, too.^_^ I tore all the sheets off my bed, while I was at it, and Achilles was inspired to start cleaning in the den. There are still some areas which could use some attention, but I feel that for now I'm ready to call it a day and move on.

    I found an empty jar while cleaning the altar- one of the big ones which used to hold the Bast incense. I figured it's the perfect candidate for my preliminary Bast lotion experiments since it screws shut and has a pretty wide mouth- and it was packed full of Bast incense for a long time, anyway, so maybe it's got a residual charge. I mixed up some of my favorite lotion (LubriDerm- recommended by the nurse who oversees all my checkups^_^) with the Bast oil from The Sword and Rose, and so far it seems to be doing great! I think I'll lower the concentration of the oil, though- I don't want the scent to be too overpowering. It smelled kinda funky at first- the LubriDerm has something of a... medical smell to it, for lack of a better term. I'm not sure what that smell is, actually. Combine that with the scent of the Bast oil and the results were rather interesting.^_^' But the lotion absorbs through the skin completely, whereas the oil doesn't seem to travel with it as much. That leaves a very fine coating of the Bast oil on the outer layers of the skin- not greasy or anything, but after a while it's the only part of the lotion you can smell. Success! Now I just need to learn how to make my own lotion, order a bit of the Skhmt oil from Witch and Famous (or make my own), and make the Skhmt lotion to take with me to work!

    Speaking of work, I've decided that I'm just going to wear scrubs from now on.^_^ They're comfy, I can always find some that fit, they come in a wide range of colors and a few different styles, and they're made with the expectation that you'll be spilling icky things on them all day long and will need to clean them often. They're not that expensive, either. When I first started wearing them for work, I used to tell everyone who asked that I loved my scrubs so much that I'd wear them every day if I could! Well guess what? I can. And I think I will.^_^ The pants work well, at least- and there are a few styles of tops which don't actually look like uniforms. I bought a pair of khaki scrub pants a couple of weeks ago, and have tested it out on a few "normal" type shirts, and they look just fine! So, yay! Low stress wardrobe!

    In other news, I got myself locked in a graveyard last night. Ack! I thought I was just going to unwind for a bit, after my shift and before the long drive home, and it was such a bright, clear day- I wanted to be outside in the grass and sun for a while. When you think about it, cemeteries are intentionally designed to evoke a feeling of calm, and they're one of the few public domain areas where you have wide open spaces and few buildings. People actually breathe there, and the air just seems like it has less baggage. I mean, that's all so long as you can get over the fact that it's a cemetery, which admittedly can be a tricky thing to do. But you can often find a lot of pretty statuary there (especially in Catholic cemeteries), the trees are beautiful and meditative- they give water and shelter to the dead, like so many funerary goddesses in our tradition- and it is holy ground. People come there full of an awareness of god, and I think that's reflected in the atmosphere. But that being said, it's amazing how that feeling of calm will completely vanish when you decide to leave and find the gates are locked and the office is closed, and you have no way out.

    Except, of course, to climb the fence, abandon your car, and put in a somewhat panicked call back to the hospital for someone to come pick you up. The folks at work tell me I'm unflappable, but they definitely saw me flapped last night- I wanted to go home so bad and I couldn't think of a single solution other than rattling the cemetery gates... which just wasn't producing the result I'd been hoping for. In short, our office manager and all-around awesome person called the cemetery phone number and actually got someone to answer. Just so y'all know, a cemetery phone number is like a 24-hour graveyard crisis hotline. "Locked in the graveyard? Afraid of the dark? Call now, and our team of trained security professionals will come and let your stupid a** out of the freakish predicament you've managed to get yourself into!"

    But I'm home now, and everything's A-OK. ...I'm thinking next time maybe I'll just go to the Tea Garden.^_^'

    8 comments | post a comment

    Date:2005-03-13 16:50
    Subject:Musings about Ntjr and the common folk

    This is a very compelling subject, considering that most of us who practice Kemetic religion these days qualify as the "commoners" of modern Kemet.^_^ Most of what we know about AE religion was what went on in the temples, and though that was obviously important to the maintenance of ancient Egyptian society- what did your average Joe-hotep have to do with it? While the akhw were considered far more likely to meddle in the affairs of private persons, and the ntjrw tended to deal more with humanity in general, the common people of Kemet had very personal, vivid, and thriving connections to the ntjrw as well.

    There's a very nice discussion of the common folk's appreciation of festival life in Siegfried Morenz's Egyptian Religion, starting on page 88 for those who have the book. Far more than simply processions, these encounters with the ntjrw included many stops along the way where oracles were presented and a more direct contact with the divine was available to the people at large. Ritner, in his book The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, also describes a ritual of the common people known as a ph-nTr (beginning on page 214). In this rite, trance was induced so that the questioner was able to come into direct contact with a god in order to receive guidance and answers. This was considered to be such a pressing engagement that it was an acceptable excuse for not showing up at work- presumably so long as one did not use the excuse too often.^_~ It was also common for ntjrw to be honored in private homes- a local museum has reconstructed an ancient Egyptian garden (which is still young and still growing, but still nice to look at^_~), and part of that garden included both a small out-door temple to the ntjr (in this case the Atn, since it was modeled after an Amarna era garden) and a niche for the akhw. A lecturer at this same museum told us that the common people employed a type of worship in their daily routines, where they communed with the ntjrw through their activities. A woman doing her morning toilette, for instance, might look in her mirror at the finished product and see Hwt-Hrw in her reflection. A craftsman might put the pride of Pth into his work, and a potter may join himself with Khnwm when he lays his hands on the clay. When a person felt a special relationship to a particular god, s/he might change his or her name to reflect that, or name a child as appropriate. As such, names were almost like prayers- prayers of thanks, prayers for protection, and sometimes they seem to read just as a general "Yay God!"^_^

    Also, the Egyptian temples were perhaps not so inaccessible as they appear. Most of the temple was considered private quarters for the ntjr(t) and His/Her priesthood, but in the large courtyard behind the temenos wall, the people thronged. Markets were held there, and a hospital as well. Scribes worked there, recording letters and other documents for people who could not write on their own. It was the village craftspeople who built the temple, and performed maintenance on the building as needed. The tribute which the villagers paid in offerings to the temple was re-routed (after being offered to the ntjr) back to the craftspeople in payment for these services. The temples also had one of the first workers' comp programs- if you were injured on the job you could report to the hospital in the temple courtyard. They would treat you, and provide you with food and supplies until you were well enough to return to work. After all, the temple relied on the people to support it- they wanted everyone healthy and able to contribute! The temple was the economic heart of the town, constantly flushing the city with job sources and the payment which naturally came with them. When a new temple was built, entire cities would spring up around it! That's why it was such a terrible thing when Akhenaten started closing down the temples of other gods- without the temple, what in the God's great desert were the people supposed to do? That's why Egypt's economy began to crumble, and the people were starving.

    Also, bear in mind that most of the lower ranks of the priesthood were supplied in rotation by village folk. The wab priests, the ones responsible for preparing the god's offerings, keeping the temple pure, and supplying the ground force for just about every major undertaking were part-timers. Each temple had four shifts of priests who worked full time for three months out of the year. The rest of the year, they returned to the village and worked in whatever field was appropriate to them (or traveled to other temples to serve rotations with other deities). These people undoubtedly brought the knowledge of the temple religious life into their private lives, and may have served as village wise-men and women in addition to their more mundane careers. Certainly, niches with images of gods are common in the village settlements which have been excavated. Most people would honor the patron ntjr of their craft, and/or the main ntjr of the village, and in special occasions other ntjrw would enter into the equation. Bs was a popular household god, and appears in almost everybody's bedroom- he chased away evil spirits, particularly those which caused bad dreams.^_^ Ta-Wrt was also popular, as She protected women and children- and particularly pregnant women in childbirth. Two very precious and sensitive subjects in any sane household. Amn apparently was also especially loved by the people- He was one of those rare gods Who seemed to be extremely popular both among the nobility and the common folk at the same time. Morenz has a very nice discussion of His role in private life- in the same book mentioned above- which begins on page 104.

    Information on the piety of the common folk isn't easy to find- it's scattered throughout many books, and what I've presented above came largely through random reading and lectures I've attended at our local Egyptian museum. I've got my eye on a book by Ann Bomann, called The Private Chapel in Ancient Egypt: A Study of the Chapels in the Workmen's Village at El Amarna With Special Reference to Deir El Medina and Other (Japanese Studies (Kegan)), which is hard to find and very expensive.^_^' I hope to be rich enough to get myself a copy one of these days, or lucky enough to find it through Inter-Library Loan.

    (This post was inspired by a question on the INK forums)

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    Date:2005-03-07 12:32
    Subject:Wisdom Writing
    Mood: searching

    There is a class of texts called the sbAyt (se-BO'-yet) which are written in the form of instructions- usually from father to son- on how to live life within the community and within ma'at, how to be successful and happy, and to do the things which the gods love. It's often very practical advice grounded in mundane activities, which show how important a person's daily routine is in respect to the rest of the community (both of gods and men). The well-known Precepts of Ptah Hotep are an example of this sort of writing. In a culture where so many books and spells were directly attributed to ntjrw, I find it fascinating and inspiring that these Wisdom Teachings never claimed to be anything more than advice from someone who's been there and has something to say about it. Occasionally, the author may ask the gods for permission to share his knowledge, or say that he feels a certain ntjr has a particular influence in a matter, but never are these instructions deemed Holy Writ, and always they are based on personal experience. Actually I've been thinking of suggesting to folks that we revive this practice within the modern Kemetic Community- writing our own Instructions for speaking and doing ma'at within the Community as it grows with us. No one has all the answers, but we all have some experience. I know I have certainly had experiences from which I've learned what is helpful and what is not.^_~ As Ptah Hotep said, in his Precepts- "Be not arrogant because of that which you know; deal with the ignorant as with the learned; for the barriers of art are not closed, no artist being in possession of the perfection to which he should aspire." We all have something to contribute no matter how much of a neophyte we may think we are. Reflecting on each person's experience and sharing what we've learned will help to keep our hearts and our tongues focused on ma'at.

    So here is what I have learned so far, and the list will grow as I do:

  • Joining communities is a good thing to do- not only is the Kemetic perspective highly community based, but you have access to a lot of other folks' experience as well. The most important thing is to find a healthy community, though, or at least to be prepared to pick and chose from what you get. Nobody's perfect, and all the groups have their problems to work through. Deciding which of those problems you can live with, what you have to offer the communities in return for their assistance, and how to work around the issues and groups you can't deal with (and how to do this in an amiable fashion) are important things to consider throughout your experience on this path.

  • A part of maintaining a healthy relationship with any community, however, is making sure that your entire life isn't consumed by it. It's so easy- especially in online communities- to be sucked into the interaction with other people's lives and forget to live your own! If you sense that you are reading and responding more than you are writing and experiencing, then make sure you leave the community as often as you need to experience the fulfillment and lessons of your own life and your own piety. When you come back, the community will be all the richer for it.

  • If you don't like what you see, then create something which you do. It does no good to simply complain about what is or is not available- that energy is so much better spent if you put it toward creating something positive. If a mailing list is too quiet, then post something- post something like what you would like to hear from them. If there are no discussion groups which focus on a topic which you find important, then create one. If there is one already, then join it and become an active member! Don't try to draw members away from other groups- splitting discussion between two forums only means that there will be less interaction between fewer members on any subject, even when the discussion is posted to both of the groups. This is simply because people will respond to one group or the other, and maintaining the same conversation in two different places is far too annoying- and as a result, the community will become less effective as a whole.

  • Be aware that the people who join the projects and groups you begin will be other students, just as eager for a teacher as yourself. It's too easy to create a group or join and then wait for someone else to show you what you've been looking for, but many people do exactly that and this is why the groups so often go silent. Instead, it will require constant effort from everyone to keep the group talking and learning; this is especially true if you are the creator of the group, for although everyone is needed, the moderator has an even higher responsibility to make sure the group doesn't lag behind into obscurity.

  • Everyone has their own, personally appropriate method for communicating with the ntjrw. Don't be discouraged or bewildered if you don't hear voices as some do, or smell scents as some do, or feel the messages of the gods as other people have described them to you. Each of us has a unique role within the community, and a unique relationship with the ntjrw. So long as you're chasing after the ideal of another person's example, you will be unable to become yourself and you will miss out on the vastly more enriching and fitting endeavors which the gods are making on your own behalf. Listen to those who are more experienced, because something they say may strike a chord within you- but to a certain extent, you're going to have to establish this connection in spite of the many hands fumbling to help you, and not because of them.

  • If you don't get along with a person or a group of people within the community, then leave them alone and ask your friends not to relay the latest gossip concerning them to you. They have their own life to live, as do you, and everyone will be better able to move on in peace or at least with full resources available if you don't get bogged down in whatever the latest offense has been and what you're going to do about it. Don't do anything- don't feed that particular manifestation of isfet. Starve it, and divert your offerings to ma'at.

  • The ntjrw are with us, always and everywhere. If the wind blows on your face, you have been touched by God. When you feel dispirited or disconnected from Ntjr, probably the best thing to do is to make sure you're well rested and then spend some time looking for Their manifestations in your life. Forces of nature, of learning, and meditation are often the key. The gods are with us as we are with Them, and They will be present in the completion of a moment when They are called- whether or not you are silent enough to notice. Sometimes, I think the reason it's so hard to be aware of Their presence is because They are always there, and so we have never experienced Their absence fully enough to tell the difference. But if you need to speak with Them, just talk and They will hear you by your voice or by your heart.

  • The worst thing in this world is regret. If something or someone is important to you, then leave no option untried. Even if nothing comes of your efforts, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you gave it your best shot with all of your heart. There is nothing more that you can do than that, so if you have tried every alternative with pure intention, you will have nothing to regret later on. That is worth any price of pride, which is- after all- pretty cheap.

  • Never challenge a god. They often take you up on it.

  • Even if you don't agree with a temple's policy, that doesn't mean that you can't befriend its members or have anything to learn from them. We are the organizations of which we are members, but we are also ourselves- it's important to distinguish between the issues of the leaders and the hearts of the people behind them.

  • Ankhs are great camoflauge- most Christians can't tell the difference between an ankh and a cross anyway, so take advantage of that fact. Find one that's small and gold, and you can wear it anywhere you want without upsetting anyone. After all, Kemetic life isn't about shocking people or disrupting business- it's about living in ma'at, and a large part of that is being a functional member of society. Most Pagan jewelry is silver, and it can frequently be rather large- it attracts a lot of attention; that's why you want an ankh that's small, and gold if you can get it. Also, there are many symbols of our religion that no one would even recognize as a religious item- the feather of Ma'at, a sacred cat (for Bast kids) or any other sacred animal of special importance to your Parent each make for a wonderful object of devotion and protection which won't cause a scene at work or the family reunion. Also, I've found that simply replacing the word "ntjr" or a ntjr-specific name with "God" usually transforms basic Kemetic theology from abomination to inspiration for your average person. "God" is simply "Ntjr" in English, anyway, so it's not being deceitful just to use a translation which more people will understand and appreciate. Of course, some topics are specifically Kemetic (such as saq...), so you still need to weigh your words carefully before using them.

    This ends my list, for now. I'd very much appreciate it if everyone would share their own lessons- and if you do, please leave a comment on this entry so I can link to the page of your Instructions. We each have our own approach, even where the issues are the same. I would like to gather as many perspectives as I'm able.^_^

    6 comments | post a comment

    Date:2005-03-04 14:16
    Subject:I blame the rain
    Mood: working

    We're having internet troubles at my place again.^_^ It seems to crop up every time we have a good rain around here- looks like another period of enforced study on my horizon. I'm checking in through the connection at work again, so if you've sent me an email/comment/question in any form and I've not been answering, then this is why.^_^' I guess I'll be back when it dries off.

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