I’m a little late in starting this project, but I thought I’d give the blog posts correlating to each letter in the English alphabet a whirl. Some of what I pick I’m sure I’ve gone over before, but sometimes I’m not as creative as some of my fellow bloggers. I’ll try to have sources on hand where possible, but most likely I won’t. If you want to know a source feel free to ask me in the comments.
In Ancient Egypt there was ancestor veneration. I’m using “veneration” because many people feel the term “ancestor worship” gives the wrong impression about how ancestors were treated at this time. Tombs were visited regularly, offerings were provided by the family to a statue of the ancestor, or offerings were provided hired clergymen. Some had stelae with the offering formula listed, so upon recitation the deceased could be provided the necessities. All of this was done as a way to ensure the deceased were cared for in the afterlife and would survive. Just as a body needed things in the living world a soul required the necessities to survive in the afterlife. The consequences could be dire if the ancestors weren’t provided the essentials. A departed soul, if neglected, could haunt the living if the deceased felt neglected. We know this based on letters written to the dead found at excavation sites, as writing letters to the deceased was common. While there were letters begging the dead to stop tormenting the living most of these letters consisted of asking for assistance in some manner.
In modern Kemetic practices in a similar vein as the ancients. However there are some major differences in the modern practice. Many keep the offerings quite simple. In lieu of statues being presented offerings or reciting offerings from a stela many Kemeticists use a photograph of a loved one. Not all ancestors have an image dedicated to them, and some ancestor shrines are set up in a general manner so not any particular ancestor is offered. Food and drink offered to the ancestors in general aren’t ingested as it’s considered ingesting the essence of the dead by some, which has ill implications for those who do ingest offerings. The reason behind it is if ingesting food and libations from the gods is like ingesting the essence of a deity (for the lack of a better term) and thus the life-giving qualities of a deity, then ingesting food and libations from ancestors would mean ingesting the essence of a dead person.
There are some modern Kemeticists who don’t offer to their ancestors period. The reasons for this vary. Some Kemeticists do not feel a connection to their ancestors. There are others who don’t feel the practice is necessary for their personal religious practice. There are other reasons, and some have multiple reasons for not offering. In my case I was averted to offering to my ancestors for personal reasons, but reconsidered my stance after problems in my life after some tribulations in my life. Whether a modern Kemeticist offers to their ancestor or not – in my opinion – doesn’t affect the validity of their religious practice. It is a matter of the individual’s choice and their comfort level.
If one wants to learn more about the practice from a modern Kemeticist’s perspective I recommend Richard Reidy’s Eternal Egypt. There are quite a few other Kemetic blogs which discuss the matter as well. At the core of offering to the ancestors consists of providing food, a libation (water being the most common), incense, and cloth for images of any ancestor. If providing offerings is an issue I highly recommend making a hotep tray with images of what should be offered. To get ideas on how to make your own I have a tutorial on how to make one from clayboard.