Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.

PBP: F is for Flame

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I read once that flames were part of the offering in Kemetic rituals. I’m not sure how much I believe it, but I can certainly see why the person asserted that about flames. Harold H. Nelson mentioned how a torch was listed in the offerings given my Thutmose III for Ptah in Karnak. Besides mentioned in the offerings of one king there are other things to consider why someone would consider flame as part of the ritual offering. Flame not only has direct ties to ritual significance, but also religious implications.

Fire is an important element in Kemetic ritual. Flames open up Kemetic rituals. There are formulas for lighting lamps (or candles for most modern Kemeticists) and extinguishing them after rituals, assuring the flame will still exist for the deity. The practical element of having flame in ritual is apparent given the darkness in some areas of the temple, which has symbolism in its own right. The flame, as with many elements in Kemetic ritual, also shares a symbolic element. In one translation of the flame being extinguished the flame is paralleled with the Eye of Heru as well as the Ra’s death and rebirth in the form of the sunset. In this respect not only is the flame “kept alive” but it is also associated with the light of a deity. Fire served another purpose besides a lighting element.

Outside of lighting purposes fire plays an important role in rituals. Flame is mentioned in the formula for lighting the incense. In one formula for incense (Utterance 269 of the Pyramid Texts, R.O Faulkner’s translation) the flame is mentioned as kindled before the incense is even said to be burned. While this is obvious as to the importance of flame in incense it also hints to the connection between the flame and its sacredness in ritual. In the rituals of Amenhotep there a few connections made with fire set up for a brazier and the spit roast in connection to Heru or the Eye of Heru. The formulas for the two not only connect to the Eye of Heru, but to other deities and even the king. The possible connection to flame with the Eye of Heru further enforces not only the practicality of including the flame in ritual, but its significance to the gods. As mentioned with the flame in connection to lighting with the Eye of Heru providing the light within a deity, the Eye of Heru in this instance provides nourishment and life to the gods. In turn the gods are able to provide these necessities for their followers.

Flame when connected to the gods serves as a practical as well as religious significance in Kemetic ritual. It was a way of ensuring the gods provided vital necessities to the followers by providing for Them. Part of that is accomplished by relating the flame to a deity or the Eye of Heru, while another part places emphasis on the flame in terms of how it provides for the gods.

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