Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.


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Kemeticism 101: Offerings

One of the things I haven’t discussed in better detail are offerings. It seems pretty apparent what they are, but I thought I’d delve into their purpose and the type of offerings.

Offerings101

 

What Are Offerings?

Offerings are items which are presented to a god as part of prayer. In this sense, I’m using prayer to include ritual use and not solely petitioning. Offerings served different purposes such as providing nourishment for a god, purification, dressings, as well as other purposes. In Ancient Egypt offerings consisted of food, drink, bouquets of flowers, livestock, cosmetics, clothing, as well as votive offerings. I’ll go into a little bit more detail with each category so it’s understood a bit more for the beginner.

Food Offerings

This is pretty straight forward. It is believed the gods needed Offerings101foodsustenance and it’s provided for Them. There were possibly some foods which weren’t offered, but this is up for debate as taboo foods were found in the offerings. There are known offerings of foods, such as various breads, cooked meats, in addition to fruits and vegetables. As with many things in Kemetic rituals these have symbolic significance.

Bread was a staple in Ancient Egypt. It was also a common offering. In one temple Amun was offered different types of breads. I’m sure bread was tied to some symbolism in ritual, but my research hasn’t turned up much on what that is.

Some of the meats offered were from animals which may confuse beginners. Some of the animals have dual representations not only of gods but creatures labeled as “the enemies of Ra”, which were also representations of enemies of the king. More on this fact in a moment.

Produce was also offered in Ancient Egypt. One of the most notable offerings occurs in the ritual of The Offering of the First Fruits. In this instance the offering marks part of a ritual of the beginning of the harvest season.

Liquid Offerings

Like food offerings this is also self-explanatory. Some of the offerings include water, milk, beer, and wine.

Possibly the most common liquid offering is water. Every temple had Offerings101watera water source from which to draw. Modern Kemetics offer water to the gods as it is easily accessible for many. In ancient times they recited a formula while offering water. This is done today by some groups, the Kemetic Orthodoxy being one. While all offerings coincided with some utterance formula the others are less accessible for some.

Beer is another common liquid offering next to water in modern Kemeticism. This was also offered in Ancient Egypt on holidays and the daily ritual. Some Kemeticists have issue with offering this and

Offerings101liquids

other alcoholic drinks. The most common issues are alcohol abstinence or being underage. Luckily there are alternatives today, such as non-alcoholic beer. If I don’t offer beer physically I have some image of a beer jar as a stand-in while I recite the beer offering. In modern times this is a fairly popular offering still, even though the other common offering is equally available for some.

Wine represented a couple of things in rituals, and it depends on the context which symbolism is used. In most cases wine is offered in connection with Wesir and rebirth, not to mention the association with crops (and with wine in this respect). As is the case with beer some may not offer wine due to abstinence from alcohol or being underage. I’ve seen some Kemeticists subsitute grape juice. I’ve also seen non-alcoholic wine (though I’m not sure how it’s processed to be like wine and non-alcoholic), though I’ve not heard of Kemeticists substituing this for actual wine. I personally have an image of a wine jug stand in for the wine while I recite the offering.

Another drink offering was milk. The significance of the liquid is not only purity (thanks to the color and its association with purity) but also in strengthening. The latter association refers to mostly child deities –for example, Harsomtu –though other gods sometimes received milk as well.

Livestock Offerings

Various types of livestock were also offered in Ancient Egyptian rituals, namely cattle and waterfowl. While obviously offered during temple rituals and not by the layman the livestock offerings had their place. The livestock and slaughtering of it usually represented some enemy of a god (and also the king) which was considered subdued. In this way it was considered upholding Ma’at when the meat was prepared for cooking after the slaughtering.

Bouquets of Flowers

In Ancient Egypt bouquets of flowers were also presented to the gods. They Offerings101flowerswere even presented for certain rituals. Unfortunately I can’t see to find anything else about them nor their significance, but the bouquets offered in temples were later distributed to the tombs of the king during certain holidays.

Votive Offerings

Votive offerings are essentially items which are offered to a deity. They can take on many forms, but it was offered with the premise that it stood in place of something in order to answer a prayer.

While most votive offerings found at archaeological sites consisted of Offerings101prayerjarfigurines, stelae of people presenting offerings to the gods, and ears (in hopes the god can hear the prayers of the person) the concept found a place in modern Kemeticism. Some use food offerings made out of clay, some offer their own figurines or artwork of a god, where others may offer jewelry or stones.  In this case I have a prayer jar representing the votive offerings, a practice I learned from the Kemetic Orthodoxy which has a similar function.

Offerings Based on UPG

Modern Kemeticists offer additional foods which weren’t available during the time period. Since these seem to be accepted without too many reservations (if any at all) it tends to fall under Unverified Personal Gnosis (UPG). Some of these offerings include: chocolate; coffee; tea; instant ramen; various candies; toys; bacon; and New World meats like turkey. The offerings vary in significance from shared gnosis of certain deities enjoying such offerings to the devotee’s available resources. This doesn’t indicate the offerings are deemed insignificant by the devotee, however. Oftentimes the offerings are presented with sincerity and honest intentions. Due to the nature of such offerings, however, it can be hard for a new devotee to assess if a UPG-based offering is deemed welcome by a deity.

The question becomes, then, how to assess if a deity accepts an offering outside of the more traditional offerings. Most of the time it seems to be based on the devotee’s intuition. Since the subjective nature of such offerings means a deity can accept a type of offering from several devotees and not others it leads to interesting discussions.

What Happens to the Offerings?

Regardless of the offering type it was removed from the offering table. I have a blog post which addresses what to do with food and liquid offerings. Votive offerings, however, were and are still handled differently. In ancient times votive figurines were buried, but most votive offerings today are kept on the shrine.

Thanks to Big Rip Brewery Company for letting me show off their beer.  You can learn more about them at this link.

 

Sources

Pinch, Geraldine and Elizabeth A. Waraksa, 2009, Votive Practices. In Jacco Dieleman, Willeke Wendrich (eds.), UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, Los Angeles. Online database. Retrieved 2013.

Poo, Mu-chou, 2010, Liquids in Temple Ritual. In Willeke Wendrich (ed.), UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, Los Angeles. Online database. Retrieved 2013.

Nelson, Harold H. “Certain Reliefs at Karnak and Medinet Habu and the Ritual of Amenophis I.” Journal of  Near Eastern  Studies. Vol. 8, No. 3 (Jul., 1949), pp. 201-232. JSTOR. Retrieved 2/12/2011

Nelson, Harold H. “Certain Reliefs at Karnak and Medinet Habu and the Ritual of Amenophis I- (Concluded).” Journal of Near Eastern Studies. Vol. 8, No. 4 (Oct., 1949), pp. 310-345. JSTOR. Retrieved 2/11/2011

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PBP: F is for Flame

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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Pagan Blog Project: A is for Ancestors

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.


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Daily Ritual (My Abridged Version)

I originally posted this as a link to an outline on the Daily Morning Ritual from the Temple of Karnak during the 22nd Dynasty.  I thought it was a great outline to share at that time, and I still believe so.

Over time, though, I realized that people may not want to work on plugging in their own wording or look up what was said.  If that’s the case I recommend Richard Reidy’s book Eternal Egypt: Ancient Rituals for the Modern World.  I also realized some folks will feel obligated to follow through every step of the temple ritual.  If you don’t have time, that’s cool.  Based on the aforementioned ritual outline I linked here’s how my morning ritual tends to go.  You can adjust it accordingly.

Preparations

Formula for lighting the fire

Formula for taking the censer

Formula for placing the incense on the flame

Formula for proceeding to the sacred place

Another formula

Opening the shrine

Facing the image – hymns to the deity

Formula for kissing the earth

Formula for placing oneself on one’s stomach

Formula for placing oneself on one’s stomach and stretching out

Formula for kissing the earth, face down

Another formula

Incense

The offering of the goddess personifying What is Right Maat)

Formula for the offering of Maat

Food Offering

Libation

Incense

Reversion of Offerings