Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.


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20 Days to a New You

I like a lot of what Queenmother Imakhu has to offer.  I know some criticize her, but I found her wisdom to be helpful and transforming.  I’ve signed up for her course on personal transformation and, with her permission, am sharing that information.  You can find out more on facebook and through her shenu yoga website.

I hope to see you there!

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A Blog Award

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I received a blog award the other day.  Well, it was actually months ago but I’ve been behind on things.  I got this blog award, and I must fulfill some things as part of the stipulatuon (though I’m not sure that’s an award as much as a chain letter-type thing).  On that note here I go.

1.  List the rules. 

2.  Thank the nominator.  Thank you, K.M.H., for nominating me.  It is always wonderful when I can impact my readers meaningfully.  It is through this impact and support I feel inspired to keep my blog going.

3.  State seven facts about me.

     1)  Even though I state I have an anxiety disorder I was specifically diagnosed with PTSD.  I don’t like to go into the nature of my disorder because I don’t want people to get so distracted by it they miss the message I want to convey.  I don’t want to hear about how managing my illness “makes me a strong person” or how I “need to get over it” and other well-meaning, but damaging phrases.  I write about how my religious practice has enhanced my life, managing my mental health issues included.

     2)  I have been a Kemeticist for 10 years as of May.  I am only reminded because I found my old journals.

     3)  I have many art and writing projects to work on.  One draft of a chapbook is near completion.  I will most likely be dissatisfied with said chapbook.

     4)  I have fallen in love with a local beer called Hathor’s Sweet Brown.  While one reason is obvious, it’s also a nice tasting beer.  It is highly unlikely they brewed it through the Ancient Egyptian method.

     5)  Despite being engaged before I have no desire to marry, nor do I desire  to have children.  This has led to interesting encounters, including someone who claimed God “wants me to have children,”  or some weird phrase implying I’m defective for not wanting those things.

     6)  During my 20’s I was asked to run two spiritual centers and bugged constantly to become priestess.  I don’t regret turning down the spiritual centers or the role of priestess (I felt even then I was too green for either).  I do, however, feel a little more ready to become a priestess these days.

     7)  I’m not photogenic at all.  I’ve been kicked out of group photos by photographers because I’m so terrible looking in photos.

4.  Nominate 15 other blogs.  Sadly, this is where I break the rules.  Of all the active blogs I know the few who would partcipate have already been nominated.


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PBP: I Is for Isfet

I started writing a post about this topic about a year ago, but abandoned it because I saw how controversial and triggering it could be.  Now I can look back at it with a clearer intent and less controversial.  While I can’t guarantee it will be less triggering I can trust my readers to decide if they want to read further than this paragraph.

The word for chaos in Ancient Egyptian is isfet.  This is not the same as primordial chaos.  This concept of chaos was disorder, the anti-thesis of Ma’at, and above all destructive.  One could equate this concept to the epitome of evil.  In Ancient Egypt isfet was personified by Apep, who was depicted as a snake.

Modern Kemeticists tend to proscribe many things as isfet.  I’ve seen everything from unpleasant behavior to human rights violations called isfet.  I will not discuss how I feel about using isfet because I feel it’s on some level determined by the individual.  What I can discuss are the ways I deal with it.

I go into combating isfet a bit in my post of finding peace amidst the hustle and bustle.  The key to defeating isfet, though, is to look at it for what it is.  In Ancient Egyptian texts part of defeating Apep was recognizing his nature.  When we see a situation objectively and recognize the nature of what we’re dealing with we can defeat it.  Some of this, however, will require experience and discernment.

Sometimes in defeating the isfet in our own lives we first have to evaluate what isfet means to us.  Then we must ask why we consider these things as isfet.  Sometimes what a person considers isfet is, in reality, an inconvenience.  While that can feel chaotic it helps to differentiate to act accordingly.  Even a small act of changing an approach can help in major ways.  It also helps in establishing healthy boundaries.

I personally draw my line between isfet and inconvenience at the potential for destruction and harm.  While some inconveniences may harm me on some level, they tend to not cause major harm nor destruction.  I also refognize how the inconveniences accumulate and eventually evolve into isfet.  I then examine this and address it.

While these approaches deal with everday problems it takes much more when isfet is something such as a social injustice.  It takes a combination of addressing the issue for ourselves, addressing it socially (which is a feat in and of itself), and finding ways to ensure Ma’at prevails.

In this way I’ve found ways to deal with the inconveniences and isfet in my life.  I’m not perfect in my approach, and I’m aware my approach has flaws.  However in knowing my flaws in this approach I can find new ways to address the isfet in my life.


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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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PBP: E is for Egg

When Pagans think of eggs they usually associate it with Ostara or other Pagan faith. What most Pagans, let alone Kemeticists, realize is eggs have a symbolic significance with the Ancient Egyptians as well. It seems odd to think about eggs in Kemeticism for some, but eggs do have a place in the religion. It’s not focused on often, but it also demonstrates the limited scope of which eggs are examined. Part of that scant coverage stems from the limited scope of eggs.

The egg, in one of its most obvious symbols, represents life. The cosmic egg shows up in a couple of creation stories, namely the Hermopolitan and Theban creation stories. In the Theban creation story Ptah creates the primordial egg, as mentioned in Siegried Morenz’s Egyptian Religion. The primordial egg then houses Nun. Ptah in this creation story embraces the role of a primordial deity. Djehuty, while considered a primordial deity, is not a creator of the primordial egg in His myth. In the Hermopolitan creation story Djehuty emerges from the primordial egg formed by the eight primordial gods. The egg’s association with life doesn’t end with creation.

Another significance of the egg deals with creation, but in a different light, as it is also a symbol of rebirth. We see this in the Sokar festival preparations, which calls for the ingredients of the Sokar statuette to be combined and then either placed in an egg-shaped mold or formed into an egg shape by hand. Given the time of the year when the Sokar festival takes place it’s not hard to figure out the formation of this statuette is symbolic of the death and rebirth of Sokar. Some believe Sokar’s rebirth happens around a holiday now celebrated as Shamm El-Nessim, though given some research it’s hard to discern (though evidence doesn’t seem strong for it). Still, one cannot overlook how eggs play a role in the holiday as dishes with eggs are eaten and eggs are decorated. In spite of the evidence or contrary evidence of when Sokar is to emerge as reborn the link to rebirth implied during the Sokar festival preparations is not to be overlooked.

The sense of birth and rebirth is not just related to Ostara when it comes to egg symbolism. The Ancient Egyptians related it to their creation stories as well to at least one holiday. There is also a holiday in which the egg possibly shares a commonality with Ostara in respect to the symbolism of eggs.


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PBP: D Is for Death (My Best Friend)

Artwork by Emily N3ver.  You can find her work at : https://www.facebook.com/EmilyN3ver

Artwork by Emily N3ver. You can find her work here as well as tumblr.

I know I sound full of angst to describe my best friend as Death, but I promise you it isn’t some angst (these days). While complicated at times for me to understand I’ve made peace with my understanding of it. I’d even call it a friendship with Death. It goes beyond an understanding of what it represents in my culture. For me it goes into my understanding of Death and how close it is to me at all times.

 

While Death is usually portrayed as a masculine character in the culture I was raised I found it didn’t work for me. For me Death is sexless, though loving, though I see why people characterize it as male. The motif of Death and the maiden is one that has been around since Medieval times. It morphed into a role of essentially the death of a woman’s virginity, as if Death were the one to deflower her. It was never my relationship with Death. I had my virginity taken against my will, and while Death was there for it I’ve since learned to look at my rape as an initiation. It was one of many throughout my life.

 

Death was around when my mother taught me about what happens when we die and the afterlife. It sat there and coached my mother on what to explain to a small child while still honest and frank. It is because of that coaching I didn’t fear it, but the spirits of those Death took. Death was there when my psychic abilities emerged, even when I didn’t fully understand why I could sense these things better than family members with similar abilities. It frightened me at times because while I knew of Death and didn’t understand its nature completely. Knowing about Death and my experiences with it flew in the face of my religious beliefs and that was hard to reconcile for a long time. My knowledge of Death and the dead was one of my first initiations.

 

I had another initiation with Death growing up, though I didn’t understand it as such until much later in life. My psychic abilities aside I was always considered “different”. I’m bizarre, and with a misdiagnosis of autism stigmatized by everyone at my school. My social skills were inert. Since I wasn’t included and didn’t understand human nature at the time I was left with myself to observe often. To this day I learn the most by watching others. It’s also why the arts came so easy for me: it requires observation on some level. In much of Medieval art Death was not only an artist but often an observer. During these years growing up I was initiated into the coven of observation, as a watcher and a dancer in life. I grew into my abilities more, but I didn’t grow in my understanding of them. I knew when someone close to me would die, and while my family believed in such abilities they didn’t understand my relationship with Death. As a result my understanding of it didn’t develop, and I became distraught. Due to other circumstances in my life I was suicidal from that distress as well as my checkered relationship with Death. Obviously I failed in my suicide attemtps, but Death was there to pick me up even after I felt like a failure. While Death didn’t comfort me it did initiate me into the knowledge of human suffering. It held me while my soul cried. I didn’t understand any of this at the time, but it took time to understand it today.

 

I didn’t begin to fully understand Death until I became more serious about my spiritual, and eventually my religious path. It was through my path that I became acquainted with Het-Hert and Her associations. While I don’t always associate Her with solely music, dancing, joy, love, and death these days She did help me understand why Death was around. In the early days of my path I found others who encouraged me and provided a safe environment to explore my abilities with those who died. In speaking with those spirits and helping spirits cross over thanks to what I learned helped me understand Death so much more. I learned those spirits were probably always around and had little to do with me. If they came to me, and it wasn’t a chance encountering, I tried to help them. This had led to some interesting adventures (literally!) and friendships. The spirits showed me things that were hidden. I uncovered things and comforted people. I even uncovered a few family secrets thanks to becoming more open to Death. I learned Death was always there and whispering not to frighten us, but to remind us of life. Death was there for me because it was there for everyone, but it meant no harm. It wanted us to know of the world around us, both seen and unseen. I wasn’t bad or even misunderstood for getting initiated by Death. It didn’t even make me special. It meant I was ready for what Death could offer anyone.

 

During this time I had another initiation with Death. I took on a hobby as a music critic and honed my observational skills and my own knowledge and experiences with art. As cheesy as it’s been I took my understanding of Death and use its name as my own. I decided since it was so cheesy to combine a bit of humor with it to lighten some of the tension for people. I don’t think it ever came off that way, though I was happy to have inspired and helped a couple of people with my endeavors. I even learned how to improve my artistry by observing what is and isn’t effective and why. When I abandoned that hobby I was initiated again, but this time with the idea of loss. Luckily I groped my way around and found some spiritual strength. There I struggled in many areas in spite of my preparations.

 

One place where I struggled to let Death come in had to do with my own ancestors. Knowing my family history I didn’t know how open they would be to my path and new ways of honoring them. I also remembered my relationship with spirits in the past, and I worried if my ancestors would act in ways I wouldn’t understand nor welcome. When I went through some stuff where I turned to them for help did I understand why I needed to allow Death in this part of my life. I learned honoring our ancestors was just as much for me as it is for them. The ones that will listen and care about me won’t really care how I go about it. My relationship with Death deepened when I learned honoring the dead isn’t a scary thing, and was initiated into ancestor veneration. It certainly hasn’t been my only initiation.

 

In the past few months my relationship with Death was further realized. In my despair of losing my partner I attempted suicide. I felt I lost everything at that point, and the past few years made the gradual erosion of my dreams and visions of my future worse. Death was ready for me, and I was ready for it. Once again I failed, but Death was there to hold me during my initiation. I have experienced the loss and death of so many things I felt I had nothing left, even though before I thought I lost everything. What I didn’t remember was how death is treated in alchemy. In order to acquire great things one must “die”. Death delivered as promised. My music critic hobby that I had revisited a while ago took precedence. I’ve been swamped with many tasks and opportunities. Everything I worked for was bearing fruit, but in a different garden than I originally cultivated. I have been initiated into something new and had to cultivate this new garden.

 

While cultivating and weeding my new field I further evaluated the people I want in my life. I looked at what it would take to be my best friend. I wanted someone who is there for me when I need them, encourages me to grow and will grow with me, who is honest, strong, and helps me be the best person who lives to my fullest potential. In that evaluation I found Death fit this. While I’m not willing to take Death as a lover, I’ve valued it as a close friend. Death has always been around and is consistent. Death helped me become a better person once I let it. Death is my best friend.


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Pagan Blog Project: C is for Censer

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Incense is an important part of religious practice for many Kemeticists. It’s used in offerings and purifications, though this was usually demonstrated as a way of perfuming the gods. In its purpose of purification the priests used it to purify themselves before rituals. Even the pharaoh had to be purified before enacting rituals, and he too was purified through incense. Just as important as incense was the censer.

 

The censer had a few forms, but two are most commonly seen in tombs and in art. One form was the arm-shaped censer. This was a censer with a long handle shaped as if it were an arm with the cup holder shaped like a hand. The incense cup rested on the hand. There are variants of how the arm-shaped censer looked, such as the end of the handle shaped like the head of Heru or Sokar and with some censers having a compartment for incense pellets. The other form of censer most commonly scene was the jar censer, a censer with an eponymous shape held in one’s hands during the incense offering. This was most often seen in art rather than in practice.

 

The censers had extensive ritual use as evidenced by how many formulas in rituals call for incense. It’s used to perfume, purify, and end the ritual. Using the censer was so vital it had its own series of formulas to purify it before use in any ritual. From there various resins and incenses were used throughout the span of a ritual. These ranged from simple resins like frankincense to more complex ones like kyphi. Almost every stage of a ritual has an incense to go with it.

 

Modern Kemeticists don’t necessarily use any particular censer. Some may use stick incense with an incense burner. Some don’t use incense but an oil burner or a room spray. Other Kemeticists may forgo incense or fragrance oil due to health concerns. There are many options today for Kemeticists. If you’d like ideas on incense and an incense burner I have a blog post to assist to that end.


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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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So…I’m Back…Kinda

I’m back from something of a hiatus.  However, I’m not completely ready to take on the blog  completely again.  I feel ready now to explain what happened and where I want to take the blog at this point.

I had to take a hiatus because after 6 years my partner left me.  This left me devastated to say the least as we were planning a wedding even the day before he dumped me.  I’ll have a post explaining why even getting that far is a huge ordeal for me as it is.  Just the same with everything else in my life I felt I had completely lost everything, including my job (I had just gained a job again only to be fired shortly thereafter).  I have lost much in that year alone and felt completely hopeless and alone.  I had a nervous breakdown.  During this time I broke promises to myself, including a failed suicide attempt.  This happened in spite of reaching out to my friends and those I trusted in the community.  To those who helped me get semi-functional again, thank you.  I came closer to succeeding than I ever have with suicide, and it shows me that there are trustworthy people who’d rather I not die.  To those who told me to “heal thyself”, I think you need more healing than I do to turn away someone in such a state.  If your “solution” is to not even contact the police when someone is suicidal I question a lot of things about your character.

During that time, however, I was inundated with work of a different sort.  I have a hobby where I review music.  These days I use it to retrain myself into how to critique my own work objectively and relearn my creative process.  I’ve had it for some time but I tried to keep it separate from this blog for a few reasons, mainly because I know people have a hard time accepting that part of me.  Just the same I have been swamped with lots to do in that area and I want to get it done ASAP.  That means focusing away from this blog for a bit.

There is also an issue of finances.  I’ve done everything with this blog out of pocket.  I’ve kept quiet about it because I figured I don’t have enough readers to really make a fuss nor should I make a fuss.  I set up an etsy store in the meantime until I could either get enough freelance work or until I got a job.  While I do have work coming in now it’s not enough to pay my bills.  I may be starting a fundraiser so I can pay my bills, but I’m not really sure how I feel about that yet.  I’m going to look at my options and hope somebody hires me or steady work of some sort comes along.  This will also keep me away from my blog a bit.

In spite of everything going on in my life I still have some plans for the blog.  I want to continue with my inspirationals where possible.  I’ve also decided to add to the Kemeticism 101 pool with my own rendition of it.  I’m not certain what all I should cover since I’m unsure there isn’t a 101 topic untouched.  I’d love to hear some feedback on that topic.  I’m also hammering out my posts on racism and other -isms of the Neo Pagan community.  I realize now this too will be a series of posts given the nature of the topic.  I don’t know how long this will take since my time is going to be split up.

I ask everyone to continue to be patient with me as I try to get stuff together.  It’s still going to take time for me to get through all of this.  I can say, however, I will try to keep this blog going to contribute in a meaningful way.