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: 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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PBP: B is for Belief

I would be lying to myself if I said my beliefs haven’t been shaken to my core in recent months. Loss of a loved one, even during a break up like I’m experiencing, really does that to people and I’m no exception. If that wasn’t enough the constant loss of last year took a lot of my resolve out of me. The way I’ve dealt with my crisis of faith is a bit different from what I’ve seen others do or advised by others in my life.

 

One thing I’ve realized after being dumped was that I have immense trust issues. It became clear when I spoke to people about my feelings. Most of my friends noted how they’d never seen me in this state and implied, whether they meant to or not, it seemed like I wasn’t capable of feeling such emotions like heartbreak and despair. I guess “incapable” is too strong of a word; it was more like improbable. They mentioned how I always seemed cold and distant. I found it odd because I imagine myself to be an open book (it comes with blogging, I feel). However that was what I kept hearing from friends I even considered close friends. When it’s a pattern like that I can’t avoid it anymore. Already I had one belief challenged.

 

It seems silly to look at how I believe friendships work into a religious blog, but after examining this one issue I saw how it applied in other places in my life. Naturally I looked at my religious beliefs. I felt like I failed the gods, the gods failed me, or They abandoned me, or hated me in some fashion, and other forms of doubt. All of these feelings are normal with loss and I’m thankful I know that. What I wasn’t prepared for was how to proceed with my feelings. Most of the time I was advised to abandon my beliefs since they caused me pain. It occurred to me as an option. I’ve most certainly felt let down in so many ways I’m having to make changes across the board. Others wondered why I stuck with it in the fist place as it seems I have suffered so much since pursuing Kemeticism. I left Christianity because I felt it brought me great suffering, so why should I stick with Kemeticism?

 

The question of whether I should stick to my beliefs was one I couldn’t answer, nor do I feel I can adequately answer right now. I can say when I put my religious practice aside for a bit so I could work on other things in my life I realized how important it has been to me so far. When I came to Het-Hert initially I had a new lease on life. What I didn’t realize at the time was part of renewing one’s life means healing from the life that inflicted so much harm. I’ve cried a lot and was placed in many situations where I had to face those wounds inflicted by my past. Many of those situations have occurred in a spiritual or religious environment. In facing my inner turmoil I also found healing even when it was healing provided by others. That’s because even in situations like therapy the solutions were common: keep to my religious practice and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The only thing my therapist added which others didn’t was to find healthier friendships. Combining these notions helped me heal at various points in my life. I had to examine why I felt none of this was healing me at this point in my life. In that examination I hoped to find out if I needed to leave my religion behind.

 

During the contemplation of what served me I reflected on why I left Christianity. The very beliefs of Christianity didn’t help me as I felt I could never measure up, as if the very structure set me up for failure. I know others disagree, which is their right. It’s just my experience with it, and I left because of it. I know that because of it I felt like God hated me. Even if my experience didn’t account for anything there was still how I felt I couldn’t believe in the fundamentals of it. I never believed there was only one way to peace or happiness. I didn’t believe all of a religion’s tenets were timeless regardless if the gods seemingly change their mind or not. The idea of how someone erased all of man’s sins yet somehow we were still born with it until we become Christian made no sense to me. I couldn’t believe in a practice that used manipulation to bring in followers. So what made Kemeticism different for me? Why do I believe in the Ancient Egyptian gods enough to keep practicing and researching how to practice? In Ancient Egypt there wasn’t really much in literature to tell the laymen how to practice and behave. We have some idea thanks to archaeological evidence and surviving wisdom literature. However, there wasn’t really a set of rules for laymen. In fact they had no word for “religion” as the Ancient Egyptians saw no separation of religion and everyday life. I could easily argue I wasn’t practicing, yet I still wanted to believe. What makes this belief strong?

 

The word “belief” stumped me repeatedly. Why did I believe in something that is not serving me? I am at a place now where I feel like I don’t measure up in my practice and on some level I felt the gods hated me. Why am I still holding on? It didn’t hit me until I found myself crying and praying to Het-Hert. I was still asking Het-Hert to get me through the pain of losing my partner in one of my moments of sorrow. I found myself praying to Her knowing She was there and I trusted Her to help in my healing. I still held on because I believed in Her. I’ve found a lot of peace and healing with Het-Hert and other Ancient Egyptian gods. I trusted Them to help me even with my faith shaken. I found a practice that bettered me and gave me new tools to be the person I want to be through worshiping Them and through my own work devoted to learning how to worship. It’s those experiences which convinced me this was a true path for me all these years. I’ve been through a lot, but it’s through those moments I’ve seen how much I’ve grown because of nothing else than believing in the gods and in some way believed in myself. I believed in myself to make the best decision. Even if I ended up choosing poorly I trusted myself enough to grow and learn.

 

It was during that contemplation I kept running into articles which reminded me about belief and belief during moments of crises. I was reminded how sometimes bad things happen without rhyme or reason, and sometimes it’s a cluster of bad things. Not every bad thing has a pattern to it. Have I made poor choices that contributed to my problems in the past year? Yes. I’m human. I’ve also had problems that were no fault of my own as well. It’s something I say a lot on this blog, but even I need a reminder every so often that sometimes bad things happen for no reason. The gods most likely aren’t mad at me or punishing me. It’s just the series of unfortunate events combined with questionable decision-making. While I thought I was making a truthful and wise decision at the time it didn’t always prove for the best. Life happened, and I happened with it. That’s where I differentiated my beliefs with Christianity all those years ago. While contemplation of one’s faith and relationship with God was theoretically encouraged the practice was far different. The pastors never encouraged me to trust my feelings about my relationship with God. I was supposed to trust God’s decisions for better or worse on a say-so. I felt like I was constantly let down and that trust eroded. Since my trust was gone my beliefs went with it. That has not happened with my belief in Kemeticism. On some level I still trust Them.

 

Belief, to paraphrase the definition, is about holding something to be a truth. Beliefs can change, but it’s usually because we find a new truth for ourselves. As in all exploration the way we discover our truths is by trusting it. Sometimes we have to test it in order to find it believable. After all trust is earned. Since the gods have earned my trust I’ve slowly worked into my practice again. I am slowly working myself into daily offerings again. It’s a slow effort, but one that will build up with trust.


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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


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What to Do with Food and Liquid Offerings

I stumbled across and participated in a discussion on tumblr about a blog post discussing what to do with offerings after they are given to a god.  What left most folks disliking it was the attempt to make a generic Neo-Pagan protocol of what to do with offerings without acknowledging it necessarily as such.  This also left some people dissatisfied with the post because it was impossible for them to not ingest food and drink offerings due to their financial situation.  While she (the author of the initial blog post) clarified it was meant to be a template she proceeded to make classist and racist remarks, which I felt detracted completely from her post.  I’ll address how these issues are prevalent in the Neo-Pagan community in a later post, as it is a serious topic but not the current one.  Instead I’m going to use this incident as a platform to discuss what to do with offerings from a Kemeticist perspective.

Among the top overwhelming questions for a beginner to Kemeticism is what to do with offerings.  I ran into this myself, and it’s a natural one to ask when it’s very likely someone learned about how to handle offerings from mainstream Paganism practices in the first place.   Unlearningthe ideas of offered food belonging to a god or losing its energy gets awkward when learning about practices for Ancient Egypt.  In many ways the philosophies of Ancient Egypt fly in the face of mainstream Paganism.  An area where these differences are apparent emerge when handling food and drink offerings.

In Ancient Egypt food and libations were most likely eaten and drunk.  We know for certain the priests ingested the offerings provided from temple rituals, and how offerings were also distributed to those attending festivals.  Some of the ritual offerings were offered to the dead.  What happened to the food offerings for the dead seem to have been left and not ingested.  With the possible exception of eating food offered to the dead, Egyptologists think it may have been seen as an honor to eat food provided to the gods.  I’m sure on a practical level, however, some of the philosophy behind it was due to the scarcity of the food offered; this was especially so for foods like meat or wine.  Regardless of the practicality the idea of ingesting food as an honor transferred to current religious practices.  Modern Kemeticists tend to believe the god imbues some of its ba in the food and drink, thus eating the food becomes something of a eucharist.

As in the temples Kemeticists today can perform the rituals necessary to make the food and liquid offerings fit for consumption.   It’s a series of rituals referred to collectively as the “Reversion of Offerings”.  The temple rituals consisted, but not limited to,  reciting spells, libations, incense, and extinguishing all flames.  The spells revolved around specifying Who is satiated, how the offerings would revert to the priests and followers, and how the offerings were everlasting.  Most Kemeticits practice an abridged version of the ritual, though members of the Kemetic Orthodoxy add movements such as stepping backwards then forwards a few steps.  When I’m not performing a festival ritual I recite a few of the spells after sweeping behind me.

There are a couple of sources I recommend for those who want to learn more.  The full Reversion of Offerings can be found on JSTOR, but for those who wish to practice the more abridged version I recommend Richard J. Reidy’s Eternal Egypt.

Sources

David, Rosalie.  Handbook to Life in Ancient Egypt.  New York: Facts on File, 1998.  Print.
Shafer, Byron E.  Temples of Ancient Egypt.  I.B. Tauris, 2005.  Google books.  Web.  12/20/13.
Teeter, Emily.  Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt.  New York: Cambridge, 2001.  Print.


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Kemetic Round Table: Happy Multi-Holiday Observance Time!

When anyone converts from a belief in which they were raised to a new one there’s always conflict. If it’s not reconciling old beliefs with new ones it’s reconciling old religious traditions with new ones. I’ve been down this road in many ways before converting away from Christianity. I grew up thinking having to change tradition was a norm. My family is apparently very odd, yet very American, in that respect.

 

My father worked for a German company during my teens, which meant lots of traveling for him. He traveled so much I lost track of which country he was in most of the time. I’m sure my teachers suspected he was running out on us (it was one of those small towns that made Petyon Place look like Mayberry) since they grilled me often about his whereabouts. Awkward school situations aside it meant having to adjust holiday traditions. Since my father was out of the country a good portion of the time he missed out on holidays often. Holiday gatherings that once took place as a family had to be adjusted. Christmas gifts weren’t always opened together as a family or they arrived late. We stopped watching certain movies or specials because they were specific ones he requested and wasn’t there to request them. My father, since he still travels, ordered a Christmas tree this year instead of following tradition of picking out one at a tree farm.

 

Sometimes because my father travels new traditions were added or halfheartedly added. One summer my father insisted we observe Bastille day after coming back from France and missing Independence Day, even though we have no significant French ancestry nor ties to France. What happened was a confusing disaster and a house smelling of cheap wine. All but my father were against this practice for obvious reasons and felt it saw it for the contrived attempt to excuse poor wine choices. We gave up and left him to his cheap liquor. Despite this disaster some other traditions have been introduced with greater success, like a new holiday decorating tradition or a new holiday dish. After all, we’re Midwesterners and easily bribed with food.

 

There were times where family traditions changed not just because of absent family members, but due to changing circumstances. It used to be an Easter tradition to dye eggs for a family Easter egg hunt. As the children grew up there was less need to keep this tradition: we were at an age where we didn’t want to do it and there weren’t any children around for whom to keep the tradition going. There are others, and most changed because the tradition was no longer practical to keep. However gorging ourselves on food is still a family tradition.

When I moved away from Christianity not much changed, though there was some controversy over how I would observe holidays. It wasn’t so much of how my family felt my faith nor theirs would prohibit observation. I lucked out in that respect. My father’s side of the family are predominantly atheist so there was no issue about faith and the holidays. I grew up not attending church as a family, let alone on holidays. While we knew the religious significance my family raised me to observe it as a secular holiday. The issue of my faith stemmed from the holidays I wanted to observe coinciding with theirs, and the dietary restrictions prove to be an issue. My mother knew how to adjust to the family members who converted to Catholicism, but she wasn’t fully sure how to adjust for Kemetic practices. Luckily this is only an issue around Thanksgiving as that’s when I observe Ka-her-Ka and practice the rituals more rigorously. At first I was adamant about my dietary restrictions. As years have worn on I’ve grown too tired of the heated culinary debates and relented. I just do what I can and hope for the best.

 

When I’ve looked at this issue of overlapping holidays I’ve lucked out compared to the stories I’ve heard about Pagans and fellow Kemeticists. Most families are not multi-faith and tend to be hard nosed about what will and won’t be observed during the holidays. My family has made adjustments where possible but also knew what needed to be in which corner. As long as I’m not forcing my family to sit for long periods of time while I perform rituals in front of them they’re tolerant. My Catholic family members don’t expect the rest of us to attend Mass. The Baptist and Lutheran family members attend services and then spend time with the rest of the family. My atheist family members treat holidays like Christmas as secular holidays. The key for us is to understand when it’s time for someone to be religious and when it’s time to celebrate as a family. It’s probably why I don’t have any issues but personal ones about holidays.

 

I think what is key for my family is also the same advice I’d give anyone about celebrating multiple holidays: just know the time and place. Know when it’s time to celebrate family and being with family, and know when it’s time to celebrate it as a holy day. Don’t expect your family to burn a yule log if it’s never been done just because you observe Yule. Don’t look at the family attending church service as religion being shoved down your throat because you’re not Christian or Catholic. I know it’s hard not to look at that situation as forced, but understand to them it’s also an important family tradition. Even though sometimes traditions change there’s usually a new one in place where the whole family can enjoy it. Sometimes finding that new tradition for everyone will take work and tolerance.

 


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Inspirational Tuesday: The Path of Self-Love

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I’ve fully figured out how to love myself. I feel lying to myself like that is a disservice and unloving. What I can tell you is that I had a long road to travel to get to the point where I committed to loving myself. It hasn’t been an easy road. It certainly wasn’t a road where I had some strong advantages in that regard.

In America, especially for women, it’s taught that love isn’t something we can do for ourselves unless there’s external validation for it. Our worthiness for love is taught from a very young age. Everything from my basic assertiveness to outright boorish attitudes was usually met with, “If you don’t act like a lady no one will love you. You will be alone. You must be accommodating and pleasant at all times.” What really got to me over the years was how to be “pleasant”. No matter how “pleasant” I was it was never enough. If I took pride in something I did I was “too proudful” and had to be taken down a peg in someone’s eyes. If I was articulate and conveyed a point intelligently I was “trying too hard to appear brainy” and had to be shown how stupid I really was. Even to this day I’m perplexed how an elementary school teacher exclaimed how I think too big and needed to dumb myself down. If I met these tasks, people took jabs at me in other ways. I was “too ugly”, “too fat” (it didn’t matter the only person thinner than me at times had a thyroid problem), “a slut” (my sexual activity, or lack thereof, was irrelevant), or some other attack on me that was code for acting inappropriately for my sex.

If American society doesn’t teach people to hate ourselves for one reason it finds others. When I very little I was misdiagnosed as developmentally disabled and saw the dark side of learning disabled programs. While there have been strident efforts towards reform and moving away from what it was even in the 80’s (which was when I spent my time) there’s still a lot of systematic abuse. Most of the abuse focuses on making those with disabilities feel inferior or how they don’t matter. I was lucky in that I wasn’t sexually abused, but I’ve heard stories of that happening. I won’t go into all the details of what I experienced because it would detract, not to mention it’s hard to explain how I felt in those moments especially at a young age. While I did escape that program when I entered kindergarten thanks to an experienced teacher passionate about her work with developmentally disabled children, as well as advocacy groups and the district psychologist in tow (I will someday explain why all of that was necessary) I still had that stigma. I still had to battle with my teachers’ prejudices towards me, teachers still convinced I was somehow “less than” due to their prejudices against the developmentally disabled. I didn’t feel I overcame that stigma until college.

Part of my reason for feeling I started to overcome my self-loathing in college happened for many reasons. After battling a very dysfunctional family, an ex-boyfriend who raped me and stalked me, various broken systems (the schools nor law enforcement cared my ex was stalking me, even if it happened on school grounds), as well as my suicidal tendencies I felt free. I had a newfound lease on life by attending college. For once I had a very clear vision of how I wanted my life to look and how I was going to do it. I believed – in retrospect maybe with naivete – college would enhance my odds of getting a career in the performing arts. I always loved dancing and creating pieces, and this love led me to prepare for a career as a choreographer. It was at this time where I ran into a classmate who decided I needed to learn how to be a gay diva. I know many people feel being a diva is only about being “bitchy”, but I’ve come to realize why acting like a diva on some level helps with love. When you live a life that is mired in people wanting to hate you for inherently existing and changing one’s surroundings isn’t possible, raising oneself above the mire through just one of many methods is the only way to do it. There was another way I learned to rise above the mess, one that is probably more socially acceptable.

During my studies I ended up finding a religious path which I consider life-affirming. I found it through my own experiences with Het-Hert and subsequent conversion to Kemeticism. At that time I believed like others the Ancient Egyptian gods could be placed in boxes. I felt Het-Hert was a goddess of love, and given my life I needed plenty. It seemed for a while that everything was falling into place, even with new friends who were loving and supportive. I was learning to heal from my rape through consensual sex, though I picked partners who sent mixed signals. Close to the end of college my life faced an incredible upheaval.

I watched everything I worked for fall apart in six years. I lost my job and couldn’t get rehired, I watched friends abandon me and take advantage of my situation, I abandoned my dream of being a choreographer, and found out how worthless my diploma is despite the assurance of my academic advisors. I lost all of my savings and watched as debts piled up. Saying I was devastated to watch the life I was trying to build crumble is an understatement. I know I annoyed those in my life, but I don’t know if they were too exhausted to tell me they were tired or they never had that compassion to begin with in some cases. Unlike many others I still kept to my faith, even if I felt everything including my self-identity wavered.   If anything during this time I did more to learn what I truly believed and my understanding of Het-Hert. I studied more about the practices of Dendera and started piecing together the rituals. I saw Het-Hert less as an archetype for love and more as a motherly goddess. What I learned about spiritual love in worshiping Her, however, didn’t leave me.

A few years ago I reached a point where I had enough of feeling used up and left for dead. I prayed to Sekhmet to help me clear out those in my life and practices which were toxic. I don’t know if it was a psychological motivator or if She doesn’t waste time but that prayer was answered in a quick and tumultuous way. People whom I thought would always be my friend I either cut out in a dramatic fashion or they parted ways with me. I also saw at that time people who were willing to pray for me as I got through clearing people out. As they cleared I saw my vision for my life return and have pursued it accordingly. I had violent fights with some of my family where they saw my true strength emerge and where I learned I still needed to grow. I saw my wake up call to where if I truly loved myself I would answer it. Part of that meant active pursuit of healing old scars from my past.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but putting my foot down was the first sign I was finally learning how to love myself. Because of that I kicked some folks out of my life while some folks left my life of their own volition. During that time I learned another path of self-love. I learned new ways to take care of my anxiety disorder. Some of it came in the form of therapy, some from researching what to do during an anxiety attack (I ran some of the methods over with my therapist, who found them healthy), and some of it through prayer. I regained my sense of self, albeit slowly.  Some of my experiences with this I’ve shared before on this blog.

Sharing my personal experiences taught me a new approach to self-love, though not in the way people would expect. I learned some people didn’t like I discussed the less pleasant aspects of my life and what I’ve learned from it. I got to see passive-aggressive remarks about how someone’s “trying to be a bad bitch”, “lying”, read posts of how I’m “schizophrenic”, how I’m “a homewrecking slut”, and so on. I was debating how to handle these issues. I couldn’t decide whether to confront these bullies (let’s call it what it is) head on. I prayed about it to Het-Hert and asked people I know have been through similar experiences. The response was something to the effect of ignore them; live my life. I agreed even at the time it was great advice, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling something had to be done. I kept praying to many gods about the issue.

It all made sense when I shared with a couple of other friends. When they looked at what was said and advised the same thing, one of them added the comment of how these are the type of people who have to hate. The people who act like this are truly hate mongers. I ended up responding with, “Well, I guess it’s time to love myself.” I was silent while those words echoed in my head. It was something I should have been doing anyway, but there it was: my dedication to love myself. I finally uttered the words of my path all these years. What started as worshiping an archetype became a personal manifestation for me.

The reason to ignore hate mongers stems not only to bring peace of mind, but because you love yourself enough to know most aren’t worth the time and effort. There will always be someone who hates another for some reason, even if the reason only exists in their mind. Hatred towards people is in no short supply in this world. If left to my own devices I can generate enough self-loathing unmatched by 200 of my biggest “haters”. Let them put forth the time and effort. Yes, there will be a time when facing such hatred will come. There will be people who will do anything to make you feel their hatred for you so they don’t have to work as hard to hate. They will vandalize your things, they will spread rumors about you, they will attack you. However, not every act of hatred will be physically violent. Not every act of hatred towards me is worth my attention. I can call it out when it’s needed and encourage others to call out hatred. However the hatred I currently face is only bullying. I love myself too much to allow bullies into my life or my head.

I’ve cleaned house again and those people have been thrown out. When I find myself starting my self-loathing I’ve made it a habit to pray to Het-Hert to give myself enough love to get through it. I’m not always successful. After all I am human. I’m still learning some things about self-love. I know, though, I have a path that is exponentially less destructive than ever. It’s a path that includes self-compassion and learning to love the person I am and can be.


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Inspirational Tuesday: The Danger of Misinformation

Mandatory Disclaimer:  This is just my personal take on some of the passages and may or may not pull from academic sources.  In other words, this is just my interpretation of things.  Take it or leave it.

“O you who are over the old one who came forth from Imau, I have not made terror.” -translation by R.O. Faulkner

I chose the passage I did about terror when the topic is about misinformation for a couple of reasons. I feel anyone who lives long enough will know of the common ways to inflict terror: intimidation, threats, several forms of violence just to name a few. Violence, however, isn’t the only way to terrorize people. The only thing people need to feel terrorized is a threatening situation. This situation can come in by playing off one’s fears in any way, including propaganda.

This type of fear is where misinformation comes in. A case in point is a recent news article where someone (I won’t even use the word “scholar”) claims he has evidence that Jesus was a composite figure created by Roman aristocrats. While there is a theory Jesus was a composite figure, that isn’t what bothered me. It’s the fact there seems to be a documentary behind it. My personal experience with such sensationalist hypotheses is when someone presents one there’s usually misinformation or something to sell, sometimes both. This is one of the cases where misinformation abounds, and at least one person is tired of it. So why is this misinformation harmful? This article was brought to my attention by Pagans and Kemeticists, who believed the article wholesale and used it as an example to delegitimize Christianity. I wish I made screenshots of all the “See? I knew Jesus wasn’t real” and “Proof at last,” comments. It didn’t take much for me to find out the alleged discovery was bunk. The sad part is I found a link to that review on the r/Atheism subreddit. Yes, atheist Redditors are more willing to put aside their bias than Pagans and Kemeticists to find the truth of a matter. Perhaps it’s more concerning for me because it comes off as an attempt to bash Christians on the part of Pagans and Kemeticists.

Using misinformation to prove someone’s religion isn’t real is harmful because it is usually what perpetuates stereotypes. One study, while not focused on religion, found misinformation led to stereotyping in children. The same scenario easily applies to spouting misinformation about Christianity. When we say “Jesus was really created by Roman aristocrats” we’re implying the poor scholarship is not only true, but Christians are gullible, nebbishy people if they disagree with it. If you don’t believe me I suggest reading this blog post. I wish it could be dismissed as just the case of one forum. Like I said before, though, the comments I saw belittling Christianity on my facebook feed. I’ve even seen groups that continuously assert how Christianity borrows from the Maxims of Amenope while ignoring all the times the Ancient Egyptians borrowed from other religions. The aim of the person who does such things is to insinuate Christianity isn’t a real religion by asserting combining various beliefs and practices isn’t a legitimate form of belief structure.

I’m sure at this point many readers are asking what any of this has to do with causing terror. All too often I’ve found fear mongering and hate mongering are bedfellows. One doesn’t have to look up even the Holocaust to find how mass murder was fueled by perpetuating stereotypes and misinformation, which in turn fueled bigotry and hated. Practitioners of Falun Dafa are systematically persecuted in China with the Chinese government spreading misinformation about the practice in order to fuel animosity towards it and justify horrific acts towards the practitioners. Where there is misinformation, bigotry and hatred are nearby. If nothing else a bias against something is easy to spot. The misinformation is meant to scare people into believing a targeted group is a threat. When someone feels like a group is a threat horrific actions seem justifiable in order to remove it.

If one extrapolates a fearful message from misinformation renders the individual responsible for their actions of instilling terror or harm, even if it’s only the individual in question. If several people attempt to spread misinformation with the intent of causing fear or harm that group is responsible for their actions. Before sharing something that could cause fear or harm to a group, consider the following:

What are your current biases? Consider both positive and negative biases, meaning things you are more inclined to believe because you favor and disfavor them. In the case of misinformation that Christian bashes people I found people will find any information that confirms the bias without digging further into the information. A big clue that a bias is occurring is if someone utters the phrase, “I knew Christianity was bunk,” or something similar.

Does it come in a sensationalist package? It helps to learn to recognize sensationalist media tactics for this one. While mostly made for Canadian media, I believe this site is a great place to learn how to identify media sensationalism.

Practice the “hateful sounding” test. I’m sure there’s an actual term for it, but since it’s something I use to monitor my thinking I gave it the rather uncreative name. What I tend to do is put a marginalized group in place of the group of which I’m speaking. If it sounds like propaganda, it probably is. Here’s how it works: as an example take the phrase, “Christianity isn’t legitimate because it borrows from other religions.” Replace “Christianity” with “Neo-Wicca” and you’ll see what I mean.

Put a bias up to full scrutiny. In other words, research it. Look at why such a bias exists. I have a bias against mega churches due to my views of mega churches and my unpleasant experience with one, as an example. I understand this and try to keep it in check when I see something about a mega church.

Read the counter-arguments to a bias. This is good practice to being a well-rounded person, anyway. It adds perspective and will broaden one’s understanding of a topic. As with any source check for accuracy, reliability, or outdated information. While I dislike mega churches due to how I feel the inherent design of such things deters from the church’s purpose or message, others can eloquently describe how it enhances their experience and helps them feel closer to God through community.

Where possible ask for a clarification of a statement. It’s possible because of a bias something or someone may be purporting misinformation. It’s also possible to give out misinformation which could be fear-inducing for other reasons that aren’t nefarious. Some people simply don’t know they’re putting out misinformation, and some are inarticulate and say something which ends up misconstrued. Asking for clarification of a point made, or asking for a source for that matter (if it’s not given), can clear up things and open dialogue at times.

If called out for a bias or misinformation understand it’s not personal, and vice versa. Don’t poison the well, use bias as an ad hominem, et cetera. Don’t be a jerk if called out, and don’t use a person’s bias or misinformation to vilify a person. When in doubt see the previous tip.

Some of my readers will note this is part of basic critical thinking and manners. I agree wholeheartedly, which is my point. The best way to fight propaganda and misinformation in general is through critically thinking about our views and whatever information we use to support that idea. When we don’t let our emotions guide our thoughts with abandon it also connects to dialogue. If we let emotions get the better of us, those trying to inflict terror will triumph.


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Inspirationial Tuesday: Go Die in a Fire, Namaste!

Mandatory Disclaimer:  This is just my personal take on some of the passages and may or may not pull from academic sources.  In other words, this is just my interpretation of things.  Take it or leave it.

“O Disturber who came forth from Weryt, I have not been hot-tempered.” -translation by R.O. Faulkner

This passage is listed in another document as coming from the sanctuary and with one version saying the confessor hasn’t been heated in his or her words. While I can’t seem to figure out which god is addressed in this confession, this blogger suspects it’s Hatmenhit. I guess all that matters is the idea of the confessor being in control of their emotions. I see it can go to some outrageous ends at times to appear in control. The most often way I see it is through the words used and their real intentions.

All too often I see people who will say the most hateful, vitriolic things to a person followed by some form of well-wi480317_10151292098577371_1483434193_nshing. It’s the strangest concept to me because I don’t understand how a “blessing” will somehow negate the fact one said some hurtful things. When I discussed this with my partner to get some perspective I ended up poking fun at the concept with the phrase, “Go die in a fire, namaste!” It conveys the very idea of some of these behaviors.

We tend to say hurtful things when we’re angry. It’s why it’s important to watch ourselves when we’re angry because we may come to regret it. It may be out of personal remorse either. Sometimes there are social ramifications. You could lose friends, you could lose respect, or you could lose your job or business over it. We’ve all been in that situation where a friendship was ended because of an argument that spiraled out of control over something said in a moment of passion. There are also times when we say something hurtful because we misconstrued the context. I’ve seen all too often on the Internet where discussions turned into hateful shouting matches. I saw one debate generating into a shouting match with a person leaving a forum, and it turned out the person who left was misunderstood due to missing punctuation.

I was taught when I studied Japanese that the Japanese won’t generally say something outright hateful to a person’s face. An example of this is instead of saying someone is “an interesting person” as a euphemism for a derogatory name. I’m not fully certain of the origin of this practice, but I saw it in my experience with working at a Chinese restaurant as well. When I studied Chinese in order to speak with my co-workers the explanation written in the book was it helped the offending party save face. According to the book making someone look bad is a major social faux pas in Chinese culture.

The common pattern I’ve seen with hateful phrases masked with good intentions stems from the same idea as “winning” a shouting match (I use “winning” loosely because no one really wins a shouting match). It’s about looking like a socially upstanding person. It’s understandable; no one wants to look like that(!) person. Even in the Maxims of Ptahhotep it’s advised to not be that person:

If you find a disputant arguing, one having authority and superiority to you, bend down your

arms and bow your back […] If you find a disputant arguing, your equal who is on your own

level, let your virtue be manifest against him in silence when he is speaking ill […] If you find a

disputant arguing, a humble man who is not your equal, do not be aggressive against him in

proportion as he is humble; let him alone, that he may confute himself.

It’s ill advised to argue with superiors for obvious reason, as is for someone “beneath” (with the implication they may not be on the same standing in various ways as you) or equal to you. In the case of not arguing with someone equal to you, not saying anything is the best defense. Depending on the situation it could prove unfavorable. In the case of spouting vitriol followed by some “loving message” it’s problematic because it’s not actually averting conflict to look good. Whether someone realizes it or not it’s actually ending up making oneself look just as bad to take the approach.

In addition to looking disingenuous and equally childish I have to wonder who is really convinced such behavior is acceptable. Obviously the person engaging in it finds it acceptable. They may even trick themselves into believing this is considered healthy behavior. It isn’t, and it’s a behavior which needs to be addressed. I understand pointing this out is now considered “negative”, but I figured people who use dismissive language as this have their own issues. If it’s an issue an individual wants to address there are way which work for me.

Look at your real intentions with such a statement. Why are you really saying this? Are you trying to look like “the better person”? If so, why bother making this statement at all?

What really needs to be said? Sometimes we say things a certain way just because we can. It goes back to the phrase “die in a fire”. We want to say it because it sounds clever without realizing we’re wishing a painful death on someone.

What are the consequences of saying this? We all mess up this one from time to time; we say something without thinking of the consequences. Sometimes we say something for the sake of puffing up when really we’re publicly deflating ourselves.

Does anything need to be said? Sometimes the only way to have a dignified comment is to not dignify something with a response.

It’s just a start of things to consider, and what you’ll need to consider will change depending on the situation. Thinking about our word choices will influence how we view others as well as how we’re viewed by them. It also plays a role in how we view ourselves. When we start looking at how our words reflect on this we can evolve with it.