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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Devotional Tuesday: Turning Away from the Truth

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 Youth Who came forth from a Heliopolitan nome, I have not been deaf to words of truth.”

I started writing this post a few months ago after dealing with folks on Yahoo! news. The gist of it was a biased source was cited, I pointed this out, and I was accused of being some sort of basher. Bear in mind this accusation came with foul and inflammatory language followed by how I needed to “mind my language” when I used no such language myself. I wanted to dismiss the whole thing as a troll, being Yahoo! and all, and possibly shame myself for bothering with Yahoo! That incident kept eating at me, though. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I realized after a few strings of other events that it was my frustration with an ongoing issue: ignoring the facts for the sake of a “truth”.

I understand truth is a very subjective concept. In some philosophies truth is seen as how the person observes and perceives their surroundings. Even what is seen as a current truth may change at a later date. It was considered “truth” the world was flat. It was considered “truth” we lived in a geocentric universe. It was considered “truth” there was a call to destroy Ancient Egyptian ruins until the creators of the hoax revealed the truth and the intentions.

So what happens when the truth changes? What happens when we find out we live in a heliocentric system or that something is a hoax? For many the answer is simple: you accept it if there’s strong evidence to support the new view. For that individual his or her truth changes. This applies to religious growth for me. The truth is constantly changing for me as I learn new things. When I learn more about my world I grow into a different person. It’s, for me, a way of becoming something better in the face of truth.

I see a personal reason that this confession is associated with the nome associated with the primordial mound. The act of creation, as I see it, takes action and takes knowledge. This is much like the Wadjet’s alleged purpose to help the pharaoh. When faced with the truth and what isn’t he could discern the best course of action. If one turns away from truth in this matter chaos ensues. What I see on a personal level is one doesn’t grow into a better person.

There’s a case that I encountered with this. There was a man who insisted that women shouldn’t “dress immodestly” if they don’t want to be ogled. I pointed out for large-breasted women this is almost impossible (citing my own experience) and suggested self control as a more viable option. We argued about this where I cited a study supporting my point and pointed out when called upon said violations individuals tend to act aggressively. The conversation degenerated and the man, upon further suggestion he not look at a woman’s breasts, acted aggressively. The irony isn’t lost on me, but that’s not the point. The point is the man took it personally that such violations of social norms are an individual’s responsibility. As a result of not facing one possible truth nothing was gained from either party except resentment. He’s resentful that I implied he lacked self control and I’m resentful that someone scoffed at empirical evidence and personal experience. The incident, however, demonstrates exactly what happens when I see people ignoring a truth.

When we don’t face a truth, when we ignore it for the sake of convenience, I’ve found nothing changes for the better. Instead things stay the same at best or worsen in a more likely scenario. When faced with a new truth it means we have to make a decision, one which changes our beliefs. That’s uncomfortable at times, painful at others, and sometimes the easiest thing to do. Most of it is contingent on the willingness to change and how willing we are to scrutinize new information. I’m not saying one should accept all information wholesale nor without scrutiny. What I am saying is just because the information may be unpleasant or come from an unpleasant source doesn’t negate a strongly supported idea. In the Maxims of Ptahhotep it’s written:

Do not be arrogant because of your knowledge, but

confer with the ignorant man as well as with the learned, for the

limit of skill has not been attained, and there is no crafts-

man who has fully acquired his mastery.

There is no such thing as the penultimate master. There’s always something to learn or at times relearn and from a source to learn it. Sometimes we let bias get in the way of that. Sometimes we believe we have more life experience than others, or our age determines our knowledge, or that our upbringing, or even education, gives us more value in skill or knowledge than others. It’s possible, but that doesn’t grant full expertise. We’re all knowledgeable in some areas and less knowledgeable in others.

If one is to listen to truth, how does one ensure openness to the truth? I don’t have any ultimate answers, but this is what’s worked for me most of the time:

Be aware of personal bias or biases. Tallying personal biases is probably one of the hardest things to do. It means swallowing our pride and admitting to ourselves we aren’t likely as kind or impartial as we hoped. It’s still vital to the learning process, just the same. If we turn a blind eye to our shortcomings we can never grow honestly. Don’t ignore biases which lean in a positive direction either. A bias is still a bias.

Examine why the new information should be rejected or accepted. Is the new information biased? Does it come from a biased source? Is the information dated? Or is the new information coming from a source from which you are biased against or towards? Sometimes we like to hear information which supports our bias or confirm an idea we’ve already formed, regardless if the information is sound.

Consider the changes the new information brings. Sometimes people reject new information not because it’s biased, but because it brings a change. Some people fear change for personal reasons.

Be open to the change the new information brings. If it clears all biases and any reason to reject the change is overcome then accept it and let the change or changes happen.

It’s not an easy task to consider new information and changes. It’s not easy to change based on new information. If one wishes to continuously grow, however, I feel the willingness to accept it needs to happen.