Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.


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Craft Friday: Sokar Mummy Net

In preparation for the Sokar festival this past month a mummy was made to look like Sokar. Each year a new one was made and the previous year’s mummy was given a funeral. Part of the preparation for that funeral included wrapping the mummy of the previous year in a net made of lapis lazuli. I try to recreate it not only for personal use, but so others may have an idea of how to make this net too.

I wasn’t sure on all of the details and I had to make adjustments as well. I couldn’t afford lapis lazuli beads at the time so I made some very crude beads and painted them to look like lapis lazuli. I wasn’t certain what type of cord was used for making the net, so I went with my waxed linen thread. I figure as long as a strong, plant based beading thread is used it should hold.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

  • Lapis lazuli beads
  • Scissors
  • Waxed linen cord
  • Ruler (optional)

1.  Cut the thread out to roughly 8 to 10 inches. Arrange the thread so it makes a cross hatch. I cut as many strands as I have beads since I’m using so few, so I ended up cutting 10 strands. In hindsight it would have been better to base it off the intersection points. I’m also very aware that my lap desk is in sad shape.

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2.  Make a square knot at each intersection point. When adding a bead make a square knot, string the bead, then make another square knot.

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3.  Repeat until finished.

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There are a few things to keep in mind when making this. Work on a flat surface and try to keep the strings in their arrangement to avoid the eventual mess up I made. I used the measurements for the length of the strings because my Sokar mummies tend to be small. Adjust the length according to comfort and size of the mummy you’re making.

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Ka-her-Ka 101

So it’s that time when I observe Ka-her-Ka (thanks to the folks at Per Djeba for correcting my spelling on that) and I thought I’d give folks a quick, basic rundown of the holiday. I’m mostly doing this because there actually isn’t a whole lot out there from a Kemeticist’s perspective even with basic information. I will note, however, the myth of Ka-her-Ka I use is the most common one so I haven’t cited the source for it as I assume it’s common knowledge. I also do not cite a source for the Kemetic Orthodox information as I used to be a member and feel a little too lazy to look up where exactly that information is listed on the cite. I apologize for my laziness.

So What Exactly Is Ka-her-Ka?

Ka-her-Ka (sometimes written as Khoiak) translates to “sustenance upon sustenance” roughly. Members of the House of Netjer / Kemetic Orthodoxy refer to this holiday as “The Wesirian Mysteries”. Ka-her-Ka is a festival commemorating the death of Wesir and the birth of Heru-Sa-Aset. The death of Wesir in later periods, and Dendera is no exception, is attributed to the work of Set, Wesir’s youngest brother. According to this myth Aset and Nebt-Het search for Wesir’s body and find it in a river. Upon recovering the body Set cuts up Wesir’s body into 14 pieces. Aset and Nebt-Het recover all but His member as a fish ate it when Set tossed it into the Nile. Aset formed a substitute member, revived Wesir long enough for Aset to procreate, and Aset gave birth to Heru-Sa-Aset. This was also a time when Sokar was observed to have His own death. His statuette was made at roughly the same time as the corn mummies, but buried much sooner.

The myths surrounding Ka-her-Ka reflect the changes in the season .It marks the time when the harvest time wound down and the time to prepare for next year’s crops in Ancient Egypt. This is also believed by some as to why Wesir’s death is reenacted with the creation of corn mummies. In the earlier steps of creating the mummies the molds are watered so as the wheat and barley sprouts. While actual sprouting seems to be of little importance in its creation (more on that later) reenacting the myths reflected on Wesir’s agricultural aspect of the end of crop yield that, with proper care, would grow and yield the next year.

When Is Ka-her-Ka Celebrated?

This question is tricky to answer because it depends on how one chooses to celebrate. In Dendera the priests started the ritual preparations with mixing the seeds for the corn mummies on 4 Akhet 12 and ending on 4 Akhet 30 with the raising of the djed pillar and burial of the corn mummies. On the Gregorian calendar most modern Kemeticists observe this holiday around October or November (though sometimes a bit later if there’s an intercalary month) if they practice like the priests. The Sokar Festival was observed on 4 Akhet 26 in Dendera, which also places it in November on the Gregorian calendar. However, the statuette started work much sooner. This statuette started later than the corn mummies on 4 Akhet 14 but was completed at the same time as the corn mummies. It was also buried with them on 4 Akhet 30.

As with many records on Kemetic holidays there are more records about how the temples observed each holiday. It’s harder to discern when laymen celebrated except for 4 Akhet 22, the day of the funeral procession. Many people participated in the procession and even made pilgrimages to Abydos. Various stelae have been found in Abydos which mark the procession and serve as something of a script, indicating when the audience could interact and when to be bystanders. While there was a procession around the Sacred Lake in Dendera it’s hard to determine, though it can be assumed it happened, if laymen attended. Later that evening people would hold a vigil by lamplight. While there is evidence the laymen also produced corn mummies it’s uncertain if they followed the same formula as the priests did. On that point I will omit the practice and focus on the procession and vigil. If one focuses only on the procession and vigil this would place the holiday observance in November on the Gregorian calendar.

How Was Ka-her-Ka Celebrated?

How the holiday was celebrated depends on which perspective is taken. As mentioned before the priests as Dendera observed this time through making statuettes: one of Khenty-Imenti, another Wesir figure (which has yet to be determined whom it represents), and a Sokar figure. These statuettes were given a procession followed by a funeral, including a burial with preparations starting at 4 Akhet 23 and ending on 4 Akhet 30. In the process of burying the figures the figures of the previous year’s figures were removed on 4 Akhet 24.

The common man, conversely, had a less elaborate time. As mentioned a procession was held in which Wesir’s death and rise of Heru-Sa-Aset were reenacted. Later that night a vigil was held. The layman also made their own corn mummies as excavations have uncovered large amounts of corn mummies buried in pits.

What Are Corn Mummies?

Corn mummies are statuettes made to look like Wesir. In the temple there was another corn mummy made, but not much is known about it at this time. They are made of wheat, barley, and sand. The corn mummies are made over a timespan of roughly ten days. After soaking the wheat and barley for six hours sand is mixed in with the seeds and water. This mixture is placed inside the corn mummy molds (which are lined with linen) and sandwiched between reeds, where it is watered day and night and the reeds changed at each watering. The reeds are buried while the water is collected. This begins on 4 Akhet 12 and ends on 4 Akhet 21 in Dendera.

On 4 Akhet 21 the mummy halves are removed from their molds and joined with incense. The funerary cloth is woven. The mummies are then wrapped in a papyrus cord in four places (the knob of the atef crown, the neck, the arms, and legs). Finally the corn mummies are prepared for burial on 4 Akhet 23 when the mummies are covered in 14 amulets, bandaged, and placed in a coffin chaped like Sokar.

The mentioned creation of the corn mummies is how it was done in temples. In the temples the corn mummies were created by the shentayit, a priestess who enacts the role of Aset. We do know the corn mummy mold was made of a precious metal or even an alloy of gold and silver, though clay molds have been discovered as well. It is uncertain how the corn mummies were made amongst laymen, but it is believed by Egyptologist that laymen had access to the resources to make their own. Some excavations have uncovered pits of several corn mummies by the Nile, leading to the theory that sprouting corn mummies at the time of their creating wasn’t important as much as the symbolism or even being sprouted by the Nile waters.

How Does Sokar Play Into All of This, Then?

Sokar is a god who predates Wesir and even exhibits similarr traits. He originally had a festival much like Ka-Her-Ka which was observed on 4 Akhet 26 in Dendera, but eventually merged with Ka-her-Ka. Like the corn mummies Sokar took several days to be formed though of a different composition. The Sokar statuette was formed of soil, resins, oils, and gemstones and faience beginning on 4 Akhet 14 in Dendera. This was annointed, baked, and shaped into Sokar. It was eventually painted with a yellow face, turquoise jaw, and black eyes. A wig of lapis lazuli was placed on its head.

The ritual on 4 Akhet 26 was very simple at Dendera. A procession circled the temple four times. The procession led into the Chamber of Heru where libations were offered. Afterwards the procession returned to the “House of the Divine Mansion”. On 4 Akhet 30 the Sokar statuette was buried in the crypt, thus replacing the previous year’s statuette. The previous year’s statuette along with previous year’s corn mummies were removed from the crypt days prior on 4 Akhet 24. The previous year’s statuettes’ bandages were removed, and the previous year’s Sokar received beaded netting made of lapis lazuli. Along with the corn mummies the statuette was anointed, bandaged, and buried elsewhere on the temple grounds.

I know for an introductory post this is absolutely overwhelming. It’s why I recommend reading the sources I used for this post to get a better grip on the ritual if a formal ritual is desired. Even if the formal ritual isn’t followed it’s great to get a better understanding of the holiday anyway. In the meantime I think the easiest way to observe Ka-her-Ka is through making a corn mummy and a night vigil given what we know the laymen practices. I’d even go as far as to simplify it by only practicing a night vigil. The important thing to remember about this holiday is the passing of the harvest season, and subsequently Wesir and Sokar. Even though they pass now we work to plant the seeds and sow the fields in order to produce a yield next season in whatever way one wishes to understand growing a crop.

Sources

El-Sabban, Sherif. Temple Festival Calendars of Ancient Egypt. Google books.

“Khoiak Festival”. Digital Egypt Online. Web. Retrieved 2009.

Meeks, Dmitri and Christine Farvard-Meeks. Daily Life of the Egyptian Gods. Google books.

Ritner, Robert Kriech. “The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice.” Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization 54 (1993): 59. PDF.

Schulz, Regine. “A Corn Mummy Decoded”. PDF

Teeter, Emily. Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt. New York, Cambridge 2001. Print.

Tooley, Angela M.J. “Osiris Bricks”. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 82 (1996), pp. 167-

179 JSTOR. 2/21/11.


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Craft Friday: Corn Mummy Molds

With the Ka-Her-Ka season upon me I thought about how corn mummies are essential both in temple and layman practice. Given that I’d share how to make a corn mummy mold as corn mummies.  Corn mummies are miniature statuettes made from a combination of sand, wheat, and barley, with soil added to the mix depending on the region.  These mummies were shaped like Wesir and bandaged with linens and finally given a mask and atef crown made of wax.

The sources I found call for the molds to be made out of silver or gold (or both), but there are molds also found made of clay. I am not awesome enough as a goldsmith nor can afford the tools necessary, and I suspect I’m not alone so clay is the media I chose.  If you can get gold-colored oven bake clay I recommend it as it skips painting it.  Plus my paint job is rather embarrassing given I didn’t realize how little gold paint I had.

I’m not making the molds to scale with the corn mummies found in excavations. If you wish to make them to scale the mummies were roughly 17 1/2 inches long, 5 1/4 inches wide, and 5 1/2 inches deep.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • Oven bake clay
  • Gold acrylic paint
  • Toothpick
  • Wax paper
  • Paint brush
  • Cardstock
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Sculpting tools (optional)

1.  Knead the clay until it’s soft and workable. Form two block from the clay.

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2.  Slightly flatten the blocks. Try to keep the blocks identical dimensions so when used they halves will match up.

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3.  Draw an image of the outline of Wesir onto the cardstock. Cut it out. This will serve as a stencil for the molds so they will match up later.

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4.  Place the stencil on the clay and trace with a toothpick. Scoop out some of the clay.

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5.  Poke holes in the sides leading into the mold.  It won’t drain very well, but given the mold is there to shape germinating seeds it seems to be a non issue.

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6.  Bake in the oven as per the instructions. Let cool, then paint.

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When using it remember to line the mold with linen fabric, as this was what was done when making corn mummies.  In Dendera the molds were also covered in reeds when in use.


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Craft Friday: Djed Pillar Scene

In case I haven’t drilled it into my readers’ heads, I really love making craft projects for Kha-her-Ka.  This is a piece I’ve had for a few years, so unfortunately there’s no tutorial for it.  I did, however, pour out more decoupage glue / sealant than I intended, so I tried to use it where I could.

The actual stand is just a one-a-day calendar stand that I modified. I drew Aset and Nebet-het in a position that adores the djed pillar.  I think colored it with acrylic paint and ink.  Sadly, even after all these years the sealant made the ink bleed.

I used the binding as the platform for the djed pillar by cutting it off with a sharp knife, glued cardstock on both sides, then glued it to the parts that originally held the calendar dates.

The newest addition to the display was the border.  I took some papyrus scraps from another project and some ribbon I use to scrapbook.  First I glued down the papyrus scraps over the edges.  I let the papyrus dry before gluing the ribbon pieces down.  After that dried I trimmed to fit and applied the sealant.

In case you were wondering, I didn’t forget the corners.

 

The djed pillar, while a little worn, is actually a piece I’m most proud of.  I keep getting  junk mail for credit card offers so I used this project to vent my frustration via paper-mache.  Yes, I’m fully aware it’s wholly inaccurate.

 

I placed the pillar upright for the purpose of photographing, but I don’t place it upright until the last day of Kha-her-Ka.


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Craft Friday: Djed Pillar Card

I meant to have another tutorial up for today, but time got away from me and it isn’t ready.  Instead I’m going to show a very blurry card I made based off an idea to use paint chip samples I found on pinterest.

 

I’m not showing a step-by-step because all I did was glue some papyrus onto a card (I glued it down and cut around it.  And, yes, I do have papyrus lying around), cut out the shapes from the paint chips, and then glued them on to the papyrus.  After it dried I dipped a q-tip into some gold acrylic paint and rubbed it along the yellow parts of the pillar, which didn’t show up in the photo.  It’s pretty simple and just in time for Kha-Her-Ka.