Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.


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PBP: E is for Egg

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

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

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

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

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PBP: D Is for Death (My Best Friend)

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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Pagan Blog Project: C is for Censer

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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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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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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So…I’m Back…Kinda

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


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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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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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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.