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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Festival of the Beautiful Union: Preparations

Despite the beginning of the holiday beginning on the new moon in the third month of Shomu preparations for The Festival of the Beautiful Union began in the second month of Shomu.

In Dendera there were two weeks of preparing for the ritual. During this time several rituals were performed, many of which repeat throughout the festival. The first of such festivals is the Offering of the First Fruits. Offerings from the fields were presented to Het-Hert. It seems there were some connections to the myth of Aset mourning the death of Wesir, as the offerings were presented by mourners before Aset and lamentations sung.

Another ritual practiced during this time is the Driving of Cattle ritual. Cattle are driven around the primordial hill four times while dragging ritual chests. Even though the main idea of the ritual is self-explanatory there are certain specifics. One source states cattle and donkeys are driven. Another source states that four cattle –one red, one spotted, one white, and one black, but all calves –are required. It is agreed, though, the cattle are driven around the primordial mound while pushing wheat into the ground. This is possibly a reference to Ka-her-Ka where Wesir’s effigy is made with sprouting wheat and clay. If so it serves to further the element of regeneration during the holiday.

After these rituals were performed the priests prepared a barque to sail towards Edfu. This journey had its own rituals and entourage, which will be covered in the next post.

Sources
The Festival of the Beautiful Reunion.” Asetmeri, n.d.Retrieved from http://www.philae.nu/

akhet/BeautReun.html.(dead link).

Coppens, Filip. “Temple Festivals of the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods”. In Jacco Dieleman

and Willeke Wendrich (eds.),UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology Jan 2009. eScholarship.

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

Lloyd, Alan B. A Companion to Ancient Egypt. Google Books.

Ritner, Robert Kriech. “The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice.” Studies in

Ancient Oriental Civilization  54 (1993): 59. PDF.

Wilkinson, J. Gardner. The Ancient Egyptians: Their Life and Customs. New York: Bonanza

Books, 1988. Print.


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PBP: F is for Flame

I read once that flames were part of the offering in Kemetic rituals. I’m not sure how much I believe it, but I can certainly see why the person asserted that about flames. Harold H. Nelson mentioned how a torch was listed in the offerings given my Thutmose III for Ptah in Karnak. Besides mentioned in the offerings of one king there are other things to consider why someone would consider flame as part of the ritual offering. Flame not only has direct ties to ritual significance, but also religious implications.

Fire is an important element in Kemetic ritual. Flames open up Kemetic rituals. There are formulas for lighting lamps (or candles for most modern Kemeticists) and extinguishing them after rituals, assuring the flame will still exist for the deity. The practical element of having flame in ritual is apparent given the darkness in some areas of the temple, which has symbolism in its own right. The flame, as with many elements in Kemetic ritual, also shares a symbolic element. In one translation of the flame being extinguished the flame is paralleled with the Eye of Heru as well as the Ra’s death and rebirth in the form of the sunset. In this respect not only is the flame “kept alive” but it is also associated with the light of a deity. Fire served another purpose besides a lighting element.

Outside of lighting purposes fire plays an important role in rituals. Flame is mentioned in the formula for lighting the incense. In one formula for incense (Utterance 269 of the Pyramid Texts, R.O Faulkner’s translation) the flame is mentioned as kindled before the incense is even said to be burned. While this is obvious as to the importance of flame in incense it also hints to the connection between the flame and its sacredness in ritual. In the rituals of Amenhotep there a few connections made with fire set up for a brazier and the spit roast in connection to Heru or the Eye of Heru. The formulas for the two not only connect to the Eye of Heru, but to other deities and even the king. The possible connection to flame with the Eye of Heru further enforces not only the practicality of including the flame in ritual, but its significance to the gods. As mentioned with the flame in connection to lighting with the Eye of Heru providing the light within a deity, the Eye of Heru in this instance provides nourishment and life to the gods. In turn the gods are able to provide these necessities for their followers.

Flame when connected to the gods serves as a practical as well as religious significance in Kemetic ritual. It was a way of ensuring the gods provided vital necessities to the followers by providing for Them. Part of that is accomplished by relating the flame to a deity or the Eye of Heru, while another part places emphasis on the flame in terms of how it provides for the gods.


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PBP: 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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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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Craft Friday: Stellar Menat

I sat down to relax and finish a few projects.  One project I had on the back burner for too long was a very delicate menat I’m using for a ritual.  Here’s what it looks like:

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I used all glass beads except for the stars.   I dubbed it the “Stellar Menat” because it has this celestial feel based on how I designed it.  Apart from the star beads I based the strand design off of the necklace design which holds the Silver Crystal from the manga version of Sailor Moon.  The reason I held back on finishing it was because I hadn’t found the right pendant.  I found that about a month ago at a craft store, and it’s the perfect size for my hand.  Since my menat is too delicate for everyday use I’m confining it only to rituals.

If you’d like to learn how to make your own menat, or even learn more about them, follow this link to my tutorial.


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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.