Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.


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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: 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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Pagan Blog Project: C is for Censer

image

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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Daily Ritual (My Abridged Version)

I originally posted this as a link to an outline on the Daily Morning Ritual from the Temple of Karnak during the 22nd Dynasty.  I thought it was a great outline to share at that time, and I still believe so.

Over time, though, I realized that people may not want to work on plugging in their own wording or look up what was said.  If that’s the case I recommend Richard Reidy’s book Eternal Egypt: Ancient Rituals for the Modern World.  I also realized some folks will feel obligated to follow through every step of the temple ritual.  If you don’t have time, that’s cool.  Based on the aforementioned ritual outline I linked here’s how my morning ritual tends to go.  You can adjust it accordingly.

Preparations

Formula for lighting the fire

Formula for taking the censer

Formula for placing the incense on the flame

Formula for proceeding to the sacred place

Another formula

Opening the shrine

Facing the image – hymns to the deity

Formula for kissing the earth

Formula for placing oneself on one’s stomach

Formula for placing oneself on one’s stomach and stretching out

Formula for kissing the earth, face down

Another formula

Incense

The offering of the goddess personifying What is Right Maat)

Formula for the offering of Maat

Food Offering

Libation

Incense

Reversion of Offerings


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What to Do with Food and Liquid Offerings

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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


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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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A Semi-Nifty Tekh Guide

I originally planned on having this as a few different posts, but I decided to merge them into one, because it makes more sense to have everything covering the basics of the holiday in one post.   Since I originally had these sections as separate posts I decided to leave the respective sources with each section.  As usual this research is mostly introductory and incomplete.  I hope, just the same, it will provide a nice introduction to the holiday and provide more understanding of it.

What is Tekh?

Tekh, a holiday which translates to “drunkenness”, observes the myth of Sekhmet nearly destroying mankind but ceased upon intoxication. In Ancient Egypt Tekh was allegedly celebrated through intoxication in addition to rituals.  In the temple of Dendera the ritual for Tekh spanned five days which included a procession of Het-Hert to the temple roof,  returning back to Her shrine slowly, then the procession of the Dendera Ennead to the temple roof for the ritual of uniting with the sun disc.

The laymen during this time, if they could manage it, would also celebrate.  There are records of drunkenness in the temple so worshipers would get closer to Sekhmet through intoxication.  At the Temple of Mut during Hatsheput’s reign. there was a place devoted to this called “The Porch of Drunkenness”.  This part of the temple, however, was abandoned after her reign and even remodeled to cover all traces of it.  Other, similar observances were practiced throughout Ancient Egypt only without evidence of a reserved space.

Sources

  • Bryan, Betsy M.  “Amenhotep III’s Legacy in the Temple of Mut.”  Offerings to the Discerning Eye: An Egyptological Medley in Honor of Jack A. Josephson.  Ed. Sue D’Auria.  Google Books.  Web.  14 Aug 2013.
  • Guilhou, Nadine, 2010, Myth of the Heavenly Cow. In Jacco Dieleman and Willeke Wendrich (eds.), UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, Los Angeles.  21 Jan 2013
  • el-Sabban, Sherif.  Temple Festival Calendars of Ancient Egypt. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000.  Print.

The Significance of Tekh

The holiday is more than celebrating the salvation of the world from Sekhmet or entering a state of intoxication. The implications of the intoxication have a religious connotation for practitioners as well as a mythical one. Parallels were of important significance in Ancient Egypt and the myth surrounding the holiday serves multiple purposes, especially considering the date on which it falls (20 days after the new year). Tekh holds many implications about the order on a religious and physical level. The myths in turn lend an explanation to natural phenomenon and serve to reflect the cosmic order in the rule of the land. Ultimately Tekh serves as an explanation for the hierarchical arrangements and natural phenomenon.

One of the outstanding elements of Tekh is the explanation of the current order of the universe and ruling class. The holiday not only marks the restructuring of the world—namely the heavens, the earth, and the duat—but it also establishes the restructuring of how the gods rule. Even though Ra is still perceived as a powerful ruler His ascension into heaven indicates a need to restructure the hierarchical ruling order. In this restructuring where Ra once ruled everything now gods are assigned certain roles, such as Nut reigns over the sky while Geb rules the earth.. The redistribution of rule from one god to many gods implies a need to destroy the current order for the purpose of creating a new order, for which Sekhmet’s rampage served as a vehicle. The need for a new order is reflected in one of the rituals in The Heavenly Cow where the king ascends to heaven as Ra did. Not only does the ritual reenact Ra’s ascension for the sake of the king’s heavenly ascension but it also establishes the creation of different realms.

This new cosmic order affected the earthly realm in the sense of establishing rule over mankind.  Ra’s restructure of the cosmic order affected how mankind structured its government. The government restructure manifests in one form as the parallels of the vizier and Djehuty. Nadine Guilhou notes how Djehuty takes His role of vizier and association with the moon during the rearrangement of the cosmos. Ra, on the other hand, still ultimately rules the day and retains solar associations. It’s because of this solar attribute Ra is able to bestow Djehuty His power and role. Djehuty is appointed not only as the one to serve in Ra’s place while He is away, but also as the light during the nighttime. The direct celestial-nobility connection demonstrates the metaphorical rule of a vizier as one like Djehuty’s: rule as the moon “rules” over the night, the vizier rules in the king’s absence. In addition to acquiring some of His power from Ra, there are implications Ra created Djehuty’s authority based on the puns in how baboon and ibis sound much like calling upon the primordial gods and protection from foreigners. The implication of Djehuty’s role serves as one example of the new order in that it enforces the god’s ability to act on behalf of Ra. Not only does the holiday mark the establishment of the reign of the gods, it also establishes the legitimacy of the king’s reign as well as the legitimacy of the vizier’s role.

There is also the parallel of the myth and natural phenomenon during this time of the year. There are relevant similarities between the timing of Tekh and the narrative. Tekh usually happens around the Gregorian calendar’s hottest part of the summer, the “dog days of summer”, which also coincides with the rising of Sirius (a marker of the new year). The “heat” of Sekhmet’s wrath, a wrath which devastates mankind, parallels the crop-withering heat and deaths from dehydration and diseases that thrive in such a climate. Even though most of the slaying in that respect also contains a following of demons the parallel is still noted.  Despite the dangers of illness and various maladies another even occurred which brought something more positive. According to Guilhou, the inundation also brought waters enriched with iron, namely hematite, which gives the water its red color. It’s not difficult to conclude there’s a correlation between a river of red water and the myth of Sekhmet. Despite the water’s color there’s a positive correlation between this event and agriculture. Much of winemaking—as with all crops at the time—depended on the Nile flood to provide enough grapes, as Mu-Chou Poo also asserts the connection of the red waters of the Nile and the tale of Sekhmet. Her actions also imply other earthly aspects.

The holiday possibly celebrates an aspect of human nature as well. The holiday may serve an element that explains the nature of man’s wrongdoing and free will. Guilhou interpreted the story of Sekhmet asserts evil originates from man as opposed to the gods. Mankind planned to attack Ra first, and Ra responded by sending out Sekhmet. It is because of the initial plot by man the gods separate Themselves from mankind in order to place distance between Them and wickedness. André de Campos Silva believes this distance from the evil acts of humans, at least from the possible view of Ptahhotep, provided the gods more ability to vanquish evil. In that sense evil cannot prevail by this philosophy since evil does not originate from the gods. It also implies mankind chooses to act in evil ways and work separately from the gods, as manifested in Their departure. Regardless of how man punishes itself for wrongdoing, the gods will punish for the transgressions as it’s an act against Them. In the Old Kingdom some of this line blurred given the nature of punishment by the king. Everything event or action parallels.

Tekh serves as a holiday to explain not only the divine order but earthly order. This earthly order manifests as natural phenomena, governmental structure, as well as explain some attributes of human nature. Ultimately Tekh serves as a reminder of the structure in its current state as a result of human actions on a mythical level. It also reminds the Ancient Egyptians how the government hierarchy is sound as it directly reflects the divine hierarchy. Tekh also serves as a mythical explanation for a natural iron deposit delivered during the Nile floods. All of these elements reflect each other in a way the Ancient Egyptians understood as indicative of order.

Sources

  • de Campos Silva, André, 2010, The Status of Free Will in Ancient Egypt’s Old And Middle Kingdoms According to the Instruction of Ptahhotep. Mestrado em História Antiga (Egiptologia), Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon.  Web.  21 Jan 2013
  • Guilhou, Nadine, 2010, Myth of the Heavenly Cow. In Jacco Dieleman and Willeke Wendrich (eds.), UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, Los Angeles.  21 Jan 2013
  • Poo, Mu-chou, 2010, Liquids in Temple Ritual. In Willeke Wendrich (ed.), UCLA Encyclopedia of  Egyptology, Los Angeles.   21 Jan 2013
  • “THE BOOK OF THE HEAVENLY COW”. The Literature of Ancient Egypt. Ed. Lisa Simpson.  Web.  21 Jan 2013
  • Stadler, Martin A., 2012, Thoth. In Jacco Dieleman, Willeke Wendrich (eds.), UCLA Encyclopedia of  Egyptology, Los Angeles.  21 Jan 2013

Celebrating Tekh

I will speak about how Tekh was celebrated from a historical basis.  I am not endorsing one try these methods to celebrate Tekh.  There are other ways to induce a trance state which do not include alcohol or drugs.  If one wishes to induce a trance state to celebrate Tekh, I recommend meditation or using music alone or in combination with meditation as a safer method.  There are other methods also recommended in this section which do not require intoxication to induce trance.

This is a festival about intoxication on a surface level. Some believe this is easily accessed with alcohol and drugs, namely the blue lotus blossom infused in wine. It is believed the blossom and root of  the blue lotus has a narcotic effect which includes euphoria, blurred vision, hallucinating, “vivid dreams”, and deep sleep. According to speculation this concoction would be drunk through a straw with a strainer in a cup.   Kasia Szpakowska and others contest the verity of narcotic consumption in this manner, let alone its consumption, since tests performed on the alleged paraphernalia have yet to produce a trace of narcotics of any sort. However I suspect if it wasn’t used to intoxicate the lily could have been ingested for a symbolic purpose given it’s an icon for euphoria, a point on which Szpakowska supports.

Another questionable method of intoxication consists of mandrake use. Just like the blue lotus the mandrake is shown in various offering scenes, often alongside the blue lotus, and depicted on cups. One source asserts  Het-Hert drank beer infused with mandrake in the story of Her destruction of mankind, though other translations do not mention mandrake. As with the blue lotus there’s lacking evidence of mandrake’s recreational use.

Intoxication, both literal and figurative, is achieved through other means. Het-Hert is also a goddess of dance, and these holidays are known for it. Worship of Het-Hert also consisted of general jubilation as She is associated with joy. Drunkenness did occur during this festival, as did all festivals dedicated to Het-Hert, but everything combined to form a state of ecstasy. There is also the altered state of drowsiness which results from inebriation. What seems to distinguish spiritual inebriation from profane inebriation is the purpose. Since the intoxication served as a connection with the gods (or a goddess in this case) and not solely for personal reasons the Ancient Egyptians didn’t take exception, a unique feature since drunkenness was socially unacceptable .

There’s circumstantial evidence that Het-Hert was approached in dreams or a dream-like state dating from the New Kingdom. It appears these states were entered with the help of intoxication. Moreover it seems encountering Het-Hert in a dream wasn’t exactly planned either. She appeared spontaneously, though the festivities at night seem to act as a possible vigil for Her.

Sources

  • Assmann, Jan. The Search for God in Ancient Egypt.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001.
  • Emboden, Jr., William A. “Sacred Narcotic Water Lily of the Nile: Nymphaea caerulea Sav.” Economic Botany, 33(1) (1979), pp. 395-407. Web. 21 Jan. 2013.
  • Pinch, Geraldine. Handbook of Egyptian Mythology.  Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2002.
  • Szpakowska, Kasia. “Altered States: An inquiry into the Possible Use of Narcotics or Alcohol to Induce Dreams in Pharaonic Egypt”. Occasional Volume of the Egyptologists’ Electronic Forum , 1, 2003, 225-237.


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The Epagomenoi: The Birth of Nebet-Het

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The final epagomenal day marks the birth of Nebet-Het, the youngest child of Nut and Geb. Most of this post is introductory and will focus on the practices of Edfu and Dendera during the Ptolemaic period. Despite this I tried to include some trivia and a bit of an explanation of the significance of the holiday. It is in no way complete.

In the Leyden I papyrus the day is called, ‘the child in the nest’ according to Spalinger, and the name of the day isn’t too different in the Leyden II papyrus. This is also the name mentioned in the Cairo Calendar. There is another manuscript which refers to this day as, “the pure AbDw-fish in the front of the barque of Ra”. However from the New Kingdom onward the former name of “child in the nest” is used. Much of this seems to be due to the emphasis on Aset’s ties to Sirius and thus more emphasis on the fourth epagomenal day as opposed to this day. Aset in later periods became more significant of an epagomenal day due to Her later associations with Sopdet, Who is the personification of Sirius. Since Sopdet was tied to the inundation of the new year more emphasis was place on Aset and the transference of Egypt to Wesir.

In Edfu there is a feast and the ambiguous instruction of “all rituals are performed”. The calendar for Het-Hert of the same temple is of little help as enough of the text is preserved to infer there is a feast. I personally repeat the ritual from the birth of Aset based on mostly a hunch and how they two days are treated interchangeably.

Modern Kemeticists like to say a prayer on this day while lighting a candle. While the translation provided from the Cairo Calendar is questionable, it provides some groundwork for anyone who’d like to practice it:

O Nephthys, daughter of Nut,

sister of Seth, she whose father

sees a healthy daughter…I

am the divine power in the

womb of my mother Nut. The

name of this day is The Child

Who is in his Nest.

Sources:

Brier, Bob. Ancient Egyptian Magic. New York: Quill, 1981. Print.

van Bomhard, A.S. The Egyptian Calendar: a Work for Eternity. London: Periplus, 1999. Print.

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

Spalinger, Anthony. “Some Remarks on the Epagomenal Days in Ancient Egypt”. Journal of Near Eastern Studies 54.1(1995): 33-47. JSTOR.


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The Epagomenoi: The Birth of Aset

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The fourth epagomenal day marks the birth of Aset, the eldest daughter and fourth child of Nut and Geb. Most of this post is introductory and will focus on the practices of Edfu and Dendera during the Ptolemaic period. Despite this I tried to include some trivia and a bit of an explanation of the significance of the holiday. It is in no way a complete resource.

The epitaph for this day is puzzling because of an issue with the name of this holiday. In the Leyden I papyrus the day is called, “Sobek, great of…”. Sadly much can only be surmised due to the damage of the papyrus. Spalinger notes in the Leyden II papyrus the day was called, ‘the pure one in the field’, though this is possibly an attempt to parallel the holiday back with Wesir (more on this in a moment). The Cairo Calendar calls the day, “the one who makes terror”. Some contention about this day arises from the discrepancies found in some calendars about the recording epagomenal days ending on this day. There is little record following about the fifth day since the records stop here. This day, like the day of Nebet-Het, is also called “the child in the nest”, though the changing of dates may be due to Aset’s association with Sirius.

As suggested in the post about Wesir’s birth, it may be something of a parallel to the couple astronomically as well as mythologically. The constellation Sah’s not only associated with Wesir but with the end of a year cycle. In associating Aset with Sopdet (Sirius) the associations with the new year arise in a different light. Spalding notes that Wesir is tied to the new year through the revival concept as well as Aset in the form of Sopdet passing along Her ownership of Egypt to Wesir. In this sense He also plays a role in the revival of Egypt as well as the revival of the year. We see this reflected in not only in Aset’s epitaph referring to Wesir’s epitaph on His birthday, but as noted in the syncretizing of Sopdet and Sah with Aset and Wesir respectively. Since Aset and Wesir must bring in the new year the emphasis on focusing on the fourth epagomenal day as opposed to the fifth makes more sense. While Spalding dismisses Leyden II on the count that the text seems too distorted to be of any worth, I feel the astronomical and mythical parallels are too big to ignore.

In Dendera, a procession and feast took place in honor of Aset the night before. Other temples had additional rituals, such as the possibility of dedicating the temple to Aset in Philae. In Edfu there is a procession which leads to the “Place of the First Feast” where, alongside Ra, purifications are performed as well the robing ceremony. The procession then moves to the Mesenet-chapel for the night. The Het-Hert calendar of Edfu adds the “festival of the revealing of the face”. It also specifies offerings of fowl, bovine, milk, and wine.

Modern Kemeticists like to say a prayer on this day while lighting a candle. While the translation provided from the Cairo Calendar is questionable, it provides some groundwork for anyone who’d like to practice it:

O this Isis, daughter of Nut, the

eldest, mistress of magic,

provider of the book, mistress

who appeases the two lords,

her face is glorious. I am the

brother and the sister. The

name of this day is He Who

Makes Terror.

Sources:

Brier, Bob. Ancient Egyptian Magic. New York: Quill, 1981. Print.

van Bomhard, A.S. The Egyptian Calendar: a Work for Eternity. London: Periplus, 1999. Print.

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

Spalinger, Anthony. “Some Remarks on the Epagomenal Days in Ancient Egypt”. Journal of Near Eastern Studies 54.1(1995): 33-47. JSTOR.


2 Comments

The Epagomenoi: the Birth of Heru-Wr

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The second epagomenal day marks the birth of Heru-Wr, the second eldest child of Nut and Geb. Most of this post is introductory and will focus on the practices of Edfu and Dendera temples during the Ptolemaic period. In that light the information will be more focused on the practices which are possibly more Hellenized than other periods. Despite this I tried to include some trivia and a bit of an explanation of the significance of the holiday. It is in no way complete.

The name for the birth of Heru-Wr is interesting. There are a few variants as to what this day was called. In the Leyden I papryus the day was called, ‘Who bails without His oar’. It’s called in Leyden II, ‘Who sails in the pool of the alty canal’ according to Anthony Spalinger. Spalinger notes the day is called, “it is the strong of heart” in the Cairo Calendar. Yet another manuscript about the epagomenal days calls it a “pure bull in his field”. There are a couple of ideas as to why there are so many different epithets for this day. One is the possibility of a scribal error like the aHA-fish in a pool attribution to Wesir. Spalding hypothesizes, on the other hand, the interchangeability may have more to do with later associations with Wesir as opposed to Heru-Wr.

The celebration of this holiday is fairly elaborate in the temples compared to information available of the other epagomenal days. The temple in Edfu focused on not only the robing ceremony like the birth of Wesir, but also notes how the daily rites are performed. Het-Hert also had a procession in Edfu where She’d stop in Her shrine, later resting in “the Palace” for the evening. There isn’t any record available to me about how this day was observed, if it was observed at all, in Dendera.

Modern Kemeticists like to say a prayer on this day while lighting a candle. While the translation provided from the Cairo Calendar is questionable, it provides some groundwork for anyone who’d like to practice it:

O Horus of Letopolis…The

name of this day is Powerful is

the Heart.

Sources:

Brier, Bob. Ancient Egyptian Magic. New York: Quill, 1981. Print.

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

Spalinger, Anthony. “Some Remarks on the Epagomenal Days in Ancient Egypt”. Journal of Near Eastern Studies 54.1(1995): 33-47. JSTOR.