Category Archives: kemetic

Sekhmet: The Beauty and the Terror

Many years ago, 1996 to be exact, through my devotion to Sekhmet, I put together the Ancient Egyptian Virtual Temple on my ISP’s provided web space.  Since that time, I have switched providers and the website has moved on to be housed on another site. Because of limited capabilities of that site now and outdated web coding, I am posting it on this blog page.  Please bear in mind it is a work in progress, but for me it will always be a complete labor of love.   This was and is a small taste of what I intend to create for my book, “Sekhmet the Beauty and the Terror”, which is due to be released November 1st.

Her very Name means “She Who Is Powerful“. Sekhmet personifies the aggressive aspects of the female forms of Netjer and acted as the consort to Ptah. However, it is believed that Sekhmet’s worship pre-dates that of Ptah by at least several hundred years.

Sekhmet is usually portrayed as a woman with the head of a lioness, but as the Daughter of Ra. Sekhmet is closely linked to the Uraeus (Buto or Wadjyt) in Her role as the fire-breathing, ‘Eye of Ra’. The pyramid texts themselves mention that the King or Pharaoh was conceived by Sekhmet, Herself.

Sekhmet is one of the oldest known forms of Netjer in Egyptian history. She the ‘patron’ of the Physicians, Physician-Priests and Healers. Because She is one of the most powerful of all the Names of Netjer, (Her name literally translated means “Mighty One”, or “Powerful One”). Her Name is derived from the Egyptian word ‘Sekhem’, which means “power” or “might”. The word sekhem’ is literally inseperable from Sekhmet and Her worship. Because of these facts, She is often times misunderstood and portrayed only in a negative way This is probably because of legends of how Sekhmet, as the destructive Eye of Ra was sent forth to punish humanity for its mockery of Her Father, Ra. The myth of Sekhmet’s Creation explains how Sekhmet came into being from Het-Hert (Hathor).

But in spite of the fact that She is sometimes ‘destructive’, Her qualities as Healer, Mother and Protector are often overlooked. In the realm of Ancient Egyptian Medicine, almost all healers and surgeons of Ancient Kemet would most certainly have fallen under Sekhmet’s jurisdiction.

The chief cult centre of the Memphite Triad was located at Memphis.  This triad of deities was composed of Ptah, Sekhmet and Nefertum.  Sekhmet, however, in spite of her fearful reputation, had temples in several other areas as well. A sanctuary was built in Abusir where some images go back as far as the 5th Dynasty.   Because of her synchretization with other deities such as Bast, Mut, And Sekhmet-Bast-Ra, there were other shrines and cult centres as well.  Sekhmet is also mentioned quite profusely at the cult centre of Kom Ombo, which is sacred to the crocodile god, Sobek. At Kom el- Hisn in the western Delta, there is a temple that is dedicated to Sekhmet-Hathor. Sekhmet is invoked alongside Hathor at Hathor’s main temple located at Dier el Bahari, known in the earliest times as Iunu.

Today, there is no temple still in existence that is dedicated solely to Sekhmet and open to the public with the exception of the one which is located in Cactus Springs, Nevada, located a short distance from Las Vegas. There are, however, countless shrines in private homes and temples throughout the world that are dedicated to Sekhmet. In a way, this is most appropriate since in antiquity, it was the norm for homes to have shrines dedicated to personal and patron gods.

Sekhmet was worshiped throughout Egypt, particularly wherever a wadi opened out at the desert edges. This is the type of terrain that lions are often found. Many of them having come from the desert in order to drink and to prey upon cattle in the area. It is said that Her worship was possibly introduced into Egypt from the Sudan, because lions are more plentiful there. Sekhmet’s main cult center was located in Memphis, also known by its ancient name of Men-nefer,  were central to Sekhmet’s worship until the shift in power that moved the capital to Waset or Thebes during the New Kingdom (1550- 1069 BC).  It was at this time that the Theban Triad, made up of Amun, Mut (Amaunet), and Khonsu, caused Sekhmet’s attributes were absorbed into those of Mut.

This meant that Sekhmet was increasingly represented as an aggressive manifestation of Mut and the Two Goddesses, along with HetHert (Hathor) and Bast were often synchretized. Mut-Sekhmet was the protectoress.  She was the Wife of the King of the Gods, Who also was incarnate through the person of the Pharaoh. Within the Mut Precincts were found large numbers of statues of the lioness-goddess which were erected by Amenhotep III (1390 – 1352 BC) both in the Temple of Mut at Karnak and also at his mortuary temple which was located in Western Thebes.  It is estimated that there were perhaps more than 700 statues of the leonine goddess that were located at the Mut Precincts.

NiankhSekhmet

Stele No. 1482 in the Cairo Museum, a false door from the tomb of Chief Physician to Pharaoh, NiankhSekhmet.

Sekhmet & Her Function

Sekhmet’s action is always the right, or ‘appropriate action’. When She destroys it is an appropriate destruction or vengence. It is never chaotic or random. It is always what is needed at the time. Even though Sekhmet is not intimately linked with the aspect of destruction, as  Set is, She removes threats and punishes those who do wrong against Ma’at.

The formal rite of ‘appeasing Sekhmet’ was performed mainly by her priests in order to prevent or combat outbreaks of illness. The ‘Seven arrows of Sekhmet’ were especially to be feared and the rites for thwarting them were of primary importance.  Truly, there is a seemingly endless array of both spells and charms that the ancients used as protection against Sekhmet’s wrath, as well as that of her messengers and demons.

Customs During the New Year

In antiquity, and today among the adherents of the Egyptian religion, Wep Ronpet is the time of year when gifts are exchanged, much in the same way that Christmas gifts might be exchanged.  In ancient times, the Egyptians  would sometimes exchange amulets of Sekhmet in order to pacify the goddess and keep her wrath away, but also one of the key deities invoked in the destruction of Apep, the essence or representation of the uncreated. Sekhmet, along with Set and others among the company of the Netjeru, worked together to overcome this foe.  Over the many centuries of Egypt’s history, these rites were not considered optional but absolutely essential to the continuation of the stability of the Two Lands of Egypt.  Once the aforementioned rites were performed by the priests and the King, the cycle of Ma’at  within the Two Lands could continue.

Coronation

Traditionally, there were 14 days in total for the ritual of the New Year, which also, by necessity included a (re-)coronation of the Pharaoh. At each new year,  the priesthood and the Great Royal wife in her role as Goddess, would reinvested him with the protections of the solar goddesses. This set of rites corresponded with the heliacal rising of Sirius (Sothis) and the rising waters of the Nile. Depending on how this annual flood was, determined how effectively the greening of the Nile Valley would be. This would ensure the rebirth of Osiris and the triumph over the red lands of Set, which were like the dry desert that encroached and parched nearly everything.   This was when Sekhmet’s rage was in its full fury.  Only the return of the  rising waters of the Nile would ensure that Sekhmet’s thirst and desire for vengeance would be appeased.  This appeasement was absolutely crucial. According to egyptologist, Barbara A. Richter in her book, “The Theology of Hathor of Dendera.”  the pacification of the goddess;  “…relates to the cycle of the innundation, when the goddess Sekhmet, who brought disease when the Nile was the lowest, needed to be appeased.” (Richter)

State rituals involving Sekhmet were particularly important at Wep Ronpet. To the ancients, the main purpose of these annual tituals was to insure that the new year was in no way contaminated by any potential calamity of the year that was just ending. It is through these rites that the beneficence of the gods would ensure the proper eralignment of the seen and the unseen worlds and therefore uphold Zep Tepi,  which is translated as ‘the First Time’, or ‘The Beginning’ or ‘The Source’.   The other is the continuance of Ma’at, which is the balance of all that is right within Creation, community and ensures the order of a good and balanced life.

The two most important rituals in the manifold rites that were done  during this time involved Sekhmet  It is important to note that the term iadet, or “pestilence,” which is associated with Sekhmet, is a very broad term, and is identical to a word meaning, “net,” which is often used within spells pertaining to the soul.  These are intended to protect the spirit from becoming ensnared and trap the deceased in such snares..  An example of this can be found in the Coffin Texts 473-481 (Faulkner)

Within the Rite of the Turning Back the Enemies of Ra, tnets are  also thrown over Apep(Apophis), or the Uncreated One, so that it, too, could be ultimately destroyed – or at least for the course of that year.

Sekhmet and her other, more benevolent side, Hathor, serve an important function in conjunction with each other.  The Two Lands and the king are indeed one, and what befalls one, will almost assuredly befall the other.

“Son of Ptah. whom Sekhmet has born,”  “Son of Amun, whom Mut has born,”  and “the Image of Ra,” are all titles bestowed upon the king and are repeated upon the Golden Shrine of Tutankhamun and these were later incorporated into the coronation rites of the king each year at the rite of the new year from the reign of Tutankhamun and into the  19th Dynasty through the Greco-Roman period.

The two sides of the goddess, one raging and the other beneficent, underscores the idea that Sekhmet and Hathor are inextricably linked.  Modern, self-described ‘hard polytheists’ may resist the idea of this.  However, the evidence is overwhelmingly established toward a sort of polyvalency by the ancients that is difficult to refute.

The entire company of Eye of Ra Goddesses, Sekhmet in particular, becomes a symbol of the pharaoh’s desire for his own unvanquishable heroism in battle. It’s Sekhmet who breathes fire against the foes of the King.  This is clearly shown in the inscriptions and stelae depicting Ramesses II.  Sekhmet is seen on the horses of the pharaoh’s own chariot,  her flames are shown scorching the bodies of the enemy soldiers who are trampled beneath him.  All of the pharaoh’s enemies can be seen falling to Sekhmet’s righteous fury and her protections that surround the King. and her most effective protections of the King.

Scene from the Golden Shrine of TutankhAmun

The Queen as the Personification of the Eye of Ra

Egyptologist Alison Roberts in her book, “Golden Shrine, Goddess Queen: Egypt’s Annointing Mysteries” succinctly puts forth the idea that the Eye of Ra, whether appearing as Sekhmet or Hathor, comes together in the person of the Queen or Great Royal Wife.

‘It is within the person of the Queen, or more specifically, the Great Royal Wife of the King that the two aspects of the Eye goddesses becomes personified. This can clearly be seen in the golden shrine found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. On each of the sides of the shrine are shown various scenes, not just mere slices of an idyllic life of royals, but representative of symbolic function s of the king and Queen – the king being the land, the Queen being the Eye of Ra that nourishes and protects him and in turn the Two Lands as well ‘ – (Roberts)

The only one who divorced himself from this ideal of the Queen as the Eye of Ra was Amunhotep IV, who was later known as Akhenaten.  During his 17-year reign, Akhenaten completely turned his back on all of the Eye Goddesses, feeling that they were unnecessary within the cult of the Aten. After Akhenaten’s death, and under the rule of Tutankhamun, this slight afainst all of the other gods including the other 70+ forms of Ra and his Eye, were quickly redressed.  The boy king expended a great deal of  effort in order to re-establish the previous forms of worship and the Eye goddesses that made it possible for the balance of life in the Two Lands to continue.

Sekhmet’s Worship Today

Sekhmet’s worship has blossomed in ways that few of us could have even imagined as little as 25 -30 years ago.  It was in the Spring of 1992 that Sekhmet grabbed me by my lapels and let me know in no uncertain terms that I was being claimed by Her. There are now several books that are either solely about, or mention Sekhmet in profusion. Once again, She has become an important figure in the collective mythology. Whether or not someone believes in Sekhmet as a literal entity or energy, or merely an anthropomorphic archetype, or perhaps something in between is unimportant.  The truth is that today, Sekhmet is far better understood  in terms of who she is historically and who She has become for the many who simply want to get to know her better.

I confess, I am not one who is much for fluff, especially when it comes to Sekhmet and Her true nature. It’s unfortunate that people, authors, in particular, feel the need to “dumb down” any deity.  Alas, with the embrace of Sekhmet by many in the New Age, there has been the idea of practically turning Sekhmet into an extra-large fluffy housecat who is there to be a “buddy” no matter what.   Those of us who have made a lifelong commitment to Sekhmet know that there is a motherliness about Her,  she is definitely a tough-love type of ‘Parent’ rather than one with a tendency toward indulgence or downright mollycoddling.  The following is a passage that really struck me on the score of not softening Sekhmet too much:

“The profound and un settling concept of a great being who was simultaneously ‘kindly’ and ‘savage’ usually proves too strong for modern folk, often New Agers who follow their own form of neo-paganism. (Pan becomes a sort of bar-room decadent while the old uncompromising destroyers such as Sekhmet transmogrify into solicitous friendly figures, almost furry pets.While few would want their home town to be laid to waste by a ferocious lioness-headed goddess breathing fire, the cuddly modern version is so inauthentic it would be unrecognisable to her ancient devotees.” (Picknett)
There is no doubt in my mind that Sekhmet is wonderful in terms of empowerment for her devotees.  In terms of function, women and children especially will find no stauncher ally than Sekhmet. If you want to get on Sekhmet’s bad side quickly, be unjust, dishonest or harm the innocent. Standing up and protecting those who need protection has been a part of Sekhmet’s function from antiquity onward.  All of that is essential to the conquering of isfet or willful wrong-doing and the upholding of Ma’at.

 

Resources

Borghouts, J. F. Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts. Leiden: Brill, 1978. Print.

Germond, Philippe. Sekhmet Et La Protection Du Monde. Genève: Editions De Belles-Lettres, 1981. Print.

Masters, Robert E. L. The Goddess Sekhmet: Psychospiritual Exercises of the Fifth Way. St. Paul, Minn., U.S.A.: Llewellyn, 1990. Print.

Meeks, Dimitri, and Christine Favard-Meeks. Daily Life of the Egyptian Gods. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1996. Print.

O’Connor, David. Amenhotep III: Perspectives on His Reign. N.p.: U of Michigan, 2001. Print.

Paul, Christina L., The Ancient Egyptian Virtual Temple, “Sekhmet.” Sekhmet. PanHistoria, 01 May 1996. Web.

Picknett, Lynn. “The Secret History of Lucifer”. London: Constable & Robinson, 2005. p. 54. Print.

Richter, Barbara A. The Theology of Hathor of Dendera: Aural and Visual Scribal Techniques in the Per-Wer Sanctuary. Atlanta, GA: Lockwood, 2016. Print.

Ritner, Robert K. The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice. Chicago: U of Chicago, 1993. Print.

Roberts, Alison. Golden Shrine, Goddess Queen: Egypt’s Anointing Mysteries. Rottingdean, East Sussex: NorthGate, 2008. Print.

Shaw, Ian, and Paul T. Nicholson. The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995. Print.

Siuda, Tamara. “Sekhmet’s Creation.” Per-Bast.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2017.

Wit, Constant De. Le Rôle Et Le Sens Du Lion Dans L’Égypte Ancienne. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1951. Print.

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Filed under kemetic, sekhmet

Guilt by Association

metmuseum5a1The adage that we are known by the company we keep probably is very true within the Kemetic Community – perhaps even doubly so. It has become frustrating and disheartening to be judged by people whom you don’t know, who don’t know you, or your specific religious path – nor do they care really! For someone to offhandedly decide that you are not with the “in crowd” or that somehow, will pronounce that not to be of a certain religious affiliation, or sect will deem you unworthy to be given the time of day. Some of course, fear recruitment or being indoctrinated into some sort of cult based on internet rumours that they may or may not have heard.

I am Kemetic. I was trained and ordained as a Kemetic Orthodox Priestess of Sekhmet/HetHert in 1998. I stepped down a couple of years ago by choice, or as one internet website geared toward atheists said, “I retired.” I kind of laugh at that. One does *not* retire from Sekhmet’s service. Your service may change, but it is absolutely for life! At any rate, my reasons, initially, were because I was attending college full time and could not give the level of service required. My situation has changed a bit, and so now my reasons of not wanting to return to it again are deeply personal. I can and will say quite clearly that it was not because of any rift with the Temple, or disagreement between myself and any of the membership. I have been listening to Sekhmet’s call and it has been specific and in a direction by necessity. That doesn’t make anyone bad or wrong. It just makes it a different route that I have chosen to take.

All of us must by necessity approach our spiritual life on a personal level. We may choose to join or Initiate in a specific sect, temple or path, but ultimately, only we as individuals can decide when to move on. Each of us, who are Kemetic, have personal rites. Sometimes this entails a daily practice that follows a formal outlined structure, such as that which is outlined at the Temple of Horus at Edfu. While at other times a practitioner may choose something more fluid, eclectic or non-traditional. Each is a valid structure and approach to the connection to the Netjeru.

That being said, the only things that become annoying are those who insist on the belief of either a maddeningly absurd UPG-type of approach, or those who cannot and will not move outside the formal scholarly sanctioned type of practice. I have found by direct experience that there are deep pitfalls within each extreme and either can be deleterious for spiritual understanding or growth. Egyptology does *not* know everything. Conversely, I have seen so many ridiculous, crackpot theories that should never have made it outside of one’s own personal headspace, let alone made it into print for others to try to decipher.

One extreme, that of the scholarly community only, and especially within Egyptology’s ranks, often eschews and ostracizes those who “actually believe in any of this stuff”. In some place it becomes so much of an issue that those who have made it into those hallowed halls of the scholarly ranks take great pains to either conceal, downplay or flat-out deny that they actually do worship the old gods. These individuals dare not speak of it or it may cost them their entire career or get them passed over for any future projects because their beliefs are not considered “objective enough”. I personally know of several tenured professors or professional Egyptologists who by necessity are very guarded about their personal beliefs. I can state quite clearly that their fears are absolutely justified. Egyptology is neither easy nor cheap to take up as a scholarly pursuit. Admissions into these programmes are prohibitively expensive and generally only accept a tiny handful of students each semester or once a year. Most of these who are accepted have and/or have maintained a 4.0 GPA. Further, that high GPA must be maintained or that student will get a boot planted in their posterior and find themselves completely washed out and with student loan amounts that are nothing less than nightmarish and just shy of the national debt.

The Kemetic Community, I think, is going through something that much of the so-called Pagan “Community” is going through. I believe that there is far too much backbiting, petty, catty and deeply personal bitching among the ranks. People either are wrapped up in an idea that if you do not belong to X group, you obviously are “doing it wrong”, and if you are a part of that group – or have been trained by it, have handed your brain, your soul and your personal assets to some sort of mindless cult of personality that does not allow for personal considerations.

I call “Bullshit,” on both points of view.

Even with my training and years in the priesthood, I interact with those who are not Kemetic Orthodox. I spend a great deal of time with people who come from many different faiths and belief systems, and each gives me a perspective that I would not have had otherwise. In so doing, I am able to form my own opinion that has nothing to do with toeing a party line, a religious canon or being a spokesperson for any given temple or group.

If I see a person make an incorrect, ill-considered or socially repugnant statement to the general public, I have no compunction but to call them on it and tell them why I feel that way. Conversely, I expect to be accorded the exact same service be done to me in return. I also expect that it will be done without the need to resort to ad hominem attacks. I think that is more than fair. Of course, there will always be those who claim to be holier-than-thou, or claim some sort immunity because of the number of books they wrote, lectures at Pantheacon they conducted or letters after their names in terms of university degrees. The political correctness and personal butthurt needs to be put away and replaced with something that resembles common sense. If we cannot have that, then what’s the point, really?

maat1aAll of us who consider ourselves to be Kemetic have a single and solitary foundation. That foundation is not exclusive to any one group, or leader or anything else. We have nothing other to worry about than the idea of Ma’at. Each of us must decide what that is and where we are at personally. Under that one single idea / ideal, there is enough there that is complex enough to keep all of us occupied for the whole of our personal and spiritual lives. We are held responsible and we hold those whom we associate responsible as well. When we do this, we are held responsible for our own actions and words in the context of not only our own lives but the greater whole within the Kemetic community and within the world at large. With this single understanding, some of the petty, single-mindedness is stripped away, and we by necessity have to sit down and listen to the thoughts, concerns and observations of others. Being able to see that perspective and say, “Yes, you are right,” does not, therefore, declare us to be lepers within the groups that we are a part of – or not a member of. It means that we can each be viable on our own, and that we can stand up for ourselves and what we believe, rather than hiding behind an organization, a label or anything else than our own sense of rightness – or our own sense of Ma’at.

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Regarding Sekhmet’s Stolen Image

Chris M. Morris, via Creative CommonsSometime on Good Friday, the Goddess Temple in Cactus Springs, Nevada was invaded by thieves. The space that had always been open to anyone wanting to come visit the Goddess, to pray and to enjoy the peace of the sanctuary could do so unhindered. It was this that made it possible for those with a more heinous mission in mind to succeed in stealing the centrepiece of that place, a four  foot tall statue of Sekhmet that weighed under 100 pounds.

The Priestess in Residence came into the Temple to find Sekhmet gone. The thieves had left behind only tire tracks, and in them was the necklace that the statue had been wearing, indicating that she had been tipped while being spirited away in the night from the place that had been her home for the last 21 years.

For the celebration of Earth Day that was scheduled to be held at the Temple, a picture of the statue was set in the place of where the image once stood.  The Earth Day Celebration went on as planned.

Right now, there is much speculation within the Pagan community as to why it happened or who might have done it.  The first thing that came to mind is that somehow, since it was done on Good Friday, it was religiously motivated, as if to remove an image sacred to those who are not a part of the Big Three monotheistic faiths.   Others have suggested someone just wanted to make Sekhmet their own.  Others have posited that because of the area of the country and because Sekhmet personifies power itself, that the culprits could be drug dealers who believe that stealing a bit of mojo is perfectly acceptable.  Whatever the motivations are, the Pagan community and all those who love Sekhmet are upset by the theft.

Initially $500 was being offered for information that led to the arrest and prosecution of the culprits. That has since been kicked up to a $2,000 reward.  I would not be surprised if that figure increased yet again.

The unfortunate byproduct of this tragic event are those Pagans who wring their hands and drape themselves over the furniture, wailing that this is about religious persecution – or that if this had happened in a Christian church or Jewish synagogue, the press coverage would somehow be more than it has been.  I understand the deeply personal feelings that people have toward Sekhmet and that someone would do something so terrible is frustrating and brings up anger, sadness and the overall feeling of somehow being violated. I also know what it feels like when the issues and events we hold near and dear are not adequately covered as we feel they ought to be.  I think anyone who is on the receiving end of being even in a small way touched by any sort of crime – be it a hate crime or something else must feel that irritation that no one could possibly understand.  Pagans in particular, seem to love to latch on to crises of this type because it makes them feel as some “persecuted other”.  I never saw much use in wallowing in that sort of self-pity, personally.

To be honest, I never thought I would see the day Sekhmet’s children would resort to playing the victim card and yet I have in these past few days. Some have resorted to comparing and contrasting our religious site being desecrated and comparing our pain to the pain of others when thier faith was lashed out against. Somehow they conveniently have forgotten in another crime that is unrelated but took place just before Easter where  three innocent lives were lost last week during Passover.  Ironically, all three of the victims who were slain by a white supremicist were Christians.   It is my view and in the interests of ma’at that I believe that no one should be singled out, begrudged or feel persecuted for their beliefs, or have their sacred spaces violated. The ones who whine about how we of “Other” faiths that are not Jewish, Christian or Muslim are so very persecuted and discriminated against conveniently forget the burned churches, the desecrated mosques, the ravaged Sikh temples, that have all  have been the scenes of senseless violence and desecration, all  based on hate and intolerance. Our prayers go out to their families and our voices whisper hopes toward peace and understanding.  It is what we should do for each other as human beings.

While the stealing of the statue is a tragic, heinous thing, too many within Paganism’s ranks  love to use that common excuse that gets handed out is to blame the media – especially when screaming “religious persecution”

This is not an act of persecution. We need to stop with the assumptions that somehow it was. There were no slurs painted over the space, the building was left intact- they took the statue, something that cannot be replaced. It’s a theft. Cameras may be necessary as a precaution. That’s the way of things now. It has to be, unfortunately. Slanting the story is not helpful. .We now live in a world where that kind of trust is not something that can be easily given. We used to sleep with our doors unlocked and our kids could play in their own front yards. Both things are becoming increasingly rare now – but of course,  that has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with a society that is out of contol

We are not the dominant religion, that is true. We are not Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, but we can practice our religion for the most part unmolested. Do people lose their lives here over being pagan? Hardly. That is what the comparison with the Passover shootings was about – and it is relevant. Can people in India, Africa, and even Egypt itself say the same? Absolutely not. I know of native Egyptians who do worship Sekhmet – but they cannot do so openly or it is a death sentence.

There is no point to the practice of comparing and contrasting of pain and transgressions and tresspasses against “Us” versus the ones suffered by “Them” – whichever side we happen to be on.  Any religion being oppressed, any desecration of a holy site is an outrage and intolerable. As a Priestess of Sekhmet, I ask is our suffering any greater than the churches that get burned down, the mosques that are desecrated, the medicine wheels that are destroyed?  No. Absolutely not.

Whomever did this – be they someone who lusted for Sekhmet’s image itself, or someone in the drug cartels  or someone just doing something ignorant and hateful, I can say without reservation that they will have literal hell to pay.  In spite of Sekhmet’s loving, healing aspects – and She has many – there are very dark parts of this Goddess that are invoked when Ma’at has been transgressed.   To those who know Sekhmet and those “darker” aspects of Her, know without any shadow of a doubt that the move was a very stupid one indeed.

That statue will be returned – or not. But we are undamaged, and Sekhmet’s worship is undeterred. One thing is for certain, however, those who stole Her image will get what they have coming to them. I know for a fact, Sekhmet’s Arrows Do. Not. Miss.

In my years of experience, Sekhmet, as far as Deities go,  is most definitely NOT  a victim; and neither, I dare I say it, are Her children. We will not curl up into a ball and wail and bemoan the situation. We will not stop doing what we have been doing since the resurgence of Sekhmet’s worship in the world.  We know who our Mother is,  and She knows us.  We who know that we belong to Her carry Sekhmet within us.  Our minds hone in on Her with a singular focus.  We do this because She IS the very Personification of Power or Sekhem itself. To succumb to this blow is to give that Power away.

Rest assured, we have absolutely no intention of doing that.

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Filed under kemetic, pagan, politics, rants, reblogged, sekhmet

E is for Eye

eyofra

Painting on papyrus of a pectoral of the Solar Eye from the treasures of Tutankhamun

The eye has served as a powerful image for humanity for millennia. The Eye, in Kemetic belief, centres around the Udjat Eye – which is that of protection. Also the Eye of Heru (Horus is his Greek name) and the Eye of Ra – which are separate entities from Ra’s more than 70 forms – and can function independently of him.

Even in the earliest periods of Ancient Egyptian history and culture , the sun and the moon were often regarded as very eyes of the Great Falcon, Horus. Later the two were differentiated in that the Eye of Horus was the Left Eye or the Moon, while the Right Eye was Ra or the sun. One particular myth which comes to us from the tomb of Tutankhamun, talks of how Horus’ eye was blinded but then restored by Hathor – who is Herself an Eye of Ra. This ties into the cycles of the moon and of the waxing and waning action of that heavenly body that is ever present above us.

The more well known “Eyes of Ra” are HetHert (Hathor), Sekhmet, Bast, Wadjet, Mut, Meretseger and even Aset (Isis). The Eyes of Ra were considered to be the protectors and enforcers of divine law. Probably the best known myth surrounding this is the “Destruction of Mankind” where Hathor, the goddess of love, beauty and all that is good is told that Mankind has rebelled and attempted not only to overthrow the Netjeru (gods) but destroy them utterly, is sent forth by Ra in order to punish them : Thus Sekhmet was born.

These goddesses, known as Eyes also resided in the crown, or uraeus that was upon the brow of royalty. These goddesses held the power of the King and their power is manifested through him. This is where the function of the Queens or Great Royal Wives were the stand-ins for the Eye Goddesses, such as Hathor and Isis and insured the protection of Kingly Power and function within the Two Lands.

The Eye of Horus, or Eye of Ra or Udjat Eye were all a part of this greater protection. There were almost always eyes included within funerary equipment in the form of amulets, and painted motifs on coffins, walls. The Eye was a major theme to protect not just the pharaoh, but common people as well. It worked to keep away evil, to insure the path toward the Afterlife of the Duat was kept clear. The sailors of Ancient Egypt would often paint the eye on the prow of their ships and even skiffs to insure safe travel. Even today, modern Kemetics will have Eyes either painted on their vehicles, or in similar fashion to the Fish motif of the Christians, they will have an eye on their car. I certainly have them on all of our vehicles.

The Eye as depicted in Ancient Egyptian art is based off of the markings of falcons, such as the Peregrine Falcon ( Falco peregrinus ), a totemic representative of the God Horus. As depicted on many Eye artifacts, whether it be an actual amulet, piece of jewelery or a painted motif, shows the “teardrop” marking near the bottom of the Eye, not dissimilar from the markings on the Peregrine falcon. A similar line is also found just below the eye of the African Cheetah, who at times can be taken to represent Eye Goddesses that take the form of big cats.

Hieroglyphically, there are several symbols for the Eye. Gardiner Sign list, symbols D4 through D17 either depict the Eye or parts of the Eye. The attached meaning in Ancient Egyptian to these often talk of “doing” or “making” or one who “makes or does”. This idea ties rather emphatically to the eye and what it symbolizes as being an active rather than a passive role. “Here comes protection”, or “The Eye goes forth”, which could be in a protective or punishing type of function. The Eye of Ra is there to protect and to defend authority and keep the balance and either defend or restore ma’at. https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f5/Oudjat.SVG/200px-Oudjat.SVG.png

The Eye is also used symbolically within Ancient Egyptian mathematics as a sort of symbolic break down for the concepts of measurement in the form of fractions. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus and the Lahun or Kahun Papyrus, both have tables of unit fractions (1 as the numinator), and scribes would often have these tables for use within their work. The various parts of the Eye would be broken down in this fashion:

  1. Right side of the eye = 1/2
  2. Pupil = 1/4
  3. Eyebrow = 1/8
  4. Left side of the eye = 1/16
  5. Curved tail = 1/32
  6. Teardrop or downward marking= 1/64

Unfortunately, however, studying this particular diagram does nothing for those of us who are mathematically impaired, no matter how much we love all topics that pertain to Ancient Egypt! 1000px-Ancient_Egypt_Wings.svg Another symbol of the Eye of Ra in specifics is the sun disk that appears on the heads of solar deities in the Egyptian pantheon, such as Sekhmet, Horus, and even Ra Himself. The sun disk and the Uraeus at the centre were protective and punishing at the same time. The sun or Ra moving across the sky could be found in the symbolism of the Solar Barque, which carried Ra across the sky each day. In the Barque of Ra or the Solar Barque, other deities rode with Ra. Certainly the body of the heavens was equated with the Celestial Cow who travels with Ra.

The symbolism of the Eye is central to Ancient Egyptian belief and the complexity of everything this one symbol can encompass can be both complex and at times confusing. While the Eye was a protector, it was also a punisher of wrongdoers. While it was protective of that order or Ma’at, it was sometimes difficult to control and would tend to wander. The cycle of the Wandering Eye returning to the Two Lands to signify that balance would once again be restored was met with great joy and merrymaking. When the Eye is restored and reestablished, we, too, are likewise restored and reestablished as well.

Resources:
Roberts, Alison. Hathor Rising: The Power of the Goddess in Ancient Egypt. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International, 1997

Roberts, Alison. Golden Shrine, Goddess Queen: Egypt’s Anointing Mysteries. Rottingdean, East Sussex: NorthGate, 2008.

Roberts, Alison. My Heart My Mother: Death and Rebirth in Ancient Egypt. Rottingdean, East Sussex: NorthGate, 2000.

Shaw, Ian, and Paul T. Nicholson. The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995. Print.

Wikipedia, “The Eye of Horus”. Web.

Wilkinson, Richard H. Reading Egyptian Art: A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Egyptian Painting and Sculpture., p.176 – 177; London: Thames and Hudson, 1992 Pagan Blog Project 2014

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D is for Dancing & Drumming

dancers For those of us who have been raised with an intimate knowledge of our Indigenous culture, we know that dancing is an important part o our and many cultures throughout the world. For myself, hearing the sound of drums and the sound of bells and jingle dresses and the singing along the powwow trail begins at the first sign of spring and continues on well into the fall. We dance, because we can. We dance and sing and beat drums and it serves as an affirmation of life; our own heartbeat and the heartbeat of everything and everyone around us. People gather to dance and to sing and to celebrate the rhythm that permeates every aspect of our existence.

Dancing and music figure prominently in our religious and ritual practices as well. Dance is a meditation, it can send us into a trance and be a way for us to express emotion, ecstasy and connect us to the Divine. The truth of the matter is that dance has been a part of human history or prehistory around the world since probably before Homo Sapiens became fully bipedal.

The first great culture to really infuse its entire society with the magic of music and dance was that of Ancient Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians enjoyed life to its fullest and no celebration in Ancient Egypt would have been complete without music and dancing. At parties, singers and dancers performed to the music of harps, lutes, drums, flutes, cymbals, clappers and tambourines. During festivals, crowds chanted and clapped, carried along by the vibrant rhythm of Egyptian orchestras, while dancers performed amazing feats, leaping twirling and bending their bodies in time with the music. It was so important a feature of everyday life that musical instruments – frame drums, harps, clappers, sistra, and other instruments found their way into the tomb of those who passed to the Beautiful West and their entertainment in the afterlife.

Most of Egyptian secular and religious life was marked by the performance of music and dance. This important aspect of daily life of the Egyptians is depicted as early as the Pre-Dynastic periods. Ceremonial palettes and stone vessels indicate the importance that music had even in the earliest of periods. The importance of music in daily life in Ancient Egypt is underscored by the large number of musical instruments found in museum collections around the world. Of the several terms used in ancient Egyptian to describe dance is ib3.

In many banqueting scenes found within the tombs of the Ancient Egyptians, the banquets appear to be more secular. Shown in these scenes are an idealized rather than any actual event. The basic components of these scenes changed very little throughout Egypt’s history, until the New Kingdom. Around the 18th Dynasty, there is a marked change of character, in the song, dance and the overall “feel” of these scenes. At this time we see a marked sense of erotic significance. Lotus flowers, mandrakes, wigs and unguent cones, as well as men and women clothed in semi-transparent garments and the gestures of the banquet participants. Music, love and sensuality go hand in hand in most civilizations, ancient as well as modern, and in different spheres. Overall music is a major component of life, an important piece of both secular and religious life.

NileGoddessDance was far more than just an enjoyable pastime in Ancient Egypt.During the Pre-Dynastic period were found depictions of female figures, perhaps of Goddesses or Priestesses, dancing with their arms raised above their heads. The act of dancing was undoubtedly an important component of ritual and celebration in Ancient Egypt. The Neolithic figurine of a goddess or priestess that currently resides in the Brooklyn Museum is commonly referred to as “the Nile Goddess” or “Nile Dancer”. The figure has arms that are raised above her faceless head like some sort of pre-historic ballerina. Her body is slender with ample breasts and broad hips. Some have speculated that her graceful limbs lifted above her head are to emulate the horns of the Goddess Hathor, who was the personification of the joys of music dancing, love and life itself. This particular piece of very early ancient Egyptian art has been an inspiration for many modern sculptures and art lovers just in its beautiful simplicity.

girlmusiciansPeople from every social class were exposed to music and dancing. Manual laborers worked in rhythmic motion to the sounds of songs and percussion, and street dancers entertained passers by. In normal, daily life musicians and dancers were an important and integral part of banquets and celebrations. Dance troupes were available for hire to perform at dinner parties, banquets, lodging houses, and even religious temples. Some women the harems of the wealthy were trained in music and dance. Unlike today, however, no well-born Egyptian would consider dancing in public. The Nobility would employ servants or slaves to entertain at their banquets to a offer pleasant diversion to themselves and their guests.

Elizabeth ‘Artemis’ Mourat, professional dancer and dance-scholar categorized the dances of Ancient Egypt into six different types: religious dances, non-religious festival dances, banquet dances, harem dances, combat dances, and street dances.

muudancers1There were certain ritual dances that were crucial to the successful outcome of religious and funerary rites. This is particularly true of the Muu-Dancers. These dancers wore kilts and reed crowns and performed alongside funeral processions. Funeral rites often employed or were based off of the Songs of Aset and NebetHet (Isis and Nephthys in Greek) and the retelling of how Aset searched for the body of Wasir (Osiris in Greek) and reassembled his dismembered form for burial and restored to eternal life through Her prowess and skill in magic. This period of singing, dancing, drumming and lamentation was said to last over a period of five days. It was through these rites that it is believed Roman mystery cults arose.

With the emergence of the cult of Wasir dance was a crucial element in the festivals held for both He and Aset, His sister-wife. These festivals occurred throughout the year. Dance also figured prominently in the festivals dedicated to Apis. Another deity that has been linked to dancing, is the Dwarf-God, Bes. He has been depicted in both reliefs and in statuary playing a tambourine and dancing, denoting the idea of using dance in order to drive away evil spirits. Images and amulets of Bes were often found in and around the birthing chamber for women who were giving birth. In these images, Bes is quite often shown playing a tambourine or a drum. Wikimedia Commons

acrobatsmThe act of dancing was inseparable from music, and so the depictions of dance in Pharaonic tombs and temples invariably show the dancers either being accompanied by groups of musicians or themselves playing castanets or clappers to keep the rhythm. Little distinction seems to have been made between dancing and what would be considered today as acrobatics. Many dancers depicted in the temple and tomb paintings and reliefs show dancers in athletic poses such as cartwheels, handstands and backbends.

Detailed study of the depiction of dancers has revealed that the artists were often depicting a series of different steps in particular dances, some of which have been reconstructed in the modern era. Movements of Egyptian dances were named after the motion they imitated. For instance, there were “the leading along of an animal,” “the taking of gold,” and “the successful capture of the boat.”

Men and women as a general rule and in the more conservative society that was Ancient Egypt were never shown dancing together. The most common scenes depict groups of female dancers often performing in pairs and more rarely, men dancing in groups. Dance was done in private chambers as well as public festivals and gatherings, in the streets as well as Temple rituals. The importance of dance has not lessened over the years, it has maintained and is carried on even today. Professional dancers, musicians and other performers, though they are often admired for the work that they do, are not often given a high status within society. Because they wander the country side often with men to whom they are not related, especially if they are women, this sort of behaviour is still rather looked down upon – especially within village societies.

There was a notion within early Egyptology that noblewomen or women of a certain class or caste would never engage in dancing except in private. The only exception to this idea were the dancers, singers and musicians that were dedicated to the service of a deity, for example. The dancers that are depicted within the ancient tombs are often described or depicted as being a part of the tomb owner’s immediate family. As a direct relation to the deceased then any taboos were lessened. Today, women may dance within the privacy of their own homes, or that of a family member, but never in public. It is a good idea that depictions in tombs were never intended to be viewed again by the living once they were sealed, and as such served as a private residence for the deceased.

Modern day bellydancing has a little resemblance to the graceful and acrobatic gestures that were a part of dance in antiquity. Because of so many external influences – the Greeks, Romans, and influx of other cultures over the centuries, not to mention that dance in Egypt as also influenced by the influx of Islam into the region. In spite of all of this, however, we can still see within Egyptian culture the idea of dancing just for the sheer love of it.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Most of this piece is a reworking of a section of my website, ‘The Ancient Egyptian Virtual Temple’, 1995 -2014, Copyright Ma’at Publishing. (Mirrored at fannyfae.com)

Other Resources

Manniche, Lise, Music and Musicians in Ancient Egypt British Museum Press, 1991. Print.
Threee
Redmond, Layne, When the Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm Three Rivers Press, 1997. Print.

Shaw, Ian, and Paul T. Nicholson. The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995. Print.

Spencer, Patricia, “Dance in Ancient Egypt”, Near Eastern Archeaeology, 2003, p 111 – 121

Pagan Blog Project 2014

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The Re-Establishment of Nekhen Iunen Sekhmet

SekhmetStatue_sm

‘Sekhmet in Basalt’ by NiankhSekhmet

A few years ago, when I was a Kemetic Orthodoxy Priest, I established a nekhen or shrine to Sekhmet.   The name of that shrine was Nekhen Iunen Sekhmet – or to translate, The Shrine of Sekhmet’s Sanctuary.   Here in the Wapsipinicon River Valley, in a land that I refer to as the Enchanted Forest, this place has served as a sanctuary for humans, animals, plants and all manner of wildlife.   The wild animals seem to know that once they cross into the borders of our 15 acres, which is not much in the scheme of things, they are safe.

After a series of life events that sent my life into a tailspin, the death of my mother, the outsourcing of my job overseas and returning to school and starting a business, things were neglected, I left Sekhmet’s formal service in pursuit of a life that is just now starting to show itself as becoming a reality.

Nekhen Inunen Sekhmet is more than just a place to perform the daily proscribed rites or heka on behalf of others.  It has become a way of life, a consciousness of its own.   One thing is for certain, I do not and absolutely will not do this in affiliation with any  Temple – at all.  This is and shall remain absolutely my own.   I am doing this out of love and devotion for Sekhmet;  She Who owns my head, She for whom Life Belongs – particularly my life.  Every medicine I make, ever rug that I weave, every thing that I do in some way ties back to that service.  I am not interested in having ‘students’,  so it would be futile to even ask.  Neither am I the least bit inclined to be out front and telling other people how to be  what group to join or sit in judgement  of another’s practices.  I will let the grand poohbahs and the gurus have at that. I hope they have fun with that. More power to them.

I am frankly much happier being left to my own devices rather than having someone, be it a group or an individual, looking over my shoulder to see whether or not I am doing it right.  I am. I have the liturgical texts, I have the materials and the resources that allow me to do it right as in antiquity and I have made the commitment to do so.  I do it.  I no longer have a single thing to prove to anyone about anything.  Further,  I am at an age when I no longer give a fuck what anyone else thinks of me – nor do I really give too much of one when confronted with the practices of others.  They don’t matter.  I am singularly focused on the things that do.  Everything else tends to be superfluous and unnecessary fluff.

The measurements have been made.  The sand and the amulets have been crafted and have been laid for the foundation.  All shall  be done as it should be – as the Lioness lies ever-watching and overseeing the Work.

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ENOUGH!

Africa191There is no shortage of people in the world, and especially online who want to worship or honour the Kemetic (Egyptian) gods or Netjeru. You would think after 20+ years of Kemetics being online they would have tried to build alliances and make bridges without the petty infighting and holier than thou bullshit that gets handed around like last year’s Christmas fruitcake.

Let me state at the outset before I say anything else, that I have no grand vision of being “in charge of” anything. I am not here to take anyone to task or to fight with anyone else. This is not some half-arsed attempt on my part in order to get students or for me to become a guru of some sort. I am flat-out not interested in such things at all. Been there, done that, and I donated the T-shirt because it wasn’t “me” anymore. I’m just like everyone else in that I am committed to the culture, the history and the religous ideals of Ancient Kemet. I am not an accredited Egyptologist. I fully acknowledge that I am here by the grace of Sekhmet and the generosity of many, many talented sebau (teachers) and to them I am eternally grateful and I refuse to dish or diss on any one of them.

Lately I have noticed increasing factionalisastion going on within the Kemetic landscape. In the years that I have been blissfully far removed from the jealous infighting, the petty backbiting, hubris and ‘witch wars’ that seem to be part and parcel of the so-called Pagan “community”, I have watched those traits migrate here. After 20+ years, I am exhausted.

So, that being said, I am going to do everything in my power to establish a list of various Temples, Shrines, blogs, organizations, information resources, etc. because it is absolutely needed. If anyone thinks I am doing this for any specific organization, guess again. I’m not. Sekhmet has given me marching orders 1) finish the book and 2) establish the network because honestly, the Pagan Community and the Kemetic Community in specifics deserve at least a modicum of respect, in spite of the differences between us and it’s time that this happened. It is long past time, to be honest. This should have been done some 20 years ago, but for whatever petty, ego-driven, any other set of reasons, it did not transpire. It’s going to happen NOW.

We are bigger than this. We should not (still) have to be listening to the petty, catty, bitchy, in-fighting that goes on for no good reason. There are no good reasons why we cannot do this. If I have to kick ass, or become some sort of pariah, ostracized or called out for being a Kumayah, Pollyanna Kemetic, so fucking be it! We are long past done playing at this. It’s time to do it.

Still have doubts? Let me spell it out:

It’s about, GOD, or the Gods (plural) and our relationship to them, people!! Get OVER it! We all have something to contribute and we NEED to be doing that in the interests of Ma’at. I am not interested in hearing the arguments against such a thing moving forward. I will not give credence to he said / she said, petty grudges from years ago that happened on Usenet, Ancient Worlds, or Tumblr. There are no more excuses, so don’t bother bringing them up to me. It’s time for all of us to ask ourselves, each and every one: “WHY the fuck are you here?!” We collectively need to take what I call the Janet Jackson Approach and ask ourselves, ‘What have YOU actually DONE for the God(s) lately?! What have you done for yourself lately?!” After answering those questions honestly, the next question to ask must be, “What’s stopping you? Who do you think is preventing you from doing it?” If we fall into the temptation to start to point fingers at anyone else than the man or woman that is in the mirror, then I encourage each of us to remember that with that pointing of fingers, there are still three other fingers and a thumb pointing right back at us.

I will write this up in more detail in a bit, however, if anyone imagines that I am doing this to step on toes or encroach on their “territory”, they need to take a step back. This is solely about trying to take a cursory census of who thinks the idea of a collective of those who are bound by the things that we believe and hold dear is more important than the ongoing factionalization that we have been suffering from for over 20 years.

Playtime is over. It’s time to STFU and get to work. If you want it, well then each of us needs to determine just how much and what we are willing to do in order to achieve it.

Excuses are boring. Let’s get to it.

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Truths Are Truths: Offering ‘Enough’

Nefertari offering to Hathor, from the tomb of Nefertari, Valley of the Queens

Nefertari offering to Hathor, from the tomb of Nefertari, Valley of the Queens

So often we hear of giving an adequate sacrifice to our gods. Certainly, some pagans, do manage to generously give either to their respective religious organizations or favourite charities, but there is that bit of offerings and giving that we all tend to do privately.

Recently there was a bit of a flap concerning some very ill-considered commentary about what is adequate or enough in terms of offerings made toward deities. Certainly there are cultural considerations that should be taken into account, depending on what Gods you are worshiping. In the case of some specific gods, to partake of the things that you offer to Deity is considered ‘stealing’. While in the case of ancient Egyptian or Kemetic gods, partaking of the offerings after the reversion is said over them is considered customary and proper. To waste food or to not share it with the greater community is considered to be the height of foolishness. If the gods give us their bounty, what better way to exemplify this than to communally spread the wealth and feed those who are assembled in celebration?

It is an unfortunate fact that I have heard time and again about how what is being offered is not considered “appropriate” or “good enough” for deity. Neither poverty nor ability to give more can be considered an adequate excuse. If you are not giving a juice box, to cite one of the examples, poured out as a libation to the gods, then by golly, you are doing it wrong. Others underscore the idea that somehow our focus and insistence on doing it right gives license for some to cop a sense of arrogant exclusivity and a holier-than-thou haughtiness that is neither attractive nor impressive to many of us who have been at this for any length of time.

The reality is that we live in an era that has a real disparity between those who have and those who don’t. Folks who are struggling are worried about whether or not they are going to make it. They live paycheck to paycheck, praying to whatever powers that be that their jobs are not outsourced, or that the unemployment might be extended just a little longer. They fret over whether or not the government is going to give them just enough of a subsidy to feed themselves and/or their families. Offerings to the deities that we worship are a nice idea, but it is little comfort to the mother who knows how damn much those juice boxes or other foodstuffs cost in the greater scheme of things. The idea of letting a child go hungry or thirsty while that asset is offered up to heaven not to be partaken of by the living is a luxury that some just cannot afford. The arrogant ones self-righteously raise their noses higher in the air and sniff disdainfully, “Well, if you can’t afford it, then don’t even bother!”

Where I come from, something so small as cool water, or oil for the limbs, a bit of honey, or a song or a piece of artwork made by our own hands given into the service of Netjer is something that is considered ‘enough’. To devote what one has and what can do out of a giving heart is worth more than expensive works or products lain at the altar. In Luke 20:45-21:4, Jesus warns about teachers of the law, those who would focus on the smallest Nth degree that everything is done according to the law. The Pharisees would pray loudly in the streets and make sure that all witnessed their pious giving and yet a woman who was a widow gave but two copper coins – which was probably the major portion of what she had to live on, gave them at the altar. Back in those days, it was the least in terms of the legal limit that could be offered at the Temple. Jesus noted to his disciples that the rich gave from their vast wealth and did not feel the true spirit of the gift, whereas the woman gave all that she had.

There are those within the pagan community whom others look to as being the arbiters of wisdom and how to do things properly when in service to the gods. Some of them might even have a series of letters after their name that denote impressive degrees that show that they had the money and the time to go back to school. For some within the Pagan community, that may make them bigger and badder than the rest of we who are garden variety devotees and worshipers. (I personally think that is a load of it, but hey, what do I know?)

The undeniable truth is this: We all feel a call and a pull to the Divine, but sometimes we have to be very careful about whom we turn to for advice when it comes to the sincere practices of performing acts of faith. Some, no matter how many letters after their names or tenured positions that guarantee a regular paycheck whilst they sit in the hallowed halls of academia, are full of themselves – and other more ‘fragrant’ substances that sticks to the bottom of shoes. Just because they have an M and an A or a P, an h, and a D after their name doesn’t mean that their offerings will be better received than those of the person who has put their heart and soul into a piece of handiwork – or had just under a dollar to buy a purified bottle of water to offer to their Deity of choice. For those of us who worship gods that were native to lands located in deserts, water was and is still considered a precious sacrifice because there was so very little of it.

The Pagan community in some places tends to be both cliquish and competitive, if not downright cruel at times. It seems as if some make it a point to look over the shoulders of others, to check and see if the offerings made, the devotions said and the form of worship rendered is somehow ‘good enough’. They take great pains to make sure that people not only are doing it well enough according to their standards, but will discuss it loudly across every form of social media available. Certainly such behaviour is not unlike that of the Pharisees who want you to know how very pious, generous and correct they are and how everyone else should be paying attention to how they are doing it.

The Ones who are paying attention, however, are the Ones before whose altars, shrines and temple spaces we lay the offerings before. Those are the Ones we are doing it all for anyway – and maybe a little bi for ourselves, too. That, I believe, should always be considered ‘enough’. It’s that idea along with the inner knowing that we are all enough, that we love enough and that the Divine can and does understand our circumstances and does not judge us for it in ways that others and even we each have a tendency to do. It is this idea which we should be paying attention and listening to rather than the talking heads, of which there seems to be ever an overabundance of.

xtile

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Guilt by Association

The adage that we are known by the company we keep probably is very true within the Kemetic Community. It become frustrating and disheartening to be judged by people whom you don’t know, who don’t know you, or your specific religious path – nor do they care really! For someone to offhandedly decide that you are not with the “in crowd” or that somehow, will pronounce that not to be of a certain religious affiliation, or sect will deem you unworthy to be given the time of day. Some of course, fear recruitment or being indoctrinated into some sort of cult based on internet rumours that they may or may not have heard.

metmuseum5a1I am Kemetic. I was trained and ordained as a Kemetic Orthodox Priestess of Sekhmet/HetHert in 1998. I stepped down a couple of years ago by choice, or as one internet website geared toward atheists said, “I retired.” I kind of laugh at that. One does *not* retire from Sekhmet’s service. Your service may change, but it is absolutely for life! At any rate, my reasons, initially, were because I was attending college full time and could not give the level of service required. My situation has changed a bit, and so now my reasons of not wanting to return to it again are deeply personal. I can and will say quite clearly that it was not because of any rift with the Temple, or disagreement between myself and any of the membership. I have been listening to Sekhmet’s call and it has been specific and in a direction by necessity. That doesn’t make anyone bad or wrong. It just makes it a different route that I have chosen to take.

All of us must by necessity approach our spiritual life on a personal level. We may choose to join or Initiate in a specific sect, temple or path, but ultimately, only we as individuals can decide when to move on. Each of us, who are Kemetic, have personal rites. Sometimes this entails a daily practice that follows a formal outlined structure, such as that which is outlined at the Temple of Horus at Edfu. While at other times a practitioner may choose something more fluid, eclectic or non-traditional. Each is a valid structure and approach to the connection to the Netjeru.

That being said, the only things that become annoying are those who insist on the belief of either a maddeningly absurd UPG-type of approach, or those who cannot and will not move outside the formal scholarly sanctioned type of practice. I have found by direct experience that there are deep pitfalls within each extreme and either can be deleterious for spiritual understanding or growth. Egyptology does *not* know everything. Conversely, I have seen so many ridiculous, crackpot theories that should never have made it outside of one’s own personal headspace, let alone made it into print for others to try to decipher.

One extreme, that of the scholarly community only, and especially within Egyptology’s ranks, often eschews and ostracizes those who “actually believe in any of this stuff”. In some place it becomes so much of an issue that those who have made it into those hallowed halls of the scholarly ranks take great pains to either conceal, downplay or flat-out deny that they actually do worship the old gods. These individuals dare not speak of it or it may cost them their entire career or get them passed over for any future projects because their beliefs are not considered “objective enough”. I personally know of several tenured professors or professional Egyptologists who by necessity are very guarded about their personal beliefs. I can state quite clearly that their fears are absolutely justified. Egyptology is neither easy nor cheap to take up as a scholarly pursuit. Admissions into these programmes are prohibitively expensive and generally only accept a tiny handful of students each semester or once a year. Most of these who are accepted have and/or have maintained a 4.0 GPA. Further, that high GPA must be maintained or that student will get a boot planted in their posterior and find themselves completely washed out and with student loan amounts that are nothing less than nightmarish and just shy of the national debt.

The Kemetic Community, I think, is going through something that much of the so-called Pagan “Community” is going through. I believe that there is far too much backbiting, petty, catty and deeply personal bitching among the ranks. People either are wrapped up in an idea that if you do not belong to X group, you obviously are “doing it wrong”, and if you are a part of that group – or have been trained by it, have handed your brain, your soul and your personal assets to some sort of mindless cult of personality that does not allow for personal considerations.

I call “Bullshit,” on both points of view.

Even with my training and years in the priesthood, I interact with those who are not Kemetic Orthodox. I spend a great deal of time with people who come from many different faiths and belief systems, and each gives me a perspective that I would not have had otherwise. In so doing, I am able to form my own opinion that has nothing to do with toeing a party line, a religious canon or being a spokesperson for any given temple or group.

If I see a person make an incorrect, ill-considered or socially repugnant statement to the general public, I have no compunction but to call them on it and tell them why I feel that way. Conversely, I expect to be accorded the exact same service be done to me in return. I also expect that it will be done without the need to resort to ad hominem attacks. I think that is more than fair. Of course, there will always be those who claim to be holier-than-thou, or claim some sort immunity because of the number of books they wrote, lectures at Pantheacon they conducted or letters after their names in terms of university degrees. The political correctness and personal butthurt needs to be put away and replaced with something that resembles common sense. If we cannot have that, then what’s the point, really?

Ma'at from the Tomb of Seti I, at the Museo Archeologica, Turin, Italy

Ma’at from the Tomb of Seti I, at the Museo Archeologica, Turin, Italy


All of us who consider ourselves to be Kemetic have a single and solitary foundation. That foundation is not exclusive to any one group, or leader or anything else. We have nothing other to worry about than the idea of Ma’at. Each of us must decide what that is and where we are at personally. Under that one single idea / ideal, there is enough there that is complex enough to keep all of us occupied for the whole of our personal and spiritual lives. We are held responsible and we hold those whom we associate responsible as well. When we do this, we are held responsible for our own actions and words in the context of not only our own lives but the greater whole within the Kemetic community and within the world at large. With this single understanding, some of the petty, single-mindedness is stripped away, and we by necessity have to sit down and listen to the thoughts, concerns and observations of others. Being able to see that perspective and say, “Yes, you are right,” does not, therefore, declare us to be lepers within the groups that we are a part of – or not a member of. It means that we can each be viable on our own, and that we can stand up for ourselves and what we believe, rather than hiding behind an organization, a label or anything else than our own sense of rightness – or our own sense of Ma’at.

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A is for Ankh

ankh-nose.jpg w=300&h=179The ankh is one of the most widely recognized religious symbols in the world. Ask anyone what the ankh means, and invariably, the words, “eternal life” will be the definition that is offered even by laypersons.

In terms of the hieroglyphic catalogue or sign list that was put together by Sir Alan Gardiner, lists the ankh as Gardiner sign S 34. Scholars have speculated that it can either represent something as simple as a sandal strap, or as complex as an elaborate bow or knot that carried specific religious significance. The profusion if its use in iconography throughout Egyptian culture and that it is held by numerous ancient Egyptian deities in their various depictions underscores the meaning ascribed to the ankh – the meaning is life. Even those who could not read or wriite, and in Ancient Kemet, the literacy rate among its people was something like 2% or 3%, the meaning of the ankh was known. It was commonly found as a potter’s mark on vessels throughout the history of Egypt. (Shaw)

Even today, we often hear the ankh referred to as the Key of Life. More than this, it stands for several life-sustaining things. In some reliefs, ankhs are seen pouring out, to symbolize water and in turn purification. Other reliefs show the sustenance in the form of food or flower offerings which were referred to as ankhu. Most often, however, it is shown to represent the breath of life. Often statuary, paintings or reliefs will show a King, a Queen or other member of the noble class being presented with an ankh that is held beneath their nose by the god or goddess.

From the Tomb of Huya, Amarna Period, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

From the Tomb of Huya, Amarna Period, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

During the reign of the Heretic Pharaoh, Amunhotep IV, otherwise known as Akhenaten, reliefs of the Aten disk can be seen with streams that form long arms and hands that offer ankhs to the Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their children. During this period, the literal disk of the sun, or the Aten is what gave life to the Two Lands.

Ankh mirror case

Mirror case from the tomb of Tutankhamun

Most everyone also knows that the word ankh can also mean mirror and often mirrors in ancient Egypt were made in the shape of an ankh.

The idea that a Temple was called a Per Ankh or ‘House of Life’ did not just mean simply it was a place of worship, but also learning how to live, via the Netjeru and that Rameses IV claimed that he had studied the papyri at the House of Life to learn the secrets of the gods. Living one’s life is an active thing and so we can only surmise that the training that the King underwent was experiential and the secrets he learned were not just intellectual in nature. (Naydler)

The ankh survives today, not just among Kemetics and Pagans who incorporate the symbol into their personal practices, but even after the fall of Ancient Egypt to Roman Rule and Roman Paganism, the natives of Egypt among the first to convert to Christianity, but the ankh survives in the form of the crux ansata, ansate, looped, or handle-shaped cross in the Coptic Church.

Resources

Naydler, Jeremy. Temple of the Cosmos: The Ancient Egyptian Experience of the Sacred. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1996. Print.

Naydler, Jeremy. Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts: The Mystical Tradition of Ancient Egypt. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2005. Print.

Shaw, Ian, and Paul T. Nicholson. The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995. Print.

Wilkinson, Richard H. Reading Egyptian Art: A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Egyptian Painting and Sculpture., p.176 – 177; London: Thames and Hudson, 1992

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Filed under kemetic, pagan, Pagan Blog Project 2014