Category Archives: Kemet is Cool Project

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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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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