Category Archives: Pan Historia

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

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Kemet is Cool Project, kemetic, Pagan Blog Project 2014, Pan Historia, reblogged

The Devil You Know (Written for PanHistoria & Dreamwidth)

“I call’d the devil, and he came.
And with awe his from I scan’d:
He is not ugly, and is not lame.
But really a handsome and charming man.
A man in the prime of his life is the devil.
Obliging, a man of the world, and civil:
A diplomiatist too, well skill’d in debate.
He talks quite glibly of church and state.”
– Heinrich Heine

“This way, come along.” Melek reached back to the young girl that followed just behind him. Her large, dark eyes looked up at him inquisitively even as she slipped her tiny hand into his much larger one. If there was any trepidation there on her part, she certainly did not show it. Fae creatures were delightfully alluring, even when they were so young. Or perhaps, he mused, it was especially when they were so young that he found their curiosity so wholly irresistible.

This one, however, had a whole future ahead of her. He resolved that he would groom her, and when the time was right, and much, much later, it would be her own daughter would assist in his greater purpose. But first things first.

“Tell me, do you like books, my dear?” he asked.

The Halfling child nodded her head. then offered in Sidhe, “I know how to read a little but there are not many books in Dunnlauden.”

“It’s very good that you can read,” he smiled, ignoring the child’s observation about her village. “Did your Maman teach you?”

The little girl nodded.

Of course, the Peacock Angel knew that Moya had done so. For a human, the girl’s mother had not only proven to be useful in her devotion, but in providing the Sidhe ranks with at least some new blood. Without a doubt, the child would not be entirely trusted among humans, and her mother would be branded a whore for the ridiculous sin of having consorted with demons. The absurd irony of it all both amused and annoyed him. But the child did not need to ally with superstitious humans that lived in a village anyway. He had already foreseen that it would be leveled in a few years time. By then she would be far, far away, the village nothing but a forgotten and distasteful memory. And with his help, this Halfling girl would take back the throne of her Sidhe ancestors. Following that, everything else would have fallen neatly into place, and Melek’s plans would begin their long, winding road to fruition.

The forest trail became a long corridor of columns comprised of gnarled trees that stretched far toward the horizon. Shelves and stacks of books of incredible luxury and filled with delights of every kind were found behind branches, along tree trunks, hedgerows and brambles. The Halfling child’s eyes grew even larger and more luminous as a covetous bloom lit her features.

Remembering herself, she looked up at Melek who smiled at her unasked question. “The forest, indeed the whole world is my realm – and yours. You see, we are family, you and I. Family should share, and I will share all of this with you.”

Her little hand gave his a slight squeeze. Immediately to her right, resting on a moss and lichen covered tree stump sat a very large green and blue leatherbound book. The binding was shot with gold arabesque designs and in the centre of the cover was painted the most beautiful peacock whose feathers glittered with green and blue stones.

“That one is yours alone,” he smiled down at her. “Do you like it?”

“For me?” she had barely dared to hope.

“Of course, my dear.”

She let go of his hand only long enough to step forward and ftouch the beautiful and ornate cover with gentle and reverent fingers. Clearly, she had never seen anything so beautiful as this book and very carefully she opened the cover to see a blank page staring back at her – then another and another. The entire book was blank.

“But there are no words,” she said with obvious disappointment.

Melek knelt down beside her and took both of her small hands in his. “That is because it is your book and you must write the words in it,” he said. “Will you do that for me when you learn to write and to draw? You must write down all that you see and learn and keep track of it.”

Unable to resist the instinct to reassure him, she extracted her tiny hands from Melek’s and embraced him, burying her face into his neck, her soft, warm breaths warming the depths of what might have been his heart. It had not been the daughters of mere mortal men who tempted the Fallen Ones. No. The Sidhe women, the pure essence of what wildness and Nature truly are in ways that no human woman could ever be. This little one would serve his purposes beautifully and she would do it willingly besides.

And somewhere in the distance, the voice of the girl’s mother called into the dark palace of the woods.

5 Comments

Filed under dreamwidth, fiction, Pan Historia, writing

Words and Symbolism

In the beginning there was the Word. Communications, writing especially, is the ultimate priesthood. Within it we can heal, we can harm, we can convey the very contents of our souls, our dreams and aspirations. We can create, we can destroy – and they can live beyond us. The Word creates the world.

That is why the sacredness of words is so central to the Ancient Egyptian or Kemetic belief system. The ancient Egyptians held that the word was sacred. They believed that uttering the true name or ren of something or someone could either create or destroy them. You could, make or unmake if something was uttered absolutely correctly. If not, and something is misspoken? Well, we Kemtics have a saying that “the Mysteries protect themselves.” In my experience, that has been very true. The chances of disaster striking is less likely because unordered words were not and are not effective.

Behind this notion is the power of the Word. This concept, which is also a Goddess in her own right, is Ma’at. Ma’at is the right order of things, the balance of the sum total of everything. Ma’at is the moral ideal, and that which judges us in the end. There is Universal Ma’at, but there is also personal ma’at and only we can determine what that is or is not for us. Through our words and our deeds, ma’at is that which we are responsible for, each of us every moment of our lives. Every contract we sign, every promise or vow we make holds us into account for what we have done, and ultimately feeds into who we are as a person. Either we are trustworthy or untrustworthy, balanced or out of balance. It is something that is with us for every moment of our lives. As Sir Lawrence Olivier once said about life and livelihood: “Everything we do is autobiographical.”

The Goddess Maa't

This Ma’at through our words is all stored within the heart. And it is that which is, at the time of our death and in the Halls of Double Ma’ati in Amenta or the Underworld, weighed against the feather of Ma’at. This is the purpose that the Negative Confession, often mistranslated as being the 42 “Laws” of Ma’at, provides. The “confession” served a purpose. In the litany of denials of all the things we have not done to disturb not only universal ma’at but our ow. The Negative Confession was used so that your own heart would not rat you out or betray you. In antiquity, this meant the difference between joining Wasir (Osiris) and the rest of the gods in the Field of Reeds or ending up as a snack for the Ammit, and dying the second death, from which there was no return. If anything, this negative confession gives us pause to think before we act or before we speak.

It also underscores the idea that whenever we know something in our heart, we can feel it. This feeling is right in that undeniable spot. When we are stricken to our core, it is in that place where we feel it most profoundly. From there it spreads out to the rest of the body and in some extreme cases, can even strike us down where we stand. It can keep us up many a sleepless night and dog our every step during the day. We may try to drown it in drink, alcohol, drugs or any other external pleasure or inner escapism, but still it waits for the moment where it can niggle at our innards and we essentially eat ourselves via that reminding voice.

Immortality lies within our words. That is why writing is so vital for those of us who call ourselves writers. Some, like me, cling to this notion. We tear into it ravenously upon waking or even before sleeping because we know that ultimately it is what is at the very core of us. Getting those words out, whether it is by telling stories that are inside of us via fiction, non fiction, film or by some other means, it is as important to us as breathing. We do not feel right with the world or ourselves if we sit on the words that are inside of us.

In the beginning was the Word…

My own mouth came to me, and Magic was my name.

The Ancient Egyptians understood something that we moderns quite often forget. Within the pictographs of the language was also housed a deeper, unseen meaning. There are literal and symbolic meanings. Most indigenous cultures still tap into this symbolist’s viewpoint. Symbolism often can bridge the gap between literacy and illiteracy. Though literacy, as we know it today, was not as widespread in antiquity as it is now, there is always something that resonates through the world of the symbolic ‘word’ to the world of form. It is not just a primitive and simplistic superstition. It is a reality. Look at the symbol for the word life – the ankh. Ankh This has been incorporated into so much of what we know today. You don’t even have to know how to spell the word, ankh, the symbol by itself conveys several thousand years of the idea behind it. Ancient mirrors were shaped like an ankh because they reflected life. The same is true of so many other symbols. Another symbol, the eye – the window of the soul, what you serve, what sees, what bears witness, what punishes us for the wrongdoing, what protects us in the end from enemies that might wish to do us harm.

This is why, to my mind, the works of R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, his wife, Isha, and his stepdaughter, Lucie Lamy had it right. Recent offerings from Jeremy Naydler and Richard Reidy also tap into this idea using ancient symbolism along with what we know archaeologically and egyptologically. Somewhere between the ridiculous offerings of new age hucksters and the staunch, unwavering scientific certainty of liturgy that has been “proven” is something else. Between those two extremes is a middle ground where our words are felt by instinct. Of course, modern language is not nearly as complex as that of the ancients. Their words, comprised of hundreds of symbols could have as many as seventeen tenses and double and triple entandres in addition to the symbolic meaning. No wonder so few were scribes or even literate!

But all of this aside. Study and absorption are all a constant for each of us. Writing is part of that process and if we are alive and conscious, especially within this social media driven world, some of us have become determined to prattle less, write more. Within that resolution, came the newest nighttime behaviour: less awakened by nightmares, I have been awakened by insights rather than nightmares of ruin and destruction. These insights are the very things that I have hoped for. It’s the feverent wish to be given a small clue, realization or insight that are needed. As I write this, there is a small gold statue of Djehuty (Thoth), the god of Wisdom and writing watching over me. I think sometimes he must somehow just blink ant my unordered thoughts!

To my mind, I have been sitting on my words for too long. I have endless reams of what I have written either on Livejournal, PanHistoria, Dreamwidth and my various blogs. The hardest part for me is organizing it and perhaps that is where my use of Scrivener comes in. It allows me to do what needs to be done and pass it between PCs in smaller files that are more easily arranged. It’s long since time to actually do something with it.

We are surrounded by words on a nearly constant basis. We are rarely able to escape from them for any length of time and we are immersed in them to such a degree that we barely have time for our own thoughts. But perhaps thinking about the words that we write or that we utter, we can come to an understanding about how and why words were considered sacred. This is especially needed in a world where our words will undoubtedly outlive us.

BD Hunefer cropped 1

5 Comments

Filed under fiction, indigenous, kemetic, Pan Historia, writing

“Grimoire”

Musty esoteric words frantically murmured over flame
Bleak catacomb depths that house the vain attempts
To win back from death’s unfamiliar territory
A heart’s rejoicing light
To win is the soul that somersaults gladly
Reminiscing is dancing where Mortality once lay polluted.

Written over at Pan Historia for a contest where we had a few words we had to include. It got noticed but I wanted to crosspost it here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Pan Historia, writing