Category Archives: sekhmet

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 Because of limited capabilities of that site now and outdated web coding, I am posting it on this blog page.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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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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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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Sekhem Talisman: Day 4 – 7

I shall not surrender me to any bad misfortune this year.
For I am Ra, who appears in his Eye!
I have arisen as Sekhmet, I have arisen as Wadjet.
For I am Atum behind his heads.
I am Atum who sojourns in the Two Lands
I am Sekhmet in the temple, the Lord of Mankind who made the gods, the Lord of Slaughtering who created respect for Ra.
For I am that Powerful One , lofty and high!

A portion of an amulet ritual, which comes from “Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts” by J.F. Borghouts, p. 13, E.J. Brill, 1978

These past few days we have been gripped by what meteorologists have termed a polar vortex. With windchill factors of more than 5-50 degrees below zero, it is easy to imagine why! This incredible cold has made it rather difficult to continue to work in the usual household shrine space simply because that part of the house is just so cold. I am working more in my bedroom now because it is currently the warmest room of the house.

The Sekhem amulet on the altar with The Chariot Card from the Voyager Tarot

The Sekhem amulet on the altar with The Chariot Card from the Voyager Tarot

One of the things I wanted to do with this rite is to connect to the numerology of this particular year overall, not just for my own personal birthdate. The focus is on overall sekhem and Ma’at and not just necessarily for me as an individual. There is a greater thought toward a collective goal that I am working on and I wanted to put that intent into my amulet as well.

If you take the Julian number of the year, 2014, it becomes a 7 when reduced in numerlogical terms. For me, that corresponds to the Chariot Card VII, in the Tarot. My personal favourite deck, and the one that I work with almost exclusively, is the Voyager Tarot, created by Dr. James Wanless as seen in my photograph.

The Seven and the Chariot have been rather appropriate for this exercise and this talisman in that seven comes up continually in Egyptian rtual and especially with Sekhmet. Sekhmet has Seven Arrows, which were often blamed for various illnesses or misfortunes sent by Her. Of course, this is not my focus for this project, it does bear some contemplation as to how the Seven Arrows tie in to illness, health and of course, Ma’at.

Personal Note:

Because I tend to be extremely private as far as my own personal religious and magical practices, this entire 30 Day Challenge has been a real stretch for me. Perhaps it comes back to the Kemetic ideal that other than State Rites, your religous, daily practices are your own and between you and the gods that you serve. No one can dicatate that; it has to come from within. there is a certain point that you reach in your life where religious devotion, magic, and focus become very much something that is personal and by necessity, it can be extremely private. 30 day challenges to stretch yourself and your focus are wonderful, however, I find myself asking if this would hold up to what we writers called the WIBBOW test: Wouldn’t I Be Better Off Writing? At this point, with a book nearing completion, I am beginning to lean toward, “Yes.”

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Sekhem Talisman Day #3

My Sekhem pendant is about about the size of a set of dog tags; which makes it only slightly smaller than a license plate! Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love it! Aidan made a beautiful piece that I wear daily, and happily so. It is the one that he made that I have posted pictures of in earlier entries rather than the one that I am working with for this 30 day challenge project. The current sekhem pendant is the second one that I have commissioned from a silversmith that was made to my own specifications.

The first pendant, by contrast, is very delicate and is a 3D miniature of the actual object rather than the glyph inside a cartouche.

sekhem pendant #1

Sekhem Pendant made by Michael Holland

The problem is, right now, that particular piece has got a very distinct stress point where the baton portion of the scepter meets the lutus-shaped base of the sekhem flabellum and the slightest pressure on it will cause it to bend. I know that it would break if I were to dare to wear it before it is fixed. Ultimately, it was damaged because I very stupidly slept with it on for the entire summer. Most jewelry isn’t meant for that kind of abuse – especially not fine, highly pure silver that has very slender parts to begin with! So, now I have to send it to a place that specializes in a sort of laser repair. There is one “locally.” eg. somewhere here in Iowa, but I am more inclined to send it back to the silversmith in Montana, Michael Holland, whom I originally commissioned it from to see what he can do.

This little dilemma between the two Sekhem’s actually got me to thinking about subtle power and not so subtle power and the comfort levels of each. Subtle power is not so noticible whereas, overt power tends to be out there and often get attention. As such, it can make the wielder of that more overt type of power at times feel a bit self-conscious about it. Learning how to deal with that difference can be a bit of a task. Sometimes, speaking from experience, being the less overt bit of power behind something has its advantages because there is great power, great sekhem in being underestimated. Either one has its place and it’s that which was my focus on this day.

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Sekhem Talisman – Day #2

Nefertari making offerings

Nefertari from her tomb in the Valley of the Queens, Egypt

Yesterday marked the second day of rituals that I will be performing around the Sekhem amulet / talisman created by Aidan Watcher for the 30 Day Talisman Challenge as posted by Andrieh Vitimus.

The daily rite was performed with the usual purifications and invocations. Because I had an intensely busy day, after the purifications and invocations, I began to set the focus on being what Sekhem means. I spent most of the day meditating on this idea and what the symbol and the actual concept means for me as an individual in my own life and what it means on a larger, global scale. There are far too many ways in which power, both personal and on a larger scale is misused. With power or sekhem comes a great deal of responsibility. Each choice we make, each action we choose has within it the idea of sekhem. Those of us who are Kemetic often know that the cornerstone, indeed the foundation of all of this is the idea of ma’at.

Perhaps the largest focus for me is overcoming the element of fear. That may be something that one would believe that a daughter of Sekhmet would not have but I can assure you, at times we do; just like everyone else!During the meditation it became quite apparent to me that even a seeming weakness, however, can ultimately lead to strength in that area or another one that compensates. Sometimes fear can be a phantom and what is perceived is not real at all. The power or the sekhem in this is knowing what is real, or what is Ma’at and not. Since Sekhmet, the personification of what Sekhem actually is, upholds Ma’at or rightness – order, it seemed more than a little appropriate that differentiation and discernment would be a part of that process.

Later today I will post for Day 3 of the rites in this challenge.

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