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The Importance of Netjeri

07 Dec

*Please note that the bulk of this post is entirely UPG and is a theory that I am currently experimenting with. This entire post has a large YMMV disclaimer on it.*

It is my understanding that Netjeri are the little guys of the Duat. While they can be powerful, well-known little guys, they are still under the gods in rank and typically work for the gods in some fashion or another (typically, I’m sure there are exceptions to the rules). And in a modern context, it doesn’t seem that many Netjeri get any notice from Kemetic practitioners, and on the by and large, they are pretty much unknown, or disregarded.

I question if this is a good thing.

When you think about it, the gods have Netjeri in their service. They command netjeri (often written as “demons”) to go do things for them. However, if their netjeri are receiving no sustenance from the Kemetics who know that they exist, or if the gods are forced to share their meager offerings with the netjeri in their service, it seems to me that all parties would be weaker or suffering out of a lack of support through offerings by devotees/practitioners.

I would like to share an experience that I’ve had recently as a form of reference for this line of thinking.

At the river, there is an offering table where I will place a variety of items that are specifically for Osiris or his entourage. Normally, these offerings are very simple- incense, water and bread. Usually, when I arrive at the river, I will leave offerings on the table and they go to… wherever they go to. Once I’ve returned later, I will find the offering table is clean, and the process starts over again.

One evening, I was bored and decided to sit down in front of the offering table and stare off at the river below. I noticed when I looked back down at the offering table that the offerings I had placed there earlier had disappeared.

Thus began the experimenting.

I decided to start small. I’d put a jug of water here. A few rolls there. And I’d wait.

And slowly but surely, each item would disappear.

So I slowly added more items of a variety of natures. I’d bring out the standard beer and water, fruit, cheese and bread. But after a while, I got even more curious, and I’d place out bowls of candy, chocolate and other junk foods.

Everything would disappear. It’s almost like the table was a portal, and on the other end, O’s staff was taking the offerings in and processing them. Jokingly, I stated that I hoped it wasn’t a netjeri who oversaw this, because O would return to find his staff incredibly buzzed off of a ton of beer and chocolate. It would be a mad house.

It’s from this experience that I really began to question if the gods have staff, and who or what feeds the staff that work for the gods. Is it our offerings? Is there sustenance that comes from the Duat? Is is ma’at (what gods are said to live off of)? Is it something else?

And with that- should we be considering a deity’s entourage when we put offerings out?

One of the most common ways that netjeri get mention in modern Kemeticism is under the question of “are you sure it was a god that you were talking to, or was it actually a netjeri?” This is commonly the response given when you have a weird experience with a “deity” or when you’re getting odd vibes or responses from your gods. You see, when the gods are out doing their thing, netjeri often pick up the phones and scribble down our messages for the gods to check later. They also like to sometimes pretend to be gods when they are obviously not. So we often get weird experiences from time to time at the hands of a bored or hungry netjeri.

However, if we were to start paying attention to netjeri, and leaving small tokens out for them, don’t you think it possible that they could become a useful part of your Kemetic toolbox? Perhaps if you were to show them that you notice that they exist, they’d be a little more attentive when they scribble down your message, and maybe they’d make sure that your message is the first to get to the god in question. Perhaps they wouldn’t have to pretend to be a deity in your presence because they know they’ll get something from you with or without the deity mask on their face.

Sometimes, paying attention to the little guy can bring benefit to you. It also brings benefit to the gods because their staff is actually being fed – and so the whole structure can become stronger for it. If you consider it in today’s standards- feeding only the gods is like only feeding our CEOs and hoping that the little people beneath the CEOs actually get something from it.

Because of this, every time that I go to the river now, I try to leave out a small bowl of candy for the netjeri. I make sure that there are enough rolls and other things for multiple people to survive off of. I try to make sure that I give enough that any staff or entourage may be able to partake in the food. I do this in hopes that the entire group may benefit from it, and to show my thanks that they continue to help make the cogs of the Duat turn and still help the gods with their tasks.

Have you ever worked closely with netjeri? Would you consider leaving offerings for the netjeri?

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15 responses to “The Importance of Netjeri

  1. Sati

    December 7, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. Since I am very much of a shrine addict I was thinking about setting up a netjeri shrine and start working with it. I totally agree with you that sometimes the not so vivid beings might be more of help than the super-powerful gods. I think it is part of our religious upbringing that we are more likely to adress the “big names” in the pantheon because we believe they have more power and therefore can fufill our needs better. And they fit so much better into the idea of being “perfect” and flawless although none of them actually IS. Ambivalence can be found among the great gods just as much as among the netjeri. I am sure we are simple not used to dealing with the smaller deities. I mean who knows perhaps they are a lot closer to us, know us and our human needs better and are still powerful enough to support us remarkably in our everyday’s life.

     
  2. henadology

    December 7, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    I’m confused about the origins of the concept of “Netjeri”. I’ve never encountered this term in any primary theological text, and perusing the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae for nTr.j (http://bit.ly/1iKLmZe) I don’t find any usage answering to the way I hear the term used in KO. The term is the adjectival form of nTr, and hence means “divine”. All sorts of things are called nTr.j (temples, incense burners, beer jugs) insofar as they have something divine about them, but this notion of “Netjeri” as a class of subdivine entities, akin to the technical usage of the term daimôn in later Hellenic religious thought, seems like a modern innovation to me. I’m not saying it’s not a useful concept, but I’m not clear that it comes from antiquity in the first place.

     
    • von186

      December 9, 2013 at 8:20 pm

      Sorry for the delay in response, I was waiting on a response from Tamara. I figured it would be safer to go to the source and ask her for information on where the term came from and all of that.

      According to her (this is snippets of our conversation):

      “The word netjeri is in the hieroglyphic language, and is a descriptor-noun: “those who are netjer-like.” Netjer is also problematic in rendering into English, as it means nothing more than “unseen/divine power.” So a netjeri would be a thing that bears unseen or divine power.

      As Netjer is generally translated to “god(s),” so netjeri is translated in the Classical language (that is, in original sources into Greek) as daimones, or spirit beings that aren’t specifically gods. Daimon (plural daimones) comes into modern American English as “demon.” However, modern English gives “demon” a very different nuance, that of something that is both spiritual and evil.

      The ancients didn’t make that distinction. Both good and evil netjeri are known in terms of morality. The vast majority of the netjeri are neutral or not really interacting with humans, but some choose to.

      There are other words for the other unseen beings, namely Netjer for the deities, and Akhu and/or Muuet for the elevated and wandering/unjudged dead, respectively. Netjeri thus covers all the unseen (that is to say non-corporeal bodied) beings that are neither dead people nor gods. It is a huge classification, and has many subclassifications, some of which have their own terms and some of which do not.

      […]

      A full description of the term netjeri (written ntri with a line under the t) with all of its nuances is available in the Wörterbuch der Ägyptischen Sprache (dictionary of the Egyptian language) by Erman and Grapow. There’s a PDF of that letter here, but the document’s in German (http://static.egyptology.ru/lang/Wb/Wb-n.pdf) The relevant entries are on pages 363-366. Netjeri has a number of variant meanings around the root netjer meaning “holy” or “bearing divine power.”

      […]

      The term is used in some incantations, alongside the words for ancestors (akhu) and the other dead (muuet). […] I can assure you that it does exist, and I used the term because we needed a term for us in English that wasn’t “demons,” and so I went to the sources to look at the various words for various kinds of spirits, rather than just making up a diminutive of nTr.

      Whenever possible, I try not to make anything up, UPG or no. If I do have to do such a thing, such as where I knew there were four libations to be made at the beginning of a shrine prayer, but not the specific words of those libations, then I am clear about what I am adding, where it came from, and why.

      bA.w (bau) simply means “powers,” and it can cover anything from spiritual entities to one’s own personal force or power (like qi in Chinese thought), as well as the emanations of the power of various divinities (as in the name Banebdjed, “the power of the lord of the Djed pillar.” It is not specifically the name of any class or group of spirits, and I concluded its nuances and usages are too vague/generalized to be applied to the classes of spirits we talk about as Netjeri.

      However, this person is correct that there are many, many specific nuanced terms for various classes of spiritual beings, and any and all of them can be used when they are appropriate and specifically known.

      […]

      Note: it’s also nTry “like/of nTr”, and not just nTri. nTr.i would be “my god.”

      […]

      A second instance, I found in a quick search of notes and such I have here in my computer:

      In the Rites of the Great Seat (our traditional coronation ceremonies), there is a phrase during the offerings of Heliopolis to the Nisut:

      The earth trembled, Geb was enflamed, but the soil of life surrounds you. Tem’s Netjeri** are the protection of your limbs.

      (**”Tem’s Netjeri” is written nTry n Itm, clearly “the spirits of Tem” with determinatives to say they are plural, independent spirit beings, not His own divinity in the abstract.)”

      I hope this clears up some of the wonderings you had. Sorry for the wall of text.

       
      • henadology

        December 12, 2013 at 4:36 pm

        Thank you for posting this, and for going to the trouble of contacting Rev. Siuda on the matter. She basically confirms my original understanding, which was that the term is Egyptian nTr.j, essentially “Godlike” or “divine” (nTr plus the adjectival ending j—this is not the j of the first person ending, which would be “my God”, which is written as nTr=j), which KO has adopted as a generalized term to cover entities that in Greek, e.g., would be called daimones; but she affirms that these are at least sometimes referred to in Egyptian texts as netjeri, for instance in the passage cited from the Rite of the Great Seat. (This usage is quite rare, it should be noted, and doesn’t seem to be covered in the entry from the Wörterbuch.) Fair enough; it’s a useful extension of the term for practical purposes. One ought ideally to pluralize the term in the correct form, as “netjeriu” (nTr.jw), however, in order to prevent confusion. I recognize, though, that people tend not to bother with the proper Egyptian plural endings (for instance, using “netjer” as a plural, when technically the plural should be “netjeru”).

         
      • von186

        December 12, 2013 at 4:40 pm

        I hadn’t even considered the notion of the pluralized form, which makes me feel stupid 😛 I will have to re-train myself to remember to add the “w” to the end.

         
  3. Medewty Senu

    December 7, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    I find this interesting as it has a certain synchronicity with other pagan paths, most notably the Sidhe and how the Courts are governed. There are greater fae and lesser faeall which serve important duties. Most people give no thought to the lesser fae though they likely see their works every day.
    Also on the idea that this sort of thing wasn’t practiced in AE, I concur with Henadology but must point out that we’re talking about a dead culture. The OP did mention that most of the info is UPG hence not completely in line with Ancient Egypt. Also throughout the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms certain practices changed some Netjer had their forms changed completely. It’s MY understanding that the Netjer are not stagnant. Who are we to discredit anyone’s point of view? If it works for them, so be it.

     
    • henadology

      December 7, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      Medewty Senu, I’m not discrediting anyone’s point of view, or saying that the Netjeru are stagnant, I’m really making a point about terminology. I’m fine with the UPG aspect. That’s not the issue here.

       
  4. henadology

    December 7, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Okay, I see from the Wepwawet Wiki that “Netjeri” isn’t a term from antiquity at all. That resolves my confusion. The term doesn’t come from Egyptian nTr.j, but rather was simply created by somebody in English, as a sort of English-style diminutive of Netjer. So in a way, the whole category of entity is UPG, though I don’t doubt that the ancients had some notion of similar entities, though not called “Netjeri”. The most generic term that comes to mind for such beings is bA.w, but there were probably a lot of more specific terms for specific kinds.

     
    • helmsinepu

      December 7, 2013 at 6:54 pm

      FWIW, the Rev. Siuda has described Banebdjedet as netjeri. Which confuses the heck out of me, since he had a jim-dandy temple in Djedet and had a large cult that runs from the OK to Ptolemaic times.

      In a practical sense, it may be that a “netjeri’ is a god who is too minor to be on the RPD list, even though it’s a long list. That’s a guess on my part.

      There may be some ‘demons’ who are capable of independent action, and some who function as automata.

       
      • henadology

        December 8, 2013 at 8:45 am

        Helmsinepu, there is surely no reason from antiquity why Banebdjedet would be considered as netjeri rather than simply a Netjer. However, it does suggest that Rev. Siuda coined the term “netjeri” as a sort of revisioning of the concept of bA.w, and Banebdjedet got swept up into it on account of being, in some sense, a bA.

         
  5. cardsandfeather

    December 7, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    Thanks for posting this!! I am one of those Kemetics who’ve never heard of the “Netjeri”, but I definitely am aware of similar beings in other pantheons and feel it makes a lot of sense.

    A very thought provoking post. Thanks again!

     
  6. Sashataakheru

    December 8, 2013 at 2:00 am

    This post has reminded me of the netjeri of Ra I’ve had with me for over a decade now, along with the other cat netjeri that have been hanging around the house, protecting it. It occurred to me that I might make room for a netjeri shelf underneath my lararium when I redo my room, so I can lay out offerings for them.

     
    • von186

      December 9, 2013 at 9:25 am

      If you do that, I’d love to see what you include on a netjeri shelf, or how it works out for you :3

       
  7. shezep

    December 14, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    UPG here too…

    Some of the netjeri are made from the god’s own flesh. (Meeks talked about this in “Daily Life.”) This might be done on purpose to create an assistant, or accidentally in the case of dismemberment. A netjeri who is made of the god’s own flesh, acting as a messenger, is not exactly “pretending” to be the god. In my UPG is it considered good form to treat the messenger the same as the god from which it came. The god is able to observe and speak through the assistant as if the god were in fact present. In some circumstances, it might be considered impolite to try to peak beneath the mask. …and at other times you have to wonder if the netjeri might appreciate being seen as an individual rather than an extension. In such a case, it would normally be very difficult to tell the difference anyway.

    If you can tell the difference, it’s probably a completely different netjeri trying to mess with you. The scent is the only way to tell, but they don’t always give you that.

    As for doubting whether a god did something because another person had a completely different experience, it might be a matter of being duped, or it might be that the god is a complex being that doesn’t always act the same way in any given situation. They are limited only by their Name, which is not given to us to know.

    Anyway, giving offerings to netjeri too makes me smile. 🙂

     

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