As most Kemetics know, Wep Ronpet is coming up at the end of the month (for most of us). And while we have quite a few activities for Wep Ronpet itself, there isn’t a whole lot of discussion about what you can do during the intercalary days. I was thinking earlier this year about what I could do for the 5 birthdays that lead up to the grand finale that is Wep Ronpet, and I realized that I could easily pull something from my own culture and merge it with this holiday: birthday cake.
Yep, you read that right- birthday cake (or birthday cupcakes).
I don’t know how the practice started, but in the US, a birthday isn’t really a birthday without a cake involved, and I feel like it could easily make sense within a Kemetic structure, too.
First off is the cake. The making of cake could easily fall into a rite for Aset, who seems to have a thing for people baking for her. Mixing the ingredients together to make a nice balanced texture and flavor is an awful lot like doing magix and contemplating ma’at in my mind. Both of these elements can easily be entwined in the preparation of the cake that you wish to give the gods. And while I can’t attest that cakes were specifically offered in antiquity, bread items were quite the staple- and there is the likely possibility that sweet breads were offered, too.
Then you’ve got the frosting. The frosting is a good place to utilize symbolism both in color and in decoration. You could easily use colors that are tied to each NTR whose birthday you are celebrating. Greens and blacks for Osiris, blues and golds for Heru-Wer, reds and purples (UPG) for Set, golds and reds for Aset and blacks and blues (UPG) for Nebhet. And each deity does have symbols associated with them: djed pillars, eye symbols, gold/nebu symbols, etc. You can easily use frosting to make each cake tailored to the specific deity, and to lace the entire edible in heka.
And finally there is the candle. Who doesn’t love candles? They come in so many shapes and colors and styles. Plus, there is the added bonus of fire.
Fire plays a heavy role within Kemetic ritual. To quote Reidy:
As the striking of a fire pushes back the darkness, so the living deity manifesting as the solar Eye of Heru dispels and defeats the enemies of life and light. Next to sunlight itself a first ignited by a human being is the universal emblem of light dispelling the dangers of the dark. In ancient Egypt ritual we see that this simple action – and every ritual action without exception – repeat anew on the earthly plane divine acts that occur again and again on the spiritual and mythic planes. (Eternal Egypt, pg 6-7)
Wilkinson also discusses the importance of fire:
Fire appears to have a life of its own, it may represent life itself- as when the Egyptian king kindled a new flame in his sed or jubliee festival. Living fire was embodied in the sun and in its emblem the “fire-spitting” uraeus. … fire was also a natural symbol of protection. The hieroglyph appears in protective contexts, and apotropaic deities such as Taweret … may be shown bearing torches to repel evil. (Reading Egyptian Art, pg 161)
So lighting a fire on top of your cake is a good way to invoke protection and life into the upcoming new year, and possibly to serve as protection during the epagomenal days, which are said to be filled with chaos and are unpredictable in nature.
You could even add another layer of meaning into this by including the typical “Happy Birthday” song that most birthdays entail. Singing and music were a large part of Egyptian ritual, as both were said to placate and appease the gods. And almost every ritual included some amount of sistrum shaking and music making. So don’t be afraid to experiment with including these items into your Wep Ronpet plans and celebrations.
There is a symbol called “sema” that represents the trachea and the lungs. According to Wilkinson, this symbol represents union and unity, and is often related to uniting the Two Lands. When you blow out your candles and sing Happy Birthday to the gods, you’re utilizing your breath, your life force to celebrate the gods, to celebrate their existence. You bring yourself closer to them, and them closer to you. Through your actions and your breath you are creating a union between the Seen and Unseen. You are bridging the gap that exists between the two planes and bringing both closer together.
And that’s probably the best birthday gift you could ask for.