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Ancient Egyptians Didn’t Have Disordered Eating

24 Sep

If there is a problem that has plagued my ritual work for years, it’s my disordered eating. And while I know that there is no absolute way to determine whether ancient Egypt had disordered eating present or not, I feel pretty confident in my guess that it wasn’t a prolific problem, if it existed at all. For those of you who are unaware, disordered eating is technically a sort of eating disorder, its just that there isn’t a particular name for the way that your eating is not healthy or “normal.” Many people have disordered eating and don’t realize it — potentially as many as 3 out of every 4 Americans have it, and for many of us, its a byproduct of our mental health and the unhealthy culture that we’re forced to live in.

For me specifically, my disordered eating is often a byproduct of my depression and stress levels. When my depression skyrockets in a particular way, I often don’t feel like eating — even if I’m hungry. Most things sound completely unappetizing, and when I force myself to eat I often end up with stomach aches or meltdowns as a result. This, of course, is a problem if you’re doing ritual work because our ritual structure mandates that you offer something to eat to the NTRW. I have yet to see a single Kemetic ritual that doesn’t include food offerings as a staple chapter.

And I mean, why not? Food is great (I guess?), it’s what keeps us alive, and supposedly the NTRW help us to grow is so that we can sustain ourselves with it. But it’s a huge problem if you can’t bring yourself to eat.

Years ago, I sought to bypass the disordered eating by using votive offerings instead. I bought a bunch of ReMent and used that to fill my offering plates for many many years. Even if I couldn’t bring myself to eat, I could bring myself to give the NTRW replicas of what I was supposed to be eating. I could offer them more in terms of number and quantity than I could ever do with actual food. It allowed me to let go of the stress around food and just focus on being present.

Of course, people did not like the idea. I’ve read everything from “that’s half-assing it” to “if you give the NTRW ‘fake’ offerings, they’ll give you fake blessings in return.” And so I’ve always ended up having a mixed relationship with my votive offerings because years and years of being told that they aren’t good enough will eventually leave you feeling like they aren’t good enough.

And so when I finally could eat again, because my health issues had reached a certain level of improvement, I told myself that I should try to use real food and not votive offerings. I created a sort of “rule” in my head that votive offerings are only for people who can’t offer “real” food (not that I’d ever place that rule on someone else. It was only ever directed at me.) And so I packed them away and tried not to use them. Fast forward a few years to my Year of Rites project where I told myself I would use real food for the entire thing because I knew I should eat, could eat, and needed to eat. And therefore, should try to use my ritual work to motivate myself to eat better and regularly.

And I guess it’s worked so far. If you read through what few updates I’ve given, or parse through the images that I used to take, you’ll see that offerings were still a problem for me. I can’t tell you how many rituals get put off until the end of the day because I couldn’t force myself to cook or eat early enough to do things at a reasonable time, or how many times I just grabbed a piece of convenience snacking material to offer instead. But the more important point is that I was managing up until August.

I want to preface this with a certain level of “I knew this would happen.”

As my grandfather lay on his death bed, I could overhear my mother telling the handful of people that were there with us that she really wanted to make sure that people checked up on me for the next few weeks. She was worried that I would fall apart after he died, and seemingly was trying to be proactive or something. I remember trying to meet these people halfway, letting them know that my depression would likely stave itself for a month or two, and that if people were really concerned, they’d make sure that they came around in a month or two, because that’s when I’d likely actually need the help. My emotions take time to process. My disassociation takes time to wear off so that I can feel what I’m actually feeling.

It took a while to kick in, but I noticed that by the end of August, my eating was beginning to slip. I blamed it on a new medical protocol I was trying, and hoped that my appetite would return.

But it hasn’t. And I’m not really surprised about it. Just as I had told those people — it takes time for my grief to process, and so the depression took a bit to really settle in.

Each day that there is a ritual scheduled, I feel this sort of dread or aversion in my stomach. To know that not only do I need to come up with something to offer the gods, I need to actually eat it, and I need to prepare it at such a time that I will have the time to perform the ritual, but also won’t lose my desire to eat whatever it is by the time my ritual work is done (for example, if I take a break while eating, I often lose all desire to finish my meals. I eat to reduce my stomach pain, and once that’s even mildly resolved, I often quit eating.)

When you combine this with how much I absolutely can’t stand this last batch of rubrics I made, you’ve got a recipe for not doing many rituals. So far I’ve only missed three rites this year (they were all execrations. Execrations feel like the world’s biggest waste of time and involve finding a place to start a fire and smelling like smoke and I’d just rather not most days,) but I can tell that this last quarter will be the hardest because I hate the words and I hate the food. There are other factors at play as well, but I still feel that these are the largest components to why I’m avoidant of doing ritual work right now.

So this begs to ask — what does one do about this? After this year’s worth of work, I honestly have a lot of criticism of people’s assumptions about how rituals should be set up, how often one should be able to do them, what they should consist of, how much we should be maintaining ancient practices, etc. But even if we don’t get into analyzing traditional ideas of what Kemetic rituals entail, it still really needs to be asked: what do we do about disordered eating? It’s quite clear that the ancient Egyptians didn’t have this particular hurdle to overcome, and so it’s something that we modern practitioners need to answer for ourselves, and possibly for our community.

Votive offerings seemed to be a solid alternative, but at the same time, there is a lot of moral baggage that comes with using them. You risk being ostracized or criticized by your fellows, and that just leads to more dysfunction for a person. The other alternative is to not offer food at all, or perhaps give only a voice offering — but both of these are also rife with chastisement and belittling within our community (have I mentioned recently how much I hate our community? I hope this post gives a little peek as to some of the reasons why) and I know that I often feel like voice offerings are not “enough.” It would feel weird to sit at my shrine and just say words and not perform any ritual actions that mirror the words. So, from what I can tell, no clear alternative exists that won’t evoke feelings of shame because it results in at least a portion of our community putting someone down for using it or doing it.

So I ask you all, how do we get around this? What is the best solution? How do we modify ritual structures for modern problems such as this? Is there even an alternative that anyone can take that doesn’t result in being shat on? Because so far, the answer feels a lot like a no.

 
25 Comments

Posted by on September 24, 2019 in Kemeticism, Rambles, Year of Rites

 

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25 responses to “Ancient Egyptians Didn’t Have Disordered Eating

  1. Aubs Tea

    September 24, 2019 at 11:53 am

    I honestly think the only way around it is votive offerings & people stop being judgmental asses.

     
    • DevoTTR

      October 6, 2019 at 2:40 pm

      I think the better way around it is to start to find a way to gain energy via photosynthesis. and i can just go stand outside as my food offering.

       
  2. Beck

    September 24, 2019 at 12:26 pm

    Long time reader, first time commenter.

    For what it’s worth, I have done rituals without any food offerings. Instead, incense was my offering. So far I haven’t heard any complaints from the gods I worship. I don’t know that there’s an answer to your questions that will please everyone, but the way I see it, what I offer (or don’t) is between me and my gods. If they disapprove, I’m sure they’ll find a way to let me know it.

    Just my two cents.

     
    • DevoTTR

      October 6, 2019 at 2:39 pm

      So far I’ve not received any complaints either way, but I also haven’t really been listening so who knows. Ultimately, it’s dealing with my own judgement of myself that is the bigger problem here, I think. Not so much the gods judgement.

       
  3. Sierra

    September 24, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    I am not Kemetic, and so hope my questions aren’t missing the very obvious – but your phrasing implies that your eating the same food as you are offering is critical. I’ve often used food offerings, and sometimes it’s been the first portion of what would then be my own meal – but is this a requirement? I’ve also often given food such as dates, honey, or (sometimes) wine, but those were only given in offering and not items I also ate myself.

    Generally in agreement, though, that votive offerings should be fine and other people should see to their own offerings and not waste energy that could go to the gods on critiquing others’ practice. I really liked the ReMent offering practice, personally, and if the gods accept our offerings and we are present and engaged for that process, that’s all that actually matters. (This is also why I shun ‘community’ of almost any sort, mind you.)

     
    • DevoTTR

      October 6, 2019 at 2:38 pm

      You don’t technically need to personally eat the offerings, but generally, the offerings are meant to be consumed by someone. Traditionally, the same set of offerings would have been carted through an entire lineup of deities at the temple, and then at the very end, would have been dispersed to the temple crew to be eaten or taken home, etc. Basically, we don’t want the food to go to waste, so ideally, the offerings will be eaten by someone. I just don’t really have any other “someones” to eat anything I make, so. It falls to me.

      I also can’t confirm that I’m fully engaged or present during a large portion of my rituals, so I mean, like. We’re not doing so hot here XD

       
  4. ibsedjetib

    September 24, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    I never get hungry, it’s really rare when i do, and even if I haven’t eaten all day my stomach never hurts and i don’t feel sick. Mostly I blame this on my digestive diseases but I also think it has something to do with my mental health. I mostly eat because my phone has an alarm set that tells me its time to. I like to cook and bake, but partaking of it isn’t always something I could do.

    I’ve often considered getting tiny foods like you mentioned (i always called them dollhouse miniatures though) , mostly because I just cannot cannot cannot cannot leave food set out in this household with my animals around, but yanno the not eating thing is a real good reason to do it too.

    I’ve also considered drawing foods or whatever on pieces of paper while I offer it to them.

    and I agree with sat. people need to stop being judgemental. it’s hard enough to have disabilities, mental illnesses, or chronic illnesses and practice. It’s hard enough to be a new member of the community and navigate the sea of negetivity and conflicting everything that pops up especially on tumblr — the main reason I haven’t participated until recently was because as a new peerson it’s just impossible to parse that, and as a person who has issues parsing things anyway… well you can see where that leads.

    in summary, people need to get off their priveledge horses and stop gatekeeping.

     
    • DevoTTR

      October 6, 2019 at 2:36 pm

      Yes, dollhouse miniatures are also a thing :> Rement is a specific brand from Japan, and most of its stuff is a little bit smaller than most dollhouse miniatures that I’ve seen — but they def do exist, and they’re technically slightly different (infodump, sorry)

      I sometimes wish I didn’t get hungry, because then I would have more time to “work through” the mental aspects of not being able to eat. But in truth, I know I likely want to not-be-hungry because then I could just avoid the whole problem and never eat. I’ve done that in the past, and it really just complicated things, but trying to sort out a major trigger issue (food) several times a day as it effects nearly ever aspect of my ability to function (I don’t do well with no food) is sometimes more than I think I can handle, and so I wish for a reprieve where I can pretend I don’t need to eat XD

      This last week I offered my foreleg painting that I made for this quarter’s akhu rites, and it seemed to be okay. So the drawing foods is probably not a half bad idea, as those have worked for me in every other aspect besides food… so I’m not sure why I didn’t bother to think of that before, so thanks for that.

      I do agree people need to stop gatekeeping, I just have no hope that people ever will, and question whether my anxiety will ever stop long enough for their words to not matter :\

       
      • ibsedjetib

        October 11, 2019 at 10:37 am

        Thanks for clearing that up, I don’t know much obviously so I was just sort of confused as to if it was a brand or a word I was unaware of … I have this dream of filling a teeny tiny basket I found with miniature foods that are things grown or found around here for the seasons, because I love decorating and that seems an easy thing to have sitting by my altar. But I’ve yet to find anything but some tiny pumpkins. I might have to make them out of oven bake clay. Haven’t done that in a long time so it would be interesting to do again. xD

        I completely understand that. I also don’t do well with not eating, which is why my phone alarms tell me to eat. I probably do have disordered eating, because I have to struggle with the anxiety every time I eat something. I mentioned I have digestive issues, it’s really hard to want to eat when you just feel sick every time you do. And on the brief moments where I don’t feel sick, I end up being sick after anyway. :/ So it’s like, I know I need to eat, I know that if I don’t I’ll get really sick and end up in the ER but when I do eat I just feel sick afterwards, even if I’ve eaten the thing a million times and know it should treat my stomach okay, there’s always the chance that it won’t. It’s like constant negetive feedback and there’s no way to feel good about it. 😦

        You’re welcome! It actually came to me while I was trying to find things to fill my tiny basket I mentioned a second ago. That until I got enough gumption to make things out of clay i could draw them on a piece of paper and put them in there. I always feel like the act of making something is in itself a spell, as you’re putting effort and caring into a thing that you then use for something or give to someone. so I figured that intent while one was drawing it would transfer well.

        Oh they probably won’t. But I won’t stop telling them to stop, and I still need to beleive that one day at least one of them will stop. It’s really hard though when the negetive voices give you anxiety and I unfortunately understand that all too well. I know that I’m a good person, but a family member constantly tells me I’m not, and even though I know that person is just being a negetive jerk, I still have anxiety about every thing they say. It’s hard. And I unfortunately don’t have any advice to help. 😦

         
  5. pear

    September 24, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    Ideally people would stop being judgmental about other people’s relationships with the Holy Powers. In the meantime, I vote for stubbornly reminding people that reconstructionism isn’t necessary to commune with the Gods and/or offering liquids (like juice, tea, milk, or water) instead of food if you’re like me and sometimes are not up for eating solid food (for a variety of medical or non-medical reasons).

     
    • DevoTTR

      October 6, 2019 at 2:30 pm

      I do the offering liquids thing, but it still feels weird to me when I only have a cup sitting on the altar. Maybe I should try doing water for the liquid offering, and something else (tea, juice, etc.) for the food offering so that it will feel a bit more, uh, special? varied? and look more like a full course of.. uh. things.

       
  6. Merit

    September 24, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    What you offer is between you and your divinities. Who cares what others think? It is none of their damn business and they can worry about their own relationships and leave yours alone. Good gravy, people need to get over their pretentious bullshit.

     
    • DevoTTR

      October 6, 2019 at 2:29 pm

      unfortunately, its my anxiety and rampant mental illness that cares what others think. a byproduct of being a social creature with illness, unfortunately.
      i do agree ppl need to get over their pretentious bullshit. i don’t expect that to happen, though.

       
  7. cgw

    September 24, 2019 at 6:47 pm

    If one feels like believing that the offering must be real portioned food, maybe offer a packaged good and then donate it somewhere afterward, idk? This is such an important post though. I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis this spring and decided to try a gluten free diet just after Wep Ronpet. It’s been weird for sure. Rolls were my favorite default offering. Now everything traditional is all fixated on “bread and beer!” And I can’t share in that. It’s put me in a different relationship to offerings for sure. I’ve just been plunking down small wrapped things since, because it’s enough of a pain in the ass to feed even myself with this restriction now.

     
    • DevoTTR

      October 6, 2019 at 2:28 pm

      omg being GF is such a pain in the ass, and even though I’m supposed to be avoiding enriched flour, while being as close to GF as possible (because I have genetic predisposition to get it, i think?? and the folic acid put into enriched flour is bad for me), I still have periods where I just say ‘idc anymore’ and eat gluten because it is so difficult, and frankly, expensive to be GF. I’ve opted for the small wrapped things in the past. But eventually my mental illness will latch onto that and tell me all the reasons why its not good enough and I am back at square one XD

      tl;dr eating restrictions suck.

       
  8. qalam-i rumi

    September 25, 2019 at 1:25 am

    There is a lot to say on all this, but let me preface it by explaining that even though I am American by citizenship and higher education, I was born and educated in various parts of Europe (and I definitely do not come from money).

    In the US, food regulations are weak. A lot of foods include high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener, and that is used to fatten animals as well. Many Europeans notice this when they come to the US for a year abroad and they gain weight dramatically.

    Genetically modified foods have been touted as a great solution to famine, but they are horrible in their social effects (suicides of farmers in India when they realize seeds are designed not to spout, but must be bought instead). There are countless additives, especially in bread, which is why more and more people discover that not eating wheat brings about improvement.

    There is also too much meat, and the animals are raised in abusive and cruel conditions, which also affects the milk production. Many people do not realize that they might have mild degrees of lactose intolerance, even if they are of European ancestry. In short, neither the bread nor the milk products nor the meat are even remotely close to what they were in Egypt 3000 years ago (or, indeed, in any other part of the world 100 years ago).

    Female-bodied people are exposed to additional layers of suffering. They may be especially sensitive to hormones given to animals, and they are often under pressure to please other people either by cooking or by eating specific foods which may not suit them. Being genderfluid, I have my own dysphoria, but I have never understood the extent to which many women starve themselves either to obtain praise or to have a sense of control. In retrospect, almost 100 percent of my female-identified friends and acquaintances have made strange comments about food, visibly refusing to eat what was clearly healthy food, criticized me for my own eating habits, alleged that they cannot eat in public or at someone else’s houses even when I encouraged them to do the cooking. Male-identified people tend to do the opposite, stuffing themselves with any kind of food to prove that they are not excessively sensitive, and that has its own problems.

    All of this is an enormous social problem not just in the brutal capitalism which surrounds us since the 1980s, but in all industrial societies.

    That’s the first part.

     
  9. qalam-i rumi

    September 25, 2019 at 1:52 am

    Ok, here is the second part, and apologies for typing so much, but the following might explain why.

    As a recent parent of a small child, I also struggle with my weight and nutrition, so I am not preaching from some elevated pulpit.

    My own eating was severely dysfunctional when I was younger. I rejected my family’s meat-based diet and survived for some thirty years, since early childhood, on cheese, bread, pizza, occasional fish, some fruits, tomatoes, tofu and rice..and cheese and bread again. I was always anemic, with icy-cold limbs, and in spite of eating little, I was always slightly overweight.

    In my late thirties, I started eating meat after an intense spiritual crisis. During my period of unemployment after my Ph.D., I learned to cook since I could not afford to eat out. When I decided to become pregnant after the age of forty, I learned a lot from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Practically all of my favorite foods were destroying the qi of my kidneys and my life-force, in spite of my cooking from scratch with healthy ingredients. I controlled all cold foods and carried out a healthy pregnancy at the age of 43, delivering the child unassisted, because that’s what I wanted.

    I had to move countries again, and I am back where I started as a teenager, facing my siblings’ awful eating habits — sausages and loads of cold dairy and processed bread. It is a tough battle, but I am surprised. Recent books on TCM and food have been literally falling into my hands,explaining a lot my difficulties, especially the sluggishness and the persistent cold although I always cook with warming and hot spices.

    The most crucial thing is to watch the quality of the bread that you are eating. It is better to eat other grains, such as millet, but if you need bread, small pieces of sourdough, as expensive as it may be, is better than factory-made and denatured white bread. Second, do not snack on cheese or milk products. You can add it to other foods when it is at least at room temperature, but certainly not out of the fridge.

    I would list the TCM books I’ve been reading, but they are all in German. Crucially, you need to be honest about your own dysfunctions. It is NOT about weight — it is about life-force. If you eat the milk or the flesh of an animal which was pumped with hormones, deprived of its offspring, possibly fed its fellow-animals, and if that animal developed cancer, it cannot be good for you to eat it.

    ***

    Finally, what do offerings have to do with all this?

    I believe that my very recent work with Djehuty and Heru is leading me toward the foods I fear and dislike the most — lentils and beans. Simpler fare which is affordable and which is nutritious as long as it is not genetically modified. I can’t stand it, but I have started eating them as an offering, and I do feel better.

    I believe that They will initially offer even junk food if it comes from the heart (blatant example: Hershey’s chocolate. To me, it literally tastes like shit – it’s an insult to chocolate beans).

    But then, as you and They progress in devotional practice, They will reject your dysfunctional habits.

    If the foods you offer Them are denatured, do they constitute a true offering? I would argue that they do not.

    You give what you can. But just as in other offerings (drawing, ritual), They ask for your time and concentration. Better to give a very small offering that tastes well and feeds you than loads of stuff that you cannot and will not eat. In Tantric thought, Gods exist both inside AND outside of us, and if you feed yourself crap food, They also eat it.

    So, in one sentence — give truly good stuff to yourself, even if it is in tiny quantities, so that you can also give to Them.

    In solidarity. Em hotep.

     
    • DevoTTR

      October 6, 2019 at 2:24 pm

      Yeah, I’ve got a full diet plan that I should be on, but its hard when you can’t really afford a lot of it, and what you can afford sounds unappetizing. I wish I could get by on less, on simpler things, because doing the work to make meals only to dislike how they taste really sucks, and when you’re depressed its just so much easier to reach for something convenient. I have been working to grow my own food to help heal my relationship with food, but its not gone well so far, so I still have to rely solely on what I can afford from teh store. Everything is a vicious cycle when you live in dystopian hell XD

       
  10. qalam-i rumi

    September 25, 2019 at 3:19 am

    Important correction of one sentence above (and again, apologies for multiple posts)

    I believe that They will initially ACCEPT even junk food if it comes from the heart.

     
  11. RaasAlHayya (Josephine)

    September 25, 2019 at 5:37 am

    You gotta do what works for you, and to heck with anyone who thinks they need to judge you for it.

     
    • DevoTTR

      October 6, 2019 at 2:22 pm

      Yeah, I need to quit judging myself, but that’s the hardest part. Esp when I was really trying to not have to fall back on voice offerings alone. Esp when I know that its bad to not be eating ~~:

       
  12. Speckled

    October 2, 2019 at 10:28 am

    I think that both of the other options you mentioned are perfectly legitimate. There are, unfortunately, those in the community who will feel the need to make themselves feel better by tearing others down. Which is especially pathetic when it comes to disordered eating issues.

    As for me, personally- I haven’t found a perfect balance yet. As a recovered bulimic I still have issues with binges, so my problem revolves more around the fact I still can’t trust myself offering bulk things to the gods because I will eat myself sick and go down a mental spiral. I usually go with voice offerings or poems when stressing about food is too much, and the gods have never complained about that. But I would like to come to a solution that fits more rituals better because most involve food and it’s weird having to change a lot of words and motions because you’re offering a poem and not bread and beer.

     
    • DevoTTR

      October 6, 2019 at 2:21 pm

      “it’s weird having to change a lot of words and motions because you’re offering a poem and not bread and beer.” that’s basically my biggest issue right now, I think. I know its possible to do only a voice offering, but part of me dislikes having to modify rituals or say the words without the actual actions (I’ve had this issue with a few of my rubrics this year, tbh). All of the best solutions involve having more people involved, which would have been the case traditionally. Unfortunately, I don’t see that being viable for most of us anytime soon.

       
  13. secondgenerationimmigrant

    October 28, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    I often forget to eat because of the combo between hyperfocus on tasks, chronic illness which slows down my metabolism to almost nothing, and caffeine which makes me not hungry at all for hours as long as I have enough of it. I often eat lunch after 3 pm in 15 min at my desk or at any time between lab incubations. What do I do for offerings? I offer coffee and water. Or I leave my lunch on the improvised work altar I have in my office and eat it when I eat it.
    Anything that works for your mental and physical health needs is the right thing.
    And I really desire to physically kick the people who say otherwise.

     

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