RSS

Tag Archives: ancient egypt

A Sign of Stability: The Djed

djed003

From “Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt” by Rundle Clark

If there is any symbol that has become synonymous with Osiris it is the Djed pillar. The connection between Osiris and the djed became so important that by the New Kingdom, the deity would often be shown as a djed entirely.

From Wilkinson's "Reading Egyptian Art"

From Wilkinson’s “Reading Egyptian Art”

But what is the history of this symbol? What can we learn about Osiris through the djed?

Early Origins

According to Griffiths (pg 41), the djed wasn’t originally tied to Osiris. It was its own symbol before it got sucked into the Osirian cult. It is believed that the djed was originally a bundle of reed stalks or papyrus that had been tied together. The four cross-bars that you see on the pillar are considered to be papyrus flowers that poke out from the various stalks that are tied together. It’s possible that the idea came from archaic housing methods, where the entirety of the house/tent rested upon a central pillar that perhaps was made of reed or papyrus.

Before the onset of the use of the cartouche, djed pillars were often used to frame the name of a king. As stated by Rundle-Clark:

There are several stelae in the Zoser buildings at Sakkarah where the djed and tyet are used together as supports. … The purpose is clear: as with Khasekhemui the djed columns are world pillars, holding up the sky and so guaranteeing the space of air and world in which the king’s authority holds good. It is basic for all royal symbols of antiquity that kingship is universal; it means rule over the whole earth and all that is beneath the vault of the sky. Hence the frame of a king’s name is the delimination of the world. Taken horizontally, this is shown by a coil of rope with the ends tied together- in early times the coil is circular, but later it is spread lengthwise to accommodate longer names. this is the origin of the royal cartouche, the expanded oval in which royal names are written. In the Zoser name the djed and tyet signs delimit the world vertically while the coil of rope does the same thing horizontally. Zoser is master of all that is beneath the sky and to the ends of the earth (pg 237)

Taken from "Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt" by Rundle Clark

Taken from “Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt” by Rundle Clark

Throughout the entirety of the symbol’s history, the djed pillar was used in a variety of settings, and in each of these settings the same message shines through: stability, order, durability.

Taken from Wilkinson's "Reading Egyptian Art"

Taken from Wilkinson’s “Reading Egyptian Art”

The Djed in Later Periods

As the Osirian cult grew, the use of the djed pillar in art and relief grew as well. In the later periods of Egypt, it was customary for the djed pillar to be painted onto the back of the sarcophagus to represent the spinal column and strength and stability of the mummy housed within. According to Rundle-Clark, the potency of the djed pillar is activated when the pillar is erect, or upright. He notes that even though the sarcophagus is ultimately laid flat in the tomb, it is standing upright during the Opening of the Mouth ceremony- the points in time which the Osiris contained within the sarcophagus needs all of the strength they can muster. According to Wilkinson:

New Kingdom coffins frequently have a djed pillar painted on the bottom where the backbone of the deceased would rest, in this way identifying the person with Osiris and acting as a symbolic source of stability. (pg 165)

The djed was also a symbol used with the deity Ptah who was sometimes called the “Noble Djed”. This is likely due to assimilation and syncretism that occurred between Osirs, Sokar and Ptah in the New Kingdom. In some cases, the djed is shown behind Ptah and his shrine to evoke the concept of “all protection, life, stability, dominion and health… are behind him.” It is common to have support shown behind you, as seen in a lot of Egyptian statuary and fundamentally means that you have the backing of said deity or item. Additionally, the djed was featured in one of Ptah’s most prominent symbols- an amulet that consists of the ankh, was sceptre and djed (which I’ve mused over in the past).

Taken from Wilkinson's "Reading Egyptian Art"

Taken from Wilkinson’s “Reading Egyptian Art”

The Djed’s Use in Osirian Cult Practice

One of the primary uses for the djed was during the Osirian Mysteries that occur every year around harvesting time. The Mysteries are a week long event that culminates in the raising of the djed pillar which symbolizes Osiris’ rebirth into the Duat. Rundle-Clark says that the ritual goes even further in certain eras and that the djed pillar would be decorated with a loin-cloth and feathers and was treated like a living god. The raising of the djed symbolized the overcoming of decay and inertness. It is essentially Osiris overcoming the limitations of his death.

The raising of the djed is also featured in the rituals for a deceased king and at the new king’s jubilee festival. Raising the djed in these situations likely represents both the rebirth of the deceased monarch (as Osiris is also reborn) ad the establishment of stability in the cosmos/universe by the new king.

Because of the overlap between the Osirian cult and the use of the djed, I believe that a lot of the symbolism of both bled into the other. The stability of the djed helps to make Osiris more stable and steadfast. The rejuvenation that Osiris is known for bleeds into the symbolism of the pillar, and the bleed through of Ptah’s cult and function makes the pillar a creative force as well.

How can we use the djed in modern Kemeticism?

I think that there are many ways that we can make use of the djed pillar.

First and foremost would be to use the djed as an amulet. This can be in the form of a necklace or pendant, or possibly as a tattoo that is placed on or around the back. We can also use the djed as a reminder to work on stability, or to bring support to our lives.

For those of us who participate in the Mysteries, or work with Osiris, there is an obvious choice of bringing the djed into ritual practices as a means of bringing stability to the god in question.

But I also think that the djed can be a useful symbol for meditating or focusing upon when working on shadow work or inner work. Figuring out what brings you stability in your life can be exceptionally beneficial, especially if you have chronic spoon shortages. If you’re lacking in stability, you can focus on this symbol and reflect upon what you could do to help make yourself more stable. Who knows, even Osiris himself may show up to give a few pointers.

Works Cited:

  • Reading Egyptian Art: Wilkinson (pg 165)
  • Myth and Symbol in AE: Rundle-Clark (pgs 235-238)
  • The Origins of Osiris and His Cult: Griffiths (pg 41)
Advertisements
 
5 Comments

Posted by on December 18, 2013 in Kemeticism

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Wep Ronpet: A Guide

Every year you see lots of Kemetics talking about the beloved Wep Ronpet that occurs every summer. It’s a great set of holidays and its one of the only holidays that I celebrate out of the hundreds of Kemetic holidays and festivals that I have to choose from.

So it’s kind of a big deal.

However, I was noticing that there aren’t very many resources out there for how you actually go about celebrating the holiday. So I wanted to pool some resources here in one spot for others to use so that they, too can celebrate Wep Ronpet!

So what is Wep Ronpet?

Wep Ronpet is the Kemetic New Year. It falls usually somewhere btwn late July and mid-August. The date for Wep Ronpet varies each year, as it is marked by the rising of Sopdet, modernly known as Sirius. In antiquity, the date would have been based off of where the King was living, and for modern temples such as Kemetic Orthodoxy, they base their Wep Ronpet date off of when Sopdet rises at the Tawy temple in Illinois. Figuring out the exact date for your particular location can be a pain. I’m not even going to attempt to cover it here. If you wish to give it a shot yourself, here is the TC thread on how to figure out the date yourself. And there is always this post, too.

For those who want to celebrate but aren’t sure when, I recommend a few things:

  • Ask a current Kemetic Orthodoxy member, or ask on a forum. Usually, we Kemetics get around and can give you the dates for Wep Ronpet.
  • Pick a date yourself- I’ve done this a few times. The world has never ended because I chose my own dates.

Now Devo, you keep saying “dates”- isn’t Wep Ronpet one day?

Yes. Wep Ronpet is in fact one day long. However, there are 5 days of excitement leading up to Wep Ronpet that we typically call the Epagomenal Days, or the Intercalary Days. And, if you’re a part of Kemetic Orthodoxy- the day after Wep Ronpet, you have the annual Sekhmet Baths (which can be replicated to some extent at home).

So all of the festivities surrounding Wep Ronpet can last a full week- 5 days for the intercalary days, one day for the actual New Year (Wep Ronpet itself) and a day after for cleansing and preparing yourself for the upcoming year. For this guide, I will cover all of these days so that you can have a full week’s worth of action.

Epagomenal Days:

The Epag. days came about from a myth where Nut got pregnant with 5 kids. Ra got upset about this and forbade her from giving birth on any day of the year. Thoth, being the tricky guy that he is played a game of Senet with the moon, and upon winning this game of Senet, he received a small portion of the moon which he used to create an extra 5 days which she can use to birth her five children.

Traditionally, these days are said to be a little weird because they are ‘outside of the norm’. Usually great care was taken not to take too many risks, and I’ve heard that typically people were very quiet in celebrations on these days. However, I have never seen an issue with partying hard on these days- so you can take that however you’d like 🙂

So each day is dedicated to the god that was born on that particular day. The order that it goes in is:

  • Osiris
  • Heru-wer (Horus the Elder)
  • Set
  • Aset
  • Nebhet (Nephthys)

Typically, many Kemetics will set up a small shrine dedicated to the particular god of the day for each day of the intercalary days. The shrine doesn’t have to be complicated. Sometimes, if a person doesn’t have an icon of the particular deity, they will print out a picture of the deity, or draw their name on a sheet of paper. Don’t let your money or materials limit you- the shrine doesn’t have to be fancy in order to be effective.

The most common things I see on a typical Epag. Day shrine is:

  • Image of the deity (2D, 3D, whatever)
  • Offering plates or bowls
  • Libation bowl or cup
  • Incense or candles – if needed

Normally on these days, I will present offerings of nice food and drink to the deity as well as incense. I normally wish them well in the upcoming year and spend a little quiet time in front of the shrine.

Other activities I’ve heard related to the gods of the Epag. days is:

  • Song
  • Dance
  • Writing about or for the particular deity of the day
  • Reading and sharing stories regarding that deity
  • Asking the deity’s assistance in performing a divination about the upcoming year

Feel free to let your mind go wild with what you can do. There are lots and lots of possibilities here.

Wep Ronpet:

For many, Wep Ronpet starts with the sunrise. Since Wep Ronpet is all about Zep Tepi or ‘the first time’- there isn’t much more ‘first’ than the first sunrise of the year. So if you’re into waking up early (sun rises in AZ around 4:30am in mid to late summer)- feel free to get up early and welcome the Solar Barque into the new year!

But if you’re not into waking up early, never fear! There are other things you can do to celebrate.

There are two elements to the day of Wep Ronpet in my experience:

  • Clearing out the old
  • Celebrating

For me, clearing out the old typically involves cleaning my house to some extent (or tidying up) and execrations. Cleaning can be as simple or as complicated as you like it to be. I know that many Kemetics will clean in the typical mundane sense of vacuuming, mopping, picking up, etc. But some of us also like to renew warding systems and freshen up any magical type cleansings and protections that we have in the house. Execrations are a common part of Wep Ronpet because you are essentially get rid of all of the bad things in your life to make way for awesome stuff in the upcoming year. The most common execrations performed during Wep Ronpet are: a Red Pot Smashing, or you create a snake cake and destroy it (or you could make anything shaped like a snake and destroy it).

Common Execrations for Wep Ronpet:

Red pot execrations are fairly simple. You can see one that I did here. In order to perform a red pot execration, you will need the following:

  • Terracotta pot or some other ceramic piece you can write on that you don’t mind destroying
  • Sharpie or other writing utensil. Preferably red.
  • Red paint and something to apply the paint with.
  • Things to execrate or rid yourself of.
  • A place to smash the pot.

You will take your pot and your writing utensil and write all of the things you wish to get rid of onto the pot (things like laziness, anger, sadness, bad habits, etc). You’ll want to focus your mind and energy into this and flow as much of the feeling from these items into the act of writing as possible. Feel free to scream, cry or yell while writing these things onto the pot.

Once you’ve got the items written onto the pot, you will paint it red. Once again, I like to bleed as much emotion into this as possible. Once the pot is painted, you can spit on it or defile it in any fashion you see fit. The act of spitting upon the pot is a means of felling a/pep and was common in execrations in antiquity.

Once your pot is fully painted red, you can place it in a bag (if you want a mess-free clean up) and smash it.

And smash it again and again and again. Place as much of your anger and frustration and emotion into the act of smashing as possible.

And once the pot is thoroughly smited, you will throw it away- preferably somewhere outside of the house like a dumpster.

If you don’t want to do the more traditional red pot execration, you can try performing a paper version of this where you will write the things to be execrated on the paper. You will then stab the paper and yell at the paper and stomp on the paper and tear up the paper. You can then set it on fire and flush the ashes if you like.

If you would prefer a less messy, more tasty means of slaying a/pep for the upcoming year, you could try a common favorite- which is to make a snake shaped cake (or other edible goodie)– usually with some type of red filling in it to represent blood. I’m not going to give you a step by step instruction on cake making, but the general gist behind this is that you will make your cake with the blood inside- and upon cutting the cake to be eaten, you are cutting the serpent into many pieces and therefore slaying a/pep. Alternatively, you could make a snake out of wax or paper and destroy it as well if you’d rather.

Celebrations:

Once all of the bad stuff is execrated out of your life, you will typically celebrate. There are many means to do this, and I typically do it by going to a restaurant to eat. Others might do this by having a party with family and friends or by exchanging gifts with loved ones – choose something that is best for you.

However, don’t forget about the gods during your celebrations. Perhaps set up a Wep Ronpet shrine and place a spread of offerings for your main deities (or perhaps all of the Netjeru out there) and share some of the good food love with the gods. You can also offer other things such as Wep Ronpet related art, singing, dancing, prayer, etc. to the gods as a form of celebration and thanks for the New Year.

Another idea I’ve seen for celebrating Wep Ronpet is to take your deity icons and carry them around your house or take them outside (Which is a form of what would have been done in antiquity when the icon of the god was taken out of the temple and paraded around town). Some people like to leave their icons outside to recharge in the sun for a while.

The Day After:

I don’t have a name for the day after Wep Ronpet, but I’ve modeled my practice a bit after how KO does things, and I typically am sure to take the time on the day after Wep Ronpet to pamper myself with a nice long bath. If you’d like to buy one of the bath mixtures that Tamara Siuda uses at the annual baths held at the Tawy Retreat, please visit her online store here. I feel like this helps to recharge my batteries and reset my brain for the coming year. I also like to take this time to reflect upon the past year and the coming year, and to set up any particular goals or objectives for the year ahead.

This is by all means not an entirely exhaustive guide. There are many many ways to celebrate one of the biggest holidays of the Kemetic year. However, I do hope that this guide helps to get some ideas going in your mind and will help motivate you to try celebrating Wep Ronpet in your house!

Relevant Posts:

If you have any resources or posts you’d like added to this guide, let me know!

 
17 Comments

Posted by on July 3, 2013 in Kemeticism

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

KRT: UPG and Doxa

This week’s Kemetic Round Table topic is a subject that is very near and dear to my heart. For this round, we are discussing the various aspects of UPG and Doxa within your religious practice.

For those who are unfamiliar with the terms, UPG stands for “Unverified Personal Gnosis”. Generally speaking, it is a term that is used in many reconstructionalist paths to describe spiritual and religious experiences that aren’t necessarily backed up by historical record.

A few examples of this (from my own personal stash of UPG) might be that Set likes dark chocolate cupcakes. If he’s not in business/working mode, he’ll show up in full out Japanese styled clothing. Or that Ptah’s capacity as a creator is where Osiris (stability) and Set (chaos) meet. None of these are necessarily backed by historical reference, however they have proven to be useful within my own religious practice.

Doxa is a term taken from the Greek area of things and generally means “popular opinion” or “common belief” and is a starting point for the terms orthodoxy (standard, set in stone beliefs) and heterodoxy (anything that isn’t orthodox).

Or, as someone described it to me: Doxa = Belief and Feels. Gnosis = Knowledge you can fact check.

Of course, this means that the term UPG is a sort of paradox that really makes no sense, but that is another post for another time. I use the term UPG for the same reason I use the term “pagan”- its what everyone else uses, and it makes it easier for communication purposes.

And for the purposes of this post, I will use doxa and UPG interchangeably.

The topics of doxa and UPG are very sticky within the pagan/polytheist/Kemetic community. There are people who dislike the use of any UPG/doxa at all. There are those whose entire practice is based off of UPG and doxa. It is my personal opinion that there is nothing wrong with UPG in your practice. However, I am a big supporter of the following:

a. Knowing historical information about your deity and the Kemetic religion- as done by the ancients themselves.
b. Knowing why you do what you do, regardless of whether it lines up with the historical record or not.

The saying often goes that you should know what the rules are before you break them, and I think that this really does apply within your religious practice. Knowing how it was done, or know how a deity used to be approached back then is an important gauge for approaching the religion or deities today. As I said in my last KRT post, I think that having a foundation to build off of is important. The more you know, the more you can compare and contrast what you’re taking in. Discernment is an important part of any religious practice, as is a healthy dose of skepticism. Knowing the basics from antiquity gives you a good starting point for discernment with which to check what you learn. Knowing why you do what you do reinforces this.

Now, this is not to say that gods can’t completely go against what was considered normal in antiquity. This can and does happen. They are gods, after all, and things do change- gods included. However, this means that when you do receive such tidbits, you can say that you know it wasn’t this way in the past, but this is what you’re currently being asked to do now.

To me, knowing that UPG is, in fact, UPG is very very very important. Not only for yourself, but for those who come across your statements and might not know which is which. A good example of this would be Osiris’s article on wpwt-wiki which states that you are to never offer Osiris sand or fish, due to his brother’s associations. However, in antiquity, its said that fish were offered at Abydos (according to O’Connor) and sand was a common purifier in temple rites- including rites for the Mysteries, a holiday revolving around Osiris. Another common UPG is that Set can’t have water offered to him, due to his brother’s associations. However, water was commonly offered by priest and laymen alike.

Both of these statements are modern doxa. They should be labeled as such. There is nothing wrong if Osiris shows up and tells me “I never want you to offer me sand”. However, for me to tell the rest of the world that that means that Osiris never wants anyone to offer him sand is misleading and, in my opinion, irresponsible.

This is why labeling is important. This is also why having a good knowledge foundation is also important. We all need foundations to check things against.

Whether you should let someone else’s doxa influence your practice is entirely up to you. When I read an interesting bit of trivia from another Kemetic, I mull it over for a bit before I jump on the bandwagon. If it really rings true to me, or if Set or Osiris confirms that the UPG is valid/useful for me, I will then start to incorporate it into my practice. However, if a piece of UPG doesn’t work for me at all (such as the Set and water thing mentioned above), then I don’t bother with it at all.

You should never, ever feel pressured to incorporate someone else’s UPG or doxa into your religious practice. Do not let anyone ever tell you that you have to follow their UPG. UPG is called “unverified” for a reason.

How much you rely on other’s doxa, or even your own doxa- is entirely dependent upon you. You don’t have to incorporate doxa or UPG into your practice in order to be a successful Kemetic. As with most things, I do believe that balance is key, and figuring out what balance works best for you is imperative. Because your balance is your own, no one can tell you how much to keep or how much to leave, but keeping an open mind and learning about modern and historical practices will serve you well in discovering your own balance.

See the KRT Master List for this topic by clicking here.

Relevant Posts:

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

KRT: Having a Deity 101

OsirisThis week’s KRT topic is:

Do I need a main deity to practice Kemeticism? If so, how do I get a main deity? Am I able to say no to a deity that shows up at my shrine? Am I obligated to learn everything I can about my main deity?

I make this easier, I’m going to break my answer down question by question.

Do I need a main deity to practice Kemeticism?

The short answer is no. You don’t need to have a particular deity to have a fulfilling practice. There are plenty of Kemetics who don’t have a deity-centric practice, and instead opt to rotate through various deities, or focus on living the religion as opposed to focusing on temple or ritual practice. If you would like to have a shrine, but don’t have a main deity, you could easily have a shrine that focuses on Netjer as a whole (which is a common practice for those taking the Kemetic Orthodoxy beginners class). Using symbols such as ankhs, ma’at or symbols denoting Netjer would be good alternative for icons.

If so, how do I get a main deity?

As stated above, having a deity to focus on is not mandatory in the least. However, if you wish to work with a deity in particular, there are a few methods you could use.

The most common method I recommend (outside of waiting for a deity to show up) is to do a simple ritual to let the universe know that you’re open to forming a relationship with a deity. Sometimes, all you need to do is let them know that you’re open and ready to form a relationship, and they’ll show up and say hello.

The fastest, and least effective is to pull a name out of a hat. You could do this by looking through Wilkinson’s book of deities, or perhaps checking a website with a decent list of deities. The downside to this method? You could easily pull a deity that wants nothing to do with you. Its also kind of impolite, in my opinion. It would be like if someone chose to date you because your name is what their finger happened to land on. I often suggest that you try to base your choice of deity off of something important to you, instead of selecting a deity arbitrarily.

The next method would be research. Lots and lots and lots of research. And see if a particular deity stands out from the rest. You could also try a form of divination (I usually opt for outside help with this). Asking someone to help you find out if there is a particular deity (or deities) knocking on your door could help narrow down your search. And lastly, you could wait and see if a deity comes to you. This can take months, days or years. Or it could never happen at all. Some people are not meant to have a main deity.

Once you’ve found a deity of interest, I highly recommend you do some type of ritual to try and say “Hi” to the deity. Let them know you’re interested in forming a relationship with them and go from there.

Be aware that more than deities can attempt to communicate with you. Its not uncommon for other pesky little things like netjeri to come through your godphone requesting all sorts of sweets and making prank calls. Be sure that any entity you start to work with is, in fact, the entity that they say they are.

Its also important to keep in mind that a deity can choose many methods to let you know that they are in your life. You might not get a literal “hello” in your head. You might have a song get stuck in your head that answers it for you, or you might see a particular symbol or set of symbols that lets you know a deity is watching. Make sure that when you are looking to work with a god that you keep all of your senses open for potential cues and responses from them.

Am I able to say no to a deity that shows up at my shrine?

Yes. Entirely yes. The god might throw a temper tantrum, but there is nothing that says you can’t decline to work with a specific deity. Keep in mind that there could be consequences for declining to work with a deity and you should try to take the respectful route when telling a deity “no”. They can make your life hell otherwise 😛

Am I obligated to learn everything I can about my main deity?

Are you obligated? No. But do I think you should make the attempt to learn as much as you can? Yes.

Why do I think you should do this? The answer is simple- its helpful for understanding and knowing your deity better. While doxa is useful (and I have more than my fair share of doxa in my practice), it is always useful to know the “rules” before you break them. Using my Layers post as an example- at first I thought Set was nothing more than a jealous jerk who killed his brother. If I would have never taken the time to get to learn more about his cult and how it changed throughout the years, I might have missed out on the opportunity to really understand the full breadth of his character and personality. It’s really easy to fall into narrow thinking when it comes to gods and religion. Using history is a good way to challenge our views and broaden horizons regarding deities.

Another good example would be Bast. A lot of people think that Bast is nothing more than a cuddly goddess who is all for sex, love and kittens. There are some who even think she is lunar. However, the historical record shows that she is solar (an Eye of Ra, in fact) and was originally shown in leonine format. She was also responsible for delivering the hearts of the pharaoh’s enemies at the king’s feet. Not so cute and cuddly, right? Now, that doesn’t mean that your doxa can’t be purely based on the previous stuff listed (cute, cuddly, moon kittens), but if you don’t know the full breadth- you’re cutting off other potential methods of understanding the goddess. Plus, once you learn that there is more to a deity, you can examine why the deity is perhaps approaching you in that fashion- it could be that it is the side of them that you need. But it also could be that you’re cutting them off and preventing them from approaching you in any other way.

In other words, I think that knowledge opens your mind up to more possibilities. And that can only make your practice and relationship stronger.

Read everyone’s responses to these questions by visiting the Master List.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on March 6, 2013 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kemetic Round Table: Ritual purity – what does that mean for my practice?

The Kemetic Roundtable is a new blogging project. Go here to learn more about it!

_______________________

Ritual purity is a really interesting topic in the Kemetic sphere. What makes it interesting is that there are such extremely different views and approaches on it. Everything in regards to ritual purity really needs a “Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV)” tag on it, and most approaches to ritual purity are very personal.

So, what is ritual purity?

Ritual purity is the idea that certain rituals require certain levels of cleanliness or grooming requirements before performing them. I don’t like using the word “pure” because it is a baggage laden word for many of us. So let’s use “clean” instead.

To bring it out of a religious context and into a more mundane aspect: let’s consider social standards for day to day activities. As you go about life, there are certain activities that require more formality and/or cleanliness than others. For example, you don’t necessarily need to shave and shower before you go to the gym. It’s understood that you will be getting sweaty while there- and you don’t need to be all prim and proper before showing up. However, it’s fairly common to dress up and make sure you’re really clean before going to a job interview- because you’re trying to make a good impression. Similarly, it’s common to want to be somewhere in the middle of these extremes for family get togethers or a party. Using parties as an example- you will likely need less time to get ready for a child’s party over a cocktail party. The grooming standards for a child’s party are generally fairly low. Where as cocktail parties require more grooming and cleaning before hand.

In short, different events have different standards of how you should look – which can translate into how much grooming you perform before the event.

Much like events, ritual purity states that certain rituals require more cleanliness preparation than others. As an example, in ancient Egypt, state rites had very specific (and sometimes very intricate) ritual cleanliness standards. Where as the average Joe Hotep was likely to only be washing his hands before he performed any rites at his household shrine. Most of the ritual standards that we know of today (like most of everything we know about Egyptian religion today) were applicable to the priests of ancient Egypt – not the common man.

What types of restrictions were included in ritual cleanliness standards in antiquity?

To be honest, the restrictions and rules for performing the highest levels of rites in ancient Egypt ran the gamut. These rules also varied era to era, nome to nome, temple to temple and deity to deity.

aka there are no hard and fast rules.

Most of what we know about ritual cleanliness in antiquity comes from the Greek historian Herodotus (which I never put a lot of stock in, to be honest), which means most of what we know comes from the later eras of Egyptian history. The most common ritual cleanliness practice included being washed with water from the temple lake, washing your mouth with natron, and wearing of clean linen robes and sandals. However, beyond that, the rules could vary greatly. According to Sauneron, common ritual cleanliness practices included (but were not limited to) shaving of all bodily hair (for practical purposes of keeping louses away), circumcision, abstinence from sex while on duty, and abstinence from certain foods depending on the deities you served. And according to Reidy, you weren’t to wear anything made with animal products into the temple either.

I think it’s also important to note that ritual cleanliness standards did not just apply to priests in antiquity. It also applied to offerings. Much like in Islam (as I understand it), there were certain ways to properly dispatch a bull for offering to the gods. And only certain animals would make the cut. Another prime example is incense- you wouldn’t want to use incense with urea in it, as it conflicts with purity standards. These are both forms of ritual cleanliness/purity.

What are the standards for a modern Kemetic practitioner?

Much like in antiquity, modern standards run the gamut. Most people’s restrictions and rules vary based off of the deity they serve and the rules set out by the temple/coven/group they are a member of (if they are not practicing solo). Kemetic Orthodoxy, a common Kemetic group/temple, has specific rules/requirements for their rituals. For every day shrine work- the standards are set btwn the practitioner and their deities. For Senut, their signature daily rite, the ritual standards required are: being of sound state of mind and body (aka not sick), washing of the body and orifices with a natron/water solution, the wearing of white clothing that you only use for Senut (optimally) and that you aren’t bleeding (menses or otherwise). There are a series of monthly rituals online that KO hosts and some of them have no requirements for ritual cleanliness, while others require you to be of the same cleanliness as you would be if you were performing Senut. KO also has state rites that have the same ritual cleanliness requirements as would have been required in antiquity (generally speaking- shaving all of your hair off, for example, is not required).

For those of us who aren’t within an established temple or group, we usually have to create our own guidelines for ritual cleanliness and preparation for each ritual. For myself personally, I have little to no ritual cleanliness standards for day to day rituals. I do not change my clothing (sometimes I perform rites while in my pajamas, even). I do not wash with a natron solution before performing rites. Sometimes I perform rites while I’m ill. I literally have little to no standards for day to day rituals.

For more formal rituals, I will take a shower while focusing on cleansing myself on all levels. I will put on clothing that is comfortable and suitable for what I am doing (this is particularly important when performing execrations which involve fire). And that’s it. If I’m performing a ritual that is somewhere in between these two extremes, I might wash my hands and face and call it good.

How do I decide what standards I should include in my own practice?

This is a tricky question- because each person’s rules and requirements will be different. I am an anomaly- most people will have more requirements for their practice than I currently do. I think that building your own cleanliness standard is very personal and should be approached with common sense in mind. To start, ritual cleanliness standards were for the priests of ancient Egypt- we are not priests. We don’t have a fully staffed temple to keep our shrines running. We are average folks with day jobs and a million other things to do. Much like how we no longer perform 4 hour rites to the gods ever morning, I think it needs to be kept in mind that we will likely not be adhering to every single ritual standard ever written. Its just not practical or necessary. It’s also important to remember that ancient Egypt was a hot, sandy place. The ancient Egyptians didn’t live him homes that are virtually sealed off from the outside world. They had no indoor plumbing, modern soaps or air conditioning. They got a lot dirtier than we do. I think many of our modern cleaning products (shampoo, soap, toothpaste, deodorants) work just as well as natron when it comes to cleansing ourselves. So I think many of us can get away with modified cleansing standards for ritual practice. Perhaps we don’t need a ton of natron to be clean- we can get away with a nice animal product free bar of soap and a breath mint.

Your ritual cleanliness standards will also be determined by your deity. My gods don’t have many ritual requirements for me. They ask that I show up. They don’t really care what condition I’m in- they want me to be there. That is their standard- so that is the standard that I follow. Each deity is different- some will require you to bathe, some might stop you from eating fish, others might ask you to cover your hair while in shrine, etc. This is something that you would discover in time (if at all) as you practice more. Not every deity will have a ton of rules for their followers- so if your gods don’t make demands, don’t worry. So long as they aren’t getting mad at you- that is what is important.

Relevant Links:

View other responses to this topic.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on February 6, 2013 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Modern Mythology: Santa Min

This post may not be safe for those under 18. Some images are NSFW.

I’d like to tell you a story about Santa Min.

Santa Min

Once upon a time, as the months got colder and colder, Santa Min looked down at the people of the world and felt sorry for them. He decided that he wanted to help them by finding a way to keep them warm! In order to facilitate this, Min decided to use what he knows best- sex!

So one night, he and a bunch of his god pals went trolling around Egypt, leaving all sorts of goodies in people’s houses.

Borrowed from KemeticRecon.com

But these weren’t the normal gifts that you’d expect to receive. Oh no! Santa Min knows what everyone really wants… Sex toys! And that’s why people love Santa Min, he doesn’t discriminate against how you behaved that year! Were you good? Here is a cock ring for you! Were you naughty? A cock ring for you as well! Santa Min knows that the secret to a happy winter is lots of love making. And he shares the love making with all of humanity of every color, preference and type you could imagine.

The morning after Santa Min has left his presents for everybody throughout all of Egypt, the people rejoice in his bringing of fertility and love to the land by setting out offerings for him, and celebrating the the most… obvious part of his person.

Santa Min Shrine

And as a final display of devotion, everyone helps to bring zep tepi back into the world by making some love themselves (because creation is orgasmic, after all).

And this is why many people are born in late August/early September, even to this day.

_________________________________________________

Now, as I’m sure you can tell, this is an entirely modern myth. It’s a new spin on something old, and it was created spontaneously one day when I made a comment to a fellow Kemetic that I was handing out cock rings to coworkers- like a weird Santa handing out sex toys to all the little boys and girls. They made mention that it’s something Min would do, and the story took a life of its own.

It seems to me that the modern Kemetic community lacks these modern myths. Many of us are so attached to the past that we forget that Egyptian mythology often changed and grew with society. I think it would be great if we were able to bring forth elements from the past, and make something new and fresh out of them. Take the gods and bring them to the present era.

This has been done in the myth above using a modern cultural icon- Santa. He is someone who brings good cheer and happiness to those who are good. But we’ve taken this idea and modified it to Kemetic/Egyptian standards or terms. Because Egypt had few stigmas on sex, sexuality, orientation, gender identification, etc. (as far as we know, at least) it makes sense that Min, whose primary function was protection and fertility, would bring gifts to everyone- “naughty” and nice alike.  This myth has also tried to incorporate ideas such as Zep Tepi- the first time, and connect the act of sex, celebration and fertility to the idea of things starting over, starting fresh- which is often mirrored in many winter myths (the sun being reborn, the fresh start of the New Year, etc).

I think if we are able to make the right connections to the past, it’s entirely possible to create a whole new set of myths for the modern era.

About the shrine above:

The shrine above was made with symbolism in mind, I would like to go over that symbolism here.

Santa Min Shrine 2

As you can see, Santa Min is in the back. He is the focus of this shrine. I would have liked a larger image, but it’s the closest I could find. There are items on the shrine which celebrate sex- vibrators and cock rings of various types and colors. There is bread and water- two staples in Egyptian offerings. I have added a white selenite spire- the white being related to Min already, but also for purity and the sexual connotations therein. And of course, the fact that it’s a phallic shape helps.

Santa Min Shrine 3

There are four leaves of lettuce- which is associated with Min and penises in Egypt in general. I chose 4 for completion of the year and the successful completed act of sex, and the joy received in so doing. I chose green incense- green for fertility. Incense for its uses in Egyptian offering standards.  And a white candle- once again, the white being used because of it’s associations with Min, and the candle itself harkening back to Zep Tepi, reminding us to bring creation in day to day life- every day.

To learn more about Min, see his page on Henadology.

What is your take on modern mythology? Do you think it has a place in modern Kemetic practice? Would you want to try your hand at creating modern myths?

Other Relevant Posts:

 
20 Comments

Posted by on December 24, 2012 in Kemeticism

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Book Review: Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt

Today I’m reviewing Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt by R.T. Rundle Clark. This book was suggested to me by this guy right here, and it doesn’t disappoint. You’ll see that there are tons of quotes in this review because there was just that much stuff in the book. There are lots of small, obscure bits of information you don’t see presented anywhere else, and at the very least, there are lots of topics for you to sit and wrap your brain around- it’s like a gift that keeps on giving!

Some examples of more obscure information would be:

  • Set killing Osiris in the form of a flea.
  • The myth about Osiris asking Ra if he can have Set’s lands and people that he oversees, Ra saying yes, Set’s nosebleed creating agriculture, and then when Osiris puts on Ra’s Atef crown, getting all sorts of head injury (yes, I’m serious).
  • Discussions about Osiris in his inert state- being protected by Nehaher, who eventually turns into apep when he won’t let Osiris go and move forward.

The little tidbits are very interesting, and part of why I like this book so much. I enjoy obscure information, or things that you don’t readily find in every book on ancient Egypt. Especially because it allows you to really contemplate how these lesser known concepts could affect your practice (such as Nehaher being a/pep- it really challenges you to reconsider what you know about a/pep).

I also like that the myths that he does recount within the book have explanations behind them. The author isn’t just telling you the stories and myths- he’s attempting to explain them, draw parallels between them and other aspects of AE culture, and provide context and meaning to them. It’s not something that a lot of authors do.

Despite the name, this book focuses almost solely on Osiris. I think a lot of people would benefit from reading this book for no other reason than  you can see just how many different myths, angles, and changes have occurred in the Osirian mythos. We always hear the clean cut, simplified version of Osiris and Set, about Aset and Nebhet’s search for him.. etc. But when you start to examine all of the variances in the myth that occurred in different nomes or eras- it becomes really apparent that nothing is very clear cut. So for anyone who wants a good primer into learning about Osiris or his mythos- this book is highly beneficial, and I recommend you pick it up.

If Osiris isn’t your cup of tea, this book may not serve you much. I mean, there is other information within the book, but a large portion of it (like.. 2/3s of the book) talks about Osiris.

Here are some interesting quotes I pulled from the book:

“Atum was unhappy in the Primeval Waters because he was, in the words of this text, ‘in a relaxed state, very weary and inert.’ This existence in the waters was painful; Atum was in travail until he could settle his limbs in a definite place. From the emerging deity’s point of view the waters are bad, they represent the conditions of helplessness and chaos which have to be transcended. On the other hand, they can be regarded as ‘pure’ and as ‘the waters of life’ for the soul who wishes to return to their state of negation. Immersion in them means going back to primeval innocence.”

“The pyramid texts have echoes of lost tales about teh gestation of Nut and how she freed herself violently from her mother’s womb. But the essential event connected with Geb and Nut is their separation.”

“The symbolism is based on a legend that originally earth and sky were together in total and sexual union. So, when the sky descends ritually upon the earth, Nut is impregnated by Geb. We are then told why the sky was lifted away from the earth. Shu, Nut’s father ‘so loved her’ that he separated her from her mate Geb and, as the air, held her aloft with his arms. Nut was then able to give birth to the stars and to ‘taken them up’- allow them to sail across her belly, the sky.”

“Osiris is immanent. He is the sufferer with all mortality but at hte same time he is all the power of revival and fertility in the world. He is the power of growth in plants and of reproduction in animals and human beings. He is both dead and the source of all living. Hence to become Osiris is to become on with the cosmic cycles of death and rebirth… In Egypt, Osiris absorbed the nature or attributes of many cyclic or fertility figures such as Anedjety of the Eastern Delta (whose insignia he borrowed), Sokar of Giza, the “Lord of the Westerners” at Abydos and others now forgotten.”

Osiris is nature itself or, to speak more accurately, nature as experienced by the farmers and stock-breeders of the Ancient Near East. During the summer heat the desolate condition of the world can be expressed as if either the spirit of life had departed, or was listless and asleep, or that life itself was dead. Any single metaphor would be insufficient to describe the dire calamity of the world. Similarly, the fate of Seth, the enemy, can be death, bonds or ignominious submissions he cannot be altogether annihilated, for he is a power that can be restrained or canalized, but not absolutely destroyed. Take away the pathos of the Osirian cycle, and the metaphors fall apart so that each can generate its own myth in narrative form. This is what happens in the myth of the contendings of Horus and Seth, int eh saga of the Two Brothers and the other popular tales, which deal with mythical motives as connected stories. They arose on the periphery of Osiris worship, far away from the deep emotions displayed in the genuine cult. Even the simple statement that sorrow is at an end in the Twin Sanctuaries declares that the joy at the salvation of Osiris is universal.

“Hence to become Osiris X is not to be identified with Osiris as he is usually represented, but to share in the god’s salvation and transformation into a ‘soul’. Death and the indignities of embalmment represented, for earthly bodies, the passion of the god. Seth is the death that strikes on down; his confederates are the demons of decay and dissolution. The completion of the rites and the establishment of the ordered ritual at the tomb are the ‘rescuing of the god’. The interim period btwn death and revival was one of great danger. Just as the pieces of Osiris’ body had been put together, and his corpse watched all through the night of his passion by his sisters Isis and Nephthys, so priestesses  personifying them play the role of mourners and protectors of his body from spirit enemies during the funerary rituals. They, in fact, are responsible for the safety of Osiris between his death and the coming of Horus. First they find the gods and then they put his body together and mourn him.”

The waters of the annual inundation came from the thigh of the god (Osiris). This.. is the reason why the thigh of Osiris was kept as a relic in several temples and why modern scholars have been so mystified by references to being ‘born upon the thigh’.

Now to the downsides of the book. I think it needs to be stated that this book was written in the 50’s, so you have to keep an open mind with some of the information he presents. He seems to have an undercurrent of monotheism that I didn’t care for, and he likes to talk about the “Mother Goddess”- as though there is some supreme mother goddess of AE that oversees things. It’s a bit clunky in those regards, but I was able to look past that for the information he presents.

I think my biggest beef with this book is his writing style. Sometimes, he would go on about a topic- and then jump to an entirely different topic without so much as a transition. In some cases, this isn’t such a big deal- but in other cases, it almost feels like he was in the middle of a large point when he decides to switch tracks. This can become confusing or frustrating when you’re trying to piece together larger concepts and ideas. I also don’t entirely understand his names for his chapters. They make no sense to me, nor do they seem to have much correlation to the text within the chapters. Most of the areas where he discusses Osiris, I think the information could have been categorized into something more linear and easier to follow, and that most of those chapters could have been mashed into one large chapter that dealt with nothing more than Osiris’ mythos.

However, if you can move beyond the writing style, the information in the book is totally worth it. I plan on reading this again in the future, so I can soak up more details about Osiris, as there isn’t a whole lot written about him in-depth elsewhere. If you’re looking to learn about O, I totally recommend picking this book up.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Kemetic Book Reviews, Kemeticism

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,