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Book Review: The Neteru of Kemet

Originally posted on LJ on July 29, 2011

This past week while I was in Half Priced Books, I came across one of Tamara’s old books- The Neteru of Kemet. I decided that I should get the book, and see what’s in it. Many people seem to have interest in the book, so I thought I’d check it out, though I Wasn’t sure that I would really learn something from it.

All in all, the book is pretty straight forward, and it’s also pretty short. You could easily read this book in an hour or two, and the writing style is easy to read. The book briefly goes over modern Kemeticism, and then talks about 13 different gods and goddesses- giving a few quotes from them, giving a slight guided meditation, and some general information on their history and/or preferences/nature. The book didn’t teach me much (although she mentioned on one page that Asar used to be against Ra at one point in time- never heard that before). And I can’t say that I’m like OMG IMUSTKEEPTHISBOOK (quite the opposite- if you want to buy it from me, you can). But still, it was interesting to see. The main reasons for me saying that is that it’s so much different from what KO has turned into. She talks briefly about the House of Bast- what KO originally was. When you read it, it sounds almost more like what Riedy has laid out. People gather to worship, various people can take part in the rituals, some people can take different roles. They all keep shrines for gods they work with, and can train to do more ritually within the group… etc etc. Reading that, it makes sense why she has decided to reorganize the faith as it stands. Another interesting thing to see in the book is the little nuggets- things that you can see in KO now, but in this book are more unrefined. The spellings are different, the focused mythology is different. Nothing that is like OMG wrong, but still, you can sorta see how what it was turned into what it is.

So for me, that was the main interest in reading this book. Other than that, I can’t say that I find it all that exciting. If I remember correctly, the Prayerbook has a short overview on a couple of gods- and that would probably serve the same purpose as this book. However, if you’re brand-spanking new to Kemeticism, this might be of interest to you.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Kemetic Book Reviews, Kemeticism

 

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Book Review: A Year in the Life of a Shinto Shrine

Originally posted on LJ on July 23, 2011

 

I’ve finally got my hands on more Shinto based books. The first one I was able to get was “A Year in the Life of a Shinto Shrine” by John K Nelson. It’s one of the only Shinto books I’ve seen in Barnes and Noble, so I grabbed it.

The premise of this book was more or less comments and observations that the author noted during attending various festivals throughout the year at Suwa Jinja. I guess he not only wrote his own comments, but he interviewed many people about their experiences as well about the festivals/rituals and them compiled them into a book.

I like this book. It wasn’t earth shattering in it’s knowledge, but it was still insightful, esp. since I have yet to even set foot onto/into a Shinto shrine. I really have no idea what goes on there, what it’s like to be there, the architecture, etiquette- it’s all foreign to me. Being able to read about how the rituals in shrine work was very helpful. Because of this book, I actually can sorta figure out how to use my Norito book that I have. To see some of the things they do during a matsuri helps myself when I go to my own local-ish Japanese festivals.

This book also helped with various symbols and various other ritual elements that I’ve seen,, but didn’t fully understand. In many ways, it has cleared up a lot for me.

I think the most important parts of this book, though, were interview type things relating to the various priests at the shrine. To hear their opinions on things, to see how they viewed stuff. Very interesting for me. Many times it seems like they don’t have harsh opinions. Most paint the Japanese to be very white wash, always considerate. So it was interesting for me to see some of the… negative aspects? Things that worry them, biases they have. I wish there was a book full of things like that- the human element of things.

Another interesting part of the book was at the end. I liked it, but at the same time, I felt it sorta was out of place, and took away from many of the warm fuzzies I got from the rest of the book. At the end, Nelson talks about political aspects of Japan, the break btwn older culture and the younger generation, and the potential future path of Shinto. Some of the things he discusses, like some Japanese wanting to move back towards nationalism, raising Japanese above others, and re instituting more power with the emperor. I don’t know.. it was just a lot to take in, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Of course, most of his information was from the 80’s and 70’s, so I don’t know how things have changed since then. But it was interesting to read. I just sorta wish it wasn’t right at the end. It was kind of a damper for me.

Overall, the book was good. It has helped clear up a lot of information for me. Hopefully it has laid a nice foundation for me to read more about Shintoism and Japanese culture.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Shinto Book Reviews, Shintoism

 

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Book Review: Following the Sun

Originally posted on LJ on Jan 10, 2011

Today I’ll be reviewing “Following the Sun: A Practical Guide to Egyptian Religion” by Sharon Laborde. I wanted to start off this review by noting that I have a bit of a bias about this author (not so much the book itself), as I talk with her on various Kemetic forums. Please keep this in mind while reading this review.

This book has received a lot of fire from the Kemetic community. Perhaps I should rephrase that- the author of this book has received a lot of fire. Not in relation to the book, but in relation to her anti-KO stance. So needless to say, I was interested to see what this book was about, and if it would meet my expectations.

In short, the answer is no. This book disappointed me on many levels, though I can’t say that it was unexpected. There were many things that irritated me about this book, though a few things stick out in particular. Those being- the author’s sourcing, the author’s tone/writing style, and the actual content of the book.

My biggest complaint about this book is the sourcing (or lack thereof). For me, if you’re not an actual Egyptologist, you have better have damned good sourcing. Otherwise, your work means nothing. There are many tidbits in this book that I have never seen before. Many little facts that I have never read about before. And while this is normally good- because the author neglects to source much of anything, I can’t trust anything that is written. So to me, the lack of sourcing make the book totally useless. I can’t vouch for the validity of much of anything in this book because the sourcing sucks.

My second issue with this book is the author’s tonation while writing. I assume that she wanted to be considered “jovial” or easy to approach. However, it just makes the author appear dumbed down, or that the author feels that you the reader are dumb. It was so frustrating. Along with her tone, I didn’t like that she made it sound like Kemeticism IS this or IS that. There is no room for grey. No wiggle room. Nothing irritates me more than a black and white book that speaks as though it is god and knows all. Ugh. She is quick to call certain theories “zany” or outlandish. She is very harsh towards ideas that are not of her own. Along the lines of harsh content, both her Intro and Conclusion had “stories” in them that made reference to people who misunderstood Kemeticism. That’s fine, but the way she relates these stories to the reader is more of a “I met this person, and they said something stupid in relation to Kemeticism. And now that you’ve read my book, you won’t be as stupid as they were!” What if the people she referenced happened to read her book and they saw her caustic remarks? I would feel aweful about that on so many levels. It’s really saddening.

And finally, I didn’t like the content of the book. I felt that the content wasn’t well researched at all. And you can definitely see the biases of the author through the content (i.e. a total slap to anything remotely KO in nature, or her constant references to the 18th dynasty- a dynasty that she is totally into). The biases would slowly eat at me, and annoy me. To me, an author should promote an unbiased and well researched book. And this book is neither.

All in all, I wouldn’t recommend this book. To anyone. Especially not to a beginner- which is ironic, because that is who the book is aimed toward. If someone were to read this book, and not know anything about Kemeticism, they would have their asses handed to them online (which I’ve seen happen to a certain user who seems to only know about Kemeticism through this book). Plus, because the sourcing is horrible, I am afraid that some of the facts or scenarios laid out in this book are incorrect, thereby causing problems for the newb who stumbles their way online.

I feel sad that this review is so negative, but I honestly can’t think of anything that I really liked about this book. As I said above, I wouldn’t recommend it.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Kemetic Book Reviews, Kemeticism

 

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Book Review: The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook

Originally posted on LJ on Jan 3, 2011

Today I’m reviewing “The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook” by Tamara Siuda.

See a revised version of this book review over at Pagan Book Reviews.

So I finally read it- the book to end all books when it comes to KO. I finally read the Prayerbook. And I must say that I don’t see what the big deal is. The book is easy to read (took me less than a day), and covers a decent amount, but I don’t really get what makes it so exciting. Before I get into the bulk of this, I’d like to add that I have a bias- I don’t like reading prayers and hymns. They are alright if you’re using them to learn about a god, or a ritual, but on a whole, I don’t really get a lot out of reading prayers/hymns- esp. when they are translated from another language. I personally feel that if I want something from a god, I’m going to ask in my own words, not take a prayer/hymn written thousands of years ago. So that is my bias. Keep that in mind while reading.

The thing I liked most about the Prayerbook was the listing of gods- and some of their basic attributes. There are some things that she mentions in the Prayerbook that helps me to understand various references while on KO, and there are a couple of interesting facts/tidbits that I was unaware about that were nice to learn. In fact, I wish this section were longer, and more inclusive, so that I could learn more. This was the most helpful section for me.

What I don’t care for in the gods section is the hymns/litanies/etc. that followed each entry. It felt to me that these excerpts were exactly that- excerpts, and that there was a bigger something that was missing. I would have rather read the whole hymn/litany/etc or not at all. Not just three or four lines out of it. So for me, there was a disconnect.

On a whole, the book is okay. I personally don’t care for it, but it is interesting to see what everyone is referencing. I personally don’t like that the book is insufficient as a Kemeticism 101 book, and as a prayerbook. I wanted something closer to Eternal Egypt where things are cited more thoroughly and explained better. I hate that about reading most hymns/inscriptions from AE- no one takes the time to explain the symbolism. And if you don’t understand that, then the whole point gets lost, IMO. Because of a lack of this added information, I really didn’t feel the book was of any use to me personally. And sadly for me, reading this book made me disconnect a bit more from KO, because it shows that at it’s core- me and KO don’t line up. Her view of the gods doesn’t sit well with me. To see this was disappointing, but it was worth reading just to learn how she more or less intended things to be set up- not to hear it five different ways from five different shemsu.

I would recommend reading the book if you want to get a better basis for KO, but otherwise, I don’t feel the book has much to offer a recon/private Kemetic, unless you’re interested in the gods section.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Kemetic Book Reviews, Kemeticism

 

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Book Review: Gods and Men in Egypt

Originally posted on LJ on Dec 30, 2010

 

Today I’m reviewing the book “Gods and Men in Egypt: 3000 BCE to 395CE” by Francoise Dunand and Chritiane Zivie-Coche. It took me a while to get around to reading this book. I’ve had it for nearly a year, yet I couldn’t seem to ever get into it- until recently. The book was originally written in French, and has been translated into English. I personally feel that the translation created a bit of an issue for me, and it took a while to get used to the reading style. So if you’re anything like me, you might have a similar issue.

Once you get used to the writing style, the book is awesome. There are a lot of different topics covered, and the authors go very in depth. The book also has  a lot of  “tidbit” information in it- little facts and ideas that are presented that you don’t see a lot of anywhere else. The book goes over many aspects of AE religious practice- the basics about temples, personal practice, the gods and their mythologies, etc. As a whole, it’s pretty indepth. It covered a lot of heka/oracle practices. It expanded on things that I wish other books would have covered (Rittner’s book, Pinch’s book for example).

I also liked that this book was balanced. They didn’t rattle off every theory as “the gospel”, and they mentioned where some of their ideas didn’t fit the “norm”. Which ironically, I fall into liking some of the theories that are not “normal”. It is probably for these two reasons alone that I love this book. I love a balanced book.

My only beef with the book is that it spent waaaaay too much time covering Late Period Egypt. It was interesting to learn about the Greco-Roman influences, and also early Christian Egypt. But as a whole, I’m not really into that era, and don’t care to learn about it. So that is more personal beef than anything else. Even what was written was well written, and I learned quite a bit about the LP.

What I also found interesting was his covering of temples- I was surprised to find that many of the temples that are referenced are from the Ptolemic period. Yet no one seems to really mention that in their books. I also liked that they broke down the differences btwn a priest in a very wealthy temple, and how things are run in a moderate sized temple. This is also rarely covered.

All in all, I would recommend this book. It has a lot of information and is well written- translation aside.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Kemetic Book Reviews, Kemeticism

 

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Book Review: The Life of Meresamun

Originally posted on LJ on Dec 7, 2010

 

Today I’m reviewing “The Life of Meresamun, a Temple Singer in Ancient Egypt” which can be found for free on the OI Egypt page. I was excited to see this book. Despite being about a temple singer in the Later Period, I was hopeful that it could shed some light on the roles of temple singers in AE (as I have a specific interest in them). However, I was very let down.

You could pretty much call this a watered down version of Robins “Women in AE”. There was almost no talk about Meresamun. They knew almost nothing about her- the only thing that made her “special” was that they had her coffin/mummy. So in the end, I wasted a lot of time. They talked about various things women did in AE, they discussed womens role in AE, etc. They talked a little about fashion, cosmetics, and magic. But it really offered nothing of major interest. Even when they showed CT scans of the mummy, they pretty much said nothing other than “this is the best quality scans taken of a mummy EVAR”.

There were a few minor minor pieces of information I found interesting (such as- people in AE gauged their ears- I was unaware). But I feel that much of the information could have been expanded upon with better diagrams, or more explaining/examples (for example- discussing how thread was made/woven together).

All in all, I think that looking at the pictures of different artifacts is nice, but as a whole, the book is useless.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Kemetic Book Reviews, Kemeticism

 

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Book Review: Reading Egyptian Art

Originally posted on LJ on Dec 3, 2010

 

Today I’m reviewing the book “Reading Egyptian Art” by Richard Wilkinson.

I have to say that I’m very impressed with this book. This is the first book that I’ve read in a long time that presented any new material for me to learn. And after reading this book, I feel like I could potentially navigate looking at AE reliefs with a bit more knowledge and ability.

 

This book is set up pretty simply. On any given spread, you will see a hieroglyph and it’s name. On the right side, you’ll see the glyph explained in detail about what it represents, it’s symbolism, uses, etc. On the left hand side, you’ll see various pictures and examples of the glyph being used. It makes a nice reference, esp. when you’re looking at some relief, and want to know more about it. In the back, there is a basic index of Alan Gardiner’s hieroglyphs, in case you’re wanting the full list.

 

The only down side to this book is that I wish he covered more glyphs. I flip through the back, and look at other symbols, and I want to know what they mean, what they represent. I wish there was a full reference of every major AE hieroglyph, so that I could study it more. Other than that, I have no complaints with this book. I learned a lot of mythology I didn’t know before, I learned more specifics about the gods that I was unaware of, and I got to learn more about the basic symbols you see all the time, but usually aren’t explained well.

 

All in all, I would definitely recommend this book if you’re interested in learning more about symbolism and hieroglyphs in AE art.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Kemetic Book Reviews, Kemeticism

 

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Book Review: Handbook to Life in Ancient Egypt

Originally posted on LJ on Nov 18, 2010

 

Today I’m reviewing Rosalie David’s “Handbook to life in AE“.

I’ve heard a lot about Rosalie David. Many of her books come recommended, so I was excited to see one of her books in my local bookstore. However, I found this book utterly boring, and totally useless to me. I can say that I learned pretty much nothing from the book, and felt that you could cover the same material in a better fashion by reading Kemp’s book instead.

I think the largest issues with this book were the highly repetitive nature, the matter of fact tone, and the generalized nature. In her book, you could find whole paragraphs of text that were literally copied from previous portions in the book. She also would repeat things all the time, for example- the Rammesium (Temple of Ramesses II), or something similar. No duh.  You  mention it in the first sentence of the paragraph. You don’t need to mention it every other time the name comes up. The tone of her book seemed matter of fact to me. That thi WAS the way it WAS and that’s that. She rarely offered varying opinions on things, and (IMO) seemed to have outdated facts. She frequently referred to the matrilineal style of pharaohs and accention to the throne. However, I have read many other books who say that this has been disproven. So why not mention that that theory is a theory? That it could be wrong? It was frustrating. I also felt that her book didn’t go very in depth. It was vague, general, and really very cut and dry. I skipped pages at a time in some chapters because I just couldn’t take it any more.

All in all, I wouldn’t recommend this book, esp. if you are new to learning about AE history. I feel that you’d be better off with a Mertz or Kemp book to get you started, so you can learn filter what is useful and what isn’t from David’s book.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Kemetic Book Reviews, Kemeticism

 

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Book Review: Mechanics of AE Magical Practice

Originally posted on LJ on Sept 2, 2010

 

You can download this book for free from the Chicago OI web page found here. If you scroll down the page, there are two versions you can pick from. I read the 4th edition/printing.

As for the book: Mechanics of AE Magical Practice by Rittner. This book gets a lot of hype amongst Kemetics. People seem to rave about this book being the be all and end all of AE magic/heka. Honestly? I thought it should have been called The Mechanics of Execration Rites in AE. To me, most of the book was about one of three things- Execration rites (and the components thereof), the tracing of linguistics from AE to Coptic (and how it defines “magic”), or how Heka and magic aren’t really the same- in other words, how our definition of magic can’t properly describe AE magic. Really? The book was sort of boring, IMO. I learned more from Pinch’s book (which I didn’t learn a whole lot from), and her’s was easier to follow. Many times, I’d find myself glassing over- eyes only sort of soaking up what was on the page, because he wasn’t concise and to the point, IMO. He takes the long route to describe things, and to get his point across. Maybe due to my previous exp. with magical whatnot, it was kind of “duh” to me, and didn’t require a lot of explanation (as opposed to someone with no background).

Even so, it was interesting to read about execration rites. However, I don’t like execration rites, and would never perform one. So in the end, I didn’t really take anything away from the book that I can use in the future. I would have liked to have seen him talk about the forms of heka (licking, spitting, binding, etc) in other examples that weren’t related to execration. Sure, that one rite may have all of the components, but I feel it would have been better if we could have seen more examples from a wider cross-section of AE heka practices.

When I talked with others on forums about this book, they made it sound like he covered EVERYTHING in relation to AE heka practices. However, unless I’m reading the wrong book, I really don’t see how this is the case. Unfortunately, I had high hopes for this book, and was somewhat disappointed by what it contained. Considering I didn’t pay for it, it’s a good free resource to have, esp. if you have no background in heka, or it’s practices (or modern magical practices). But in the end, I’d love to see a book that goes more indepth, and covers a wider range of heka practices in the future.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Kemetic Book Reviews, Kemeticism

 

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Book Review: The Egyptians

Originally posted on LJ on Aug 31, 2010

I finished reading “The Egyptians” edited by Sergio Donadoni. It’s a collection of short essays by a variety of authors on various social groups of AE. For example, they talk about peasants, bureaucrats, priests, craftsmen, pharaoh, the dead, women, etc.

In short. I hated this book.

It was all that I could do to actually finish the book. I didn’t care for the way things were written. It was a challenge to get used to one writing style, just to switch to another writing style 20 pages later. I also didn’t like that each piece pretty much covered the same pieces of literature- so I had to read about Sinuhe 10 times, I had to read about the Satire of the Trades 10 times, etc. That, and due to the length of the articles, none of them went in depth enough to actually teach me anything new. It really was a waste of my money *sigh*.

The only chapters I enjoyed from this book was the chapter on Foreigners, Priests and the Pharaoh. That’s about it. The rest was super duper boring. I really wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re at the 101 level, and don’t know a whole lot about AE social structure in general.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Kemetic Book Reviews, Kemeticism

 

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