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A Proposed Model for Determining Ma’at vs. Isfet

Before you read this post, you need to read the first and second parts of this series, otherwise nothing will make sense.

So far, I’ve talked about how ma’at is like a regenerative system, which is a living series of processes that will renew and regenerate themselves provided their unique balance is maintained. Some examples of regenerative systems in daily life are ecosystems or your body. In opposition to this is isfet, which is what happens when disorder overtakes a regenerative system and makes it degenerative. Degenerative systems are not sustainable and tend to destroy the balance of other nearby systems. In this post, I’d like to discuss how we can use this model to determine if something we’re doing is more in alignment with isfet or ma’at.

Using this Model

So now we’re at the most important part of this whole discussion. We’ve laid the framework for understanding:

  • how systems work
  • how ma’at aligns with regenerative systems
  • how disorder tests the resiliency of a system
  • how too much disorder will put your regenerative balance is at risk
  • how isfet is an embodiment of degradation of natural systems.

Now comes the time for bringing it all together so that we can better reflect on our own actions and whether they relate to isfet, ma’at, or somewhere in between.

The reason that viewing ma’at as a system was so revolutionary for me was because it made it so much easier to understand if something was actually aligning with ma’at or not — because we’re using very concrete terms. Many times, I’ve found that people want to distort ma’at into being something that is relatively passive, or ultimately doesn’t require the person to really change or grow. To summarize this model for ma’at, it would be: if it bothers me, it’s isfet. If it doesn’t bother me, it’s ma’at.

However, by establishing that ma’at is like a particular thing that has a particular set of needs that must be met in order to be maintained, it really allows us to examine whether the things we do in our lives actually lives up to those needs, regardless of our own biases or feeling. By using a structure that can be clearly defined, it removes at least a portion of our bias, and allows us to be more objective in our assessment of ma’at. It also allows us to be very succinct when describing it.

Put succinctly: if something is pushing multiple systems towards degeneration, it’s likely aligned with isfet. If something pushes multiple systems towards regeneration, it’s likely aligned with ma’at.

For example, humans need several things to really survive and be healthy. Things such as:

  • Access to nutritious food, shelter, clean clothing (you’ll note, all of these are markers of having lived in ma’at in antiquity)
  • Access to healthy and supportive relationships. Humans are social creatures, and we need some amount of social interaction to be healthy.
  • Ability to self-express in a fashion that doesn’t hurt others (directly or otherwise)
  • Ability to be autonomous over our own choices and decisions, the feeling of having some control over your life and future.

So, if these things are all necessary for human systems to be healthy, then we know that anything that directly opposes these things is isfetian in nature.

Caveats: Frequency, Context, Scope, and Scale

Now, of course, there is some grey area in here. There are a few other considerations that must be applied when determining whether something is truly isfetian or ma’atian; things such as frequency, context, scope.

Frequency is about as straightforward as it sounds. That whole bit about disorder being the beginning of the sliding towards ultimately unraveling (isfet) means that a singular action isn’t necessarily going to lead you straight into isfet-town. For example, I know that fast food is really bad for my health. It is ultimately a degenerative force in my life. However, if I choose to eat it occasionally, it’s not likely going to qualify 100% as isfet in my specific system. Why? Because I’ve enacted moderation.

There are always places where we can have little exceptions to the moderation that marks our daily life. In antiquity, this is largely the role that festivals and holidays performed. They allowed people to let loose and let go for a short period of time before they fell back into the regularity of daily life. In our modern era, this isn’t always the case, and I’ve found that many of us are constantly living on the edge of making decisions that ultimately undo our efforts to thrive.

In short, frequency is the difference between engaging in a damaging behaviour in moderation vs. engaging in it all the time. Its the difference between eating something that’s bad for you once a month vs. every day. The frequency is vital to keep in mind when considering whether something is damaging or not. The less often you engage in damaging activities, the less likely they are to evoke an isfetian reaction in your specific system (aka your body and/or life.)

The context and scale of an action should also be considered, because it turns out that changing the scope or context of an action often will change whether its damaging or not — and that’s mostly because we live in a degenerative system. For example, let’s take the fast food thing mentioned above. On a small scale, when I’m really only thinking about how it effects me and me alone, it’s relatively harmless when in moderation. However, on a large scale, one might consider the act of giving your money to a fast food establishment isfetian. Why? Because many of these establishments treat their employees horribly. They engage in practices that degrade people’s lives by purposefully underpaying them and denying them access to necessary resources. Many of these companies engage in practices that wreck the environment, they lobby for legislation that allows them to get away with bad practices, and most of these companies aren’t putting much beneficial energy back into the world.

There is a phrase, “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism,” and that’s truly visible when using this model. When it comes to most larger systems, such as supply chains, economies, and governments — nothing is currently sustainable, and as such, is degenerative in nature (as I mentioned in previous posts.) The context of every action is important, because I think it’s vital that we remember that so much of our day to day lives are built on practices that are not sustainable (aka degenerative), and often hurt marginalized countries and peoples the hardest. While a singular act on a small scale is relatively harmless, when considering the full scope of the process of that act even being available to you — the true harm often comes into focus.

This, of course, muddies the water because it can be ethically confusing to determine how on earth to do anything without putting energy into an inherently isfetian system, but that’s also why engaging in activism, being politically active, and holding those in positions of power accountable is all the more important. I would argue that not doing so leans you towards isfet, because it means you’re choosing to ignore the degenerative systems that are eating away at the regenerative system that is you.

And please bear in mind: sometimes the ma’atian choice, the course of action that honors the regenerative nature in you and others, will be painful or difficult. Many people want to equate ma’at to the path of least resistance, and I am here to tell you that this is often not the case. That’s why its very important to really examine all of the aspects of a given course of action to ensure you’re not copping out due to fear of the new and unknown.

Useful Questions to Consider

Here are some examples of questions that can be asked when trying to determine whether a large-scale system is regenerative or not:

  • Will this legislation/action/structure degrade human lives?
  • Will it cause people to lose their autonomy?
  • Will it degrade the community and connections that people have?
  • Will it restrict access to healthy food, clean water, adequate housing and healthcare?
  • Will it oppress or hold back a particular group of people (please keep in mind that leveling the playing field between classes or races is not oppression)?
  • Does it rely on a biased system/structure to reinforce it?
  • Does it needlessly destroy nature?
  • Does it endanger natural resources and living things?
  • Does it destroy or threaten other regenerative systems?
  • Does it lead us closer to things like climate change or fascism?

And in case its not clear yet, if the answer to these is yes, it’s isfetian in nature.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when trying to determine whether a small-scale interaction is regenerative or not:

  • Does this harm my health?
  • Does this hurt my relationships or those around me needlessly?
  • Does this incite self-hatred or acts of violence or abuse against the self?
  • Will this cause you regret or shame later on?
  • Does this hinder my or others growth, however painful?
  • Would those who care about you condone this choice?

Of course, sometimes these things are not clear cut, and that’s why its important to always consider the wider context of a situation as discussed above.

If you’ve managed to make it through all three posts, I congratulate you. If you have any questions or would like to suggest any other means of refining this model, I welcome them!

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2020 in Kemeticism

 

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Isfet as a System

Before you read this post, you absolutely have to read part one first. Otherwise, nothing will really make sense.

In the last post in this series, I left off with discussing why ma’at should be considered a regenerative system, but in order to explain why we should view ma’at in this fashion, we really need to discuss isfet, and then place both concepts side by side in order to see how they function together. In many ways, in order to understand one, I feel you really need to look at both at the same time.

So to get this started, let’s talk about the harbinger of degeneration: disorder.

The role of disorder

Ironically, we have a definition for disorder within natural systems: any resource that can not be used productively by an organism. That is to say, if you get too much of a Thing, even if its a Really Good Thing, you are being thrown into disorder. In terms of keeping natural systems healthy, any natural system really needs to have moderation in all of its parameters, which often times will be summed up as “a healthy level of stress.” Key word here being: healthy. In the same way that our muscles atrophy without use, other parts of systems begin to fall apart if they are never remotely pushed, challenged, or introduced to change (in nature, this usually is changing of seasons, fauna, etc.)

You can see what disorder in natural systems looks like by looking at the weather patterns of 2019. The midwest got too much rain and too much snow. The southwest hasn’t gotten enough heat or rain. Texas has gotten too much rain too early, and is not getting enough now. All of these are examples of ecosystems getting too much or too little of a resource; they are all examples of regenerative systems rubbing against disorder (which is a nice way of saying climate change.)

Too much of something will always result in disorder. Disorder and dysfunction are the gateways to a regenerative system becoming degenerative (isfet.)

We see this time and time again within our own mythological stories, where excess often results in harm or bad things happening, even if what you’re excessing on is not inherently bad. For example, Re’s excessive fear and pride led to his releasing his Eye out onto the world. Her excessive blood lust caused a lot of destruction that Re then had to go and remedy (with more excess — drinking, in this case.) Osiris got a big ol welt on his head from his Atef crown because he was being so vane and arrogant.

When viewed from this lens, it stands to reason why Set often gets classified as necessary chaos or necessary change (he is also a god of excess, showing that the NTRW can also waver in terms of their own balance and moderation.) As I mentioned above, systems need to be pushed sometimes in order to stay healthy. Nothing lives in a vacuum, and so all systems must continually grow and adapt to the ever-changing world around them. When properly handled and balanced, the chaos that Set brings is supposed to be this sort of stress that allows things to grow into something more than they currently are. When the deceased talks about Set “serving [me] above and beyond his own powers,” they are talking about the fact that Set’s service to all of us is supposed to be that useful, healthy stress that pushes us to level up.

The problem is, we don’t live in a healthy regenerative system, and so this disorder often hits harder than it should, and if left unchecked, it becomes very easy for a regenerative system to recoil from any contact with any disorder, ultimately pushing it closer and closer towards becoming degenerative.

Isfet: degeneration in action

If you are continually given more of a Thing than you can handle, it results in disorder within a system or systems. Disorder is what happens when we stray from the moderation and predictable cycling of nature that is necessary to maintain all regenerative and natural systems. In this respect, frequent or constant disorder is a symptom, a warning sign that you’re beginning to slide into isfetian territory. That something within your system is not jiving with some other aspect of another system, and as a result, the quality and health of that system is slowly shifting towards becoming degenerative.

For better or worse, it’s pretty easy to map out what a system starts to do when it begins to slide into degeneration:

  1. Reduction of predictable cycles and resources, causing general disorder within the system.
  2. As general disorder increases, lack of proper synchronization between members of the system occurs, exacerbating the resource distribution further.
  3. Lack of resources leads to excessive stress on all organisms in the systems
  4. Critical mass is reached, and parts of the ecosystem begin to collapse, biodiversity begins to drop.
  5. Reduction of keystone species causes widespread collapse. A single member of a keystone species often supports (usually) hundreds-to-thousands of other organisms at any given time.
  6. Once keystone species begin to disappear, the entire system faces a reduction of resiliency overall. If left unchecked, the system will completely disappear or become “dead” for all intents and purposes.

To see how this sort of situation pans out in real time, all you need to do is look at climate change and desertification. Human activity has caused too much stress to be put onto too many natural systems, and now those systems are slowly (and yet oh-so-quickly) shifting into disorder. As the disorder increases, the cycles that mark stable regenerative systems become more and more out of alignment and out of sync. From there, systems begin to fail. Forests turn into scrub land, scrub land into desert, desert into dunes. The soil supports less and less plant growth, so less and less organisms can be supported by the same amount of land. You get increasingly bad natural disasters and you begin to have winter in May.

For examples on a smaller scale, it’s that moment when you grab a cigarette instead of handling your feelings. It’s when you stay up late on your phone instead of going to bed at a healthy time, or choose to escape into the television instead of handling problems. It’s all of those small little things that detract from our overall well being that we do because we think its harmless.

All of these things are examples of a system being dragged out of regeneration into degeneration. And it’s affecting all of us, because we’re all natural, regenerative systems relying for our survival on a much larger series of natural systems that are being dragged into isfetian territory.

The importance of scale and context

One of the biggest things I wanted to make sure to clarify is that in many situations, isfet is not a singular action, but a series of actions or a trend that occurs over a period of time. Disorder is often like a crescendo: it starts off small and quiet. A few things here, a few things there. But then it slowly builds until it becomes a pattern, a habit, a trend. Something that happens consistently time and time again, which slowly takes a toll on the resilience of the system it is antagonizing.

To pick on climate change again, it wasn’t just one farmer that caused our soil to degrade. It wasn’t just one car that polluted the air. It wasn’t just one billionaire or CEO hiding key information about how we’re destroying the planet. No, it was millions of cars, hundreds of farmers and fields, and many many years of people in positions of power purposefully choosing to ignore the writing on the wall while the planet slowly degraded in the background. It’s not just one action, its lots of little actions that have built on one another to create a wave.

Similarly, the solution to something like climate change won’t be one simple action, either. It takes many many actions to degrade, and it takes many many actions to rebuild.

This is vital to understand because we must always examine situations within their wider context. We must always look at trends, because while exceptions to a rule can exist, it also belies that there is a rule, a trend, that this exception is pushing against.

This is why the balance of ma’at is so necessary. Regenerative beings need specific things in order to survive, and when that balance gets thrown into disarray, everything that system touches is effected on some level. While it’s not just a singular action that will cause a system to degenerate, at the same time, it is still very easy for things to quickly degrade and shift from bad to worse. It’s why the gods would have needed to be persistent and diligent with fighting back isfet.

I mentioned in the first post that in this modern era we have built up this sort of facade that we are somehow separate and untouchable from the natural systems we were born into, but its simply not true. The more degenerative the system we live in becomes, the more necessary and, frankly, involuntary it’ll be for people to participate in fixing the problems at hand.

Maintaining ma’at is the responsibility of all of us. Even if you’re avoiding it now, eventually you may not have that luxury.

In my next post, I’ll discuss how to apply this model to aspects of our lives to see if it is harmful and isfetian in nature, or if its helping to sustain or increase ma’at in the world.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2019 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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Ma’at as a System

Permaculture has changed my views of ma’at. The more I have begun to understand how the ecological world around us operates, the more I have begun to understand how limited a lot of our discussions about ma’at and isfet are. I’ve also come to feel that if you don’t have a solid understanding of what makes the world we live in tick, a lot of the layers of meaning within Kemeticism get lost. As I looked through all of the posts in the FAQ about ma’at and isfet, I realized that so many of us are trying to encompass the ideas I’m about to put forth, but we lack a language or structure to inform our discussion, and so key parts get lost.

I would like to posit a new way for how we view ma’at and isfet. Specifically, how they interact with one another.

The concept of systems

Our world, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, is made up of systems that are nested into other systems. To create a generalized starting point for those who aren’t used to talking about systems, a system is commonly defined as “a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network” or “an organized scheme or method.” That is to say that life is made up of many pieces coming together, living and dying and bouncing off of one another in such a fashion that life ultimately can continue on, which I briefly touched on in my post about edge effect.

In many ways, this idea contradicts what many of us grew up with, because US culture likes to position itself as allowing people to be self reliant and that needing assistance from other people is a weakness, but the truth of the matter is that even here in the US, we still are reliant on other humans. It may look like we are able to live without help, but when you really think about how your food gets to the store, and then to your house (average of 1,500 miles from farmer to plate). Or how you manage to get anything you own, etc. You really begin to see that we are still a system stuck within a system, a network of cells making our body run (a system) that exists in a much-more-distant network with other humans (all those farmers and manufacturers and unpaid labor and retailers and truck drivers that make all of the “stuff” in our society move around).

Three system types

At the end of the day, we humans are ultimately healthier when we are fully connected and engaged with the systems that support us. Whether that’s nature itself, other humans that are around us, the region where we live, etc. The more I’ve learned about this topic, the more I’ve come to believe that it is necessary for our health to be connected to the systems that support us. Healthy systems are intrinsic to our well being.

In permaculture, systems are ultimately what you’re looking to create. To help determine if the system you’ve set up is healthy or not, there is a sort of classification setup that we have that helps us to figure it out. For any system in question, there are three types of categories to choose from: degenerative, generative, and regenerative.

A degenerative system is a system that is inherently unsustainable. It uses more resources than it gives, requires a lot of upkeep, and is not resilient against extremes, such as extreme weather or natural disasters. For examples of degenerative systems, all you need to do is look around where you live. Nearly every aspect of Western culture is degenerative. Our food system is degenerative. Our transportation systems are degenerative. There is very little about our culture that isn’t degenerative.

A generative system is a system that basically “breaks even.” It may require a fair amount of resources to create, but then requires little-to-no upkeep or maintenance. The most common examples that you see for generative systems are old-fashioned hand tools. Things like hammers, axes, shovels, etc. They require some amount of resource to create or procure, but a good shovel can last you decades if you take care of it.

A regenerative system is the best system to have. These are systems that regenerate their own resources and are self-sustainable once they are set up (to some extent. All systems will ultimately need some level of care to be maintained, but generally, you don’t put much into a regenerative system in comparison to what it provides the participants of said system.) The biggest caveat about regenerative systems is that only living things can qualify as a regenerative system. A forest is a regenerative system. Your body is a regenerative system. Any natural system is considered a regenerative system. Any food chain or natural habitat that hasn’t been massively disturbed should be, ideally, a regenerative system.

So what of it, right?

I believe that in order for the concepts of ma’at and isfet to really make any sense or sing, they need to be viewed from the perspective of systems, specifically because I believe ma’at is inherently meant to be regarded as a regenerative system.

Ma’at as a natural system

Ma’at, like so many of our most important concepts, is personified as a deity while also being regarded as a concept. If we believe that gods are real, living beings, then that would make each deity a regenerative system unto themself. Why? Because living things are regenerative systems when they are healthy. That, by proxy, automatically makes ma’at a regenerative system. But if that’s not enough, the other reason why I think ma’at qualifies as a regenerative system is because it is a natural system. It is a system that follows all of the rules of natural systems:

  1. Nothing in nature grows forever. There is a constant cycle of decay and rebirth.
  2. Continuation of life depends on the maintenance of global (though in our paradigm, I’d use the word “cosmic”) cycles.
  3. Both too many or too few members of a species can lead them to the threshold of extinction (read: moderation is required for sustainability.)
  4. A group’s chance of survival is largely dependent upon one or two key factors in a sea of complicated interrelations between an organism and it’s environment (this reminds me of fighting off isfet, the main factor that could destroy ma’at.)
  5. Our ability to change the world around us increases at a rate faster than our ability to foresee the consequences of such change (you see this in the fact that AE was hellbent on constantly bringing everything back to the First Time, when everything was at its Most Perfect, right as Creation came into being.)
  6. Living organisms are not only means, but ends. Living things have intrinsic worth beyond what benefits they provide to humans (I certainly hope you thought of ma’at when you read this.)

In my mind, all of these principles are present within the ancient Egyptian worldview. Almost all of our rituals deal with themes of overcoming decay and being reborn. Our rituals are meant to help maintain cosmic order, which is why they’re so vital to the continuation of ma’at. And our survival depends upon our willingness to actively fight off isfet. Because all living things have inherent worth, we have to be careful how we move into the future, and so we should always be comparing our methods to Zep Tepi, the time when we Got It Right.

As a natural system, it stands to reason that anything that goes against what allows a natural, regenerative system to regenerate would potentially be considered Bad, or in this case, isfetian in nature. Using this model, we begin to see the emergence of how we can use these tools to begin to determine what qualifies as a source of ma’at or a source of isfet, and even more importantly — how that should inform our own actions and habits in our daily lives.

In my next post, I will discuss how isfet is a degenerative system and how disorder and repetition are the harbingers of a regenerative system becoming degenerative. And in a currently-not-determined number of future posts, I’ll cover how we can use these concepts to determine whether something is building ma’at or leading towards isfet and what this implies about the current state of our community.

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2019 in Kemeticism, Making Ma'at

 

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Connected in Loneliness

I have been lonely for as long as I can remember, and I’ve handled it in various ways throughout my life. When I was younger, I disassociated all of those feelings away. As I got older, I found the “better” method of handling my loneliness was to funnel it into work. Because if you’re busy, you don’t have time to listen to the feelings gnawing in your stomach. Over the years, I’ve found that I could combine my incessant need to drown things out via work while also trying to fix my constant loneliness. Which is probably why TTR as you know it even exists.

In recent months, I’ve found that the topic of loneliness has been on my mind again. Due to the current circumstances of my life, I find that the feelings of abandonment and neglect that I would have experienced in my youth frequently bubble up to the surface. Because I’ve gotten better at being able to look at my feelings and remain somewhat detached from them, I’ve found that I’m able to actually inspect them before being overwhelmed by them. This has resulted in a fair amount of navel-gazing about loneliness and how it relates to a person’s personal religious practice. And by extension, how it relates to the gods, and whether they get lonely or not.

I suspect that being a member of a more “fringe” religion leads to loneliness playing a larger role in our community’s experience as a whole. Unlike being in the dominant religious group of wherever any of us is living, where you can find physical places to worship with other human beings, most of us are stuck creating our own religious experience in our own homes. I think its all very foreign, this trying to allocate resources to concoct, conceptualize, and implement whatever brings religious meaning to us while still engaging all of the other aspects of our busy lives. It’s a lot of extra work, and I think many of us don’t take the time to consider what impact that can lend to one’s religious experience. It’s a lot easier to build off of something that already exists than to have to figure out how to create it yourself from scratch. It’s a lot more motivating to participate in your religion if it is socially fulfilling or enriching.

In many respects, our choice in religion others us to a degree. And in that sense, our religion creates an ideal space to be lonely.

On a whim. I asked about loneliness and religion over on tumblr. I wanted to see how others relate to loneliness, and how that influences their religious practices. I left the question vague, as I wanted to see how people interpret loneliness without a wider context. I would say that most of the responses fell into a few categories:

  1. Loneliness is an act of being alone. This can allow for greater freedom to connect with the Divine, because there is no one around to interrupt you.
  2. Loneliness as a necessary tool or experiences. That some of our experiences are going to be inherently lonely, because we experience things differently as individuals. In most of these responses, the othering that comes with loneliness is temporary or situational, and not all-encompassing.
  3. Loneliness that separates a person from other people, as in being the only participant of your religion that you know of, or being the only non-white participant in your religious circle. This loneliness is pervasive and persistent.
  4. Loneliness that separates a person from the gods, as in not being able to connect with a deity as much as one would like, due to the fact that they aren’t living in physical forms we can interact with.

In these responses, I would argue that there are two over-arching relationships to loneliness. On one hand, it seems that people equate loneliness to being alone, nothing more and nothing less. On the other hand, it seems that people equate loneliness to being disconnected from others who are similar to themself, which is the definition I tend to err towards. From a mental health perspective, loneliness is not about being alone, it’s about being disconnected from other humans–regardless of how many humans are in physical proximity to you.

The ability to feel connected with people comes from a sense of someone being open and available to you, and by extension, you being open and available to them. It’s an open-door policy that works in both directions, respects both people’s needs and boundaries and leaves both people trusting the other with vulnerable aspects of themself. You can’t be connected with others unless you’re comfortable being vulnerable with them.

When you read that paragraph, how many people come to mind? How many people are you really connected with? How about your gods? Does the definition of connection apply to your relationship with them? Do you think that the gods feel connected with you?

Connection is ultimately the “cure” for loneliness, especially if its chronic in nature. And yet, according to most research, most of us do not feel connected with anyone. I might go so far to venture that many of us don’t even feel connected to ourselves. In recent months I have come to understand isfet as being “stuff that tears at the social fabric of human society,” and by that definition, loneliness might as well be a type of isfet because not only does loneliness make us miserable, it literally cuts your life short.

And if that’s the case, wouldn’t that make connection a form of ma’at? The balm that eradicates isfet from your life and restores the social fabric that us humans require to survive?

If 2019 is the year of making ma’at, then it stands to reason that this should be the year we start to tackle the loneliness that permeates our community. I don’t have any concrete solutions, but this is a call to action for anyone reading to start pondering about how we can work on helping members of our community to become more connected. Not only with each other or the gods, but also with ourselves. Figuring out who we are, making ourselves a priority allows us to give more space to other people when they are in a time of need. Treating ourselves as an important member of our own life helps us to form deeper, healthier relationships with others. Learning about yourself also teaches you how you want other people to treat you, and by extension, helps you create better boundaries, so that you can learn to trust people better. Which ultimately leads to… more ability to connect with others.

When you think about the loneliness that is in your own life or religious practice, what comes to mind? What helps you to feel connected to others? What steps are you performing to create more connection between yourself and others? What are you doing to help yourself become more connected with yourself?

Some resources to get the conversation started:

 
 

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Ma’at, Order and Everything in Between

I recently started reading Violence in the Service of Order: the Religious Framework for Sanctioned Killings in Ancient Egypt by Kerry Muhlenstein, and while I’m only a chapter or so into the book, it’s given me quite a bit to think about in terms of ma’at and how it might be applied to the modern era. In the first chapter of the book, Muhlenstein talks about how most sanctioned acts of violence (such as corporeal punishment for criminals, ritual slayings/sacrifices) in AE were done to help preserve the order that existed in that era:

The concept of sacrifice acting to preserve rather than destroy is well articulated by Davies, who postulates that throughout human society “the act [sacrifice] was required, to save the people from calamity and the cosmos from collapse. Their object was, therefore, more to preserve than to destroy life.”69 Thus, sacrifice, in partnership with punishment and law, was aimed at bringing about social and cosmic order, at establishing the correct unity.70 This is especially true of ancient Egypt, a society which concentrated so heavily on the correct cosmic and social order embodied in Ma ‘at. As Willems writes, neither human sacrifice nor execution was so much a matter of revenge as it was an act of countering disorder. (Page 26)

In addition to killing to preserve Order, there is also a sense of othering that often comes with it. When the Egyptians found someone that was other, and this other worked against their perceptions of what was Orderly (read: in ma’at), then the person in question would be aligned with rebels, with people Who Are Not a Part of Our Cool Kids Club (aka society), and would then be disposed of in whatever means they saw fit. All in an attempt to preserve their ideas of Order:

That which qualified someone as a potential sacrificial victim was a sense of “otherness.” In some cases it could be a particularly valuable or holy-and thus “other”-victim. More often it was “exterior or marginal individuals, incapable of establishing or sharing the social bonds that link the rest of the inhabitants. Their status as foreigners or enemies, their servile condition, or simply their age prevents these future victims from fully integrating themselves into the community.”82 It was just such a lack of integration that made both the extraordinarily holy or great and the extraordinarily unholy or despicable individual a candidate for sacrifice. In Egypt, in particular, those who, through their actions, identified themselves with Isfet, could become candidates for sacrifice. Thus Willems writes that it is in keeping with Egyptian thought that their criminals should be sacrificed. (Pages 28-29)

Think of it like a playing-for-keeps execration. But instead of burning a sheet of paper, you’re burning people.

This got me thinking about Order and other-ness, and how it has applied to various cultures across the centuries. While ancient Egypt was relatively similar in how it did things throughout its history, there were still changes that occurred as the culture’s ideas about what was socially acceptable or what was considered to be within ma’at shifted over the years. And even if ancient Egypt had been static in its approach to what was considered the best sort of Order to build a society around, we don’t live in ancient Egypt anymore, and some of their ideas probably don’t fit into the modern practitioner’s world view.

So that then begs to ask, what sort of Order are we trying to build? What sort of Order should we be aiming for? Who or what should be considered as “other”? What kinds of behaviour fall outside of ma’at? Who or what do we want to exclude, if we want to exclude anything/one at all?

If I look to my home country for ideas, I can see that our country’s Order is supposed to be based off freedom and pursuit of your dreams. That sounds great on paper, but our society seems to only want that for a small group of people (originally only for Protestant, white, married men who owned land). The list of “others” in our society is incredibly long, and brings a lot of inequality into our ideas of what proper Order should look like. Of course, those who fall into the “other” category don’t particularly like being excluded from the protections of Order, and as such have been trying to change what Order looks like for our country. This is why we are currently in the middle of a struggle between several groups of people. Some of which want to change the Order of our society. Some of which want it to stay the same.

Possibly due to the fact that so many Kemetics are from the US, or possibly because people are relatively similar across time and location, this has been mirrored in our own community as well:

  • Some Kemetics don’t want any sort of social issues involved in the religion, because that doesn’t fit into their idea of Order. When people start to push social issues into the community, they become “othered” for their attempts.
  • Some Kemetics want to bring social issues in because it’s part of their idea of ma’at. These people might be inclined to “other” those who don’t support social issues or work to fix them.
  • Some Kemetics are okay with certain social issues, but not all social issues. They might only “other” particularly bad cases of bigotry.
  • Some Kemetics want a community that is broken up based off of practice type and model. The practice style would then create the Order, and anyone who doesn’t practice in a similar fashion might be “othered”.
  • Some Kemetics want a community where social behaviour is more important than practice structure. In this case, the code of behaviour becomes the Order, the practice style is irrelevant, and those who don’t fit into the ideal for behaviour might be “othered” regardless of practice style.
  • Some Kemetics want a no holds barred sort of community, where anyone can say anything regardless of how it’s said. In this case, no one will ever be “othered” due to their all-encompassing definition/perceptions of Order.
  • Other Kemetics want everyone to behave a certain particular way, because that’s how they consider ma’at to apply to social behaviour. They will “other” anyone who doesn’t behave exactly as they want, regardless of the legitimacy (or lack thereof) for their actions.

You’ve got a lot of different ideas of how our community should be built, run, etc. You’ve got a lot of different ideas about what Order should look like and who should be allowed to participate or not (aka who should be considered “othered” and who shouldn’t). It should go without saying that this creates some level of conflict between all of us, especially when it comes to that “othering”.

This can be further compounded by the format that we use to interact with one another. It’s pretty well known that text is hard to understand in terms of tone, and it can often lead to people blowing up, misunderstandings and arguments. These kinds of interactions are particularly important, as our understanding of what should be considered a part of Order and who should be “othered” will influence how we handle difficult social interaction within the community.

Of course, there are a few tools in our arsenal for figuring out whether someone’s behaviour is within our perceived idea of Order. We have the yardstick of dickery to help dictate whether someone is being a dick or not, and some suggestions on how to handle those situations. In cases where forums or FB groups are the venue, there are rules that dictate the group’s idea of Order that you’re supposed to follow as a member, which also give details on how to handle rule breakers.

However, these things don’t always work as there are plenty of groups who don’t apply their rules consistently or effectively when people break them (aka groups with lackluster admin staff). And when the interaction happens outside of a location that has admin staff, it becomes a matter of one Kemetic’s idea of Order and “othering”  clashing against another Kemetic’s idea of Order and “othering”. This is where most of the worst friction can occur, as some Kemetics believe that those that fall into their “other” category are fair game to treat however they see fit. There are Kemetics who simply don’t have good peopling skills, and make social faux pas regularly. Other co-religionists may then jump in and take sides, and it can spiral out of control if we’re not careful.

There are a lot of grey areas for figuring out how to handle such interactions within the community, and each individual will probably have different ideas on the best way to handle them. Figuring out what to do about these grey areas will probably be a less-than-smooth process, as is usually the case when you’re trying to establish a protocol or identify your idea of Order:

This is relevant in the modern era, given that our society is not entirely just or fair to it’s people. That may leave many readers wondering “how does ma’at fit into such a society? Is it better to go with what is already established, even if it possibly harms portions of the population? What is considered Good or Right in such a setting?” If literature from the First Intermediate Period has anything to say about it, ma’at rests in caring for the vulnerable and underserved, and working to reestablish true justice, fairness and order within the surrounding society. That means that sometimes you have to be the fly in the ointment, because reestablishing what is Good in a society often means upsetting others. But if one never steps forward to help reestablish, then ma’at can never prevail. Karenga, 61

If nothing else, this book has highlighted a potentially glaring issue in our community as it continues to grow and move forward: we haven’t fully established what we consider to be a part of our Order, nor have we established who we think should be “othered” (if anyone at all).

In the business world, it’s recommended that you create a Mission Statement when you create your business as a means to help direct your business where you want it to go. It also helps your employees to understand what your business is out to achieve, its ethics and its approach to business. Then the employee can tailor their actions to fit within that business model. Our community doesn’t really have such a thing outside of “living in ma’at”. Of course, ma’at is subjective and vague, and as mentioned above, this obscurity can create a lot of friction between members. Perhaps this is because we haven’t taken the time to truly discuss what we think a modern Kemetic community should look like beyond the basics of “maintain ma’at”.

Maybe it’s time that we started to look into changing that. Otherwise, I foresee a lot of the same friction that is occurring now continuing indefinitely into the future.

Do you think there is any benefit in discussing what modern Kemeticism’s idea Order should look like? If so, what do you think our community’s Order should look like?

Do you think that there are any particular groups of people that would fit into the “other” category? Why or why not? If you believe that there is a group worth “othering”, would they ever be able to move from that category, or are they permanently labeled as such?

How do you think the community should handle the idea of a mission statement beyond “live in ma’at”? How should we handle the friction that occurs between different members that may have drastically different ideas about what the “correct” way to practice Kemeticism is?

If anyone decides to take a stab at these prompts, let me know and I’ll create a responses section below!

 
16 Comments

Posted by on April 27, 2016 in Boat Paddlers Arsenal, Kemeticism

 

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Poopocalypse 2k15

It’s funny how things can snowball. One small occurrence leads to another occurrence, which leads to another and another- and next thing you know, things have happened. That’s kinda how the poopocalypse started, really. One person asked about a/pep, and then another and another. And then people came in trying to find a way to worship the thing, and a whole different batch of people came in trying to understand why it’s still around and others raised their hand in confusion because they were absent from school that day and couldn’t fathom why people would even want to worship something that wants you destroyed.

And next thing you know, people are talking about having a big community execration, because fire is fun.

This started out as a one time event. We were torn on what to call it, so we ended up with “Execranuary” and “Poopocalypse 2k15“. I personally prefer the second because it could last the entire year. And that is exactly why I am writing this post right now. I’d love to see us have an entire year of monthly execrations.

I’m sure many of you are wondering why I am so on board with slaying the poop every month. Some of you may think it to be a little excessive, even. But hear me out before you pass judgement either way.

Execration in action. Photo from Tumblr user Rainhappily.

First, I’d like to bring it back to antiquity, and remind everyone that execrations used to be performed daily. Sometimes multiple times during the day, at multiple temples throughout the day. The Egyptians took their execrations seriously, and they were just as persistent with execrations as they were with daily rites for the gods. For the Egyptians, execrations were part and parcel with maintaining ma’at. It was their way of assisting the gods in fighting back the forces of isfet. It was helping the gods keep Creation going.

So as far as I am concerned, there is no such thing as too many execrations. I know that many of us only execrate once or twice a year (usually at Wep Ronpet), but we really could execrate as often as we want. And I recommend that people execrate whenever they feel the need to remove bad stuff from their lives.

The other reason that I am so on board with having a year long execration celebration is because execrations can be used for so many things.

Traditionally, we associate execrations with pushing back and fighting against isfet and a/pep. However, there are a lot of other applications that execrations can be used for. Execrations can be used as a part of self-care and shadow work, or could be used to drive forward societal changes or things of that nature.

Execration, Shadow Work and Self-Care

I don’t care what anyone says. Destruction has a place in self-care. Half the reason most of us need to do more self-care to begin with is because our society teaches us that taking care of ourselves is somehow inherently bad. That alone is a mentality that needs to die, and is worthy of execration in and of itself.

Many of us participate in habits that wear us down and wear us out. Many of us have baggage that we need to be rid of in order to heal and move forward. All of these things are fit for the execration pot.

Now imagine if you were working on making 2015 the year that you actually started to work on self-care. Imagine if you had a reoccurring holiday that gave you an excuse to destroy all of those bad habits every month? Imagine if all of your Kemetic buddies were participating in the same thing, reminding you that these things should go, and that our well being is important?

Kicking out bad habits, negative thoughts, and toxic people are all part of self-care. I believe that recurring monthly execrations can help these changes occur and stick.

Execration and Social Movements

Another thing that seems to be overlooked is that execrations used to be used for controlling the politics of ancient Egypt. The priests who performed these execrations weren’t only trying to destroy isfet, they were also destroying enemies of the state and enemies of the King both “known and unknown”.

I know that this isn’t entirely new news to modern witchcraft users or hekau. We do have tags such as “Witchcraft for Wendy” and “Fighting for Ferguson”, after all. However, I think having monthly execrations where we are able to revisit political situations and social movements would be a good thing. If throwing someone’s name into an execration pot once worked out well, imagine what might happen if you did it every month for a year.

While I’m not saying that everyone has to combine politics/social movements and execrations together, I do believe it could be a useful use of Poopocalypse 2k15. Especially since there have been concerns about how much overlap isfet and horrible politicians have. Of course, it also goes without saying that if you are concerned about pushing for human rights, that you should be doing more than simply execrating. However, I think that execration gives a solid base for everyone to work with.

So I want to participate. What now?

The general premise for Poopocalypse 2k15 is that we will perform execrations on the New Moon of every month. For those of you on Tumblr, I’d recommend tagging any execration activities that you wish to share with the “poopocalypse 2k15” tag and/or placing it into the usual #Kemetic tag. Obviously, not everyone will be able to participate exactly on the New Moon, and I think that’s fine. I personally will be aiming to execrate once a month, as close to New Moon as I can get.

For those of you over here on WP, if you’d like to share any of your execrations, let me know and I’ll be adding them to this post, and to my own collection that I’ve got going over on Tumblr.

As the months progress, I will be attempting to try out new execration styles to see how they work out. It’s my goal to think of some new ways to punish the poop, especially for those who are low on supplies, or have to execrate on the down low. For resources on how you can execrate, check out the links at the bottom or check out the poopocalypse tag to see how others have performed their execrations.

What do you think about having a year of execrations? Do you think you will be participating?

Relevant Links:

 
10 Comments

Posted by on February 2, 2015 in Devo Magix Series, Kemeticism

 

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KRT: Creation, Uncreation and Balance

Despite being a central tenet within the Kemetic religion, there seems to be very little written about ma’at. Most Egyptologists don’t seem to be terribly interested in getting into the nitty gritty aspects of the concept (except Karenga), and most seem to be perfectly fine with relegating ma’at to a simple 3 word definition of “truth, justice, order”. On top of that, most books don’t even mention the concept of isfet or what it entails. So it can be confusing trying to figure out what exactly all of these concepts mean or how they are applied in a religious practice.

While we’ve already had a KRT post that discusses how you might bring ma’at into your daily life, for this post, we wanted to actually discuss the concept of ma’at, and how it relates to everything else in our religion. In addition to this, I wanted to try and answer some of the questions I regularly get regarding ma’at. If anything, I’d like this post to serve as a type of “ma’at master post”.

Ma’at, isfet and how they relate to Creation

In order to understand how ma’at and isfet come together, I think you have to understand how Creation came into being. While we have 3 or 4 different creation myths, they almost all start out the same: a creator deity wakes up within the Nun and through a series of actions, brings Creation into existence (this moment of Creation is called zep tepi, or the ‘first time’). The Nun is more or less a huge watery vat of potential. Nun contains everything that will ever be or ever was, as well as what might ever be, and what could have been. It is all of potential, all of Creation and uncreation in its various stages of being. It’s everything and nothing all at once.

And Creation rises out from that.

However, Creation is surrounded by the Nun, and could very well fall back into the Nun at any given moment. Think of it like living inside of a balloon, and around our balloon of Creation, there are tons of cacti that jut up out of the Nun and threaten to pop our balloon and catapult us out into nothingness. In the eye of the ancients, Creation existed in a very precarious situation that needed constant tending in order to survive. That is why the gods need our assistance, because we help them to maintain Creation. It’s a mutual working together that helps to keep us from falling back into Nun’s abyss.

I think it’s important to emphasize that the Nun isn’t necessarily a malevolent entity or thing in this situation- it simply is. The same can be said of isfet, which is the force that uncreates the things contained within Creation. A/pep is the commonly used term that gives some sort of being or identity/personification to isfet. A/pep is usually described as an “agent” of the force, but a/pep isn’t necessarily sentient or freethinking in what it does (which is why many Kemetics refer to a/pep as “it” and not with a gender). It simply has a hunger to destroy and eradicate everything within Creation, and so it does the only thing it knows how to do – it seeks to uncreate. A lot of people like to wrongfully associate a/pep and isfet with chaos, but that doesn’t really go deep enough for my tastes. Isfet and a/pep are more than simple chaos, they are the utter destruction and uncreation of everything. They are decay and entropy, they are the extermination and eradication of anything and everything that you know in its entirety. It’s the level of destruction that removes so much of the Created that there is no memory anything left for us to even remember that those things or beings ever even existed in the first place.

To further the metaphor above, Creation would be the balloon itself- the plastic or rubber that creates the membrane that keeps us protected, as well as the air that exists inside of it. Isfet may be considered the force that pushes the cacti up out of the Nun, and a/pep is the cactus spines that threaten to pop our balloon and destroy everything we know. That would make ma’at the act of keeping our balloon filled with air or helium, and the maintenance and upkeep required to prevent our balloon from getting holes.

Of course the world we live in is not as simple as an air or helium filled balloon. We live in a very complex system of countries, governments and municipalities, and many times these man-made structures can conflict with our needs and the needs of the world around us. And even on a much smaller scale, our bodies have needs that we sometimes can’t provide or don’t want to provide, and there are times when maintaining ma’at within our life becomes very very difficult. I believe it is this factor that causes us to poke at the ma’at concept so much- because striking a balance is very difficult in a lot of ways, especially when you’re trapped in an unbalanced society.

Perpetuating Ma’at, Derailing isfet

Someone recently asked me if everything that isn’t ma’at in the world is instantly isfet, and my answer to that was no. I don’t think that everything in our world can necessarily be rendered down into ma’at or isfet. I feel like ma’at is the ultimate goal and ideal, and isfet is the complete and utter opposite of that- and we often live in the middle. A lot of our actions may be a sort of wishy-washy mix of things, and I think it’s possible for actions to be neither for ma’at or for isfet.

In that same vein, I think it’s possible to do something that pushes you out of balance and away from ma’at, and yet have that action help to perpetuate ma’at long term (which is how Set often works). To make this more confusing, I think it’s also possible to do something that is not necessarily in alignment with ma’at, but isn’t necessarily hurting anyone, either (and therefore not heading towards or fueling isfet).

As with all things, the ultimate goal is to try and perpetuate ma’at as much as we can. All of our actions may not be leading up to ma’at, but I do think that doing as much as you can is very important. Right before this post went live, there was a discussion on Tumblr about ma’at, and someone had equated ma’at to a never ending pie that can be extended indefinitely. Someone else came in and said that we just have to keep baking balance in order to keep the pie sustained. And I think this is very true.

Ma’at is like that never ending chocolate gif. She can recreate herself and duplicate herself so long as she has the resources to do so. When humans work together to perpetuate ma’at and increase ma’at, there is more balance and more ma’at to go around for everyone. And by continuing to perpetuate ma’at, it makes it much easier to derail and disable isfet in our world. This could be akin to having an illness. If your immune system is running optimally and isn’t being compromised- its much easier to fight off illness than if you are already sick. If we continue to make a stable, balanced world for us and the gods to live in, it makes it much easier to unify and crush any opposing force that shows up.

Ma’at is something that we have to constantly work at in order to keep it present in our existence. Creation is not static, and it’s future is not guaranteed. It’s something we have to constantly keep addressing – gods and humans alike. But if each of us worked to create more ma’at in our world, those little things add up, and those additions can lead to some really big changes.

To read other responses to this topic, check out the KRT Master List

Relevant Posts – Ma’at:

Relevant Posts – a/pep and isfet:

 
4 Comments

Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

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