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KRT: Kemeticism is a Journey

how has your practice changed since you started out? How did you find your place within the Kemetic sphere? Are there things you do now that you didn’t then? Things you weren’t expecting? What have you learned through trial and error that newbs may find helpful or useful?

In a lot of ways, this KRT topic is a culmination of a lot of past KRT posts and then some. I’ve talked a little bit about how I got into Kemeticism, and I’ve also mentioned that my practice is not what I expected it to be. Truth be told, I don’t think anyone really knows what to expect when they first enter into the Kemetic arena, and it’s very hard to really know which way is up once you’ve started to drink the Kool-Aid and eat the candy that the gods hand out. In many ways, religion is very confusing and stressful- especially if you’re going it alone or trying to piece together a practice from historical texts and dry Egyptological papers.

When I first started out in Kemeticism, I’d say that I was a lot… fluffier than I am now. I don’t necessarily mean fluffy in the sense of willfully ignorant, but I was a lot less discerning in my commentary on my practice, and my posts were all over the board and disjointed. I sometimes go back and look through my old LJ, and I hardly recognize the posts- and odds are you wouldn’t recognize them either. You’d probably look at them and think that I was completely making things up or that I was way too exuberant about everything and anything. Like many newcomers, I saw the gods in everything around me, I waxed on and on about what to offer them and what I spoke with them about and what I thought they might look like or be thinking and I often found myself thinking that nearly anything and everything could be from them. I also had a bad habit of posting 948346 times per day and I had virtually no filter on anything that I posted. I also had no real basis for some of my early discussion about groups within the Kemetic community, and I was a lot less open in a lot of ways when I first started out.

However, during my bout of therapy a few years back, it was suggested that I take my writing more seriously, and with that, my practice began to shift. When I first came into Kemeticism, I practiced largely for myself. But as I progressed in my path, my role and views on everything shifted, and my blog became less about me and more about everyone else. As I mellowed with experience I began to push against more difficult topics and my practice became more rooted in history and text books while simultaneously abandoning history all together. My practice became something of a dichotomy, and in a lot of ways, my practice formed into a sort of “test kitchen” for the rest of the community.

By taking on this role, I found myself trying to learn more about other people and other experiences. My older, more rigid views about what was ‘proper’ and what wasn’t fell away to the wayside because I could no longer push a platform of community-wide respect as well as ‘live and let live’ while drawing arbitrary lines in the sand with other practitioners. My practice became less about gods and more about people, and I’d probably say that in many ways, my practice no longer looks like anything like what it originally did. Honestly, the only consistency between then and now is probably Set. He is still here and I don’t imagine he’s going anywhere anytime soon.

My shrine setups have shifted from larger, more artsy shrines to something more simple (read:boring) and streamlined. My rituals became more polished and structured before disappearing almost entirely (the only consistent rites I do now are execrations). I focus less on various things for the gods such as statues, stones and doodads, and I focus more on actions and words for the gods instead. I became less physical in the trappings of my practice and more metaphorical and abstract in the way that I approach Kemeticism. I might even go so far as to suggest that my practice exists more in my walks to work and my blogging activities than in my actual shrine box.

There are days when I miss the practice I used to have. When I first came into Kemeticism, I was in love with the idea of doing rituals and honoring the gods daily. I wanted to be a priest back then, and I was trying to find any means possible to help scratch the itch that was gnawing at the inside of my head. Even now, I find myself pining over the practice that I thought I wanted- the one where I perform long, thought out rituals. The one where I still sit in front of my shrine every night and talk to the gods. The one where I was a little less jaded and a little more hopeful and excited about everything.

The truth is, I think there is a lot of opportunity when you’re first starting out. Your whole potential practice is in front of you, and you can technically “choose” to go wherever you want with your practice (I place choose in quotations because gods are meddlesome and sometimes they won’t let you go where you want). There is a lot of power in that, and I think it can be important to sit down and think about not only where you want your practice to go, but also where your strong suits lie when it comes to a practice focus. I’m not sure how many people actually work towards honing in on a particular area when it comes to their religious practice, but I’ve noticed that a lot of people have niche interests or projects that seem to place them into certain foci or categories in Kemeticism. And for anyone starting out, I would recommend thinking on that a little bit. Figure out where you’d like to go, and then test the waters to see if its actually for you.

I also think it’s important not to latch too tightly onto the idea of whatever you think will be super cool. I will always be at least somewhat in love with the idea of doing rituals every day. I will always be at least somewhat in love with the idea of being a priest that places their gods above all. I will always be at least a little in love with the idea of what I thought I wanted to be when I started off with Kemeticism. But age and experience has taught me that the idea of is not always what Becomes, and focusing too heavily on what you wish you had vs. what is actually in front of you can be detrimental in a lot of ways. While you think about where your practice could grow, it’s equally as important not to get too dead set on a particular “end goal” for your practice, because it might not be where you actually end up.

And in terms of an end goal, I think it’s important to remember that there is no such thing as an end goal with religion. I think for a while I thought there would be a time when I felt truly established in my practice. I’d know what was what and I’d feel comfortable with what I do and how I serve the gods and community. But the truth is, there is no such thing as comfortable or established. Every time I reach a plateau, the gods move the goal posts and I fall backwards again. Religion is a never ending cycle of growth and learning, and if you’re waiting for a time when you think you’re “good enough”, you’ll probably be disappointed, because I don’t know anyone who is 110% secure in what they do, believe or practice. Everyone, to some extent, is stuck in a never-ending Kermit-flail. Balance is not static, and so our practices will never be entirely static, either. If you begin to feel super relaxed and comfortable in your practice, I’d suggest taking a second look at what you’re doing to ensure that you’re not sliding into stagnation.

When it comes to stagnation, the other thing that I think is important for newcomers to realize is that we all hit points of stagnation. All of us. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. Fallow periods are normal and can be very healthy depending on the circumstances. Just because you’re stagnating or falling off the wagon doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It’s a normal part of life in general, and that includes religion. Whenever this happens, it’s best to just get back up on the horse and keep trying.

Another thing I would recommend to newcomers is to not be afraid to try whatever you feel drawn to. I think it’s scary for a lot of us to move into uncharted territory, but sometimes wandering off into no-man’s land is the most rewarding adventure of all. Much like in my mention of finding a focus above, you never know where different paths will lead, and while you may not recognize the scenery- sometimes that’s where the best things lie in wait for you. To cite my own path, while I didn’t end up where I thought I was going to end up, or even where I thought I wanted to end up, there have been many things I would have missed if I hadn’t of gone the route that I have. It hasn’t been all sunshine and daisies, and there will always be things that I ponder, miss, or regret not being able to do, but at the same time I don’t think I would have ever imagined the stuff I have been able to do because I was open to moving off of the map. Keeping an open mind about where your practice can go can lead you to some really cool stuff. It’s just really important to make sure that you don’t inadvertently close any doors of opportunity along the way.

And in that same vein, I think the most important thing I can recommend to anyone who is new to the community is to think critically about your practice, and to think for yourself. I’ve always pushed for people to figure out the ‘why’ behind what they do, because I still think it’s the most important aspect of creating a religious practice. Don’t necessarily buy into what everyone says is necessarily “correct” or “the only way to do XYZ thing” because there is always more than one way to approach everything in life- religion included. Over the past 5 years of being in the Kemetic community, I can tell you that there have been huge shifts in what people deem “proper”, “suitable” and “good enough” which highlights that a lot of what is considered acceptable is really all about perspective. Keep a discerning eye on what you feel is best and don’t be afraid to use your own judgement when dealing with gods, religious practices and community interactions in general. Figure out what works best for yourself and let everyone else do the same for themselves.

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

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KRT: Priesthood Here & Now

A long long long time ago I wrote a post detailing how the priesthood existed in antiquity. At the end of that post, I had asked Kemetics to weigh in on what it meant to be a priest now. Originally, I was going to write a response to my own question, once I sorted out what being a priest entails now that we have no state structure to support us.

I never wrote a response.

As it turns out, figuring out what being a priest should be is much harder than what it appears at first glance. And despite all of the reading and poking and musing that I’ve done regarding our religion in the past few years, I am still not very solid on what I think our priests should be, or what qualifications our modern priests should have. The closest I’ve managed to get to writing about priests is this post where I talk about how I don’t feel priesthood is the most pressing concern in our community and this post where I outline that we need more roles in our community beyond laity and priests. While both posts are helpful, neither really answer the question of where I personally see our priesthood fitting into the modern Kemetic community.

But for the sake of KRT, I shall now try to take a stab at what I feel modern priesthood should entail.

 Priesthood: What it Isn’t

It’s easier for me to start off by figuring out what I don’t think should necessarily be encompassed by Kemetic priests. I’ve had the fortune or misfortune of sitting in on many discussions regarding priesthood, and it seems that most people want priests to do a little bit of everything. They want priests to be grief counselors and wedding facilitators. They want priests who engage the community, produce accurate resources on the religion or their patron deity. They want priests that basically do all of the hard work without paying them or compensating them for their time and efforts.

I personally think this is a horrible idea, and I have a couple of reasons for it:

  • One: we’re not other religions. We’re not Wicca where everyone is a priest. We’re not Christians with priests that stand in front of clergies and give mass. We’re not these other religions, and I don’t think that we necessarily need to emulate these religions simply because they are what is familiar to us.
  • Two: resources. I know people are tired of me wailing about resources, but it is what makes things run. People don’t have the time to do all of this stuff, and the only way they would have the time is if we were paying them. Which I’m pretty sure our community doesn’t have the funding to do.
  • Three: second cousin to point two would be education. How do we educate our priests in all of these things? There is no Kemetic college you can go to. And most people don’t have the ability to become an Egyptologist (not that that really deals with the religion, either). Taking a general theology class might be useful, but it still wouldn’t arm the priest with all of the tools needed for what everyone seems to want them to be able to do. And that still doesn’t address the cost in both money and time to learn how to do these things effectively. Both of which our community is lacking in.
  • Four: It sets up a damaging expectation about our community. It will bring back the ‘priesthood-laity’ dichotomy that I think we desperately need to move away from. It will create a structure where you are either a super cool priest that does everything, or you are a lame layperson who does nothing. It doesn’t allow for diversity in our community or diversity amongst our community roles.

From my perspective, priesthood is not really about helping the community. I do think there should be some overlap with the community, but at the end of the day, that’s not what being a priest is really about. I don’t think priests need to be grief counselors. I don’t think priests need to be community facilitators. I don’t think priests need to be holding retreats or opening the doors of their shrine to other Kemetics to enjoy. I don’t think that priests should necessarily be any of these things (though obviously, they can be these things if they so choose to). I feel that too many times the members of our community want to place all of these expectations and responsibilities on priests for personal reasons. And I feel that these personal desires shouldn’t be conflated with what the actual role is meant to entail, or what the community actually needs from it’s priesthood.

Priesthood: What it Could Be

So that leads me into what I think priests should be, or more accurately, what they could be. I personally don’t feel comfortable putting up too many requirements for priests because I am not one, and will never be one. However, I will give some suggestions on what I think would be the most logical and beneficial for the community in a long term sense.

A lot of what colors my ideas about what priests could or should be comes from antiquity, to be honest. In antiquity, the priesthood kept the house of the god in order. They kept the gods clothed and fed, and made sure that the temple precinct was maintained. To an extent, I think that modern priesthood should mirror this. Priests take care of the god’s quarters.

This means you have an established house for the god that you venerate. You perform daily rituals that involve food offerings, libations, and words of power. I know that a sort of standard for priests has been that they perform state rituals, but I personally don’t think that is mandatory. What I do think is mandatory is that your daily rituals are more involved than simply placing down and offering plate and wandering off. I also think that priests should be doing more involved rituals on a regular basis, and honoring days that are special to the deity that they are serving.

I add these extra caveats in because I want to differentiate between someone who is a ritualist (aka: does a lot of rituals, or has a very rituals driven practice) and someone who is acting in the capacity of a priest. In my experience, there is a difference between quick daily rites, and rituals that are more involved and are aimed towards keeping the god’s place and body clean and renewed every day.

Beyond the basic rituals of feeding and caring for the gods, I believe that a priest needs to ensure that the house the god resides in is well maintained. This means making sure that the shrine doesn’t collect 2 inches of dust before you clean it. This also means making sure that the shrine upkeep is as important as the deity upkeep because you’re there to facilitate a living space for the gods, and that living space should be kept tidy.

In addition to everything above, I don’t think it’s mandatory to have an Open icon. Once upon a time, I thought that maybe it would be, but I personally feel that maintaining the shrine and the god inside of the shrine is more important than whether the icon itself has gone through a specific ritual. This is probably also due to the fact that I believe that the gods can cause an icon to become Open, regardless of what rituals you may or may not have performed on the icon.

You’ll notice that my list of “requirements” is pretty short, and that is on purpose. We don’t need priests to do everything because we have non-priests who can do those things as well. I think the biggest role for the priest is maintaining the house of the god, and the god that resides inside of that house. Anything more than that is at their own choosing. It is also this focus on rituals and shrine work that lead me to believe that I will likely never become a priest, because I don’t do a whole lot of either. I’m fairly certain that my views on priesthood are too narrow for some people’s preferences (“priests should do more!” they’ll say) and too loose for others (“they need to do state rites and have an Open icon!”), but that is my current line of thought regarding priesthood in the modern era. I guess we’ll see if my views shift in different ways over the course of the next few years as I continue to poke at this topic.

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

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2015 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

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KRT: Flyin’ Solo

When your practice leaves the beaten path: what happens when the gods throw you for a loop? What do you do when the gods present you with a situation that doesn’t seem “normal” for a Kemetic? How do you handle things when your practice wanders off the map?

Once upon a time I was what you might consider a relatively “normal” Kemetic. My practice was more or less by the books, and there wasn’t anything overly “strange” or abnormal about how I practiced and lived Kemeticism. As someone who has lived on both sides of the “normal” divide, I have to say that the biggest problem with the idea of “normal” is that it is horribly limiting. And when the gods chuck you over the “normal” chasm and you see yourself plummeting into the Valley of Weird, you can’t help but be afraid- or at least I was- of what everyone else is thinking of you. Being thrown into the Valley of Weird is kinda like being thrown into no man’s land, and the territory can seem really hostile and daunting. The first time it was suggested to me that I should write about “not normal” stuff, I feared being ostracized and leered at by the community, and I’d put money down that anyone that has fallen into the Valley of Weird has felt the same way.

I don’t really think I realized what being thrown into the Valley was going to mean for my practice. I think that I sorta believed that I would write a few posts about this “weird’ stuff that I do, and then things would go back to normal. I thought I was going for a visit into the Valley of Weird, only to wake up and find that not only was I now stuck down there, but that I was to set up shop in the Valley and lead tours around the place to show others that the Valley of Weird isn’t really all that weird when you look at it a bit closer (which has now formed what I call my “house burning” season).

In many ways, what I thought would be a one time event has almost turned into the “bread and butter” of my practice. I almost feel that “weird” has become my hallmark.

pretend the hole is a bus. it’s kinda like that.

 

I will be the first to say that this is likely by design. I have no doubt in my mind that this is part of Set’s planning, part of his “grand plan” about where the larger Kemetic community needs to go. He once called me the “guinea pig” of the community. Well, he didn’t quite word it that way. Instead he told me “I will throw you under the bus, so that others won’t have to be”. That is to say, he purposefully has placed me in certain situations, situations that fall more into the weird or taboo category, so that I can document those situations. Then I can disseminate the information to others, and in so doing, help others feel less alone in their circumstances, and break down the restrictive ideas about what should be considered “normal” in our community.

For those of you who haven’t been in Kemeticism for very long, this may sound a bit strange since many newer Kemetics have stated that our community is really open to new ideas. That’s because what is considered normal now is not what was normal once upon a time. Back when I first came into Kemeticism, you didn’t have a lot of “woo” Kemetics. Astral and Kemeticism didn’t appear to touch. There were no Kemetics that I could find that were discussing things like magix, witchcraft or even heka. It’s as if everything outside of shrine work was considered taboo, and that doesn’t even address the parts of Kemeticism that are still a bit “out there” for some people’s tastes- things like sexual relations with gods, god spousing and other types of non-physical relations that can happen.

Everything that is considered relatively “okay” and “normal” now is only that way because brave people talked about their experiences. The only way that I’ve found to move from “weird” to “normal” seems to be through openness and discussion amongst our peers. But that’s why being thrown into the Valley of Weird is so terrifying. Because in order to actually make things more okay in the wider community, you have to put yourself out there to be judged and possibly ridiculed. And when everyone who is living in the Valley of Weird refuses to talk about their experiences out of fear, newly tossed people have no idea who to turn to or who to ask about their situation. Everyone being closed off creates a bad situation where many people end up being scared, and that serves no one.

This is also why I have worked very hard to push people to challenge their views on what is “normal”. This is why I’ve written about how to break new ground, just in case you fall into the Valley of Weird, and want to try and show people that it’s not such a bad place. But for those of you who have fallen into the Valley of Weird, but don’t want to necessarily write about it- here are my tips for figuring out what to do when you’ve been thrown out over the chasm.

Stay Calm

It is challenging to stay calm when you’ve been thrown off of a cliff into what appears to be nothingness, but I have always found that staying calm is the best place to start in any new or unfamiliar situation. Staying calm allows you to think through things more readily, and it will prevent you from acting out in a panic, which can often take a situation from bad to worse. When in doubt, remember to be still and breathe for a bit.

Objectivity, Documentation, and Discernment

The next step that I usually take is to walk myself through what I am experiencing. I document everything that I can recall- even if it seems far fetched or downright inaccurate. Remember that documentation is there purely to capture what it is you’re seeing, feeling or experiencing. Don’t worry about discerning things when you first write them down. Just get them down on paper, the discernment can come later. It’s better to have notes that you write off later as being mental vomit than to be sitting down half of a year from now trying to remember “what that one symbol that he showed me?” Staying calm will make it easier for you to document what you’re seeing, and documentation can help you to better discern what is going on in your particular situation. Remember that it is common for a single situation to have elements that are accurate as well as elements that are being misinterpreted or misunderstood by your brain. It’s normal and to be expected. And the best way to figure out which is which is by turning it over as many times as you can while you’re going through the process. You may not owe an explanation to anyone else, but I’ve always found that feeling secure in my ability to discern my situations makes me feel better about what I’m doing. And that’s always been important to me- trying to find some shred of sanity amidst my chaos.

Remember You’re Not Alone

Whatever part of the Valley of Weird that you’ve fallen into, remember that you’re not alone. I know it probably feels like you’re alone, but I have yet to hear anyone’s experiences of the Valley that really struck me as being odd or out there. Remember that a lot of people are not talking about their experiences, but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t experiencing them all the same. It can feel alienating, but I promise that you aren’t alone in what you’re going through.

Being thrown over the chasm of normal into the Valley of Weird can be daunting. But it can also be very rewarding once you get to the other side. Although the experiences I’ve had through all of my crack have been way out there, and very trialing at times, at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade them in for a “normal” practice. There are so many things I’ve experienced that I am grateful for, and my life is better for all of the metaphorical crack that I’ve snorted. While it may not seem like it at first, sometimes finding a small place to set up shop in the Valley of Weird can be one of the best things that ever happened to you. And who knows, once you spend some time there, you may even come to enjoy it.

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

 

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KRT: Making Sense of Heka

How do you work with heka? How can you utilize heka more in your day to day life? Any tips for people trying to get started in using heka?

I think it can be difficult for people to figure out how to pursue heka as a practice. We know, in a way, about what it is. That it is speech and action brought together to create change. That it is about speaking effectively and implications that speech can have on the physical world around us. And it’s not too difficult to find examples heka from antiquity – Borghouts book has plenty of examples for reference, and if you’re able to get ahold of any source materials (CT, PT, etc) or books that have rituals based off of rituals from antiquity then it’s not too challenging to see how it was done back in the day.

But I think a lot of us struggle with figuring out how to create new heka, or how to bring it into daily life. Heka is such a vast, and yet intangible thing that it can be difficult to figure out how to do more with it.

Usually when I talk about how I create new stuff in regards to magix, I tell people that I pull it out of my ass. And this is largely true. I often make up stuff on the fly, and it’s very difficult for me to explain to people how they can make stuff up on the go, too. However, I think that my methods really boil down to a few questions/steps:

1. What am I trying to accomplish?

This is pretty self explanatory. What exactly do you want to achieve with your heka? What is the end result? Have you considered all of the caveats of what you’re wanting to have happen? When I mention caveats, I mean unforeseen results or pitfalls of working magix a certain way. A good example of this might be “I want to get rid of my coworker” without thinking about the caveat of “what if my coworker is replaced by an even worse coworker?” Figuring out a very specific end goal is, in my opinion, the best place to start when creating new magix or heka.

2. What supplies do I have on hand? What is the most direct method of achieving my goal?

When it comes to my practice, I usually rely on a few standard methods. I may use these methods in different ways for each working that I perform, but at the end of the day, I have a fair amount of standard things that I rely on for my workings. Typically, this will involve sigil work, edible magix, symbolism and heka-laden symbols from antiquity, destruction (such as execrations) and container magix. And then, of course, there is good old fashioned mundane aspects of my heka as well. These kinds of things could include talking with people, cleaning my house, being proactive with figuring out a practical solution to a situation, etc. I prefer to attack any situation from both sides because I feel that using both mundane and metaphysical tactics usually provides a more successful result.

Experimenting with methods until you have a few standard practices that work well for you is useful, in my experience. Knowing how well certain methods work for you can allow you to know where your strengths lie, as well as helping you to get a feel for how different practices and methods can be modified for new heka.

If you’re unsure what to use for methods, take a look at whatever you’re good at. If you’re good at drawing or painting- use that in your heka. If you’re good with sewing, there are many ways to weave magix into a sewing project. If you like to cook, it is very easy to weave heka into recipes. If you examine the stuff that you’re good at doing, you can almost always find a way to use it in heka practices. And when in doubt, take a look at how the Egyptians did things in the past, or how other modern practitioners make use of heka and magix now.

Because heka often utilizes words in order to make things happen, I often like to include statements that are said over an item, or statements that are written down and placed within an item. If you end up using this method, be sure to be careful about the words you use. Be strong in your statements. Us present tense when you write your statements out (“I am” as opposed to “I will be” or “I might be”). Be sure to be specific in the words that you use, and don’t be afraid to repeat things in different ways. The Egyptians often liked to repeat phrases 4 times for efficacy. So I often do as well.

3. Gather the supplies and do the thing.

That’s really all I do whenever I am trying to come up with ideas for heka. I look at what I’ve done in the past, look into what exactly I’m trying to achieve, and then I format something new. I know that the generalized format for this is probably not very helpful, so let’s pull together some examples for heka that might help to round out how I go about making stuff.

Example 1: How can I protect XYZ thing?

This is a pretty common request that I see around the community. Protecting stuff can be done in a wide variety of ways, and I usually rely on a couple of standbys whenever protection is needed.

First, I rely on symbolism that is already inherent in our religious structure. Sa amulets were often used for protection, as were Eyes of Horus/Ra and scarabs. Flipping through a basic Kemetic symbolism book should produce a number of protective symbols to use.

Then I decide how to charge the symbol, and how to affix it to whatever I am protecting. Charging can come in a number of ways- through words of power, incense, oils, or the gods themselves. If you’re wanting to ingest the protection, you could draw the symbol in frosting on a cake, or create it out of whatever on earth you’re eating (such as making an eye of Horus out of peas on your plate- it sounds hokey, but it is sound in theory). You could also draw the symbol on a piece of paper and affix the paper to whatever you’re trying to protect, or you could drop the paper in a cup of water for a few moments, and then drink the water (this was done in antiquity). All of these things would be helpful for protection, and we’ve only scratched the surface for ideas.

Another example that I can cite for protection that came up recently was using crocheting to create something that was protective. Thread work is something that I love to use in my practice, and if you were to charge the yarn that you are using, and then focus your intent through possibly chanting or listening to a song over and over again while you crocheted your protective item (such as a scarf or beanie), you’d end up with something that is fairly potent. You could make this even more potent by placing sigils or anointing your crochet hooks with protective oil, and then placing it in shrine for the gods to bless once it’s all done. Layers, in my experience, are useful for making the heka more potent.

Example 2: What can I use to help improve my health?

This is a wide topic to cover, and there are many specifics involved when it comes to improving or protecting one’s health. So for this example, I will stick with something that is fairly basic, and can hopefully be modified for other purposes. It’s important to understand that when it comes to dealing with health related issues, it’s almost imperative that you use multiple things to get well. Heka and magix alone will not fix it, and in cases that are more severe (such as chronic or terminal illness), you will have to make changes to your life in order to see results. You can’t expect heka to carry all of the weight.

The first thing to figure out is are you improving a particular illness? If so, is the illness a one-time shot, or something that is chronic? If it’s an illness that will run its course and then be gone, I find that practical things are the most important. Being sure to get plenty of rest, eating the foods that are proper for healing, and taking any medications that will help with healing are the most important aspects. You could, of course, utilize heka in your food preparation. You could place sigils on the cup you’re drinking your hot tea out of, or make a statement over your soup that “this will help nourish me and heal me” or things of that nature.

For chronic illness, I often like to create things that I can wear or bring with me wherever I go. Because my illnesses are hidden, I often like to use spoons for symbols for any heka that I work, but you could find other symbols (the imywt fetish comes to mind- as it would be a type of vessel for healing) that speak to you or work better for your own needs. You could create a small bracelet out of multiple strands of ribbon that you wear to help deal with your illness. You’d simply need to come up with a phrase that suits your needs (“I am whole. I am pure. I am healthy.” as an example) and chant that while you braid up the bracelet. And then if you wanted, you could add a charm to it that is also charged with oils, incense, words of power, etc. to help increase the heka. The Egyptians loved to use the number 4 for totality, so you could also add 4 beads to such a bracelet, or tie 4 large knots into it to help add more stability to the heka. And again, you could place this in shrine for the gods to bless, if you wanted.

Another possibility might be charging clothing with heka. Relying on colors or patterns to help bring life to the fabric in the way that a power suit or lucky tie might. You could write things on your hangers that help to charge the clothes, or you could write something onto a piece of fabric (such as “When I wear this, my illness will have no influence or sway over me. When I am in these clothes, I am invincible. My stance is strong and my grip is firm. Everything I see will be in my grasp.”) and then place it into a pocket or inside of the lining of whatever you’re wearing.

Or you could try placing heka onto your pillow, so that your sleep is more restful. You could create a small satchet with comforting scents inside of it, and perhaps a small amulet for protection and rest (I’d probably use a djed, myself). And again, placing a small statement inside that states that you are restful and at ease in bed, that by sleeping on this pillow, you’re going to get the most awesome sleep you’ve ever had, and that you’ll wake up refreshed.

Little things like this can help to bring heka into every aspect of your life. The more of it you can weave into your daily existence, the stronger it becomes.

These are, of course, very simple examples, and I’ve only scratched the surface with the many many ways you can approach them. Hopefully, though, it is a bit clearer to understand how I go about sorting through different methods that could be used to tackle any particular situation you might come up against.

How can I bring heka into my day to day life?

Many people want to know how to bring more heka into their day to day life, and the simplest way to do that is to be mindful of the words you use and the actions you take. Many times, we seem to restrict heka to a more ritualized sense, but the truth is all of our words have impact. Regardless of the context in which they are uttered, signed, or typed. We must always be mindful of the impact that our words can have, and one of the easiest ways to begin to understand this is to pay attention to how your words effect people, and how other people’s words effect you. As you begin to see the cause and effect that occurs with speech (and action as well), it becomes easier to figure out how to use words and actions to create change in your life and you become more effective at utilizing the right words the first time to cause the change that you want. As you learn to see these patterns in your mundane life, it becomes much simpler to figure out how to bring them into a more ritualized or magix setting.

Figuring out heka can take some trial and error, but it’s definitely worth working with. It has a lot of applications in both mundane and metaphysical situations, and being well spoken never goes out of style.

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

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KRT: The Perks of Kemeticism

What parts of Kemeticism do you enjoy the most? How has Kemeticism enriched your life?

Despite the fact that my life pretty much revolves around Kemeticism, I actually found this topic to be very very difficult.

You see, I never went looking for religion. I was raised fairly religion-free, and I had no intention of ever becoming religious in any capacity, because I didn’t really need it in my life. I don’t feel like I chose Kemeticism, I feel like it chose me. In many ways, I became Kemetic because it already fit my world view, and because I couldn’t shake the feeling of “you need to be doing something with this”. But I never really intended on using it as a means to enrich my life. I wasn’t really looking for anything when I found it, and I’m still unsure about how I ended up neck-deep in it.

I think that when you combine that with the fact that my mental health turns everything into a bland shade of beige, and then mix it with the fact that I consider my role within the community more like a job and less like a hobby, well… I think it becomes a little bit clearer as to why I find it difficult to craft an answer for this prompt that won’t leave people feeling like crud after reading it. Because while there are many things that Kemeticism has introduced into my life that has made a positive impact on my life, the truth of the matter is- most of these things have very little to do with Kemeticism itself.

So here is the warning: this post may be more blunt than people are expecting. This post may also be more depressing than some people are prepared for. Please proceed with caution.

I will start with how Kemeticism has enriched my life first because it is the easiest for me to answer. The religion itself has not really been enriching, it is my relationship with the gods, and what they have pushed me to do that has enriched my life. Set and Osiris run a tight ship. They have pushed me to figure out how to cope with a lot of my mental health quirks. They’ve pushed me to address my health and past traumas. They’ve forced me to change my world view and to heal things that I probably wouldn’t have bothered with otherwise. Their actions have pushed me to make myself more complete, more whole, and more stable in the process. I am incredibly grateful for their direction and assistance in getting my shit together.

Set’s persistence with my work in the community has also opened up a lot of doorways to meeting new people and learning new things. Because of my community work, I am better at helping people, better at understanding people and I have way better people skills than I did when I first came into Kemeticism. This has effected my performance at my day job and has influenced my ability to manage my working relationships a lot better than I used to, and I feel like my community work has made me more well-rounded and more open minded than I was 5 or 6 years ago.

These things alone are worth their weight in gold in my life. I still don’t feel well most of the time, but I still feel so much better and so much more capable than I did 5 years ago when I first stumbled into the Pit with Set. I think that Kemeticism has played a huge role in getting me here.

But you’ll note that that has very little to do with the religion itself. It really comes down to my own personal work with the gods and my willingness to do their bidding. It technically doesn’t need to exist within the confines of Kemeticism itself, which can be seen by many people who work with various NTRW and aren’t Kemetic. Because of this, I’m not entirely sure whether my answer is valid or relevant, however, it is there for consideration.

It is the other part of the question, the “what do you enjoy about Kemeticism” that I really have a hard time with. I can list off things that I enjoy about what I’ve done for Kemeticism or the impact the Kemetic community is starting to make on the wider Pagan community, but that isn’t really answering the question. I don’t really have a daily practice anymore because I didn’t find it overly helpful or fulfilling. I’d rather be reading, astral tripping or working out in the community than sitting in a shrine. I make a horrible priest, and I know it.

So if I’m ambivalent about the rituals, and I was already attempting at living in ma’at anyways… what else is there?

The more I mulled on this, the more I was reminded of the modern notion that you can’t be good at your job unless you love what you do. Our modern society has this sort of… fixation upon feelings and life, and seems to believe that you are worthless if you’re not constantly filled with happiness, awe, and love for anything and everything. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many of us, especially those who are marginalized within our society, and/or who have mental illness or physical illness that makes day to day living very challenging. Love and happiness are things that not everyone is afforded, unfortunately.

So I suppose I will end this post with this: I can’t think of anything in particular that I love about the religion that is Kemeticism. I spend most of my life working with the community and learning about about the religion as it was practiced in antiquity so that I can spread that information out to everyone else. I love working with the community and helping people find ways to make their lives better. I enjoy the gods’ company (usually) and am thankful for the changes that my work has brought in my life. Above all, I’m glad that my work has given me something to focus on so that I am not constantly staring at the metaphorical “exit door”.

However, despite the passion I may have for my work, I don’t believe that that equates to being in love with the religion itself, and I don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong with that. I am good at what I do, and I feel as though I am helping others learn how to practice Kemeticism, which in turn helps them to find meaning in their own lives, and that is enough for me.

I am in love with helping the community and the people on this planet, not with the religion. And if the gods are okay with that, then I am okay with that, and hopefully everyone else is, too.

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

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2014 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

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KRT: Afterlife

For this KRT we are discussing various ideas regarding the afterlife both then and now. The Egyptian realm of the dead, often referred to as the Duat (and sometimes as the Dat or Dwat) was a complicated place filled with all sorts of weird beings. The biggest hurdle to really understanding the Duat is that, like many cultures or religions that span multiple centuries, the Egyptians had shifting views on what happened after you died – including where exactly you went after death, as well as death practices that changes over the centuries. So in order to tackle the concept of the afterlife, we must take a look at how views on the afterlife shifted over the centuries of Egyptian history and then see how that influences modern Kemetic ideas about the afterlife.

Please note: you could easily write books about Egyptian concepts of the afterlife (see resources at the bottom). This post is going to be a general overview of some ideas and concepts that were present throughout the history of Egypt and should not be considered an exhaustive discussion of Egyptian views of the afterlife.

The Afterlife: Then

“It should be pointed out that the Egyptians did not necessarily hold a single view of the next world at any one time, but… were quite capable of maintaining two or more conflicting opinions at once. This is already apparent in the Pyramid Texts, in which the views expressed concerning the afterlife of the king vary considerably in different spells, depending on whether they were early or more recent in origin.”

Death in Ancient Egypt by A.J. Spencer

We are not entirely sure what the earliest Egyptians believed in regards to the afterlife. Due to a lack of written records and minimal archeological records, it can be difficult to figure out what their exact religious beliefs were. We do know that early Egyptians did appear to have ritualized death practices that included specific burial methods and interring the dead with different amenities and provisions, likely for the afterlife. However, our knowledge of what they believed pretty much ends there.

The Old Kingdom is when we really start to see the Egyptians come into their own regarding funerary practices and beliefs. It was during this 500 year period that the Egyptians began to experiment with mud brick mastabas and then commissioning large scale building projects in the form of limestone lined pyramid and mortuary complexes. These complexes could be incredibly large, and it was not uncommon for the king to have two tombs- one in Upper Egypt and one in Lower Egypt. The process for mummification was still experimental at this point in time, and there was an emphasis on ka statues as opposed to mummies to help you achieve immortality in the underworld.

It seems to be generally regarded that during the OK, everything regarding the afterlife was centered around the king. Many Egyptologists posit the idea that the Egyptians wanted to be as close to the king as possible, because the best route to any sort of salvation was through him. This manifested in nobles wanting to place their tombs in close proximity to the king’s tomb/s, and that one of the only ways to really get a nice mortuary complex made for you was through receiving favor from the king. At this time, only the king had large mortuary complexes or had the ability to commission a pyramid or line the walls with various reliefs from the Pyramid Texts. That being said, there are some Egyptologists who have suggested that certain texts were available to nobles or high ranking Egyptians that worked for or with the king, or that perhaps there was more oral tradition amongst common people that we no longer have a record of. Unfortunately, we don’t really know at this time, and its generally regarded that funerary religious practices in the OK revolved pretty much around the king.

It is during the OK that the pyramid texts make their first appearance, and the general idea during this time was that the Duat resided in the sky or resided within Nut or the Celestial Cow (who goes by many names). Most of the texts talk about moving up into the sky and joining the imperishable stars. The imperishable stars were where akhu, or blessed dead were said to reside. These stars were in the northern sky, and were said to be imperishable because they never dipped below the horizon- they were always there, looking down upon Egypt. And that was where everyone wanted to end up- amongst the akhu in the sky.

As the centralized government fell apart and the Old Kingdom shifted into the First Intermediate Period, religious practices experienced what is often called the ‘democratization process’. That is to say that funerary practices quit being all about the king or only for the king. As nomarchs (regional rulers) got to experience their first taste of leadership and power, they decided that they would commission their own tombs with their own texts and inscriptions because there was no king or authority to stop them from doing so. Because of the decline in wealth for these nomarchs, as well as the newly given access to afterlife provisions to the common people, we also see a trend in having ornate coffins (as opposed to sarcophagi shoved into stone tombs) for your resting place. These coffins had their own texts written on them, which are commonly referred to as the “Coffin Texts” (because we’re really original with our naming).

It was by this time that the Osirian cult began to really gain a foothold in ancient Egypt, and this influenced the content of the inscriptions. Unlike the Pyramid Texts (PT) which focused largely on the Duat being in the sky, the Coffin Texts (CT) placed the Duat in the ground, as being a sort of subterranean existence. You can definitely see parallels between the Pyramid Texts and the Coffin Texts, and it’s very obvious that one influenced the other.

This would inevitably influence the Middle Kingdom which saw intricate tombs for both the king and nobility alike, as well as a further democratization of funerary practices. It’s during this entire era (First Intermediate Period, Middle Kingdom, Second Intermediate Period) that you start to see the elements of the Egyptian afterlife that are the most well known to us. You begin to see descriptions of traveling through the Duat, elements of having your heart weighed in the Hall of Two Truths, and of course, Osiris being the supreme Overlord of the Duat.

The New Kingdom is, in my opinion, when funerary literature explodes all over the place. It is during the NK that we see all sorts of new texts created and distributed at all levels of Egyptian society. The most popular of these is, of course, the Book of the Dead. The Osirian cult becomes increasingly popular during this era, and by this point in time, salvation is possible for everyone, not just the king – provided you have access to the texts and cheat codes that will get you through the Duat safely. The initial ideas about traveling through the Duat, the weighing of the heart, and the various obstacles you could meet while traveling there have been fully fleshed out by the time, which is likely a reflection of the growing influence of Osiris’ cult.

Much like with the Coffin Texts, the Book of the Dead (and other supporting texts of the era) often place the Duat in the ground, or some sort of subterranean location (which is sometimes said to be inside of Sokar). There is a sort of dichotomy during this era, though, because there are also texts that discuss traveling through Nut’s body as a means of renewal and rebirth- so in this era, the Duat could be seen as being inside of a cavernous location as well as inside of the sky. It is my personal opinion that the Duat has multiple levels of location, and could exist simultaneously in many places all at once.

The popular tomb-style for the New Kingdom is rock cut tombs, and the royal necropolis moves down to Deir el Medina, or the Vally of the Kings/Queens. Tombs become even bigger and grander than in previous generations as each king tries to out perform his predecessors. It has been noted that New Kingdom tomb reliefs are much more somber than previous eras, and that there is a sort of seriousness that is lacking in previous tombs. Some believe that this is a backlash to the Amarna Heresy, though there is no real way to prove it either way.

Because I rarely study anything about Egypt beyond the New Kingdom, I won’t attempt to give information about funerary practices for the later periods of Egypt.

The Afterlife: Now

If you ask 3 Kemetics what they think the afterlife is like, you’ll often get 5 responses back. Modern Kemetics are honestly not very unified in their approach or ideas about what the afterlife contains or could hold for us when we die. I think this is due to a number of reasons: conflicts due to our cultural upbringing (since none of us was likely born into Kemeticism via our parents) and having 3,000+ years of Egyptian history to pour through in order to create our own ideas about the afterlife. I think that there can be such a thing as too much information- and sometimes I think that having so much information about how the Egyptians viewed stuff can make it difficult to draw your own conclusions.

When I first got involved with Kemeticism, I never actually cared about funerary texts or the Duat. I remember trying to read the Book of the Dead before I had ever picked up a basic Egypt 101 book, and realizing that I didn’t really understand what was going on, and that I didn’t really care to understand what was going on. I always have taken the approach that I can’t change where I go when I die, and so I don’t really care about worrying about the Duat or funerary practices.

I still adhere to that, actually. The work I do with the Duat is more or less unrelated to “what happens when I die” and is more tied to “Osiris won’t leave me alone unless I do the thing”. I personally don’t see any point in fretting excessively about where we go when we die, because it’s largely (in my opinion) out of our control. And my current opinion on where we go when we die is simply “it depends”.

I think it can be based upon your religious beliefs when you were alive, combined with the rules of whatever afterlife you’d typically be admitted into, as well as your own preferences about where you go when you die. For example, if you really really like earth, I expect that you’d get to wherever your designated afterlife area is (in this case, the Duat) and you’d tell your deities that you want to come back here, and they’d get the paperwork in order to get you back on earth. Or if you’re like me, you may arrive at your afterlife of choice (Duat) and you’d tell your gods “I don’t want back on that rock again” and they’d try to figure out the paperwork to make it happen. Of course, if I don’t meet the criteria to even enter the Duat (and therefore would get eaten by Ammit), I may not get the option to do anything.

So I feel like there are lots of possibilities and options about where you go when you die, and the options that are present to you are largely going to depend upon your religion while alive, the rules of that plane, and your own personal preferences, etc. I don’t really believe in a static afterlife.

That being said, I’m not overly impressed with the Duat. I’ve gone there to do work for Osiris, as anyone who has been with this blog for any amount of time knows, and I really wouldn’t want to live there permanently. It’s not my cup of tea. However, I will say that having a general knowledge of what is contained inside of funerary texts, as well as an understanding of the basic geography of the Duat is useful if you intend on doing any work there while still alive. But like I said above, I don’t work in the Duat out of some concern regarding the afterlife. Beyond the fact that I am there all the time, the afterlife technically plays a very small role in my practice. Which seems very contradictory, but there it is. Generally speaking, I don’t worry about the afterlife because I feel there is very little I can do about it.

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

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Posted by on November 12, 2014 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

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KRT: Terminology & Language

via Wikimedia Commons

Terminology and language: how necessary is it? Is there a right or wrong way to use terminology and language in your practice?

When I think about terminology and language and how it applies to Kemetic practices, I feel like it can be applied in three ways:

  • The names of various NTR: Egyptian vs. Hellenized names
  • Egyptian words and terms in your practice (ma’at, isfet, sa, etc.)
  • Terminology as it applies to the community at large (priest, remetj, ritualist, etc.)

Because there are so many ways that terminology can influence your practice, I will be going through each of these points one by one below.

What You Call The Gods

I’ve seen many discussions about whether we should refer to NTR by their Egyptian-ish name, or by their Hellenized name. Some people believe that you shouldn’t use the Hellenized version, because it’s less effective or less “accurate”. However, the Hellenized names are not really all that far off for a lot of our deities: Horus-Heru, Wpwt-Ophois, Anup-Anubis, etc. And even if they are a bit off of the Egyptian names, I personally don’t think that using the Hellenized names is instantly going to land you in trouble. Not to mention that there is still a lot of debate about how some of the Egyptian names sound or should be pronounced and spelled for various NTRW. In addition to that, the ancients wouldn’t have necessarily called the gods by their “names” (such as Bast or Wadjet), but by their epithets. So really, there is nothing historically binding us to using Egyptian-based names.

At the end of the day, I think it’s most important to go off of what works best for you and your gods. If your deities have a preference, then listen to that. Otherwise, utilize what makes the most sense for you. I refer to Set by three or four different names (Set, Setekh, Big Red, Titit). And I refer to Osiris by his Hellenized name always (or I just call him “O”). So long as it works for you and your practice, that is what is most important.

What About All of This Lingo and Jargon?

Kemeticism has a lot of jargon. Because the religion is pretty much entirely foreign to modern Westerners (both in symbolism and in language), we pretty much have to learn a whole new set of words and lingo in order to communicate and discuss. But is it necessary?

The short answer, in my opinion, is yes and no.

I think that there are some terms that you really should have some working knowledge of. Generally speaking, these would be terms that are important to the practice and understanding of Kemeticism. Words such as ma’at, isfet, zep tepi, or Duat. This is because if you don’t know key components to the religion, it makes it very challenging to practice the religion effectively.

There are other words and symbols that you could probably live without knowing, though. Things like akhet, djed, sekhem, or tyet. However, I do believe that having a working knowledge of many Egyptian symbols and words can be very helpful. Understanding these things has added a lot of depth and layers to my practice. And it helps me to communicate with the gods more effectively because we’re speaking in similar terms and symbols. It makes it much simpler to try and pick apart various wingdings that the gods throw at me. It will also make it easier to discuss various aspects of the religion with other practitioners because, just like with the gods, you’re pulling from similar symbols and terminology.

However, I think that you can get by without an extensive knowledge of these words.

Community Terminology

I have written a bit about terminology and the community. In my post, I had mentioned that I felt that terminology for members of the community was important, and I still believe this to be true. A lot of people have questioned if having a variety of terms to describe your place in the community is absolutely necessary, and I still believe that even if it’s not 110% necessary, that it is very very helpful to have.

I personally believe that terminology that helps to define roles and places within the community is important because it allows people to find their place. Many Kemetics walk into our community thinking they can only be a priest or a layperson, and so many get discouraged because they feel they are inept at what they do, or because they feel that performing state rites every day is the Pinnacle of what a “Good Kemetic” should be. However, I think that having more terms and more labels can help people to feel more included within the community as well as boosting their confidence about their practice.

It’s kind of the same as realizing that there is a label for your “mental quirks” or gender identity or your sexual orientation. Labels can help people to understand themselves better as well as empower them to do more and be more. So I personally think that community terminology is important, even if it is underrated. However, unlike the types of terminology listed above, it will take a while for Kemetics to come up with terms that we all agree upon and share amongst different sections of the community.

At the end of the day, terminology and language is what you make it. Even though this is how I personally view this stuff, there are likely others who disagree or view it differently, and that’s okay. Figuring out how to juggle all of the various terms in Kemeticism can seem daunting at first, but try not to get discouraged. Remember that we all started somewhere.

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

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2014 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

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