RSS

Tag Archives: kemetic roundtable

KRT: Calendars and Holidays

What about holidays? Do we need them? How do I figure out when holidays occur? How do I celebrate holidays? Can I make up my own holidays?

Sundial by Brian Clayton via Flickr

For this round of KRT, we’re discussing the nuances of having a calendar in your personal practice. There is a lot of discussion about calendars, mainly because Egypt was very peculiar in how their calendar was set up, and unlike ours, where the dates are pretty static, the dates of things drifted because a lot of their holidays were centered around when stars would rise and set and things of that sort.

There is also the issue that there are holidays for almost every day of the year, and in many cases, there are multiple holidays each day because we’re compiling calendars from thousands of years of Egyptian history. And on top of that, we don’t always know how each holiday was celebrated either. Sometimes we only have a name for the holiday in question.

So as you can see, it gets complicated really really quickly.

Unlike a lot of Kemetics, I don’t celebrate many holidays. If anything, I’m more likely to celebrate a Shinto Taisai over a Kemetic holiday – and personally, I think this is okay. I don’t think you necessarily need to adhere to the traditional holidays in order to “properly” participate in the Kemetic religion or worship/work with the NTR.

So why don’t you think the holidays are important or necessary?

I think the answer to this is a multi-layered thing. Holidays are great- they can bring people together. They remind us to be active in our practice and to honor the deity or figure that the holiday is centered around. Holidays have a knack for reminding us that religion is important and that it plays a role in our life. But for many Kemetics, we are doing what priests did by focusing on the gods daily- so I don’t think that that aspect of our religion really needs emphasis for us.

Further more, many of the holidays were centered around agricultural and seasonal things that no longer occur, or don’t occur where we live (many people don’t have planting season in the winter or we no longer have a pharaoh to venerate for certain festivals, for example). And on top of that- how do you really celebrate a holiday that you pretty much know nothing about? If you don’t know anything about the holiday in question- what is the point? Why not make a new, more meaningful holiday instead?

And that is probably more accurate to how I approach the Kemetic calendar. I honor gods and days as I see fit (which is rarely). The only traditional holidays I even remotely bother with keeping to are Wep Ronpet and The Mysteries.

It is in my personal opinion that you can create new holidays if you want. To some extent, even with the old, well established holidays- we are recreating them, breathing new life into something that has been long forgotten. So even though the names are the same, the practices themselves are pretty new – and that is okay. Nothing says that you can’t create new, personal holidays for the gods that celebrate your practice, your life, your progress, or the gods in particular.

Or you can do like me, and not celebrate at all. That’s cool too.

As for figuring out holidays- that is a tricky thing. For established holidays (traditional days of celebration and veneration from antiquity) I utilize KO’s calendar that they send out each month. And in the near future, Tamara Siuda herself will be releasing a book about the calendar that should be helpful with determining dates for the traditional holidays.

What if I want to create some holidays?

That’s a bit more intuitive, I think. I like to spend more time venerating Set in the summer because its dry and dead- and it is more traditionally aimed towards him. Down here in the desert, we do actually have a short growing/planting season in the late fall/early winter- and I spend more time focusing on Osiris during those months. And due to my Shinto influences, when I do participate in Taisai (holidays, basically) I do things for the NTR, too because they are a part of my life.

So if you’re interested in creating your own set of new holidays, I’d recommend you take a look at what you want the holiday to celebrate, and where on the calendar that would fit best. Perhaps you feel like crap during the month of March and need to add a holiday in there to remind yourself to keep going and that life is awesome. Maybe you are forced to do the Christmas thing every December, and need to add some personal, Kemetic touches to the holiday to keep your sanity. Or maybe you feel particularly close to your god in the middle of June and want to find a way to celebrate them during that month.

I think that holiday creation is great, but its highly personal- and so telling someone how to do it is very difficult.

As for methods to celebrate- a lot of my methods follow the same general structure.

  • I clean my house.
  • I clean myself.
  • I do a rite for the gods (usually out of Eternal Egypt) and leave them offerings.
  • I execrate stuff.
  • I try to have a good day and take a rest for once.
  • And then I normally have a good meal to cap it all off.

I would recommend experimenting and finding what works best for you. For things like Wep Ronpet or Feast of the Beautiful Valley, we’ve got some idea as to how things were done in antiquity, but for many holidays, we’re completely stumped as to what was done. So I see nothing wrong with trying out new things. If the gods dislike it, odds are they will let you know.

View the Master List for this topic by visiting here.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on August 14, 2013 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

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

KRT: Mixing Paths & Dual Practices

For this round of KRT we are discussing mixing and practicing various paths and rituals within our practice, and whether it is permissible or not.

The prompt read as follows:

Can I work with other pantheons? Can I perform rituals that aren’t Kemetic based?

The short answer for both of these questions is yes.

Working two paths, or mixing elements of two paths isn’t entirely new, really. Ancient Egypt was known for mixing elements from nearby cultures into their religious pantheon and circle, and the Netjer have been known to send people to different gods or religious paths because said gods or paths will help us to learn things we might not learn otherwise. So it was popular then, and it is still pretty common now.

When it comes to participating in two religious practices at once- I always try to stick to the notion that they are kept separate and true to one another. For example, I practice both Shinto and Kemeticism at once. However, I would never place an ofuda inside of a Kemetic kar shrine. Conversely, I’d never stick a Kemetic icon inside of a kamidana. I wouldn’t give offerings to Netjer in the same fashion as I do Shinto offerings and vice versa.

Each religion has its own guidelines and setups and I keep those guidelines and setups for each religion. I don’t cross them over out of respect for the gods I’m working with and the cultures that surround these gods.

So for anyone who is considering practicing two faiths/religions/paths at once- I say go for it. Just make sure you’re being respectful to the cultures and gods you are interacting with or learning from.

However, there is the capacity to utilize ideas, rites and concepts that are foreign to Kemeticism within a Kemetic practice. For instance, Shinto does have a lot of cleansing rites and mixtures (such as kiyomesune, a type of sacred black sand used for cleansings) and so I’ll use things like that for cleansing before a Kemetic rite. Or I might use natron in my bath for cleansing before going in front of the kamidana.

So long as you’re not being disrespectful to the original concept, or the religious framework you’re adopting the idea into (Kemeticism already has a concept of sand being purifying, and both Shinto and Kemeticism place heavy emphasis on cleanliness and purity, for example), the cross over should be okay.

If you were wanting to participate in a ritual that isn’t Kemetic- this is allowable, too. Many Kemetics I’ve met have been invited to participate in rites that aren’t even remotely tied to Kemetic practice. Once again, being respectful and courteous during these rites is key. But most of the time, Netjer doesn’t seem to mind if you’re participating in rites and festivals from other cultures. As stated above, its entirely possible that a Netjeru will push you to participate in something new or different as a lot of other cultures and religious paths have great ideas and values that we can learn from.

So if another pantheon is calling your name, or someone that you associate with invites you to a local religious shin dig and you want to go- never fear! Netjer are open to new and different things, as should we all. Just be sure to be respectful to the gods and cultures you are rubbing elbows with and things should go just fine.

See all of the responses to this particular KRT topic by visiting the Master List.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

KRT: The Effect Kemeticism Has on Daily Life

For this round of the Kemetic Round Table, we are discussing the effects that Kemeticism has on your daily life, and how it has effected your life by practicing the religion. The effect that my religion has had on my life is sort of a paradox. This is because in some ways, I haven’t changed at all. In other ways, I’ve changed drastically.

The reason I chose Kemeticism is because the world view already matched my own. I already had a structure in my own brain as to how I saw the world, and part of my choosing to follow the Kemetic faith (for lack of better word) was because it more or less fit into what I already had going on. The concepts of gods, balance and a need for community were all things that I already had percolating in my brain. So in these ways- Kemeticism hasn’t changed much of anything for me. It gave me tools, terms, and a frame to hang my ideas on, but all in all I didn’t have any earth shattering changes in my life due to adopting a Kemetic religious practice.

However, its probably my relationships with the gods and other Kemetics that has done the most change for me.

I will start with the gods, because it is through them that the other aspects really came about. Initially, I only worked with Set, and through him I really gained a sense of a lot of the aspects of who I was. Without his hands in my cookie jar, I don’t know that I would have ever really gotten a good grasp on my darker aspects- or at least as quickly and early as I did. Osiris’ work with me has helped me to balance out my lighter aspects- something else I was in desperate need of as well.

However, their biggest impact on my life has been through my community and networking tasks. And I believe this is because a large part of the work I am to be doing for the gods is centered around the community (or lack thereof). In order to really be effective in this task, the gods had to fix me up- which was the Cycle I wrote on earlier this year. Then, after I learned how to be more whole as a person, Set taught me one of the most useful skills I’ve ever had- pot stirring. He has taught me how to wield a ladle for good and how to work on creating responses that are more even-keel and air tight because I didn’t reduce myself to caps locks.

 

And through that, I’ve managed to find a bunch of people who are in similar situations to me. I found a bunch of people willing to be boat paddlers with me.

And that has made all of the difference in the world for me.

Once upon a time, I said that I was half Osiris, half Set. I was the hard nosed soloist (like Set) because I had to be. But if you were looking closely, you’d often see me sitting on the edge of the desert- where the lush plants of the Nile kiss the red dirt. And I’d be hiding in these plants, watching other people play in the river (Osiris’ area). And while I’d love to join in at the river and splash around with everyone else and feel connected- it never panned out. Because at the end of the day, much like Set, everyone would resign me to the desert.

Because of this, I always felt like I was literally two different people crammed into one (hence the two halves whole stuff) and I was miserable over it regularly. I wanted a community of some sort- but there was nothing to be had and I had no way of networking with anyone. However, since finding a group of people that I can get along with- my life has become a lot more stable and happy.

Perhaps you could say that through my community, I’ve managed to find a little slice of ma’at.

And while that has nothing to do with rituals and offerings and kar shrines or anything of that nature- don’t you think that is sort of… the point of all of this?

Without the addition of Kemeticism, its gods, or my fellow practitioners, I would surely still be the fractured person I used to be. And in that regard, my Kemetic practice has made all the difference in the world.

See the other responses for this question by visiting the Master List here.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on April 3, 2013 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

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

KRT: UPG and Doxa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relevant Posts:

 
2 Comments

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

 

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

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

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

_______________________

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

So, what is ritual purity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

aka there are no hard and fast rules.

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

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

What are the standards for a modern Kemetic practitioner?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relevant Links:

View other responses to this topic.

 
1 Comment

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

 

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