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The Time Outside of Time

For the past week, my daily routine has been abnormal. Instead of hearing my alarm in the morning and instantly getting up to get ready before I must leave to drive into work, I have been turning the alarm off and going back to sleep for a while in the hopes that it will help my body heal from what plagues it. Instead of spending eight hours at a desk working on orders, I find myself spending a lot of my day idling aimlessly around my house, trying to find ways to kill time without any energy to really devote to anything.

And even once my illness recedes, my patterns will still be off-kilter in other ways. I may begin to get up with my alarm and rush to get to work, but things will be different in every other aspect. I’ll have less traffic impeding me on my way into the office, since many other people are in quarantine and kids aren’t in school. I’ll have to devote more time and energy into procuring my weekly supplies (groceries), as every store in my area has been completely wiped out, and will likely have a restricted selection for weeks to come. And I’ll have to be more considerate about keeping enough energy to cook, since I won’t be able to rely on restaurants and fast food to help me out on days when my brain or body needs an easy meal.

We are living in strange times, you and I. In the wake of a global pandemic, many things have changed overnight for most of us.

As I ponder how surreal everything feels, I find myself frequently thinking about the intercalary days, and how their existence is unique in every aspect. For those of you who don’t know what the intercalary or epagomenal days are, they are the five days that precede Wep Ronpet. These days are said to have come about when Re wouldn’t allow Nut to birth her children on any day of the year. In order to help solve Nut’s problem, Thoth decided to bet on a game of Senut with Khonsu, and upon winning, Nut was able to give birth on these five days that existed outside of the year.

When I think about how we are living right now, I can’t help but feel like we’re living in a prolonged version of the intercalary days. That we are living in a time outside of time. What does it mean to live in a time outside of time? To get a better idea, I decided to take a look at how the intercalary days were viewed in antiquity. There isn’t a lot of specific information on the intercalary days, but the information that I had feels applicable to what we’re dealing with now.

The intercalary days are said to exist outside of the year, and that makes them peculiar. While many modern Kemetics don’t seem to attribute any sort of eeriness to these days, in antiquity, they were often seen as a time of trepidation. I suspect that this has both a mythological and a more “mundane” component to it. From a mythological perspective, Nut was ready to give birth, but couldn’t until these days were created specifically for her and her needs. Child birth is inherently dangerous, especially before the modern era. It stands to reason that both the aspect of “this is a limited window of time to do something that another being doesn’t want me to do” and “this is childbirth and that is risky to my health” could have played a role in interpreting these days as being inherently apprehensive.

But there is also the mundane aspect of where these days fall within the seasons of ancient Egypt. Situated at the end of the dry season, these days were often fraught with some amount of unease. The dry season was often a time of rationing and careful planning of resources. Since nothing substantial could be grown during this period, and there was limited amounts of water as the riverbed becomes dryer and dryer under the summer heat, the Egyptians knew that they needed to be careful how they utilized their resources until the inundation came. So as the dry season inches onward through the summer, resources become more and more scarce, and with that, an increase in concerns about the future. Will the inundation come? Will we have enough to survive until we can plant more food? Will we get through the summer without illness?

There is also the simple fact that these days manage to exist outside of the year somehow. That ultimately makes them a liminal time and space, a threshold between the old and the new.

To me, where many of us are living now fits very well with the views of the intercalary days from antiquity. Things are abnormal. Our patterns are broken or augmented in ways we’re not used to. Things are not reliably available to many of us, and there is no guarantee that things will be reliably available to many of us anytime soon. There are fears of illness, hunger, and a lack of resources. There is a lot of trepidation in the air. We are stuck between how things were, and an unclear future that has yet to fully manifest.

And that is the most important thing to keep in mind as we navigate through this set of prolonged intercalary days: they may be fraught with danger, but they are also ripe for inducing unforeseen change (both good and bad). There is a lot of instability with our system right now. This is scary and terrifying, but it is also the best time possible to incur long-lasting change that gives people more resources to live and thrive once everything is said and done. Liminal times and spaces don’t follow the rules of what is expected. They are the edges that exist where two systems or spaces meet, and these spaces are known for their intense biodiversity and bending of the rules.

You can see this in the original myth that defined the intercalary days, too. Re didn’t want Nut to give birth because he knew that her children would invoke a regime change. It would incur a new way of life for all of the NTRW, and he didn’t want to see that happen. Every year, the intercalary days are meant to be an intense time of chaos before everything resets and ma’at is restored anew during Wep Ronpet.

These liminal spaces are meant for change and transformation. This liminal space will likely be no different, but the question becomes: what sort of change will we fight for?

 

For the first time in a long time, retail and food workers (among others) have the means to potentially leverage their position to gain workers rights and benefits that were due to them forever ago. There are people trying to push state governments to utilize vacant housing to give the homeless shelter during these challenging times. There is an entirely new wave of people talking about classism and how class intersects with politics and daily living in new places that I haven’t seen in the past. There are people who are starting to see that if there is a time to start pushing for hard-hitting change, this is it.

On nearly every video or post that I’ve read regarding COVID, it seems like the conclusion always ends up with some sort of “if we all band together, things will be okay!” and I don’t want that to be the case with my post because its simply not true. There are people who will not survive this. There are people whose lives will be irreversibly changed by this. This situations is bad, and this is merely a post about the potential tiny silver lining of a really bad situation. Many people have had their entire life thrown into turmoil because of this, and I certainly don’t want to make it sound like their suffering is “worth it” if it means potential change, because that’s not the case.

Instead what I am trying to suggest is that perhaps the means to insure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again is within our grasp, and if it is, we should do what we can to make that happen. Because while the intercalary days are a mere five days of uncanny discomfort, we are more likely to be stuck in this liminal space for months, if not a full year and some change (vaccines aren’t expected to be ready for about 18 months, which is when pandemics usually recede.) Things will be unsteady for a while yet, and our best chance of survival will come from mutual aid that we give one another during these difficult times.

I think it is imperative that we look at the conversations being had, and consider what we could be doing during this time in relation to the changes going on around us. To look for those ripples of change, and to see if there are other things we could put our backing into that would help other fellow humans have an easier time of it on this rock — both within this liminal time, and beyond it. It is the responsibility of all of us to help maintain and foster ma’at, and from what I can tell — there are a whole lot of opportunities being made for increasing ma’at right now even in the face of overwhelming isfet.

And I think we should do everything in our power to seize those opportunities and create a world we want to live in.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2020 in Kemeticism, Making Ma'at

 

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Redefining Order

Truth. Order. Justice.

The three words that I’ve seen used the most to describe ma’at.

Out of these three words, “order” always sticks out to me as potentially being a bad choice to describe ma’at. Why? Well, in short, I believe its because we tend to use one variation of “order” at the exclusion of other possible definitions. As an experiment to start the conversation off, what do you think of when you think of the word order? Maybe some of you think of

or maybe

Or maybe it’s

Even if you didn’t think of these specific examples, I’m willing to bet that whatever came to your mind shared some of the same underlying associations as the gifs above. That’s because our culture has a specific inferred meaning when we use the word “order” — whether we acknowledge those associations or not.

Whenever the word “order” is used, it’s almost always in the context of a very clear difference of power. It’s often used in terms of schools, where teachers demand order. Or in the military, where soldiers are given orders. Or even in more harmless situations, where you place an order at a restaurant. All of these things imply a situation where the person receiving the “order” is not allowed to rebuff the order. The soldier is not allowed to tell their commander “no,” students can be heavily punished for telling their teachers no, and can you imagine what would happen if a waiter told you that your order was not going to be followed or not allowed? Even when a waiter has to tell someone that something in their order isn’t available due to circumstances beyond their control, people lose their minds.

In our cultural lexicon, order usually means that you’re doing something without question. It’s a directive that you must follow, lest you get into trouble. For most of us in the US, “order” is essentially authoritarian in nature — to the point that the word “authoritarian” is used in the Oxford definition for “order.”

While there is second definition for “order,” I don’t think that most of us are using that definition when we tie the word “order” to ma’at. I’ve watched people dictate that authoritarian order is inherently implied and mandatory with ma’at simply because the Egyptians engaged in a form of it, and it overlaps with our preconceived notion of order and what it entails. Which is to say that since they so readily line up with one another via authoritarianism, I feel like most people are lazily assuming that one begets the other (authoritarian order begets ma’atian order.) What I’d really like to do with this post is challenge that notion by redefining what order could mean for us when associated with ma’at. And to also buck the idea that authoritarianism is inherent in, and therefore mandatory to, our religious structure.

A New Frame of Reference

The less-often cited definition for order usually entails things such as “a specific pattern or sequence,” such as alphabetical order, numerical order, etc. I believe that this definition is closer to what we need, but I feel that it could use refinement for our specific needs.

I would like to posit that for our needs, order would mean something along the lines of “a predictable rhythm or pattern.”

Every single living thing/system on this planet has (ideally) a rhythm, a pattern to their existence. You wake up after sleeping, you do the general same routine after you get up, you might do similar things Monday through Friday, and then do a secondary set of “similar things” on Saturday and Sunday. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The night follows the day, and the moon is constantly shifting between being visible and completely non-existent to the naked eye.

These patterns form the basis of our existence, and the nature of our patterns often determines whether we’re healthy and having our needs met or not. In the last post about determining ma’at from isfet, I mentioned that the frequency of doing something can often turn innocuous acts into something more isfetian in nature, and this plays into the idea of regular habits and patterns. If you do something that is unhealthy once in a while, its usually not a big deal. Do it all the time, and it becomes a pattern that can slowly unravel your life.

When we’re talking about ma’atian order, we’re talking about having rhythms that help support living things. When you’re acting in ma’at, you’re acting to maintain these beneficial rhythms, while also acting to destroy, alter or remove patterns that hurt living things.

When viewed from this perspective, it explains why the Egyptians crafted tons of holidays, rituals, and actions that were consistently enacted upon to help ensure that the patterns of the Duat and earth alike were kept in regularity. Because anything that could be done to make sure that the patterns of the world stayed as consistent as possible should be done as a part of maintaining ma’at.

I also think it should go without saying that making these regular patterns as predictable as possible was also on the agenda. Humans tend to do best with a certain level of predictability in their life, and I feel like including this in the understood meaning of ma’atian order only serves to help us really understand and appreciate how important the consistency of it all really is.

The rhythm should be dynamic in the sense that it has diversity and harmony, but it still needs to have some level of regular occurrence in order to be stable. When examined on a whole, it becomes easier to see how the diversity and harmony feed into the stable complexity of it all. Everything feeds into everything else, and when the rhythm of it all is maintained, everything more or less gets its needs met.

When Authoritarian Order is Conflated with Ma’atian Order

From this perspective it becomes easier to see how authoritarian order really doesn’t synergize well with ma’at. Authoritarianism seeks to control (create “order”) everything it touches, and severely punishes anything trying to resist its control. To this end, it often seeks to divide people into two groups: and in-group (us) and an antagonistic out-group (them), and they basically use the in-group to keep the out-group in check as much as possible. You can see this in America right now in the form of loosely-made militia groups that act out a sort of vigilante justice wherever they’re allowed to.

Because the in-group always needs an out-group, authoritarianism will consistently find new demographics to attack, and in the process usually ends up eradicating the harmony and diversity necessary to keep ma’at in place. People are usually forced to live within strict confines and regulations at the risk of extreme punishment, with no real recourse to punish those who are putting the regulations in place. Ultimately, there is no means to change your fate or change the world you live in, you’re ultimately forced to deal with whatever you are given because there is little-to-no alternatives available to you. This, of course, is mentally taxing and degrading. The system as a whole may continue to exist, but its parts and pieces are not healthy, and thus are living in a form of chronic disorder (isfet.)

When you start to really examine how this system can destroy people’s health, it becomes painfully clear that by its very nature, authoritarianism does not foster ma’at. Only a tiny percent of the population really flourishes under authoritarianism, leaving the rest of the population to wither and rot.

And for those of you who are wondering if I feel that the ancient Egyptians were doing things outside of ma’at, I would say that based off of today’s standards, the answer is yes. Plenty of their population lived in unnecessary squalor due to inequality at play within the society, and I can’t say that I believe that to be within ma’at. Yes, upper class people were to look after their subjects and provide them with what they needed, but its been shown time and time again that people who are in positions of privilege and esteem typically aren’t willing to give what they have away unless they really really have to.

While I understand that a couple thousand years ago was different, and that we shouldn’t necessarily judge ancient cultures based off of today’s expectations, I also feel its our job to reflect critically on the past, not to assume that the movements of the past are inherently superior simply because they’re old. The Egyptians committed all sorts of brutal acts in the name of ma’at. If we’re able to deem these acts as being not-within-ma’at, I’m pretty sure we could find it in ourselves to do the same with their governmental system, instead of blindly trying to recreate it in the here and now.

Ma’atian Order

At its core, ma’atian order strives to bring balance and health to all of its individual components. It is a bottom-up mentality, ensuring that the smallest, yet most foundational parts are taken care of, with the understanding that healthy foundations allow everything else above it to thrive. This format allows for (relatively) predictable patterns to emerge that allows for all of the parts of the system to synchronize together. It is through the harmonization of all of the parts that allows the system to really thrive and creates the predictable “order” that everyone seeks.

It is my hope that moving forward, if the word “order” is used to define ma’at, that this is the definition that comes to mind, because this is the only definition of “order” that really makes any sense within the ma’atian paradigm.

Relevant Posts:

 

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2020 in Kemeticism, Making Ma'at, Rambles

 

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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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Ma’at was Always Political

This week sat received an ask, wherein the inquirer states that “Ma’at was made so political.” It really stuck out to me, because as far as I can tell, ma’at was always political. When you look at the definition of “politics,” at the very very bottom, you get “use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control, as in business, university, etc.” which might seem antithetical to ma’at, right?

I don’t know many folks who would think it is within ma’at to “obtain any positions of power or control.” I say this because it’s not uncommon for members of our community to assume that anyone with any amount of social following or clout is somehow looking to become a megalomaniac or a cult leader. The mistrust that our community has with power is warranted, but it’s not historically informed when it comes to ma’at itself.

Ma’at is intrinsically tied to kingship in ancient Egypt. There are no two ways around that, and I don’t think I should have to lay out historical data to prove that the king used legitimacy and ritual to show the whole of Egypt that he was the divine ruler, the Horus here on earth that was meant to maintain ma’at for the entire country. So if we’re looking from a historical aspect, ma’at is defacto tied to politics. Sometimes ma’at was used to do good things, like help members of other countries in need, and other times she was used to do bad things, like start wars to gain control of people’s resources.

Of course, just because ma’at was tied to politics in the past doesn’t mean that it has to be tied to politics now, right? Well, I think it depends on what you’re cherry picking from our resources in order to form your argument. To make it easy, let’s pick one of the most widely-accepted tenets of ma’at: giving food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, a boat to the boatless. All three of these things are considered very ma’atian acts to perform. Did you know that giving food to the hungry is an arrestable offense in many places? Same goes for clothing, if you’re giving it to the wrong person. Your “not political” act just suddenly got political. It’s almost as if living under an authoritative government means that politics has a say over almost all aspects of your life, it’s shocking.

So that got me thinking, if anon wasn’t trying to say that ma’at was political, what else could they be trying to say?

If I’m being honest, I don’t think it’s that our anonymous asker was somehow lost on the fact that ma’at was originally political, no. I think it’s that this anonymous asker believes that people like me are politicizing ma’at, which is a very subtle, but important distinction. Because when most people think you’re politicizing something, they believe that you are taking something and trying to use it to gain power and promote a specific bias.

You see this in our society through things like the anti-vaxx movement, climate change, reproductive rights, etc. where a particular group tries to call into question the validity of data or information presented about a topic by going “but they’re trying to politicize it so that they can push their [inaccurate] bias.” What’s interesting is that most of these things are slanted towards the right side of the political spectrum. Which is to say that it’s mostly right-leaning people who have taken these topics that apply to everyone, and decided that they’re not actually that important to fight, fix, or fund. But instead of being honest about it, its sexier to imply that the “other side” is just politicizing (read: lying about) the whole thing. Yes, these things could be considered inherently unpolitical, but because of the world we live in, they are anything but.

So ultimately, when you see someone trying to tell someone else that they’re politicizing something that isn’t “inherently political,” you’re likely watching someone indirectly try to shut down the conversation about a topic (because it makes them uncomfortable.) To pull a good quote (cw: rape mention, victim blaming used as an example):

Words like “political” then are a means of controlling when (perhaps even if) we will allow discussion of some issues and what the nature of that discussion can be. Silence on issues like homosexual rights, sexual assault, climate change, and war all promote the status quo. If we don’t talk about homosexuals, then they remain deviant. If we don’t talk about sexual assault, then it remains a private problem of a few isolated women (who might have been “asking for it” anyway). If we don’t talk about climate change, then we can keep consuming and polluting without feelings of guilt. If we don’t talk about war, then the gears can keep spinning. In addition, by limiting tax-exempt organizations to discussing things that are “not political”, we keep them from pointing to problems in society as the cause of the issues they address. They can feed the hungry, but they can’t call for the end of the root cause of hunger in an extremely wealthy nation: wealth inequality. (x)

And therein lies the crux of the problem. Our anonymous asker is assuming that people like me have taken ma’at, an innocent pure bystander, and turned it into a weapon to convert people to our way of thinking. But the truth of the matter is, ma’at has always been what she is, and most of those who aren’t living on a couch of privilege understand that that means she’s political and that the concept ends up being inherently politicized. If anything, I didn’t change ma’at, ma’at changed me — which is how its supposed to work when you convert to a religion.

Existence is inherently political for all of us (only if you care about the health and well-being of other people, of course.) Our governments can, and will, do horrible things to people if left unchecked. We are all overseen by governmental structures that can do said horrid things, so to be able to be blind about what is going on on a governmental level (aka “not political”) is a luxury that only the most protected members of society can rely (aka rich white people, if you’re living in America.) There is a phrase that says that the ability to “not be political” is a sign of privilege, and this is exactly why. There is only a small, narrow portion of our community that isn’t a part of a marginalized group, and as such, it should be a given that politics will bleed into discussions on how best to live one’s life in ma’at. The marginalized members of our community shouldn’t be asked to hide parts of their lived experience simply because more-privileged members of our community are being made uncomfortable. Nor should they be forced to share their religious community with people who deny their (marginalized people) lived experience simply because they don’t want to explore how their own inherent bigotry is actually bad and should be changed.

So in conclusion, if we are to use ma’at to inform our decision-making and actions in our lives, and if most of us are living inherently politicized lives, then it stands to reason that ma’at was destined to be tied to politics, even in the modern era. Yes, you can choose to ignore this fact because it makes you uncomfortable, but I think the bigger question should be: why would you want to?

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2019 in Kemeticism, Making Ma'at, Rambles

 

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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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May Making Ma’at Rubric

I focused the next branch of my Making Ma’at/Monthly Ma’at rituals to be more on Ma’at herself.


Approaching the Shrine

Awake in peace great gods, awake in peace.
I am Re who issued from the Nun in
this my name of Khopri, and my soul is a god.
See me with both of your eyes.
Hear me with both of your ears.
Come to me, be with me, do not impede me.
For I am Re, Lord of All.
I have come to be with you great gods, awake in peace.

Oh you who guides the NTRW, who detests wrongdoing,
Who breathes ma’at, does ma’at and causes the NTRW to live upon it daily,
Who causes ma’at to spring forth through the work of your arms.
You who gives power to Osiris, who satisfies the hearts of those who are in your service,
who detest wrongdoing, who live and breathe off of ma’at daily,
I come to you, awake in peace.
For I am the Lord of Light, and I have crossed the firmament between us
So that I may gaze upon your beauty, O Uraeus of the Eternal One.

I have come so that I might raise you aloft on your standard,
So that I might put you high above all else,
So that everyone may see your magnificence from every corner of the Two Lands.

*Step forward or open the shrine*

I open your temple. I come to you.
Your warmth and beauty surrounds me as I enter. I am not repulsed.
I have come today to renew my connection with you, O Mistress of Ma’at,
To raise you aloft in my heart.

Purification of offering space:

*Take up water bowl/pitcher*

O water, remove all evil,
I give you essential water, O Shining One, a tide in your time.
I bring the flood waters to purify your sanctuary, O Mistress of the West.
I bring you the flood waters to purify your temple
and your statue in your place.

*wet your finger and touch the four sides of your shrine, offering table or plate, etc.*

O Ma’at, your altar is cleansed by the water;
Your altar is purified by the incense;
You are cleansed by Horus;
You are purified by Thoth.
Water invigorates your body;
You are refreshed and renew your youth in peace.

Presentation of Light:

*Turn on light or light candle, etc.*

May you awake in Beauty, O Glorious Eye of Heru.
Be strong and renew your youth in peace.
You shine like Ra on the double horizon.
Your word is ma’at, by reason of your Eye, whole and pure.
The Eye of Horus destroys all of the enemies of the
Two Lands in all of their places.
Nothing is hidden from the fiery sight
Of the Eye of Horus, Glorious and Complete.

Presentation of Libations:

Greetings to you, primordial water
Greetings to you, O river
Greetings to you, Great Flood,
You, the father of the gods.

*Pour the water into a cup or bowl*

I present to you, O Magnificent One
the cup filled with primordial water;
Which has come from the Sacred Place.
Receive this water from my hands and take it to your countenance,
For I am of you, with you, one of you.
I pour the libation to water your face;
May your thirst be quenched.

Presentation of Food Offerings:

I come near you, O Mistress.
I bring the food and provisions for your continued renewal and growth.
O you who nourishes the gods,
Who causes the living to grow, and makes firm the bodies of the living
I bring you offerings so that you may nourish yourself.
Take these offerings to yourself,
Allow them to revitalize yourself in all of your places.

*place offerings on shrine/altar*

I am Hathor, the Lady of Nourishment;
And I have insured the nourishment of the gods
As the gods have insured my own nourishment.
For as you Live, I Live. And as I live, you live.

O you gods, see that I am here,
That I have come to join the solar circuit,
For I am one of you.
That I have taken Ma’at to myself as Re does daily,
That I am here to make sure that ma’at flourishes through the work of my hands.

O Mistress of Ma’at, who is always sitting firmly upon her seat.
Your warmth is felt in every shrine, every ib, every place within the Two Lands.
You rise daily with Re. The NTRW partake daily of you.
In return for the guidance and protection you give,
All of us give back to you, recreate you, ensure that you flourish in every place
Through the work of our hands.
You are immune to any ill which has gone forth from any place
Because you are the Bull of Justice, and people fear your fierceness and know your name.
Your legs are strong, and your arm is strong.
You know your worth as I know your worth.
O you who causes people to live.
Your name will be carried aloft by the people O Great Ma’at
They will carry you in their hearts and in their minds.
You will cut their tongues and guide their legs.
Your name will not perish and your radiance will be known.

Presentation of Ma’at:

O You giver of life, who keeps the land alive through the activity of your arms
I know you. I know your name.
You open the noses of the living.
You keep the gods alive.
O Mistress of Protection, who protects the gods.
I offer yourself to you, for I know your worth.

The NTRW have peace and flourish through you, O Great Ma’at.
Their hearts live when you rise before them.
Rise O Mistress of Ma’at.
Exist so that the gods may exist in peace and harmony.
Take up position within every shrine of every NTR in every place of Your Domain.
Awaken the hearts of the Ennead and move each NTR to action
In all of your passion and beauty.

O Great Gods, feel ma’at stirring within your hearts.
Feel her invigorate your members and your limbs.
Remember that you exist because ma’at exists
That Ma’at exists because you exist.
Ma’at has made her way upon your brow and into your heart,
And she exists within you forever.

Ma’at has taken her position within your shrine.
Thoth, the One who is Great of Magic, makes protection for you
And overthrows your enemies.
Ma’at is established throughout your Domain, truly twice established.
She is yours forever and ever, O Beneficent Gods.
And as she is yours, she is the people’s.
For as you live through her, your people live through her.
For ever and ever, a million times effective.

Revert your offerings:

O Great NTRW, your enemies withdraw from you.
Horus has turned himself to his Eye in its name of Reversion-of-Offerings.
These your divine offerings revert;
They revert to your servant for life, stability, health and joy.
So that you may flourish for eternity.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2019 in Kemeticism, Making Ma'at, Year of Rites

 

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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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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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