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Book Review: Reflections of Osiris


I’ve just finished reading Reflections of Osiris: Lives from Ancient Egypt by John Ray. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book originally. I thought it could be dull or completely unhelpful to hear stories of people who had lived in AE. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the book. Ray writes a lot like Barbara Mertz and that makes the book more enjoyable for me- as the text isn’t so academic and dry.

The book opens with a general intro discussing how the book is to be laid out, chronology, names and all that. And by this point, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. The book covers people throughout various periods of history in Egypt including:

  • Imhotep
  • Hekanakhte
  • Hapshepsut
  • Horemheb
  • Khaemwise
  • Petiese
  • Nectanebo II
  • Hor of Sebennytos and his friends (all in the Serapeum)

Now most of these stories I had already heard. We all know about Imhotep, the angry mummy who wants his woman back awesome guy who helped build the pyramids. And you can’t read anything without hearing about the ‘female king’ Hapshepsut. And I had even heard of Hekanakhte through Mertz and Petiese from Sauneron. And the people at the Serapeum are very well known (this relates to two twins who were slighted by their mother. In order to save themselves from starvation, they become part of the cult of Apis at the Serapeum).

However, despite knowing most of these stories and people- this book really does cast them in a different light. Most times, the history around these people is presented in a very cut and dry method. So and so did this, this, that, and that. And that’s it. However, Ray does a great job at making the stories more engaging, and bringing the characters to life. He also discusses these people in a more indirect way. He doesn’t just talk about the people- he discusses what is going on at the time in Egypt. He shows how the political events of the era could influence the people we are reading about. He puts the people in their time and place- and paints a much broader picture than most historians. And for me, these stories seemed more real; they had more depth to them. And in some ways, I understood a bit more about how things can be effected by the surrounding areas.

Here are a few interesting quotes I saw:

“This predecessor was Osiris, a god who can be thought of as the photographic negative of the sun god: a being who had ruled on earth, been put to death by the machinations of evil and disruptive forces, and who passed into a new life as the light below the earth, ruler and judge of the dead who are in the Underworld”

“On his death, the kind was known officially as Osiris the nesu, followed by the throne-name (given at coronation). The second name, the one written with the bee-hieroglyph (given at birth), ceases to exist. On earth, the king had a dual nature, corresponding to the emanation of the divine which was present within his temporal, human, dimension. The latter would grow old, infirm, and die. The former was immortal. Pharaoh was, literally, a god-king.”

“Amun, in upwardly mobile style, got rid of his first wife, a goddess named Wosret, who was the theological equivalent of the girl next door. Instead, he contracted an alliance with one of the most distinguished ladies in the land, the goddess Mut, the embodiment of motherhood. Like her husband, this goddess was somewhat bland in essence, and this made the pair ideal for usurping the roles of more defined, and therefore more limited, rivals. A less cynical school of thought holds that there was no divorce, and that Wosret and Mut are the same goddess going under different names, but if so, we are still dealing with an attempt to upgrade the original product.”

As you can tell by the quotes above, the writing style is approachable and easy to read. And in many cases, you feel like the author is being straight with you. He doesn’t have an agenda to push, or any theories he’s trying to prove. He’s just telling you how it is. I particularly liked the mention at the end of Nectanebo’s chapter- where he relays that the reason we don’t have the end of the story is because the young boy who was translating the story got bored, and decided to draw some weird doodle face instead.

If I had to give any critique to the book, it would be that I wanted to hear more about Osiris. I understand why the author chose the name that he did. And I know the book is more about the people than the god- but there was a chapter at the end about Asar, and it was severely lacking. I would really really really like to find a book that actually goes into the deity himself. The other thing that might be an issue for some is that the stories/people covered in this book are pretty well known. I have no clue if we have records of people who are more obscure- but it would be cool to see stories that are less well known.

However, I feel that the book is worth reading, and it offers a slightly different perspective than most. The book is more useful for historical references and ideas than for religious ones, but I still think there is interesting information in it.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in Kemetic Book Reviews, Kemeticism

 

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Book Review: The Priests of Ancient Egypt


I managed to get a copy of The Priests of Ancient Egypt by Serge Sauneron, and I finally got around to reading it. This book is considered a staple for Kemetics in many circles, and it doesn’t disappoint. This book goes far more in-depth into the priesthood of AE than almost any other book that I have read so far.

The book starts off discussing the generalized idea about what priests are and do. Sauneron shows us that while many people have an ideal about what priests were like (morally speaking) there were examples of priests who were less than savoury in their dealings. I would guess he does this to break any romanticism we have with the notion of being a priest. Priests were people just like us- and they were fallible as we are now.

Sauneron also discusses the basics of temple ritual, what a priest’s day might entail while in the temple. Most of this was not entirely new to me, but it was still interesting to read another perspective on it. After reading this, it really does validate a lot of what I’ve read in Reidy’s book. One confirms, in many ways, the other. He also goes into detail about different areas priests would have studied. He made a point to mention that each priest within the temple would have had a specialty. There was rarely a priest who knew EVERYTHING. Usually, you had someone who read stuff. Someone who oversaw just the offerings. Someone who spent their day making the linen and clothes for the icon. Someone who was there to deem if an animal was pure enough to be sacrificed to the god. Someone who knew the music that the god liked… etc. I think this is an important concept for modern Kemetics to consider, since it seems like we all have to know everything about everything in order to get somewhere. He also gave a generalized history of AE and how the priesthood could have played a role in it. It was interesting to see his ideas about how the Ramessides were trying to placate the priests of Amun while trying to promote their own god- Set. I’ve never seen anyone really discuss whether the 19th dynasty had problems with the temple of Amun or not. So the concept was interesting to consider.

I liked learning little facts that I’ve seen asked around the forums, yet never knew answers to. For example, Sauneron does mention that there was likely some type of initiation ritual for new priests. He says not a lot of information is known, but that something happened to transition them from outside to inside. In the case of higher priests appointed by the King, they would receive a ring and ceremonial staff, which I thought was interesting to know.

I also found out that there was mandatory ‘rules’ for animals that were butchered for the temple. Usually, related to markings (or lack thereof) – the beast had to be deemed pure in order for it to be served to the gods. I wonder how the Netjer feel about the types of meat we are serving them now ūüėõ

Apparently each nome of Egypt kept some sort of master list relating to what grew there, the mythologies of the area, common offerings, and a whole slew of other things. I would love to get my hand of a whole lot of these. Imagine the things we could learn.

I also found out that in the typical inner sanctuary of the temple, there would be a kar shrine, the boat, and usually a table- and that offerings were left outside of the kar shrine, on the table. I had thought that perhaps the offerings went in the shrine itself, so it’s good to have this cleared up. I guess for most temples, the shrine was sealed up after the morning ritual, and wasn’t opened the rest of the day. Which I was unaware of as well. I also found out that for some temples, there were lesser and greater morning rituals. Every 5 days or so, there would be a more involved morning rite that involved the changing of the clothes for the god, etc. But that on the lesser days, just the four strips of linen were swapped out.

He also confirmed that Open statues had their joo-joo renewed once per year. I would guess through another Opening of the Mouth rite.

Overall, the book had some interesting stuff to it. I learned a few new things and it reinforced a lot of what I have already read. Here are a few excerpts from the book I placed in my FB feed:

A priest is any man who, through bodily purification, puts himself in the state of physical purity necessary to approach the holy place, or to touch any objects or dishes of food consecrated to the god.

Maat is the aspect of the world that the gods have chosen, it is the universal order as they established it from its basic constituent elements, such as the course of the starts and the succession of days, down to the humblest of its manifestations” the harmony of the living, their religious piety; it is the cosmic balance, and the regular recurrence of the seasonal phenomena; it is also the respect for the earthly order set up by the gods – truth, and justice.

The Egyptians distinguished in the sky, beyond the sun and the moon, the stars which never rest- our planets: Mercury, Venus (the star of the evening and the morning), Mars (the red Horus), Jupiter (the glittering star), and Saturn (Horus the bull).

I think the biggest complaint I have about this book is that he cites late sources a lot. It seems like the majority of his information comes from Greek writers. While I know that it’s possible that this was his only major resource to pull from, I would certainly enjoy to hear more about priests from the Egyptians themselves- not outsiders who came to Egypt at the very end of her life.

All in all, I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the priesthood of Egypt, and whoever might be interested in creating a priestly role for themselves (or taking on such a role) in the modern era. I think by looking back at how the ancients did it, it can create a lot of ideas about how we can approach the concept today, and translate it into something that works in this time and place. I also feel this book does a good job at clearing up some of the misconceptions one might have about what bring a priest in AE was about.

See this book review over on Pagan Book Review!

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Kemetic Book Reviews, Kemeticism

 

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Book Review: Abydos

Today I will be reviewing the book “Abydos: Egypt’s First Pharaohs and the Cult of Osiris” written by David O’Connor which can be found here.

If you have any interest in Abydos or early Egyptian tombs/structures, this would be a good book for you. The information is well written and seems to be pretty bias free. The author is very good at stating what we know, what we don’t know, and his thoughts on what might have happened. He doesn’t present his theories as truths- which is something a lot of authors have a problem with. For this reason alone, I would recommend this book. However, there is a lot of useful information in general. I learned quite a bit about Abydos- it’s structures, it’s history. The only thing I would have liked to have learned more about is Osiris- his cult and how his cult interacted with Khentiamentiu. However, there is still a fair amount of information regarding Osiris’ cult and his temple (I just want to know MOAR).

He goes in depth about the history of Abydos- from dynasty 0 all the way to the Late Period. He discusses various building projects there, talks about the layout and designs of many of the temples, the anomalies of some of the structures and what we can learn from them. Considering that Abydos is usually only mentioned as being “Osiris’ city” or the place where Seti built that big temple with the kings list- it’s nice to see a more in depth approach. Of course, as O’Connor mentions in his book- you find some answers, only to come up with more questions. I, too, have more questions for having read this book, but I have more answers too.

A particular quote that I liked:

¬†The vast cemetery field comprising the Middle and North cemeteries and Umm el Qa’ab was personified as Hapetnebes, “Shoe who hides her lord”, a term peculiar to Abydos. The endless, open desert plain of Abydos was imagined to be a goddess, generated by & embodied in the landscape itself. “She who hides her lord” was complex in meaning. At one level, this goddess as landscape literally hid and thus protected Osiris himself- buried at Umm el Qa’ab – as well as his countless followers, eash one also an Osiris entombed in the Abydene cemeteries. But Hapetnebes was also a more positive force in that Osiris, buried within her, experienced revitalization or rebirth every year. In this perspective, “She who hides her lord’ is virtually lanscape conceited of as a mother goddess, in whose womb lies the potential for and actualization of life. She thus relates to the subtle interplay of meaning btwn desert and floodplain in the prototypical Egyptian landscape. The desert, seemingly dead, generates life for Osiris and deceased Egyptians; and thus relates to those more obvious manifestations of vitatlity and reproduction, the inundation and consequent vegetation, both seen as manifestations of Osiris’ capacity to regenerate.

He also discussed a bit about what we modernly call the Mysteries of Osiris. As I mentioned in on of my last posts, it was common for the Mysteries to involve a procession that started at Osiris’ temple and worked towards Umm el Qa’ab- what was believed to be Osiris’ tomb. During the procession, agents of Set would try to stop these people by attacking them. Of course, Osiris’ “team” would win, and they’d make their way to the tomb where rituals were more than likely done. This was also an interesting tidbit to learn.

I think for me, besides the two nuggets above, the biggest help this book served for me was to learn about early dynastic pharaohs. Most authors completely skip over early and pre-dynastic Egypt. More or less saying that they were there, stopping to look at Menes, Scorpion King, Narmer Pallete… and then moving on. If you’re lucky, you might see “Naqada” listed. However, O’Connor does go pretty deep into early dynastic goings on in Abydos (at least in regards to the structures there). So I feel like I’ve had a huge history gap somewhat filled. I know that this comes with the territory- Abydos housing tombs for early kings and all, but it was still nice.

Overall, I would recommend this book. It’s well written. Has good info. And if you’re into Osiris or Abydos in general- it helps to give a more complete picture of both. The author is respectful of his subject matter, and I think he approaches the topics that he discusses really really well. So go read it!

See this review on Pagan Book Review!

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Kemetic Book Reviews, Kemeticism

 

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Book Review: The Neteru of Kemet

Originally posted on LJ on July 29, 2011

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

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

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

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

 

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Book Review: Following the Sun

Originally posted on LJ on Jan 10, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Book Review: The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook

Originally posted on LJ on Jan 3, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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