Alternate Title: Zep Tepi II.
Since Devo’s comments on my last post relating to this subject matter, I’ve been thinking extensively about Zep Tepi and cycles. Whenever a spare moment would hit me, I would be knee deep or brain deep in whatever it was I was hoping to achieve with the thought processes and Zep Tepi. This morning, I was thinking harder than I have in the past few days on the subject of Zep Tepi. When I was beginning to fall off from figuring out the answers to Devo’s questions in that comment, this song came on. Particularly what grabbed at me was the lyric, “I’m gonna change you like a remix; then I’ll raise you like a phoenix.” Well, if that isn’t something that relates to cycles, in a way, then what the fuck does? It was around that moment that I began to really interpret what Devo had said on Friday.
Honestly, my trouble with figuring out where I wanted my thoughts to go related to my rather narrow interpretation of what we need to utilize Zep Tepi in as lay people. I was trying to focus on Zep Tepi in a really big, huge way. So, I associated it with grandiose things like Wep Ronpet and the celebrations therein. I thought about the beginning of a year as opposed to all the other daily, weekly, monthly cycles that people can and do go through. I was trying to focus on something that I felt was easily graspable but I was failing to relate this to me. As the lay person here, I think I kind of failed in that regard. And that’s why having a community – by the way – is kind of a good thing. They’ll check your shit, force you to re-think things, and then give you a cookie if you do a good job. (Just kidding about the cookie part. That hardly ever happens.)
I’m about 99.9% percent certain that my failure to understand Zep Tepi and its relationship with all cycles stems from a rather unsatisfactory work life. (Love the job – hate the environment. You know.) I find it very difficult to even note that a whole new day has started, even upon waking. After nights filled with dreams about items that weren’t taken care of properly or things that I’ve had to constantly put off or delegate to others, it gets to the point where your waking life feels very much like your sleeping life. And that’s just no good. Since I have a difficult time differentiating between one really bad day and the next cantankerous asshat that makes me feel badly about my work ethic, my work ability, et cetera, it kind of gets to the point where you stop thinking that each day is different. Your mind starts to interpret each day as just a new extension to the next, but this isn’t the case. Each day is the start of a new cycle. As the sun rises in the morning, which I’ve been awake for more mornings than I care to admit lately, brings a rejuvenation to me, to my day, to my thoughts, and everything in my between. And that is something that I need to remind myself.
By seeing the new cycle in the upcoming day, the rejuvenation and the changes that can come with renewal, I can at least attempt to feel closer with this important concept in my religion.
And maybe, stop feeling like each bad day at work is just an extension on the one preceding it.
While pondering my inability to actually appreciate the cycles and instead seeing them as another addition, I began to think about my car, Olga. She is a very old car and she has a lot of things wrong with her that I just cannot afford to fix right now, if ever. At 12 years old and nearly 200k miles on her, I have to admit that placing a Band-Aid on the things that are wrong is not in my best interest, financially speaking. But I really do love this car. She has been very patient with me and has always seemed very understanding when I have been unable to get her into a mechanic in a timely manner. Recently, she started idling very hard when I sit at a stop. She has always idled very hard at stops – we joke that she thinks she’s a race car instead of the 4-cylinder Alero she is. But the idling has become much rougher to the point where I will start to seriously worry that she will stall out on me. I’ve noticed, however, that this comes in a cycle.
She drives really terribly one morning on my way to work and is fine for the next few days.
Bouncing off of the idea about how I needed to pay closer attention to Zep Tepi, cycles, and the renewal therein, I started paying attention to how often she does this to me. Now, there’s no guarantee as to when she will start idling harder than normal. And there’s no set time frame as to how long each cycle of “good idling” I can expect. But I began to see that I could at least anticipate this eventuality in future because, really, it is something that will happen. And then, when this particular idling happenstance comes to pass, I can look forward to relative smooth sailing for a few days or maybe even a week. Obviously, this doesn’t fix the overall problem – I’m attempting to find a mechanic who will work for beer and parts to fix two hot ticket items that may be the cause for the idle – but it’s something that brings comfort.
It’s almost like, and stop me if you’ve heard this one before, this is part of the cycle.
As I was driving to work – and Olga’s idling was as good as I could hope – I began to think of it, almost ruefully, as a metaphor for the entire year of a Kemetic calendar. We have ups and downs, which would be the days when I need to put gas in the car or add other fluids. But the rest of the time, it’s all just a general ride. Then, we get to the point where the idling is really, really tough and painful, reducing me to tears, swearing, cursing, pleading, and outright misery. I tend to view that drive to work as a kind of metaphor for what can be expected during the intercalary days, just preceding Wep Ronpet. We’ve all noted that those days are hectic and chaotic, difficult to handle in some ways. So, in a huge metaphor, the intercalary days are the very days that Olga ends up idling a good deal more painfully and more frightfully than she normally does.
By golly, I think I’m on to something here.
Almost like I was on to something, I picked up the book I’ve been reading lately and found something of interest that I think, sort of, relates to Zep Tepi and why lay people need to pay attention to this.
Okay, so, I’ve been re-reading The Priests of Ancient Egypt by Serge Sauneron this week. I don’t really remember how I felt about the book when I first bought it and I honestly wonder if I just skimmed through it. In either case, I decided to start re-reading all of my Kemetic books (for funsies) and this is the smallest one I own. Plus, in a perverse way, as a lay person, it’s almost like know thy enemy or something. I kind of think that by reading about this, I will be able to better understand what it is, specifically, about the priesthood that prevents me from honestly moving in that direction.
Be that as it may, I started reading it and found a lot of very interesting items, as well as amusing items. But what made me think in relation to Zep Tepi was how many of the offices of the priesthood were inherited. As Sauneron says on page 43, “Moreover, stelae of the Late Period sometimes list the genealogies of the individuals to whom they were dedicated, invoking the memory of as many as seventeen generations of ancestors who were priests of the same deity: we can truly speak of dynasties of priests.” Hm. They were pretty big on the “keep it in the family” adage.
While I understand the requirement of ancient Egyptian religion and belief to have a long line of distinguished ancestors, this reminds me that not all things “new” were very interesting to the ancient Egyptians. If we were to use the phrase “set in their ways,” I think it may just come off as a bit of an understatement. Anything new was considered anathema and in many, if not all, instances it was believed to be a part of isfet. Each new change to the ancient Egyptian ruler dynasties came with huge, catastrophic changes as they transitioned from one ruling family to the next period of lawlessness. All in all, things like change were to be feared. They liked the idea of rejuvenation and cycles – they celebrated such things like Wep Ronpet and with daily rituals to gods such as Khepri. But, when it came to things like installing a new priest? One has to wonder if their reaction to such an idea wasn’t something like: “Why bother? Why shake the tree? Or destroy the status quo? We already have a good thing going, so to speak, so let’s keep it! We don’t know what kind of crazy a new person has!”
Now, obviously, they weren’t always able to keep a line of priests in generational succession. Some lines died out; sometimes the pharaoh decided who went where. In some instances, according to Sauneron, they took a sort of collective vote on who got to be a priest and who didn’t. (I’ll explain all of this more in depth when I’m finished reading the book and write the post it inspires.) But in many instances, we have a long line of families who were able to provide priests to a particular nome’s temple deity throughout the years.
Modern day practitioners have a more mercurial ability, I think, to handle changes on an epic and minor scale than the ancient Egypt priesthood. We have had so many years of learning about world history that we are able to take into account the amount of changes that humanity has gone through. Instead of fearing that by mispronouncing a single word, we may bring about the end of the world, we know better. These religious traditions have fallen out of favor for millennia and the world kept on spinning, people kept on being poor or being rich, and living their lives. We don’t have to freak out that a new face in our particular religious path is going to upset the balance. Living in ma’at, traditions, heka, and even Zep Tepi have all changed their standard definitions in the thousands of years since this was a practicing religion. And that, I think, above all else, is why Zep Tepi is still an integral part to the practices of the laity.
It reminds us, always, that things change.
And it reminds us that there is always going to be a beginning, middle, and an end.
You know, I started this journey thinking about Zep Tepi in relation to altars. And I still have a feeling that there may be more here relating to Zep Tepi and the altars of our icons. But, I think, really, the overall point that I’ve come to discover is that this particular aspect of our practice is still important, whether we are a big headed somebody or a head-in-the-sand nobody, whether we are of the literate priesthood from ancient Egypt or the illiterate laity from ancient Egypt, and whether we are the historically informed polytheists of today or otherwise. What matters is trying to remember that Zep Tepi is about cycles and how that relates to you, on an individual level, in your practice. And if you can remind yourself, even a few times a day that change is coming and that the bad isn’t going to always be so bad… then maybe, just maybe, that really is just what the whole point is.