Originally, I was going to leave this as a comment on this entry that Galina Krasskova wrote, but I ended up realizing that in order to answer each point, I had to keep on explaining. And as I’m sure comments that are nearly two thousand words are oh-so awesome, I thought it would be best to leave this as an entry on my blog instead. I hope she ends up reading this because I’d like to see what she has to say regarding her obvious erasure of Kemeticism (and many other polytheistic belief systems). While I doubt that any response she makes will end up leaving anyone feeling better about the testaments of her decisions on what “true polytheism must be,” I hope that this will at least show other polytheists out there that not everyone subscribes to what she deems “appropriate.”
Before continuing, I recommend clicking the link I’ve provided and reading what was said.
I think there’s a large problem with your generalized interpretations of what polytheistic values should be, across the board. The issue being that each polytheism is inherently unique to its particular branch. So, for example, how a Heathen polytheist and how a Kemetic polytheist view what their particular branch of polytheism is about and what core values make up that branch are going to be inherently different. By making such broad generalizations, you’re also ignoring the fact that in many instances, each individual is in the midst of practicing an individualistic form of their polytheistic branch. Not everyone is capable of joining temples or is willing to join temples that do not meet their strict standards, so by making such generalizations, you are kind of erasing those of us who may not fit your criteria. And that’s rather mean.
While I understand that you have, recently, begun a sort of pogrom against polytheistic practices that do not meet your rigid standards, this is really just not a good idea in any context. As each person is not a carbon copy of the person next to them, neither will the polytheistic flavor that they create for themselves. This is something that all of us – every single one of us who fall under the polytheism branch – need to keep in mind when interacting with one another. We also need to keep that in mind when deciding what is or is not “appropriate” in other polytheistic branches.
That being said, I felt that as a Kemetic, I should explain a few things regarding what you think the core values “should be.”
You mention ancestor veneration and that all ancient polytheism branches had this. The problem is that you are kind of glazing over a lot of fine nuances here. In Kemeticism alone, many of the practitioners (whether affiliated with one of the temples or otherwise) are of the layman variety. This actually ends up making it less mandatory for the veneration part. Since we don’t actually know how the laity felt about the dead or what, specifically, they ended up doing in regards to their akh, we can only guess as to what amount of veneration was actually done. We have plenty of information regarding the elite classes and how things went about for them, but for many of us who are attempting to reconstruct this ancient religion, we are flying blindly. The laity were illiterate so such items were not left to us.
Just because the elite castes were obviously venerated didn’t necessarily mean that the laity went about things the same way. We don’t know on what level such “veneration” took place or if we can even refer to it as “veneration.” Maybe they just thought fondly of Uncle Joe now and again, maybe even left a bowl of water during one of the major festivals, but we just really don’t know. We can assume a whole plethora of things based on how the elite were treated and what sort of things happened in later periods, but frankly, assumptions aren’t a good idea for those of us interested in a historically informed basis. That being said, we could assert that since many of us are laity and since we don’t really know how important such veneration was to the laity in antiquity, then perhaps ancestor veneration really isn’t all that important in a modern context.
And honestly, whether or not someone feels the need to pay attention to their blood kin or not once they go into the West is none of your business. It’s none of my business. It’s no one else’s business but the very person deciding whether or not they need to pay attention to their kin. Since many of us are reconstructing an ancient religion, in some form or another, it’s – going back to that point I made above – entirely up to the individual creating that practice.
The individuality of the divine, as you put it, really has no merit in Kemetic polytheistic circles at all. Syncretism is rife throughout the Kemetic pantheon. While the netjer are often viewed as individuals in some areas, in other areas of the country, they were viewed only in their syncretic forms with other deities. This poses a bit of a problem for those of us who are hard polytheists, but we make do. Epithets are shared between deities, which could lead us to believe that they all functioned as a single unit to get whatever that epithet refers to done. Point of fact, many of the netjeru are given the title “Great One of Heka.” In other instances, epithets are similar enough to one another to get the impression that two polar opposite netjeru can, will, and do fulfill the same needs.
Suffice to say that we can view one of the netjeru as both an individual and as a composite. Whether we work with them that way is entirely up to the particular flavor of Kemeticism that we practice. In Kemetic Orthodoxy, many of the practitioners utilize their deities in composites while there are some solitaries who also utilize syncretic deities.
By adding this statement, you are pretty much erasing Kemeticism as a polytheism.
The thing about piety is that it is kind of unnecessary in Kemeticism. The whole point in Kemeticism is that the populace needed to retain correct actions – orthopraxy – as opposed to correct belief – orthodoxy. Whether or not respect was given to the gods was immaterial. Whether or not the laity respected the rituals the priests performed to keep the world going was immaterial. Hell, whether or not you even believed in the gods themselves was immaterial. So long as you maintained ma’at, you were pretty much good.
There was absolutely nothing that a single, individual had to do in order to be seen as devout since each individual would have, and did, interpret what “living in ma’at” meant individually. There are some basic ideas of what it would be across the board, as shown by the negative confessions people are fond of quoting. The problem is that these confessions aren’t a sort of set of commandments that, either we modern day practitioners or our ancient counterparts, practiced. They were actually more like “divine subterfuge.” By stating that the individual in question didn’t do this thing, they were kind of hiding all the really fucked up shit they actually did do in their life that could be interpreted as not living in ma’at.
The ancient Egyptians were pretty fond, also, of doing things that many other polytheistic cultures would find anathema. They had no problem associating themselves with one of the netjer to get things done. They threatened and bribes the gods, too. Based on the most fundamental definition of “piety,” I don’t think the ancient Egyptians really fall under your heading here. And so, by association, neither would any of the Kemetic polytheists who actively participate in this religion.
Suffice to say, that at this point, I think you may have [again] done some erasing of Kemetics.
As far as modesty is concerned, I don’t really know if you’ve actually read anything from ancient Egypt. The love poetry, alone, should be pretty obvious as to what all the people were referring to. The bit, in which you state, “squander it in ways that don’t enhance her as a human being” regarding a woman’s modesty? I have to say that the love poetry alone would show that any ancient Egyptian “squandered” it quite often. And the love spells would, also, kind of show that there were both men and women (since both sexes are quite capable of “squandering” their sexuality) who were pretty interested in the orgasms all that “squandering” would provide them.
You also mention the terminology of “miasma.” This is a rather odd choice since this particular word is based on a Hellenic concept and so, really has no basis in Kemeticism. There really isn’t a lot that a Kemetic, either modern or ancient, could do that would be termed as an offense against the gods. While there are texts that indicate the gods could and would kill based on whatever the event happened to be – which may even include killing their family – it doesn’t quite equate to the concept of “miasma.” In the cases of Kemetic wrong doings against the gods, there wasn’t really any atonement that could be provided to them that would have them change their minds. It was really up to the gods themselves to forgive – as in the case of Re when he felt badly for sending his fiery daughter to destroy humanity – or to not – as in the case of Djehuty who killed a royal prince and his family for daring to steal his magical texts.
Now as far as keeping people centered on the path that they are treading that is entirely up to the people who doing the treading on that path. So, however the person manages this is going to be entirely individualistic since they are the ones who have to decide what-all keeps them centered. Another thing here is that just because someone wades in shit daily doesn’t mean they’re going to use prayer to cleanse themselves. They’re probably going to use water and soap to cleanse themselves. Whether or not they pray to the gods to get them through the event in question is, again, entirely up to them and incredibly individualistic.
In ancient Egypt, it wasn’t an act of courage to continue to live through whatever was going on. It just was. This hearkens back to my brief discussion on ma’at and orthopraxy. The laity did not question whatever it was that was going on around them because it wasn’t their place to do so. While courageous aspects are mentioned, usually in relation to warfare, this doesn’t really equate to the day-to-day lives of the ancient Egyptians. They toiled in the fields and that was their lot. Whatever other aspects to their lives that they lived just was the status quo. One of the major items that we tend to forget – being so forward and modern in our thinking – is that the laity didn’t question these things because to do so would mean they were no longer living in ma’at, but that they were inviting isfet (chaos) into their lives.
As far as they were concerned, the second the creator deity of their particular choice (since there were so many) stood up and created, the world was perfect. And the only need for the ancient Egyptian, whether they were priests or the laity, was to emulate that moment of perfection. They didn’t think creatively or outside of the box in order to fix something that was going on in front of them – they looked to the past and to that perfect First Time for the answers. As far as they were concerned, the blueprint for maintaining ma’at was in the past. To question that maintenance was isfet.
I could go on, but I think I’ve said enough.
Let’s suffice it to say that by deciding what-all the values of others’ polytheistic paths are, you’re kind of being a dick, which Kemetics loathe on a fundamental level and other pagans/polytheists will find really wrong. Point of fact, the only piece of what “living in ma’at” entails that you should concern yourself with is the modern adage: don’t be a dick. I recommend looking into that phrase a little bit and attempting to emulate that into whatever core values you think your polytheistic path is about. And while you’re at it, please stop telling all of us what our values and morals should be. We can handle that job quite well on our own. We do not need a pagan or polytheist pope and we certainly don’t need one from an entirely different polytheistic branch from ourselves.