Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Live in Ma’at III.

Three years ago, I sat down and wrote a post that would later define a lot of who I am and how I practice today. I didn’t think the post would become as important as it has become, nor did I think it would garner as many hits. But that’s the thing about blogging: you never really know which post is The Post, the one that everyone will go back to time and time again. I’ve found even myself going back to that first post, looking it over and kind of realizing how much of that original post has defined me today.

Looking back over the last three years, I’ve come to see that post (along with the situations that were occurring at the time) as a very large crossroads in my practice. It didn’t feel like one, of course, but as I look back, I can see that all of the things that came before that post were more newbie flail and everything that came after has been one more step forward on the path I’ve been treading these last few years.

That post, more than the situations that were happening back then, helped to crystallize a lot for me.

With the help of others, I was able to get a working definition together that felt appropriate to me. And together, we were able to come up with a list of things that kind of helped us in the day-to-day:

  • Ma’at was don’t be a dick.
  • Ma’at was give stuff to the gods.
  • Ma’at was take no shit.

This was good stuff and we put the word out there. I don’t think there’s a Kemetic on Tumblr who hasn’t heard the “don’t be a dick” thing. Maybe everyone’s seen the posts from TTR that have been reblogged to death about what ma’at entails and how we’ve simplified it, made it easier to contend with such a large, amorphous concept, and live with it to the best of our abilities.

I’m sure there are times where we all feel like we fail and I’m sure there are times where we can step back, shouting to the rooftops, “fuck yeah, I am totally living in ma’at!” But at the end of the day, we have a workaround that helps us to feel like we know what we’re talking about.

Peacock Feather

This is not to say the person had no need of personal conscience. On the contrary, it simply suggests that conscience (ib or h3ty) is a relational concept and thus depends on both what is thought of one by one’s moral community and what one thinks of oneself based in substantial part on this evaluation by significant others. – p8, Ma’at the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt by Dr. Maulana Karenga

In recent weeks, TTR began reading through Ma’at, the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt by Dr. Maulana Karenga. The text is dense, from what other sources have told me, and as they work their way through the book, they’ve helpfully been posting quotes for public consumption. One of the things that has gotten to me with each reading is just how integral community is within the concept of ma’at.

It almost seems, to me, that without a community at one’s back, then it is very difficult to maintain and live within ma’at. As stressed in the quote above, the concept of one’s conscience depends both on the self and based on the moral community that they are surrounded with. In ancient Egypt, it was simple enough to achieve this goal as the concept was lived and breathed, not only by the gods but by the very people who made up the country.

Nowadays, we are in diaspora and trying like hell to pick up the pieces.

One could assume that the decision of the wider community regarding what is and is not ma’at is fundamental. Well, we have that. We have our little list of things that we tell people when they first get started on this roller coaster. We send them to the various posts we’ve all written about the concept and sometimes, in the responses we provided to those newbies, we re-evaluate the nebulousness of the concept itself, redefining and redetermining whether or not the little list works for us still.

For the most part, it seems to work for people.

But the question becomes what happens if someone or multiple someones within your community infers or outright states that what you are doing is not living in ma’at? What if they state your actions are isfet through and through?

Do you go for arbitration? Do you execrate the shit out of them? Do you sit down and talk about it, one-on-one? And let’s say that you do sit down and talk about it, one-on-one: points of view are highly personalized things and each individual could end up talking past the other person, unable or unwilling to see the other point of view. What do you do then?

Offering Ma'at

In general, the good man is still the silent, self-controlled man, with the emphatic devotion that is now explicit… – p171 Exploring Religion in Ancient Egypt by Stephen Quirke

I try like hell not to tell anyone whether or not they are living in ma’at. I try very hard not to tell anyone that what they’re doing is isfet. I am not judge, jury, or executioner. I am not the nisut and I have no intention of ever becoming one. I find it morally reprehensible to make that decision on a singular basis. Maybe I’ve always recognized that it was a communal effort that went into the determination.

I can think of a single instance where I’ve made the remark to someone and I felt guilty as all hell afterwards. I broke my very principles in making the statement. Sure, they were a manipulative prick and used their UPG to prey upon the young and impressionable youth in our community, but I still felt like I had no business making that supposition out loud, much less on a public blogging site. But I threw it out there, using our little tenets and I never heard back from anyone, stating that I was doing something wrong when I made the claim.

To this day, it still bothers the fuck out of me.

I don’t feel that any single person has the ability to determine any of that. Based on the quotes, the conversations, the arguments and my own feverish nighttime thinking on the subject, I don’t think anyone knows enough about the concept (and likely, never will) because no definitions were ever left behind. We stumble around and hope that what we are building is enough. Maybe it is for some; maybe it isn’t for others.

Whatever the case, I don’t think anyone can just arbitrarily make the decision about what falls within ma’at and what falls within isfet.

Now, more than ever, it’s become clear that the definition of ma’at is a communal effort. The problem, I think, would be that our list of definitions are too infinitely finite. They narrow the bandwidth on a broad road and forget to take into consideration the social context of our modern-day lives, the shades of gray that we live in day-to-day along with the shades of gray that is very clearly within the realm of ma’at.

What could be someone being a dick to one may not necessarily jive with someone else’s definition. What could be a perceived failing in giving stuff to the gods could simply be a misunderstanding based on posts reblogged a hundred times while the private stuff is kept quietly back or never makes it to the public. What could be seen as a heavy-handed reaction could in fact be a deeper problem within the community.

It is our job to band together and determine those things together, not to listen to a few souls who are louder or are reblogged more than most. It is our job to make determinations as a group, not listening to the people shouting down.

This is a group effort. And that means communicating on both individual and group levels, communicating with people who may take issue with you or may make you feel dumb for existing, and communicating what it is to be a part of the community at large and what you would like to see as it grows.

Thus, the model person is not the warrior or even priest, but the gentle person who serves and is responsible. – p 38, Ma’at the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt by Dr. Maulana Karenga

Relevant Posts

  1. Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Live in Ma’at I
  2. Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Live in Ma’at II
  3. Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Finding Balance
  4. Life is Orthopraxic

The Day of the Executioners of Sekhmet 2015.

May 3, 2015.

One of the things that we need to take into consideration when we start celebrating holidays, besides what in the world the holiday is about, is also how much energy and intent you can put into the holiday. I have many holidays that pop up little notifications on my Google calendar, but I only celebrate about 10% of those holidays. I have more willingness and gusto to celebrate holidays associated with Sekhmet, of course, because that is part of our pact regarding our relationship. But there are often many celebrations that I would like to take part in or at least attempt to figure out what they could be about but due to spoon shortages, I end up watching them float by.

As anyone knows after reading my last post, I am currently going through a serious dearth of spoons. I am very lucky if I can get up the energy to get up in the morning and even more lucky if I do not fall asleep before 8PM. It has been a constant struggle for months to keep myself awake long enough to eat dinner, never mind the idea of researching and/or celebrating holidays. Weekend holidays are easier, of course, because I have less stress and more time. However less stress and more time doesn’t necessarily equate to more spoons – it just means that I can think longer and harder about whether or not I have the wherewithal to celebrate something.

I will be honest – I have had a severe push to observe (for the first time) the Feast of the Beautiful Reunion. Since that is going to be a two week long production (maybe), I have been saving my spoons. But I saw this holiday pop up on my calendar a few days ago and realized that I should probably do the thing. If nothing else, I could at least ponder what it could possibly mean to me.

The issue with this holiday is that, like Sekhmet’s Procession with her Executioners, I didn’t know who the executioners were supposed to symbolize. As with that holiday which I first celebrated last year, I had to think long and hard regarding who was going to do some processing. Last year, I thought about it from a number of different angles and ended up just assuming that it was a catch-all term that could represent followers of hers, the netjeri that do her bidding, the Seven Arrows, and possibly priests from antiquity.

I decided that, this time around, I was going to make it about me. As I said in my 2014 post about that holiday:

I tend to think of myself, and the other Sekhmet devotees, as executioners. In many instances, we turn to her out of a deep-seated need for removing harmful influences in our lives. … And what I’ve come back to is that she has always, always helped me out with “executing” the more negative aspects of myself, my practice, and my past. In every instance, whether she has been publicly and obviously assisting me with it or she has been maneuvering in the background, she has assisted me with this in one way or another.

Not to mention that self-care is important. I don’t make it a top tier priority, though I recognize that I should. The thing that caught up to me though was that there are plenty of national and secular holidays that are celebrated and there are numerous people throughout the country who use those holidays with the idea that they were going to relax. Well… why not this particular holiday for me, as a child of Sekhmet, as an executioner of Sekhmet?

I took it in turns.

I smited some isfet by putting all of the paperwork away. One may not think that official paperwork should or could be equated with isfet but it is in my household. I let the paperwork sit for a good few weeks on the table before I have the stamina to go through it. If I go through it too quickly, I have a panic attack and my anxiety starts acting up. So by putting that paperwork away, I was concluding that the important bits had been addressed and that everything else could be filed away for burningfuture reference.

I then sat for a very long time engrossed in my recent binge watching of Lost.

I execrated the hell out of the dust in the living room, the crumbs on my son’s floor, the weekly detritus on the kitchen table. The SO helped out by smiting the fuck out of the dirty dishes and then execrating the grocery shopping list. I finished it all with a rousing bitch slap to the dirty laundry, putting a sizable dent in the pile.

When you couch your usual weekly chores in terms like that, it almost sounds like you’re really making a difference, you know? I mean, I don’t know if equating the dust and laundry to something execratable would really work for someone else, but by putting myself in that mindset, I was more likely to want to find the spoons in order to achieve the goal. It was like by telling myself that this was for the good of the totality of all of creation, then it meant more than just me being a lazy sack of spoonless shit who couldn’t get up long enough to put a dirty bowl in the sink. (For reference, I do actually put the dirty bowls in the sink. In fact, there are many days where I’m almost positive that I am the only one in this house who can do that, but you get the point.)

We bleed stars onto the world And weep flames upon the universe

We bleed stars onto the world
And weep flames upon the universe

After yet more binge watching, I ended up cleaning of Sekhmet’s altar. This was about her executioner (me) so I might as well celebrate myself and her at the same time by cleaning everything up. I re-arranged the plate-bowlplace of truth, made sure that the stuffed animal representative of Maurice was in snuggling distance on the couch (one day, I may talk about this in depth but today is not that day), and then went about rearranging everything to my satisfaction. Sekhmet and I shared a nice little cup of vanilla Svedka mixed in with life blooddiet Coke and a huge fucking roll… that I used to make a ham sandwich on after. I kept the star confetti because it still has a large importance personally with regard to the things I have been going through as well as my personal practice as a whole. (No, this is not me finally admitting that Nut is around for keeps.)

I spent the few days leading up to this holiday wondering what I was going to do in order to celebrate it. I spend a lot of days, actually, when it comes to my holidays attempting to determine what the best course of action will be. I will admit that I never actually know until the day is upon me, though I do tend to have some ideas.

I don’t know if I did this recreated holiday any justice, but I can say that it was relaxing.


Typically, when it comes to Sekhmet, there isn’t too much discussion going on. It’s not that people don’t want to discuss her, but I think that since there doesn’t seem to be much mythology outside of the Destruction of Mankind myth, people don’t seem interested in engaging. This upsets me a bit because I have a lot of thoughts regarding Sekhmet (of course) and I want to talk about it. I have a project planned for this year about her various aspects that I’ve come into contact with, but before I get started on that, I think I need to talk about the syncretism of Sekhmet-Min.

Now, anyone who hasn’t been following me on Tumblr or seen my comments about it on my personal Facebook may not be aware of this. And that actually makes sense because it doesn’t seem as though this particular syncretism bares more than a footnote or three in the books. Another reason it’s not so common knowledge is because there appears to be a large debate within the Egyptological community with regard to whether a Sekhmet and Min syncretism even existed.

Let me give you some background before I start talking about how I see and feel regarding this.

This all started, actually, when I found this post and was like, “what the hell is this?” The Tumblr user, intaier, posted another version of this image and tagged me in it so I could see the image more clearly as the original post had cropped out something important: the phallus. I took to Google, of course, to try and figure out what was happening because I couldn’t understand the lack of second arm and I had never seen Sekhmet with a phallus before. It was through Devo and another Tumblr user that I was made aware that imagery depicted thus is usually related to Min in some way. And of course, I found multiple images on Flickr which named this image as “Sekhmet-Min.”

I was completely floored. I had never heard of this syncretism before and I wanted to know more. Google searches for “Sekhmet-Min” came up with nothing besides those Flickr accounts, though. In my off time, I began looking for “ithyphallic Sekhmet.” I found two blog posts on LJ (here and here), which seemed to indicate the images were Mut. However, I found a few books through Google that mention ithyphallic Sekhmet. I decided to leave it alone for a while so I could mull this all over.

I also looked briefly into Min and found this quote: “While earlier generations of scholars inferred from Min’s erect penis that his principal function was fertility, it has recently been argued that Min’s upraised arm and erect penis are, in fact, both manifestations of his protective function, a form of display known as ‘phallic intimidation’ (Ogdon 1985).” All very interesting but I didn’t have anything definitive. While I mulled on it, I began to recognize that it would make a certain kind of sense for Sekhmet to have been syncretized with Min. But I left it at that because I didn’t really understand why it seemed “right” to me to have this syncretism.

A few days later, intaier posted this image where she clearly designates it as Mut. I came back and was like, “No, no. This was the Sekhmet-Min we talked about a few days ago.” And since then, things have rather degenerated. I wouldn’t call it a debate or anything because it’s not actually a debate.

However, people have weighed in with their opinions that the Egyptologists know what they’re talking about so if they call the image Mut, then so be it. I came back with evidence of Egyptologists who had named the syncretism as Sekhmet-Min. Based on my brief Twitter back and forth with Tamara (of KO fame), it would seem that there is no popular consensus within the Egyptological community on the status of these ithyphallic leonine deities. I left it alone until I was tagged again in another picture of the ithyphallic leonine deity, which seemed to indicate (again) that this was a “unique” representation of Mut (based on a quote from Te Velde in Mut and Other Ancient Egyptian Goddesses that intaier provided).

By this time, I was kind of tired of the conversation. I will admit that I am still very tired of the conversation, but I feel the need to put everything in a single place.

And Egyptologists like Budge used to think this way… and look where they’ve ended up.

It feels to me that we’re getting stuck on the prospect that this ithyphallic image is Mut because a bunch of people who may be wrong (because let’s face it, there’s always the possibility of discovering something new that will force Egyptologists to reevaluate their knowledge) said so. And while I definitely tell people that those sources are pretty fucking good to have, I also don’t want us to get stuck in a particular mindset when there is still, clearly, a lot of things that we simply don’t know.

To be perfectly frank, I honestly feel like my thoughts on the subject are being completely ignored in the face of statements made by Egyptologists. I think we’re falling into some mistaken belief that what the Egyptologists say on any given matter is holy writ and that’s something that we definitely need to steer clear from, especially as it pertains to our personal relationships with the gods. “But, Sat,” someone will say, “that’s blasphemy to the historically informed!”

But is it?

How many times have either I or TTR gone off about how Budge should not be used or cited as a resource? His translations have been proved to be inaccurate; he wrote entirely through the lens of a conservative Protestantism in order to garner more funds; he ignored his German contemporaries’ advances in the field; etc. As a resource, he is persona non grata.

Egyptology has come a long way, but there are still issues within the Egyptological community. While reading the problematically titled book, Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts, Jeremy Naydler highlights many of these issues. For the most part, the author goes on and on for many, many pages about how the Egyptological community seems hell-bent on maintaining the belief that the ancient Egyptians were a “practical” people, denying any possibility of mysticism within their religious realm, in a seeming need to distance themselves as much as humanly possible from the poor pseudoscience that infiltrated Egyptological circles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

All well and good – let’s absolutely distance ourselves from malarkey. But from a Kemetic standpoint, this leaves the resources we value so highly devoid of feeling and devoid of what I would like to see: a representation of my religion as it was when it was lived and breathed in its heyday.

But let’s look at this argument as logically as possible.

Let’s start off with the two images’ locations (I’m sorry, but I cannot find the image from the Hibis Temple so I cannot, in all honesty say, how closely related the images are).

Ramsses III censing before a form of Sekhmet-Min

“Image by Hannah Pethen, via Flickr”

The first image we have is the unnamed deity in the Temple of Khonsu at Karnak. Based on my research, this image appears to have been commissioned for Ramesses IV during the New Kingdom. (Based off of this website; translation will be needed.) This would lead me to suspect that the imagery used is Mut, who rose to prominence as the consort of Amun-Re at the spiritual capital of the country, Thebes, during this time period. The fact that the image is found in a temple dedicated to Khonsu, the son of Mut and her consort, Amun-Re, would also lead anyone worth their weight to believe that this is Mut.

However, it is during this period that we see Mut absorbing and usurping aspects of well-known and well-established leonine deities, specifically in this case, Sekhmet. The syncretism makes a lot of sense from various different points of view, but to look at it based on these quotes I think will better assist us here.

The first quote discusses how it was the first name in the syncretism that provided the deity with a physical form to inhabit but it was the secondary name that indicates who the deity actually is supposed to be. The second quote discusses how the gods had limitations and, in order to breach those limitations, syncretism was necessary. Looking at these statements together with regarding to the syncretism of Sekhmet-Mut, we see that the bodily form is that of Sekhmet, I.E. a lioness, where it is the motherly aspect of Mut that provides the power.

The reason I mention this is because prior to Mut’s syncretism of Sekhmet, her bodily form was that of a human woman wearing the double crown and/or the vulture headdress. We see many images of Mut in this way, but it is only when she comes into contact with Sekhmet (and Bast, evidently, according to my research) that we see her as a lioness. This particularly syncretism seems to have been of particular importance during the time that the Khonsu temple image was commissioned…

And that leads me to suspect that it may not specifically be Sekhmet who is syncretized with Min here, but it is a sort of conglomerate Sekhmet-Mut mixed with Min. Taking the leonine features of the face mixed with the bodily form of Min, we have two deities known for protective functions (“…it has recently been argued that Min’s upraised arm and erect penis are, in fact, both manifestations of his protective function…” as quoted fully above) merged into a unified composite. If we add Mut into the mix here, it’s only to denote that she has protective features and as the mother of Khonsu… who has every right to be in a temple dedicated to her son.

But again, in looking at the image, I don’t see anything that would herald that this is Mut in any way. Just because the two had a syncretism doesn’t necessarily negate the fact that Sekhmet may have become of import within the temple precincts in her own right. Based on my understanding of syncretism as indicated by the two quotes linked to above, I have to wonder if we’re missing integral information (clearly, we are) regarding this syncretism and how Sekhmet came to play a role within the cult worship of Mut.

Now let’s look at the Hibis Temple. This temple was built in the Late Period by the Persian pharaohs. By this time, the flower of the religious institutions that we see so well in the earlier periods had reached heyday status. Based on my brief look into this temple, it was built for the purpose of honoring the Theban Triad. This would explain why the ithyphallic leonine deity is clearly designated as Mut-A’at or Mut the Great.

However, this doesn’t actually negate the possibility that this image is, as with my thoughts on the Karnak temple above, Sekhmet. As Pinch states in Egyptian Mythology: “From the New Kingdom onward, Sekhmet was mainly thought of as the aggressive aspect of greater goddesses: first of Hathor, then of Mut, and finally of Isis.” (Bolding mine.) My point being that Sekhmet had stopped, in a manner of speaking, being a goddess in her own right and was seen as merely a part of –insert goddess here–. (What a terrible idea!)

While I don’t know what functions she may have served in her own right by that point, this only seems to indicate that the leonine deities seen at both the Khonsu Temple and the Hibis Temple are, in fact, linked (heavily) to Sekhmet. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any images available online of the ithyphallic deity known as Mut-A’at, but if it bears any resemblance to the image at Karnak, then I have to assert that – as based on my arguments above regarding syncretism and how I see it – that, named otherwise or not at all, this is Sekhmet-Min.

Seeing that my opinion on the subject has been ignored and any points I may have made also have been ignored, I’m going to finish this off with a few further thoughts.

My issue with the ongoing “debate” is that it takes away from the point behind the images. Syncretism is all about inferring powers from one deity to another, a deity who does not have the abilities they require in order to complete a function. Sekhmet is a powerful and protective deity, but Min’s associations seem primarily with regard to fertility… or at least, some of his functions are about that. If we are basing this syncretism on the idea of fertility and creation, then I think it means that Sekhmet, and therefore Mut, had self-creation aspects that we need to look into.

It was this aspect that Ramesses IV was incensing and libating on the Karnak wall. It wasn’t Sekhmet by herself. It wasn’t Mut by herself. It was an ithyphallic representation of Sekhmet (and therefore, Mut, as based on the wonkiness of syncretism especially from that time period) that he was standing before. It was something about this syncretism that he felt the need to honor. Why? What is it about this particular syncretism that required that it be placed on the temple wall? Was it because he wanted to be able to self-create and was hoping that they would give him this ability? Was it just to make people, down the road, question what the fuck is happening in this scene? Was it some ancient scribe’s joke to the modern world, “haha, fuckers; good luck figuring out what this is about” and we’re all taken in by it?

These are the questions that we need to ask ourselves as devotees of Sekhmet. Why in the fuck did this representation end up on the wall? But more importantly, how does it impact us? We should stop worrying in some respects about what the scholars say and worry more about what our religion tells us. I fully plan on exploring how this impacts me and my relationship with Sekhmet (if at all) in the future and I invited everyone who has a relationship with her to do the same.

Sekhmet’s Procession with Her Executioners 2015.

January 9, 2015.

About six months ago, I started feeling as if I needed to add the Seven Arrows of Sekhmet into my practice somehow. They’re kind of important pieces of her that I’ve only recently paid any great attention to. I figured I would get around to do something altar related to add them in at some point in future.

Queue in to about a week ago when I was like, “I’m going to do it now.” I went out to a local shop and purchased four bronze arrow pendants. I have every intention of going back out for three more when the store restocks. Coincidence abounded when I received the notification that yesterday was the holiday, “Sekhmet’s Procession with Her Executioners.” Coincidence: the landmark of any devotee’s practice.

Last year, I sat around for a while and tried to figure out how I wanted to go about celebrating this particular festival. While last year’s festivities got the job done, I wanted to do something a little different. My holiday celebrations have been rather boring lately: a meal, some words, candle and incense. While this clearly is effective (since I haven’t been told to stop being a lazy bum about this shit), I wanted something more. Perhaps that stems more from three weeks of leading a very sedentary lifestyle while in arm prison or perhaps it was just simply time to hearken back to my “I’m going to have some fucking fun while doing this shit” mentality. In either case, I decided paper and food wasn’t enough this time.

All right. It looks like a collar or something, but it was what I managed.

All right. It looks like a collar or something, but it’s what I managed.

So, I worked for about an hour on how to get the arrow pendants in a sort of circlet that I wanted to fasten around my icon’s neck. Let me tell you that it was a fucking pain in the ass and I really need to come up with a better idea here. I chose silken cord that I had lying around and was unsuccessful in that attempt because the holes on the arrow pendants is really fucking tiny. My cord wouldn’t thread through it. I even had the SO try threading them for me and he handed it back with, “nope, it can’t be done,” after assuring me that he could do it.

I looked around my crafting stores, trying to figure out what the fuck I wanted to do. I knew I had wanted to purchase wire or something to hold the fucking pendants, but I figured it could wait until I had all seven. I finally found some really thin white ribbon I had lying around… and it took me about 45 minutes to thread the fucking shit through. I actually ended up unraveling one end of the white ribbon at one point. I was getting really fucking frustrated, but I kept on until I had a serviceable end result. I was even able to slide if over the head of my icon without causing any damage to myself, the arrows, or the icon in question.

That’s when I sat around and tried to figure out how I wanted this procession to go about. In 2013, I celebrated this particular festival (without knowing its full name) with a sort of Roaming Gnome impression that I found both fun, funky, and exciting. With this devious plan forming in my mind, I decided to go for broke and process Sekhmet with her SevenFour Arrow necklace around the house. I took photographic evidence to show that I’m not full of shit.

Jealous bitches? Who goes on walkabout? ME.

Jealous bitches? Who goes on walkabout? ME.

There is no TV; there is only ME.

There is no TV; there is only ME.

I have no fucking idea what the hell this is.

I have no fucking idea what the hell this is.

Books. Aw, yiss.

Books. Aw, yiss.

This room is filthy.

This room is filthy.

That looks like some damn fine eats. Let's get on with this, shall we?

That looks like some damn fine eats. Let’s get on with this, shall we?

















After all of the processing was done, I put her with her necklace-of-sorts back to rights at her altar space. I ensured that it was cleaned and looking pretty dapper with all of the damn things she manages to accrue each month. (But no, seriously, I clean that fucker off every damn month and every time I go back over there to do a full on fucking clean, there’s some shit all over the place. Like, I really don’t even know how the hell this happens because I’m pretty sure I have it in my head to not add things to her altar space and yet… every month, I pare the thing down.)

That's what I'm talking about.

That’s what I’m talking about.

I added the four pieces of paper I had created last year in a sort of pattern that came out to look like an “A.” That was not done on purpose, I can assure you, but I giggled like an idiot when I realized what I had done and left it. “A” is not only just for awesome (as in awesome fucking holiday celebration; you go with your bad self) but “A” is also for Aubs, who is awesome. It was a total win-win. You may note that you only see three pieces of paper in the image, but that’s because I don’t feel comfortable announcing the names of the Sekhmet devotees I listed on the fourth piece of paper. That piece is hiding beneath the red arrow paper.

Once I was over my giggle fit, I cut two honking pieces of bread and popped it down in front of her. “Manger,” I said like my mother used to do when I was a kid. I then demanded that the SO make me a diet Coke and vodka, which devolved into a conversation that I feel best describes his stance on my religion and my point-of-view regarding offerings:

Me: Make me a diet Coke and vodka please.
SO: Is this for you or for your Roaming Lion?
Me: Lioness. And it’s for me.
SO: What if she gets thirsty, though?
Me: That shit is mine. She had better zoom in quick for a gulp before I get that shit in my hand.
SO: *shrugs* Whatever you say.

I recognize that how I go about my holiday celebrations isn’t really what others would think when they ponder the “inherent seriousness” within one’s religion. However, I can assure you that I take my love, my job, and my religion very seriously. I just don’t know why we all have to be boring fucks who sit around, thinking about the meaning of life in the cultural and religious contexts of our lives and religions, when we could all be doing Roaming Gnome impressions with our statuary. I mean, shit man. If religion means being a douche and feeling holier-than-thou, I’d rather build with blocks and take pictures of my gods traveling around my house.

I spent the rest of my night watching really awful horror movies, pounding down my straw-laden alcohol, and listening to Timber by Pitbull, feat Kesha. (No, I did not dance but that was because I was drinking my alcohol really fast and didn’t trust my feet. I had a severe case of the giggles, though.) That, to me, is a better ending to any religious holiday I have ever celebrated in my life.

And either that says something about my religious upbringing or says something about how I’m so fucking jettisoning that boring as fuck mentality about being a pious devotee.

Related Posts

The Day of Answering All of Sekhmet’s Words 2014.

Alternate Title: Look at Your Life; Look at Your Choices.

As usual, I had no idea what the point in this celebration is supposed to be. What kind of words should I be answering? Are they good words or bad words? Is there are a lot of cursing alongside those words or is this all clean language? Are they words or are they Words? Is there a little of heka threaded through those words? Maybe there’s absolutely no heka involved, though; or maybe even the whole thing is related to heka in some form or another and I have to answer them? That’s really just the age-old problem with recreating a dead religion, though. You don’t know what the fuck you’re doing nine times out of ten, so you slap-dash some shit together, call it a day, and hope for the best.

So, I went into this celebration having no fucking clue what I was supposed to be doing. As the days clicked by one by one on my calendar, I found myself beginning to worry about what the hell I was expected to answer for. I mean, I’m kind of a jerk. And I do whatever the fuck I want to do. And maybe, perhaps, just maybe, I’m not a really good devotee. Fuck. The anxiety about what the hell this holiday was for began to seriously mount up. Each day dawned with me having no fucking idea what the hell I was answering for or about. It was made even worse when someone else mentioned that the times they had celebrated this particular festival, they had been called to the carpet.


My anxiety was really beginning to spiral out of control. I would find myself staring off into space, trying to envision what I could expect.

I decided that worrying about it, though, wasn’t going to get me anywhere. I mean, worrying about something is all well and good for people with anxiety (like me), but it doesn’t actively accomplish anything. Luckily, work kind of took off around that point and it was an all hands on deck situation. I kind of had the mindset that since there was nothing I could do to fix whatever words I had to answer for, then I may as well just fucking take whatever gets thrown at me. I mean, to be honest, if I was a fucking bad devotee, then by fucking golly, I was going to be a bad fucking devotee. There was absolutely nothing I could do about it. It was stupid to believe that I could have possibly have fixed all of my fuck ups in a matter of weeks. So, I shrugged it off, wiped my hands clean, and waited for the big day to appear.

I’ll admit that I had butterflies when I woke up that morning.

The day in question dawned icy and chilly. (What do you expect in early December in Massachusetts?) A lovely sheen of ice had coated the entirety of the world outside during the overnight. It was so thoroughly covered that people everywhere went skidding the moment they stepped outside. My coworker destroyed a pair of shoes when she stepped out on her front porch that morning, sliding down her porch and into the yard. My landlord’s truck went rolling down his driveway – a giant hill – after he put it into park because of the layer of ice. I was just one of many who went down and just one of hundreds who “luckily” damaged a bone in offering to the unforgiving Winter Gods. Or, perhaps the god in question was a certain temperamental Irt-Re I know and love? My first thought when I wasn’t freaked from all of the damn pain was: Well, this is certainly timely.

I spent about half of my day at work. I had no idea that I had damaged anything significant. Honestly, when I went down initially – besides being embarrassed that my ass went skidding down the fucking driveway – it kind of felt like I had hit my “funny bone.” You know the one. The bone in your elbow that when you hit it just right, it really fucking hurts and everyone says about how totally not funny it is to hit your funny bone. Yeah, that’s the one. It felt like that only a lot worse. So, I went to work since I was able to move the arm (any poor person’s self-analysis after taking a tumble).The pain intensified, though and about halfway through the day, I told my boss that it felt like my arm bone was on fire so I was leaving for the hospital. I spent the rest of the afternoon and a good portion of my evening at the ER, getting X-rayed, being told it couldn’t be “too bad” since I was carrying a 1 pound (or less) purse in my injured arm’s hand, and just generally being miserable. All other worries and thoughts were gone in the aftermath. When I was medicated and splinted, I considered the circumstances again. Was this a sign?

Divination was all I had to figure this shit out and I couldn’t even shuffle a deck since my arm was all bound the fuck up. I ended up using one of many apps on my phone; all signs pointed to me being a big, dumb, fucking idiot. I could have salted the back steps and the driveway before stepping outside. I had noticed the ice coating on the car and on the railing and on the recycle bin. But I had decided it didn’t look “too bad,” even after being warned by a few people on Facebook that it was much worse than it looked. As I told the SO later, this whole fucking experience was best summed up as: “look at your life; look at your choices.”

With that phrase echoing in my head, it occurred to me that I may have discovered what the fuck that damn holiday was all about.

I got tossed in a fiber glass prison two days after the holiday. My sentence was for three weeks. The radial elbow was only “a little fractured.” (Side note: that was actually a phrase the doctor at the ER used when describing the fracture. When he said that, I just wanted to walk the fuck out of the ER and go to a better one. What fucking doctor uses that phrase? I mean, why not tell a woman she’s only a “little bit pregnant.”) I got nearly a month of time to do nothing except to look at my choices, to look at my life. Oh, so very much joy.

You know what, though? I found a lot of interesting things in those three weeks. I found out things about myself, which was pretty important. Before the three weeks, I felt very much as if the person looking back at me in the mirror was a complete stranger. I often found myself wondering when I had decided that this was going to be who I had become all those years before. I found out things about what I wanted out to my life, what I wanted to do with that life, and how I wanted to approach things. I learned things about my shadow work, things about my religion, about my family, and everywhere in between. At the heart of every facet that I looked over, I found a single overarching theme throughout. That was kind of disconcerting; I hadn’t expected to find a pattern: impatience.

I am an impatient person. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I really fucking am an impatient person. I can teach people things, but if someone doesn’t get it after three or four times, then I grow impatient with their learning process. I end up doing it myself, even in the teaching, because of that impatience. (Let me tell you, this is very difficult for me as the parent of a child in elementary school. This is also a problem for the SO.) People taking dictation from me had better be able to write 95WPM (like me) otherwise, they’re too damn fucking slow. People who are only going 10MPH over the speed limit are the slowest fucking assholes and need to get the fuck out of my way. Honestly, the circumstances are immaterial. Trust me when I say that I am impatient and many of my choices over the years are based on that impatience whether I realized it at the time or not.

Do you want to know how hard it is to do anything with one warm, even a subordinate arm (my left arm was the one I went down on), stuck in a fucking cast? I hope many of you are saying that you don’t know how difficult it is. For those who don’t know, let me assure you that doing anything with a cast is enough to take many of your spoons allotted for the day. Now imagine who hard this all must be for someone who is headstrong, independent, and impatient. Yes, those three weeks were really difficult. I whined a lot.

But as much whining as I did because the SO had to wash my ass-length hair (and had absolutely no fucking experience with how to wash really fucking long hair), I also spent much time being introspective. Through all of the whining about how I couldn’t read any of my fiction books because they’re all mass market paperbacks and I couldn’t fucking hold them up for long periods of time, through all the nights I spent staring at the television screen in disgust because I couldn’t fucking type a damn thing on my computer, for all of the fucking moments where I woke up in the middle of the night because the weight of the cast on my fingertips had put them to sleep, I was spending a good deal of time inside of my head and thinking about my own impatience. I chose primarily to focus all of that inside-me on the not-so-painful but after a while, with nothing else to do, even the most painful and taboo subjects got glanced over, worked on.

Again and again and again, I kept seeing the same old warning sign: impatience ahead.

I’ll use an example to illustrate my point.

Just before Thanksgiving, I had a pressing need to destroy a bond that did me no favors in the keeping. I arbitrarily decided everything had to be gone, that I had to get rid of this bond by year’s end. I had plans (which I hope to detail in a further post because I plan on seeing this shit through) and nothing was going to stop me! The thing is that there is no arbitrary time frames for removing sickly bongs. It’s a slow process if done properly. I know that consciously, but nope. I had to take between four to six weeks to clear it all out. By rushing it, I was playing with fire, honestly, and quite possibly could have made things a lot worse on myself. And as I am hurtling on my head-long way towards disaster, or possible disaster, I fractured my fucking elbow. This made doing any of the writing and any of the heka that I had planned for this batch of shadow work impossible. So, I back burnered the whole damn project until I had the time, the ability, and the wherewithal to complete it properly.

While waiting the eternity (three weeks in real time, but legitimately, time is fucking relative and it fucking felt like 20 weeks to me) for the cast to come off, the urgency that I had felt about getting the shadow work done… Well, it faded. I took up doing other aspects of that working instead. There were items that I was leaving out and items that I needed to address as well, but I thought I could just do everything in six weeks with no problems. By slowing down and taking the time to see to other items internally, I was able to feel stronger as I slowly shed the bonds in both mind and body. Since I took up those other aspects that I had been ignoring, I found the whole process to go much more smoothly over all.

In looking back through my other shadow work adventures, there are two themes throughout: “I don’t want to” and “get it done now.” I wasn’t actually mandated to remove this bond as I had been at other times and in other circumstances. This was all my own idea (for once). And yet, I went into it with this sense of urgency that it had to be done before some “important date” and for what purpose? The only answer, of course, is that I was listening to my own internalized impatience.

Throughout the three weeks that I was encased in my fiber glass prison, I slowed down. I stopped rushing head long into pain filled waters, arbitrary cut offs, and instead, took the time to sight-see. I revised myself without that red hot impatience. I found it possible to breathe easily for once. And you know, I actually took a look around myself for the first time in ages. I don’t know if that qualifies as what people would call “stopping to smell the roses,” but it kind of felt like that was what I was doing. What I do know is that I feel a lot lighter. I don’t know how else to describe it, honestly. It’s just as if the millstone that had been attached to my neck was finally removed.

I looked at my life.

I looked at my choices.

I found things I wasn’t pleased with and I began the learning curve on how to cut that shit out.

I can’t say, conclusively, if this is what the festival is supposed to be about. I honestly doubt that this is how the ancients went about celebrating it. But, it doesn’t really matter. I’m only recreating a dead religion, after all.

Kemetic Round Table: The Afterlife

Coming face-to-face with your own mortality can be hard to handle. I know this myself; just recently, I sat down with a life insurance salesperson and talked numbers. The whole experience was terrifying and not just because I was being forced to put a price on what the hell my life should pay out for should something happen to me. But it was also terrifying because I had to answer questions like, “what will your family do if something unexpected happens to you?” It really puts into perspective that quote by Benjamin Franklin: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

A need to bury the dead goes back pretty far in history. Scientists have reported that Homo neanderthalensis practiced burial culture. Undisputed burial customs for Homo sapiens go back at least 100,000 years. The experts seem to say that the fact that the ancient bipeds of our past buried their dead means that they had a concern for the dead, which is partially why grave goods were a thing, too. I don’t know about all of that, but I can kind of understand, especially in connection with my own recent reminder about my own mortality, why people would feel a need to provide creature comforts to the dead.

When I was an atheist, I was pretty sure the whole point in religion was so that people had something firm to believe in for that moment when they absolutely had to come to grips with the fact that, at the end of it all, they were going to die. That moment of facing your own mortality can really sneak up on you and punch you in the face with a tin can, in case you weren’t aware. So, I understood it all from that perspective. People needed something bigger to focus on in the hopes that there was something that happened after The Moment, not just for themselves but for all the people who had gone on before them. I got it, but back then, it just wasn’t for me.

It’s almost ironic now that the religion I’ve turned to and practice has a firm, strong basis in afterlife mythos and beliefs. It’s almost like I needed to go the complete polar opposite of how it was when I was an atheist. From the unsettling desire to want more as an atheist – thus the disturbing tenacious need to cling to something like reincarnation – to the full-blooded beliefs of the ancient Egyptians. I guess, one might say, I don’t really do anything half-assed.


Afterlife by Cristiano Pelagracci

The ancient Egyptian civilization lasted for over three thousand years. In that time, the beliefs in the afterlife changed and morphed. What we’re often taught in school is a bastardization of the rich beliefs. Teachers can’t even begin to touch the whole of it – three thousand years of belief on a specific subject in a single class? Hell, people go to college for the stuff and they can’t possibly learn the whole of it. I’m going to try and be as succinct as possible here, but I’ll admit that I have a thing for rambling about stuff and tangents may happen.

The ancient Egyptian beliefs in the afterlife get their start pretty early. Most Egyptologists will tell you that it stems from some high roller accidentally finding a body that naturally mummified in the dry climate of the desert after a burial. Maybe – I mean, who really knows? Jackals, specifically, are known to have scavenged around the necropoles that arose out of a need to bury the dead. Experts will tell you that this is why Anup has a jackal head. Maybe – again, who actually knows?

The point being that the reason why the ancient Egyptians went with what they did for their afterlife beliefs is never going to be known. We’ll have suppositions and theories, of course, because that’s kind of what we do. But we’ll never officially know what it was that made them go, “yeah, man. Let’s mummify this guy in some salt and then have a big jackal-faced guy stand guard while we do that!” For all we know, they got the idea because someone had a dream once and it just kind of stuck.

The earliest burials were conducted with who knows how much ceremony – they have one thing in common though, the people were buried with a single pot. We don’t know what the pot was for although popular theories tend to hold that this was a holding vase for food. During later Pre-Dynastic times, the people continued to be buried with a single vase or pot, but the burials grew. Bodies were arranged to face either east or west and in either a crouched or fetal position. The grave goods grew more elaborate with painted imagery on the pots and personal items, such as weapons for men and cosmetic palettes for women, joined the originally very limited burial customs.

The difference between the poor and the rich began to gain momentum even so far back as then. It wasn’t until the Early Dynastic period, though, when people began to have brick-lined tombs. Of course, these tombs lasted until modern Egyptologists could excavate them while those of the poor are lost to us. We have a million different little clues – many of which make no sense to us now – about how the rich and royals were buried. Chances are the beliefs held across the board and a desire to be taken care of after death was just as important as it was for those who could afford a better tomb.

The ancient Egyptian beliefs in the afterlife during the Old Kingdom culminated in the Pyramid Texts and the royal necropoles that litter the landscape: Saqqara, Abusir, Dahshur and Giza being the most well-known. The zenith in all of this belief was the protection and resurrection of the pharaoh to ascend into the heavens. The Duat, as we’ve come to know it, wasn’t fully developed by this point. It was the transcendence from human to star that the pharaoh was aiming for. I often wonder if the lay people wanted to become a star, too, but because of the whole poor be poor and rich be rich thing the ancient Egyptians had going on, they were barred from the practice.

The belief in the afterlife morphed throughout the First Intermediate period. I suspect that the fragmentation of the country and the different factions that arose are the reason why the more common people were allowed access to an afterlife. Since it had become clear with the collapse of the Old Kingdom, anyone who was powerful enough and edgy enough could make a name for themselves. The world of the ancient Egyptians had been built upon the principle that the pharaoh was a god on earth. But the people had to admit that it was possible to fell a good and the politico-religious world that they had crafted.

The Coffin Texts began to show up around the First Intermediate Period. They began as an offshoot of the Pyramid Texts. The difference being that everyday wants and desires were added to the lists, which seems to reflect the commoners were using them as well. The afterlife was no longer a royal monopoly, but open to anyone who had enough wealth to secure a good artist and a coffin.

It is during the Middle Kingdom that the Book of Two Ways gets its beginnings. This book starts to give the geographical details regarding the Duat. This original book insinuated that the Duat was made up of seven gates (which would later be changed to twelve during the New Kingdom) with each gate being guarded by a serpent and two deities. To name each correctly was to allow the deceased passage through to the next gate. The “two ways” seems to indicate that there were two ways to pass through the Duat on the deceased’s way to Rosetjau and the home of Wesir: one by land and one by sea.

This theme is fully explored throughout the New Kingdom. It is from the New Kingdom that we are mostly taught about the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians’ afterlife. This is where you hear about the Book of the Dead, the Book of Gates, the Book of Caverns, and the Amduat. As long as the person had enough money to pass on to a scribe, they would be guaranteed the correct spells and incantations to pass through the Duat. Only now, instead of just leading towards the abode of Wesir, we have the Field of Offerings, the Field of Reeds, and of course, the ever present judgment chamber where the heart is weighed against the feather of truth.

But all of this is about the soul, to be honest. It was the soul that was important here. The body was going to end up being taken care of by priests with offerings in abundance and temples, or it wasn’t. The body was going to end up, inevitably, forgotten in the sands of time. The body part was pretty fucking important but it wasn’t necessary so long as the memory withstood and there were adequate representations of the deceased for them to inhabit. How they buried the dead tells a lot about them, but it’s the fracturing of the soul after death that is the most important.

The soul fragmented itself after death into eight parts: the body (khat), the mummy (sah), the heart (ib), the name (ren), the ka (ka), the ba (ba), the shadow (shut), and the akh (akh/akhu). Each part was fundamental to the greater good of the resurrection: the body, or a close approximation, was needed in order to perform the magical rites of mummification. It was these two fundamentals that were the first steps which led the deceased on the roller coaster that would lead them through the Duat and into their resurrection.

The ib was the essence of the life of the deceased. It was considered to be the power house for the mind and the seat of one’s emotions. The ib was necessary so that the records of all of the good deeds and bad deeds that the deceased had committed could be written in the Hall of Records and the gods could weigh it against the feather of Ma’at.

The ren was the part that needed to be spoken in order to keep the memory alive. To write one’s name in stone was to give it permanence, which is why the ancient Egyptians would hack out names for those that were deemed in need of punishment.

The ka was the part that seems to have been most like the soul as we know it today. It came into being at the birth of a person and it was the ka that required nourishment. The ka according to the ancient Egyptians was immortal. This is the part of the person that I tend to associate with my belief in reincarnation, but that’s UPG of course.

We don’t know what the point in the shut was, honestly. It could partake of nourishment. It was also needed to pass through the Duat and there were dangers specific only to the shadow.

The ba is most often associated with the personality of the deceased. The ba returned to the body every evening in order to continue the deceased’s existence in the afterlife. The ba required nourishment in the forms of food, drink, and sexual energy.

The akh is the part of the person that transcended and became one with the sky. The akh is not as tied to the rest of the sum total of a human being. It tended to leave the rest behind and quest for immortality by becoming a star.

All of the literature we read about how the ancient Egyptians buried their dead is only part of the whole. The tombs, the books, the texts – it’s all about where the soul was going to go and how it needed to get there. I think that we forget that the whole of it isn’t simply about how expensively and how lavishly they could bury their dead, but that the things left behind were needed in order to ensure the total composite parts of the soul were taken care of.

Personally, I think that’s kind of bad ass. They spent all this money and left a million different types of grave goods, but it wasn’t really about the here and now. It was about whether or not they were remembered and whether or not they would get to live some more in the afterlife. I think, as a modern American, I can understand that. Don’t we have enough of our own monuments all for the very same purpose? We only do it on a smaller scale.

Giza Pyramids shortly after Sunset

Giza Pyramids by More Altitude

As I mentioned above, I believe in reincarnation. I won’t bore people with the details, but honestly, how the ancient Egyptians believe things happened and how I believe things happen don’t actually work against each other. I believe that it’s the ka that is reincarnated in life after life. I’m not alone; I’m not the only Kemetic out there with this belief. We all have our own reasons for it, but it works for us. Just because the ancient Egyptian culture had a rich belief system when it came to life after death… it doesn’t really mean it’s going to negate what we, ourselves, believe. Sometimes, it just adds to it.

Personally, I don’t really think that Duat functions the way it used to. From my excursions over there (UPG, of course), it seems more like a store house or a stopping place. The belief in the place stopped thousands of years ago and I strongly suspect that’s wreaked some havoc. I don’t know if the gates are still all there, although from what I’ve found, there are certain places that do still exist. I know from other spirit workers that they’ve gone to specific places over there, as well. But to be perfectly frank, I don’t think the Duat is set up the way it once was. It’s possibly the landscape has changed, yet again, due to the disbelief or the falling out of belief. But it’s also possible that the energy the netjeru needed to maintain the landscape dissipated when they fell out of favor.

And we can’t really discount others’ beliefs. Many Kemetics who have attempted to honor their ancestors based on the ancient Egyptian belief system of akhu veneration have met with fierce resistance. I, myself, am one of those people. So, perhaps it isn’t simply that the Duat doesn’t function that way anymore but that the soul transfiguration output machine has closed up shop since the last believer has long since died. Maybe with our belief we’re rekindling it a little bit at a time, but mostly, I think, it’s just a place the netjeru go to escape the ravages of time, space, and humanity.

Maybe that’s why reincarnation among many Kemetics seems to be a thing. Or perhaps the ancients got it partially wrong in the first place. As I said above, we’ll never really know the truth. We can only move forward with our own beliefs and hopes and dreams and fear of our own impending mortality. All the more power to those of us who, at least, don’t go towards it with an ever-pressing fear but more with the eye of yet a new adventure eternally on the horizon.

Further Reading

  1. Body and Soul @ Reshafim
  2. Funerary Practices @ Reshafim
  3. What is a Soul? by Satsekhem
  4. Funerary Practices by Satsekhem
  5. Funereal Liturgy by Satsekhem
  6. The Akhu category by Satsekhem

Kemetic Round Table: Vocabulary.

Words are important.

Language is important.

If we don’t have language, and at its most basic level words, then we have no way to communicate properly. Sure, there are things like body language that we can rely on but how many times have you assumed the cute smirk on the girl next door meant she had a crush on you when in fact she was silently picturing your death at her hands? Or, the mistaken kiss cue that was really just your not-lover’s way of getting to an awkward itch on their back. Seems to me like relying on something like body language when we’re all raised on using verbal and written speech patterns may not be a good idea.

And of course, it can be highly stressful when people can’t communicate on the same language level. Have you ever tried to take the order of someone who speaks a completely foreign language and has no basis for same-language communication? Or, how many times have you been anxious as all hell because you need to ask where the rest room is but all of the signs pointing the way are incomprehensible? Or what if you have never once heard what verbalizing is even like and you have to have an interpreter around for every little attempt at communication?

As this quote says best: “Through language we can connect with other people and make sense of our experiences.”

Consistency in jargon can be important when it comes to practicing an ancient religious tradition in a modern context. By sustaining the status quo with wording and definitions, it can help to provide a sort of legitimacy that some traditions may feel are robbed when modernization enters the mix. In other words, it can inflate egos and make people feel more comfortable with the fact that they have no fucking clue what the hell they’re doing.

However, by keeping the old and throwing out the new, we’re also preventing ourselves from growth. We’re trying to retain a two-dimensional image when we’ve been shoved into the third dimension. And by allowing modernization, both with terminology and in other areas, then we can keep ourselves comfortable while realizing that we have no fucking idea what the hell we’re doing. Of course, we’ll probably still see people with inflated egos (something like “only my definition is the true definition” or something), but at least we can bring the past into the present.

I find myself waffling back and forth on this.

On the one hand, I don’t personally care who calls who by what name and who uses what sort of definition to describe words specific to the religion – like heka, ma’at, and isfet. But on the other hand, it helps to have a common basis linguistically. If I use the term “ma’at,” then most people will know what I’m saying even though we may all translate it differently. If I use the term “isfet,” then, again, most people will know what I’m saying even though we may all bicker about the specifics regarding its definition.

When it comes to talking to newbies, I think maintaining a certain set of parameters regarding terminology could be a good idea. Some of the words that many of us still retain from the ancient Egyptian lexicon are important foundational facts of the religion itself: ma’at and heka, for example. And those particular words can come out sticky and warped if we try to translate them into languages not quite built to incorporate those types of concepts.

However, while I think it may be a good idea to continue to use the ancient Egyptian word-form for things like those concepts, I also think it’s important to use the warbled translations we so often expound to others: ma’at means balance; isfet means a type of chaos; heka kind of means magic. This provides legitimacy to a more modern interpretation, which is important to the great community and its steady growth in the wider pagan community.

The thing is that I strongly believe that having a strong foundation for any practice is important. Terminology and phraseology can provide stones to aid in the building of that foundation. Without that foundation, things can crumble down around our ears without our really realizing what’s happened. Terminology and phraseology that’s universal also provides common ground with co-religionists and, hearkening back to the quote I wrote above, it gives us a firmer connection with those co-religionists, even if the little things (like exact definitions and nuances of rituals) are different.

So, how necessary is terminology and language?

At the very, very bottom line: it’s important. You can’t go out and create something without having some form of basic nomenclature, which is made better if that nomenclature is already established. However, as time moves on and things change, the common ground becomes constricting and a need for a more modern outlook must be made. The leap from the old to the new can be terrifying and worrisome, but I think it’s pretty thrilling, too.

Personally, I tend to use the established terminology – ma’at, heka, and the like when discussing certain concepts. I don’t do this to differentiate myself or to make myself feel superior, but because I know that new people are going to be reading what it is that I am writing. And so, by giving them the possible building blocks with the established vocabulary, I’m hoping that they will one day get to the point where they will feel the need to take a leap into the more modern world.

The thing about terminology is that, outside of certain words and phrases, it can kind of get wishy-washy. So, let’s look at the names of the gods. As an example, we have Heru-Wer, Heru-Wr, Heru-Ur, Haroeris, and Horus the Elder. They all mean the same deity, but which one is the best name? Or, more accurately, which one is the correct name? They all are correct because they’re all referring to Horus the Elder. When it comes to talking about the gods, use whatever works out best for you. (Just be prepared for someone to look at you funny or to ask you what the hell you mean.)

When it comes to the names of the gods, it doesn’t matter, in my opinion, nearly as much as certain words would because they are all correct and they all mean the same thing. Besides, no one actually knows what the gods’ “real” names are. Their real names, for all we know, could be something so ridiculous that we would laugh ourselves hoarse if we ever had to say it or write it.

So, in summation, the thing about terminology is that having a general framework that is already established is pretty important. And it’s pretty important for newbies to learn that established framework just so that they can have a good foundation to build their practices on. But, once a comfort level with the established framework has been reached, then you know what? Go crazy. Use words that make sense for you (as long when posting publicly you at least denote that those words aren’t necessarily canon but your own interpretation of canon) so that you can get comfortable even more.

A Bitter Pill.

Last year, quite a few netjeru and I went toe to toe over a ton of things that were, in my opinion, none of their fucking business and were seriously crossing the line. While that sentence may sound a little weird to some, that’s almost exactly what happened. I left the whole situation hanging like an elliptical sentence for the last eleven months. Having the blinders ripped from my eyes in a very not-nice way had left me shattered and angry. Having to deal with the ramifications of that shattering was not something I was capable of and I have suffered for my cowardice.

I found it easier to ignore the reality in front of me than to actively pursue it. While I don’t recommend this for anyone, honestly, it’s part of my modus operandi. I tend to do this for a lot of things and I can openly admit that it is very unhealthy. I’ve brought this bad habit, unfortunately, into my religious life and suffered for months because of my stupidity and cowardice.

The terrible thing (though, in all honesty, it wasn’t particularly terrible in relation to the world, but only in relation to me, myself, and I) that took place from September to November of last year was harrowing. I learned a lot of things that I didn’t particularly want to learn and it changed everything entirely about my practice. Even months later, thinking about that moment when it all boiled down and everything came up to slap me in the face, I want to clench my hands into fists and snarl with the best of them.

For all of that, I am much calmer now. While putting things off with no particular interest in picking them back up again to make a decision regarding them is unhealthy, it certainly allows for being able to make rational decisions later on. Part of the reason why I tend to push things off is because I tend to react hotly in the heat of the moment. It didn’t seem like a very good idea, at the time, to react in the heat of the moment since my initial reaction was to give everyone the finger and walk the fuck out on everything.

Eleven months is not as long as all of that, but it’s still enough to give me perspective and to give me a cool head. It helps, I think, that the scars from that episode are mostly healed and even though the flares of anger can still be palpable if I wallow too long, there is nothing I can do about that right now. It has happened and I must live with the decisions that I unconsciously made at the time. However, what that means is that I have to also come to terms with the subtle changes and the not-so-subtle changes in my religious life and the path I’ve been on.

I think we can all safely say that I can no longer count myself as a deity collector. That’s the gist of the moment, the culmination of it all, but it still wounds me to have to admit that to myself. It galls me to no end to have to say that out loud, to have to type it on this blog, to have to announce it to the wider world (or to anyone who cares about what the fuck I’m up to).

I always feel this way, though, when things change. I always like the idea that I can be a vocal voice for a minority that is discarded or looked down upon… and then it feels like once I am comfortable within that role, then I am cast off into the sea in order to determine what the next step is going to be. I really fucking hate how it seems like being comfortable with things after months of discomfort over it ends up, invariably, leading to changes that I’m not ready for.

Maybe that’s the point in having a religion, though. You aren’t supposed to remain static in a single place for an extended period of time. Perhaps that is why people become unhappy and unfulfilled with religion often enough: they have become so comfortable with the status quo that the idea of pushing off and looking for more is too much.

It doesn’t seem to me like I get the luxury of relaxing for an extended period of calm in the status quo, though. It feels very much like once I consciously have decided that I can be comfortable at this point, then I have to start looking elsewhere. I don’t know if that’s just my particular flavor for this particular path or if I’m reading too much into something. Whatever the case may be, I often feel that I achieve a comfort level and then end up being pushed off without an inkling of where I’m supposed to end up.

The thing about going toe to toe with the gods is that, sometimes, you’ll learn things that you weren’t expecting. I learned a lot of things and none of it was something I wasn’t to learn. I ended up realizing how drawn into that bigger picture fiasco I had been and that, when it came down to it all, the deity collecting would have to go. By that time, I had amassed a large following, so to speak, and I found myself frozen with the knowledge that I could choose Sekhmet or I could choose… anyone else. But in the end, I had to make a decision.

I went with the deity that I’ve known and felt the closest to for years… and lost everyone else.

That’s a bit of an overstatement, but that’s how it feels.

My decision was, mostly, acknowledged politely and the rest moved on. I still have passing relationships with some of those deities – Djehuty is always available for a laugh; I see Geb and Mut in the natural world as I always have; Hetheru periodically comes to me in dreams and we talk. Everyone else has disappeared. Sometimes, when I look for them around me, I realize how much I miss them. Other times, I recognize that I did the right thing and as nostalgic and lonely as it is now without them, I know that things have worked out better this way.

I think, in a way, this is why I have had some issues when I recognized that Heru-Wer had made an appearance. Hadn’t I just done this song and dance months before and ended up as [mostly] a one-deity marching girl parade? Evidently things are changing yet the fuck again, but that’s an entry for another day. Maybe.

For the last eleven months, I haven’t admitted that things have changed at all. I have refused to rename myself except for in quiet quarters amid friends or in the embrace of my netjeret. I haven’t wanted to openly admit that I was holding on to the last vestiges of hope with scrabbling fingers, praying that what I had learned in November of last year was wrong. The thing about growing in our own path is knowing when it is time to admit things to ourselves and to the wider public. Another thing is knowing when to admit that whatever you are hoping to achieve isn’t going to fucking happen and it’s time to stop hoping and give in to the reality.

Last weekend, I cleared off my household altar space. I had Aset, Djehuty, Heru-Wer, and Hetheru on it. I kept three out of the four, but placed the icon I had purchased for Aset away. It’s in a box, awaiting someone who needs it badly. Her icon was, in a way, the very physical representation of my attempts at keeping the old way alive and well. What it also signified was inertia: mine, hers, theirs… take your pick. I put her away and bid farewell to the old way of life, officially.

It only took me eleven months.

Kemetic Round Table: Ma’at & Isfet.

The Kemetic Round Table (KRT) is a blogging project aimed at providing practical, useful information for modern Kemetic religious practitioners. For all the entries relating to this particular topic, take a peek!

When it comes to certain concepts within the ancient Egyptian religious tradition, some of the most popular words bandied about are ma’at and isfet. For many modern Kemetics, these words have quickly entered our daily lexicons in our various and personalized attempts to both find an understanding for words that are difficult to translate in to modern dang lingo as well as provide that knowledge to newbie Kemetics.

As a newbie Kemetic, I wanted the easy way out: I wanted someone else to tell me what the hell these types of concept things were about and I would just go with the flow. While this worked out for a while, after a time, it dawned on me that I could go with someone else’s flow but it didn’t really satisfy me anymore. I often thought that it kind of equates to the quote from Liz in the movie Dogma: “He said that faith is like a glass of water. When you’re young, the glass is small, and it’s easy to fill up. But the older you get, the bigger the glass gets, and the same amount of liquid doesn’t fill it anymore. Periodically, the glass has to be refilled.”

After a few years of listening to what other people were saying, I realized that I actually needed to get up and fill the glass with water from my own damn tap.

While I’ve detailed my repeated attempts on what to quantify ma’at (linked below) as, it was through conversation and positive reinforcement from my Kemetic friends that the basis for my definition of ma’at came about: it is balance. There are a ton of different ways various Egyptologists have defined the concept over the years. But in my opinion the simplest way to look at it would be to simply think of it as shades of gray and balance.

When it comes to determining what ma’at means, those of us who have been around the proverbial block a few times can, of course, tell you what it means. But if you look to the historical record and see what qualified as living in ma’at, then that is when you’ll see what I mean by shades of gray. Some things that were considered living in ma’at were,

  1. Being good to the gods (like giving them offerings and not stealing said offerings)
  2. Warfare (with other countries)*
  3. Not being an intentional jackass to others
  4. Execrations (aka cursing)

* Please note that there was a very big difference between war amidst nome leaders, which was considered isfet, and war with an enemy of the state, such as foreigners.

But how is that even a thing, right? If living in ma’at entailed things like being a pretty stellar human being, but also allowed the whole cursing thing – what the fuck? How is it possible to have a concept that both includes things like blood-letting on a massive scale and possibly blood-letting on a personal scale?

That’s the thing about ma’at – it’s not all roses and sunshine. If things like bloodshed and curses can be considered a part of ma’at, then clearly the phrase “shades of gray” is highly appropriate when defining it. I think another way to describe it as a mix between “be excellent to each other,” (a quote from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) coupled with “but take no fucking shit lying down.” The best thing, in my opinion, about what ma’at is would be that it doesn’t demand that you lie down and take whatever guff you think or know that people are going to throw your way; it demands that you stand up for yourself in any way available, only demanding that your desire to be an intentional ass face be checked at the door.

The thing is that most people have no idea how to integrate this concept into their daily lives. Living in ma’at was the foundation of the ancient Egyptian state and religion (which, technically, went hand in hand). It was this difficulty that brought us those two important rules of Kemeticism that Tumblr Kemetics spout a lot:

  1. Give stuff to the gods.
  2. Don’t be a dick.

Since the belief in the gods was immaterial what with the ancient Egyptian religion being an orthopraxy (correct action; not correct dogma), rule number one could be thrown out the window so long as rule number two is followed.

The thing about “don’t be a dick” is that people tend to think of it as allowing people to walk all over you; they conflate it with some deep-held belief that it means you should be nice all the time. The thing that’s implied, but not emphatically stated with that rule, is that it’s “don’t be an intentional dick” as I stated above. However, as we know, it also means that when it comes to protecting yourself and others, you must do whatever you must do in order to guarantee that protection.

When it comes to living in ma’at, which is of course probably the most important religious thing ever, I have to admit that I still get stuck. I give stuff to the gods; I try not to be an intentional dick to anyone. (Let’s face it – I’ve been a dick for more years than I’ve not been a dick, so I’m going to backslide occasionally.) But is that the be-all, end-all to how this particular concept can infiltrate one’s life? Or is it possible to have it fully incorporated on a grand scale?

How people decide to work on incorporating ma’at into their daily lives is going to vary from person to person. Some people put shopping carts away. Some people are nice to everybody and try not to judge. Some people take those 42 pesky little principles of ma’at and attempt to live by them. Some people don’t change how they behave at all.

Personally, I know that I was successful in having at least achieved living in ma’at when I come home from work. After a long day of being everybody else’s chew toy or reciprocating said chew toy status upon unsuspecting unhelpful carrier representatives, when I step into my house and I can clear my head enough, spend quality time with my family, go online without taking out the day’s frustrations, and settle down to sleep without harping on my perceived mistakes… that’s when I truly feel as if I’ve managed to achieve some semblance of establishing, maintaining, and living in ma’at. I don’t always succeed and I honestly don’t think that it’s possible to succeed every day in living in ma’at especially since I wasn’t raised with the notion.

But on the days where I don’t feel like I’ve been pummeled nearly to death with stress and worry, those are the days where I feel like I’ve been successful.

The opposite of ma’at is known as isfet. Just as with ma’at, defining the term can be a little difficult. Since there are so many different words which are oft-equated with ma’at, so too the opposite of those words can be defined as meaning isfet: harmony, balance, order for ma’at while on the opposite end of the spectrum, disharmony, imbalance, chaos for isfet.

The thing is that, just like with ma’at, isfet can be best determined to be shades of gray as well. The thing about ancient Egyptian trains of thought on religious items like these is that there is nothing pre-defined and easily checked off into a neat little box. Ma’at can incorporate isfet and isfet can incorporate ma’at.

So, for example, living in ma’at, as I stated above, could mean that chaos may be required in order to set that balance into motion. Take the god Set for example: he is a deity of chaos and yet, he is also shown as maintaining and establishing ma’at as well. My day may be shitty and nutty and I may come home feeling like the shit end of the stick, but the next day means that projects are set in motion, my task list is a little lighter, and I can actually feel like I’ve adequately achieved something because I suffered through the chaos or isfet of the day before. Without that day of isfet, hour of isfet, second of isfet then the next day may have been just as shitty but because I did have that crazy day, I was able to establish myself for the rest of the week.

It is through isfet that the entirety of creation was made manifest. The waters of the Nun are equated with that primordial, frightening chaos that is most often seen in a negative light when you start reading really boring Egyptological papers and books on the topic. However, if not for those chaotic waters, we wouldn’t have the world that we live in today. Isfet, however, was also seen as the evil within someone’s heart. (I couldn’t say what sort of evils that were or if it means all evils. Or even how people knew that their hearts were evil before the whole reconfigured for being all dead and whatnot thing, but you know, it was apparently a thing.)

As far as how much or how little isfet has anything to do with my practice, I would like to say that it has very little to do with me. Clearly, that’s not the case. I’ve had days where I’ve come away and said: “Why yes, today was the embodiment of isfet,” as I’ve said above. But I don’t think those types of isfet really are a part of the primordial, terrifying chaos that was the very thing the ancient Egyptians were trying to prevent from gaining territory and from destroying the world at large by the ritual acts of the pharaoh, the correct living of the people, and the ritual acts of the priesthood [in the stead of the pharaoh].

Some days are so hectic and crazed that I need to do a ritual execration (or curse) in order to feel myself being freed from the aftereffects of having been within the hold of isfet all day. Some days, I can shrug it off and know that just spending time with my family will be enough to make me feel better. And other days, I have to wonder – because of how bad shit is – how it’s possible that the sun can rise the next day, thereby alerting me to the fact that ma’at still reigns supreme, when everything sucks so fucking badly. But the sun continues to rise and that renews me as well as the world around me to fight it off in any way both myself and the world are capable of doing.

These concepts are not easy and, frankly, I long for the days where I used to have someone else tell me how to think about this stuff. But to be honest, there’s only so long one can take being spoon fed what other people think. We all need to come to decisions about these things on our own. And there’s no telling how simple or how difficult it will be to come to terms with both what these concepts mean and what, if anything, they mean for each of us. I can assure anyone reading this that even close friends who have had discussions about these concepts, meanings, and share similar thought processes can and will differ on the fine points. And that’s okay. Don’t stress it if what you think ma’at and isfet happen to be don’t exactly correlate with everyone else. We’re all individuals, graced with individual experiences, and those individual experiences will color those definitions and interpretations.

Further Reading

  1. Ma’at
  2. Isfet
  3. Kemeticism is Orthropraxic
  4. Kemeticism is Orthopraxic II
  5. Kemeticism is Orthopraxic III
  6. Violence and Ma’at
  7. Isfet…

The Art of Balance.

I think I’ve been babied by how most of my interpersonal deity relationships have been in the last few years.

I talk about being a deity collector; I have a lot of deities that I pay homage to at any given time. Some of those relationships are more fleeting than others, which is how I am able to handle my shit without flipping my shit. Geb and Mut are prime examples: they do the “deity pop-in.” I only ever associate them with outdoors type shit so I don’t need to pay homage to them nearly as regularly as I do with other deities. Bes is only given attention when I’m at home and doing home and family centric things (pretty obvious with that one); Set gets attention when he’s told to send me a pick-me up; Anup gets attention when the akhu are involved. Hetheru, Djehuty, and the rest have all been so quiet since I flipped out on them for constantly pulling at me, trying to get me to do what they want when I had someone of larger importance already having led the fucking charge. In the end, while I do pay attention to those relationships that began when I was nervous and worrying about things, they’ve mostly gone the way of the Dodo.

Some of this is okay; the work with those deities was for Bigger Picture. I understand that now although I didn’t necessarily fully understand what that Bigger Picture was way back then. So, I had to learn to use heka effectively under the tutelage of Aset to prepare myself for the intermediary status I took on last year. I had to learn to write more effectively under Djehuty’s demands in order to make my heka more effective. Hetheru has always been there, waiting in the wings, until she felt I needed someone’s affection. (She counter balances the intensity of my relationship with Sekhmet by not being intense, at all, and not demanding anything from me except some fun periodically. She’s always kind of been a breath of fresh air.)

Thing is, they’ve all been relegated to household deities while things have seriously picked up with Sekhmet. I had made my choice; I wasn’t getting cake and eating it, too. They’ve quieted down and stopped asking things of me. I seem to have even lost that counterbalance with Hetheru, not as if it was a permanent addition to my life anyway. I don’t have the energy and wherewithal to give them any more than what I’m doing now: a daily offering, perhaps some words, the occasional, “hey, how are you,” and then I move on with my life. I was pleased and happy that I had been able to move from “active deity collector” back to “one track mind.”

Then Heru-Wer showed up and I’m beginning to flip my shit.

You see… I have never really had to learn the act of balancing relationships.


Balance via Flickr

I am not very good at that whole thing. I talk a good game, but I’m very much a MUST HYPERFOCUS ON THIS THING RIGHT NOW BECAUSE REASONS and everything else falls to the wayside. This was the fundamental issue between Sekhmet and Hetheru. I always just assumed that Hetheru was around for a purpose and I strongly suspect she was only there as an escape when things would get really hard with Sekhmet. I don’t think I’ve necessarily burned the bridge, but I do think that she’s kept her distance for good reason. (I was a massive ass face when I made my decision last year.) The problem is that I don’t really seem to have that option here. Sekhmet is demanding and fickle; I bound myself to her and that is just simply what it is. However, as I’ve been looking more and more steadily into the mythology of Heru-Wer and wondering about what relationship we will have and figuring out what the fuck it’s going to entail, I’ve come to conclude that… well, he offers a really awesome balance point between HARDWORKHARDWORKHARDWORK and PLAYPLAYPLAY, which is something I need to fucking learn like yesterday.

How the hell do people do this? How in the world can you balance yourself out between two different deities that want two different things from you?

I got off scot-free, so to speak, and now I have to pay the piper. That’s… how it feels anyway. I was able to do my thing with Sekhmet and still do some things with other gods, but while it could suck at times, there was still something in the back of my mind that said I could run away if I needed to. I could walk away if I needed to. In the end, the decision was made for me anyway. The decision to end all intense relationships outside of Sekhmet’s was made and I have lived with that decision for almost a year now. I can’t tell anyone if it was a good one or a bad one, in all honesty. I think, with everything, it is shades of gray: I had to stop getting pulled in a million different directions and my loyalty was to Sekhmet first and foremost. Everyone else was cannon fodder for that Bigger Picture I was just harping about.

The problem is that I’ve been able to escape all of this learning curve. Perhaps because of my own inability to NOT be so single-minded about things, I never had to learn what it was like to actually balance a relationship with one deity and then learn how to add another. I tried it, sort of, when Hetheru joined Sekhmet in annoying the fuck out of me the beginning. And I found that I was so intensely focused on the various aspects of Hetheru that I couldn’t jump out of my head long enough to make that relationship more than an offshoot that was painful and frightening. Perhaps Hetheru knew something I didn’t back then: I wasn’t ready for this whole balance thing. In an effort to terminate that relationship, I have done everything in my power to push that particular goddess out of my life, too unwilling to stop long enough to think about other aspects of her that I needed/need to pay attention to. Instead, I have severed and strangled that connection to the point where it probably needs more than just mouth-to-mouth to resuscitate it.

That is my own stupidity, however; my own inability to work on the things that need to be worked on. I recognize that I have a lot of failings, by the way, and I know myself well enough (at least in this particular ball park) to know that I have a lot of fucked up shit that I have been very firmly ignoring. Sure, I look at it and I poke and prod at it occasionally, but what it comes down to is that all of the associations that Hetheru holds the keys to regarding that fucked up shit made it nearly impossible for me to do much more than to push her away. She got the hint long before I did, probably. I haven’t felt her since last year and then when I made my decision in October, I figured everything there was no longer available to me. Now, though, I have another deity in my life and I… well, I don’t want to be an asshole. I don’t want to strangle that connection until it is as dead as some of my other connections and relationships. I want…



Right there.

I want.

I want to try it. I want to see where things will head, but I don’t necessarily know how to do it. I recognize that I have limitations; didn’t I just say that? I also recognize that there is a possibility here that is very frightening on a lot of levels. The possibility though is made more possible because I don’t have the issue with my head getting in my own fucking way. With Hetheru, as I said, I was too aware of her other associations to be completely comfortable with all of it. Heru-Wer doesn’t really have those types of associations, as far as I have found. He has associations with Hetheru (which is possibly where this randomness comes from), but the things that made me pull away from Hetheru aren’t necessarily there with Heru-Wer. That, in all honesty, makes it a lot easier for me to be willing to explore the realms I need to in order to move forward and I desperately want to.

Maybe it’s only now that I am fully aware of how fucked up my shit is and how much I need to, you know, actually work on it.

But I have to ask how people do this thing. I know of quite a few people who have intense relationships with various gods and they manage to work it out all right. They don’t seem to (in my limited view into what they do and who their relationships are with) have had the issue I have where the brain pan has been too busy fucking with them. And from what it looks like, while not easy, it seems feasible. I just don’t know if I have it in me to balance anything appropriately. I know myself too well: that thing about being hyper focused on things isn’t even remotely an exaggeration. I’m a Leo, for fuck’s sake; it’s in our nature to be like GIVE ME THE SHINY to the detriment of all else.

But I also recognize that the whole fucking point about this religion is balance (ma’at). I recognize that, maybe, this will help me with the whole ma’at thing.

If nothing else, I can only hope it helps me…