Kemetic Round Table: Living and Breathing.

The Kemetic Round Table (KRT) is a blogging project aimed at providing practical, useful information for modern Kemetic religious practitioners.

From time to time, I will look down at the ankh I wear around my neck in an effort to remind myself that I am the sum total of all my parts as opposed to a human-looking Zord composed of different, autonomous parts. In those moments, I grip that pendant in my hand and hope beyond all hope that I am doing the symbol it stands for – my religion, my life, my gods, my family, and everything in between – justice as opposed to a disservice.

Whichever the case may be, I tend to feel a little stronger in the face of whatever it is that is causing my consternation and am able to move forward with the hectic nature of the day. Sometimes, just the grip is enough and sometimes, it is a matter of minutes before I can feel strong enough to continue. Oh gods, I always think, let me be able enough to live this life. Whether or not I am able to do it justice is another story.

When it comes to life and living and having a religion that must be kept covert, I will usually think that the things I don’t do matter. They probably don’t. There is no one better at making me feel like a guilty, shame-filled terrible devotee than myself. And there are extreme moments, daily sometimes or just periodically, where I’m pretty sure I’m doing everything wrong and I’m not “living” my religion the way I should be. During those moments, I pause and remind myself that since I haven’t been smote to fuck yet, I must be doing something right.

Sometimes, that’s all it takes me to get through.

Sometimes, I need more than just reminding myself that I’m still breathing.

I used to think that if people were living their faith appropriately, they would just know. I always looked forward to that moment, in the hopes, that the doubt and fears that continuously plague me, even now so many years in, would just go away. I would wake up one morning and think, oh, I’ve definitely got this, and be on my way with that knowledge. I think I may live in books and movies too much; isn’t the hero or heroine supposed to have a magical epiphany regarding things?

I’ve had plenty of epiphanies since I started walking this path, but I can’t think of any that have been particularly magical. Or even awe-inspiring. They’ve all just been a bland and boring, oh, well now I understand a bit, and I move on. But I always kind of expected bells and whistles or something. Instead, I have those freak moments where I’m gripping my ankh in my hand, with eyes narrowly focused on the feel of the arms biting into my palm.

I think I’m living my faith as capably as I possibly can, but I just always kind of expected something a bit more rainbow and unicorn farts when I got to this point.

I guess I just always assumed that, one day, when I was “adult enough” to do all of this, then things would be easier. I’m not really sure what made me have that assumption. I just remember, looking forward in moments of acute stress and panic, and knowing that it wouldn’t always be that hard. And in the grand scheme of things, I suppose I wasn’t all that wrong. Things aren’t always that hard; they’re just hard in different ways now. I suppose things got easier somewhere, but when I ask myself what it is that’s easier, I usually get muddled with all the things that are hard [in the moment of asking].

So, I guess I can safely say what living a religion, in my opinion, is not.

  1. It’s not no longer having doubts, fears, panic attacks, or stressful moments.
  2. It’s not having an easy time.
  3. It’s not having a clear moment of realizing you really are living your religion.
  4. It’s sure as shit not living fancy free.

Well, I’ve talked about what I thought it would be like and have found it to not be like. But what is it, to me?

When I sit down and think about it, I think back to what I said earlier. I said that I have intense moments, throughout the day, the week, the month, the year, in which I clutch the ankh pendant I wear daily around my neck. Sometimes, I have it nestled beneath my shirt and I have to pop it out in order to grasp it in my hand. Sometimes, it’s out and glinting in the light, waiting for my palm to clasp it. No matter what the purpose or how hard I grip it or the intensity behind my fervent wish that I am enough to get through my life, I think that is what living a religion – any religion – is all about.

By gripping that damn thing in my hand, I am reminding myself in the most tangible way that I am a Kemetic. I am also reminding myself that I am a living, breathing human being who may or may not be successful in their endeavors. (And the amount of success, of course, always varies depending on the moment and what it is I am enthusiastically wishing about.) And lastly, I am reminding myself that the life I am living is the only one I have available to me and by golly, I’m going to fucking live that shit the way I want to fucking live that shit.

To me, living my religion is characteristically summed up as clutching the ankh and feverishly hoping for the next moment to hurry the fuck up already.

It isn’t, though.

That’s not all of it.

It’s just that moment of such intensity where I need to feel the threads of my religion underneath my fingertips that leads me to cause the distinction.

Everything I do and say and write and breathe is an aspect to my religion, whether it looks like it is or not. The advice I offer to people who don’t know anything about my religion is part of it. The looks I give people walking down the street is part of it. The songs I listen to on the ride into work are a part of it. The books I read on my breaks at work or when I get home are a part of it. The way I sit in a chair is part of it. How I grip the steering wheel is part of it. The air that I breathe, the food that I eat, the clothes that I wear are all a part of it too. Everything I do is a part of it because my religion is as integral a piece of me as my hair color and my eye color; it’s just, maybe, a bit more hidden than all of that.

I say that the grip of the pendant is what living my religion is because it’s the most physical and obvious aspect. But everything I do, really, is summed up as living my Kemeticism. Everything is microcosmically interwoven together to be a part of who I am; it’s just the macrocosmic parts that seem a bit out of whack.

I thought I would be able to give advice on this topic, honestly. I thought I could write some things and then end it with how others can be like me, or something, and live their Kemetic ways. Or, other religious ways. But as I think back and I look down at the ankh around my neck, I have to wonder if how I live my religion is even something that others do or others should even remotely aspire to. I say that they’re all interwoven in some big cosmic Aubs that exists in the world who does the Kemetic thing and does the work thing and does the driving thing and drinks vodka on the regular like and it’s all a part of my religion.

But is there any way that someone out there could possibly look down at their pendant of choice, whisper a few words (possibly soaked in foul language) and know that they’re living their religion? Maybe, it’s just me that’s like that. Let’s be real here – it’s probably just a me thing. And I honestly don’t know if I would recommend how I do this to anyone else. Or even remotely have anyone build what they will do off of what I do.

I don’t think how I do this is, maybe, the right way or even the best way, but it works for me.

I can give some advice, though. Sometimes I have that stuff in spades; not so much today. But the bits I can assure you on are these:

  1. Don’t assume that because you don’t feel like you are living your religion that you aren’t actually living your religion.
  2. Don’t assume that how anybody else lives their religion is the “one twoo way” because that’s just ridiculous. There’s no one way on any of this shit, no matter who says otherwise.
  3. Don’t assume that you’ll just automatically know when you’re “actually” living your religion because, clearly, epiphanies of that magnitude are probably never going to happen.
  4. Don’t assume that you’re the only one out there constantly doubting your shit even if you do feel like you’re living your religion. I doubt it all the time.
  5. Don’t assume that I’m bugnuts because I equate clutching a piece of metal as living my religion. I can assume I’m bugnuts because of that all on my own.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you can read my post and think about it however you want, but it doesn’t mean that how I go about this will work for anyone else. I honestly hope it doesn’t work out for anyone else because I can assure anyone who has made it this far in the reading that shit is fucking hard and there are moments that I’m clutching that fucking pendant less for a steadying influence or anchor and more out of intense anxiety at the belief that I’m doing everything fucking wrong, wrong, and more wrong. It’s a tethered link, so to speak, with my religion that I hone in on often enough, but it’s my tethered link and doesn’t do a damn bit a good for anyone else, I shouldn’t think.

I suppose the best way to do this for anyone who isn’t me would be to stop periodically and assess yourself. In effect, that’s what I’m doing with my ankh. Step out into the day and look up at the sun or down at the grass or look at the flowers in bloom on the bushes or in the yards and assess yourself. Come to your own conclusions about what it is to live a religion and whether or not it’s an integral part of yourself. If you think it is, then I think… maybe, you’re probably doing this just the way you need to be.

Kemetic Round Table: Hush-Hush.

When people start looking to other religious choices outside of the “usual fair,” there’s a lot of waffling back and forth about whether or not this is a thing. Not only are people worried that what they’re looking into may not actually be in their best interests, but they also have to take into consideration public opinion. Even though, in my opinion, religion and religious choices should be a private affair that’s taken into consideration on an individual basis, this isn’t the case in this country or in this hemisphere or on this fucking planet. Everyone has an opinion, sadly, about everything else and that includes religious persuasions. What makes it worse is that some of the newer religious choices are looked down on by other people for various reasons: some people think that they’re worshiping the devil and going to hell while other people think everyone with a religion is full of shit and making stuff up. In either case, these are things that must be taken into consideration when it comes to choosing what sort of religious practice, or not, is best for them.

This pretty much accurately represents this post in its entirety.

This pretty much accurately represents this post in its entirety.

Personally, I am both in and out of the “closet,” so to speak, when it comes to my religious practices. The short answer is that all of this is really fucking complicated and it comes on a case by case basis. I’ve been burned and I’ve been supportive, so it is truly dependent both on the status of my relationships with people as well as what reactions I believe they may have if I discuss it.

When it comes to family, I’m technically out. I don’t really discuss it with either my family or with TH’s family, however. It’s a subject of conversation, briefly, when it comes up, but I tend to shut those conversations down as quickly as they begin. I think part of this is because, in all honesty, to explain everything to a regular person is very difficult. Polytheism is easily explained as long as you understand what that word actually means. But when it comes to the devotions to various gods, the levels of those devotions, and everything in between, one can be looking at having a few hours’ long conversation that leaves heads spinning. Another reason why I tend to shut those conversations down is because I can see how some people react or based on inflection in their comments – if they sound like an asshole, I’m not going to want to discuss it any more than I normally do (and I don’t normally want to discuss it because, again, it’s kind of personal and not anyone else’s business).

My mother’s family is not supportive of my choices – they’re all staunch Catholics and so, as far as they’re [probably] concerned, I’m going to burn in Hell with all the other people who have chosen not to follow “the one twoo.” But my mother is supportive. She is ecstatic that after years of saying “I’m an atheist,” I finally found a religious tradition that works for me. She’s watched as I’ve changed dynamics and created something that works for me. I think, honestly, it’s based on my mom’s statement, “finally, you have faith,” that made me realize that the subject matter of that faith doesn’t matter so much as if people have faith. And I do. I believe. I believe in more than just myself and while things are weird and rocky and can be uncomfortable when my family makes asinine comments about it, it’s fucking mine.

TH’s family doesn’t really understand how many different branches of paganism there are and I don’t have the patience, usually, to enlighten them. They understand that I am a pagan and that I do practice magic (heka), however they don’t fully comprehend all the dynamic changes, on a personal level and on a spiritual level, that have happened since I first discovered this path. But at the end of the day, they’re supportive. They might make jokes and TH’s mom may end up using me as a threat against her students to behave properly (she told one student I would turn them into a frog if they didn’t cut the shit, which I’m just like, I can’t do that but that’s fucking awesome especially since the student actually did cut the shut). Of course, TH is aware because I do [occasionally] talk to him about this.

But when it comes down to it, I still have this staunch belief that who says what or who knows what doesn’t matter. All that does matter is if it makes me happy. And as much as I have to admit that this shit drives me up a wall with the wants and desires and the constant doubt, at the end of the day, it fulfills me.

And then I have so many different types of friendships that to discuss something that, to me, is as personal as my religious practice is is just not up for debate. I have acquaintances who have asked to read this blog and I have flatly refused, knowing that my blog may not be the best introduction to what a pagan religious tradition can look like. I have had Christian friends who read this blog and grew offended over what I said. (We’ve made up since that blow up, but we both leave one another alone when it comes to our differing faiths now, which is seriously downer.) I have pagan friends who know about this blog, but don’t know much about my personal life.

I guess you can say that when it comes to my friendships and how open I am about myself really depends, highly, on how much trust I place in them. And I have to be honest here. After having the person who was supposed to me the best get up in arms over things that I’ve written on this blog, based on my observations and based on my religious choices, I have to say that compartmentalizing my life like this works out for me. Does it suck? Yes. Ask anyone on Tumblr who I have spoken with about this – sometimes, there are just moments where I want to cry in someone’s lap because I’m pretty sure I’m not practicing a real religion but I’m just having taken a long walk off of the short pier of sanity. But I’ve been burned by the person I trusted and loved the most – and learned the lesson that compartmentalization with my friends is better off for me when it comes to our friendships than not doing so.

Of course, I have two friends, locally, who know a lot about what I believe in. One is a local Hellenic pagan. We don’t really talk as much as we used to and that’s… well, that’s nothing to do with religion but she knows what I’m up to. And if she doesn’t that’s only because she’s not reading this blog. My other friend allows me to wax poetic about the nature of souls and takes my spiritual advice even though she’s a Christian, but she is just like me: it doesn’t matter what faith is had as long as faith is had.

And of course, to make things even more complicated, I work for a Tea Party Republican who also just so happens to be very much a Christian. I honestly don’t know how Christian she is but she’s told people that she’ll pray for them when things go wrong (and then maybe she does, but I don’t know). And I can tell you that if she knew that the ankh I wear wasn’t just a fashion statement but a religious statement as well, she’d find a reason to fire me. The things she says about people who aren’t Christian (and I’m not talking about pagans, but about Muslims) is disgusting and disheartening. The things I could imagine her saying about me if she were to find out… Well, I need the paycheck so I have further compartmentalized my life.

Work. Friends. Family. Religion.

Very rarely do any of these in-roads meet. Yes, I am “out” and my Facebook profile even labels me as a “pagan.” But the people who are friends with me on Facebook, most of them, don’t look at that. Some of them because they like to ignore things – such as my mother’s family – and others because they don’t care and I’m not going to enlighten them. I’m a little open on my Facebook account regarding beliefs and whatnot, but I always second guess and third guess before I post something religion specific. As much as it sucks, and it really does, my life is a many-spoked wheel with me at the middle. And nothing really touches at all.

In case I haven’t really mentioned it, while doing things this way makes life easier and safer for me, it really kind of sucks. There are moments, at work, where I want to scream at Djehuty for not watching over a phone system when it goes down. Or, I want to meditate to Sekhmet, but instead, I’m stuck silently saying words that may or may not have power, depending on the spoon allotment and energy reserves I have at that moment in time. There are moments where I want to scream at my mother’s family and tell them that all beliefs are good beliefs as long as they’re taken to a good place and not used to condemn others for what they feel, think, believes, or are. There are moments in my life where I just want to scream because of how compartmentalized my life has suddenly become when even two years ago, it was hella easier.

I tend to feel, a lot of times, that this segregation is actually detrimental to everything going on around me. I can’t really pinpoint when I started to feel this way, but I noticed that carefully and purposely dosing out different portions of my life in this way began to tire me out. I would go off and be at work, followed by coming home and doing religion things and then I would spend time with my family and never the multitudes to meet. And I have to admit that it’s kind of dragging, a lot, to have to keep things so differentiated. It sucks. And I think a lot of times making sure that everything is not touching as carefully as I do, it takes a lot of spoons out of everything else. It leaves me breathless and bitchy and tired and depressed a lot of the times and I end up coming home and just staring at the television or reading a book.

I don’t think people are really meant to do this to their lives. Even if there are valid reasons for it, I just don’t think we’re made to keep anything separate from anything else. We are a multifaceted people and facets should touch. They should integrate. But in this day and age, especially with asshole bosses or unsupportive family members, we have to do these things, possibly even to our own detriment, if we want to have our cake and eat it too. (If that is even remotely apropos here because I honestly don’t know.)

Based on what I’ve shared, I have to say that if a new Kemetic wants to tell others, I strongly recommend not doing what the fuck I’ve done. I’ve kept myself so separated that I hardly know what the fuck way is up anymore. So, if anyone wants to tell their friends and family and their coworkers what their religious situation is – not that, I attest, it’s any of their fucking business – then I think that not doing what I’ve done is a good idea. It’s seriously just not healthy, in my opinion, and it ends up causing a lot of problems for you later on.

But the thing about telling people is that you have to be sure that telling them is even remotely useful to you or whether or not them knowing has any benefit to you whatsoever. You can shout whatever the hell you want from the rooftops and back, but if there’s no real point in telling them, other than you think you should, then you have to seriously taken into consideration the reasons behind why you want to tell them. Do you just want to share something new and exciting with people you care about? Or do you want to shock them? What is the point in telling them something that, quite feasibly, will not impact them in anyway? So, it comes back to having to decide of announcing your personal religious choices is useful to you. If you think that’s the case, then I think the next thing to take into consideration is whether or not they’ll be supportive.

And this is the crux of the matter for many pagans out there. We live in areas that aren’t supportive of anything outside of “the norm,” whatever that is. And there are people who we love and adore who may react very negatively towards whatever choices we make in our lives if those choices are deemed to be outside of “the norm,” whatever that is. So, if the person you believe you are telling will be supportive and benefit you, then I absolutely think that you should move forward with what you want to do. However, if the person is going to behave like an asshole because you’ve made a choice about your life, then maybe keeping it quiet is in your best interest. As much as you may feel that telling them is a good idea, if they’re going to be a complete dickface about it, then I strongly recommend just not doing so.

Honestly, I have to tell you that when it comes to telling people things about you that, in my opinion, are personal and private, such as one’s religious decisions, doesn’t really gain you much. Hell, in my experience, it seems to have caused more anxiety than when I was quiet about it. Just because you think someone will be supportive and nice about it doesn’t mean that they will be. Or maybe they’ll start off that way and then change their mind later because you say something they disagree with or because they convert to a religion that doesn’t tolerate others’ “differences.” While I can’t say that all people are going to react the way I’ve come to find many to most of them reacting in my life, I do have to think that what I’ve experienced (as generalized as I’ve described the experiences) should at least be taken into consideration when someone decides they want to tell others.

But of course, how one decides to live their religious life – privately or publicly – is entirely up to them. And anyone who tells you that your choices are wrong are assholes and anyone who doesn’t support you in doing something that makes you feel good about yourself is, also, an asshole. And people like that… well, they really shouldn’t be in your life anyway.

Kemetic Round Table: Nisut-Bity[t].

In 2012, I had a lot of time on my hands because I was unemployed for the entirety of the year. So, I actually did the pagan blog project that year and got all the way up to W before I had to stop. During that blogging project, I actually discussed the topic this KRT entry is about, nisut. Even though I wrote that entry only a year and a half ago, I re-read what I had written there. It’s always a good idea to review past opinions on certain topics as well as past beliefs that may have changed over time. If we forget what our religious path is like, then we’re going to end up making an ass out of ourselves in one way or another. And as this blog clearly shows, I’ve grown a lot. Some of my opinions have changed and some of them have not. I always have the option – and occasionally do – go back through my older entries in an effort to see the growth I’ve done both in terms of how I practice, where I practice, with whom I have relationships with, and how I feel regarding certain topics. For the most part, aside from becoming more mature, adding a ton of new netjeru, and utilizing more historical information than in previous years, most of my opinions regarding the core tenets of my personal faith have remained the same and the nisut question is no exception.

For those not in the know…

In ancient Egypt, the term nisut-bity[t] translated as “[s]he of sedge and bee.” The two symbols, a sedge and a bee, together, symbolized ancient Egypt itself, which is where the terminology stems from. The sedge plant is a plant commonly found in the marshlands of Upper Egypt and it was from this plant that Upper Egypt was represented. The bee and the practice of bee-keeping was a characteristic of Lower Egypt (the part of the Nile that branches into five distinct branches). The flowering plants caused by the irrigated land were a fertile feeding source for the hives of bees. And it was from this bee that we Upper Egypt is represented. These two separate symbols together, unified in the manner shown, is how ancient Egypt was represented and where we get the terminology “of sedge and bee.” (The modern-day term, pharaoh, actually comes from the Greek word, pharaō, which is a translation of the ancient Egyptian word, pr-aa. This ancient Egyptian word is translated as “great house.”)

We don’t really have a modern context for the nisut-bity. What I mean, outside of religious traditions, there is no way to show anyone in a modern metaphor specifically what the pharaoh and his power would have been like. We can attempt to bring a modern context by associating the pharaoh with more modern rulers, like kings and queens, but even that is pretty far removed from what the pharaoh was and how he acted in ancient Egypt. The pharaoh wasn’t just a man (or woman) on high who ruled the land, but he was the spiritual ruler as well. In a way, we could give modern interpretations to a pharaoh akin to how Henry VIII ruled England after he took power away from the Catholic Church: he was both the spiritual and the temporal ruler over all of England. But even with all of that, I still feel that the nisut-bity fails easy translation even with a generally well-known “modern” metaphor available. Not only was the pharaoh the ruler of all things religious and mundane, but [s]he was what kept the world in line with ma’at (balance); [s]he was the alpha and the omega; and [s]he was the beginning, middle and end. Everything began and ended because of the pharaoh, or at least in the name of the pharaoh.

In the modern world, there are supposed to be checks and balances preventing any single person from having so much power, so, for all intents and purposes, there is no full way for a modern human being to fully understand (even with all the boring reading available) just what it must have been like to live under the yoke of such a person. I’ve mentioned a time or two how difficult it can be to properly translate ancient Egyptian words when we need to. I think the same can be said regarding positions of power, not just with the nisut-bity but also with the varying stages of the priesthood. And I think in many instances, it isn’t the translation, specifically, that fails but an attempt to modernize the concept enough for it to be understandable to people who don’t live like that any longer. Modern humans haven’t lived like the ancient Egyptians in a long time and it’s near-on impossible, in my opinion, to fully recognize, understand, and interpret just what things must have been like, especially when it comes to the ruling caste.

One can always try, of course, and we have a modern interpretation available to us in Kemetic Orthodoxy.

Tamara Suida is the nisut-bityt to Kemetic Orthodoxy. As found here, her function is a spiritual and cultural role. She provides a spiritual and physical bridge between those of the Kemetic Orthodox faith and the netjeru. According to KO’s Wiki page, she conducts daily rituals to prevent isfet from gaining a foothold, as well as acts as adviser, teacher, leader, and the modern manifestation of the kingly ka. This doesn’t mean that the members of the faith believe Tamara to be divine, as was the case in ancient Egypt, but merely that she fulfills the role of housing the kingly ka.

However, it was because of the nisut business that I turned away from Kemetic Orthodoxy all of those years ago. I absolutely wanted to join. I thought, here’s what I’m looking for! Part of that reaction stemmed from laziness and an unwillingness to take my historical readings and put them into practice. It also made sense that there should be an organized temple or three out there for people to turn to. Just as with many, I looked at ancient Egypt and saw that in order to recreate it, there had to be a hierarchy. I thought of it in that way and didn’t consider what it would be like to recreate something on my own. But it was because of the hierarchy that KO provides that I turned away from it. Even though, all those years ago, I was interested in it, the knowledge that they had a nisut bothered me.

For starters, they didn’t have an about page like they do nowadays when I first found their website. So, all those years ago when I was researching Kemeticism and excitedly clicked on KO’s website, I had no idea what the hell the nisut business was about. So, I took to research and realized that they had a king, so to speak. Of course, there wasn’t a lot of information available to non-members and at that point, I didn’t know any. I couldn’t ask them, “What’s this hullabaloo about a pharaoh? How is it even possible that they have one? The religion is dead and we’re just recreating it.” But when I saw that word, nisut, and found it in my books, I turned away. I was nonplussed. In all honesty, all those years ago, I thought that the organization was being run by some cult leader who claimed they were some reincarnated pharaoh from back in the day. I’ve since learned this is not the case and have quite a few friends who are both current and previous members of the organization. But when you’re just starting out and you find that bit out, it can be a bit of a turn off.

So I turned away from Kemetic Orthodoxy.

I turned away from the nisut business.

Years later, I reassessed myself and figured out that I still didn’t want anyone to be my nisut-bity[t]. I had been raised within a religious tradition where there always was someone between me and God. I found myself as a youth unable to build a personal relationship with that religion and that deity. And I think, though I can never be sure, that it was this lack of a personal relationship with deity that led me astray and looking for other options. Now, I have a personal relationship with the various netjeru that make up my personal pantheon. The relationships vary in their intensity and their length and their personality and their activity, but they are all mine. And I wouldn’t want anyone else to come between me and those relationships. I wouldn’t want to have to turn to anyone for interpretation, for mediation, or for anything else. All of those years ago, I looked at the idea of a temple to overcome my fear of striking out on my own and moving down the path to where I am today. Now, I look back and smile at the fact that I never seriously looked in that direction because, now, I just can’t imagine how that may have ended up for me.

How my relationships would have ended up.

How my religion would have ended up.

In all honesty, I think it is all best summed up as that Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken. I’ve always loved that poem and I’ve always felt that it very much best described my religious path better than anything else. Never more so than right this moment as I, yet again, contemplate what could have been versus what is.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Kemetic Round Table: Differences.

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 here!

One of the large issues, I think, with coming up with a solitary practice is that, well, it’s solitary. We can work on creating a community all we want, but each practice is going to be individual to the person or persons creating the practice in question. I know that there have been times in my practice when I’ve felt incredibly alone, small, and out of sorts due to the loneliness that creating a solitary practice can cause. It’s kind of a shitty thing, really. We see larger religions – from Christianity to Wicca – forming communal groups of people and just generally being very communal. I think what makes it worse for those of us who may not have that community thing is the fact that, though beliefs may differ amid the various sects, they can still interact appropriately and properly with one another. The thing is, however, that even within the larger religions out there, there are going to be disagreements about what is and is not canonical, what is and is not misinterpreted, and what is and is not part of the practice. I mean, if those disagreements didn’t rise up during the Middle Ages, King Henry VIII would have probably been stuck with Queen Catherine until the end of their days unless he was able to shut her up in a convent… which considering her wherewithal never would have happened.

So disagreements amid practices, even from a Christian viewpoint, are fairly common. But how do you deal with such things when you have two solitaries going at it not because of “what is canon” but because of what is UPG?

UPG, or unverified personal gnosis, is one of those issues that most Kemetics leave in the dark. We don’t like to discuss them because, too often, we’ve been hit over the head with the “IT IS NOT CANON” rule book from the more hardcore recons out there. And while their practices may be fulfilling, and in my viewpoint probably pretty fucking boring, with all of their research and reconstructionism, those of us who aren’t afraid of adding UPG are left out in the dust. This leads us, quite often, to find other like-minded, UPG-friendly people to begin to associate with. However, UPGs across the board are, well, unverified and personal. There is no single rule book, in any of the historically informed practices out there, that says, “This is accepted UPG, but this is not.” In many instances it can and does feel like we’re making it all up as we go, which means that there are going to be differences of UPG-based opinions out there.

To be more specific, there may be two separate and distinct people who view a single deity in a particular light that doesn’t match up with one other’s point-of-view. Let’s look at some examples so that those of you new to this can see what I’m talking about: A lot of people tend to view Sekhmet as only a destructive deity, which is unverified personal gnosis. Yes, she can and is destructive, but there are other facets of who she is as well that are, often times, ignored either due to people not being aware from a research perspective or people having never interacted with her other facets. A lot of people tend to view Sutekh as a chaotic, devil-like deity. While I cannot fully comment on those people who do view him thus, this type of UPG ignores his other facets entirely and paints him in a[n unfair and] negative light. There are people who view Wesir as a father-like deity; where they see Djehuty as a wise sage; and where they see Hetheru as a drunken, party girl. These are all UPG viewpoints based on whatever it is that has caused individuals to view these deities in this way. But gods have facets, in my opinion, and all facets should be explored.

So what do you do if you meet up with someone whose UPG doesn’t match what you have going?

There are two obvious things that can be done here.

Who really owns the land of UPG? No one.

Who really owns the land of UPG? No one.

On the one hand, you can go to bat for your UPG against someone else’s UPG. While this sounds like a good idea – you’re taking a stand and just generally sticking up for your gods and your religion – this kind of falls on its face. Many people when they get into arguments with other people regarding their religion, they’re entering the shadowy territory of each other’s UPGs. This shadow territory has only one real fucking rule, which is that there is nothing to back you up in the argument. All you’re really doing is arguing about personal opinion in the face of someone else’s personal opinion. And while if an argument between two individuals goes smoothly and politely, it is possible to change someone else’s point-of-view regarding things, is it really worth taking the time, the spoons, and whatever else you have to throw into the argument? I mean, do you really want to spend who knows how long arguing the finer points of your personal gnosis? Especially since you don’t know that the other UPG is any less valid than your own.

And I think that last sentence is the issue I have with arguing with others’ UPG, in a nutshell.

Let me reiterate.

You don’t know that the other UPG is any less valid than your own.

If by taking someone to task over their UPG ends up with them changing their mind, especially after the god in question told them to do whatever UPG you are taking issue with, then you’re causing serious, serious backlash for the other person and their relationships with their gods. You are, in effect, fucking up something that you have no bearing fucking up. While you may feel superior and better because you were able to sway them to your point-of-view, do the ends really justify the means? Since there is no rule book, since there is no hard and fast rules when it comes to UPG and those differences, can you really take the chance that you are going to possibly irreparably screw up another person’s personal practice?

If the answer to any of those questions are “no,” then we can move on to the other option.

On the other hand, you can absolutely leave it the fuck alone. While this may sound like a bad idea – someone is acting like a “speshul snowflake” and saying really weird shit about your gods – this is probably the best way to go. Many people have fulfilling practices that have absolutely no bearing whatsoever on what we do, no matter what they say, do, or post. As long as they are not hurting others and as long as they are not spewing out things that are quite obviously incorrect from a historical standpoint, why should it matter? If no animals, children, or people were hurt in the making of the relationship/religious practice, then I think it’s a good day. This will allow you to conserve your energy and your spoons for things that have an impact on your religious life and this will also keep you from having to enter that shadowy territory of having absolutely no back up whatsoever on whether or not your UPG is more accurate than anyone else’s.

I will admit that it can be really difficult to watch people post really weird shit about my gods. I’ve been seeing it almost from the get-go, though, and so after a while, you become inured to some of the things that go around. I’ll give you a couple of examples, mostly relating to Sekhmet. The thing about Sekhmet is that she is a pretty popular god. Before I found that there were other historically informed Kemetics that also forged relationships with her, most of the things I saw about her were in relation to either a Wiccan or Neo-Wiccan background. A lot of the stuff that I saw posted wasn’t historically accurate – she was often pushed into that “mother” goddess dynamic that doesn’t quite fit for her – or it was a little too “historically accurate,” in that people were hyper-focusing on the single aspect of her that they preferred (usually the destructive aspect). This made me uncomfortable.

My research has been going on for years and years when it comes to Sekhmet and while I’m not a “Sekhmet expert,” I’d like to think that I know enough to get me by. So, when I would see things like that, I often found it difficult to assess how I felt about it and what I should do about it. In each case, I almost always left it alone for one reason or another. But what it all came down to was that I, per usual, didn’t think I had the right to destroy their perceptions of who she was. Nowadays, when I see posts regarding things that make me uncomfortable with the relationships that I have with my gods, I try to at least let them know about who she is from a historical context, leaving out my own UPG because hey, it’s none of their business, and let them know that their results may vary.

And that’s it.

I’m not a fundamentalist anything and after watching the fundamentalist pagan sects grow in the last years, I have to admit that the whole spiel kind of disgusts me. And while I know that I am a hard-headed woman who has quite a few opinions about a lot of different things, I also admit that I don’t want to become some all-knowing, all-seeing, all-assholing expert fundamental jerkface who tells people what their religion should be because I think I’m the gods’ gift to humanity. That, above all else, is why I attempt to be polite about things when I’m correcting others. And frankly, the only reason I bother at all is so that newbies can see other viewpoints of the gods and know that a historically informed practice is feasible. I don’t want people to get stuck in someone else’s UPG and then getting torn down by those hardcore recons that can and will smack you over the head with their “THIS IS CANON” law book.

It’s one thing to politely provide an alternative based on historical context, though, and another thing to just tell someone they are flat-out wrong because their UPG doesn’t add up to your UPG.

The first part is providing information; the second is just being a dick.

In my community, we all have different UPGs. Many of us don’t cross-pollinate when it comes to what gods we have relationships with. For example, Devo is the only O kid around for miles and miles. As another example, Helms is the only Hatmehyt kid around (although she’s starting to pick up followers). However, in my particular community, these two people are the only ones (that I can think of) who have relationships with these gods. So when it comes to what they say is their UPG, then that’s it. There is no cause for argument. However, within my community, there are quite a few Set kids and there’s a handful of Sekhmet kids. UPGs may not line up completely across the board for all of us. I may disagree with someone else’s viewpoint on Sekhmet and someone else may disagree with Devo and her view of Set.

And you know how we handle it?




As adults.

No one tells anyone else that they’re wrong. No one flat out calls one another a liar. There are no arguments or disagreements about what should be accepted UPG and what shouldn’t be accepted UPG. A part of that is because, as the conversations we have with one another continue regarding various things, we’re beginning to see that UPGs are actually lining up. What UPG may have looked as though it didn’t quite correlate with someone else’s practice, we have come to find that they actually do though we may have just voiced them differently. Thus they end up in a really fun category of shared personal gnosis, or SPG.

In other instances, we have the ability to respect one another, even if we disagree. It may merely come down to someone disagreeing with someone else’s UPG ignoring a thread or ignoring a discussion where that UPG comes up. Or it may just be that we’re adult enough to, you know, accept that everyone has differences in their religious practices and just agree to disagree (either publicly or silently).

In all honesty, I think that people who feel the need to point fingers at others’ UPG in a rather nasty way are doing it for a handful of reasons and none of them are good. But what it really comes down to is this overwhelming reminder that these religious practices are, pretty much, all very new. While Kemeticism has been a thing for thirty or more years now (however long it’s been since KO was founded), when it comes to things like differences in our practices, we have a lot bigger issues to contend with. We have the constantly pressing concern about community and forging one. We have the constantly pressing concerns about not being recognized as legitimate and valid religious practices. And we have the constantly pressing [personal] concern about whether or not we’re doing it correctly, whether or not what we’re doing is real, and whether or not what we’re doing is satisfying to us.

So, in the grand scheme of things, differences in UPG are really not as important as some other things.

Kemetic Round Table: Daily Ritual.

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 here!

When it comes to daily rituals, I absolutely advocate their use. When I seriously began attempting to do a daily rite to my gods on a regular basis, I found it easier to bring my faith with me wherever I went. By taking that extra time out of my day and adding it into my morning routine, I wasn’t only able to connect with the gods during that moment but also during little moments throughout the day. Something that most neophytes may not be aware of is how just even giving a little nod in their direction before the day really begins can really boost someone’s personal practice. As someone who once had no clue what the fuck I was doing and honestly thought the whole daily ritual thing was a load of bunk, and as someone who can now fully understand the benefits to one’s religious practice, I absolutely and one hundred percent believe that anyone and everyone looking to enter Kemetic practices should give serious consideration to doing this.

But how does one do this, right? How in the world do you craft a daily ritual that only takes a couple of minutes but ends up bringing you closer to your gods and reaffirming yourself to them throughout the day?

In many solitary Kemetic practices, we attempt to look to the historical sources for how to craft such things. In the case of the Kemetic laity, crafting something like a daily ritual is incredibly difficult. There aren’t too many historical sources, at least older than the later periods, which can give us any kind of information about how best to do this. In some cases, it may be in a solitary’s best interest to at least take a look at the daily rituals and practices of the ancient Egyptian priesthood. While, by laity standards, the practices of the priesthood may be too formal, too complicated, and-or too time-consuming. I heartily agree that the rites and services provides by the ancient Egyptian priesthood may be a little over-the-top for any modern-day laity practitioners looking to just foster a closer relationship with their gods. But in, at least, reading into what was done in the past, it may provide some general ideas of how best to craft a daily ritual that would better assist.

However, in many cases, the best course of action to create a daily ritual for oneself is going to be based on UPG or off of discussions with other solitary practicing Kemetics. Historical sources are all well and good, but sometimes, we need to spice up the practices that we will be relying on and continuing on a daily basis. I may be a little biased, but I honestly think that some of the time-consuming rituals from the historical sources are a little, well, boring. It’s all incredibly formal. I’m all for formality, if that’s your shtick, but it’s not much of mine unless I feel that something calls for it. Since the intent behind the creation is something that I would be willing to do on a regular basis, then I left formality out of it. Besides, if I can’t have fun in my practice, especially when it comes to my daily rites, then I honestly have to wonder what the point in the whole shebang is.

Besides, if the ancient Egyptians were as fond of puns and play on words and jokes as the sources seem to indicate, I can’t assume that the gods that were, in many instances, the butt of those puns, jokes, and play on words would really care if any of their modern-day devotees created a daily ritual that was antithetical to formal.

Whatever the daily practice will entail is entirely up to the person crafting the rite. I know of a few Kemetics who base their daily ritual off of those in Eternal Egypt by Richard Reidy. I used to use his daily rite to Sekhmet and choreographed rituals for the other netjeru in my household. It was after doing this for a couple of months that I realized that formality was out for me. As I said, a daily practice can and will (if done often enough, I think) allow a firmer connection with the gods in one’s practice. However, again as I said, if the daily rite doesn’t particularly hold it for you, then the connection isn’t going to be as firm or as strong as one could hope it to be. So, I tossed out all those formal words and just ended up crafting something that works.

My daily rite entails plopping down some cool water and some votive offerings in front of my gods. Occasionally, I say something to them. Sometimes, I sit in silent contemplation before their altars for a while. Most days, I just go about it on auto pilot and let the rest sort itself out. However, even just spending a few minutes at their altars and seeing their icons can be enough to remind me that they are in my life and allows me to bring them with me throughout my day. When things get hard throughout the day, I can think back to the quiet solitude of those five minutes (if that) that I spent providing them with offerings and feel a little boost. I’m not sure if it’s the action of providing the offerings or if it’s the seeing them daily or if it’s something I can’t quite put my finger on, but whatever it is, due to the fact that I do this on a daily basis, I feel much closer to my gods.

When it comes to creating a daily ritual, how one goes about it is, per usual, entirely on what makes them feel more comfortable. There may be some devotees who aren’t interested in doing this. I can understand that. I used to be one of those people who thought that doing a daily ritual was really overreaching. Besides, it always seemed like I had things to do, not enough time, or couldn’t remember that I had something to give to my gods that day. I think that, in those cases, when we make it more about what we’re doing versus what the netjeru may want from us, then that’s when the break down between doing a daily ritual and beginning to form the solid foundation of a religious practice.

I don’t deny that it may be possible to create a foundation for a religious practice without a daily rite. I think it’s possible for some people. I’ll let everyone in on a secret: I’m kind of a lazy person. And without the scheduled daily ritual that I created for myself, I would probably still be stumbling around. I think it’s pretty important to find what works for each individual when it comes to entering their religious practices. If that means doing a ritual once a week – then go for it! I just tried it out and always ended up forgetting, even with pop up reminders in my Google calendar. By finally forcing myself from the “armchair pagan” dynamic I was lazing around in and into the “daily pagan” dynamic I’ve been doing for over a year now, I’ve found that things are easier, simpler, and just make that much more sense.

I think, too, that when it comes to creating a daily ritual, then the group dynamic is something that shouldn’t be considered. In many instances, Kemeticism is a solitary practice even when it comes to those being a part of a temple. I know quite a few Kemetic Orthodox members who do not live anywhere near the main temple. While I don’t know too much about how KO works or what the standards for a daily ritual are in their practice, I do know that they practice senut. And as far as my cursory readings on this subject have entailed, I’ve found that it’s entirely personal and the shrine-time that happens isn’t a group focus. It’s all entirely up to the individual (and time-consuming, if my reports are accurate) as to when, how, where, why, and what is done. There are, of course, certain bases that must be followed when KO members practice senut however it’s still an individual’s daily rite versus a group daily rite.

And besides, I know that if it came to me doing my daily rite in front of others, either via a group chat or in person, I would be mortally embarrassed. It’s not that I think how I go about these things is wrong or anything, but that I find it a little difficult to share my practice in many ways with others. It’s one thing to consciously decide to share something with others, but quite another to share a very personal thing [for me], such as my really informal daily rite. Providing a written dialog or written instructions for how I go about this rite is entirely different, to me, than from sharing it in person or in chat. And by sharing something that is as personal as my daily rite is, and all that its development has given to me and my practice, I would just be completely mortified at the thought.

All in all, when it comes to the whole idea of finally, finally entering the exciting realm of creating a daily rite for oneself, the first thing one should always ask themselves is, am I ready? The next question should be, what do I want this to look like? And then take everything from there. Advice aside and blog entries aside, whatever the daily rite looks like or ends up looking like needs to be based on the specific needs and requirements of the individual creating that daily ritual. Anything else is effluvia and completely immaterial. All that matters is your intent and what you believe the netjeru want from you.

Kemetic Round Table: Secular Holidays.

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!

Holidays in Western culture have long since changed from the days of religious observance. If you study Medieval history, then you know how very pious many of the large holidays were. In Catholic countries, observances of saints’ days were held in high regard along with the other major religious holidays we still celebrate today. Christmas was a twelve-night affair that ended in January; Saint Valentine’s Day was not filled with sappy cards and boxes of chocolate; and Easter was a four day affair, spanning from Friday through to Monday. We don’t celebrate the holidays the way that our ancestors would have and many of our ancestors would probably scratch their heads of they could see what we do for those types of celebrations. In addition to this, we have national holidays that have never had religious observances thrown in the mix: Martin Luther King, Jr Day; Veteran’s Day; Independence Day; and Thanksgiving. Some holidays that would appear to be national are celebrated by individual states, too, such as Patriot’s Day being celebrated in Massachusetts and not in the state in which I work, Connecticut. This adds a whole ‘nother kettle of fish to the whole holiday question.

For most of these items, I tend to associate them as secular holidays and little else. They’ve become less religious inspired, or never were religiously inspired, and more about having an added day off from work or school. In other cases, their focus is more about things rather than the silent reflection that probably should accompany these holidays. For ill or good, most holidays in America are seen in this light. Hell, even atheists and agnostics celebrate Valentine’s Day and Christmas. We can’t very well just decide to cut them on out of a celebration that takes our nation by storm. If atheists can celebrate these holidays, then I don’t really see why a Kemetic can’t participate, either.

The thing is that, in some instances, it can be a little uncomfortable, as an outsider, to enter into some of these observances. In the case of Christmas, which did begin as a religious holiday, there are bits and pieces of the holiday are still entrenched in religious observances. People go to church and observe certain religious traditions that were ingrained in them as children. Some aspects are cultural in nature more specifically relating to food: panettone in Italy and in American Italians while the French Americans, French descendants, and the French will celebrate with a tourtiére. However, if the family traditions are ingrained and you’re entering into those traditions, as they always used to say, “When in Rome do as the Romans.”

In my particular instance, since my family is French Catholic, we celebrate quietly on Christmas Eve with family. No midnight masses – most of my family is too old to stay up that late, but they do attend mass. In the case of the Husband’s family, we spend a rowdy Christmas Day eating heavily and drinking copious amounts with Italian inspired dessert dishes. (His legitimate Italian family members would make meatballs and sausages for Christmas Eve dinner instead of the “seven fish dinner” people tend to associate with Christmas Eve and American Italians.)

But, even with the adage of “When in Rome, do as the Romans,” how does a Kemetic really negotiate through the holiday?

Honestly, it never really bothers me. It doesn’t matter what the holiday is. My religious observances aren’t in tune with the religious or secular observances going around the country. They hardly, if ever, match up. I may pay attention to a holiday that’s coming up because I don’t mind celebrating the holiday. I celebrate Thanksgiving in the conventional manner as everyone else; I eat turkey and then bitch about how full I am afterward. I celebrate Christmas by handing out presents and having fun with family members. I celebrate New Year’s Eve by attempting to stay up late and watch the ball drop (I don’t think I have the last few years though). I celebrate Valentine’s Day by buying sappy cards and giving them to the Husband. I celebrate the rest of the secular, national holidays in the country by having a day off and bumming around the house. And that’s effectively it. That’s how I negotiate them all.

However, it is also possible to incorporate your current religious practices with the secular holidays that are coming around, as well. Last year, I did some celebrating with my OTHERS™ on Thanksgiving as well. I ended up having a nice celebration with family during the day and then did a little bit later on with the gods and land spirit around my home. While I didn’t celebrate in this fashion this year, I did feel like I had successfully breached a barrier between the secular and the religious when performing the celebration in question. Emboldened by the Thanksgiving success last year, I ended up incorporating the netjeru into my Christmas celebrations as well: each of them got presents from me. While, again, I haven’t done this and don’t intend to this year, it still makes me feel like it is at least feasible to incorporate your religious identity with the secular holidays that Americans have in abundance.

Now, aside from the major holidays that happen around the end of the year, there are other holidays that happen throughout the year. As I indicated, there is Valentine’s Day, Labor Day, Independence Day, and so forth and so on. There is usually about one or two major holidays throughout the year, per month. Those traditions can easily be incorporated into a religious tradition if the desire is there. In same vein, you can celebrate the holiday however one so desires with their family members and then, later on, incorporate the netjeru into the celebration. Or you can incorporate them all together. However one decides to approach it is, frankly, their decision. What works for me isn’t necessarily going to work for anyone else.

We are all individuals here and how we approach major holidays is going to be as individual as we are.

Kemetic Round Table: Execrations.

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 here!

Execrations are a form of curse, as far as I am concerned. For me, there is no quibbling about it; the very act of execrating something, by virtue of the modern-day definition of what cursing is, means that it is a curse. In many pagan circles, more specifically of the Wiccan variety, such things are frowned upon. However, there are no such compunctions in most of the religious traditions that will generally be categorized under the broad heading of “polytheistic.” In many ancient cultures, it was quite all right to use your words or actions in an effort to enact judgment or penalties against people and things that you felt had wronged you. That is precisely what the point behind execrations is in the ancient Egyptian religion. And, from one Kemetic polytheist to another, I can safely assure you that doing them is pretty damn cathartic, too.

Dating as far back as the Old Kingdom, the left over shards of broken pottery have been found buried in necropoles at Giza and Saqqara, bearing a distinctive formula. The basis for these destroyed pots appears to be on the Pyramid Text utterance 244, “O [Osiris the King], here is this Eye [of Horus]; [take] it, that you may be strong and that he may fear you – break the red jars.” (The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Textstranslated by R.O. Faulkner.) This particular passage seems to indicate that by breaking these red jars, strength will be granted to the deceased, or more specifically as this particular utterance relates to the burial of the royalty, the strength of the spirit of the pharaoh. Later, this particular utterance is re-established in The Coffin Texts in spell 926 as, “Wash yourself, sit down at the meal, put your hands on it; divert the god’s offering, break the red pots…” (The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts translated by R.O. Faulkner.) In this particular spell, it appears to indicate less about gaining strength from the subjugation of the enemies listed upon the red pots, but as a part of the mortuary cult itself. It is not until the New Kingdom where we find evidence of the execration of the red pots to have moved outside of its mortuary cult associations when Amenhotep III broke two red pots at the temple of Amun-Re at Luxor during a festival or rite.

In many instances of these execrations – formally known as the Execration Texts – the enemies listed within were classic ancient Egyptian enemies: Nubia and Syria-Palestine. The distinctive formula mentioned above, often times referred to as the “rebellion formula,” are used and reused through the dynasties of ancient Egypt. Examples of these particular texts can be found in Egyptian forts within hostile territories, such as in Nubia and Syria-Palestine. In some instances, the formula and naming convention of this particular form of execration is so specific that some potsherds inscribed with these utilize the specific names of enemy kings: ones that were long since dead in examples found in the Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom.

While I am no Egyptologist, I believe that this shows the ancient Egyptians’ belief in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Each ritual action of these execrations would have been symbolic anyway and while the names of the particular enemies may not have changed, that didn’t necessarily mean that the ritual was null and void. On the contrary, according to Robert Ritner in The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, “…the execration lists contain nothing which, in itself, could be called magical, serving merely to identify the individual, nation, or force with the inscribed pot or figure. The desired magical effect of the assemblages must thus derived not from the text but from the ritual to which they were subjected.” As we know nothing about what actual ritual was performed to imbue the potsherds with the magic required to desecrate the enemies of the Egyptian state, we can only guess that the lack of name changes throughout the years is another indication that that words weren’t nearly as important as the actual ritual used.

This, of course, poses a very severe problem for modern day Kemetics. How does one perform a ritual that we aren’t entirely sure about how it was performed? But, more importantly, why would we perform a ritual that appears to have been a state run affair?

Not all found remnants of these rituals show the classic “rebellion formula” associated with the standard enemies of ancient Egypt. Some fragments are specific to a given individuals, either of foreign or native descent. In those cases, the particular execration becomes more in line with a type of poppet than anything else. Again, we do not know the nature of the ritual utilized against these clay pots, but it appears that the enumeration of the bad things these individuals may or may not have done, possibly coupled with a few insults, was enough to attach that person and their misdeeds to the figurine or clay pot. The images associated with these individual-associated execrations always show a bound figure in some form or another, either as the image itself or within the body of the text itself. Binding, apparently, was incredibly important to the task at hand, which makes sense.

If you want to perform a magical rite against someone, you don’t want them capable of fighting back.

So, we do have evidence that execrations were done against individuals, although it was not until later periods in Egyptian history when it became a more popular amongst the laity. This is quite common in ancient Egyptian history. In the Old Kingdom and the Middle Kingdom, literacy rates were at all-time low. But more specifically, the state religion was specific to the needs and requirements of the state and less about the needs and requirements of the laity. While I am not saying that the laity did not have access or the ability to beseech the gods, I am saying that there may have been huge tracts of the traditions that were denied to them. Again, the literacy, or lack thereof, is another aspect to this. As the act of execration is entirely dedicated to the written word, then how you can take part?

It wasn’t until the New Kingdom, with the advent of scribes-for-hire when such things as the Book of the Dead and pots for execration that we find the general populace taking part in the religion at large. (On a side note: OK and MK era laity would not have questioned whatever it was we see them as lacking in. It was not their place. The function of their lives was to till the land and survive, while it was the function of the priesthood and the pharaoh to make sure that the country was not destroyed either physically by enemies or cosmically by the gods.)

What does all of this history lesson garbage have to do with modern-day practices?

Even Neil DeGrasse Tyson is willing to take a step back and listen.

Even Neil DeGrasse Tyson is willing to take a step back and listen.

Well, since many of us who are historically informed, it bears thinking on whether or not it’s something that we should even attempt to reproduce. As we do have historical evidence that the ancient Egyptian laity did participate – if rather late in the game, I suppose – in execrations, I don’t see why we shouldn’t participate in such rites. We do still have the problem of knowing what the actual ritual entailed. Our best bet in this particular instance is to go with what feels right. Some Kemetics may take aspects from previously written rituals, such as thought found in Eternal Egypt by Richard Reidy, or they may prefer to go with a self-made execration ritual that feels “correct” to them. In other instances, they may ask the netjeru themselves on how best to go about all of this. Whatever the case – I think that, yes we should absolutely utilize these in our practices and that the how of the matter is less important as each of us are individuals and may find something that works for one of us may not work for all of us.

Now while I fully endorse everyone in creating a ritual that works for them on how best to go about an execration, the real question is whether or not it is ethical to do so. As I noted above, execrations are curses as far as I am concerned. And if one looks to the ancient Egyptians for indicators on what could or should befall the people or entities they are creating these texts for, it looks as though “curse” is an accurate definition here. As far as the ethics relating to it, I don’t think it’s such a terrible thing to attempt to take back your personal power from people or things that are taking it away from you.

When someone harms us, we have few options available to us in an effort to take action against them. In this day and age, we can seek legal help or we can “turn the other cheek.” (Whatever that actually means…?) After having been on the receiving end of everyone else’s power and its hold over my life for years, I can safely attest to how intensely wonderful it can feel to take some form of action – even if it is only as a wish fulfillment action – against others. Legal recourse is all well and good, but sometimes you may not particularly like the verdict the courts hand down. Allowing people to continue to harm you in whatever manner they decide is as equally unsatisfying. After a while, you get to the point where you have to say to yourself, “Well, we’re at this again? Why am I doing this?” It gets so monotonous and/or painful that actions have to be taken either to protect yourself, your friends and family, or to inflict a modicum of pain/rage/monotony back at the person or people who have been taking advantage of you in the first place.

I wasn’t joking when I said that execrations can be incredibly cathartic.

The thing is that many modern-day Kemetics may not even use the acts against people, but in many cases, they may take it out on things. I know a few times, I’ve done execrations against the “gremlins” that have been infesting my car. I have also done execrations against my head-in-the-sand mentality, my inability to feel my emotions properly, my lack of energy, my anger, etc. The beauty behind this form of curse is that it doesn’t have to be specific to people, but it can be specific to emotions, mentality, places, and things.

Of course, just as with all forms of magic, sympathetic and otherwise, actions on your part are required to see the fixes through. We can do execrations against “gremlins” infesting a car, but it won’t do much good if you don’t take your car to the mechanic to get shit fixed in the first place. We can do execrations against our lack of spoons or energy, but it won’t do much good if we don’t figure out how to budget those spoons or that energy. It’s a temporary fix in cases such as this unless you also do what you can on the mundane end of things to see these things through.

Many modern-day Kemetics only utilize execrations at extreme moments in their life or during the new year celebrations at Wep-Ronpet. Ritual execrations against the serpent of isfet, Apep, were done as well. However, by limiting the time frames for when we perform execrations, we are doing ourselves a severe disservice. As I’ve indicated numerous times, it is very cathartic to perform these rites. While they can, and will, take a lot out of you if you aren’t careful with the budgetary requirements of energy needs to perform rituals of this sort, this shouldn’t mean that we shouldn’t perform them regularly. Just because we’ve done the mundane aspects needed to either get back at someone or remove a block from our lives doesn’t mean that we should stop with just a single execration. Things may change – circumstances may change, but the issue clouding the matter may still be around. In re-doing the execration, you’re adding more power behind your original intent.

And well, who doesn’t love more power?

Kemetic Round Table: Bribery and Threats.

One of the things that we often forget when it comes to working with the netjeru is that we are very needy creatures. I say, a lot, that we always need to remind ourselves that when it comes to our offerings and the like, we are giving them because they require these things. However, what we also tend to forget is that humanity, as a whole, is very young, very new, and often come into open or veiled conflict over things. In many instances, a lot of us end up thinking about how things aren’t fair or how things are so hard. And I’m not denying that those thoughts aren’t legitimate. As someone personally going through a pretty fucking trying time right now, I get it. So, when it comes to us turning to the netjeru, we also need to remind them that as much as our relationships can be specific to their wants and their needs; sometimes, they need to fulfill ours as well.

We can only do so much to get the push to the next level past whatever it is we are currently experiencing. We can sweep the path, we can walk the path, we can set up the blocks to build whatever foundations we need, but sometimes that’s not enough. And that’s usually when our faith gets called on to get some things done. Now, in many instances, a prayer is sent out to whomever and that’s the end of it. You feel better for a while because you turned to your faith and you think, “Maybe things will get better.” But maybe they don’t get better and you can only spend so much time tossing those prayers at deities that may or may not be paying attention to what you’re looking for. So, then it comes up to the point where you have to ask yourself what you may or may not do next.

Another thought is that as important as our offerings are, our words are, the intended actions, and our upholding of ma’at may be, the gods are also kind of busy. We’ve all had moments when we haven’t felt such a close connection with our netjeru. We’ve all mentioned how we’ve had our fallow times or we’ve just felt like they weren’t there for one reason or another. Frankly, we don’t know what it is that they do when they aren’t in our faces. And it’s also possible that, perhaps, they sent a netjeri as stand in while we were tossing those prayers in their direction. And perhaps the message taking netjeri forgot the message amid all the abundance of items we’ve been offering to the gods. Whatever the reason, there comes a breaking point where each devotee has to stop and say, “When is enough, enough?” And what exactly do you do next?

Historic evidence shows that the ancient Egyptians were not above getting their needs met in any way possible. They may not have even let a single prayer go unanswered before demanding results. Whatever the case, they would absolutely demand that their needs were met by the gods in question. In the Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden, the user phrased their demands, “The fury of Sekhmet thy mother and of Heka thy father is cast at thee, thou shalt not be lighted for Osiris and Isis, thou shalt not be lighted for Anubis until thou hast given me an answer to everything which I ask about here to-day truly without telling me falsehood. If thou wilt not do it, I will not give thee oil.” And this is just the threatening of a lamp for divination purposes! I think we can suffice to say that, at least in antiquity, the people had no problem telling the gods that they had better listen if they want the offerings.

Now it comes down to whether or not, just because we have evidence of such things in antiquity, if we should be able to do likewise.

And I think we absolutely should.

In cases like I’ve mentioned above – they’re either absent or they are so busy getting their jollies off of what we provide for them that they forget about us – our needs are not being met. And in order to provide the things they want from us, we need to have those needs met. In cases like they aren’t there, if you start threatening to withhold something that they like, then they’re more likely to pay attention to the situation. And again, in instances where they’re wrapped up in their own personal stuff, if you threaten to remove something they enjoy, you had better believe they’ll start paying attention. Just as a child will begin paying a little bit better attention to what you want from them when you threaten to take away their toys in punishment, so too can we expect the netjeru to react.

Some people may think that threatening the gods to provide for us is disrespectful. While I can see the point that they make because many of us come into a relationship with the gods thinking of them was omnipotent and omniscient, I think this is more often a holdover from having come from a religious tradition where that is supposed to be the case. As I’ve mentioned numerous times in the past, many of us come from a monotheistic background, more specifically from Christianity. And we are taught to believe that God is an all-powerful being that can see and do whatever God wills. The thing is that we can’t continue to force those beliefs onto a group of deities who have been around for far longer. And truly, if they really were as omnipotent or omniscient as some people believe, then why would the ancients have threatened them?

I think the netjeru have a lot of power and have some pretty good information to give out. I think, too, that they like us and that’s why they stay around. However, I don’t think that they are perfect. And I think that it is the fact that they are not perfect, and have other things going on, that leads people to require something like threatening the gods. I think, too, that we need to keep in mind that just because an omniscient or omnipotent deity that we may or may not have had relationships with prior to our entry into polytheism doesn’t necessarily equate to having similar relationships with the netjeru. We can’t put our past relationships on the current relationships we have. Just like we can’t really have our current significant others pay for the mistakes of our last relationships, we can’t assume that how it was with one particular deity is going to be how it is with any other.

While I strongly believe that threatening the gods to get what we need is something that we need to consider, if not outright follow through on, I have to admit to having not done this. I don’t tend to remember that I have a bunch of deities at my back who are interested in my welfare for whatever reason. I tend to just rely on them in the hopes that they hear my prayers and do something about it. Or, if I don’t hear back from them, then I just assume that they are demanding I deal with the follow through while they wait around in the wings for whatever it is I need help with to finally be over. I always forget that I can punish them, or at least threaten to do so, to get what I need.

I think, too, another reason why I don’t end up doing this is because I’m frightened of it. What if I do this and they end up leaving? What if I do this and nothing happens? I think, above all else, it’s that second question that makes me pause the most. What if I threaten them and nothing happens? While I can’t quite take the time out needed to attempt to answer that rather existential question, I have to admit that this is a failing of mine. If the ancients could do it, then why can’t I?

I have been known to bribe the gods for things that I want. While most of my bribery tends to be minor, I ended up developing this tactic when I began working with the lwa. It’s quite common in voodoo to tell the lwa that if they want a certain item or another, then they have to help make it happen. Case in point, I’ve told the Bawon that if he wants rum, then I need more money in my paycheck in order to purchase the rum. I’ve left it up to him at this point – he can provide more money in my paycheck (that I won’t have to pay back because my boss miscalculates or something) or he can wait. I do similar items when it comes to the gods. While the lwa and the netjeru are not one in the same, tactics used in one set of my religious path can and will be utilized in other arenas.

And it works.

When it comes to bribery, this is something that we need to keep in mind when it comes to things that they are saying, “we want,” and we are unable to provide. Bribery is usually a kind of thing that we use with children, as well. “If you eat all your dinner, you get a snack,” or “if you clean your room, we can go to the park.” These aren’t necessarily bribes, per se, but they are in a way. We are explaining to these children of ours that if they do what it is we need them to do, then they will be paid for their time. In same vein, we need to do the same with the gods. Just because they want something – booze, cookies, a clean room, whatever – doesn’t mean that we have the ability to manifest it for one reason or another. So, in the case of offerings, we may say, “Bring the money into my paycheck and you’ll get what you want.” If they want that item badly enough, then they’ll see through.

In same vein, if it comes down to their desiring you to clean your room or have more time to write stories for them, then they have to provide you with the means to see those projects done. They can request that you get a project going and see movement on it, but it’s just not feasible since we do live regular, mundane lives as well. We don’t have the ability anymore, like the priests, to just spend all of our time in silent reflection on their wants and desires. We have lives to lead and we have things to see done. And maybe that means that the things they want us to do are not our top priority. So, in order to make them happy and feel like you are an adequate devotee, you need to remind them, periodically, that we are not mindless automatons who are only here to provide for them.

Thus, the bribes.

While I don’t advocate discussing the netjeru as children when speaking with them, it helps to have this kind of mindset when thinking about the things you feel that you need to see movement on and being unable to do so. Sometimes, we just need a little bit of divine help to get shit going. And sometimes, we need to remind them that we’re still works in progress.

Kemetic Round Table: Mythology.

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 here.

As a polytheist, one of the easiest ways to get to know the gods to whom you want to devote yourself to is to start looking into the mythology associated with them. While introducing yourself to the deity in question is also a fine example of how best to “get to know” a new god to whom you wish to work with, the mythology surrounding that god is the best non-direct way to learn about the gods. Reading the mythos will grant you a perspective relating to the gods and goddesses that you may not get merely in any one-on-one interactions. It will also give you a better background of information for when you want to begin networking and interacting with other polytheists who work with those gods. As some of those practitioners may be historically informed or recon-oriented in their practices, the mythology relating to the deity could mean a good deal to them and their practices. So, all in all, for any polytheist, it’s a really good idea to at least read the mythology once or ten thousand times.

The problem with Kemeticism is that not all the myths are still extent, if they existed at all. The Kemetic pantheon is made up of numerous deities, some of whom are little more than a name. These deities are associated, usually, with specific nomes in ancient Egypt. And unfortunately, much of the writings relating to them have passed into the realm of mystery. Most of their names are remembered because they were written in Books of the Dead, Coffin Texts, and in some cases, the Pyramid Texts. While this is very well, it doesn’t give us much to go on when it comes to things like how to approach the netjer, what they would have been like, or what all their realm of “expertise” would have been. In cases like that, we can hopefully find things like epithets or look to those surviving sources for more information, but a main source is closed to us, sadly.

Sometimes, it can feel a little like this.

Sometimes, it can feel a little like this.

In other arenas, there are so many variations of a myth that it may be near-on impossible to get an accurate depiction of what the netjer would be like just based entirely on what may be read. Each mythology that was written regarding any of the netjer would have varied from scribe to scribe, as each would have learned specific myths associated with their temples. They may have even added flourishes from possible oral traditions that we are unaware of. In same vein, the myths would have changed over time to include various additional items when one of the netjer usurped aspects from another of the netjer. The ancient Egyptians were also very fond of satire and they had satirical versions of popular mythology, as well. As an example, I believe it is the satirical version of the contending between Set and Heru that infer that Djehuty is the love-child between Set and Heru, as caused when Set ate Heru’s semen that was placed on his lettuces. (For more information regarding this particular myth, please reach out to Devo.)

While the sources themselves may vary, so too can the interpretation of those myths by the modern-day practitioners looking to worship those netjer. While one person may interpret the contending of Set and Heru as allegory, another may literally interpret the mythology as an actual event, recorded for posterity. Another person may only see the contending as a clear indicator of just what a mean netjeru Set is and another may see his actions as maintaining ma’at, even if the way of that maintenance may seem odd to us years later. And yet another person may interpret what they are reading as something that humanity made up an in an attempt to associate with the netjer better. So, while each person may read the exact same version of the mythology, the interpretations are going to vary from devotee to devotee. What makes this even more difficult to find common ground, in some instances, is the simple fact that each version really does vary, as shown above. Without the ability to have a standardized version and without all of us humans practicing this religion being boring, mindless automatons, variations are bound to crop up!

So, mythology is a really excellent jumping off point for getting to know the netjer to whom you may want to devote or to whom you may be interested in. However, you may find that the mythology leaves a sour taste in your mouth. A primary and obvious case in point is Sekhmet’s mythology. The Destruction of Mankind is a pretty basic myth about how Sekhmet went down and killed humanity for seven days before she was pacified by red-dyed beer. It may end up leaving you feeling as though that’s all there is to her and that’s okay! It’s not the be-all, end-all of Sekhmet, of course, but it’s one of the first interactions many people have with her. By reading this myth, we see that she can get pretty mindless at times when it comes to destroying things, but that we can also prevent her from doing so by giving her beer!

Now, as far as the laity that I have seriously begun to cultivate in my practice, I have to admit that after the initial “oh, well that’s interesting” read through, the myths have had little daily interaction in my practice. They can give me good indicators of what type of offerings the gods may want – Sekhmet may want red beer; Aset may want heka; Hetheru may want me to tell her stories – but they’re not items that I interact with, ponder on, or even think of very often. I think that learning them is important, for the very reason I mentioned initially, but I don’t think that, once you get to know those mythologies, that they need to continue to play such an integral part to your practice.

Personally, they work out as interesting tidbits to add as devotional poetry for the netjer. Sometimes, I integrate them into stories that I’m writing. In other instances, they become an addition to the bed time story I will tell my son before bed. But, after having interacted with them heavily in the beginning of my practice, they don’t really figure in as anything more than a solid foundation. And that, above all else, is why I have to advocate why newbies start reading them. They really are an excellent fallback position for where to begin and how best to learn about the netjer. With a concrete historical basis as a foundation, it becomes a little easier, over time, to not only interact with the netjer but also to interact and network with other Kemetics out there.

Kemetic Round Table: Holidays.

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 here.

This is pretty damn accurate, if you ask any other Kemetic out there.

This is pretty damn accurate, if you ask any other Kemetic out there.

The world of Kemeticism is filled with holidays. There are numerous calendars to choose from when it comes to holidays. We all joke about it, but legitimately, just about every day of the year is some form of feast, festival, procession, or major celebration. In some cases, we have a multitude of various celebrations to choose from on any given day. In other case, there are holidays that span quite a few days at a time (I think there is even one that spans an entire thirty days, if I’m recalling my calendar information correctly), which accounts for much of the “multiple celebrations to choose from” thing. While spoons are a serious consideration when deciding how many, and how frequently, one spends in regards to their holy days, there are so many to choose from that you could celebrate whichever ones you want and may not find a single other Kemetic who celebrates the same one! Both an exciting and frightening prospect, in and of itself.

While holidays aren’t the be-all, end-all to anyone’s religious practice, incorporating them into what we do, I believe, is rather important. It is with daily devotions, of course, that we build our relationships. But just as with interpersonal and mundane relationships, things begin to grow. And with those things growing, we must begin to look outside of our “usual bag of tricks” in an effort to move forward with those relationships. While the metaphor I just used may be a little sloppy, it’s accurate for the relationships we are building with our gods, as well. Giving offerings and praying to our gods is an excellent way to begin our connections and continuing in those devotions with a larger focus, such as a holiday, is an excellent next step one will inevitably take.

I think that while, also, facilitating a deeper association between gods and their devotees, holidays are also a very good way of letting off some steam. While I do advocate piety in one’s practice, I also believe that we need to keep the fun in all of this, as well. We can’t just sit around and have deep philosophical conversations all the time or discuss historical tidbits to death. Sometimes, we need to let loose and in order to do that, we need to let down our hair, so to speak. As a prime example, one of my last celebrations – prior to this year’s Intercalary Days and Wep-Ronpet – was a procession of Sekhmet. I tend to refer to this as Sekhmet’s version of the Roaming Gnome because, quite frankly, that is exactly what it was. I took my deity’s statue around the house, snapped a picture, and called it a night. While there are a lot of things that one may want to put into a festival or feast, from supplies to intention, we can’t forget about just exactly how much fun we can all have while celebrating them.

There are numerous ways to go about figuring out when those celebrations are.

Some people choose certain days of the week as kind of impromptu celebrations for their deity of choice. For example, people may take the planetary associations with days of the week and incorporate them into festivals of some sort for their gods: Sunday would be days to celebrate for the solar deities (so about 99% of the Kemetic pantheon). Or, you may choose a day of the week that “speaks” to you on some level for the deity that you are looking to celebrate for. And again, you could just put the seven days of the week up on a dart board, throw a dart, and see where it lands. With the humorous and slightly sarcastic invention of “Bitter Tits Tuesday” in honor of Djehuty, I think it had more to do with the T in the word “tits” than anything else. (Devo and Desh are the two to ask about that. I just pay attention to it). But really, that stems from personal preference. If you want to choose a particular day of the week and use it as an all-encompassing way to celebrate your gods in various reasons, then do so.

Another way to go about figuring out when celebrations will be is by overlaying the Kemetic calendar (which one?) to the Julian calendar that we use now. So, in instances like that, people would choose Wep Ronpet to coincide with New Year’s Day and the Intercalary Days being the five days immediately preceding New Year’s Day. If you can associate the months that are of Kemetic design with the months that we currently have in use, then it makes things a little easier. However, in so doing this, one must take into consideration that there will be celebrations for holidays that are not in line with your local area’s weather patterns. Actually, this may be the case no matter how you end up creating your calendar, but it’s something you should keep in mind. I did attempt this, myself, and found it lacking. Part of the reason I had so many troubles with it was because my calendar was so far removed from other Kemetics’ calendars that it seemed like I was running solo even though the Kemetic community has quite a few players within. However, it’s something to keep in mind when debating on how best to begin your own holiday calendar.

Some other ways to begin the whole “when” question is to find out when the star Sirius (Sopdet) rises above the horizon for the first time in your area. Of course, you may want to base your calendar off of a specific city, either where you live or in ancient Egypt, so you will need the proper coordinates in order to do this. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of specifically how and where you go about this information. I will, however, provide a link to the entry that helped me with this. Suffice to say, this is probably the most labor intensive (and I don’t recommend doing it without being fully caffeinated) but also one of the most liberating and exciting ways to discover your calendar. From there, it’s only a matter of time of counting down the days to start interspersing the celebrations you want to celebrate – such as Wep-Ronpet, the Wag Festival, the Opet Festival, et cetera – into your own calendar system.

Celebrating holidays, and the how, is something that is highly dependent on the aim of the celebration. I wrote about this not all that long ago and I think the items that I listed in that entry are just as valid today. I can tell you, however, that when it comes to celebrating your holidays, you may want to make a list of the things you want to incorporate into this holiday. The questions I’ve highlighted in the post I just linked to are important aspects to ask yourself when you begin to celebrate and how best to plan out your celebration. Now, I’m a huge fan of pulling things out of your butt at the last minute. Without planning and foresight, then you are better able to have fun, in my opinion. Obviously, that’s not always the case, but it also makes it less likely for you to feel like you’ve failed or fucked up if you don’t have a game plan in place. However, if you’re just starting out, I highly recommend that you move forward with planning things.

I also highly recommend that you start off with minor celebrations. Some of the bigger things, like the Opet Festival or the Wag Festival, may leave you with star struck eyes at the possibility of celebrating them. However, moving into this whole holy day thing with some of the largest Kemetic celebrations out there isn’t necessarily recommended. If you choose something minor, such as a feast day, to begin with, then you can at least begin to get a feel relating to what it is that you are about and what it is you are hoping to achieve with all of this. Just as you don’t start swimming by diving off of the high board, you need to take small steps to build yourself up to a comfort level with your Kemetic holidays.

This is how we celebrate "Bitter Tits Tuesday," some water and pictures on our breasts.

This is how we celebrate “Bitter Tits Tuesday,” some water and pictures on our breasts.

There is no tried and true “you must do this” when it comes to what types of things you decide to add into your calendar. I think many people are frightened away from adding their own interpretations of celebrations to their religious calendars because “woo” in the Kemetic hemisphere is predominantly looked down upon. We’re so focused on how recon we are that we forget that this isn’t about us so much as what we can provide for them. And if you go right out and create your own religious celebration, then you are obviously snorting down the “woo.” The thing is, however, that recon is all fine and dandy until you realize that you could very well be preventing your relationship with the god in question from moving forward by allowing what other people think to hold you back. Case in point: a group of us Kemetics began seriously celebrating “Bitter Tits Tuesday” in honor of Djehuty. Not a single aspect of it has to do with anything except all of us having fun and a great laugh. I actually made a little bitter tits face that I tape on to the breast of my icon each Tuesday. Does this reek of being kind of an asshole? Maybe. Is it fun? Shit, yeah. Do I care what other people may think? Not really because I’m having some damn fun while I’m doing it.

My best advice on the whole subject of holiday is to have a lot of fun and to do whatever makes you most comfortable. This isn’t really about what we can do or what we can’t do. This religious path is here because we decided it sounded like a grand old time. In same vein, we need to take that attitude and incorporate it into the holidays we are looking forward to adding to our religious practices.