Is It Defeat to Choose a Lesser Evil?

Two weeks back, a fellow Kemetic asked if I could do them a solid by reading through and editing an article about ma’at that they were working on. With memories of writing reports for cash in my head, I’ve been helping them with the post in question and have been particularly pleased with the content as I’ve been editing the essay for them. It’s a good post. It will definitely be thought provoking.

Connected to this article is the new round of growing pains the Kemetic community on Tumblr has been going through. I won’t give all the back and forth about what went down to cause this most recent round of discussions (if you’re on Tumblr you have most likely seen some of it or all of it anyway), but it’s been an interesting conversation as well as frustrating in every capacity.

Make Better Choices..

All humans are like God by listening to others.

There has always been disagreements about what is and is not a part of ma’at. Even those of us who get along and are more closely connected tend to disagree on the finer points. But we can all agree on the big nebulous concept in abstract form. It’s just that when it comes to putting it into practice, especially with the way the world has been going lately, the in-fighting come to the fore as seeming factions divide and sub-divide. It can be a little exhausting.

In ancient Egypt, they never had this issue. So long as the pharaoh was ruling and the priesthoods were content, so long as there was law and order, the exact definitions of ma’at were known and maintained. During the intermediate periods, when order turned to lawlessness, the people grew worried that isfet had come to rule the roost. They bemoaned their fate and the fate of their beloved country.

During the periods when pharaoh ruled, inequality of society and the socioeconomic strata that fill society was, well, normal. By its very nature, Baines maintains in his article, Society, Morality, and Religious Practice, that ma’at was fundamentally flawed in this regard, that having the haves on top and the have-nots on the bottom was part of the whole package:

Since in theory the gods provided for all of humanity, and humanity responded with gratitude and praise, the cult could be seen as having universal implications. In practice, however, the gods’ benefits were unequally divided. The privileged received the rewards of divine beneficence and returned gratitude, while the rest suffered misfortune in greater measure and had no official channel for interacting with deities. In this inequality, Egypt was not and is not unique. – P. 127

In the name of ethics, the most immoral things have been done in many places and periods. Morality, which is more local and less grandiose, may bear less blame here. The contrast between the two is important, because ideology and ethics rationalize the basis for social inequality, which Egypt had in great measure, yet the king and the elite who benefit from ideological underpinning of their position cannot ignore morality. – P. 131

The king and the elite appropriate a high proportion of the resources of Egyptian society and rendered society very unequal. Inequality lessened people’s capacity to be self-sufficient in facing life’s problems. – P. 137

But in that very same essay, Baines also shared that it was the top stratum of society’s job to help the poor. He states:

“Autobiographical” texts found increasingly from the later third millennium B.C.E. admit that all is not right with the world. They state that the men they praised “gave bread to the hungry, clothes to the naked,” and so forth. Later royal texts – both instruction texts and “historical” inscriptions – take up this idea. This magnanimous role belongs to the whole elite rather than specifically the king, who has a more cosmic, less centrally moral purpose to fulfill. – P. 140

In the Egyptians’ terms, morality and religion can hardly be separated, and the history of the development of both in Egypt vindicates this view. The association of the general ideals of natural morality with central Egyptian religious values carries with it the implication that loss and deprivation could disturb the proper order of things. This disturbance then is not simply a potential disruptive lack of equity in society; it involves the gods and cosmic order. Loss is one of many things that may threaten the fragile constitution of the cosmos. – P. 141

While inequality was rife in the appropriately maintained ancient Egyptian society, the people who needed aid were provided for because helping others was part of the game. To be sure, I have oft considered the actions of taking care of the less fortunate an attempt on part of the nobility to be seen favorably by the gods and when they are judged in the Hall of Two Truths, but the trend was to provide for those who need provision.

This is partly why the intermediate periods were so feared and why claims of isfet were made: without the clearly defined niches of society inherent in ma’at the necessary aid from the nobility, pharaoh, and priesthoods dried up. The assistance the have-nots relied upon was no longer available and death lurked in every crevasse.

These thoughts are echoed across other resources that have been quoted heavily across the community. The essays and books regarding ma’at all seem to point to the basic inequality of the ancient Egyptian society and the necessity to mitigate that inequality – without doing anything silly like creating a truly equal society, of course – through providing for the have-nots. The evidence is pretty clear: caring for your fellow man is a part of ma’at.

There was no division on this matter when society was at its best in ancient Egypt. And yet, the diasporic recreation of the religion is rife with these debates.

EquAlity

Ma’at, on the other hand, is not the foundation for the inequality of humans but the basis of their equality.

The going concensus among those who do not wish to engage on topics of marginalized people seem to be the following:

  1. No politics in my religion! This is a fallacy. As Baines showed extensively in the above quoted essay, ethics and morality are intertwined with ma’at and cannot be divorced from a religion bent on upholding ma’at.  By stating this and maintaining this view point, people are inferring that oppression of marginalized peoples is okay.
  2. Social justices, and the warriors therein, are isfet! This is again a fallacy. They are not causing disorder by opening one’s eyes to the microaggressions and larger issues at stake. While the tactics of social justice warriors may not be to one’s liking, the point is to give voice and assistance to the oppressed. Oppressed peoples have been dealing with their oppression for generations and are sick of it. They have a right to tell people where to stick their bullshit.
  3. I don’t have to change because this is just who I am. Yet another fallacy, borne out by the idea that their harmful words or actions, or even their silence in the face of issues like antisemitism and racism and cultural appropriation, impact no one. If you’ve included yourself and engaged in a community, then people are going to notice pretty quickly when you partake, or condone by silence, in shitty behavior.
  4. Can’t we all just get along? Everyone has a boiling point, but the “can’t we all get along” trope dismisses the concerns of the oppressed by making it appear that discussions on the subject are anathema. It’s also a silencing tactic.
  5. Everyone should be nice to each other and speak respectfully. This actually ties in to the belief that peaceful protests can change policy. Peaceful protests have been going on for a long while and there’s always naysayers telling the peaceful protesters they’re doing it wrong. Besides it is not the oppressed’s job to be nice when telling others they have a right to exist.

All of this is what I have gathered, at least, from the discussions that keep cropping up on the subject. Those who feel that educating and discussion on the topics of marginalized peoples shouldn’t be so widely included in the community have stated these things or inferred them more than once. It seems ridiculous, their arguments, but then again I believe that social justice has a place in my religion.

It seems to me that the people who make these arguments are under the impression that they shouldn’t behoove themselves to either learn what the issues are or that the issues don’t concern them in the slightest. These issues may not seem to impact them because they come from a place of privilege but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t care or educate themselves on these issues. It also doesn’t mean that the issues won’t or don’t impact them in some way; there are always secondary and tertiary side effects when oppression occurs.

The reasons why we should all keep away from such tricksy sjw shit sounds like a load of pig’s pucky. I mean, in each instance, thinking of one’s fellow man and cohesively working with one’s fellow community members – all of them, not just the yes men that seemingly agree with the above – seems to have been lost in the shuffle.

The disagreements are bound to happen. I fully understand why we are constantly falling into an us vs. them argument about ma’at, piety, and the 42 negative confessions among other things.

There is no central figure here to decree what is and is not appropriate; there is no set priesthood to observe and speak on these things. We are a bunch of individuals who have come together under a very loose umbrella labeled “Kemetic” so disagreements are bound to happen.

That doesn’t make it right.

It just means that the existing divisions are going to grow and become uncrossable if we continue this way. It also means that, most likely, people who are marginalized in some way will begin to stay away from us because we aren’t calling out the people who are “problematic” in our community. There will be continuing and more often disagreements among ourselves and with the wider Neopagan community because we aren’t calling people out on their I-statement laden bullshit.

Scales of Carthian Justice

Certainly, another important category of persons for whom one is instructed to care in Maatian ethics is the stranger

We have examples of what happens when you allow privileged people to talk over, silence, and outright participate in the oppression of marginalized people. How many people have watched the alt-right infiltrate various circles of paganism, most specifically Heathen circles but in others, as well?

We have the examples. We know what happens when we don’t speak up. So why is this so difficult?

I don’t know. I frankly don’t get it. Like I said above, social justice, the awareness of needing it and fighting for it, are a part of ma’at as far as I am concerned. Maybe that’s why I don’t understand the conundrum that inevitably gets started whenever this comes up.

I’m going to leave off with examples of what happens when we let this shit go unchecked. Maybe the visibility of what can happen will at least give some people a wake up call:

  1. Example: Tess Dawson
  2. Example 2: Tess Dawson
  3. Example 3: Sannion
  4. Example 4: Galina Krasskova
  5. Example 5: Galina Krasskova
  6. Example 6: Galina Krasskova
  7. Example 7: Racism in The Heathen Community
  8. Example 8: Racism in The Heathen Community
Advertisements

The Rusted Hulk.

We all have darkness in our souls. I often wonder if that’s what the ancient Egyptians meant when they talked about the isfet that can infest a person’s heart. Maybe it was the darkness that can infect the soul and overtake it with bitterness, rage, and screams of futility. I don’t know if that’s really what they meant. I probably will never know unless I ask someone more knowledgeable and willing to teach me the tricks of that particular trade. On the days when I am more in tune with that darkness in my soul, I think about isfet and how you’re supposed to correct it so that you’re living in ma’at. I don’t have an answer for that, either.

Maybe one day I will, but today is not that day.

When I started this most recent batch of shadow work, I knew how it would end. Technically, it’s ended and the outcome is what I had predicted. The thing about me is that I’m predictable. I know myself well enough to know what the bottom line is, at least as far as I am concerned. I knew I would come out of it more wounded than I have been in a long time; hurt and alone; angry and sad. I am all of these things. The bitterness that I washed myself in for weeks is over now; it’s simple a mixture of sadness and regret, horror and pain.

Yesterday, when I was looking at the newness of myself after this most recent work, I saw myself as a rusted out hulk. I was like one of those old metal jungle gyms, shaped into a rectangle or square. The bars had broken due to years of disuse and were rusted, daring anyone who touched them with their threat of tetanus. I felt as though someone had taken a melon baller and ripped out my insides, dumping them for someone else to have. Nothing could fill me but sand and the darkness of my own soul. I still feel empty and yet, I also feel as if I’m still bleeding.

I am raw with it.

When I started down this particular brutal path, knowing what the ending would be, I asked others what I should do here. There was talk amongst my most trusted advisers and someone said that I should write about it. I write about it all often enough, but how many entries have I started about this particular batch of pain and suffering only to delete the thousands of words strung together? How many new entries had I written in my head, demanding that I release this all into the atmosphere because if I didn’t, I would end up drowning in the minutiae of the suffering that I had forced myself into? How many times have I heard a keening wail shouting throughout the darkened corner of my mind, unable to release and vent the anguish I was going through?

I bought a journal; I write in it sometimes. Most of my entries are nonsense. I don’t know if they’re particular prose like, but they’re raw… just like me.

In an attempt to wrest control from what’s happening around me, I assure myself that I am simply depressed. It’s just that time of the year and things have been rocketing out of control around me for the last few weeks. It’s only normal to feel like crying because you don’t like what dinner is. It’s only normal to feel as if the world is ending around you, but everyone keeps moving around as though they don’t sense it. It’s normal to feel as if everyone can see deep into your core and know that you are damaged and broken. It’s normal to be depressed because it’s just that time of year and it’s been so long since I’ve really sunk into a deep depressive phase anyway.

But I have to admit that I can tell myself anything I want to; it doesn’t necessarily mean it is true.

When the world around me, or rather deep within me, is full of isfet, I try not to look at it. Poking at it will only uncoil the snake that’s roosted itself within me and make it destroy me as thoroughly as Set kills A/poop each morning. Only in my particular case, I won’t be revisited the next morning and the next: it’s a one-time destruction and there will be no attempts; it just would be. Once the flames are out, I will be nothing but the rusted out hulk I’ve metaphorically announced myself as, my insides scooped out with that proverbial melon baller.

Maybe that’s why the ancient Egyptians really feared that particular serpent. It wasn’t so much the unmaking of the world that they feared but the unmaking of the veneer they had slathered over themselves to make it easier to live with the consequences of their realities.

I suppose you could say this particular batch of shadow work has made me a bit maudlin. Understatement of the fucking year.

I was pretty sure that I knew who I was and what things were going to be like before I started this little adventure. I just knew that this and this and this would be my life. I’m a complacent motherfucker; as much as I talk about all the things people need to do in order to stand up for themselves, I am that asshole that will only stand up for myself when I’m backed into a corner and have no choice any longer.

I stayed with my ex-husband for nearly seven years, not out of any other reason than because I always whispered to myself in the dark of the night that I could leave whenever I wanted if I so desired to do it. And it wasn’t until I was backed into a corner, knowing full well how this could and would turn out if I didn’t fucking do something… It was only then that the inner sense of self-preservation kicked in and I burned my house to the motherfucking ground, laughing while I did so.

(Metaphorically speaking. Please, no one think that I’m a pyro or something.)

As I was forced to look at myself form each new discovered angle, I found more within me than I had ever thought possible. And as I looked at myself in that mirror of shadow work, the bit that makes you stare so deeply into yourself that you can memorize the road map of where you’ve been and where you’re heading, I found myself horrified that I didn’t really know myself at all. Everything I thought I knew about who I am and what I wanted was thrown out the window with hardly a second thought. There was no laughter and no self-preservation here. I was forced to look at myself and all I found was a gaping, bleeding wound that just won’t fucking quit.

I don’t know if that’s the worst part or the best part about shadow work: in the aftermath, you only then realize how much you thought you knew and how much you didn’t know at all.

I keep trying to figure out how all of this works out in the end. I knew what the end result of this particular little adventure was going to be: I knew I would come out of it more wounded than I have been in a long time; hurt and alone; angry and sad. I am all of these things. The bitterness that I washed myself in for weeks is over now; it’s simple a mixture of sadness and regret, horror and pain. I am all of these things and I am more because there were parts of myself that I didn’t know and had no clue how they would merit in the end game. I knew I would be all of the above things but I’m more than that.

Chernobyl's Atomic Legacy  Explore #8

Chernobyl's Atomic Legacy # 8 via Flickr

I keep coming back to that image of a rusted out hulk, left forgotten and hollowed out into nothingness. I keep thinking of all those hours I’ve spent, looking at what has since become of Pripyat, the city that housed Chernobyl and its subsequent atomic disaster. I feel like the physical reminder of those images of a place forgotten. There is mystique in that place, something that I don’t have. But the images, the intensity of those images, fills me with something that makes me feel like we are kindred spirits, Pripyat and I. We are both on the same fucking page: lost to the annals of history, a minor footnote in the future that’s to come and the thousands of years that have since past.

I keep trying not to be fucking prosaic with all of this; legit. I keep falling into patterns that end up in that written fucking journal I talked about above. That white notebook that I keep hidden from the world in my purse, waiting for the spare moment when I can jot a few notes down and look them over later. I wrote the truth in that little beauty yesterday and I felt destroyed all over again for the truth of the words I used. I wanted to do nothing more than sit and stare, but the world keeps knocking even when I feel like I’ve been hollowed out and used up.

This week, while I tried to handle all of this with no one to talk to, I kept coming back to this entry that Devo wrote last year, around this time. I have come back to it a few times since she wrote it, but it’s been in the last few weeks that it’s made the most sense. She talks about burning her house down in that entry, something that I can appreciate and understand the reasoning for. While I don’t think burning down my house is particularly what I need to do, I know that I need to do something more than just writing in that white little notebook, hoping that someone will recognize that I am hurting and need help.

Help that, let’s face it, I would probably refuse to take because that’s just who I am: dichotomous and hypocritical, that’s me.

How many times has someone posted somewhere that they’re available if I need to talk and I ignore it? How many times have I received private message from people asking if I’m okay and I brush it off? It’s easy enough because they’re people I only know through the power of the Internet, so I don’t technically have to respond. I can ignore it and then the pain that I am living with isn’t real because no one in my reality actually sees how much I’m hurting.

What’s even worse is that I don’t know if it’s just the shadow work that makes me hurt or if it’s the conscious decisions I’ve made in relation to it. I decided on something clearly – I drew more than just a line in the sand, I fucking blew that sand up like I was the demolitions expert to the stars. There it is, I told myself, after doing it. I made a clear and concise decision. And I’ve been in the middle of my pain-filled world since then. I don’t know if it’s the buried truths of who I am that this shadow work has made me face or if it’s the simple fact that I’ve cut myself off to the point where it feels like half of my soul is missing. I am lost and alone, now, and it’s because I thought I was doing what was in my best interest.

I am so miserable that I want to scream for it. I want to sit in the bathroom, surrounded by the darkness both within my soul and in the room, crying while listening to the most depressing music you can possibly imagine. (I’ve been listening to something by Lana Del Ray on endless repeat for writing this entry. I’m sure she’s one of those singers that I shouldn’t like because she’s done something terrible and ageist or sexist or genderist or whatever, but the song man… The song speaks to that open wound within me and I can’t stop.)

On days like today where I can’t hide how much it hurts, I think about the darkness that festers in my soul and how best to scrub myself from it. Or maybe, the whole point in this is that it is part of the cycle of ma’at with its shades of gray and I have to learn to live with this portion of the isfet in my life. On days like today, I wonder at the isfet that infected my heart and whether or not it will damn me or be my salvation.

But truly, on days like today, I want nothing more than to have someone hold me tenderly as if I’m made of glass and even the hint of a breath in my direction will destroy me utterly and they know this instinctually and they don’t care so long as I’m not alone on a day like today.

Kemetic Round Table: Ma’at & Isfet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading

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

Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Finding Balance.

Seriously. This is me, in front of my laptop, like every day.

Seriously. This is me, in front of my laptop, like every day.

Every day, I open up my laptop with the intention of adding a bit to any number of my various drafted blog entries. I wake up in the morning, full of ideas and insights that weren’t there the night before. And I have the intention – the good, good intention – of adding yet more food for this blog and its readers. When nothing gets accomplished in the morning for all very good reasons, like my son waking up too early or the ideas not coming to fruition for whatever reason or feeling like warmed over death, I decide that I will come home and do all the things that I need to do. But, when I get home there are yet more very good reasons as to why I can’t get the time in to write a new blog entry or add to the ones that I have planned. All of these reasons are wonderful and fantastic and they are legitimate in many instances – such as the day before yesterday when I came home and snuggled with my not-feeling-so-hot son and then fell asleep for nearly twelve hours. That’s a pretty good reason, but it doesn’t help me or what I’m trying to accomplish. And as I sit here with The Breakfast Club in the background, I am still faced with the exact same issue I had yesterday, the day before that, the day before that, and the day before that. I have content that I want to get out there – whoosh – but I just have all of these very good reasons as to why nothing comes of it.

While pondering this lack of energy this morning, I began to wonder if I was getting sick with something. My son was ill with a kind of stomach bug the last two days that left him listless, cranky, and napping throughout the day. Some of my symptoms were similar: listless, cranky, and desiring to sleep a lot. This line of thought made me, jokingly, decided I was suffering from mono or something. However, I have to admit that I don’t really get sick. I have a bi-yearly chest cold that comes around because I am a smoker. (Yes, everyone; I kill myself one nicotine-filled drag at a time.) But aside from that, I really don’t get sick very often. And I have to, also, admit that I have no way to actually contract mononucleosis so that’s definitely not an adequate cause to whatever listlessness has been plaguing me in recent weeks.

My thought train, on the way to work, shifted back to the thought that perhaps I am suffering from depression. It doesn’t happen as often as it used to do and after my weekend-filled fit Memorial Day Weekend, things have been pretty much on the up-and-up. All in all, if this is a depression thing, I legitimately can’t figure out what the cause would be. I can usually, after a bit, figure out what the cause is. I’m fairly good at doing reviews over my mental health and figuring out what any cause to any oddity in emotional output or mental output that I may have. Years of suffering from depression have aided me here in being able to pinpoint, fairly quickly, what it is that is happening to me at any given moment. And I have to admit that while I did my minute check this morning on the drive to work, I had to come up empty-handed. Things aren’t perfect in my life – not by a long stretch – and there are bits of connections that have been burned to keep myself sane enough to salvage things at a later date in time. However, even without those intense connections, I can say that depression isn’t the cause of all of this.

Whatever it is that has been causing my lackadaisical practice lately has nothing to do with depression or illness. While blogging isn’t necessarily a key portion to my religious practice it is, in fact, a decent part of it. I have a compulsive need to get the information out there, not just for my own records but also for the edification of everyone who reads this blog. It was something I had decided on when I began working on this religious path to begin with, when I decided to start a blog for that path, specifically. So, really, the issue here isn’t a matter of not having the energy, not having enough spoons, not being able to get the words to come forth and whoosh into the world for myself and others. There’s an issue with the religious path itself or something related to it in some form. If I can’t get the words out to discuss what I’m doing or to instruct others in things, then there’s got to be some bigger picture thing that is impacting me.

I have to admit that I think one of the most difficult aspects to having a new religious practice is that you don’t necessarily turn to that religious practice when either your life massively implodes with all of the things that can make it do so or when your life is calm, cool, and quiet. I know that I am guilty of this and I also know that I am not the only one. I’ve gone on, and recently, about how we need to prevent major hiccups in our lives from allowing us to continue our practice. The thing is that just because you know you should continue to turn to your gods – even as the Christians can and will do – it doesn’t necessarily mean you will be able to maintain it. There’s a lot of hard work and energy one must put into the relationships we have with the gods and in some instances, we don’t think that maintaining our relationships when things are too huge is necessary. Or, in same vein, we don’t have the energy or drive. Or, we are too distracted by those major hiccups to even give the time of day to the gods. Or, in this particular instance, when things are so even-flow and quiet, we need to remember that the gods are around and what we do to maintain those relationships with those gods is just as important now as it was a week ago, two weeks ago, last year…

We just need to stop getting complacent, I think. And I think it’s complacency that is my problem here. I’ve been so complacent with my practice and what I do to maintain it that I always just figured it would just, well, be there. I could have major hiccups and minor hiccups or no hiccups at all and everything – the gods, the practice, the fulfillment – would just be there, waiting, for when I was ready to come back.

The problem is that there is no guide book, no manual on how to do these things. Many of us will look to the ancients for some kind of indication of what we need to do and how we need to do it. (Obviously, not everyone does this because not everyone is recon-oriented.) We will comb through our sources and try to find some indication of exactly what living in ma’at is all about and how we can bring this remote, un-American, un-English, un-Western idea into a land of possibilities, of realizations, of actualities. The thing is that we can look to the ancients as much as we want. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be some ah-ha moment and everything will click into place. And point of fact, many of us are trying to utilize this whole living in ma’at concept from the layman’s perspective. For the layman ancient Egypt, it wasn’t a philosophical practice; it wasn’t something to be discussed. It just was. But we modern-day practitioners are not so lucky in being able to accept it just being and therefore, doing it. We have to think, to ponder, to decide, to theologize, to philosophize, and to finally decide what it is to each one of us. When we finally get to the point where we can finally say, it is this thing, to us, then we get to enter the realm of magically putting it into practice.

And for me, living in ma’at is what I’ve been discussing in these range of posts: it is doing before thinking; it is action items; but above all, it is a balancing act. And there in lies the very issue, the very point to this post: I’m not balance. I have found an imbalance and this particular one has to do with my religious practice – the blogging, the grave-tending, the rituals, the heka, the celebrations, the educating – taking a significant down swing.

And it shouldn’t.

I can come up with a rash of excuses off of the top of my head to explain why it is my religious life that is the down swing now. I can tell you about how busy my life is, which it is. My work life has taken off to the point where I am exceptionally busy every second that I am at work. There are many, many new projects that have finally come down the ever looming pipe line to plop into my life. I’ve taken on more responsibility now and that is also a part of it. My relationship nearly dissolved because of a lack of communication and a lack of spending time with one another (among other personal items) and that was just not okay. My personal life, specifically the life I am weaving with my significant other, has taken on a more important role and cuddling, talking, bonding, and making stupid jokes with one another has taken a seriously important place in my life as well. I am constantly busy, thinking of ways to keep our relationship on track with an ever-present fear that things will go back to the way they were and I will be alone. All of these items could be considered acts of my religious life and if I’m looking into what living in ma’at actually is then they are all aspects of it. But they don’t feel like they are part of my religious life: my significant other does not share my religious life with me in any way (being an agnostic) and my work life is difficult to incorporate into my religious practice (even with Djehuty being the de facto god of telecommunications) because my boss is very, very Christian.

What have I laid out here, folks?

Excuses.

I have to admit that they are pretty good ones, but it comes right on down to being yet more excuses for something that is a problem.

And let’s face it, this whole imbalance is a complete problem. If it’s so prevalent that it is preventing me from being able to spend time with my blog – my beautiful, wonderful, heartfelt project – then I have a very serious issue. But, what makes this issue even worse is that I didn’t realize there were problems coming down the turnpike until I had begun to manifest issues with my blogging. This says to me that while I may inculcate that ma’at is a form of balance, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I have been able to work on exactly how that balance works. And this is something that not only do I have to start working on, but I think there are other Kemetics who have been in similar situations or who are currently in similar situations who also need to figure out exactly how to balance one part of our lives with the other.

The first step, I would say, would be to stop disassociating the two, three, or four aspects of our lives. Somehow, Christians have been able to incorporate their beliefs into their work lives, their personal lives, the educational lives, and their religious lives. While not every single one of them are successful in melding them into a functional format, I know that there are some who have easily been able to overcome this task – maybe not easily, but at least have done it – and are living fulfilling lives across the board. So, how does a person who belongs to a very minor religious movement begin to balance out everything and mesh into something workable, functional, and in some cases, quietly so as to prevent being fired or ostracized?

I haven’t figured that part out yet. But, when I do, I’ll be sure to tell you.

Related Posts

  1. Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Live in Ma’at.
  2. Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Live in Ma’at II.

Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Live in Ma’at II.

Since my last post on this subject, I’ve been thinking extensively about how I wanted to continue it. I always knew, no matter the responses I received on that last installment, that I would get back to it. The thing about theological discussion is that as much as we may want to philosophize about it as often as possible, most of us have a life. And since that post went live the day before I started my new job, I haven’t really been able to put on my philosopher’s hat and get back to it. And I will be completely honest, considering the varied responses because of my last post, I’ve wondered if I should even bother with it. It seemed like no one but a select few really understood what I was getting at when I posted last time, so why bother moving forward with it? Giving up, however, is probably not living in ma’at though.

As a quick recap, I left off wondering what in the world ma’at actually is.

I think a part of that is because I am constantly questioning this main, huge, big, important concept to my religion: What is living in ma’at and how can I do that?

I forget about this concept all the time. I said it above; I’ll say it again. I forget about living in ma’at all the fucking time. There are days when I’m not nice. There are days when I’m too involved in my own shit to stop what I’m doing and help others out. There are days where I’m so busy running from the second I’m up that I forget about this whole integral part of my religious practice.

I don’t know what this thing is, honestly. I don’t really know.

But I know that my gods need it.

They need it and I need it.

I just have to figure out what “it” is.

I left off with the knowledge that it really is something but what that something is, I couldn’t have said. I’ve taken the last three months to ponder this. Over the months, as I sat back and let everything process in my subconscious, I’ve been slowly but surely trying to figure out what all this stuff is, what it means, and how I can definitely add it as part and parcel into my life. Without their knowing it, my Kemetic community has been helping me – first with their helpful comments on my blog entry and secondly, by just being themselves – so that I’ve been able to come to terms with why I have issues, specifically, with the shopping cart theology and what I actually think ma’at, and therefore living in it, may just entail.

Let’s revisit the SCT, linked above. In my last post, definitively all I could say was that it didn’t feel like this theology worked for me any longer. In one of the numerous responses to my last entry, I was told to “re-read the essay.” I’ll admit that I have a few times since then as well as re-reading it to just prior to writing the entry. I was almost hoping that, magically, by re-reading the words that had been written I could either define myself in the version of ma’at Kiya was espousing or, perhaps, at least figure out where I was having troubles with it. If I could diagnose the issue, I could fix it by either deciding I was full of it when I said it didn’t work for me or comprise a personal theological discourse to counteract the shopping cart essay. And by counteract, I mean, you know find something that worked for me that I could try to explain to others in case they needed something else, too.

I think I’ve figured it out.

When writing that last post I said, “The thing is that I tend to view this theology on its face as ‘orderly.’ And I don’t necessarily equate ma’at with ‘orderly.’ It reminds me, in a manner of speaking, of those movies where humans line up like the mindless little automatons we can be and do as we are bid.” I wasn’t quite satisfied with that explanation back then and I’m less so now. The thing is that I still believe it equates to “orderly.” I still honestly think that the SCT is all about order and less about balance. And as time has gone by, I’ve come to realize that my version of ma’at is simply that… it is balance. And for whatever reason, I don’t see the theological essay as balance, but as order. And while they go hand-in-hand, according to definitions and all of that, they’re not quite the same to me.

While thinking about revisiting this topic, I went back through the responses on my entry. I took careful note of Devo’s response. Out of everyone in my Kemetic group, I think our definitions of ma’at mirror each other very well. She can pull from Shinto and explain it in ways that my work in the world of voodoo doesn’t quite afford me. I’m left guessing and floundering while she can at least appear to got her act together on this. But, when I was re-reading all those responses the last few days what particular struck me was, “It really is a matter of how you look at it. Ma’at is balance. That’s the easiest way to say it. Because it’s different for each of us- we can’t get too definite in our answers. We can’t pin down our definition to something that is too narrow- or we lose the point, the beauty that is ma’at- that its diverse.” Ah, yes… that’s what I’ve been aiming for and all I really had to do with steal Devo’s brain and borrow it for a while.

Part of the reason, I think, I have such a difficult time with “order” over “balance” is because of the perceived notions, from an American perspective, that I associate with that particular word. Order to me tends to be seen in terms of black and white, guilty or innocent, light or dark. It also means putting things away in their designated spaces, but those designated spaces are, again, seen as either this or that and never in between. Balance, to me, doesn’t quite hold the same association.

In some perspectives, I can definitely see it as having the same connotation as order does for me. I have no delusions here; someone will see that paragraph and tell me that I’m wrong because balance means those things. But not necessarily. As Devo went on to say in that prolific comment, “I would also say that ma’at is big picture. We forget that sometimes. The big picture. We’re so caught up in the OMG RIGHT NOW SUCKS that we ignore what great things can come in the future from acts that are being done right now. As I’ve said a lot recently- sometimes NTR throw you under a bus. Usually, its because it supports a bigger picture. It sucks, but it’s part of ma’at. It’s part of maintaining the whole.”

Ah… shades of gray.

And that has always been my major issue with ma’at and the concept of living in it. I tend to view ma’at as shades of gray as opposed to anything concretely this or that. Sutekh is considered a god of chaos, and yet, he also protects Re’s solar barque on its voyage through the Duat. Sekhmet is a blood-thirsty warrior goddess who once tried to destroy humanity, however she is also the protector of the pharaoh, an upholder of ma’at. In terms of black and white, we would say that Sekhmet and Sutekh are “bad deities,” but they’re not. They provide other helpful bases that we as a people who were not raised with this same fluid morality have difficulty grasping.

Let’s take a look at execration rituals for a minute.

In ancient Egypt, there really wasn’t much an individual [poor] person could do in order to maintain ma’at. It was not their roll in life to be a part of large rituals that would keep the world from falling apart at the hands of isfet and its agent, Apep. However, they had, at their disposal, execration rites to protect them from their enemies, either perceived or real, human or demonic. In some ways, we may view these types of rituals as a kind of curse against someone or something that may be trying to cause pain and harm to a specific individual. In that regard, some people who see things in black and white would determine that these rituals were “bad.” They are, in effect, asking for harm to come to another human being so, from that supposition, we assume that these were “negative” rituals. But point of fact, and the evidence indicates, that these rituals were not seen that way. They were another form of maintaining ma’at on a level with people who had no stakes to play in the cosmic game, but had stakes to play in the living game.

Shades of gray, indeed.

Right now, I can definitely attest that after three months of pondering, back tracking, pondering, giving up and just generally trying to put all the puzzle pieces together, I can clearly say I know what I think ma’at actually is. If someone else asks, I can say, clearly, that I think of it as balance although the type of balance that I may associate with it may not be the same as others willing to openly and congenially discuss it with me. And that’s okay, too. Maybe the open discussion of what it is and what it isn’t to other people is part and parcel to living in ma’at, too. As Devo said, we can’t clearly define it too much because then we’ll lose the point and the beauty that is ma’at.

Or, as Cher Horowitz says in the iconic movie, Clueless,

Cher: No, she’s a full-on Monet.
Tai: What’s a Monet?
Cher: It’s like a painting, see? From far away, it’s okay, but up close, it’s a big old mess.

Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Live in Ma’at.

I noticed, a while back, that each of us who work with gods tend to become a quasi-expert in that particular deity. Now, I’m thinking specifically in a Kemetic framework here, but I suppose it could be true across the polytheistic board. I know I tend to recommend various friends of mine for different deities: Bezen for jackals; Devo for Sutekh, Wesir, and occasionally Aset; Helms for specific items and lesser know deities; Sard for Sutekh, Khnum, Montu, and netjeri. I suppose I am considered the go-to girl for Sekhmet and occasionally Het-heru. I have networked a bit on Tumblr, so I can direct people to others who work with Djehuti, Seshat, and that ilk. We’re all experts… on the gods.

The thing is that while we are learning all we can, how many of us are forgetting what Kemetism is all about?

I know I am. I forget all the time.

I also know that I am not alone in this. Sometimes, it is difficult to keep in your mind that the religion you are carving out isn’t just about the gods, what to offer, and how to continue to earn their favor. It isn’t just about forging relationships on a level that is inherently personal to each of us. I have a hard time, especially lately, in remembering that my path has concepts that are integral to its very formation all of those millennia ago. I know that I’m not the only person around in the Kemetic hemisphere to have these issues, though. I know that I cannot possibly be the only person in the entire Kemetic arena of the polytheistic stage that has to stop and remind myself, on occasion, that the foremost of concepts in all of this are two-fold: live in ma’at and community.

Now, I will admit that this is my own view on the subject matter. Anyone else who reads this entry, of which I’m hoping there are a few, can speak up and tell me what you-all believe the inherent concepts of the religion are. And I will accept those concepts as much as I can. But to me, the two major and foremost things that we need to keep in mind is to live in ma’at first, followed by community. To me, you cannot have one without the other; you must live in ma’at to formulate a coherent and viable community. The thing is that this post really isn’t about community. I’m sure I’ll be jumping back into that topic at a later date in time. Right now, let’s talk about how we live in ma’at, how we offer ma’at, and what the fuck we’re doing here.

As a Kemetic, when you start to think about living in ma’at, it can get kind of insane for a while. It’s a concept that really has absolutely no place in the English language. I really cannot convey how difficult this concept can be just in the premise of a language barrier. Whenever you read a book and that concept comes up, each definition or translation is different from each other. I have seen it translated as “truth,” “harmony,” “justice,” “cosmic harmony,” and a thousand other things. This is something I’ve discussed before – taking words from other languages and trying to fit them into a square hole, but the peg is a circle. You can’t cram it in there because it just won’t fit properly. But these are words that existed in these languages, both ancient and newer, for a reason. These concepts are things that we used to hold very dear to ourselves – ma’at in ancient Egypt, mir in Russian, ilunga in southwest Congo, schadenfreude in German, and kalpa in Sanskrit. We have close approximations to words like these, but more often than not there is no clear-cut translation that can make these words and concepts connect easily in our English minds.

I think this may be a major barrier to actually beginning to live a Kemetic lifestyle, to actually become a part of the whole experience and use your religion.

One of the arguments you see in some forums is the difference between orthopraxic and orthodoxic. The latter is the use of correct belief and rituals in a religious sense, while the former is correct action or activity, specifically in conduct. Kemetism is an orthopraxy just by its very foundation. This is made abundantly clear when you begin to start working on living in ma’at. It isn’t what you believe that makes the path here. It isn’t whether you have faith or whether you don’t. It is a matter of what you do in that faith that matters. And that is never more clear than when you begin to study and begin to try to live in ma’at in Kemetism.

Each person has a different take on what exactly living in ma’at can convey, which can also cause issues for those of us who want to live in ma’at. In some circles, this means taking the Papyrus of Ani and molding the 42 Negative Confessions there into a type of law system. While law happened in ancient Egypt, it didn’t matter what you wrote in your negative confessions. These were items that you were confessing to the gods that you very assuredly did not do, which would prove that your heart didn’t weigh more than the feather it was being weighed against. However, the 42 Confessions are horrifically out of date, if you ask me. How often do we have to admit that we never stole offerings from the temples or killed the cows of the gods’ temples? So, by turning these into laws of a sort, we’re missing the point.

The first point being is that, while some of these are universal, not all of them are.

And the second point being is that living in ma’at is as mercurial as human nature.

Some people think that living in ma’at means that we should put the shopping carts away. This isn’t so bad of a concept either. It means everything is orderly. It means that everyone does their part to make everything work out in that orderly concept. The problem is that not everyone puts their carts away, do they? They leave them in the middle of parking spaces, which then aggravates anyone trying to get a light grocery shopping done with no parking spaces left. People leave their carts up on the islands separating sections of the parking lot. Some people bring them back to the store front doors, crowding up space but making it easier to grab one when you go in.

I used to think about this particular theology and put it into practice. I do, in fact, put the grocery cart away when I am done using it. It is because of this theological essay that I started doing this with more intent, with more awareness, than I normally would. I’ve been bad – I’ve left the cart beside the parking space or I’ve failed to return it into its little slot. Sometimes, I’ve ever just left it in the middle of another parking place. But for the most part, I do still put the shopping carts away. The thing is that I tend to view this theology on its face as “orderly.” And I don’t necessarily equate ma’at with “orderly.” It reminds me, in a manner of speaking, of those movies where humans line up like the mindless little automatons we can be and do as we are bid.

I don’t feel that ma’at wants us to be little mindless automatons.

As I said above, living in ma’at is as mercurial as human nature.

So, what exactly is living in ma’at? How are people supposed to do this thing that we don’t even really fully comprehend because translations are incomplete or impossible? How are Kemetics supposed to put this orthopraxy into practice and you know, do instead of think and believe?

I get stuck at this part every time.

I think sometimes people tend to view me in this way that I’m not really. They tend to see my blog and see how vocal I am about it all. I think, sometimes, people equate this in a way with someone who has “got their shit together.” I can be completely honest here since it is my blog and no one is probably going to read this: I do not have my shit together. I don’t know what I’m doing more often than not. I have motions that I go through – I give the offerings, I do the execrations, I say the words. But there are days where I break down in front of my shrine because I am feeling so horrific about everything. There are days where the motions are as bare-boned as that word makes it sound. I putter around with my cool water and don’t bother with the bread or the incense or the candles. I am not together. More often than not, I don’t know what the hell I am doing.

I think a part of that is because I am constantly questioning this main, huge, big, important concept to my religion: What is living in ma’at and how can I do that?

I forget about this concept all the time. I said it above; I’ll say it again. I forget about living in ma’at all the fucking time. There are days when I’m not nice. There are days when I’m too involved in my own shit to stop what I’m doing and help others out. There are days where I’m so busy running from the second I’m up that I forget about this whole integral part of my religious practice.

I don’t know what this thing is, honestly. I don’t really know.

But I know that my gods need it.

They need it and I need it.

I just have to figure out what “it” is.

Violence, Sekhmet, and Ma’at (PBP).

I realized something the other day when I was thinking about ma’at and Sekhmet and Sutekh’s relation to the belief. I realized that, myself included, a lot of people seem to think that ma’at is intrinsically associated with rainbows, happiness, and unicorn farts. There are roses and oases everywhere filled with lotus blossoms. The scents of beauty enchant and entrap you with their perfection. In the distance, a gentle breeze blows the heat from your brow or a warming stone keeps the chill from your fingers. Everything works out okay: the money comes in when it’s supposed to, you’re eternally employed at the best job ever, you have a good family, there is healthy communication, and just happiness abounds out of your pores like the sweet scents of incense. So, in essence, I realized that there are probably a lot of people who think that ma’at is equated with perfection and happiness. It is a concept, I believe, that is horrifically wrong.

What brought this up was the other night when I found an image someone did of Sekhmet in human form, as can be found here. I like the image without looking further into it; the face of it is lovely. I think the artist is incredibly talented. However, the actual symbolism behind the image, I’m not a large fan of. The dark, almost evil, thoughtful look on Sekhmet’s face, the mountain of skulls the throne is upon… these don’t sit right with me. I have never once, in all my years, had a feeling of Sekhmet as this inherently, well, evil kind of lady. She’s a lot of things and she’s lot of facets but this image kind of makes me feel like she is EVIL INCARNATE – DESTROY, KILL, DESTROY and nothing else. I went on to comment on this and had a little side conversation with a Canaanite polytheist over at Tumblr about it. Later, the person who initially posted this image commented back and one of the things ze said was, “Though Sekhmet can stand for order… she’s unapologetically violent as hell.” And I started thinking.

What is it about ma’at that makes us believe that it’s some lovely, peace-filled harmony that we should all strive for?

I think the basic issue stems from the inability to properly equate it in American-English, UK-English, and various other languages. I’ve mentioned this in other places before but sometimes, there are just some foreign words that have no comparison in other foreign languages. I’ll break this down using an example that I think relates to the concept of ma’at and is dear to my heart. So, let’s discuss the Russian word, Правда, or “pravda.” In English, we associate this term as meaning “truth,” but it’s actually a good deal more than that. As found on page 17 of Russia and the Russians by Geoffrey Hosking, “in fact everything the community regarded as ‘right’: justice, morality, God’s law, behaving according to conscience. The criterion for any decision taken by the village assembly that it must accord with pravda.” In effect, the concept of Правда is similar (UPG here) to what I equate ma’at as being. What I’m saying is that it isn’t just about what we ascribe as perfection or as truth, but as a moral compass as well as harmony. It’s a word that needs numerous other words to be properly ascribed in English, which is something we often find when trying to explain ma’at to outsiders. (I know I tend to go, “it’s uh…” a lot when talking with non-Kemetics.)

And while morality figures highly into the concept behind ma’at, we can’t just assume that violence doesn’t figure into this.

As found on Wiki, we watch as a god slays Apep. Similar imagery can be found in later times of Sutekh and Sekhmet slaying the serpent of chaos.

As shown in the image above, we see a goddess (claimed to be Bastet by Wiki) slaying the serpent of chaos, Apep. There is nothing light and fluffy about this act. Warboar drew an image of Set slaying Apep (original entry linked below). In later myths, I have found the chore of slaying Apep given to Sekhmet, my main lady. As evidenced by the picture above, it is also a chore ascribed to Bastet. In all of these instances, in the mythologies, we find that the gods are slaying a creature to uphold all things that are ma’at. This is a necessary evil, in effect. In order to keep isfet from overtaking the world and creation, these gods must stand up against it and battle it. In the battles, blood will be shed; violence will be used. But these are considered good, charitable, and life-saving acts. Sometimes, light and fluffy is fine and dandy, but offering Apep tea and crumpets isn’t going to necessary stop it from overtaking all things ma’at.

But let’s go back to Правда for a minute. In Russian linguistics, they actually have words that we can equate with the antithesis of Правда. Depending on the words used, they could equate to “crookedness,” “untidiness,” and various other things. But, as I mentioned in what I quote above, “The criterion for any decision taken by the village assembly that it must accord with pravda.” In effect, whenever we discuss Правда, it was the social conscience for what was correct and morally upheld by the entire assembly, the entire community or Мир (or “mir” in English.) So, in while we would view Правда as discussing unicorn farts and rainbows with pots of gold at the end of them, in times where life was anything but certain, Правда could also equate with burning the fields and starting all over again, fighting against the Khans that were subjecting their authority over Russian land, and fighting against other Мир that were trying to overtake their land and resources. While Правда was about good things and conscientious thought, amongst other things, that could also mean utilizing violence to make it happen.

Now, let’s talk about Sekhmet for a minute here.

Sekhmet had seven arrows that tended to bring bad luck and misfortune, usually in the form if disease. As taken from page 37 of Magic in Ancient Egypt by Geraldine Pinch: “the Seven Arrows of Sekhmet, always brought evil fortune, often in the form of infectious disease.” However, there doesn’t seem to be any concrete evidence as to who may or may not be hit with these seven arrows. Considering her actions in regarding and upholding ma’at and her heavy influence over maintaining justice, wouldn’t it be possible that the people who were afflicted with the Seven Arrows could in fact be those who were living lives filled with isfet? Obviously, we have no evidence in support or to the contrary of these thoughts, but I feel that it makes more sense in what I’ve learned and what I’ve done in working with her that while, she was fearful since she did try to annihilate humanity once, it is just as likely that those struck by her arrows were not living in accordance with ma’at. This, I feel, is another example where, maybe not specifically violence per se, but a more negative aspect can be utilized in an effort to correct slights against ma’at.

What it comes down to, in regards to all of this is, how does violence suddenly no longer equate with ma’at? When did that happen? And how does the act of using violence to maintain ma’at suddenly equate Sekhmet as being “unapologetically violent as hell”?

Let’s discuss the elephant in the room here: the basis for most people’s thoughts on Sekhmet being “unapologetically violent as hell” isn’t just the Arrows that are considered “evil” and the diseases that could arise from them. Almost entirely, we have the basis for belief in her violent savvy ways is the Destruction of Mankind myth. A quick summary is that Re got really old and kind of enfeebled. Some of his human creations didn’t understand this and began talking smack about it behind his back. When he learned of this treachery, he got really angry and decided to teach his treasonous creations a lesson by destroying all of them. Enter Sekhmet: the Eye of Re. While initially, Sekhmet was only supposed to kill the people who were plotting against Re, she was intent on her blood lust and wanted her fill, so she began killing the humans that hadn’t plotted against her father. In the end, he tricked her with some red-colored beer, she got so very drunk, and passed out. However, the whole point behind the myth is that treachery and espionage are probably not a good idea because only bad things happen. Due to this, illness came to the world and Re relinquished his ruler ship over humanity.

However, in all of this, we are forgetting that while Sekhmet did get out of control, she was initially upholding ma’at by destroying those who had plotted against her father, Re. In order to teach a lesson, sometimes we have to smack our children’s hands out of the fire or punish them by sending them to their room without dinner. While times were more violent back then, it was with violence that the lesson was taught. Do not go against the gods. But more simplistically, do not fuck with ma’at because it will not end well.

Now, in regards to violence, it was common and often necessary in the ancient world. Since quite often, outside cultures would be considered part and parcel with isfet, subjugation via war would be considered upholding ma’at in ancient Egypt belief systems. They would see the act of war as necessary to tame the chaos all around them. These beliefs never brought about their destruction or seemed to annoy the gods since the ancient Egyptian culture lasted for thousands of years. And it wasn’t always just “unapologetic violence” being utilized here. It was an act of entering a country, subjugating its people in totality, and with the end result of having upheld ma’at from the agents of isfet. Just as Sekhmet and Sutekh and Bastet were busy slaying Apep to allow the sun god to rise yet another day, so too were the pharaoh and his armies doing likewise by conquering their neighbors.

While I will admit that we no longer live in a time frame where violence is to be utilized so readily and quickly as it was in ancient times, I do think it’s a mistake to forget that, in upholding ma’at, the ancients and the gods utilized it easily, readily, and to quick effect. So, really, the lesson here isn’t just that ma’at is a good deal more than a lot of people make of it, but that it’s as “dirty” and “violent” as it is “harmony” and “light.”

Relevant Posts

  1. Why Do You Worship Sutekh? by Warboar.

Sekhmet II: History, Possible History, and Now. (PBP).

Note: I have been hinting at this entry for months now and I can only say that I seriously hope I do not disappoint. On another note, I would like to mention that most, if not all, of what I write here are based entirely upon my own UPG (unverified personal gnosis) and so, I don’t want anyone to take this as fact to be used in their processes with this or other gods. This is for me, myself, and I but to be shared in a public setting.

As a child, I was pretty fascinated with mythology. I would pull the books out of my library on a fairly regular basis. I read the Greek book they had in the children’s section to near tatters. (Not for lack of care, but just how often I had it in my hands.) In reality, the children’s section didn’t have much in the way of mythological information about past faiths, but I will admit that I was horrifically and enchantingly obsessed with the idea of multiple gods. And by that, I mean that I would sit back after reading a section or the book, cover to cover, only to wonder what it would have been like to worship other gods. While I ended up taking out the Greek and Roman books the most often, this was because it wasn’t until later that I was able to find anything on the ancient Egyptian pantheon. Sure, I had heard it talked about in passing – I believe my teacher felt that the pantheon was too confusing to go into more detail than a basic rendition of the Osiris and Isis myth – but there wasn’t much information about it. This didn’t stop me from wanting to know ALL THE CULTURES and learn about them.

I was still fairly young when I was able to find the first book that I read about ancient Egyptian myth. It was another rendition of the Osiris and Isis myth, based off of the myths of the Greco-Roman era. But it wasn’t enough. I don’t know how I stumbled onto Sekhmet – I just don’t have clear childhood memories anymore – but I remember I was still younger than ten when I first found her. Hell, the timing is probably more along the lines of in relation to when my father died when I was seven and that’s probably why I don’t remember it. But, I remember being fascinated by what I felt was a “first vampire” of sorts, a myth that all other vampiric myths would be based on in future. The myth was child-sized, but since I was a horror buff, I was able to look up things that most kids my age would have shied away from. (THANKS MOM FOR LETTING ME READ AND RESEARCH WHATEVER I WANTED.) I got the less childlike simplicity of her drunken debauchery and the whole shebang with the End of the World, blood drinking, and the red beer that was used to stop her.

I fell out of favor with my mythology obsession, but it wasn’t because I stopped caring. It was mostly because of the reading comprehension and my reading ability. As I’ve mentioned, by the age of nine, I was reading Stephen King to do book reports on (and being called a liar when I turned the papers in). It wasn’t that I didn’t want to learn all that I could about myths and whatnot, but that the books I had easy access to were either too below my reading level or too above my reading level. Child-based mythology books are all well and good for a basic appetite wetting, but they don’t exactly mean that the next one you pick up is Plutarch. And even back then, I had a severe hatred for classic literature. So, while I do believe I did try my hand at Plutarch a time or two, it never felt right, it never read right, and I got bored too quickly. So, back burner for that obsession, but Sekhmet stayed with me in little ways.

For example, as I’ve said in some older posts, I would do searches of things and end up on pages associated with her. (This was also back before the invention of Wikipedia, so some of the pages I would end up on had black background with red font and sparkling pentacles in the corners. Ugh.) This was true even as a youth, but I never paid attention to it. This coincidence continued throughout high school and my general flirtation with the idea of magic and Wicca. (I didn’t know it was called that then and my basic flirtation with it ended with it being just a flirtation.) This coincidence continued in more force when I was working the overnight shifts at the front desk in Texas, back when I first started hearing about Wicca and paganism, at large. (It’s amusing that as someone who has had an Internet presence since I was very young, back when it was AOL or nothing, it was only as a twenty-something that I heard about paganism and from my twenty-plus-years older friend!) Just because these things kept happening didn’t mean that I paid attention to it.

I mean, obviously, I was researching the same things over and over again to get to where Sekhmet would come up. Right?

As the years past and I began to explore paganism more fully, I was always called toward Sekhmet. I remember clearly stating that I had a thing for her to the EM and the Sister. And that, barring that, the only real deity I wanted to get to know, at all, was Kali Ma. (I suppose I just had a thing for ‘destructive’ deities.) Since I was working in a frame work of Wicca, it was considered a bad idea to go down that route, as I’ve said. I think the Wiccan frame work is what stoppered the whole flow, but I can’t be positive. I do know that both the EM and the Sister, with their fear and warnings, didn’t help in that regard. I can clearly recall, though, in those early years that I had a distinctive belief that all gods were their own entities and none of the archetypal stuff that can commonly be found in a Wiccan context. I think that was the basic muck up in the process – the EM, who had been doing all of this stuff longer than both myself and the Sister, felt that archetypal goddesses of destruction were not a good idea because it was obvious (to her) that I would embody that those destructive qualities and, you know, ruin.

It’s only years later, in the now, that I realized just how totally stupid that whole idea is. As I’ve mentioned a thousand and one times in so many different entries, all the gods have layers. I’ve regaled people with the Sekhmet as destroyer, as healer, as fount of justice, and I’ve begun learning of her as the giver of life. (More in a sec.) If I had done proper research into Kali Ma, as I have in passing now and again just because, I would have figured all of this out sooner. But, I was cowed by people older and wiser.

I think that’s when Sekhmet started getting really angry about the whole muleheadedness. I’m not saying that it is because of my goddess that the EM went bat-shit or anything. The girl had problems, but there are days where I idly wonder if Sekhmet had a hand in the spectacular downfall that were our relationships…

When I first began working with Sekhmet, I tended to liken the relationship with me bashing my head against a wall. She was very firm and determined to get me from point A to point H. I think some of the more rapid work in those early months was designed to get me to where I am now after so many years of ignoring her. And yes, I will admit that I often wonder how far I would be on this path or where I would be on this path if I had just listened to my gut in the first place. In the grand scheme of things, I’ve only been working with her as my Lady for three years. I began in 2009. However, I had been having the urge to do so since 2006 or thereabouts. It really makes me wonder how much more work I could have gotten in the three years between my determined commitment and my dreamed-of commitment. I’ll never know, but it does make me wonder about other things…

Over the years, I’ve chafed at her very tight rein. This isn’t because I don’t appreciate who she is or why she is doing what she is doing, but because I’m naturally inclined to do the exact opposite of what people desire. This is no different in regards to my gods. I am quite contrary. And while I know this irritates her, I think there is some pride there as well. It means that while I am willing and able to listen to direction and follow those directions, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I do it with a snappy salute. Sometimes, maybe, I have to realize that the direction being given isn’t because I have to be just this way but for my own good. However, Sekhmet let’s me make those mistakes (of which I’ve made many, many, many) and she is always, always there to help me pick up the pieces.

The only time this has not happened was in an incident with my ex-husband and that is because, well, one day, I’ll get to that.

You know, I can remember a time when I couldn’t hear her. I believe this was actually after she had introduced me to her sister-self, Hetharu. I was supposed to be working with Hetharu, but the H’s methods didn’t jive with the amount of trauma I had going on. Whilst I understood the need for her in my life and I still do, I didn’t want the shadow work to go along with it. (GEE. CAN ANYONE TELL ME WHY HEKATE IS AROUND.) During that time, I turned away from Hetharu only to lose Sekhmet in the deal. And I can clearly remember crying hysterically, like a child who has lost the only toy that will put them to sleep or make their worlds worth living, and wondering why she had left me. Someone told me that, perhaps, the lesson with Sekhmet was over. And I can also remember that she came roaring back (briefly) to assure me, very intently, that my lessons with her would never be over. And that I was stuck with her for life.

This was around the time when I began wondering how long that life was.

You see, I’ve often wondered why I have such a close affinity for her, even as a child. It seems a little weird, right, considering the context I would have learned about her when I was young. She was a destroyer. And for years, I tended to believe that I was like her in that way – I was a Leo, to boot, so you know. But, after a long time, I’ve come to believe very strongly that in this life, she was there when Khnum was molding me for my eventual delivery into this world. I also wonder if it was more in line with her directions that everything happened the way it happened as my conception. You see, in ancient Egyptian belief, there were three goddesses that made the whole baby-making process happen. There was Heqet, who was responsible for the initial conception. Then there was Renenutet who was responsible for the growth of the baby. And then Meskhenet who was responsible for the birth, itself. And while I have little doubt that they probably played a part in it, I think it was more in line with Sekhmet, giver of life, and her desires that all of this came about as it did.

And this, actually, kind of correlates with the past life soul retrieval Dee did for me months ago. In that soul palace was Sekhmet. There was also Heru and Sutekh in that soul palace, but she was there, as well. And I’d like to think that her statue, maybe, was a little bigger than the other two. Not just because she was more important but because she is more important now.

I’ve said a time or two that this is the Time of Sekhmet. Originally, I meant this to mean that it was at her direction that I was following my cues. For example, it was her gentle push that made me ask my friend for an oracle reading with Hekate and at her nudge what I specifically asked. It kind of felt like, well, you aren’t willing to do with the sex shadow work you need to do, so why don’t you work with that crossroad goddess to work out the other stuff first and come back to Hetharu when you are ready? And that’s where I am, right now. I’m working with one goddess because the Main Goddess told me it was in my best interest to do so.

Thing is that while I talk about this particular moment in my life as a Time of Sekhmet… what I’ve really come to realize that my entire life is a Time of Sekhmet. And we have many, many years to see just where this goes.

Take What He Gives You and Refuse It Not, Thinking It Will be a Courteous Thing.

Many of us use the phrase, “I didn’t choose X deity, S/He chose me.” I would also be willing to bet that some of us were quite surprised that we were chosen at all, and by Whom. So, I am curious – Whom would you have chosen, had you been given a choice?

It’s funny because I thought that I would write about how I had originally chosen Ma’at as my patroness. I had initially wanted the goddess of balance as my primary patroness because of what she represented. She was everything that I thought I needed/wanted to be. She was a lot of things that I needed in my life, if nothing else. I don’t know how to balance for the life of me. Everything in my life is either one awkward tilt or another. So, it was to Ma’at that I had initially dedicated myself to. I did this just before the ex-husband and I moved back to Massachusetts. It was the start of my real pagan life, in effect. And it was to her that I dedicated myself.

(It’s funny, though; in regards to Sekhmet, I have spent my entire life ignoring her. I have always chosen her, in reality, but I have spent so many years tiptoeing around her that I am amazed she has accepted me to this day.)

My problem with dedicating myself to this goddess was that, in my mind, she was more of a concept than an actual goddess. There was statuary for her and I could have built an entire shrine around her. Instead, I found my connection with her tenuous, at best. She was too remote from me. I didn’t realize at the time that I had stepping stones I had to use to get to her; that everything, in reality, had related to her, but I thought it was just simply into her arms that I firmly belonged. I was silly, then.

After all of that, I thought about writing about my affinity for some of the eastern deities: Ganesha, Kali Ma, Shiva, Durga, and Lakshmi. I’ve always had a vague interest in the eastern religions, to be honest, but Hinduism has been fascinating for me since I first read The Last Vampire by Christopher Pike. (The gods are mentioned briefly.) At the start of that, I was like, “OH, WOW. THIS IS SO NEAT. OMG.” I was seven at the time, so it didn’t really strike my head until I was really starting out the whole paganism thing. I mean, at seven, while things are interesting, you pretty much go with the flow. And if the flow isn’t going in a direction, you forget about it.

Until you get old enough to remember.

So, I really thought that I would write about Ganesh and Kali Ma, in specific. Sure, I find the other gods I just mentioned really fascinating, but they don’t hold a candle to me extensive research on either Kali Ma or Ganesh. Ganesha is the Lord of Obstacles, both material and spiritual. By worshiping him, it is commonly believed that he will help in the whole removal of said obstacles. Just before a large spiritual block was moved in my way, I became really intrigued by this man. And it’s only now, two years later, that I fully understand why he was brought to my attention.

Kali Ma… well… There was always something about the gods of destruction that I found entirely intriguing. I guess it goes with my basic belief that I am a destroyer.

However, my interest in the Hindu deities really didn’t hold a candle to the passion I have always had for the ancient Egyptian myths and pantheon. Everything about ancient Egypt and I have read it. I have watched a thousand specials about unwrapping mummies. I have avidly studied the whole monotheistic religion of Ankhenaten until I was blue in the face. I have read historical fiction for ancient Egypt and I have walked amid the sands in many a day dream. I enjoyed Hinduism and I do believe in reincarnation, but that is the only aspect of the religion that I have taken from my study.

Everything else was cut and dried: to ancient Egypt I am bound.

So after thinking that I would write about all of these different deities that have held my attention, instead, I wrote: And I’m going to be a freak here: Sekhmet. She chose me and I chose her. It’s weird, right?

And it’s true. Sure, I ventured outside of the box. Sure, I looked around. However, I have always come back to the basic concept: Sekhmet. She has always been there. I have mentioned this time and time again. She has always just been there and she has always chosen me. I have ignored her for so long and for so much time that it is amazing that she even accepts a damn thing from me. She has always walked beside me; I have always been her child.

It’s taken me a long time to see this. But, it was always Sekhmet for me.

If You Search for the Law of Harmony, You Will Find Knowledge.

Recently, I have felt strangely, frighteningly disconnected from both of my netjeret, Sekhmet and Ma’at. The disconnection from Ma’at is not nearly so disconcerting as the disconnection from Sekhmet. She is, after all, my primary patron. The other day, I made mention that I think this is in large part due to the fact that I wasn’t listening to my instincts. Months ago, I should have fully dedicated myself, but I listened to those “older and wiser” than I thought that I was at the time.

However, I have always gone my own way. And I know that I need to listen to myself and I know to do this. I know me better than anyone else. I am me, after all. And yet… I listened to others instead.

I know why, of course. At the time that the idea first came to mind, I was quite unsure of myself. I was constantly upset and angry with everything–living with Tim and Lori; their constant commentary on me and my lifestyle; my job situation… Everything was fucked up and horrible and, of course, it was entirely my fault. I had, after all, made the decision to move up here in the first place. So if those instincts were wrong, then why would they be right about my spiritual well-being? So it seemed safer to listen to The EM and to the Sister than it was to listen to myself.

Of course, I should have known this was wrong immediately, right from the get-go. All of my spellcraft went to complete and utter shit. No matter what I was trying to do or enable, it was complete shit. And no matter how many times the same thing was reworked, nothing worked. In desperation, I cleansed myself within an inch of my [metaphorical] life and I cleansed the utter crap out of my surroundings… to absolutely no avail.

I don’t know when I stopped hearing or feeling close to Sekhmet. I can’t even pinpoint the exact moment and that, in and of itself, should be frightening enough. She was always forefront on my mind. I talked about her all of the time, just ask anyone. She came up in conversation whenever anything remotely spiritual or metaphysical was thought about, never mind discussed. But, it faded, of course, because I don’t see or hear or feel her any longer.

I know that I wounded her sense of pride. And the pride of a lioness, the lioness, is not one to fuck with.

Too many times, I have turned away…

The first few times were always understandable. I was young and I didn’t know what was going on. I had no way of knowing that the obsession working within my heart was the first tendrils of her attention and affection. When finally I was introduced to this whole pagan lifestyle, I realized pretty quickly what had been going on all of this time. And Sekhmet understood that we had to wait before things could be solidified for more direction, training, and space.

The whole process was slow-going. I had to start from the very beginning and under someone else’s tutelage. As seen now, her path was not my path, but I had to start somewhere. It helped me to learn all that I needed to learn: that the way of the Sister was just simply not the way of me. A lot of learning and backsliding and empowerment. It was fun and Sekhmet was always there. She was so happy for me… And then when “the coven” was finally together, I thought it was just another learning opportunity. And I did learn. I really did.

I learned that The EM relished the role of our teacher. She enjoyed it to the point where she became an utter control freak. Things in circle were always about her problems and her issues, even if we had initially started out with a specific goal in mind. Her guidance became more like a strong influence of something alien that had wormed its way into my head. It felt like I was married again and that instead of The Ex-Husband it was The EM.

I learned that The EM put no faith in Western religion or in Western/Eastern combination religions. She had faith only in the Eastern path. She pawned her Eastern awareness, ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and theories on The Sister and I. We were constantly hounded and bombarded. Then, she grew upset with us if we rebelled or didn’t do it “correctly” or if we tried to morph it into something easily combined with our Western religious beliefs.

I learned that The EM was incredibly adaptable when it came to utilizing various deities. She could throw a god or goddess out there faster than a cobra can strike. She could always morph the deity into exactly what she needed at that moment in time. This was a trait that I used to respect. I have long since learned the error of my ways.

I learned that The EM was incredibly jealous of my close connection to my netjeret, Sekhmet. I don’t know if the jealousy was in large part due to the relationship itself, the fact that Sekhmet had chosen me instead of her, or that the EM wanted a close relationship with Sekhmet. I have no idea when it started or for how long the jealousy grew until it back lashed at me. All I do know is that she was jealous…

…and poisoned my path.

Everyone thought that they were doing the right thing by me and by my path. They thought that telling me to wait until the waters were calmer was in my very best interest. I do not blame The Sister for this since I knew the truth way back when. She was only doing what she thought was right for me and at the probable behest of The EM, whether she knows it or not. Sometimes, I blame The EM but mostly, I blame myself. I knew better!

That’s the thing about hindsight, though. It is always 20/20.

When I declared that Kemetic Recon was my complete intent and true path, I should have immediately planned a dedication ceremony. I should have started planning it from the get-go. Hell, I should have done one on the fly and if that didn’t cement anything, then done a ritual as planned and ornate as I could possibly find. I should have paid more attention to the needs and desires of my goddess. She is, after all, my patroness.

She is everything.

I know where I have failed in all of this and I know why. I can only hope that she will forgive me.