The Second Hour.

The first hour of the afterlife journey heralds the moment when liminality has overtaken the sun god and the journeying soul as they move from one form of life to the next. I have personally come to view that first hour as a form of preparation, a sort of time period as brief as it may be, where one must bolster itself for the trip ahead.

The second hour begins as a journey through a named gateway and the journey in truth begins.

The Book of the Hidden Chamber [Amduat]

This hour grants us access to the underworld in truth. The area is a fertile region, watered by the primeval ocean of Nun. The area is known as Wernes in the Amduat. The solar barque is featured with four companion boats, which are filled with provisions for the journey ahead. The primary barque shows Nephthys and Isis as serpents, guarding the barque on its journey forward.

In the fourth boat, Ma’at appears as a feather supported by a god without a name. Beside the oversized feather, a moon is represented as both a lunar disc and lunar crescent. This representation of the moon is atypical of the afterlife. The moon is not usually shown as the sun is replacing the moon on its journey through the hours. The visual of the moon seems to by representative of the rejuvenation of time and of the dead.

Time is further represented with gods holding up the signs for time and season. These grouped gods are separated by a third group baring aloft knives. The gods holding the signs for time and season are ensuring that the timing of the season of the year follows the sequence it should. They are also ensuring that agricultural year of the netherworld provides for the deceased. The knife-wielding deities between protect both groups from anything that would prevent the above from happening.

This shows the cyclical nature of this hour. Ra provides for the gods and deceased of the underworld through his shining sunlight, ensuring the growth of the necessary agriculture to feed the underworld’s inhabitants. He also assigns them the plots of land they require to facilitate the growth of the produce the inhabitants need. In the same vein, the inhabitants are also providing for Ra as he roams through the hour, giving him sustenance in the fruits and vegetables they have grown in their plots of land.

The Book of Gates

The second hour for this book shows a myriad of inhabitants. Those who have spoken Ma’at and live in Ma’at have been transfigured into their forms as the Blessed Dead. Those who have not been transfigured are scolded by Atum. The four cardinal points of the earth are also represented as the “Weary Ones,” seeming to indicate that they too need regeneration.

The Book of Caverns

The guardian serpents of this area restrict access after which one is ushered towards multiple deities within sarcophagi. Further on, multiple forms of Wesir are shown, including his own sarcophagus. Beneath the many bodies of Wesir, we see bound and decapitated enemies, some of whom have had their hearts torn out and their bodies hung upside down. Ra condemns these enemies to non-existence, sending them to the Place of Annihilation.

The Book of Night

The entrance to the Second Hour brings us to Nut’s mouth and is heralded by a named Gateway. This Gateway is titled: “Lady of trembling, high of walls, pre-eminent one, Lady of destruction, who foresees aggression and repels the raging, who saves the robbed from the one who comes from afar. Lady of terror.” The guide through this gateway is known as Bull of Light.

There are nine mummiform figures within this hour, known as The Transfigured Ones, The Mummies, and The Dead. They rest upon lion beds and Sia watches over them, commanding: “Count your hearts, receive your offerings.”

Next to the mummiform figures, there are three more groups of people shown: two men with a woman in between. These beings are known as Inert Ones, Punished Ones, and Those of the Opposite Sky. They are either swimming or lying prone, stuck in various phases of the renewal process. They lie passively within this hour, allowing their lives to be surrendered to whatever fate has in store for them. Sia watches over these beings, commanding, “Measure your banks, lift up your legs.”

This hour is about nudging those who had not continued the rejuvenation process for one reason or another, and forcing them to reawaken themselves from their inert forms. They are being told that they must take command of their bodily functions rather than allow the inertia of this hour to overtake them.

The integration of the body is integral for this hour and the push is that in order to move forward, one must gradually reunite with one’s body parts to become fully rejuvenated. “Initially then, all the faculties of the body have to be renewed and the body gradually reunited with its different members. And this ‘gathering together’ serves as the secure foundation on which the whole journey ultimately rests. For it is only after their bodies have been renewed that the night travellers can proceed further in their journey”  [p116, Roberts, My Heart, My Mother].

The final note for this hour is that the recommendation is that one should embody Ihy as Ihy has experience with inertia and the Inert Ones. Ihy, the son of Hathor, endures as inert in the primal waters before being reborn as the radiant child of Hathor and Heru-Wer.


Further Reading

  • The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife by Erik Hornung
  • Knowledge for the Afterlife by Theodor Abt and Erik Hornung
  • My Heart, My Mother by Alison Roberts

The First Hour.

The various books of the afterlife are many and varied. While their content are among the same lines, the setup and journey through the underworld varies. What one finds in the Book of Night is not necessarily what one will find in the Book of the Hidden Chamber, or Amduat. The wide range of subject matter, and even the topography of the Duat described therein, hints at the ever changing focus of the ancient Egyptians’ beliefs.

Each book follows the same general layout in that the sun god’s journey lasts for a full twelve hours as the sun god passes through the Netherworld. The Netherworld could be a whole other world or be housed within the body of Nut. The books where the sun god travels through the body of Nut correlates in some way to her body and I will make sure to address which body part we know or we suspect the hour is related to.

The move from one hour to the next heralds a passing through a gateway, most of which we have the names for. The names of these gateways tend to foreshadow what the next hour relates to on the god’s journey to renewal and rebirth. Where I know the name of the gateway, I will make sure to highlight that information.

The first hour doesn’t seem to have a gateway of its own that the god passes through from his journey of daylight into the night. Hornung references regularly to these first hours in his book as “interstitial” places; liminality reigns supreme in these hours. It is the place where the sun god breaks the barrier from one realm to the next so that he can move forward on his journey towards renewal and rebirth.

The Book of the Hidden Chamber [Amduat]

Each book of the Amduat starts with a heading except for the First Hour. This is a common theme in afterlife literature, so it may be that the ancient Egyptians didn’t want to include it as they believed that to write something was to give it permanence. Perhaps, though they didn’t feel that an introduction for the First Hour of the Amduat was a necessity as they open the book with a detailed introduction, indicating that the Amduat stresses knowledge: “it promises knowledge of netherworldly phenomena nine (which is Egyptian stands for “many, many”) times” [p33, Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife].

The first hour describes an ordered list of the important beings that occur in the afterlife. The lists include both the beings that the sun god will come into contact with as well as those in his retinue. The solar barque depicted in the Amduat is overflowing with a variety of gods to help the sun god on his journey. All beings are shown to be filled with joy, except the enemies of the sun god, as they are greeted by the sun god on his nightly journey.

The goddess Ma’at is shown twice in this first hour. In both instances, she is shown standing before the solar barque. This seems to indicate that she is as integral to the solar god’s journey of renewal as the sun god himself.

In the middle register, a scene seems to represent that Ra has already succeeded on his journey through the netherworld: “the sun god is already present in his morning form of the scarab beetle; the beginning of the journey thus already alludes to its successful completion” [p35, Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife].

This first hour is not a true hour of the underworld, or at least is not truly described in such terms. The sun god has yet to truly enter the netherworld, which could also be why there is no heading or gateway indicated in this hour. It is only upon entry into the second hour that the journey truly begins.

The Book of Gates

In this book of the Netherworld, the solar barque has only two gods traveling as companions with the sun god, Sia and Heka. Ma’at is not shown in any capacity during this hour. The boat’s cabin is protected by a Mehen-serpent, as though to keep the sun god safe from all the upcoming dangers.

In the Book of the Amduat, the sun god was greeted upon entry into the netherworld by a multitude of gods. In the Book of Gates, the collective dead witness his entry into the night hours and greet him.

This first hour is also not a true hour of the netherworld. No true description of the hour exists and it only serves as a sort of introduction to the eventual journey of the sun god through the netherworld.

The Book of Caverns

It is this book that focuses more on the journey of the sun god on his way to merge with Osiris. Osiris was depicted in the previous two books discussed, however his imagery almost seemed to be an anecdote or a mention in passing. Here, Ra and Osiris are almost seen as aspects of the same god as the sun god journey to the body of Osiris in his intent to merge and renew himself with Osiris.

The first hour discusses Ra’s journey specifically in its relation to care for Osiris and to send his enemies to their deaths. “Ra turns directly to Osiris and extends his hands to him. Osiris is represented in a shrine that is surrounded protectively by a serpent; those in his following are also protected by serpents inside their sarcophagi.” [p85, Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife] Below this scene, the enemies of Osiris are punished in the “Place of Annihilation.” The ultimate punishment is visited upon them: Ra banishes them to non-existence.

The Book of Night

As with the first hours discussed in the Book of the Amduat and the Book of Caverns, no first hour truly exists. It is not until the sun god enters the second hour that the journey to rebirth/renewal begins. In the Book of Night, the first “hour” is associated with the arms of Nut. The sun god’s solar barque travels within her body and in order to truly enter the Netherworld housed within her, he must travel up her arms on his way to her mouth.

And that is the sum total of information regarding the first hours of the books I have some access to. The first hours are less about the journey itself and more in line with a sort of setup, or along the lines of an introduction to a novel, for the journey through the netherworld.

Further Reading

  • The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife by Erik Hornung
  • Knowledge for the Afterlife by Theodor Abt and Erik Hornung
  • My Heart, My Mother by Alison Roberts

The Inert Ones.

When I was a senior in high school, I thought it would be a great idea to take physics. I honestly don’t remember why I thought that was such a good idea because I had bombed out of chemistry the year prior and I had barely passed my physical science course my freshman year. I was much more in tune with the biological sciences – anatomy and physiology was my favorite class, to be honest, and while I barely passed astronomy, it was way up there, too.

In physics, the professor talked about inertia before I dropped the course and moved on with my life. The sum total of my knowledge prior to my senior year was an opening line during the theme song portion from Bill Nye’s television show for kids: inertia is a property of matter. What else does a 17-year-old need to know about such things?

I have never once, to my knowledge, applied anything related to physics in my adult years. I’ve applied knowledge from other science courses, usually not in direct relation to my life though. But right now, as I look at the Wiki page for inertia, I am beginning to see why a 17-year-old may need to know about it.

As seen in the First Law of Newton’s Laws of Motion, “When viewed in an inertial reference frame, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force.” I’ve been thinking about this law quite a bit the last few weeks, reading and re-reading Wiki page after Wiki page. I keep clicking through to other semi-interesting pages, but I always head right back to the First Law of Motion.

Sometimes even science can be a sign that your ass needs to be paying attention.


O you falcon who rise from the Abyss, Lord of the Celestial Waters, make me hale just as you made yourself hale. Release him, loose him, put him on earth, cause him to be loved: so says the One-Faced Lord concerning me. – excerpt from Chapter 71 of The Book of the Dead translated by R.O. Faulkner

When I was reading through My Heart, My Mother by Alison Roberts, I was particularly struck with the imagery of the hours as she brought them to life. Part of the reason I got so hung up on the imagery she described was the simple fact that I had already started dreaming about this stuff.

Perhaps it was a push from Hornung’s book that caused the dreams where I was sucked into the mouth of the primeval goddess, Nut. Or perhaps it was more a metamorphosis that needed to be embodied in the imagery of my religious shenanigans. In either case, I spent a long while reading and re-reading through the hours of the night as Roberts described them. I seemed unable to pull myself away anyway.

It is in the second hour of the night that the deceased find themselves at her mouth. This hour is overseen by the gateway guardian, the Lady of Trembling, and it is here that the deceased watches Sia overlooking transfigured ones. They are mummiform upon beds and Sia commands them to: “Count your hearts, receive your offerings.”

Further in the scene, there are other beings that one can discern. These beings are known as “Inert Ones”, “Punished Ones”, and “Those of the Opposite Sky”. As Roberts writes,

… they are swimming and lying, caught in various phases of a renewal process – like the process which Hathor’s child, Ihy, endures as an ‘Inert One’ in the primal waters before being reborn as a radiant child of the goddess. Sunk in their dead sleep, they lie there, passively surrendering to their fate, some in a state of great suffering, watched by the king who appears behind Sia here in the lowest register. Again the god commands them, this time saying:

Measure your banks, lift up your legs.

I found the entire concept of beings lying around, waiting for the next hour to just sort of show up kind of interesting. It seemed to suggest that one’s metamorphosis through the hours of death wasn’t always a sure-fire bet. You could know the spells, say the right words, but sometimes it didn’t really matter. It’s possible that these are beings who got trapped within the confines of the Duat, failing to use the correct words or maybe they are just persons who had given up. I just found it rather intriguing that there were nooks and crannies, places to stop for a bit because the momentum of the deceased’s journey wasn’t up to snuff. After reading through the rest of the hours, I promptly forgot about this section.

After being told about my own stagnation, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps my journey through the body of Nut had all been a sham. After the original dream, I had some others that appears to correspond with other hours, but I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps I had never really progressed beyond the second hour gateway. It was that gateway, after all, that has stuck with me through the last year. The rest was almost ephemeral.

Perhaps my mind had made up the rest, borrowing heavily from the book I had read and whatever appearance of my forward progression was all a dream-within-a-dream, a sort of lie to myself so that I wouldn’t ever see that I was, in fact, stagnating. I honestly haven’t come to a satisfactory conclusion about all of that yet.

Did I move on?

Did I not?

Who knows?

I have to consider the possibility that through the trappings of one’s own metamorphosis that they could go back to a particular area of the Duat/night that they would prefer to be in.

I mean, look at it this way: if you had progressed beyond a specific hour and you found that the rest of the shit heading your way was too much, who is to say that you couldn’t force yourself back a few steps? Or perhaps just like when we eat our food, wouldn’t it be possible for the peristalsis of Nut’s digestive tract to send you back from whence you came?

Maybe it’s an internal reaction of Nut’s to force you back up to where you truly belong because you either lied or actually weren’t ready for what was next. Or maybe you make the decision all your own. I have to consider the fact that maybe I did get far and said, “fuck this shit; I’m out,” before heading back to the one hour where I wasn’t required to do a fucking thing. I have to also consider the possibility that Nut was just like, “ha ha, no,” and sent me back there.

I may never come to a good conclusion on what happened, but I can assert that I definitely feel like I’m right there in the second hour.

Since finding that section of the book again, I keep going back to that quote in Roberts’ book and focusing on the bit about the Inert Ones passively surrendering to their fate. That is precisely what this stagnation thing has resembled since I recognized that is what was happening. I have been allowing the ebb and flow of life to shift me wherever it wanted me to go versus swimming against the currents.


May he knit my bones together, may he make my members firm. May the Sistrum-player, Lord of Hearts, be brought to me that he may shape my bones and establish the Wereret-crown of Atum. – excerpt from Chapter 149 of The Book of the Dead translated by R.O. Faulkner

After re-reading the section of Hour Two in My Heart, My Mother, I found myself particularly interested in Ihy. It’s not really all that surprising, really. While it could have been expected that I would develop an interest in him prior to now, I can honestly say that I only gave him a passing glance. My relationship with Heru-Wer and Hetheru has had little to do with the side-lock bearing youth of their union.

I pulled up my resources and went to town. There wasn’t that much that I could really learn since Butler’s entry had citations that were heavily from the CT as opposed to either the PT or BD, both of which I have copies of. Still, I pressed on and considered the words of that little old woman who told me to do the fucking work or else. Luckily enough, I have the great resource that is TTR to aid me when I’m kind of like, “the fuck?”

TTR pointed out that Ihy had mentions, especially regarding birth, within Alison Roberts book, Hathor Rising. Since I was nowhere near my copy during the time of our conversation, they graciously typed up the pertinent quotes. I kind of checked out a bit after the quotes because they were all so fucking relevant. I went back to them in my own copy of Hathor Rising a while later:

To ‘become Ihy’, a person must be prepared to experience the raw materiality of existence – blood, faeces, and bodily fluids – all the messy substances and liquids which are there when life is pushed forth from the female womb. Such a birth is graphically described in Spell 334…

My awesomeness precedes me
As Ihy, Son of Hathor,
I am he who begets a begetting
I flowed out from her thighs
In this my name Jackal of the Light
I broke forth from the egg…
I escaped in her blood
I am the Lord of blood. I am turbulent bull …
I came into being, I crept, I travelled around.
I grew, I became tall like my father.

I went through this particular section a few times before I felt like I had grasped what it was that I needed to do.

I had left the little old lady’s house feeling less like I knew what to do and more like I was in another round of perpetual Kermit Arm Flail. After that visit, I was left wondering if perhaps I should just give up and let the passive surrender I had been living in keep on, keepin’ on. None of my gods had felt the least bit like helping me out in the months preceding; they had disappeared for lack of a better term.

While the person I spoke with seemed to indicate this is because I wasn’t doing my part by reaching out, I have to also point out that sometimes, relationships even with the gods are two way streets, man. And it’s never really been my way to beseech them unless I’m backed into a fucking corner. And honestly, being passive about the fate I was in looks absolutely nothing like being backed into a corner.

But as TTR wrote out each particular passage associated with Ihy and as I re-read them again later in my own copy of the book, it kind of crystallized that I could absolutely let the fate that I had been living have me. I could definitely allow the world around me to continue in its perceived shades of gray and drown from it. Or, I could puncture through and be born into the world anew.

No one ever said rebirth was easy. They just never mentioned all the blood and guts you have to go through in order to make it manifest.

Festival of Wag 2013.

I received a notification on Thursday that I was looking at a two-day festival for the akhu and I had no clue. My feelings regarding this were two-fold: on the one hand, I was really excited to start digging into various rites and services from the layman perspective but I was also terrified because I had a festival to prepare for with barely a day’s notice. (This is actually why I really need a desk calendar or something that I have hanging on my wall because before I know it, something like this happens and I’m just like, “Shit.” This happens to me a lot by the way.) So, instead of running around like a crazy person on the start of the festival, I decided to put off doing anything until Saturday.

Throughout the quiet moments on Friday, of which there were many that night, I tried to think of what I could do that would be something common in ancient Egypt. There really isn’t a lot of akhu related items from the poor man’s perspective. We see all of these really fantastic tombs for the kings and their families, the priests and their families, and for the nobleman and their families. While there are graves for people who did not belong to any of the above three buckets in ancient Egyptian society, we have very little to nothing relating to how they went about celebrating their dead. Did they have a shrine in their home? Did they go to their graves? Did they leave offerings for them? Or did they just assume that all of the stuff the priests were doing was enough for them? Unfortunately, John Doe-hotep hasn’t come out of the wood work to explain to me what he wanted for his family or for his soul. Hell, maybe they weren’t even transfigured like all the rich people were and they’re just roaming around the Duat, right now, wondering what the next step is.

The problem here is that I don’t know and chances are, I’ll never know.

I was getting pretty desperate for ideas, so I ended up moseying on over to Wepwawet Wiki. This is a Kemetic Orthodox specific site, which is rife with UPG. I don’t necessarily dislike it, but I do not recommend it as a source unless that person is KO. Nothing against one of the largest established Kemetic orders out there, but I don’t want newbies who are interested in a solitary path, like me, to get caught up in others’ unverified personal gnosis in their path. They could end up with a bastardized version of Kemetic Orthodoxy and it could cause problems for those solitary neophytes later.

According to the KO site, there was a lot of offerings left (pretty obvious) and the priests did a bunch of stuff. And that’s pretty okay. I could definitely see that as being a major part to the celebration.

Back then, the priests were the go-to guys for all such things. In this day and age, however, we don’t have the same time of need for an established priesthood as there was back then. We are all literate. We are all fully capable of providing for ourselves. We are no longer living in a society where the be-all, end-all was a human-turned-god on the throne and the myriad of priests who maintained ma’at through daily ritual. We emulate this in many cases with our daily rites and offerings on an individual basis, so I honestly don’t think an established priesthood is overly necessary nowadays. However, I also don’t want to emulate things that are obvious bastions of an ancient priesthood. I’m not here as a priest; I’m here as the laity, damn it.

The KO site offered a few suggestions for the modern practitioner,

  • Visits to local cemeteries, cleaning the tombs, and making offerings to the deceased
  • Sharing a picnic in the cemetery with friends, family, and Akhu
  • Folding paper boats and re-enacting the ancient tradition

I thought about all of those suggestions and ended up tossing them over my shoulder. I go to local cemeteries to do my grave-tending every Saturday. And since the weather is finally changing away from the oppressive snit it has been in this summer, I will be dedicating every Saturday until winter hits to doing just that. Besides, I attempt to visit my genetic akhu on birth and death days. I didn’t want to do something that I always do to honor the celebration. The second suggestion actually kind of creeps me out, which is hilarious. I spend hours at a time in cemeteries, taking pictures and talking to all of the akhu within, but having a picnic inside of one bothers me? I actually think it’s more of a situation where it would seem disrespectful, to me, to eat in front of souls who can’t eat like I do anymore thing, but it’s still a little weird to me. And lastly, the paper boats thing hearkens back to what the priests did and again, I don’t want to encroach on an area that my practice isn’t willing or ready to go in.

So, what the hell does a layperson do on a holiday to celebrate their akhu?

I gave serious consideration into pulling out my copy of The Pyramid Texts and The Book of the Dead as translated by R.O. Faulkner and going to town. However, this nagged at me. The idea of saying words from ancient Egypt are very well and good, but again, this may not have been something common to the very peoples’ practice I am trying to emulate. Later generations were more than capable of finding a copy of the BotD for their own use, but I’m not really a “later period” kind of recon. As I grow further and further into this recon-slanted/historically informed area of my practice, I’ve come to realize that a lot of the stuff I’m looking for are from the Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom. The New Kingdom, for me, is great to study and read about the various pharaohs, but it’s really the older religious practices that interest me (right now, at least). So, I had to think that, maybe, reading some words on a page wasn’t the best idea.

So, again, what to do?

I went back to the basics. I sat down last night, in between doing various chore like items, and asked myself what the point in this celebration was about. To some extent, the celebration is about me and my intense desire to connect with my akhu. While, obviously, the main focal point is the akhu and all things related, it isn’t just about them. We don’t go to graves, go to funerals, tell stories just to keep the memory of our akhu alive, but also to give us closure and to keep them with us and our future generations. So, while this is definitely something that they need, it’s also something that I need. So, if that was the case, what would I want to do to make me feel better?

That is my kitchen table. It's boring, right? Shit. Yeah, probably. But it was nice!

That is my kitchen table. It’s boring, right? Shit. Yeah, probably. But it was nice!

I put a nice little buffet style spread on my kitchen table. I bought a nice dozen roses that were on sale and a small bunch of various white flowers to offset all the red. I brought the candle that sits on my mini-shrine to Anup over as the kind of center piece. Since I burn this candle every Saturday (or try to) when I can’t get out to go grave-tending to honor my akhu, it was practically mandatory. I offered water, soda, and a shot of vodka. I don’t normally offer alcoholic beverages when it comes to my akhu celebrations since many of my family members tended toward alcoholism, but thought it couldn’t hurt too badly. It’s also a slight nod to Bawon (as we are out of rum) because he was a little miffed he was being left out of a celebration for the realm he governs. I set out freshly baked bread (purchased, not baked). I then sliced up a pepper and an apple to leave out, as well as adding a bowl of blueberries and a bowl of baby carrots. I added some of the organic ginger snaps I had purchased for Wep Ronpet this year and some chocolates I had laying around.

Over all, I have to admit that I’m fairly pleased with how this little shindig turned out.

I didn’t want anything flashy and over-the-top. I rarely do anyway, but with my renewed commitment to this whole laity thing, it would seem as kind of a slap in the face to go in that direction. It was simple and moving. When the candle was lit, while I couldn’t see or necessarily feel the akhu feasting away on my meager spread, I did feel like I had accomplished something and I was fully capable of accomplishing said something again in future. Though I have no confirmation that the akhu are pleased, it [almost] doesn’t matter because I am pleased. Sure, I’d like to know that they showed up and hung around for a bit with what I had given them. But, at this [still tender] stage of the game, it’s really all about what I’m doing, how I’m doing, and where I’m going with it.

While I can’t say, clearly, if what I have done and what my aims were are in line with my recon-slanted layperson practice, I think that what I did provide and what I did do could very well be in keeping with how John Doe-hotep did it way back then. It’s simple. It’s small. It’s in my home. And it was done with love and affection, not just for my akhu but for myself as well. And if that’s not the important part, then what is?

Kemetic Round Table: Daily Life.

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

One of the main issues, I feel, in Kemeticism happens to stem from when you begin thinking about what a practice will be to the the transfer of actual doing. It’s all candy and rainbows when you’re only discussing possibilities, but when the hard work begins of putting your money where your mouth is. In Kemeticism, I can’t tell you if it’s just me or if it really does happen to seem this way, but there seems to be a lot of armchair scholars who don’t seem too hot to discuss what a daily, fulfilling practice may entail. And if you step a single toe out of the reconstruction world into, dare I say it, “woo” then you tend to end up getting the whole fleet jumping down your throat. Armchair polytheism is all fine and good, but it gets to the point where you can either develop religious atrophy or you can actually pull on your big girl/boy panties and do.

When I started actually pulling a daily practice out of my butt, I noticed a lot of changes in how I went about things. I still do avid research – either for fun or because I’m curious – but it became less necessary to constantly have my nose buried in an anthropological text or a book on mythology. It became more important to experience what it is I was looking to make: a religious practice that I can proudly flaunt, that I can use to help newbies looking for that aid, and something that I can, if he’s interested, pass down to my son one day. At the core of it, that is literally the only bits of outside perspective that I keep in mind when I’m working on what it is I’m forging with my daily rites and my festivals and my akhu veneration. Is this something my son will be proud to acknowledge one day? Is this something that a newbie may be interested in mimicking one day?

To me, those two questions, in my religious life, are the only two questions I need to continuously say, yes, to in order to believe that I am truly living in ma’at.

One of the things that I’m actually a little startled in how this daily stuff affects me is my level of confidence is growing as time goes by. I can only equate to how it felt when I was a dancer.

I was a ballerina for many years. I was fast-tracking myself into a company so that, one day, I would be able to go pro if I so desired. (One day, I just stopped dancing, though, which is why I’m a wife, mother, and work in telecommunications now.) In being able to carve out a practice for myself, it’s very much like all the time and energy and practice I put in to dancing so that I would be able to pass any auditions when I wanted to join a professional company. It reminds me of all the days I spent at a wall or a chair in my mother’s house, practicing a forward-facing developpé so that I could hold my leg in the air for five minutes if so instructed. Now, I couldn’t hold my leg up that high for that long if I tried, but you kind of get the idea. The hard work and dedication that went into that practice is very similar to the hard work and dedication I’ve put into my religious practice.

But, really, as exciting as it is to say, “I was able to hold a developpé for five minutes,” it doesn’t even begin to describe the confidence level I gained as a soloist. On top of taking ballet, I also did jazz. In the two or three years prior to quitting, I did a jazz solo routine. It was very cutesy: we used old school music and my dance routines had props like hats and walking sticks. The day I won the third-place medal in a competition for my solo was the day I knew that I had really achieved something. My mom was always telling me how wonderful I was and how good I was – and even though moms are kind of required to tell you that, I believed her – but it was the day I won third place that I knew I had really come far with everything I had been building. I had worked so hard and with so much intent on my expressive face, made sure my costume was perfect for the music choice, and practiced in hallways at school, walking home from school, in my room while counting steps in my head so that I was able to achieve a third place medal.

Not only was that moment so high on my confidence meter, it also showed me that with enough hard work and dedication, I could do whatever I wanted. And that’s kind of like how it feels when I am able to pull a festival rite out of my butt, or when I go to the cemeteries to honor the akhu. It’s not so much that I am doing this because I want to, but as I said above, I want to be able to show people with pride what I have done and what I have achieved. And while there are no medals or competitions in this particular path, there are days where it sure feels like I’ve won a medal.

When I first started practicing, I used to look at pagan altar porn whenever I had an off moment and I was online. I used to look at these beautiful, ornate altars and think, one day, mine will look like that. In looking at all of the stuff I have on my altars and how not-very-clean they are right now, I can tell you that my altars don’t look anything like that link would have you believe. They are dusty (right now) and they are full. They’re a little cramped because of space and things. But if I were to go over there and do a quick clean, they may even be able to compete with the oft-venerated Miss Dirty and her beautiful altars. (Personally, I doubt my altars would ever when if a competition between what she does and what I do ever happens, but it’s a thought!)

This isn't what I'm doing,  swear.

This isn’t what I’m doing, swear.

I used to, as a less knowledgeable polytheist, believe that you had to have an altar because that’s where devotion happened. It’s come to my attention that spontaneous devotion is a thing and it’s something I do fairly regular as time goes by. I’m not just being reverential at my altars – and as much sass as I give all the OTHERS™ I have in my life, yes I can be fucking reverent – any more. I’m going outside and being reverent to the sun, to the storm that may come in. I’m doing spontaneous things to all the various gods in my Kemetic pantheon. It’s not just the overwhelming desire to honor ALL THE GODS or even the need to honor the less known ones. It’s spontaneous devotion on a level that I can’t quite comprehend or explain adequately. It’s the devotional poetry I’ve been putting up on Tumblr the last few weeks; it’s the dropping to my knees and giving thanks to Re for a new day; it’s the thanking Sekhmet for giving me the strength to get through a particularly grueling day at work; it’s all of those things.

But really, what it is are the moments of in-between where I know a particular god is probably listening to what I’m saying and I know that I need to honor them, worship them, show them piety and I do all of those things. I don’t just rely on altars. I don’t just rely on shrines. I don’t just rely on icons made in China. I don’t just rely on offerings of food and water, incense and flame. I give them my words, my thanks, my tears, my joy. These offerings are just as good and just as adequate as all of the physical ones we give, but they’re more spontaneous, from the heart, and less likely to require more planning than a two-by-four to the face.

Yet another aspect that I’ve found changing because of my daily practice is the need and desire to do more ornate rituals. When I first started practicing Kemeticism, I wanted to do rituals and festivals and procession days, but I didn’t dare. I didn’t know enough, I told myself; I wasn’t ready yet. And in the waiting and holding off of working festivals into my calendar, I was able to build up a solid foundation to pull from when I was ready to add festivals to my calendar. Since Wep-Ronpet, I have celebrated a half dozen festivals and each one has been intent, flavorful, pulled out of my butt on a whim, and every single one of them has fucking rocked.

If I had gone into those festivals without the background that four years running as a Kemetic have given me, I know I wouldn’t have been satisfied with what I did. It didn’t matter what festivals I chose or how small they would have been, I would have come away from the experience completely dissatisfied with myself and my religious practice. In waiting until I had a good daily foundation, I was able to build a better pyramid for my religious celebrations. I had the foundation built and created the rest of my triangle with devotion and with ritualistic celebrations, so that I now have an equilateral triangle of religion. And again, I say, if not for my daily practice, I know things would be vastly different, that I wouldn’t be satisfied, and I’m pretty fucking thrilled, in writing this, that Papa Legba showed up when he did to help me get my ass in gear.

There are things, fortunately or otherwise, that have been affected by my practice that aren’t quite so great. As awesome as we all make it seem to be forging a Kemetic practice based on book knowledge and intuition alone, it’s not all so fantastic. I’m the first polytheist to tell you that not everything is rainbow, unicorn farts, and ice cream. There are some pretty shitty things about being a polytheist, a happy polytheist, a functioning polytheist that we don’t ever take into consideration when we start practicing.

You have to be quiet, on the down low, for those of us with jobs that care.

I have a job that would entirely care.

My new boss is an Evangelical Christian. I don’t really know what that means but based on the password she uses to get into our computers, she’s pretty big into her religion. Personally, I don’t feel like it should be in the work place, in any context, but it is there. Everyone is human; all those humans have beliefs. So, when I’m wearing my sacred jewelry pendants to Hetheru or Sekhmet, and someone asks, then I need to make up a lie. I hate lying; I hate hiding. I was out all of last year but because my Facebook profile is in no way connected to who I am on LinkedIn, not a single person who interviewed me in the last month of 2012 and the first month of 2013 had a single idea that I have religion and it sure as hell isn’t mainstream.

There are days where I have to edit my speech because of my religion. I say, “thank the gods,” a lot. I have to amend that statement to “thank God.” I’m not thrilled with that. I have to make up stories about the pendants I wear when asked. I have to quietly give praise to my gods, like Djehuti for helping me write a particular painful E-mail to a client or Sekhmet for letting me have the strength to get my ass reamed out for making a mistake. There are days when I want to shout across the office, “I’m a polytheist and I want everyone to know.” But, you can’t do that in this day and age. You can’t be loud, boisterous. You have to make up lies, you have to be careful of what you say, and you have to very intently steer any religious conversations away from where they are going.

What if you slip?

I’m likely to slip and I need this job, so no thanks.

All in all, though, most of the changes I’ve seen in myself and in my life haven’t been horrible. I’m able to have confidence in my practice and in myself to know that I’m not going to make my gods angry if I deny them in lip-service. I’m pious enough in my practice that I know I can make up a quick snippet of lies regarding my sacred jewelry and there will be no smiting. I’m uncomfortable with it because I’m an asshole that leaves everything in the open, but I know that I need to survive. And we are all creatures that must survive, which includes making the changes necessary to that survival.

But, as time has gone on, as I’ve shown and not shown, there have been quite a few changes in my life that has been brought about by my daily goings-on. I’ve noticed myself becoming more concise in my speech (though I do still mess up, as Devo can attest). I have found myself paying close attention to spoon management and its ongoing association, in the Kemetic hemisphere, with living in ma’at. I’ve found myself more able to pay attention to those quiet moments where devotion is spontaneous and intent. I’ve found myself having more confidence in what I am doing. I have also found that confidence lends its hand to being quiet regarding my religious practices in public. I have also found myself less likely to give a flying fig when people criticize how I go about things. I kind of feel that this daily practice is helping me to shed the quiet, mousy solitary practitioner I used to be in order to become a heka-speakin’, ma’at-driven boat paddler.

Kemetic Round Table: Doxa/UPG.

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

I leave these entries to the last-minute because then I have a deadline and while I normally ignore deadlines, I actually enjoy this blogging project so I meet the deadline. The problem with this particular post, thus far, is the fact that we’re using the word doxa. Outside of a very limited community, I really don’t see this word used and I definitely do not use it. Point of fact, I had to look up the definition of the word – herm, not on Wikipedia – to figure out if it meant what I’ve always thought it to mean. According to Grammar About, the meaning is, “in classical rhetoric, the domain of opinion, belief, or probable knowledge–in contrast to episteme, the domain of certainty or true knowledge.” Honestly, I think this word is pretentious. We could just use “belief,” right? And we would say the same thing?

But, this particular post isn’t just about belief. It is also about our commonly thrown about acronym, UPG. This acronym means “unverified personal gnosis.” This term means that we have been given knowledge, or smidges of intuition, that we have incorporated into our practices. These bits of knowledge can just be things that we feel or items that the gods themselves have told us. For example, I start getting really powerful cardinal imagery when Hekate joined my household. It was later that I learned she actually is associated with cardinals in some way, but before I knew that, I considered it a bit of knowledge gleaned from communication with this particular deity.

Now, the thing is that in some circles, you will find that the term doxa is synonymous with UPG. However, I have to disagree with this. I feel that the two of them are not mutually exclusive. To me, one is based solely on believing in something while the other is based solely on knowledge gleaned from various arenas. While I can see the similarities between the two – with the various consensus among many polytheists being that the start of doxa was someone else’s UPG – I find myself incredibly leery of this frame of mind. Call me an outsider, or a weirdo, or just plain strange, but this isn’t how I go about my practice at all. I believe in what I do, but I also have outside knowledge gleaned from the gods that I have incorporated into my practice.

I suppose I’m just lucky that I don’t have to really start at the beginning to create a religion.

The thing about either of these terms, though, is that quite often in the Kemetic community, you get laughed out of a discussion if you use UPG or even begin to discuss beliefs. We can get down and dirty with our communal discussions about various items and nothing gets laughed out harder than even thinking about heading toward the “woo-woo” with said discussions. The problem here is that, all jokes aside, mysticism and “woo-woo” are part and parcel to reconstructed religions. Mysteries are often discussed, dissected, and discussed again in different polytheist circles. However, for some odd reason, aside from a few random comments about the Mysteries of Osiris, there doesn’t seem to be as much discussion on them in Kemetic circles… Huh. Maybe I’m just not around for those discussions.

In either case, Kemetics seem to be very dead-set against having “woo-woo” in their practices. I don’t see why this is the case. I’ve met up with quite a few Kemetics, who make up my community as it turns out, who do have “woo-woo” going on. They’ve mentioned that discussing it outside of our community is definitely “not a good idea” as they’ll get laughed at. They’ve either watched it happen or they’ve heard about it from other people. It doesn’t really matter who did what when or even why; the problem is that this frame of mind is exceedingly prevalent in the recon world of Kemeticism. And it really has no justification if we’re practicing a reconstructed ancient religion, which included “woo-woo” back then and should probably include “woo-woo” right now. Just because we can’t find what that “woo-woo” happened to be back in the day doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist or that the “woo-woo” being practiced today is any less valid than what was practiced thousands of years ago.

Now, I can understand walking into someone’s blog and reading a passage like,

I entered the Cave of Snot with a horse hide upon my back, a mace of frog legs in my hands, and ruby red slippers plus ten on my feet. I knelt before the god and said, “I am your servant.” Blah-di-blah. A bunch of “woo-woo” stuff enters here. Things so crazy and weird that you are just like, what the fuck am I reading? And you’re just like, what the hell man?

So you enter someone’s blog and you read a bunch of weird shit that just makes your rational brain sit up and say, Cut the shit. The thing is that whatever that entry is talking about, as crazy and weird sounding as it may be, it really doesn’t mean that what they’re doing is any less valid that what you may be doing. They’re practicing their “woo-woo” and you just happened to get to read about it. Does that mean we should laugh at them? No. Does that mean we should leave mean, snarky messages on their blog making fun of them? No. Am I saying that everyone with blog entries even remotely like anything wrote about in that quote is telling the truth? No. I believe there are con-artists in polytheism just as much as there are outside of it. However, until you can tell me that you have powers that let you know a con-artist upon meeting them, either in person or online, then you really shouldn’t say a fucking thing.

By making those snarky comments, you could be completely destroying an entire mystical practice in one fell swoop and possibly angering the god whose mystical practice that was.

Now, as far as allowing others’ “woo-woo” to influence your own, I think that’s kind of up to each particular practitioner. I really can’t say one way or another if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I know that when I read about others’ “woo-woo,” I think something like, Wow. They have a fulfilling practice, but it doesn’t have much bearing on what I do or don’t do. Mysteries aside, my “woo-woo” is incredibly fledgling and while I’d like to say that I have a rounded out and beautiful practice across all boards, I’m still learning.

And can’t say that in any context.

Akhu Veneration.

Sometimes, I think I’m an oddity in the Kemetic community, considering how very important veneration of the akhu is in my practice. Most of my community doesn’t have as much in it as I do. They have moments where they say prayers or where they offer items for their akhu, but they don’t hold as much… not faith or stock… they don’t do it as often as I do. I am very careful to remember my akhu on their birth and death anniversaries. I set lights for their souls and feed them at every opportunity. I also don’t care too much about akhu who would be considered… jerks or assholes, I suppose, by some of the others in my Kemetic community. To me, an akhu is an akhu is an akhu. And while I never knew the grandmother on my biological father’s side, I know that she has passed from this world and she has joined my general remembrance of all my akhu.

I’m also exceptionally strange in the fact that I have added people whom I never knew, with no biological connection to me, as part of my akhu veneration.

The thing is that, now, when I think of akhu, I don’t tend to just refer to the people who I venerate who are my specific biological ancestors or the ones who are a part of my family via adoption or intermarriage any longer. I tend to view all the work I do in the cemeteries, going there and remembering them and feeding their spirits, as part of my akhu veneration. I don’t know these people and they never had a slip to do with how I ended up on this planet and in this body with these particular genetics, but they have vastly become part and parcel to what I refer to when I think akhu veneration. And I think that’s also part of the oddity, as well; what some people would think of as simply working with the Deadz, I’ve long since jettisoned that terminology and those feelings to encompass a large group of people who most wouldn’t categorize as part of their practice.

I find myself exceptionally amazed at the transition of my path in just the one year I’ve solidly put into this work. I went from working with the intention of just cleaning up some cemeteries and possibly aiding some genealogical researchers to suddenly feeling that if I cannot do these things – go the cemetery, leave my offerings, take my pictures – then I am as good as dead, myself. It’s so all-pervasive that with the possible future change in weather, I am nearly champing at the bit, ready to get back out and into the cemeteries, to clean up, to feed, and to love and remember.

Who would have guessed this was what I could expect?

Certainly not me.

It’s funny, though, how things transition without you realizing it. You start a practice and you think, this could be fun. And as time slips by, you get into the swing of things or into a groove. And when that groove becomes commonplace, then you realize that it truly becomes a part and parcel to what it is you are looking to building, looking to do. And before you know it, you are not merely venerating akhu as is commonly associated in a Kemetic standpoint, but you are suddenly surrounded by akhu, akhu whom you’ve never known or will ever know, but there they are.

This whole veneration thing… it certainly takes on a life of its own…

Kemetic Round Table: Patron Deities.

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

The second you step a toe into the pagan hemisphere of the Internet, you start seeing questions about “patron deities.” Invariably, these questions relate to finding one. From a polytheistic perspective, these questions don’t lessen any when you decide to go that route. And from a recon-slant perspective, such as my own, the questions keep on coming. I think this is one of the most popular questions that neophytes ask us older and wiser practitioners. The problem is that is it really necessary from a polytheistic perspective, more specifically, my recon-slanted Kemetic practice? And honestly, even though I technically have one, I can say that I don’t think it’s even remotely necessary.

Wait, what?

I know; I’m probably not even remotely making a lick of sense. Or, if you completely understand what I’m saying, then this is probably coming off as a bit of a double standard. I have a patron, but I don’t think they’re necessary? That seems like an awful strange mix there, to me, and I’m sure it looks pretty strange from an outsider’s perspective. But in all honesty, aside from giving me a fierce joy in the knowledge that Sekhmet is around whenever I need her, I really don’t go for her outside of her specific aspects of healing or destruction. I could do that without her being my patron deity just as easily as I can with her being my matron*. With her being my patron, I’m possibly given a little more credibility and a more sure-fire ear than I would have without her being in my life. However, just because I have a direct line, so to speak, that doesn’t exactly guarantee that what I am requesting aid with is going to happen.

And I think that’s something we assume will happen with patron deities.

We start building a relationship with a specific deity and we think, I’m wanted; I’m desired. And we forget a lot of the time that the relationship isn’t for us. This building of a foundation with a particular deity is about them. They require us just as much as we require them. While it’s great and thrilling to finally have that moment where you realize that a deity desires you in some form or another, you also have to be practical about it. It’s not just like butterflies in the stomach when your crush looks back at you; this is a deity, a being who is more than we are, and they are probably getting the “warm and fuzzies” for you as a type of food source, literally and metaphorically. So, while the feelings are great and it makes you feel like you suddenly belong somewhere, you also have to look at it from a realistic angle, as well.

This relationship is cyclical.

However, considering my last post, it’s really no wonder that I don’t really hold with the age-old stereotype of requiring a p/matron any longer. Polytheists need to branch out of their comfort zones and by acquiring a specific p/matron we are less likely to do so, me thinks. Now, I’m not talking about those of you who are still new and uncertain. I think it’s a wise decision to limit yourself to a few deities at a time – you have to get to know what a relationship with any deity is like, for starters – and I don’t think you need to push your limits. However, once we acquire that comfort level where we can anticipate wants, desires, feedings, etc. then it’s time to start thinking about outside of the boxes we shove ourselves into.

Another reason why I think refraining from this p/matron search is because a lot of people take for granted that they can just utilize UPG entirely in their practice. I will admit, I am a heavy user of UPG in my relationship with Sekhmet. However, with the other gods that I do honor on a regular basis, I am entirely restricted to forming my relationships on a historical basis. The reason being is that, while UPG is fine and dandy, learning about the deities we are working with is essential to (A) maintaining that practice and (B) to formulating a fulfilling religious background. And while you can profess a relationship with Sutekh, if you don’t know his mythology very well, then you’re probably going to be left very frustrated with the things that Sutekh requires of you. In like vein, assimilate what I just said to all Kemetic deities you would be willing to work with. If you don’t know a damn thing about Hetheru, then when she asks you to have wild, insane sex on her behalf, are you going to know why? No, you aren’t.

And these aspects are intensely related to numerous relationships with these deities. They are aspects that are easily found in the sources we have to hand. And without having accessed those sources, you could very well be under the impression that you are not just insane or on crack, but a heavy dose of the in between. And while we all have moments where we think we are entirely insane and making shit up in our heads, if you just did a bit of background research, you’d know that you were not, in fact, insane.

And finally, one of the last reasons why I think prohibiting this p/matron thing is a necessity is because of all the conversations I see cropping up where kids go, “You can’t tell a deity ‘no.'” This is such a patented falsehood that I don’t even really know where to begin. Anyone can say “no” to whomever or whatever they so desire. You can tell a deity who is knocking that you are not ready; you can tell them that you are not willing; and you can tell them to “fuck off right now because never, ever in a thousand years.” However you want to phrase it to the deity in question is entirely up to the person in question, but just because you are searching for a p/matron doesn’t necessarily mean that you are suddenly unable to tell a deity “no” if you are uncomfortable with their pestering.

And I think a lot of people who do a serious search for a p/matron are so starved for the attention that they think those of us with p/matrons get that they honestly believe they cannot tell them no. Wrong.

I tell deities no ten times a day some days. I tell deities no once a day on other days. Whatever the reason, I’m still an individual with free will. And that means that I get to exercise that free will whenever I so desire. This means that I may tell them this in regards to an offering, to a particular rite, to entering my life, etc. It doesn’t really matter what the reason I’m telling them no. I may explain my reasoning; I may not. It doesn’t matter. Again, when we were created, we were given free will. And that means we can tell the gods to talk to the hand if we want to.

As persistent as a deity is, you can always tell them no. And if they don’t listen, then I recommend punching them in the face.

But let’s get serious here for a minute. I fully advocate saying no. The reason isn’t just free will, not enough spoons, etc. The reason I do advocate this is because of the amount of responsibility that ultimately goes into the relationships we build with netjer. Referencing back to what I stated above, as a food source of this deity… that is a large responsibility right there. And just as you are completely responsible for your children’s needs and desires, so too will you be 100% responsible for the deity’s needs and desires. You can’t just say, oh, they have other worshipers who feed them if you no longer want that responsibility. You don’t do that with your kids or your pets, so why would you do that to a god?

So, while being unable or unwilling is always something to keep in mind, really, you have to ask if you can maintain this relationship indefinitely with all the pain, anger, and hatred that may come along with it.

* Though I do still ascribe to the very antiquated depiction of Sekhmet as my patron, our relationship is vastly different from what it was when I first began this path all those years ago. I mostly utilize this phrasing so as not to confuse my readers. I also use this because then I won’t have to explain my UPG here, as it is very P.

I Am a Deity Collector… Though Not Because I Desire It.

Too often, when we start traversing the various pagan and polytheistic hemispheres, we begin to see this turn of phrase in a very negative association. For example, when I asked about it on Tumblr earlier, Stag Kings Wife commented and mentioned that they did not like this particular phrasing. This is actually quite common. But, I’m an odd duck or the odd man out, so to speak. I actually prefer to use this phrase because it gets people to (A) read what the fuck I’m saying and (B) I enjoy trying to explain that not everything that is negatively associated is actually as all bad as people make it out to be.

Now, when I discuss deity collecting, I’m not talking of the rather, herm, youthful desire to work with ALL THE GODS. There does seem to be a very naïve desire to have many deities to work with or to worship at any given moment. As someone else remarked on a group I am a part of, they tend to associate this desire with a very Pokemon mentality. Now, I don’t know what this Poke-stuff is but I do know the phrase, “collect them all!” I sold the cards at Spencer’s along with the other card games, so I know that in that realm, you need to collect all the cards or the ball-thingamajigs and have everyone to show off to your friends. There is a very real atmosphere of this in polytheism, but I tend to associate this infatuation with youth and immaturity. What newbie doesn’t start out with stars in their eyes and the want for ALL THE GODS?

As someone who was a newbie once, this is pretty much how it feels.

As someone who was a newbie once, this is pretty much how it feels.

And just like the need and desire to have all the pretty things, have all the resin statues, and have altar porn that makes everyone jealous, this is a phase that people grow out of. Usually.

However, among the rank and file of the polytheist communities, there are people who do work with, worship, or form attachments with various deities. I am an example of this. I know a few others, besides Stag Kings Wife as shown above, who also have a sort of “open door policy” when it comes to communing with other deities. These people, like myself, collect deities. We aren’t doing this with the moon and stars in our eyes, approaching whomever we feel a tug from or just for the sake of it. We have these deities coming out of our ears, more often than not, because they show up at our doorstep, wet and asking to be let in. And most people cannot say no when they get a deity giving them a hang-dog look like that.

The thing is that I generally and honestly believe that these deities are knocking on the doors of polytheists with “listed numbers” for a reason. They know that we are very busy and active and working with other gods, so why not go on in and take a peek? And if they like what they see in us, then they may decide to head on over and start forming a relationship. As I said to Sard and Devo earlier, “Maybe they’re so tired of no followers that they crowd those of us with listed numbers.” And in same vein, as Sard said, “But yeah, some Gods (like Herishef) have such a small following, it’s depressing, and sometimes They’ll bug the shit out of people. They need us just as much as we need Them, ultimately.”

While I can’t quite say if that’s the case for all the gods in my arsenal, it would make sense as to why Bes and Ptah showed up to me; why Sard and Helms have started working with lesser known deities like Herishef and Wenut; and why there are a slowly but surely growing number of people who can qualify as “deity collectors.”

However, there is still very much the negative association to take into account here. I can’t really understand this mentality. It seems like an awful lot of monogamy in a realm that really doesn’t deserve it. As Devo said earlier while we were discussing it, “Sometimes, I think we modern polytheists have a bad habit of limiting the deities we will have in our lives. I mean, in JP and in AE, it was not uncommon to visit different shrines and pay tribute to all sorts of gods – not just your local deity of choice. And priests serviced more than just one god in daily rites. Yet many modern practitioners seem to think of a lot of our worship like monogamy. Where you only have the select few gods and nothing else – so to go elsewhere is like cheating or whoring yourself out. I think there are extremes in both directions, and very few really fit into the middle well.” It is quite possible that these very sentiments, perhaps at the darkest heart of people who rant against this sort of collecting, is the crux of the problem.

We come in from religions, more often than not, where there is just the single deity to consider. In Catholicism, there is a flavor of polytheism to the whole thing. In some other Christian sects, there is a sort of trinity. Both of those second examples could allots for at least coming into polytheism with the ability to pacify three deities and maybe even a few more. So perhaps this intense desire for the working with a limited number is just a holdover from Christianized values and belief systems. Perhaps, it stems from a lack of understanding what the ancient cultures we emulate were really like or what they were really about.

Then again, maybe the issue is just the simple fact that not as many people as I am alluding to have had gods knocking on their doors, hang-dog and sad-faced, waiting to be let the fuck in as you-all have work to do. Or if they have had them knocking, they’ve slammed the door, locked that bitch up tight, and salted the entrances as well. I am sure as hell guilty of that last bit. I do it with every deity that wants in outside of the household gods I worship. Every single one gets a door slam, a door locking, a severe talking to, eye rolls, whining, bitching, moaning, screaming, kicking, salting, etc before I finally give in and say, “Sure, okay.”

I do it that way because then, I kind of know that they’re around for a reason and it could be pretty important.

But beyond all that and how I go about this, why the hell is this thing so negative? Why can’t we develop relationships with gods outside of our comfort zone? Why can’t we be all open and honest? Why can’t we let our current list of gods put up a giant fucking neon sign over our heads that say, “THEY’RE LISTENING; COME ON DOWN”? Why can’t we let our numbers be listed? And again, I ask, why can’t we move outside of our comfort zones?

To limit ourselves is to limit our practices, methinks. And as more and more people enter polytheism, find the popular gods, go with the tried and true gods that everyone knows, those of us have been around for a while will start getting knocks from the lesser-knowns. We’ll start “deity collecting.” And we’ll be thought of as “speshul snowflakes” with a complex.

And while I do have a complex or six, I can tell you I am not a “speshul snowflake.”

I just happen to have a listed number.

Do you?

Festivals and Feasts 101

When it comes down to putting the books away in a recon-slanted practice or even a pure recon practice, a lot of us end up with quite a few problems. The biggest and most basic of problems tends to be, “how the hell do I do this?” When you go from writing about theory to actually doing, it can be a pretty frightening aspect. You’re so used to just thinking, well, one day… And then after a while, you get to the point where that one day finally appears and you’re left wondering how in the world you can do festivals, feasts, and celebrations in a modern context. While my calendar isn’t complete, I can tell you that it can be pretty hard figuring out how to go about and make an ancient festival really come alive in this day and age.

Here is how I go about this.

What is the celebration about?
From a Kemetic perspective, with the dearth of information regarding many festivals, this can be very difficult to discern. Unfortunately for us, not even academic feels the need to try to figure out what various festivals entailed or were even about. If they were specific to a nome, and the academic is writing a generalized book, they’re not going to include items that aren’t country-wide. In similar vein, if an author is focused on a specific cult of a deity, then they’re not going to discuss other types of feasts and festivals to make the point. Why clutter the initial point in the academia focused manuscript? This means that those of us with lesser known deities in our repertoire – Menhyt, Ihy, and Sokar, for example – and even those with well-known deities in our arsenal, may know that festivals in their deities’ names happened but we may not know what the specifics of their festivals are about.

But this is an important part to figuring out how to celebrate in a modern context.

As Miss Dirty explains in Living with the Earth, “What gets me the most is the undeniable lack of thought that goes into observing seasonally specific festivals/sabbats. If you’re celebrating a holy day, you’re celebrating a fucking concept, and that shit should be influencing your activities. Even if you’re doing nothing else but having a nice fucking meal on the day, the food should at least reflect and embody the core of the observance.” While her rant is specific to pagans and the Wheel of the Year, this is good, sound advice for recon-slanted polytheists. But, if we don’t know what the festival is about, how can we do this?

Take a look at the name of the festival to start with. Most of them are fairly straight forward. You see that most of them are “festivals” or “feasts” or “processionals.” This makes it inherently easy to figure out what they’re about. But, not every single one listed is so obvious as all of that. We have “Day of Answering Every Speech of Sekhmet,” “Sekhmet is Angry in the Land of Temhu,” and “Sekhmet Repels the Follows of Sutekh.” None of those three names make it easy or obvious to figure out what it’s about. There are others, not Sekhmet related, that have names that are equally difficult to discern the meaning behind them.

In those instances, it comes down to two questions that you must answer yourself. Is it worth the spoons to add this particular celebration to my calendar? If the answer is yes, then the next question is, Am I solid enough in my practice to allow UPG to enter and not give two iotas (or a handful, even) what others say about my UPG?

Who are or who is the prime netjer involved in this celebration?
If the celebration doesn’t have any of the key words in it (“festival,” “feast,” and “procession”), then it’s time to take a look at the netjer involved in the celebration. This is, of course, after you’ve been able to handle whether or not adding the celebration is really something you are willing to do and whether or not UPG is A-okay in your practice. As much reading as I do and as much recon-slant as my practices are, UPG is a pretty large focus in various arenas in my practice. No matter how much you read, if you don’t know German or have a good source, then you’re going to have to rely on your personal gnosis to get going.

So, once you know who the celebration is about, then it’s time to start plotting and planning items for that particular netjer. You’re not going to want to do a whole rite involving red meat, if you’re working with Hatmehyt, being a fish-related deity. You are not going to want to have a vegetarian style dinner if you are planning a feast with Sekhmet, Bast, or Mut. This comes down to common sense. (Obviously if you, yourself, having food restrictions, then perhaps focusing on other aspects of the deity that are not food related would be in your best interest.) If you have known associations with the deity either from a book or from your personal gnosis, then utilize those items while planning your celebration. You may want to wear carnelian during a feast of Sekhmet as that stone is associated with her or put on a red wig if you’re celebrating Sutekh.

Now, as far as food taboos in the ancient world, we can’t say for sure if this is accurate. The most common source on specific food taboos is Herodotus and whether that source is reliable is up to you, the practitioner. For me, he is not. There are allusions to the refraining of certain animal substances while a priest was preparing for their time with the netjer As I do not consider myself a priest, I do not consider the restrictions of a priestly caste to be important enough to follow. However, others who are Kemetic may feel that taboos are necessary. For example, some practitioners are specifically asked to refrain from certain food items. I know there is at least one person who was asked, by Sekhmet, to not eat red meat. It is possible that Hatmehyt would not want you to have fish related items in a feast to her because they could be considered her children. In this particular arena, it comes down to “your mileage may vary.”

Why should one bother celebrating this at all?
This is something that is entirely personal, depending upon the person looking to celebrate these festivities. The thing is that after a while, you get to the point where you’ve been talking about these things so long that you get sick of just talking. It equates to telling yourself you are going to run a marathon for years and then actually doing. It equates to telling yourself you are going to write a book about something for however long and then finally getting down to brass tacks and doing so. It equates to all the things you have said you were going to do and then finally actually doing. Discussing the theory and the idea and claiming that you are a Kemetic is fine and dandy, but there comes a point where the theory, the idea, and the claims need some happy back up. Enter in some festivities and your back up is there.

Here comes some UPG, people.

I tend to feel that the OTHERS™ require these kinds of services. I know that in some circles my opinion regarding the OTHER™ needing our attention with our celebrations, our prayers, and our offerings isn’t popular. But considering how much stuff tends to happen once you begin to pay attention to the OTHERS™, it’s very difficult (for me) to say that I’m just full of shit here. Not just the daily offerings, the prayers, and the thoughts about the gods, but with the actual addition of celebrating festivals in their honor, I have begun to feel more connected to them than I have in years. It’s fine and dandy, as I said, to claim a thing but it really does get solidified when you actually do a thing. And the same thing, in a way, for my UPG: You can claim that you have a relationship but it gets sussed out, filled out, what have you, when you actually get down and dirty with celebrations.

How would one go about celebrating these festivals?
All right, here are some pointers for people feeling overwhelmed by the “how.” Since you’ve figured out who the celebration is for and you’ve figured out why the celebration is happening, now you have to really sit down and plot out how to make those things come alive in a modern context. The only thing I take into consideration besides the “who” is the key words in the name of the festivity: Is it a feast, a festival, or a procession?

If you have a procession, then process the deity around your house. I did this, literally, with Sekhmet’s impression of the roamin’ Gnome during her processional celebration in January. I came home from work and deciding to just walk around with the statue, but I thought it would be even more fun if I took pictures. I debated about having her process her golden butt around the outside of my home, but the snow prohibited me from doing so. If I had been doing this in the middle of the day, with the sun out to aid me in rejuvenating ourselves, I probably would have done it anyway.

If it’s a feast day, then I plan a magnificent and sumptuous meal for those involved based on both UPG and historical context regarding the foods that would have been offered to the deity at their cult centers. (The exact foods for some cult centers may be difficult, but if you find something about that temple and the animals it raised at it, you should be able to figure out what types of meats, at least, were probably given to the god. While food taboo is a touchy subject, and long-winded so I won’t get into it here, use your UPG if you have to when discovering this. Ask the god, “Would you like X?” They should let you know in some form or another.

And lastly, if it’s just a festival then that’s up to you. For my last festival for Hetheru, I cleaned up her shrine area, renewed her daily offering, and did some crazy and ecstatic dancing on her behalf. Simple, easy, fast. It took me all of a half hour and some serious out-of-breathness before I felt like I had celebrated as she would have wanted me to. It’s not how long but a feeling of having done some well that alerted me to having completed the ritual as she wanted it.

Now, let’s be real here: having fun should be just as important as the solemnity involved. While I could have used my festival of Hetheru to sit around, pray, and just generally be boring, I didn’t. The same thing for the procession of Sekhmet. Instead of being boring, I took it to a fun place. Part of the reason why I think having fun is more important than the solemnity is because I do not consider myself a priest of my gods. I consider myself a lay person who is building a personal relationship of worship to a bunch of kick ass beings that, for some reason, pay attention to me. And that means that I don’t have to do the whole “hair removal, fasting, etc” thing before I start celebrating. And that means that having fun? It’s part of the package.