This post is part of the Kemetic Round Table, which aims to answer some of the most common questions and provide a wealth of diverse options for the Kemetic novice to explore.
Mythology: How necessary is it? Does it affect your practice? Should it?
I consider mythology one of the primary ways to learn about and understand our gods, and I will turn to myths before I look for historical documentation on how ancient Egyptians performed rituals or made offerings, so I consider it absolutely necessary for me. Myths have a huge impact on my practice, from informing my relationships with various Netjeru to helping me grok the purpose and importance of the festivals throughout the year. I do distinguish between earlier Kemetic mythology and myths that originated or were changed during the Greco-Roman period of ancient Egypt; it’s a personal preference of mine to avoid Hellenized Egyptian mythology.
However, I’m a god-centric Kemetic. My relationship with the five Netjeru central to my life is one of the biggest components of my spirituality. That isn’t the only way to be, or the best way to be; it’s just an option. You can be a wonderful, fulfilled Kemetic without having anything to do with a single Netjeru, or even with the immanent divinity of Netjer. You can work solely with your akhu, your ancestors who number among the blessed dead. Or you can simply uphold ma’at in your own life and strive to contribute positively to your community and this world.
For those who don’t heavily weight their work with Netjeru, mythology may not matter as much. It can still reflect and shed light upon the beliefs and culture of ancient Egypt, but if you’re not engaging with a god, you may look less to myth and more to ancient wisdom writings, like the Maxims of Ptahhotep. Funerary texts, like the Pyramid and Coffin Texts, also contain a wealth of information on ancient Egyptian beliefs and gods; they can be extraordinarily useful by themselves or paired with the myths that give the gods in those texts Their backstories and essences.
In essence, mythology is optional, and its usefulness can vary depending on how god-centric a given Kemetic chooses to be. It’s certainly vital for my own practice, but I would never say anyone “should” or “should not” make use of mythology to enhance or influence their own practice – that’s a completely personal choice for the individual.
If you enjoyed this post, please check out other takes on the importance of mythology by my fellow Round Table bloggers!