Tomorrow is Wep Ronpet, the first day of the new Kemetic year, according to the Kemetic Orthodoxy calendar.
Tomorrow, I will rise before dawn, and at 5 am, I will take part in a ritual to welcome the new year and to deflect any dangers it brings. I will perform heka for the Netjeru of the new year.
Sadly, I will not slay pansnakes, but I’m still hoping my (non-Kemetic) partner makes some and kills ’em in my honor. :)
But I will join with my Kemetic siblings and my gods, and I will set goals and make prayers, and I will take that first deep breath of newborn air and smile.
Happy new year to those who celebrate it!
Last year’s P post was primary gods.
From Bourghouts’ Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts, words spoken by Nebt-het (Nephthys). These words “are useful … as the devouring of a falcon, as the striking of an `hy-bird, as the listening of the Sea to the voice of Seth.”
May you awake in a good manner! Endure until eternity! Every ailment that confronts you will be dispelled. Your mouth will be opened up by Ptah, your mouth will be disclosed by Sokar with that chisel of bronze of his.
Dua Nebt-het, Who secures health and the efficacy of medicine!
From A.G. McDowell’s Village Life in Ancient Egypt, a spell to drive away nightmares:
Dreamer: “Come to me, come to me, mother Isis! Behold, I see that which is far from me in my city!”
Aset (Isis): “I am here, my son Horus! Come out with what you have seen so that your dumbness ceases and your dreams retreat. May fire come out against the thing that frightened you! Behold, I have come to see you, that I might drive out your evil, that I might destroy every harm.”
From Bourghouts’ Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts, part of a conjuration against a demon:
. . . See, I have lots of words against you! From the big pitcher of Seth I have drunk them; from his jug I have drained them. Listen, samana-demon, listen! The voice of Seth is roaring … listen to his roaring! … Seth will lift you up with his hand. … he will throw you onto the solid stone … the deserts drink you up, you who are submerged! . . .
From Faulkner’s translation of the Pyramid Texts, part of Utterance 510:
The doors of the sky are opened,
The doors of the firmament are thrown open
For Horus of the Netherworld at dawn,
That he may go down and bathe in the Field of Rushes.
The doors of the sky are opened,
The doors of the firmament are thrown open
For me at dawn,
That I may go down and bathe in the Field of Rushes.
From Faulkner’s translation of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, plate 36:
O my Lord who passes eternity repeatedly, he who shall endure everlastingly, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Sovereign and Horus of Horuses. Those who have ever existed, behold, they are in your presence, namely those gods and men, you having made their seats preeminent in the God’s Domain, so that, assembled together, they might make supplication to your Ka, those who come in millions and millions, reaching and mooring with you. And they who are in the womb, they too have their faces towards you, for a tarrying in the Beloved Land shall never happen. Cause that they all come to you, the great as well as the small.
I hesitate to write this post. It’s not because I am a Kemetic writing outside my pantheon, but because being a soft reconstructionist has taught me how to respectfully and thoroughly study and research something before (or at least while) I engage with it. And that means I can recognize when I lack that foundational knowledge; I feel like I’m on unsteady ground when so unread.
I have one book on Ifa: The Way of the Orisa by Philip Neimark, an American convert and practitioner of Ifa. This book has a wealth of differences between the singular book I have read on Haitian Vodou (Haitian Vodou by Mambo Chita Tann), which I know is a very well-sourced, academically-solid, and culturally-respectful treatise. Some of these are doubtlessly regional differences—there are several flavors of Yoruban religion, and dialects change the spellings of words and names—but what gives me such pause is that I haven’t read any other books to broaden my horizon on orisa or Ifa. I’ve also learned enough in the years since I bought this book to question the author’s privilege and potential Westernizing spin.
And yet. If I don’t write this post, how can I encourage other polytheists and pagans to write freely and earnestly about their experiences and the mythologies that they enjoy and study, no matter how new they are?
So I am writing, with the neon disclaimer that I’m very aware I have exactly one author’s viewpoint on the subject, and I have no idea how that author compares with others in his field in terms of accuracy versus modern re-interpretation. The reason I am writing is because, however objectively qualitative that author is or is not, his book impressed upon me Olukun/Yemonja, and that impression has lingered, full of seaspray and undertow.
Yemonja/Olukun is an ocean orisa of great might and dual, intertwined natures; some forms of Yoruba-based religions separate the one into two. However, Ifa treats it as one and emphasizes the importance of maintaining this balance of seemingly opposed natures. Yemonja is described as the feminine energy, full of a mother’s nurturing and generosity, the life-giving gifts of the waves, while Olukun is the masculine energy, powerful and volatile, the icy depths of the sea. Together, Yemonja/Olukun is referred to as a she (in the book) but is a dynamic balance between those two genders; I would interpret it as being a third gender as a result, but that’s me.
Being such a Water-child, being drawn to the ocean like a magnet to the north, and being genderqueer… needless to say, this simplified but imagery-rich idea of Yemonja/Olukun appealed to me deeply and viscerally. In fact, I wrote a song called From The Ocean, exploring the angles between this one orisa’s complementary natures. Even now, when I see the myopic weakness of my single-source understanding of this orisa, my emotional-spiritual reaction to it (and, yes, to how the author describes its “children” in the book, which is staggeringly accurate to my own nature) cannot be invalidated by my skeptical intellect.
As an additional point of interest, one aspect of my Mother Nebt-het (Nephthys) is Nit (Neith), a very old hunter-goddess, a creatrix… a Netjeru of the primordial ocean, and the Great He-She. The parallels I can draw between Nit’s epithets and Yemonja/Olukun’s description are… intriguing, to say the least, and bear further meditation.
In closing, I will say that the heart knows the love and the links from blood to brine, even when the brain cannot yet prove the pattern of the chains that bind them so tightly.
It is time to prepare for the end of the Kemetic year.
According to Kemetic Orthodoxy’s calendar, this Sunday, July 30, is the last day of this year. The following five days, from Monday to Friday, are epagomenal or intercalary days: “days upon the year,” which are not part of this year nor the next. According to one myth, which probably has some Greco-Roman influence, Ra cursed a very pregnant Nut to not bear Her children on any day of the year, for fear one of Them would displace Him as king. Djehuty (Thoth) gambled with the moon and won five days’ worth of moonlight, which became the epagomenal days and the birthdays of Nut’s five children: Wesir (Osiris), Heru-wer (Horus the Elder), Set, Aset (Isis), and Nebt-het (Nephthys).
The epagomenal days are considered to be especially prone to weird or negative events, and ancient Egyptians went to considerable length to placate various Netjeru and protect themselves from misfortune during this time. In the Seen world, the Nile valley was holdings its breath before the inundation, and a good inundation could bring prosperity… while a poor one could spell sickness and famine. The epagomenal days are that shaky, strained, tenuous bridge between the past year and the new one, and an awful lot was riding on how well or poorly this relatively short period of time passed.
Because I will be traveling for half of the epagomenal days, I will be writing and scheduling my posts in advance, a sort of meditation on what the days themselves may bring. To begin, I offer you a year’s end protective heka from Bourghouts’ Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts:
I am the Horror that has come forth from Dep, the Birth-goddess that has come forth from Heliopolis. Men, gods, spirits and dead ones, keep away from me! I am the Horror!
Stay safe and alert next week, my friends! The birth of a new year can be quite messy.
Point to a dozen of ancient Egypt’s most famous gods, and I will know Their Kemetic and Greco-Roman names and the basic mythological background of each, as well as Their characteristics and attributes. Tell me it’s one of the big festivals honoring one of those gods, and I will probably shrug and continue on my merry little way with no more than a respectful nod and libation. Tell me it’s the Day of Sepa or the Feast of Menhuy, which was yesterday, and I will go pawing through all my books to learn more.
In other words, I have a thing for obscure gods.
Menhuy (or Menhu, or possibly even Menew) is the Slaughterer. Egyptologist Tamara Siuda describes him as a protective form of Amun, the Hidden One. In Wilkinson’s The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, the name Menew is cited as a form of Bes, a popular apotropaic dwarfish deity, still with the meaning of Slaughterer. The main reference I can find to Menhu is of a tomb inscription from the Papyrus of Ani that states “Hidden in form, given of Menhu” is the name of the tomb. Menhu(y) is also referenced in the inscription of Hor-nefer as a falcon-headed god from Esna, which may link Him to Amun Who is in turn linked to Ra-Horuakhety, typically depicted as falcon-headed.
Finding out all of that stoked me, just as doing the initial research on Sepa or on Neper was intriguing and exciting. But the idea of making this post about the Opet Festival (a major celebration of Amun and Mut) didn’t light a fire under me, even though it would have involved the same amount of research. I have very little “connection” to most of the more well-known Netjeru, barring Sekhmet and Nebt-het. On the other hand, I am so enthralled by little-known deities that I have tentatively set up the framework for a year’s worth of research and personal writing on some 70+ obscure Netjeru… which would likely turn into a small book of cited information and modern litanies, hekau, and prayers.
My partner, who holds a biology degree, tells me that there is some small percentage of each population (human and animal alike) that is predisposed to be more drawn to novelty than to familiarity and safety. It helps keep the gene pool fresh and offers a beneficial mutation the opportunity to survive and thrive. Maybe one bird is a bizarre color, but perhaps that color is a better adaptation to its changing surroundings than its species’ usual color, and if another bird is willing to chance its reproductive future on the oddball, a new strain of successful babies can be born and spread that useful gene around. And while I have not had my genome mapped, I can look at myself and at my intense, inexplicable interest in the left-of-center ideas/people/looks/hobbies/etc and see that pattern reflected.
So I love obscure gods. Mainstream deities are challenging to me; I find it difficult to want to connect, with some few exceptions. This goes for plenty of other things in my life, making me something of an unintentional hipster with my insistence on originality and rarity. I also don’t like the spotlight, so I shy away from things with too much attention, lest I also get seen and noticed; that part’s probably an innate (but unnecessary) survival mechanism.
I’m not the only fan of the unknown, of course. Some of my fellow Kemetics pay a lot of attention to lesser-known Names, such as Wenut (a hare goddess) and Benebdjedet (a ram-headed god). I love seeing hidden gods raised up and dusted off; it elicits such a thrill of glee down my spine.
After all, the most widespread gods already have plenty of worshippers and researchers—They don’t need me that much. But if I and my books and my love can make a difference to a little-known Netjeru by offering my time, attention, and words, then I am elated and satisfied.
Going through Faulkner’s translation of the Coffin Texts, I’m finding some gems.
Spell 470: “I have appeared as Pakhet the Great, whose eyes are keen and whose claws are sharp, the lioness who sees and catches by night. … I find Orion standing on the path with the staff in his hand, and I set up the staff and receive it, and I am a god by means of it.”
Spell 471, written on a man’s coffin: “A man has power through his magic. I have stood up as a holy woman, I have sat down as […] the sky, because you know my magic which I take to the sky.”
These make me gleeful, because I am nerdy and queer, and I like finding obscure lioness Netjeru and references to men standing up as women. This is a big part of this soft-recon / researchy-revivalism path that appeals to me—I like finding others’ words and integrating them into myself and my worldview. I nom language, and it nourishes me. I feel connected when I can read or hear something from a different time, culture, or just a different person and understand it, grok it, digest it, use it.
But I don’t live entirely off others’ words. I am a writer, too. I write my own heka, some shared publicly, some still private. My tone of voice when writing heka is based on the historical sources I’ve read, and that tone evokes a particular feeling that helps me remember that it’s heka, not just journaling or pondering or wishing. For example, check the difference between “My eyes are the eyes of Nebt-het” and “I have Nebt-het’s eyes.” Both are entirely valid!… but one feels more like heka to me than the other.
(Of course, this is all from a strictly English view. I can’t read Middle Egyptian (yet?), so I can only speak to the language in which I am fluent and in which I do most of my verbal thinking and discourse.)
Finding and using historical heka, and writing and using my own, is a balancing act for me. While some Kemetics may prefer one source over the other, I really enjoy having a blend of ancient heka that resonates with me and heka I create for myself. So I write heka and prayers in a paper journal multiple times a week, and I peruse the Coffin Texts, seeking both style and inspiration from ancient voices filtered through the pages.
“. . . his pen is a wand which lets him surpass; he will perform deeds and achieve governance – so says Osiris of [name]. One who has recourse to the storm, with protection in his hand . . .”
(Spell 665, CT.)
Neper (also Nepry, Nepri) is an ancient Egyptian god of grain—He is, in fact, the personification of grain and considered to be immanent in it. Often described as the son of Renenutet, a cobra goddess of the harvest, Neper is linked to Hapy, god of the yearly inundation, and to Wesir (Osiris), Who became associated with grain and the fertility of the land as His cult grew in popularity.
He is depicted as a man holding sheaves of wheat, with wheat in His hair, or covered in dots representing wheat or barley. He can also be shown as an infant suckling at Renenutet’s breast or as Hapy-like with an exaggerated belly and breasts to indicate the abundance and fertility inherent in Their aspects.
He is invoked in an apotropaic spell that possibly references a scorpion come from the grain fields or barns:
Oh Nepri-heti, stretch your arm towards it, scratch and drive away what you have brought!
In the Coffin Texts, there’s a particular spell (Spell 330) for becoming Neper, which is one of the rare times a god is said to live and die; the spell covers not only the cyclical death of the grain and the god, but also its/His pseudo-immortality as part of the cycle of life, as the grain feeds humans and animals, and Neper-as-ma’at (“truth” below) feeds the gods:
I live and I die, I am Osiris, I have gone in and out by means of you, I have grown fat through you, I flourish through you, I have fallen through you. I have fallen on my side, the gods live on me. I live and grow as Neper whom the honoured ones cherish, one whom Geb hides, I live and I die, for I am emmer, and I will not perish. I have entered into truth, I have upheld truth, for I am a possessor of truth. I have gone forth in truth and my shape is raised up . . .
Neper is invoked and identified with in other Coffin Text spells, often in the dual role of providing a supply of grain for the deceased and also feeding other Netjeru, netjeri (non-god, non-human-ghost spirits), and still-living humans. Neper is also called the “god of smoked grain,” which seems to be linked by fragrance or smoke to conveying the deceased soul to various places or even helping manifest the soul visibly. He may be linked to the visual manifestation of souls because grain was such a foundational element for “manifesting” civilization. See Spell 101 for Sending A Man And His Soul:
Go, go, yonder soul of mine, that yonder man may see you in your living face wherever you are. He stands up and sits down when you are in front of him. … It is this grain-god who lives after death and who removes you from the portal of the sunshine, and you go forth from it . . .
Dua Neper, god of all grains, Who feeds Netjeru and humans alike with His essence!
- The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts (R.O. Faulkner)
- Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts (J.F. Bourghouts)
- The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt (R. Wilkinson)
- Nepry on Henadology
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.
Can I work with other pantheons? Can I perform rituals that aren’t Kemetic based?
Short answer: Yes and yes. Netjer is not a jealous divinity, and while individual Netjeru may request or expect certain priorities or amounts of attention/time from you, that’s between you and Them on a case-by-case basis. I don’t know of any broad-strokes Kemeticism rule that says you can’t engage with non-Kemetic pantheons, rituals, mythology, magic, etc; many Kemetics that I know have a second or multiple other paths.
Longer answer: All of the above, plus an additional consideration – do you want to blend practices, or keep the two practices strictly separate?
I’ve seen some considerable discussion around about the acceptability of blending two practices into one; for example, calling on a Celtic goddess and a Kemetic goddess in the same festival, or using an Asatru ritual format to invoke a Kemetic triad. While I don’t ever recall running across a protest of having two separate practices, and I myself dabble in other mythologies in addition to being primarily Kemetic, the question of “will it blend?” is a tricksier one.
My best recommendation would be to humbly approach the entities involved and ask Them if They’re okay with blending a path. If Brigid, Hestia, and Bes are down with being spiritual roomies in your hearth shrine and in your homebrew rituals, then carry on! So long as you act thoughtfully, deliberately, and respectfully, and so long as everyone involved is amenable to the blend, I don’t see why it can’t happen. I really can’t stress enough the importance of addressing the issue before performing any blended work, though—in much the same way as you wouldn’t invite two friends to stay in the same guest room without introducing them to one another first and making sure they don’t mind bunking together, one does not smush deities together from different cultural backgrounds without at least letting Them make Their opinion known.
I do admittedly fall on the preference of keeping my practices separate, if only because it helps me approach each deity with the particular style and reverence that Their culture has accustomed Them. Gods know I can’t recreate ancient Egyptian rituals or temples, but if I honor the core ideals of ancient Egyptian religion and philosophy when interacting with Kemetic Netjeru, then I’ve done the best I can do as a modern practitioner. I don’t feel it’s personally appropriate to apply that particular religious culture to non-Egyptian deities, but that may be partially due to how radically different Kemetic and Celtic spiritualities feel to me. Trying to get those two atmospheres to mesh nicely is well beyond my willingness to accept a challenge.
To put it more simply, sometimes two spiritual paths are peanut butter and chocolate. Sometimes they’re more like peanut butter and sushi. They might go great together!… or it may be best for all involved to enjoy them separately. :)
PS~ Pretty sure Kemeticism is almond butter.
If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other takes on working with non-Kemetic pantheons by my fellow Round Table bloggers!
I gather the usual supplies: incense, candle, cool liquid. I resist the urge to get the I’m-sorry-it’s-been-so-long wine from the fridge, choosing instead Nebt-het’s other favorite, blackberry-grape water. I pour some for Her, then savor the rest—the taste takes me back to the first summer-soaked days in Texas, when our house was yet empty and I was only beginning to know Her.
I make the offerings, kneel before the shrine, and call on my Mothers. There is no tangible response, and wise words ring through my head, remembered: Most of the gods are subtle. That is one thing They can be said to be, overall. We tend to miss Them, rather than Their not being around.
When I shift my own perceptions to a finer grain, looking for the hints of grey that fill the gaps in the primary spectrum, I find a sense of Her. Nebt-het is subtlety squared, soft and velvet like shadows, and if I shine the light of my attention too hard towards Her, I’ll never see Her.
She likes the drink, and I think She likes the necklace I made for Her; it’s enough of a response, at least, for me to wear it around my neck. It loops twice and is heavy.
Hethert-Nut is more palpable, but I have to stretch to reach Her, and I do not have enough of a stable root system threading through the hard clay soil that I can extend myself beyond the atmosphere without wavering, unbalanced. I feel like a sea fern, all lace and undulation, but at least I glimpse Her nebulae and can feel Her radiant, suffusive love.
I ask two questions of each of Them, and the answers They give are what I had expected, save one which is humbling. For the umpteenth time, I wonder how I could do this better, how I could perceive my Mothers more clearly and strongly; I know I’m capable of sensing more, given my interactions with Ma’ahes, Who can paint the insides of my eyes His sunset-orange.
But I already know the answer. It’s the way I initially approached Serqet: heart-felt action with zero expectations. Going into shrine with high hopes of a mind-blowing, visceral experience with the Netjeru will frequently prevent me from being open enough to feel what actually happens—which is often more subtle and quieter than I might wish.
Thank You, Nebt-het, for showing me how to look for the subtle nature of Netjer, just by being Who You are. I love You.