Grave Moss & Stars

Posts Tagged ‘kemetic round table’

KRT: Ancient Egyptian Mythology

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!

KRT: Learning and Celebrating Kemetic Holidays

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.

What about holidays? Do we need them? How do I figure out when holidays occur? How do I celebrate holidays? Can I make up my own holidays?

“Need” is a strong word. I myself find great value in the various Kemetic holidays, and while I don’t celebrate all of them by any means, various holidays large and small have provided me touchpoints with Netjer, introductions to new Netjeru, and ways to build my relationship with the gods I’m devoted to. I’ve known other Kemetics to invent their own modern Kemetic holidays, which I think is pretty awesome, too. :)

As for the meat and potatoes of the entry, please forgive me if I direct you to three different places to answer the rest of the questions:

  • Earlier this year, I wrote about Feasts and Festivals, which covers this topic from my own perspective (albeit in Cliff’s Notes format).
  • In the above post, I linked to another Kemetic’s well-written and thought-out post on celebrating Kemetic holidays, which is very useful for a novice and for those of us who are slightly less new to the path.
  • Lastly, I would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t direct the curious Kemetic to The Ancient Egyptian Daybook by Egyptologist Tamara Siuda, founder of Kemetic Orthodoxy. The Daybook will be released in December 2013 and will provide a detailed, thoroughly-researched Kemetic calendar reconstructed from antiquity. You can preorder copies from that website if you so desire, too!

If you enjoyed this post, please check out other takes on Kemetic holidays by my fellow Round Table bloggers!

KRT: Kemetics Being Non-Kemetic

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!

KRT: How I Began

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.

How did you get started in Kemeticism? Tips? Stories?

Tips? Nah. Stories, on the other hand… oh, yes.

Let’s get the non-Kemetic background out of the way: I was raised nominally Christian. My dad is a Roman Catholic, my mom was loosely a Baptist. We didn’t do church, except for once in a while with my dad’s parents. I didn’t grok Jesus but talked to God a little, and when in my zealous ignorance I offended a non-Christian friend as a teenager, I took it upon myself to learn more about non-Christian religions. I studied Wicca, then began practicing Wicca, along with non-denominational energywork and totemism and Otherworld journeying. My mom was in the know and vetted the books I bought. At eighteen, I swore myself into the Goddess’s service and came out to my parents about being pagan (and being queer, because I am an honest sonuva). Over time, my flavor of paganism changed from Wicca to eclectic nature-lovin’ to monolatry (the Divine is both Many and One) to almost-agnostic.

And then, after years of not having any specific god other than brief glimpses of Brigid and Lugh… I met Sekhmet.

To be exact, I called on Her. It was 2005, and I was a social and emotional doormat, and I knew I needed to grow a spine—so I petitioned a lioness goddess with enough Fire to light one under my ass. I had done some cursory digging on potential deity fits, and since I identified so strongly with the lion, a feline god was particularly appealing. So it was Sekhmet I prayed to, and Sekhmet I invoked, and Sekhmet Who answered with Her fierce, no-nonsense strength.

Years passed as I danced around Her flames, orbiting Her intensity like a reckless moon, glittering with the light She threw across me. As our relationship gradually, in fits and starts, deepened and strengthened, She demanded more traditional worship of me. I, the eclectic, the soil-palmed shapeshifter, could not reconcile my spontaneity with the formality and gilded perfection of ancient Egyptian ceremonialism. So we compromised: She would forgive my forms of ritual and worship, and I would at least research, study, and understand ancient Egyptian religion and mythology.

I had been alone in my devotion to my Red Lady, but I did know two other Egyptian pagans. (I didn’t know the word Kemetic back then.) One was a fellow devotee of Sekhmet, and one was a Jackal-child; the latter was a member of Kemetic Orthodoxy, an Egyptologist-led Kemetic temple that seemed to espouse soft reconstructionism. I balked at the idea of socializing with an entire temple in order to learn, bared my teeth at their insistence on “real” information (like name and birth date) in order to join a beginner’s course. I was a lurker who self-taught at my own pace, and the idea of being visible to more than a couple of people at a time unnerved me deeply.

But I promised Her, didn’t I? And the beginner course was no-obligation. So I swallowed my instincts and stepped into the light, flinching all the while. I clung to Sekhmet like a child to the hem of its mother’s dress, and She tolerated my inanity; She had never coddled me. In all our years together, She had defended me fiercely on the rare occasion I needed defending, and She had interceded on my behalf when I bartered a favor for Her to do so, but not once did She give me the impression that She would put up with my bullshit, my whining, and most especially, my rampant insecurity. I had come to love Her with a blinding devotion that I still can’t explain, and I could not forget that She was only in my life at my request, not Her own insistence.

Stepping into Kemetic Orthodoxy was an eye-opener. My nervousness at being visible soon faded to manageable levels, and I felt welcomed by a warm, engaged, smart community. Diversity was welcomed, not just tolerated. People were encouraged to both learn about the Netjeru from historical sources and to experience Them personally, subjectively. The tenets of Kemeticism matched up flawlessly with my own values, and with the worldview I had created and adopted for myself at Sekhmet’s urging years earlier, when we both tired of how many externally-imposed ideas I was trying to make work in my own paradigm.

During the beginner course, all students are encouraged to open themselves to Netjer and not focus on any particular gods. Hah! I did my best, and along the way, I began interacting with a couple of new-to-me deities, including Serqet (Who I prayed to) and Ma’ahes (Who insisted on my attention). I also met Nebt-het, Set, the Jackals (Wepwawet and Yinepu/Anubis), and Twtw. I acquired a hoard of historical books and read some of them, and I practiced integrating pieces of Kemetic ritual, heka, and prayers. Sekhmet was quiet, giving me the space to explore and interact with other Netjeru without being so close that I couldn’t see anyone past Her.

After the beginner course ended, I became a Remetj, a friend of the faith. And I signed up for the Rite of Parent Divination, a geomantic rite of passage that would reveal the Parent(s) of my soul and the Beloved(s) Who watched over me in this lifetime. (Note: This is a modern rite specific to Kemetic Orthodoxy, and it is not required of any Kemetic, nor does it limit which deities a person can interact with or worship.) I was exhilarated, nerve-wracked, and convinced that Sekhmet would not show up in the divination… while simultaneously not-so-secretly wondering if She would appear as my Mother. I swore to Her that, no matter Her place in or outside of that divination, She would not lose Her importance in my life and practice.

She was not there. I was divined a child of Nebt-het and Hethert-Nut, beloved of Ma’ahes and Serqet. I was overjoyed and stunned. And it took me months and months to come to grips with Sekhmet’s absence in my divination, against all odds of logic, my own promise, and the simple fact that the divination is not the be-all end-all of anything. Even as I struggled between intellect and emotion, I created a relationship with my akhu, the blessed dead who are my ancestors, and grew closer to the four Netjeru Who were in my divination.

A little over a year after my divination, I had settled in: with my gods, with my akhu, and with my community. I had proven to myself that I could participate with and bring value to the people I came to admire and enjoy, and that I could devote myself to many gods without enormous conflict. And so I felt I was ready to take Shemsu vows and become a “follower” of Kemetic Orthodoxy, swearing myself to my Netjeru and my community. I received a Kemetic name when I took those vows in February of this year, alongside my sister.

And now? Now, I am committed to my gods and Their people, to upholding ma’at in my life and self, and to maintaining this blog and my physical shrine as devotional works. I am at peace in my religion, with my spirituality; it is a dynamic, living, growing, evolving peace, and I am glad to walk this path.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other how-we-got-Kemetic stories by my fellow Round Table bloggers!

KRT: Setting Up A Kemetic Shrine

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.

Before I begin, I would like to clarify that the information in this post is my personal opinion only; it reflects the influence of Kemetic Orthodoxy’s guidelines and requirements of a shrine, but is more than just those guidelines. Specifically, in terms of purity, Kemetic Orthodoxy does not recommend having any animal products in or on a shrine, including plastics; I do not follow that restriction.

That said, let’s explore what constitutes a Kemetic shrine! For sake of simplicity, I define a shrine as a place for religious worship and activity, including making offerings and prayers. It is not just a static place to showcase icons of Netjeru; it is a place to “work” by actively participating in ritual and dialogue at or with your gods. While statues, images, and other items depicting or symbolizing a particular god can be part of a “working” shrine, the shrine is more than just those sacred objects.

Whenever possible, I recommend having a dedicated shrine space in a relatively private and undisturbed place that doesn’t get extra dirty; a corner of a bedroom or a spacious shelf in a closet will both work, as will a mantleplace shelf or small table set up somewhere things won’t get easily knocked over. However, for many Kemetics—especially those just starting out—it’s not practical or even possible to have an ever-present shrine area. Some low-tech solutions include having a TV tray you can fold out to use as needed, or clearing off a nightstand, or purchasing a cost-effective wooden shelf (even an unpainted one from Michael’s or another craft store) to use for a shrine. It is especially helpful to have an altar cloth if you can’t leave your shrine set up all the time, as the cloth helps distinguish the mundane and the sacred uses of the surface in question and to keep your shrine items clean. White is traditionally a great color for the cloth, but other solid colors or patterns can still work just fine.

There are a few items I would always recommend a “working” shrine feature, and even the most sweetly simplified shrines can benefit from having them:

  • an offering plate (for dry offerings, including food)
  • an offering cup (for liquid offerings, including pure water)
  • a candle (can be an electric candle if you can’t burn a real one)
  • a source of scent (an incense burner or oil warmer or potpourri or whatever suits your personal tastes, respiratory needs, and living space constraints)

Beyond those four items, you can include as much or as little as you wish, provided it is sacred to you. I feel it’s important to keep mundane-use items out of the shrine; the distinction helps the ritual-prone human brain understand that shrine is a special place and also helps keep your shrine orderly. Many pagans will include natural and found objects, such as leaves, flowers, pinecones, rocks, crystals, small twigs, sand, or soil; some pagans also include animal products, such as skins or furs, feathers, bones, or teeth. As mentioned earlier, many Kemetics follow ancient Egyptian standards for ritual purity for their shrines and will not use any animal products in shrine, up to and including wool, resin, and plastic.

By all means, use or exclude whatever feels true to you, and if you’re uncertain, check with Netjer or a particular deity to see if They mind the presence of a certain object. I am of the opinion that, if you use ethically-sourced materials (animal products or otherwise) and your gods are okay with it, there’s no problem. If you’re hesitant, you could easily draw the line between animal products that do not harm the animal (shed feathers or hairs) and products that might have or did harm the animal from whence they come (teeth, hides, and bones). I personally use resin statues (and a plastic lighter) on my main working shrine, and on the small shelf that is specifically Sekhmet’s, I have a rawhide cord with a couple (legally- and ethically-obtained) lion bones. I do keep blatant animal products off my “working” area, but don’t mind featuring them on other shelves in my shrine space.

It’s worth mentioning that all shrine items, including an altar cloth if you use one, should be kept physically clean—and it’s not a bad idea to regularly purify them, either energetically or symbolically. Natron and water are the typical choice for purification of a person or an object, and salt will do in a pinch; depending on the object, you can either wash it in water with a little natron in it or sprinkle it with dry natron (or salt). A spoken purification adds heka and power to the cleansing and is recommended—use an existing purification or make your own. My go-to is a simple fourfold repetition of “I am pure” or “it is pure.”

To sum up: a Kemetic shrine can be complex or simple, large or small, permanent or out-as-needed. Kemetics frequently use their shrines to pray, to make offerings, to perform heka, and to perform rituals, so items present should include an offering plate and cup, as well as the good ole standbys of candle and incense (or reasonable facsimiles, depending on living constraints). The shrine area can also feature icons or symbols of Netjer or particular Netjeru and should be kept clean and free of mundane items.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other takes on setting up a shrine by my fellow Round Table bloggers!

KRT: Heka

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.

Today’s Kemetic Round Table post covers heka; specifically, what it is and how it is used.

I would like to, first and foremost, direct your attention to two exemplary posts: the first by Sarduriur as a general academic overview of what heka is (and is not), and the second by Saryt as an interpretation of heka applied to music. They are both stellar reads and speak volumes beyond what I will cover here.

Furthermore, since I’ve already written my take on the basics of heka, I would like to give some examples of heka, rather than restate myself or repeat portions of the aforelinked fantastic essays.

To sum up briefly: Heka is not magic as Westerners think of magic; it is authoritative utterance or meaningful speech, and it is a power that lies within every person and every Netjeru. Heka is a natural and neutral tool, neither innately positive or negative, and can be used to defend and attack as well as propitiate and strengthen. Heka was frequently used to identify oneself with different deities in order to assume Their characteristics (and powers) and can be akin to sympathetic magic in that regard; to speak (or scribe) is to make it so.

Now, let’s get to a couple of modern heka samples, shall we? They should illustrate just how simple and clear-cut heka can be; it’s not all fancy ceremonial litanies that take half an hour to recite! (Not to knock long-form heka, mind; it has its place, as do the briefer kinds.)

first heka: for migraines

I suffer from migraines, and while I have them in hand for the most part, they can still take me out at the kneecaps if I’m caught unawares. Because a migraine feels like my brain is unraveling in a rather painful and messy fashion, I liken it to uncreation, and I invoke the Eye of Ra Who has made me to protect me. (In my particular case, the Eye can be both Nebt-het (Nephthys), my divine Mother, and Sekhmet.) While this heka could also be done by my directly assuming the role of the Eye goddess, I am usually too swamped by the migraine symptoms to confidently pull that off.

This migraine seeks to uncreate me!
Its darkness is the darkness of Apep‘s coils;
its pain is the pain of Apep‘s teeth.
My Lady the Eye burns away the shadows;
She burns away the pain and cauterizes me.
My Lady the Eye has created me
and no force shall undo Her work in me.

second heka: for eye trouble

I wear contacts, and on rare occasion, I’ll get some little grain of grit sandwiched between a lens and my eye. It’s deeply uncomfortable and often sharply painful, and since I don’t currently have glasses of an appropriate Rx, I’m stuck hoping I can wash the offending particle out and put my contact right back in. Given that I’d be legally blind without contacts, it’s kind of vital that I be able to wear ’em, especially at work or while driving. I’ve used the below heka a couple times to considerable effect; the first two lines are paraphrased from an ancient prayer to Bast-Ra.

Turn to me, peace-loving Netjer, forgive me;
Make light for me so I can see Your beauty.
My eye is the eye of Heru that was wounded and made whole again.

third heka: job-hunting

This heka was made for my partner, the first part to be spoken before starting a job-hunting session (online or in person) and the second part to conclude that session. I involve Heru-wer only because He’s willing, but other deities could easily take His place if the need arose.

Heru-wer, accept this incense and grant me opportunity.
My eyes are Your eyes, my hands Your talons;
I will swoop down and seize success.
. . .
Thank You for Your long sight and swift wings, Heru.
May we enjoy victory together – nekhtet!

fourth heka: protection

This is part of a longer execration heka; I conclude the heka by invoking my personal Netjeru (plus Set) for protection.

Nebt-het watches over me,
Hethert-Nut uplifts me,
Ma’ahes guards me,
Serqet guides me.
Sekhmet is over me,
Set is behind me,
Netjer is around me.
I am safe from all isfet.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other takes on heka by my fellow Round Table bloggers!

KRT: Crafting the Kemetic Community

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.

There are an awful lot of components to this particular KRT prompt, but I’d like to focus on just one facet: what we as individual Kemetics, whether or not we’re currently part of a Kemetic group, can do to create and improve the Kemetic community as a whole. There are plenty of posts that cover the other sub-topics of community flaws and how to bridge the gaps, but I much prefer to focus on concrete, proactive options that a single person can undertake. After all, while there are some larger Kemetic organizations, plenty of folks are either operating solitaries or outreachers beyond the communal house of their fellows.

As a moment of personal background, which will give perspective to this post: I am a Shemsu (“follower”) within Kemetic Orthodoxy and have been a part of this community for about two years now. For five or six years before that, I was a solitary and eclectic devotee of Sekhmet. Even now, digitally immersed in a community that I adore and with friends and peers unaffiliated with that community, I have no Kemetics within a four-hour radius of my home, so in that sense, I am still a practicing solitary. I suspect that many Kemetics share my situation: plenty of online camaraderie, but no face-to-face kindred, at least not on a casual daily basis.

So, then, the question: how do we build a community and improve the community/ies that we’ve got?

First, I think, we must acknowledge that community was a cornerstone of ancient Egyptian life and, in most cases, still quite important in modern Kemeticism. Secondly, we must acknowledge that community is not just our particular group of Kemetics, if we have one such group at all; if I am Kemetic, if I exist within a community at all—and I do—then that community goes beyond Kemetic Orthodoxy and into the wider realm of all-stripes Kemetics. And, of course, within a large enough collection of beautifully human, beautifully individualistic, and beautifully imperfect people, one will see disagreements, clashes, and differences of opinion.

But family is family, and howevermuch one might roll one’s eyes at one’s kooky uncle or crass aunt, they are still part of the tribe that we protect and support. This is community, and it is built one person at a time, a garden planted seed-by-seed. We build community one handshake after another, one hello and then another. It is this community that, when healthy and vibrant and living, will care for us just as we tend to it.

The heart of any community is the individual, and to better the Kemetic community, my best and only advice is to heal thyself, physician. Your heart and your spirit thrive within your personal practice, and your first duty is to yourself and your gods. By taking care of yourself, by tending to your gods and your relationship to Netjer, you bring ma’at into the world, and you contribute to a resilient foundation within our community. Your health and your actions radiate outwards and influence the other Kemetics that you know, just as they affect you, and this feedback cycle is strengthened and made pure by your own strength and purity.

And so it goes, so it grows, ever outwards. To create community, we reach out our hands to touch others; we speak with honesty, with respect, and with the understanding that no two Kemetics are the same, so your practice will not be what another does. To improve community, we reach out our hands to Netjer; we worship with honesty, with respect, and with the understanding that no two Kemetics are the same, so your practice is unique and invaluable to Netjer.

To begin a journey, you must take a step; to build upon it, you must keep taking steps, but only ever one at a time. So it is with community: start with one kindred spirit, and continue reaching out until you weave yourself into the rich tapestry that this living faith and its diverse, brilliant, strong-willed practitioners have begun to co-create.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other takes on how to deal with contributing to our Kemetic community by my fellow Round Table bloggers!

KRT: Feeling Inadequate

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.

Every Kemetic can feel inadequate at times; how do you handle those feelings in your own practice?

An excellent question, and one that cuts close to home. I can be… territorial, shall we say, and along with that sense of territory is a sense of what can threaten that territory. Anyone I perceive as “bigger” (more knowledgable, more skilled, more experienced, more authoritative) can trigger an internal alarm that lets me know that what’s mine may be contested by this “bigger” entity… and, in fact, I could outright lose a showdown if one occurred.

I typically experience one of two instinctive reactions to this feeling: avoidance (if no one knows what I have, they can’t take it!) or defensiveness (it’s mine, I’ll fight for it!). Neither are particularly helpful, but my third intellectual response, which employs logic and reason and reminds my toothy animal brain that people are not actually trying to steal my shit, can only balance out the knee-jerk emotions—it can’t fully override. So I wind up in this sort of frozen state, where I consciously realize what’s going on but can’t fully win out against instinct; my emotions are flailing all over the place, beneath a thin veneer of calm.

In a word, I am graceless at handling feelings of inadequacy, even if I manage to keep myself from loosing them full-force on unsuspecting passersby.

However, having such a powerful response to the imagined threat of superior force has given me ample opportunity to practice coping. There are some tried-and-true techniques that will help, even when I’m neck-deep in emotional flail:

Step away. If I’m not going to be able to handle a situation gracefully, I’ll remove myself from it, and preferably before my internal state gets too woogity.

Once I’ve stepped away, I can distract myself. If I’m feeling overwhelmed and “out-competed,” to prevent myself from going into that downward spiral of flail, I’ll change activities, locations, or trains of thought. To give a more solid example, if I’ve been looking at too much amazing art and feeling wholly inferior about my own paintings, I’ll go read a book or pick up the guitar, rather than stay on the topic of art.

Sometimes, however, I don’t want to switch topics, so after I step away, I can do it alone. If I know I’m going to get daunted if I’m exposed to too much awesomeness from other people, I’ll go do my own thing alone, outside the realm of influence of anyone else, and once it’s done, then come back and rejoin my community. A great example of this was the last KRT post; I was a few days late in writing mine, and instead of reading everyone else’s first and despairing that I could not possibly add anything of value to the conversation, I wrote mine and published it before I read anyone else’s. I might still feel inadequate after overexposure to sheer awesomeness, but at least those emotions won’t stop me from gettin’ shit done.

In almost all of these cases, part of my coping methods is self-talk. I will frequently (and usually skillfully) be able to talk myself down from most emotional peaks with enough time and quiet enough surroundings. Just as one might coax a balking horse or fearful dog into a state of greater calmness and compliance, I coax my own reactive self into a slightly more chilled-out, reasonable state. (If you’re wholly unfamiliar with the concept of self-talk, I recommend checking out What to Say When you Talk To Yourself. There’s an enormous psychological basis for self-talk being ridiculously effective.)

Because the biggest problem with feeling inadequate—in general, but especially as a Kemetic—is that it’s a lie. No one is a “better” or “worse” Kemetic. There are certainly ways in which we as individuals can change our practices to fit our own internal standards, but that’s a personal thing, not a black-and-white thing. If I don’t do a daily rite, I am not a worse Kemetic than someone who does. Having an awful lot of books on Egyptology does not make me a better Kemetic than someone who has two—or none. There is no comparison; there is no competition. And, quite frankly, if you’re in a place where there is a lot of Kemetickier-than-thou going on, you might want to seek more peaceable pastures elsewhere. No one has a right to judge others on their worth or success as Kemetics.

We’re all wonderful, fallible people. Just because we sometimes feel inadequate does not at all change the contributions that each of us bring to the world and to our faith and to our community. Feeling inferior doesn’t make us inferior, and even when we’re immersed in the flaily emotions, we are still ourselves—still Kemetics of worth and value.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other takes on how to deal with feelings of inadequacy by my fellow Round Table bloggers!

KRT: Life as a Modern Kemetic

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.

How does being a Kemetic affect your daily life, if it does?

I am going to take this question as seeking more concrete ways that Kemeticism influences my life, rather than going with my first reflexive response of “being Kemetic changes my entire outlook, which affects every second of every day.”

I do not currently perform a daily rite, but my being Kemetic does affect my day-to-day. I say my morning prayers every weekday on the way to work. I dress myself in jewelry that symbolizes and links me to my gods; they are marks that show me as Theirs, as well as objects that I can touch when I am in need or in praise. I review the Kemetic Orthodoxy calendar to see what holidays occur each day, and if I am able and eager, I set aside time to do something to celebrate, be it a quick offering or an elaborate devotion of art-making. I reach out regularly, if not everyday, to my Kemetic community, through forums and through email and through this blog. I seek my gods in the sky, in the sun, in the wind, and in Their colors.

Do you do things differently than you used to because of your faith/religion?

Yes, though trying to quantify that is a challenge, even ignoring the intangible ways that Kemeticism has altered my behavioral patterns and ways of thinking. I am certainly more active in community now, since before I had none; I am having to learn how to be social, which is an ongoing challenge, but I have found such good people that the work is worth the time and effort. Also, before becoming a Kemetic, I did not grok the concept of service, and now I think I do, at least in part. I serve where I may, and I find joy in it. As well, I have learned to understand the passion that monotheists and polytheists can feel and express towards their gods, which had baffled me to some extent before I became Kemetic.

More concretely, I paint now. I write songs now; I put guitar chords to those songs; I sing. I study hieroglyphs and history and ancient mythology; I hoard college-level textbooks on Egyptology. I write hekau and litanies and prayers. I make sacred jewelry. I do all of these things because I am Kemetic, because I am intertwined with certain Netjeru Who love music and beautiful things and creativity, Who create language, Who ask studiousness of me in exchange for Their acceptance of my never-gonna-be-a-hardcore-ritualist. While I may have wound up going this far with music-making and art on my own, without being Kemetic, it would not be anything like what it is now, and I love my crafts as they are—and as they will grow to be.

The easiest way to describe how being Kemetic has changed my life, how it affects my every day, is to say that I see more colors in everything than I did before. Imagine walking into and through a rich watercolor painting—that’s my day, right there.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other takes on daily life as a modern Kemetic by my fellow Round Table bloggers!

KRT: UPG and You

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.

What is UPG?

UPG is a common term used in the polytheist, pagan, and metaphysical fields that means Unverified Personal Gnosis. “Gnosis,” according to, is defined as “knowledge of spiritual matters; mystical knowledge”—so UPG is subjective mystical knowledge that an individual accrues in one’s spiritual or religious practice. The key word here is subjective (or personal), meaning this spiritual knowledge is not necessarily objective, historically verified, or scientifically feasible… though UPG can easily have roots in objective truths and communal understanding.

One accrues UPG by spending time with one’s gods (or spirits or ancestors or etc), by interacting with Them, and by actively building a personal spiritual practice. Some UPG may stem from or be inspired by research or academia, but it is primarily gained by engaging in ritual, meditation, prayer, etc—it’s the difference between reading the manual and getting your hands dirty. UPG is the sweat and soil that coat your fingers when you dig into the thick of Kemeticism; it is the lessons you learn.

As an example, I associate Ma’ahes not only with the traditional summer heat, but also with thunderous downpours. I’ve only seen a reference to Him as a storm deity in one source (the Routledge dictionary, I believe), and it was a Greek-era association, which I normally toss out with the bathwater in my Kemetic lore-gathering. However, in this particular case, there are certain types of storms that I consider His, and the link for me is a powerful one—this is my UPG.

Are there rules?

While there are no rules in UPG— it’s personal, after all—there are certainly some healthy guidelines that I’d encourage folks to keep in mind.

First and foremost, use common sense. If you think an Unseen entity is communicating something entirely off-putting or is acting in an unsettling way, check your gut and employ some logic. The human mind is a beautiful, complex, extraordinary thing, and we have vivid and brilliant imaginations. It’s easy to get caught up in our own constructed illusions, especially when first starting out; it’s hard to have the patience and the humility to rationale-check your experiences. No Netjeru will ask you to do something harmful to yourself or others; no Netjeru will push you to act outside of ma’at (rightness, balance, truth). It’s also pretty unlikely that you are a reincarnated Egyptian king, sorry. :) Be alert for any experience that strays too far outside of the realms of plausibility, in either positive or negative directions—not to immediately discard it, but to examine it more thoroughly.

My rule of thumb is to ask, “Is it useful?” If an experience or belief or a piece of my UPG is non-detrimental to any portion of my self or life, and if it enriches or enhances any portion of my life, it’s both harmless and beneficial, making it useful. This isn’t to say that some “real” parts of one’s practice or UPG won’t be a little bitter along with the sweet, but asking if it’s useful helps isolate those areas of potential trouble so they can be more rigorously reviewed with common sense firmly in hand.

Ultimately, only you can determine the validity and usefulness of your UPG. While I caution against integrating damaging UPG, I understand that sometimes the process of growth or the release of unhealthy things can be painful, and one’s practice is not necessarily going to be all kittens and rainbows. I have been faced with unpleasant tasks and challenging requests myself, but they have all been for the overall good of myself and my life; it’s important to be able to distinguish something hard from something downright bad.

How important is UPG? Is it reliable?

I consider UPG to be rather important, but not to the total exclusion of research into one’s god(s), magical techniques, relevant history, etc. Kemetics can range the gamut, however, from almost entirely UPG-based to almost entirely fact-based; find the mix that works best for you. If you’re deeply uncomfortable with jumping into an experience without a lot of study and intellectual contemplation, then UPG will matter less to you than the veracity of your academic resources. If you prefer to be more hands-on than analytical, then you may place a much greater weight on experience and less emphasis on research. Either way is fine, so long as it works for you.

How reliable one’s UPG is will depend on one’s ability to separate the wheat from the chaff… and also the importance UPG has in one’s practice. If you’re brand-new to the field and heavily academia-centric, you may not rely on your UPG very much. But, over time, your UPG will reinforce itself (or prove invalid and thus discardable) and will become more reliable, especially as your sense of what’s valid or not hones with experience.

For myself, I rely heavily on my UPG, but I frequently fact-check to make sure that no objective sources directly contradict it. I don’t mind if my UPG fills in a factual blank, but I tend to raise an eyebrow if it completely goes against a historical record. But then, I’m a soft reconstructionist, and so I give weight to academic and historical resources; some Kemetics are far looser (or stricter) than me.

What about others’ UPG? Does it matter to us—and should it?

I admit, it’s always a bit of a treat when I find some of my UPG meshes with someone else’s. There is always a possibility that your UPG can become VPG – verified personal gnosis – if a number of other Kemetics share it, thus making it a communal experiential belief.

However, you’re not required to integrate others’ UPG—only to respect it, just as you would like others to respect your own. If you couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks or practices, then there’s no need for you to try to weave in external UPGs into your practice; if, however, you are more community-based or socially-inclined, you can keep external UPGs in mind. Be wary of adopting someone else’s UPG as unadulterated fact, though. Even though you may consciously like another’s UPG, that doesn’t mean it will prove true and valid for you; one Kemetic’s experience of Sekhmet as a loving mother-figure may leave you wishing that the blazing, distant lioness-goddess you experience would be kinder. Your own UPG should always take primary importance in your practice, with very few exceptions, and when exploring another’s UPG for yourself, use your common sense and logic-checks.

To sum up…

UPG, or unverified personal gnosis, is the accumulation of subjective experiences and beliefs that informs an individual’s personal practice. I always encourage folks to check their UPG against common sense and to ask if it’s useful (harmless and beneficial) before integrating it into one’s spirituality. The importance of UPG in one’s practice will vary by person, but its reliability will usually increase over time, as a Kemetic gains experience and a better sense of discrimination. While one is free to ignore or to contemplate others’ UPG, one should always consider one’s own UPG first and foremost, as external UPGs may prove invalid and should not be treated as factual by default.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other takes on UPG and its usages by my fellow Round Table bloggers!

KRT: Choosing Your God(s)

This post is part of the Kemetic Round Table, a loose organization of various Kemetic bloggers. Our aim is to answer some of the most common beginner questions with our diverse opinions and different levels of experience, providing a wealth of good options for the Kemetic novice to explore.

The full topic of this post is fourfold:

  • Do I need a main deity to practice Kemeticism?
  • If so, how do I get a main deity?
  • Am I obligated to learn everything I can about my main deity?
  • Am I able to say no to a deity that shows up at my shrine?

Short answers: No. By developing a relationship naturally. “Obligated” is a bad word. And yes.

But I’m pretty sure you want the long answers, too, right? So here we go.

1) Do I need a main deity?

Quite honestly, this is something only you can answer. In terms of the community and the path, no, you don’t need a primary god. But in terms of your personal, spiritual needs, perhaps you do. If you crave that special one-on-one, if you really want a patron/matron relationship with one deity above the others, then by all means, seek it! If you prefer having several relationships that are equal in weight, then do that! I know Kemetics who have strong relationships with several Netjeru, yet have one particularly special and powerful one; I know other Kemetics who have more casual and equal relationships. And yes, you can have really strong relationships with multiple Netjeru at once. The way you develop your relationships with your god(s) is up to you, your own nature and desires, and the god(s) in question. Some deities may, in fact, prefer to be the focus of your worship. Others may push you to keep other Netjeru in your life in order to balance out Their influence.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to find the right balance that satisfies your needs and the requests of your god(s). There is no singular correct way to do it.

2) How do I get a main deity?

As above, this can drastically vary, depending on how you interface with god(s) and which god(s) you’re interacting with. You may approach a deity and receive instantly clear instructions on how to worship Them, but please realize that’s not exactly common. More often, you wind up with a primary god in the same way you wind up with a best friend: you interact with deities you’re drawn to, and those relationships grow naturally until you realize that one Netjeru in particular has become the focus of your spirituality, your worship, and your life. You can formalize that relationship if you’d like, and maybe some deities will even request a ritualized commitment from you; but, again, that’s between you and your god(s).

While there are a ton of ways to go about developing a relationship with a primary god, I will always recommend keeping yourself free of expectations. Just as you wouldn’t go on a first date and plan your children with a person you’ve just met, don’t prepare to call a Netjeru your primary god on your first hello in shrine. You have time; you can let that relationship deepen and grow naturally, instead of rushing or forcing it.

3) Am I obligated to learn everything I can about my main deity?

I don’t like the word “obligation.” I would say it is strongly encouraged and recommended to learn as much as you can, or at least as much as you want, about your god. It can be extremely beneficial and helpful to do some reading on your god’s historical and even modern interpretations. In much the same way as you wouldn’t marry someone you knew nothing about, it’s generally a good idea to learn as much as you can – through experience and research both, in a ratio that suits you – about the deity that you focus on. Don’t forsake the interaction and one-on-one time in favor for always thinking and never doing, but, as a Kemetic, we tend to be revivalists and reconstructionists; digging through ancient history is part and parcel of most of our practices.

I wouldn’t call it a requirement, but it’s pretty common and pretty all-around encouraged. Plus, you’d be amazed at the lightbulbs that come on when you read something that really clicks with you.

4) Can I say no to a deity that approaches me? How?

Yes, you absolutely can. And it can be as simple as politely saying, “Thank You for Your interest in me, but I am not willing/available to work with You at this time.” Sort of how you’d turn down a job recruiter if you’re already happily employed, in fact.

However, I would caution against a quick decision on your part. You always have the right to say “no thank You” to a deity, but before you do, consider why that deity has shown up—and figure out why you’re not interested. If it’s a simple case of being too busy already, or being perfectly happy and content with your current god(s), that’s one thing; but if you have a strong knee-jerk reaction of “AUGH NO” to a deity, try to explore why that is.

There are an awful lot of deities out there with damaged reputations; Kemetic gods in particular have been waylaid by Greek influences and considerably warped, and many otherwise-valuable sources don’t always tell you which myths are from purely Kemetic time periods or from Greco-Egyptian eras. When I was about knee-deep in Kemeticism, still wading deeper but not fully swimming yet, I read that Geb, the god of the earth, had violently seized the throne from His father, Shu, the god of air, and had taken His mother as His own queen. I was instantly nonplussed, and Geb became one of the few Netjeru I wanted nothing to do with. It was only a few months later that I discovered that the myth I had read was Greek-influenced, equating Geb with Zeus and Kronos; pre-Greek Kemetic myths didn’t have that story at all.

Set is another deity frequently poorly-represented by many modern beliefs and Greek sources, and there are others Who have been made overly saccharine, too, by more recent sources and trends. Bast is not a kitten; Aset (Isis) is not a sweet, all-loving, harm-none mother goddess. If you’re reluctant to work with a deity because of what you (think you) know about Them, please do a bit more research—talk to Kemetics who know Them and find some good pre-Greek-influence resources. They might be stepping into your life just when you need Them, even if you don’t realize it at first. Some of the gods we need the most are also the ones we wouldn’t consciously choose.

All that said, though, Kemeticism is voluntary, and, as far as I’m concerned, you can still turn a deity away if you genuinely don’t want to or cannot work with Them. Free will is deeply important in your practice, just as much so as an open mind and a willingness to experience and learn.

What’s the bottom line?

You don’t need a primary god to be a Kemetic, but if you want one, I recommend going about it in an organic, let-it-happen-naturally sort of way. Whether or not you work with a primary god, the Netjeru in your life will let you know how They prefer to be honored, and you can find a solution that fulfills your wants and needs as well as Theirs. It’s a great idea to research your god, but don’t let that take the place of one-on-one interaction and experience; establish a balance. You don’t have to work with any deity Who shows up, but it’s worth giving Them the benefit of the doubt and taking a bit of time to research Them and explore your feelings about Them before saying no.

The best rule of thumb is that everything is subjective, there is no One Right Way, and you can learn by trial and error. :)

If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other takes on what to do during the fallow times by my fellow Round Table bloggers!

KRT: Dealing with the Dry Season

This post is part of the Kemetic Round Table, a loose organization of various Kemetic bloggers. Our aim is to answer some of the most common beginner questions with our diverse opinions and different levels of experience, providing a wealth of good options for the Kemetic novice to explore.

Quite conveniently, I’d planned this as a D post for the Pagan Blog Project, so it coming up as the second question for the Kemetic Round Table (albeit phrased as “fallow” instead of “dry”) suits me perfectly!

There is an important distinction in the word choice that I’d like to explain before I get to the meat of the post. “Fallow” is an agricultural term, referring to the necessity of letting a field be unplanted on a cyclical basis so the soil isn’t depleted of its vital nutrients; in other words, fallow is a natural and required period of rest in order to avoid burnout. The dry season, on the other hand, is a deliberate reference to drought, which is a lack of the moisture needed to sustain an environment and allow it to flourish.

The Round Table’s chosen term is “fallow,” but in modern polytheism, the term is usually used to indicate a lack—of the perceptible presence of our god(s), of the drive to perform devotions, or of a general sense of spiritual interconnectedness. To me, that describes more of a dry season than a resting period, hence my use of a different word. (However, some of my fellow Kemetics have taken the literal definition of the word “fallow” to write some wonderful things about how necessary it is to attend to self-growth and Seen-world matters during spiritual fallow times, in order to maintain a healthy life balance. I highly recommend reading them!)

Now, semantics settled, what does one do when a dry season strikes? The symptoms frequently include a restlessness, perhaps even anxiety or depression, an apathy towards spiritual or magical activities, and most commonly, an inability to sense or communicate with one’s god(s). We feel a dearth, and that can drive us to extreme upset and doubt, leading us to question if we’re worthy, if we’ve done something wrong, or if this is even the right path. Strongly spiritual people often crave the experience of the Unseen, and in its absence, our metaphorical throats are parched for even a few droplets of blessed rain.

I have experienced a fallow time—a period where I was so occupied with mundane matters, so busy and drained by work, that my spirituality and my gods had to take a back seat, though not by any conscious choice of mine. It was an unavoidable break, and while I didn’t particularly enjoy the necessity, I did understand why it happened and that it would resolve when my Seen-world life stopped being as crazy. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t panic or doubt myself.

And I have also experienced a dry season (or three), particularly with Sekhmet, before I came to Kemetic Orthodoxy. In my experience, Sekhmet does not coddle; She does not respond when I am being insecure and clingy, and She does not have time or patience for my flailing. There have been stretches of time where She did not grace me with Her tangible presence, and I reacted poorly. I tried to cling more tightly; I tried to demand; I constantly questioned if She even wanted me around at all, if I mattered to Her in the slightest. And in the dry times, She did not deign to reply to my silliness.

I had to learn to wait. Worse, I had to learn to be still in my waiting, to be quiet and without assumption. Worst of all, I had to learn to trust.

I already trusted Sekhmet. I trusted Her with my life, my heart. But I did not trust Her to care enough about me to keep me around; I did not trust myself to be worthy of Her continued attentions. And it was hard as hell to slowly realize that all of my noise and caterwauling was for naught, and that the answer was patience and faith. It is still hard as hell; I might understand it intellectually, but grokking it in my spirit and emotional subconscious is a whole other matter entirely.

The thing that most helped me through the dry seasons was also the thing that made it the hardest to bear: I would reread my journals, where I recorded my experiences with Sekhmet and where I sang Her praises. It reminded me of how much I cared, and while that depth of devotion kept me going when She didn’t pick up the godphone, it also made the lack that much more pronounced. It stung, salt in the wounds, even as it sustained.

And I would have thought, once I had other Netjeru in my life, that a dry time with Sekhmet wouldn’t be as intense. Of course, I was wrong. My relationship with each of my gods is completely independent of my relationships with the others, and it hurt no less when Sekhmet was away, even though I had Ma’ahes and Serqet powerfully present in my daily life. They are unique, my Netjeru, and none of Them replaces the other.

I would love to say that I’m good at surviving dry times now, that going through these deserts with Sekhmet has strengthened me, that I am practiced at doing the right things and biding my time. But I’d be lying. The last dry season with Sekhmet ended only a few months ago, and I handled it with all the gracelessness of a rejected cat: cycling through whining, obnoxiousness, false I-don’t-care, resentment, and then quiet sadness. (Those of you who have demanding cats in your life will grok this pattern.) But the drought only lifted when I stopped making noise, when I let go of expectation, when I chose to endure no matter the wait.

And that’s key, I think—not giving up. Not surrendering to the fear, the anxiety, the doubt. Letting go of your expectations is not letting go of hope; it’s realizing you don’t know what’ll happen, but still trusting something will happen, even if you have no idea when.

For myself, I know dry seasons will come on occasion; so will the more necessary and beneficial fallow times. For each, I hope to answer with patience, with an open mind, without assumptions and expectations, and most importantly, with trust—trust that I am worthy, and trust that They love me, even if I can’t feel it in the moment.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other takes on what to do during the fallow times by my fellow Round Table bloggers!

KRT: A Personal Practice of Ritual Purity

This post is the first of many I intend to make as part of the Kemetic Round Table, a loose organization of various Kemetic bloggers. Our aim is to answer some of the most common beginner questions with our diverse opinions and different levels of experience, providing a wealth of good options for the Kemetic novice to explore. For more information on the Kemetic Round Table, please take a look over here!

As many other Kemetics have noticed, ritual purity – and what exactly one does to purify oneself – is rife with personal interpretations and has an immense variety of possibilities. To each their own, says I, but that statement alone would make for an awfully short post! So I would like to share my own practices and takes on purity, with a respectful nod to the fact that what was done in antiquity by a dedicated priest-force may not be feasible or necessary for a singular domestic Kemetic. One of the lovely things about being a soft reconstructionist is being able to choose what still works from antiquity, adapt what else might work, and leave the rest lie with the old ones. And ultimately, there are two primary components to purification to consider: physical cleansing, and mental-emotional-spiritual clearing and focusing.

While ancient Egyptians purified themselves a variety of strictly regulated ways, including avoiding certain foods, shaving all hair, wearing only plant products, and extensive purification with water and/or natron, modern Kemetics enjoy a very sanitized lifestyle within finely controlled environments. In most cases, our modern hygiene products are perfectly sufficient for the physical requirements of cleanliness, and our food and water are sanitary and safe for consumption with minimal effort. To be sure, natron or salt has historical, as well as spiritual, properties that make it a wonderful addition to purifications, especially for the more reconstructionist-oriented Kemetics. And, of course, if participating in group or temple rites that have specific requirements for purity, one should do one’s best to observe those. Still, for most solitary work, we find that our standard hygiene will take care of the physical needs of purification.

However, for the purposes of purifying one’s mind and spirit and focusing for the ritual… The best thing I can say is to find what works for you and go with it. Some Kemetics avoid certain foods; many avoid animal products; many also avoid being in shrine or touching their altar while sick, injured, menstruating, or deeply distraught. Some strive to emulate the high standards for priest purifications from ancient Egypt; others are content if they don’t have fresh oil stains on their jeans. Wear only linen, or wear clean white clothes, or wear clean clothes, or wear what you’re wearing and have worn all day. Bathe first, shower first, or just dust off. It’s between you and your gods in the end; you enter shrine to be with Them, and if you and They are fine with grass stains and cat hairs, then there’s no reason not to go with that! (Note the emphasis on you being happy with your level of cleanliness/purity; if it doesn’t work for you, don’t settle for it. Likewise, some gods seem to be more attentive to purifying than others and may have higher standards.)

For myself, I am Kemetic Orthodox, and I do perform and attend rituals and celebrations that require a minimum purity. In brief, this entails blessing natron and water and rinsing oneself with it, full-body at best and mouth/orifices at least, and being in a generally high state of physical and mental health. The state rite of senut, in particular, has detailed purification at the beginning, invoking both heka and literal washing to cleanse the body and spirit to prepare for ritual.

While I deeply admire the meanings and depth behind the heka and symbolism employed in senut, I do not perform full-on senut very often. That level of structure and precision is something I personally reserve for Big Things; I can’t maintain it on a daily basis without stressing unduly or developing an avoidance. I am a working-overtime polymath with finite energy and time, and I do my best to both perform with quality and to keep my practices efficient and effective… so I optimize!

I have developed a comfortable form of on-the-fly quick purification, inspired by some of senut’s guidelines. In particular, before going into shrine at all or before creating (painting, in particular) for or with Netjer/u, I will wash my hands with soap. I repeat “I am pure” four times as I do so, once while rubbing my palms together, once with one palm over the back of the opposite hand, again with the bottom hand on top, and once more with palms together again. It takes less than thirty seconds and helps get me in the mindset of being clean-handed and ready to touch important objects… as well as takes care of the practical, mundane parts of purification. In addition, depending on what I’m doing, I’ll also brush my teeth or use mouthwash beforehand, to make sure my mouth is clean and prepared to speak heka.

For taboos or common impurities, as briefly mentioned at the beginning of this post, my own background in eclectic paganism has created a certain lenience. In particular, I see nothing “unclean” or impure about menstruation, provided it is not a physical or mental distraction in shrine, and I don’t consider it a bad thing to show up in shrine if one is deeply upset, provided one has enough presence of mind to remain safe with candles. Many folks struggle with purity standards being a measuring stick of worthiness to come before the gods, and those in particular are two areas where one’s self-esteem can nosedive all too easily. Women who are menstruating are not impure in my eyes; people who are depressed, anxious, or grieving are not impure. While I certainly understand and respect the attitude of bringing one’s best into shrine, before the gods, I am of the viewpoint that the gods already know us at our best and at our worst. If I am sick and sneezing and coughing and wretched, I am unlikely to sit in shrine, but that’s mostly for practical reasons – I’d rather not clean snot off the offering plate! If I am deeply sad, I find comfort and peace, and often release, in the presence of Netjer at my altar.

As I mentioned earlier: to each their own. Rise to the standards that ring right to you and to your gods; respect the requirements of the rite or the temple, if any. Kemeticism is a living practice, and it is not all written on the walls; we can adapt and grow while honoring what was as our foundation and inspiration.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other takes on ritual purity by my fellow Round Table bloggers!