Live in Ma’at. Oppose Isfet

For many Kemetics (if not most) these two concepts have a particular importance on many levels. Living and sustaining Ma’at is a basic religious and moral precept.

Ma’at encompasses (but is not necessarily restricted to) the ethical concepts of ‘cosmic balance’, ‘universal harmony’, ‘truth’, ‘order’ and even ‘justice’.

Ma’at the goddess is the personification of these concepts.

‘The goddess represented the divine harmony and balance of the universe, including the unending cycles of the rising and the setting sun, the inundation of the Nile River, the resulting fertility of the land, and the enduring office of kingship; she was considered to be the force that kept chaos (isft), the antithesis of order, from overwhelming the world.’ (1)

Isfet on the other hand is not just chaos or disorder. It is complete destruction, un-creation, nothingness. Isfet is a complex concept just like Ma’at and one could say they are the perfect opposites.

Ma’at keeps things together and Isfet tears them apart then sends them into nothingness. With Isfet and its agents (such as the dreaded Ap/p who threatens the Sun God Ra himself) there is no beneficial chaos, no destruction to make room for creation, no reason. It just is and it wants more. It wants everything. It constantly tries to creep up  on creation and all it entails.

The inevitable (and tricky) question arises: how do I keep Ma’at and battle Isfet?

It all comes down to the individual. This post couldn’t be a better example of that. And this one hits the nail on the head with the statement ‘It’s all shades of grey’. And although it’s easy to find references to how Ma’at was kept in ancient times, it’s not always easy discovering what it means for ourselves. Some of us may be lucky and have a clear view from the start. Others will keep searching for a while. Some will change their minds as they go along and that’s fine as well. You see, there’s no simple answer. We are all different individuals, with different circumstances and experiences.

Personally I see living in Ma’at as trying to keep everything in balance in all aspects of life. It’s not easy at all. I sometimes falter and I sometimes need help. It’s bloody hard work!

I see it as being true to myself. I see it as being the ability to make a compromise in a particular situation just so everyone is content.

I see it in the ability to forgive. I see it in realizing when I made a mistake and trying to remedy it.

To me, keeping Ma’at can often boil down to doing simple things for a greater good. It may sound silly, but I even see it in planting some bee friendly plants in a pot so the bees have a bit of extra food. I can donate some things to charity so others don’t go without. I can recycle to keep things from going to the landfill. I can take care of someone who is ill and offer them comfort. I can’t go and fight Ap/p. But I can do small things to ensure good things are being maintained and flourish.

To me, things like injustice and oppression are agents of Isfet. I can’t always fight these things. They happen all over the world and I may not even know where or when it’s happening. But hardships can happen to people I know and care for. Or they can happen to me. That’s when I can and most likely will do something about it. That’s where my personal battle is. That’s where I can say ‘That’s it. Isfet, I’m going to execrate the daylights out of you!’

~~~~~

(1) Ma’at by Emily Teter in The Oxford Essential Guide to Egyptian Mythology, pg. 189

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This is a post for the Kemetic Round Table.

See all of the responses here.

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A few good finds

Hello lovelies!

I’m finally back from my travels and as nice as it has been I must say I’m looking forward to slowing down a bit. Right before it gets busy at least. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while I think you’ve become familiar with my usual start-of-autumn-all-the-way-into-winter busy times.

I’ve been meaning to show you all some nifty finds for a while now so let’s start with the one which has been waiting the longest:

019A few months ago I went to Camden Stables Market (if you live in London I’m sure you know exactly where it is) and found this little gem of a store. It stocks not only statuary and papyri but also water pipes and perfumes. I’ve asked for a business card and saw that they also maintain this website. I hope to go back again by the end of the year because I have my eye on a Thoth statue ;) There seemed to be something for everyone, for such a small space (just Unit 13 k) the stock was quite impressive. Please forgive the glare of the camera’s flash, I wasn’t getting a clear picture without it.

The next finds are these:

 

KEYS!

KEYS!

 

All of my market finds.

All of my market finds.

I’ve discovered these during my usual car boot sale & market wanderings at the week-end. I normally go and check what can be found, there are almost always different sellers along with the usual ones so the stuff one can find can vary greatly. I had been looking for keys and an old compact with an intact mirror but the little dish with spoon was an unexpected find, for the whopping price of 20 p. Yep, that’s right. 20 p.

And now for the latest one:

Phytognosis goodies!

Phytognosis goodies!

Ah, Phytognosis! An absolutely brilliant Etsy shop where you get exquisite quality and impeccable customer service. You can even find their Facebook page here. The Mr. surprised me because he knew I was running low on supplies and despite the not so good money situation he’s told me to go ahead and order a few things. And Jeremy, the shop owner, has been kind enough to send a couple of generous samples, one of his Aset blend (which is sweet and dark, a bit reminiscent of kyphi and incredibly potent) and some Coptic Frankincense. I’m especially impressed with the Heka Oil, I have a feeling it will become a repeat purchase. The Sun Incense is based on Agrippa’s recipe and it’s exquisite as well. I had previously ordered his Moon Incense and expected the same quality. It did not disappoint at all. The Dark Mayan Copal is for Anubis, of course ;) Another thing I’m really happy about is that you don’t get swindled on overseas shipping. I’ve seen U.S. sellers adding an extravagant £6 for every extra item – and I’m not talking about big and heavy items, just the usual small oil bottles or small packs of incense. And you get to the point where the shipping is about 3 times over the cost of the purchase. Now I know it’s a bit more expensive for overseas shipping, but £6 for every items seems extreme to me. That doesn’t happen with Phytognosis however, which definitely deserves a cheer in my opinion.

 

That’s about it for now, be well everyone!

 

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Kemetic Round Table: Akhu Basics

[this is my last KRT catch up post, finally up to date!]

Ancestor worship is something many modern kemetics have included (or are in the process of including) into their general practice. It is absolutely fine if you do not want or you do not feel the need to. It’s not an absolute requirement to be ‘a good kemetic’.

In ancient times there were entire rituals and temple grounds dedicated to the cult of the dead, as well as specific classes of clergy which dealt with the dead. This was intimately related to the ancient Egyptian view of the soul – here’s a good link if you’d like to read more.

The dead required the preservation of the body through mummification, numerous chants, prayers and spells to guide and protect them through their journey into the Afterlife, and nourishment for their ka – this was done both through some of the paintings in their tombs with symbolic value (such as the painting of offerings) and through regular offerings of food and drink; there was usually some type of contract between the deceased and the clergy for how much was to be offered after that person’s death and for how long. (on the subject of offerings, I’ve discussed it before here).

For modern practitioners, if you’d like to set up or expand your ancestor worship, here are a few things worth exploring:

Put up a shrine (as small or as big as you wish or your circumstances allow) with their picture or a personal object, a candle, incense and water. The dead are always thirsty so it’s a good idea to maintain fresh water at your ancestor shrine as often as possible.

Tend to their graves if you can. Keep them free of weeds and place fresh flowers. If they were cremated and their ashes scattered somewhere, visit that place and leave some flowers, say a prayer or whatever else you feel it’s appropriate.

Commemorate them on their birthday (or the day they died – whichever you prefer). Have a meal in their honour. Leave a chair empty for them and place a full plate on the table in front of it.

Participate in one of their favourite activities. Wear one of their favourite colours. Think about them. Speak to them in your thoughts.

Write a letter to them (letters to the dead were very common in ancient times). Pray for them. Pray to them if you wish.

~~~

Relevant reading: Kemetic Round Table contributions on the subject and this website.

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Kemetic Round Table: Gods and communication

[This is a KRT catch-up post]

‘Gods and communication’ is and extremely personal topic in my humble opinion, as in how one person communicates with the gods (and how the gods choose to communicate with that person) is unique and very intimate experience. While there can certainly be similarities between various individuals, I don’t believe there are even two people who have the exact kind of communication with the gods – especially the way the gods respond or even how those responses are interpreted.

There are also different levels of communication, from very fuzzy and vague to the more clear and to the point. If your level is ‘fuzzy and vague’ you can certainly work to try to improve it (although it’s not a guaranteed success). But if for whatever reason you don’t feel you’re evolving to something more clear, I’d say the most important thing is not to become frustrated or give up altogether.

Also, there are many ways in which the gods might respond. Dreams, signs, omens, encounters in the astral (for those who nurtured the skill), responses through various divination methods are only a few examples of how the gods might say something back. A lot of times you can miss the signs. A lot of times you can misinterpret the signs. It can happen to anyone.

The ways to communicate to the gods can vary from the easily accessible to the more obscure ones, ore rather the ones you have to work a bit more at. For example, prayers and petitions are easily accessible to most people, while various other ways such as divination or astral projection require study and practice.

If you don’t even know where to begin communicating with the gods, here are a few helpful tips:

Light a candle and some incense and pray. Use and ancient prayer or make up your own. Pray from the heart. Be honest. Pray silently or out loud if you wish. You can even do it without the incense or the candle. While an image of the gods you’re addressing, a candle, some incense and other as such can be useful for you to concentrate on your prayers, they are not essential. You can pray anywhere, any time. Whatever makes you feel comfortable and focused.

You can sit down with pen and paper and write them a letter. Keep it somewhere special or bury it. You can even burn it in a bonfire and the the smoke carry your words to them.

Perform devotional acts for them. Say it in your mind or out loud before you begin your chosen task.

These are just to give you an idea of you you could open up communication.

However, you have to understand that more often than not you will not have a say on how you will be answered and that sometimes the answers will be what you expected or hoped for. Sometimes you have to accept that silence is an answer too. Or you thought there was silence but you missed on all the signs.

Also, you don’t always need communication with the gods to be ‘a good devotee’. Because devotion can take many forms, no one can say your devotion is without value just because you don’t speak to the gods regularly. Some people draw or paint to show their devotion. Some dedicate time to a charity and make that part of their devotionals.

It’s all incredibly unique from person to person and there’s no ‘One True Recipe’.

That’s why no one can give you an exact list of what you have to do to get an exact outcome. Because just by doing what someone else is doing or has done you won’t necessarily get the exact same results. Of course you can always ask for advice but this is something which you ultimately have to explore on your own.

~~~

Further reading: Kemetic Round Table: Gods and Communication

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Kemetic Round Table: Offerings Basics

[This is a catch-up post, as I am a bit behind with my contributions to the Kemetic Round Table project.]

‘Two concepts are linked to the notion of offerings that cover all kinds of offerings and explain the meaning of offerings in the Egyptian worldview. One concept is the ‘Eye of Horus’, one of the most important symbols of ancient Egypt and used about all kinds of gifts. The other concept is maat, which means ‘order, structure, justice, truth, and harmony. [...]

The concept of maat, also used to designate offerings of all kinds, supports the idea that the gifts to the gods were meant to strengthen the established order and to help preserve it.’ (1)

Offerings are often presented in a variety of contexts. They can vary widely by type, number(s) and time (of day, of month, of year – as in the case of festivals or specific days). Their type can influence the amount of time they can be left out. For example a bottle of perfume can be left out for a long period of time, while food stuffs (being perishable) need to be reverted sooner.

In ancient times types of offerings included:

1. Offerings presented during the daily temple cult activities.

2. Offerings for the dead.

3. Offerings for festivals.

4. Offerings presented before/during/after magic workings.

All these could include food stuffs, beverages, jewellery, clothing/fabric, incense, oils, ointments and cosmetics.

Worthy of mention are the offering formulas and lists. These had their origins in the cult for the dead and they had symbolic significance – they were designed to nourish the ka of the deceased.

‘A typical offering formula from the Middle Kingdom [...]:

An offering that the king gives (to) Osiris, lord of Busiris, the great god and lord of Abydos, that he [i.e. Osiris] may give invocation offerings consisting of bread and beer, (cuts of) oxen and fowl, alabaster ([calcite] vessels) and clothing, (in fact) all good and pure things on which a god lives, for the ka-spirit of N.’ (2)

Offerings in a magical setting were often dictated by the type of magic being performed and the god or gods invoked. They were often prescribed in magical instructions (along with purity requirements, ingredients and techniques to be used), such as:

‘[...] If you wish to win a woman who is beautiful, be pure for 3 days, make an offering of frankincense, / and call upon this name over it.[...]‘(3)

For modern practitioners, things are somewhat simpler.

Determining what to offer a deity for example only requires a bit of research or simply asking around. If unsure, as I’ve said before, keep it clean and simple: bread, water, beer, incense are staples and well received.

For those who have ancestor worship included in their practice the above are also appropriate as are, of course, things which the deceased being honoured used to like. Were they big coffee drinkers? Offer up a nice brew. Were they chocovores? Offer up some chocolates or nice bars of chocolate. If you can find their exact favourites, even better.

For a magical setting, if you’re not following an exact prescription, bread, water and incense make a good basic trio of  appropriate offerings. If you prefer something more elaborate, it’s generally a good idea to do your research.

Here’s a simple way to help you determine what offerings to present in a magical setting. Ask yourself (and answer) these questions:

1. What type of magic will you be performing?

2. Will you be invoking a deity during your rite?

3. If so, which one? What does that deity generally prefer being offered?

4. If the rite is to be repeated, do you feel you need to repeat the offerings as well?

5. Can you find examples of similar workings with their proper instructions in ancient texts from which you can draw inspiration?

Reverting offerings is somewhat simpler these days as well and it’s usually down to the individual and his/her circumstances. For those who don’t know what reverting offerings means, here’s a brief and very informative explanation:

‘The reversion of offerings implied that offerings went from the temple out to the necropolis. Offerings presented to the main god of the temple were carried out of the sanctuary, were presented to gods having subsidiary cults in the temple, then to statues of kings and private persons placed in temple courts, and finally to the necropolis. After all those symbolic presentations, the offerings were distributed to the priests and all the staff involved in the rituals as a reward, or salary, for their work. This custom of reverted offerings as early as the Old Kingdom and was continued.'(4)

If you cannot or will not consume the food offerings yourself for whatever reason (you have certain dietary restrictions for example) you can leave them out in the garden for the local wildlife. Liquid offerings can be poured out in the ground, etc.

If you simply prefer to discard the offerings, it’s a nice thought to first put them in a different bag and then bin them, instead of tossing them together with the rest of the household waste.

A way to offer foods without the actual foods is to purchase miniatures (like the ones made for doll houses) and offer those instead. This is reminiscent of tomb paintings of food and beverage offerings which had a symbolic value and would nourish the ka of the deceased perpetually.

Things such as jewellery, beads, cosmetics, perfumes, etc. can usually be reverted by giving them a new purpose or use. That compact mirror you offered to Hathor can easily be reverted by using it for divination purposes. Or those beads you offered to Bast can easily be reverted by turning them into charms or incorporating them into talismans and amulets. You can even donate things to charity shops. Use your discernment, be respectful and you should be just fine.

~~~~

Relevant reading:

Kemetic Round Table: Offering Basics

On Offerings

Words of Power for Offering Incense

~~~

Footnotes:

(1) ‘Offerings’ in ‘The Oxford Essential Guide to Egyptian Mythology’, pg. 279, Andrey O. Bolshakov

(2) ‘Offerings’ in ‘The Oxford Essential Guide to Egyptian Mythology’, pg. 287, Andrey O. Bolshakov

(3) PGM IV. 1265-74 in ‘The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation Including the Demotic Spells’, second edition, Hans Dieter Betz

(4)  ‘Offerings’ in ‘The Oxford Essential Guide to Egyptian Mythology’, pg. 281-282, Andrey O. Bolshakov

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Recovery

As many of you may have noticed I have been very quiet lately. For those who keep in contact with me on social media as well it hasn’t been a complete mystery as I managed to post an update a while ago. I have had some medical problems from which I have finally recovered (thank the Gods!).

I will refrain from posting details for two reasons: firstly I believe certain medical issues are best left private, and secondly I don’t want to trigger anyone who may have experienced the same. There is no longer any danger and although still a bit weakened, I am able to get back to the usual.

There have been some spiritual implications as well. I have been completely cut off from the spirit realm, I have not been able to sense the Gods or Spirits, my dreams were almost completely absent, the few ones that I have had I could make no sense of. There have been no devotionals, no rituals, nothing. It was all rather quiet.

I will admit it has been very strange as I’m very used to be continuously connected to my spiritual practices. However, even without the strength to even consider much else other than what was physically going on in the present moment, I have not felt alone or despaired at the lack of the spiritual. I was acutely aware of the fact there is a time for everything and that it was the time to focus wholly on the physical and I was certain it will all  come back in due time.

And it’s already happening, step by step. The dreams are coming back and I’m increasingly aware (again) of the spiritual. There will be a ‘top to bottom’ cleanse as I like to call it and then there will be devotionals and the usual bits – including my online activities. I have missed the deadline for the KRT contribution this month but I will post it very soon and will continue as usual every month. Of course, there will be some other posts as well.

So this is my update for now. Many thanks to everyone who has sent a message, said a prayer, lit a candle or had me in their thoughts wishing for a fast recovery. I really appreciate and cherish it all.

Thank you and be blessed always!

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Kemetic Round Table: Living Kemeticism

This month’s topic of the KRT is:

Living Kemeticism: What does living your faith mean to you? How can others bring their religion into their day to day life or live their religion?

 

Seems like a simple enough question, doesn’t it? And the answers will vary from person to person. We are not all the same and we do not live or practice our spirituality in the same way. There might be similarities here and there but in the end, it’s all extremely personal and depends on the individual.

For myself, living my faith entails many things. First and most importantly it means living at peace with myself, the ones around me and the Gods. It means nurturing fulfilling and harmonious relationships. It means helping out others when possible, trying not to be judgemental, being open minded, being aware of my speech and actions. It means continuously learning and becoming a better person. To me all this (and more) means living in ma’at which means living my faith. A sort of ‘walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk’.

It’s living in a certain spiritual awareness one becomes accustomed with over the years, which to be honest is very hard to put in words.

On a usual day I make offerings, even a simple glass of fresh water, incense and light brings me closer to the Gods. I thank Them for all the blessings they have given us and pray for continued protection and guidance. I go about my usual errands and I mostly try to pay attention to my surroundings. Do I see anyone needing help? Help I could offer? I usually help out. Do I see the garden needing taking care of, the birds needing some food, Mr. Fox looking at me hungry? I take care of that. Am I on the verge of an anxiety attack or feel unwell in any way? I try to handle it as best as possible and pray.  Many times just a gaze towards the shrine calms me down and brings me a smile.  And these are just small examples I can give.

Most times it’s in the little things really. I don’t do elaborate rituals every day or anything like that. Yes, I perform many acts of heka, quite often in fact. But not elaborate, complex rituals on a daily basis. Those are reserved for either special occasions or emergencies and they can be very draining.

The only advice I can give for others is go with the flow and take your time. Even small efforts count and they can make you more aware and yes, even feel more fulfilled.  For some it comes easier than for others but that doesn’t mean it’s a competition. Figure out what it means  for you and do things at your own pace.

 

 

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