Kemetic Round Table: Underground Kemeticism

For those who don’t know what the Kemetic Round Table is, I would suggest you check out this link first. This is my first post contributing to the project.

The topic is Underground Kemeticism: How public are you about your beliefs and practices? How has it (or not) impacted your work life, your familial and friendly ties? What advice would you give to uncertain Kemetics about how to approach either telling or not telling others about their beliefs?

 

Personally, I’m public about my beliefs and practices. At the moment, there’s few in my family who don’t know that I’m not Christian and haven’t been for years. It hasn’t always been like this though. My transition from a Christian Orthodox upbringing to a Kemetic belief system was a very smooth one in the sense at one point I knew I didn’t believe in Christian dogma any more, that almost nothing the priest said during sermon made much sense to me or sounded right but that everything I read about the ancient Egyptian  Gods and the ancient Egyptian belief system made sense and it echoed with me very deeply. (and that polytheistic systems in general made much more sense to me)

I had been reading and studying about ancient Egypt since I was about 12, it was always a scholarly interest and not necessarily religious. I wasn’t sure what to call what I believed so I was just happy not calling it anything and just seeing where it all took me. Later in life (early twenties) I became accustomed to the online Pagan blogs and sites and to reading about different religions and beliefs. It all started to take shape and I started calling my path very simply ‘The Egyptian Path’. More study and experience led to what has been for years now, a Kemetic who always tries to learn and experiment. At the beginning I even thought that ‘Kemetic’ meant to be a member of the Kemetic Orthodoxy but I learned that wasn’t the case. I can’t give an exact time frame for all of this because it all went so smooth, almost taking shape on its own accord.

It all hasn’t really impacted my family or social life, I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by people who don’t care about your religious beliefs as long as you’re a decent human being. I’m usually met with curiosity because it’s all so different and I’m asked what it’s all about. The usual replies I get are ‘Interesting!’. It has been a bit harder to tell my mother only because I feared she’d be somehow disappointed the religious education she gave me didn’t stick. It was hard for her to accept at first and she still presses with Christian Orthodox traditions some times but it’s not because she’s not accepting of me, it’s because she’s still very much invested in her own practices. I even had a few funny situations with a family member (who is Catholic) and he’d say ‘Thank God’ and I’d ask ‘Which one??’ and he’d reply ‘Hey, there’s only one’ and we’d giggle about it. My father in law was happy when he found out I’m not Christian because he was brought up strict Catholic and he hated it growing up and still hates it now. And I realize how blessed I have been because I know other people with non-Christian beliefs who have been brought up with Christian beliefs and who have been met with negative reactions from their family and friends. And I think it’s sad people mistreat others for having different beliefs.

I’ve had the odd raised eyebrow or the ‘What’s that???’ question but nothing that would affect negatively a relationship. And I’m the sort of person who will accept people for who they are and what they believe in and I expect the same from others. If they start preaching how ‘I’m going to Hell’ and such I just keep a distance. I don’t need that in my life. I respect they believe differently and some times even have a respectful conversation but I won’t put up with abuse from anyone. I’m a firm believer in ‘be nice’. Which at times is misinterpreted or met with snark but I frankly don’t care. That’s how I am and I believe in being kind most of all. Which isn’t to say I won’t stand up for myself if needed.

The only advice I can give is: listen to your instincts and do (or don’t do) what you think it’s right. Tell people if you feel its right or don’t if you don’t want to. If you feel your relationships would be strained you don’t have say anything if you’re not asked and if you are asked directly just say you don’t feel comfortable/want/like to talk about it. Nothing should be forced in my opinion. And, after all, we’re different as individuals and we have different family and social environments. What may have worked for one may not be good for another.

 

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Ritual Eye Make-up

Tomb paintings, statues, documents and various artefacts such as kohl tubes, unguent jars and a myriad of make-up containers attest to the widespread use of cosmetics and make-up in Ancient Egypt. Whole chapters and books (especially Lise Manniche’s Sacred Luxuries, a book I will quote from in this post) have been written about this subject.

However I will focus on the ritual/magical use of make-up in Ancient Egypt, in particular eyepaint.

Eye make-up for ritual and magical use is present both in magic for the living and magic for the dead (funerary magic) – especially in the preparation of the body during mummification, and is mentioned in the Book of the Dead.

The ancient Egyptians had two type of eyepaints available: green and black. (Interestingly enough, these are both colours with heavy symbolism attached to them.)*

Green eyepaint was made from malachite, a green carbonate of copper which is found on the surface of copper deposits in Sinai and the Eastern desert. It was used by the Egyptians in the fourth millenium and until the end of the New Kingdom. (1)

Black eyepaint was usually based on galena, a dark grey ore of lead which could easily be extracted from a number of localities in Upper Egypt between Quseir and the Red Sea as well as near Aswan. (2)

Ritual make-up for magic for the living

This we can split into these categories: ritual purity (both in daily cult temple activities and specific magic preparations), magical protection (due to its connections to the Eye of Horus – which is depicted as a fully made-up eye – returned to full health and the Solar Eye – which is personified by various Goddesses – such as Hathor, Sekhmet and Bast, [magical] medicine and offerings.

For ritual purity:

I have actually mentioned this before in this post on ritual purity, required of priests/magicians before either temple activities or various acts of magic. References to this ritual purity requirement are many and are especially found in magical papyri such as the Greek Magical Papyri.

Applying eyepaint was also required as a magical gesture during certain spells/rituals, such as this one:

PGM V 54-69 *Direct vision spell: 

[...]

In a bronze cup over oil. Anoint / your right eye with water from a shipwreck and the left with Coptic eyepaint, with the same water. If you cannot find water from a shipwreck, then from a sunken skiff.  (3)  (note: eyepaints usually came in powder form, requiring a wet medium such as water, oil or fat to be applied)

For magical protection:

Applying eyepaint was considered to  have more than cosmetic value on a day to day basis. It was believed to ward off eye infections and offer magical protection to the eyes against damage and disease.

For magical medicine:

Eye concoctions containing eyepaint (mostly the black one, but also the green was used) are listed in medical and magical papyri as medicines for eye infections or blindness. Usually a mix of eyepaint and animal fats and plant materials are prescribed, together with specific prayers, chants or spells to cure the condition:

The medical papyri contain numerous prescriptions for combatting a variety of eye ailments. Many are  in the form of ointments, and some are specifically called cosmetics remedies. Both black and green eyepaint enters into the remedies, mixed with fatty matter, honey and minerals. (4)

For offerings:

Eyepaint was an accepted (and expected offering) to the Gods. During the morning temple ritual when the statue of the God or Goddess was tended with clothing, perfume, food and jewels, eyepaint was also present in the form of offering along with the rest:

Applying eyepaint was part of the daily cult ritual, either as virtual make-up or in the form of a symbolic offering. It is less well known that offerings in the form of live cows would also wear make-up. [...] If the deity itself is in the shape of a cow, such as Hathor in one of her manifestations, her eye, too, will be shown as a fully made-up eye. (5)

 

Ritual make-up for magic for the dead (funerary magic)

As stated before, this was both part of the mummification process and is mentioned in the spells and instructions of the Book of the Dead. The mummy had to be ritually pure, of course, and the applying of the eye make-up was to this purpose (obviously along with its aesthetic purpose).

Such eyepaint was an essential tool in the process of justification and resurrection of a deceased person. Before presenting himself at the tribunal in the ‘Hall of Justice’ the candidate must purify himself, dress in white garments, make up his eyes and anoint himself. Only then may he enter the realm of Osiris. (6)

Rubric to spell 1 in the Book of the Dead:

The correct procedure in this Hall of Justice. One shall utter this spell pure and clean and clad in white garments and sandals, painted with black eye-paint and anointed with myrrh. [...], and he shall be in the suite of Osiris. A matter a million times true. (7)

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I personally use ritual eye make-up while preparing for certain works of heka, I use mainly black eye pencils or liners. I’m not adept at applying it, in fact I tend to draw very unsure lines but making it look all nice isn’t the point, the point is that I try to keep in line with ritual purity requirements. I’m sure other Kemetics use eye make-up for ritual purposes (leave a comment!), of one I know for sure, because she mentioned it here.

I haven’t made any offerings of eye make-up yet because even if it’s such as good idea and it keeps in line with ancient practices, it hasn’t been required. Which is not to say that in the future it won’t be asked of me.

Thankfully nowadays there’s plenty of choice when it comes to it: liquid eye liners, gel eye liners, eyeshadows, pencils….

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* On the symbolism of colour you could read up on it on the Shadows of the Sun blog or in an older blog post of mine.

(1) Lise Manniche Sacred Luxuries: Fragrance, Aromatherapy & Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt pg. 136

(2)Lise Manniche Sacred Luxuries: Fragrance, Aromatherapy & Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt pg. 136

(3) Hans Dieter Betz The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation Including the Demotic Spells, second edition, pg. 102

(4) Lise Manniche Sacred Luxuries: Fragrance, Aromatherapy & Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt, pg. 137

(5) Lise Manniche Sacred Luxuries: Fragrance, Aromatherapy & Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt, pg. 137

(6) Lise Manniche Sacred Luxuries: Fragrance, Aromatherapy & Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt, pg. 136-137

(7) R. O. Faulkner The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, British Museum, pg. 33-34

Posted in Books and Resources, Magic - Rituals and Spellwork, Magical Ingredients, Offerings, Ritual Purity, Sacred Instruments of the Art, Spellwork | 2 Comments

Photo Friday

Offerings to Seth and Anubis: figs and raspberries, fresh water, dragon's blood incense cone (I have a bunch of these, all the way from Saudi Arabia) and a white candle anointed with cedar oil)

Offerings to Seth and Anubis: figs and raspberries, fresh water, dragon’s blood incense cone (I have a bunch of these, all the way from Saudi Arabia) and a white candle anointed with cedar oil)

After months of looking, I have found the perfect white frame for the prints from Carolina*. Absolutely beautiful!

After months of looking, I have found the perfect white frame for the prints from Carolina*. Absolutely beautiful!

Two small additions to my collection: a snowflake obsidian palm stone (which I find excellently grounding and calming) and a little red jasper pendat.

Two small additions to my collection: a snowflake obsidian palm stone (which I find excellently grounding and calming) and a little red jasper pendat.

.. which have found their way in my little pouch. Also from Carolina*.

.. which have found their way in my little pouch. Also from Carolina*.

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I’m finally managing to re-instate this series of posts as I’ve managed to solve the phone to laptop software problem I’ve been having for months (Yay!).

Have a great week-end everyone!

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* Check it out here: Camino de Yara

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There grows no wheat where there is no grain.

My dear lovelies,

Time and again I find a recurring tendency to either be asked directly or to come across the discussion about people who seem to be more ‘successful’ in their spiritual lives/magical practices than others. There’s always a bit of ‘how come you can do that and I keep trying but no results?’ or ‘I wish I could do this, like you do’ or ‘I wish I could accomplish that, like you have’.

First off, let’s examine ‘successful’. What would you define it as? Obtaining the desired results from a spell? Meditate easily? Astral project instantly? Have oracular dreams every night?

How does this ‘success’ come about? Is it gathering a few ingredients (or just substituting because you couldn’t find it/it’s too expensive, etc.), making a few gestures, saying some words then obsessing every few minutes on how it’s going to work, if it’s going to work?

Secondly, how do you think the other person reached that point of ‘success’?

It’s a lot of work. A lot of hard work. In some cases years of work.

It is also true that some find it easier than others to do or accomplish certain things. But it still takes work. A lot of trial and error. A lot of mistakes and kicks in the butt, most likely even tears of anger and frustration. A lot of discovering ways how not to do something before getting to the point of knowing how to do something. And doing it well.

And even at that point there’s still a lot of work. It’s always chop wood and carry water. And there’s always more to discover and more things to do.

There grows no wheat where there is no grain.*

And wheat also needs water, sunshine and a caring hand. It needs harvesting and using the grain, and storing some for a new harvest.

I think many focus a little bit too much on the BIG things. A big impressive ritual, a complex spell. That’s not all of it. It can be a part of it, but not the whole picture. The little things tend to add up. Doing small things in a spiritual awareness makes a huge difference. And learning doesn’t have to be all with a pencil and paper (although I will say this again, research is vital). For example when you cook a meal and add your herbs and spices, run through it in your mind like ‘salt is good for this’ or ‘thyme is also good for that’. This sort of awareness doesn’t just help your memory, it helps keeping you connected, it helps you change the way you see things.

Little things like splashing some Florida Water on yourself after a shower, or offering a bit of the meal you cooked to your Spirits, a libation, blessings you give to others, mending some clothes, whatever crafty activities you engage in can make a world of a difference. Do them in awareness and with love. It’s empowering. It may not give you the fireworks you’re after when you work a spell, but it sure helps getting you on the way there.

I’m not telling you ‘this is what you have to do’. I’m telling you ‘these are things you could try’.

When you work a ritual or a spell, don’t just go through the motions. It’s something I tend to keep to have repeating. Understand what you’re using, understand why you’re using it. Understand the words you have to speak or why you have to speak them. Same goes for the gestures and everything else that goes in it. Be truly aware.

Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Well, I personally don’t think there’s a way of not doing any work but getting the results you wish for.

Not to mention, if you get to the point where you’re always connected to your Spirits but then you stop the work and the relationship cools down sort to speak, don’t be surprised. What happens when you don’t actively seek your friends’ companionship? They will keep calling or writing to you to see how you’re doing. And if you don’t reply or do anything to see them or speak to them? People drift apart. It happens. And it’s pretty much the same with the spirit world. When you stop paying attention and doing the work, you drift apart.

There’s also the possibility that maybe, despite your best intentions and hard work, some things just don’t glue together. Perhaps it’s just that it’s not the thing for you. The best example I can think of right now is the difference in divination techniques. I’ve known people who always wanted to be really good at reading Tarot cards. And they worked at it earnestly. For months and months. And they’re still not any closer. But then they just tried a different technique – like runes or tea leaf readings. And it worked for them. Others just went ahead and developed their own reading techniques. I for one am not great at Tarot readings. I make a lot of mistakes and sometimes miss crucial details. But I do a pretty good job with lamp divinations and dream work. Also I’m currently trying to develop my own technique. And guess what? It’s a lot of trial and error. A lot of work and a lot of frustration. But I know I’ll get there because it’s more comfortable than Tarot and just feels right.

Chop wood, carry water.

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*Ancient Egyptian proverb

Interesting (and relevant!) reads: Spiritual Hygiene Part 1 and Part 2 by Carolina Gonzalez.

Posted in Food for Thought, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

(Yet another) update

Hello my lovelies, I hope you are all doing well.

I have finally managed to get online after over a week of completely being offline. As most of you know I have had laptop troubles for over a month now and this has prevented me from doing a lot of work. Considering the fact we are in between keep trying to fix the old one and just getting a new one and that both options are quite costly for us at the moment I have no choice but to make do and work on what I can whenever I have the chance.

The blog has suffered due to my absence and I’ve also had to withdraw my contribution to the Lunar Wisdom newsletter. Also, I’m taking steps to de-clutter some of my other online activities such as Tumblr. Not only I’ve been spread a bit too thin when my laptop did work properly, now I’m in the position of not being able to keep up at all with things. And so, I’m minimizing online activities until further notice. I know this is very disappointing to many of you and believe me, I’m the most disappointed of all.

One thing I am trying to do is to at least maintain the blog in one way or another. I’ve come up with the idea of actually writing posts and such on paper and whenever I have the chance I will just type it here quickly and publish it. That way at least things will not look completely abandoned.

Best wishes to all of you and many thanks for your understanding!

Posted in Miscellaneous | 1 Comment

Quick Update

As much as I love the benefits of modern day technology, it sometimes fails. As has my laptop last week. The hard drive is failing, my Windows is crashing and my browser messes up.

Until I can manage to fix it (it needs a new hard drive and some new software) I will be online very little. I foresee this taking about two weeks or so.

Whenever I do manage to get online I will try to keep up with blog posts and news from you all but I cannot guarantee I can post much myself. There is some good news at least as I have a new camera and when I do manage to post pictures, the quality will be significantly better than all the older photos. So there’s at least that :)

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Can Anyone Work Heka?

That is only part of the question. The full question would be more on the lines of ‘Can anyone work heka, regardless of their spiritual beliefs/religion?’ This of course, leads to even more questions such as: ‘Can I work with other Gods/Entities than the Egyptian ones?’, ‘If not, can I work with the Egyptian ones even if I don’t believe in/worship/know Them?’, ‘Can I substitute things the way I want?’, ‘Can I work heka along with other types of magic?’ and so on.

The answers are long and, in my opinion, quite open to debate and interpretation.

Let’s begin with the first and most important one (which will lead to answering the others too) The short answers is… well, there is no short answer for something like this. Heka is intimately linked to Kemetic beliefs and mythology. Indeed there are whole rituals dedicated to re-enacting and sustaining the Creation. Some of these were done within a temple setting on a daily basis. Others on a seasonal or yearly basis. As such, I don’t see how a ritual designed for the re-enactment (and protection) of the Solar Boat passing through the gates of the Duat for example would be feasible within another set of beliefs. You could change the names of the Gods or Spirits but what would be the point? It would not make sense at all if it’s not within the Kemetic frame. You wouldn’t keep the form nor the substance of it. So you’d end up with an empty ritual.

Not to mention the very occupation of Magician was reserved mostly to priests. In Egyptian thought, heka was not separate from religious and mundane life. Religion, mundane life and heka formed a cohesive and tight-knit frame of life. Heka permeated throughout all of creation. It could not be separated from it and seen as a force just floating about not doing anything. On the contrary, heka (and Heka the God) came before, was a part of and sustained creation and Ma’at.

The Creative act of Heka is not limited to a single event, for in the Egyptian theology the creation is cyclical, being re-enacted with each sunrise. In company with Hu and Sia (‘Perception’), ‘Heka who opens his two eyes that the two lands might see’ takes his place daily on the solar bark of Re, or is seen in prayer, invoking the separation of heaven and earth. In rare instances, he replaces the air god Shu and performs this separation himself. This creative benefaction of Heka by day is balanced by his role as protector of the bark by night. *

The Magician could claim protection by identifying with the Gods, as for example: I am that pure Magician who is in the mouth (or ‘utterance’) and body of Re… On your face, enemy of Re! I am his ba, the Magician.** With words of power such as these, it would hardly make sense to substitute Re with another deity or spirit. Heka places a very high importance on words and their meanings. Perhaps more than other forms of magic. The words one uses in ritual must be clear and have an exact meaning and purpose (and in some cases symbolism). Where words can create or undo and are full of power, one cannot use them as empty vessels. At best, nothing happens and you’re just wasting your breath.

There are of course  a few types of rituals/magical techniques which can be adapted outside the Kemetic frame, provided there are similar beliefs/techniques in the frame they are transferred to. For example, one can make a ritual to trample their enemy under the soles of their feet work outside the Kemetic frame. It’s possible. Not easy but possible.

Some rituals and prayers were designed with a specific deity in mind. The way these could be adapted within another frame does not come to my mind. However, when you look at some of the magical texts of the Greco-Roman Egyptian culture, there is clear syncretism of different religious and magical thoughts.

So when it comes to questions such as these, there is a great deal of yes, no, maybe and depends. There is a great deal of personal responsibility involved in working magic of any kind, but I dare say even more with heka. Especially since words can (and do) mean a lot. Gestures as well – since they are a language too (body language).

As for the last one, I personally do. But not at the same time, of course (we don’t want those energies clashing or mingling or goodness knows what!). Or for the same purpose. Let’s take a spiritual healing ritual example. I can work either heka with the help of Sekhmet or I can do a let’s say European folk magic spell. I never work two rituals for the same purpose as a rule of thumb (one I have set for myself). I can work the same thing again at a later time, depending on the results I’m seeking, but never two different workings. With that said,  I mostly work heka anyway :)

I realize this topic can spark a debate and I invite you to comment with your thoughts and opinions. And I am aware disagreement can come about but I urge you to keep things civil, thank you!

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Footnotes:

* R.K. Ritner – The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice (.pdf edition), pg. 18

**R.K. Ritner – The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice (.pdf edition), pg. 24

Posted in Food for Thought, Heka, Uncategorized, Words of Power | Leave a comment