For this month’s Kemetic Round Table, we’re talking about working with heka – how we work with it, how we can utilize it more in our day to day lives and what tips we may have for others to get started.
At first I wasn’t sure if my post would be somewhat redundant. If you read my blog, you already know heka plays a major part in my spiritual practice. However, I decided to contribute nonetheless, there’s always something to add, explain or clarify.
Working heka is ‘what’s always there’ in my practice and it has been so for over 10 years. It’s a constant, even if there are times when I have a break. Over 10 years of learning, practice, reading, occasional screw-ups and lessons learned.
For me, heka is inseparable from daily life, even if it’s in tiny measures – and the best example I can give is trying to constantly watch my words and be aware of the effects they might have. Maybe I can sum it up that way – being aware.
It’s not always the complex rituals, though I do love a good execration (perhaps many do, they’re quite effective) and a good lamp divination. Some times I tone it down because I find there is no need for a complex ritual when there are more handy alternatives: sigils, I’m looking at you! – and yes, you can argue sigil making is a ritual in itself, but that’s not the point here. To me, a complex ritual is going through multiple steps of ritual purity (at times including fasting and sexual abstinence – depending on the need), and undergoing ritual that can last hours and which calls for a number of ingredients, instruments, gestures, words of power, etc. These certainly have a place in my practice (usually at specific times of the year or whenever the situation calls for it) but they’re not the core of it. I perform a variety of workings which can some times include only a pen and a piece of paper or papyrus. Some times I only work with chalk. And these types of workings can be very effective, especially due to that ‘awareness’ I keep talking about.
I can say that after over 10 years (it’s actually closer to 12 if I think about it) my practice has become quite solid and it took a lot of trial and error and a lot of study. And I still study. I still experiment with words of power and new instruments. There’s always something to discover. I can’t say I’m someone who generally perseveres no matter what. There are things I have given up on. Heka isn’t one of them, however. My reaction to mistakes and screw-ups in this area are usually ‘hmmmm, that didn’t go so well, back to the drawing board’. And I have experimented with other systems too. There’s always been room for that. I have endless curiosity and interest when it comes to magic. It’s there waiting to be tapped into. And experiment. And some times to just dive in.
There is always an element of caution. When I decide to experiment, I try to be as informed as possible. There’s stuff I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole and there’s stuff that doesn’t even make sense to me and I steer away from it. Some stuff looks good in theory but I don’t bother because there’s either no need or it makes no sense to do it when there are other options available, some with which I have more experience. Don’t think I just try whatever takes my fancy, because that’s not the point.
Also – and this may be the unpopular opinion – there’s a considerable burden of responsibility. You don’t just play around. I think ultimately a magician has to be responsible. And keep a lot of things in check. And while some things can be light hearted, heka should be approached in a serious manner, because it’s not a game. I think this burden of responsibility increases when you work for someone else. Like I said, it may be the unpopular opinion, but that’s what I believe – simply because whether we realize it or not, whether we like it or not, there’s always an instance of something about the client’s life that wasn’t a factor in the heka working but it should have been. Of course, the fault isn’t necessarily with the magician – I’ve seen and heard of many situations where clients keep certain things hidden, some times on purpose. I’m not saying that this always happens, but it has happened and it can happen again. Also, if you work for yourself, there can be things you keep in denial. It can happen. So gain, you have to keep a lot of things in check.
This responsibility can also take the shape of keeping in check with the ritual requirements, not taking short cuts. For example, if sexual abstinence for ritual purity requirements is a factor, then you stick to it. You don’t go all ‘ah, it’ll be fine’. Or ‘I need dragon’s blood? I’ll just substitute with cumin!’. When you choose a certain ritual, as complex or simple it may be, stick to it. Ritual requirements are there for a reason. If there’s certain aspects of it you just can’t stick to for whatever reason, simply choose or create another, which you can stick to. Again, don’t read this as ‘don’t substitute’. Substitutes have their purpose. The point is don’t do it willy-nilly.
It takes responsibility and discernment. And you can always ask a fellow practitioner. I consult with fellow practitioners all the time. There’s nothing wrong with it, in fact I recommend it. It can be of great value – some times you just need a fresh pair of eyes to look at a certain situation.
It takes learning and studying. Even if you feel your practice is solid. There’s always something you can learn. My personal favourites are words of power – whether to be spoken or written. I’m always on the look out for a formula I can use – either as is, incorporated into the practice, or adapted.
It’s also a good idea to review all those
boring basics from time to time. You may think ‘I know that stuff already, I want to go forward, not backward’, but I find it’s a good habit to review from time to time. Among other things, it can give you a good overlook on how your practice has grown and solidified, what things are not pertinent any more, and what remained constant.
For an absolute beginner I can say be excited and responsible. You can be excited about trying new things and you can be responsible and practice discernment. They don’t cancel each other out. Read as much as you can and as you keep reading, start doing as well. Know your base. Know your symbols. Know the Gods. Know the why and the what, learn the how. Read on other systems as well, be familiar with various ways of doing things, even if you don’t necessarily put it all into practice. It gives you a solid foundation of knowledge that you can ground your practice in. No two people are the same and so your working heka won’t be identical to mine or anyone else’s. Another unpopular opinion (perhaps): there are right ways and wrong ways to do certain things. We don’t generally like to be wrong, we don’t really like to be told we’re wrong. And ultimately, we some times only learn from experience. And what’s right for some may be really wrong for others and vice versa.
Find all the responses for this month’s KRT here.
For a glimpse of my personal practice, here’s a list of bits I’ve written in the past. It’s by no means a full list, just a few to give you an idea, especially if you’re new to this blog.
Heka – introduction
Can anyone work heka?
Heka – Magical Drawings: Part 1, 2 and 3
Ritual eye makeup
Reconstructing and adapting rituals