Cosmology and Practice

Apologies for the radio silence of late. I’ve been working, and I’ve been sick, and I haven’t had enough mental energy to think of anything substantial to update about. I do have some things I do need to post about, but they’re not quite ready yet. In the meantime, this is a post about cosmology and how it relates to my practice. I wrote it for the Kemetic study group formed over at The Cauldron, and I’m posting it here for posterity, and so others can have a read of it.

Usual caveats that I’m not a reconstructionist, and this is just my weird way of making things work apply. Definitely not a scholarly piece by any stretch of the imagination. This is ~4k words of anecdata. Treat it as such.

Cosmology:
Cosmology centres around creation myths, and how the world came into being. The Egyptians had many versions of creation myths, centred around particular cult centres, and I would like to think there may have been many more that have been lost to the mists of time. Not everything survives, and maybe local nome gods had their own versions about how they fit into the creation cycle and the larger creator gods. This could potentially be the case for many of the -Ra syncretisations.

Egyptian cosmology influenced almost every aspect of their religion and culture. Temples were designed to imitate the first mound of land from Creation, for example, and replicate Zep Tepi, that first moment of creation, every day, to keep it going.

Ma’at is the glue that holds the world together, and to uphold Ma’at is to uphold creation as much as anything else. Which is why it’s hard to translate it just to something like righteousness or justice, because it’s much, much more nuanced than that.

Zep Tepi means the first time, and is used to reference the moment of creation. Zep Tepi is repeated every year at the turning of the calendar, every season, every month, every day when the sun rises. That repetition reinforces that new day, new beginning, and reminds us to greet the day as if it were the first time all over again. This is why I include the daily cycle of Ra into my daily practices. Every day, when Ra rises again, and defeats the serpent, it’s another victory for creation, another new day full of potential.

I wish I could say I am one of those people who has learnt to adopt that mentality and thus I waste no time at all because every day is a new beginning, but I’d be lying if I claimed to be that virtuous. I do try to keep that in mind when I see the new day, but I do waste time, and don’t always give the day it’s best. It’s something I know I need to work on, and keep on working towards, so I can get better use of my time, to serve the gods as best I can, with all I have.

Cosmology and Writing Myths:
In many ways, what I do wouldn’t be complete without cosmology. It influences everything I do. Nothing is done outside of the context of my cosmology; indeed, my practice makes no sense without that overarching cosmological framework to make it all work. I know not everyone works like that, but it’s how I operate.

For me, cosmology forms the basis of my practice. Everything springs from there. For me, it explains the context and roles of my gods, and their relationships to each other. Writing my own version, too, helps consolidate that view in my own words, and allows me to tailor it to my own needs. I’m a writer; writing is what I do. It was ever thus.

The first version I ever wrote was one based around Djehuty/Thoth’s myth, but with some changes. I can’t remember exactly when I wrote it, but it was at least back in 2004 or 2005, because it became the landing page of the first version of Per Sebek, back when it was hosted on Angelfire, and I handcoded everything. It was written as a voice offering, and written in verse, and told the story of Djehuty creating the world. Sobek was the first mound of land. If you’ve ever seen a crocodile in the water, this makes total sense. It’s still on the current Per Sebek site, if you’re interested in reading the whole thing. It can be found here.

It isn’t really how I see the world anymore, but I keep it up there for posterity, and because, well, I did write it in order to dedicate Per Sebek to my lovely crocodile god, so I figure it can stay.

My second creation myth is one I wrote for myself, based on bits cobbled together from the other historical myths, but wholly a new and modern creation. Writing myths is what I do for Sobek, so starting with Creation seemed as good a place as any to start.

I wanted to incorporate Sobek as Creator, and His relationship with Heru-sa-Aset. It was written based on this particular UPG (if you can be bothered reading a 5k post on gods and UPG and other weirdness), with Sobek and Heru being twins, as well as parent/child. It’s also conflated with Castor and Pollux, in an abstract sort of way, but it’s not a syncretism or anything, just an aspect I play with in my head sometimes. It’s the divine twin thing, I think.

In this version, Sobek is the Creator, and Heru is the newborn Sun inside the cosmic egg. There’s a galactic scope to it; this isn’t just about Earth, but about the whole universe. There is a shade of the Big Bang, and Djehuty helping to organise the young cosmos, being a Lord of Time, a.k.a. a Time Lord (He thinks this is very amusing). They go about creating worlds and planets and seeding them with life. In this one, They seed both Mars and the Earth, but only life flourishes on the Earth.

And of course, when They return, and check on what’s happened, and they find the people and the echoes of the gods they worship. They come back again when us modern people begin calling Their names again. I didn’t want to make it feel like it was – like, this is a creation myth that’s stuck in history. It evolves, and we’re writing our own stories now. In two thousand years, if our stories still exist, they’ll be ancient myths by then. Everything was new once, and I want to make my mark on the stories that exist, as well as the ones that didn’t make it.

The second version is here, if anyone wants to read the full version.

Part of the reason I write for Sobek is because He doesn’t have any existing myths. He is part of a couple, and there’s one I remember about Sobek in the fields, and another involving a prince killing a crocodile that might have been Sobek, but there’s nothing major. Nothing that speaks to His cult, or His place in the cosmos, or anything like that. I write so I can make His name known across the world.

But I think I’m digressing a little. I want to talk about how that new creation myth makes its way into my practice. Because I honour Sobek and Heru together, day and night, every day of the year, seeing Them as twins, that creation myth explains Their relationship, and how They fit into the world. It establishes Sobek as Creator, and Heru as twin/child, and you could argue the Mars-Earth symbolism is a cosmic metaphor for the relationship between the Red Land and the Black Land of Kemet, though without the same level of dynamism that came with the Nile floods. The red, barren desert of Mars, versus the wet, fertile Earth.

I must admit it doesn’t quite capture the dynamism and polarity of Sobek and Heru as I work with Them now. It may be that a rewrite/edit is in order to make it better reflect how I see things now.

What’s really interesting to me, though, is that at least in the Faiyum, Sobek and Heru-sa-Aset were sometimes conflated, though not as parent/child. There’s a particular hymn where Sobek is lauded for gathering up His Father’s (Wesir’s) bones, and putting Him right again, which is normally what Heru-sa-Aset does. To find Sobek incorporated into the Wesir mythos as Heru I find really interesting, and I didn’t really know much about that until this year, when I finally got my hands on Marco Zecchi’s Sobek of Shedet book, which went into great detail about Sobek’s cult in the Faiyum. So while some aspects of my UPG aren’t exactly historically attested, there’s at least some evidence the two gods had that kind of close relationship. Zecchi even speculated on what it might be like to call both Sobek and Heru in ritual together! (‘I do that! It’s great! It totally works!’, was what I excitedly yelled at the book.)

It was this that spurred on my desire to rewrite the Wesir mythos, with moar Sobek. Sobek doesn’t take Heru’s place; instead, Sobek acts as a mentor, and a guide, helping to take care of Aset and to prepare Heru to take back the throne. Sobek is the strength of the King, so it felt right to cast Him in that sort of role. I’m only about halfway done with the myths, because they’re kind of not all told from the same perspective? It’s being written as it’s told to me, and I don’t really know much of how it’ll turn out until it’s done. I’ve had thoughts about putting it all together in a single anthology, along with other myths I’ve written, once it’s all done. Because, really, who else would put a Sobek devotional together? There just aren’t enough Sobek devotees, who would be prepared and willing to write/draw/create/etc something, to make it viable. So it’s down to me, for now. (This has been my approach to my practice for a long time now, tbh. But I think it comes with the territory of working with obscure gods. There isn’t really anyone else, so it’s down to you, or it doesn’t get done.)

My Current Cosmology and Practice:
The importance of cosmology to my practice is huge. I can’t practice without cosmology. I need that overarching story to make sense of why I’m doing the rituals in the first place. Sobek as West and Heru as East makes no sense without that greater context, for example. It makes academic sense, of course, because it comes from the other myths, but in my particular context, Sobek and Heru, as Day Boat and Night Boat, are vital components of the daily cycle of (Wesir-)Ra: Heru carries Ra through the skies during the day, and Sobek, who navigates the waters like no other, carries Wesir through the Duat at night. Crocodiles are also much more active at night, too, so it also makes sense in that context.

This cyclical myth forms the basis for my current practice, and in writing out these notes, it’s occurred to me that I need a new version of my creation myth to better reflect how I see things now. I’ve embraced a more druidic frame of sky-land-river, and while it’s Kemetic in its symbolism, it’s not reflected in the cosmology, so it’s time for a new one. This is also why I’m not a recon anymore.

There’s a grounding exercise I do in my High Day rites, with gestures for each movement, that cycles through Sobek, Ra, Wesir, and Heru, and the four classical Elements. I’ve made a version of the gestures that turns it more into something like tai chi movements, but this is the basic exercise:

[Gesture: hold your hands in front of you, thumbs touching, and fingers splayed, to form wings.]
The breath of Heru moves through me.
*
[Gesture: move your thumbs and forefingers together to form a triangle.]
The fire of Ra burns within me.
*
[Gesture: Cup your hands in front of you.]
The waters of Sobek flow within me.
*
[Gesture: Lay your hands, palms facing the floor, out in front of you as the flat earth.]
The bones of Wesir stand strong within me.
*
In this moment,
At zep tepi,
I am still.

Heru is Air, Ra is Fire, Sobek is Water, and Wesir is Earth. This is part of the basis for why I call Sobek in the West, and Heru in the East. It works with that daily cycle of Ra, and with how I see Them working. Heru rises in the East with the sun, and takes Ra on His journey across the skies. Sobek is there to meet Them in the West, to take Wesir through the Duat and through to the Eastern horizon.

Aligning Water with West and Air with East is pretty traditional in Pagano-Wiccan traditions, and it’s also something that makes sense with my location, too. I live on the west coast of Australia. For me, the ocean is in the west, and that’s where the sun sets. We get strong hot easterlies in summer, and that’s why East is Air. Where I am, the northern part of the country is much hotter than the south, which is more fertile and cooler, and so that’s why Ra and Fire are in the north, and Wesir and Earth are in the south.

But it goes deeper than that, of course. Heru is Air/Fire, because of the hot winds. Sobek is Water/Earth, because He is the river and waters, as well as the first mound of Land. Ra is Fire/Water, because SUN and the tears that He shed to form human beings, and in contrast, Wesir is Earth/Air, because of the breath of life, and His link to Heru. In this way, They balance each other out.

My current cosmology is based around sky-land-river, a Kemetic reworking of the Druidic Sky-Earth-Sea trio. It’s also a reflection of Hekate’s realms, as She has a big influence on my ritual calendar. To better explain it, I’ll share an excerpt from the Druidic rite I do for Sobek and Heru at the solstices and equinoxes (on which, more later), because it spells it out better than I can in straight prose.

8. (Re)Creating the Cosmos
Here at the centre of all things,
Before the sacred stars, sacred river, and Sacred Tree,
I recreate the cosmos.
*
I stand before the sacred river,
Beautiful Nile, who brings the flood,
Lifeblood of the Two Lands.
Cool waters, flow within me.
*
I stand below the sacred stars,
Beautiful sky, the vault of Nut,
Where the ancestors reside.
Starfire and wisdom, shine within me.
*
I stand before the sacred tree,
Beautiful sycamore, steadfast and strong,
Upon whose leaves Seshat records our names.
Tree of life, grow within me.
*
I stand here at the centre of the world,
My feet touch Tatanen,
I reach towards Ra’s light above,
The waters of the Nun lap at the shore.
All is still, Zep Tepi is born,
Creation begins anew.

(ETA: Which reminds me, I really ought to post my Kemetic Druidic High Day rite, because it’s basically done, and it might give these things more context. Or not. IDK.)

In many ways, that’s my new cosmology right there in a nutshell. The stars above, the land below, the waters of the Nun lapping at the shore. It’s encapsulating the cosmos in that moment of creation. Specific gods aren’t named in that particular version, but it’s a weird trio of Sobek, Heru-sa-Aset, and Aset.

Aset-Nut is the sky, of course, Heru is the land, and Sobek is the river. This is also why Aset/Isis has a shrine directly above Sobek and Heru’s shrine, right in the centre, so She completes the cosmos, so to speak. She sits above, and shines down on Them. So that’s a symbolic link between the cosmos, my cosmology, and my practice.

Calendars and Seasons:
The cyclical nature of creation and the seasons is how I’ve built my current festival calendar. It’s not a Kemetic calendar. It’s based around the Wheel of the Year, because it reflects my seasons better, and that, for me, is much more important than Doing It The Recon Way, which is just as valid, but harder to do in the southern hemisphere. At least, it was for me.

So I don’t calculate the rising of Sirius/Sopdet, and I don’t build my cycles around the flooding of the Nile, because they just aren’t relevant to the turning of the seasons for me. And the Kemetic calendar did mark the turning of the seasons as they knew them, and they’re not my seasons. So I have made my own. It’s a mix of traditional Kemetic festivals and Druidic High Day rites, because I didn’t want to give up Wep Ronpet or the Mysteries of Wesir, and I wanted major holidays for Sobek, rather than just the odd feast day scattered through the old calendars.

It’s hard to say it starts anywhere, because it’s a fixed cyclical year, so. But the first one of the year is Wep Ronpet in late January and early February. I do this as a traditional Kemetic festival, marking the Days Upon The Year, and do all the other things that I’ve come to love doing at that time of year. For me, it’s a good time for it, too. Because here in Australia, we usually have long summer holidays lasting most of January (for students, anyway), the year doesn’t really start until February anyway. January is the quiet month where we all recover from Christmas-New Years-etc and go on holidays and try to make the heat go away. So January’s a bit of a dead month, anyway. Makes sense to have it as the last of the year.

The next one is the March equinox, and it’s done in druidic style. At equinox, Sobek and Heru are balanced. Light and Dark are in equilibrium. The March equinox also marks the beginning of the Dark part of the year, which will last until the next equinox. Candles can be lit in shrine during my daily rites again, because the external sun and warmth is not as readily present, and lighting candles brings that warmth inside. It’s at this point in the year that the sun will begin moving futther away from us, and the weather cools in preparation for winter. This is the moment when Heru steps back, and Sobek takes over. Heru is harder to reach during this period, and not just because of the Mysteries of Wesir to come. He’s busy elsewhere, and His light is harder to grasp. Sobek is much more present, and in some ways, I think He takes the throne at that point so Heru can help Wesir instead. Sobek, then, becomes ‘sky’ in a sense, and Heru becomes ‘underworld’, their roles switched, in a manner of speaking.

And of course, the Mysteries of Wesir come next. I do this in the traditional Kemetic way. I don’t always keep every day, but I do try to do the Night Vigil at the very least. At the bare minimum, I will pour water for the ancestors and Wesir every day, and maybe find time to read out the names of the dead. Wesir is dead, the land is dying as winter approaches, and the air grows cold. And yet, Wesir is also the land, and Sobek’s rain brings forth life from Him. Sobek is that generative power that’s needed to bring the land back to life after the cold dead winter.

Winter Solstice follows, and is done in a druidic style. Sobek’s power is at its peak now, and I also feel like, this is the point at which Heru is conceived/born. From then on, the darkness retreats as the sunlight returns. We’ve also started a tradition of having Yule Feasts with friends at this point, and even if it’s secular, and has no ritual, it’s still a good time to get together on the night of the solstice, with good food and good company, and light ALL THE CANDLES as we celebrate the longest night of the year.

The August High Day is a festival I call the Feast of Zep Tepi. I kind of nicked it from the old Kemetic calendars, though this isn’t when it’s held. I wanted a balance to Wep Ronpet, and I like the idea of the halfway point of the year, from Wep Ronpet, to be a point where you take stock, throw away that what you no longer need, and prepare to finish off the year. I didn’t do much for it this year, but I did start up a prayer jar, and next year, I plan to do a more proper ritual for the Children of Nut and Geb, inspired by Aset Luminous rituals. I had an idea to light ALL TEH CANDLES and make petitions to each god in turn, making offerings and asking for help for the rest of the year to come. Might also do an execration if I need to, because it’s a time of new beginnings, and leaving things behind.

At the September equinox, Sobek and Heru are balanced again. Sobek’s time is past, and hands the throne back to Heru as the sun returns and the cold weather departs. This is also done in a druidic style, to mark that handover. This marks the beginning of the Light part of the year, when I don’t light candles in shrine for my daily rites. The sun, now, is growing in power, and external, and strong enough to shine through without needing candles. It’s also because it’s too hot in summer to light candles and at least this is a Reason for not doing it. Incense is okay, and candles during other rites are okay, but candles during daily rites are not. The sun is strong outside, and there’s no need to kindle the fire inside anymore. It makes for a very interesting year, because in some ways, I miss it, but in many ways, I don’t. You look outward during this part of the year. You go outside more, enjoy the better weather, and shake off the chills of winter. When March comes around, the weather cools, and you begin to stay indoors more. You light fires inside, to make your own warmth.

The High Day after that is something to balance the Mysteries of Wesir, and I’m still in the planning stages of what I’m going to do for it. The festival is marking the Coronation of Heru-sa-Aset in the Two Lands, which, to be fair, is included in the last days of festivity of the Mysteries of Wesir, but I wanted something else. In building this calendar, I was also trying to riff off the traditional Wheel holidays, and in the switched around Southern Hemisphere Wheel, this one is Beltaine, a fire festival. For a while now, I’d actually shifted the date from Oct 31, which will always, always, be Hallowe’en/Samhain in my head, to November 5th, which is Guy Fawkes Night in the UK, Bonfire night. I did this for two reasons: 1) it breaks the Oct 31 association, and 2) it brings in those same Fire Festival elements I wanted. That, and it’s too hot to do Aset Luminous here, let alone in December, so those elements get shifted back to August where it’s easier to light ALL THE CANDLES. To me, this is when Heru is coming into His power. Solstice is coming up, and this marks His supremacy and right to rule over the land at this point in time. I’m still developing it, but I plan to find something that resembles or riffs off coronation ceremonies, and runs for several days. Something to mark that progression from not-King to Crowned-King, to set up for Solstice.

Summer Solstice is the last big festival of the year. Heru’s power is at its peak, and we also know that after this day, the days get shorter again, and summer will eventually drift off into autumn. It isn’t really midsummer at all here; that’s more akin to late January. Our summer is most intense then, and through February and sometimes March. The weather begins to shift around Easter, and as that changes every year, it’s sort of a variable thing. This is the last of the druidic rites, and once this festival is over, we prepare for January and Wep Ronpet.

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One comment on “Cosmology and Practice

  1. khenneferitw says:

    Em hotep, Emiti!

    Thank you so much for sharing this! You lend me so much inspiration. I hope to one day be able to share my personal cosmology and myths as well.

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