Kemetic Round Table: Ritual Purity

This is the first in a series of posts that is part of a new Kemetic blogging project called the Kemetic Round Table that aims to provide practical, useful information for Kemetic practitioners of any stripe from beginners to more experienced practitioners. Check the link here for more information about the project, and click here to see responses to this topic from the other bloggers taking part in this project.

Ritual purity is a common thing in many religious traditions. Indeed, many Pagan ritual formats include pre-ritual purifications, and modern Kemetic practices are no different. It’s something I got used to when I became Wiccan over a decade ago, and continued doing as I wandered around as an eclectic Kemetic Pagan for a while, and then as a Kemetic Orthodox shemsu for six years. I’ve done it in many ways, using oils in bath water to herbal rinses to incense and water and salt, to the Senut purifications that are part of the Kemetic Orthodox tradition.

Ritual purity is important, and being physically and mentally clean before approaching shrine is a good thing to do regularly. It’s something I’ve had drilled into me since I became Kemetic Orthodox, and I’ve brought that with me when I left the House a couple of years ago.

There were many ancient prohibitions and purity rules that we know of today, mainly from the Temple cults. These included rules about body hair, physical cleanliness, blood, dietary, and sexual rules, as well as what to not wear, and how to dress and prepare yourself. Shadows of the Sun has done an excellent overview of historical purity rules, so I’ll point you over there, rather than repeat them here.

For those new to this blog, while I am mostly Kemetic in my practices, I practice a Graeco-Roman-Kemetic polytheistic syncetism, and what I do will not always be strictly Kemetic, nor particularly reconstructionist. Any non-Kemetic aspects to my practice will be stated as such, so no one’s confused. Not everyone wants to do syncretism like I do, but I still think it’s important to talk about how I do things, because I think even fewer syncretists talk about this sort of thing than Kemetics do.

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Updates and Revisions

I’ve been mucking about with the site again, reorganising my hymns and prayers and such into a more organised subsection regarding my practices and rituals. Part of my desire to see more accessible beginner’s material, or at least, stuff you can get started with. That, and I want to share what I do myself, so some of that will go up there, mostly in a specific Graeco-Kemetic section to keep it separate from all the Kemetic stuff.  (Though I think that’s just as important; syncretic practices are many and varied, and maybe it’d help to have a few examples of how I do it for other potential Graeco-Kemetic syncretists to use?)

I’m not intending for my stuff to be The Ultimate Kemetic Practices Guide For Total N00bs(tm), either. It’s more like one way to do things that might help you get started, if that’s the kind of thing you need. Customisable for your own particular needs. With a dose of  ‘this is how I do it, maybe  you’ll get some inspiration?’ along the way. That’s the plan, anyway.

The only rite I have up at the moment is my general solitary Kemetic ritual, which I invite you to pick over and tell me how terrible and tl;dr it is. It’s a first draft kind of thing right now, mostly because I feel like I haven’t verified for myself that it’s as properly Kemetic as it could be, but that could just be the pedantic research student in me getting angsty about things I can’t really fix any time soon (like buy more books! Which I can’t do because I don’t have much money!). That, and I lost one of the sources I used to put it all together, and now I can’t find it. My Google-fu is weak. ;_;

I have actually done rites using that format. I originally used it to write a weekly ritual for Ra, and it works well for me as a ritual format. It flows well, and yes, it is a long rite, but that’s why it’s a weekly rite for Ra. It feels meaty enough to work once a week, but I also thought it might be good for a generic ‘I can’t think of anything to do halp!’ ritual format for festivals? /random thought. Because I’m sure we’ve all had that moment of ‘X festival is coming up, wtf do I even do for that? D:” when we’ve looked at the calendar, and maybe having a basic (long?) ritual format might help, or at least suffice if there are no records on what was done for that festival. (I like doing long festival rituals at any rate. /just me then?) So you’ve got a way to mark a festival, particularly if you don’t have any ancient practices to draw on for inspiration about how to mark it. I think part of bringing these old Gods back, and marking their festivals again, is making our own traditions for our own times. Yes, some can be based on the old traditions, but not all of that’s survived, so it’s hard to know what to do for some festivals. So we do the best we can. This ritual format isn’t the only way to do it, but it’s not a bad place to start if you have nothing else.

And before you ask, I’ve already started working on a short form for that ritual format, and that will be up when it’s done. I also want to put together a page about the major Kemetic festivals and how one might celebrate them today? Like, proper modern traditions a beginner could use to begin marking the major festivals. That’s what I want. Because I don’t think anything like that exists? Or if it does, I don’t know where to find it. D:

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Sobek Research and Other Ramblings

I was doing a bit of googling last night, looking for any ancient Sobek hymns that might possibly if I’m lucky actually exist that I can base a litany around. I didn’t find any hymns, but I did find a couple of articles that talked about His Graeco-Roman cult, particularly around the Faiyyum region, as well as one article talking about Sobek, Ra, and Wesir. I even found an actualfax book on Sobek and the Faiyyum, though sadly I can’t find a copy to buy that is definitely in English rather than in Italian, and not going to cost me a lot of money I don’t have right now. (I found three for sale: one for £68 (~AU$103), one for US$150 (~AU$142), and another for US$200 (~AU$189). Sans how much I’d have to pay for shipping. *cries* I would probably buy it if I had the money, though. Just because omg an actualfax book all about Sobek omg I must have it!) I can’t even find it in any university libraries here, so I can’t even go and borrow it. 😦 (It’s too niche and academic for public libraries, so I’m not bothering to look there.)

The reference I found regarding Sobek, Ra, and Wesir, talked about Sobek-Ra being seen as something like a nighttime form of Ra, like Wesir sometimes is, and emerging from the waters at dawn is like the sun being renewed for another day. Syncretising Sobek to both Temu-Ra and Wesir I find very interesting, and I’ll be chewing on that for a while. I’d already seen some parallels in my UPG, with Sobek-Ra, and Wesir and Ra and Their duality, and I know Sobek is sometimes referenced as guarding Ra’s boat in the Duat, but I hadn’t considered Sobek being syncretised to Temu-Ra and Wesir. Perhaps Djehuty was right when He told me that Sobek is Amun is Ra is Ptah is Wesir, though I still don’t know how Ptah fits in. He’s the only God in that list I haven’t met yet.

(I am planning to add these to the History of Sobek page when I have a spare five minutes to turn them into something other than copypasted sentences and a pile of notes. Well. Everything except the Sobek book, because I can’t reference a book I haven’t read.)

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P is for Polytheism

I promise ‘Pokémon as a Valid Religious Metaphor’ will be next week’s topic, and it will be as epic as it sounds, but this week, I want to talk about Polytheism.

I think I’ve always been polytheistic. It just took me a while to figure that out and acquire the vocabulary to talk about it. I’ve always believed in many Gods. I find it the most logical way to interact with the Divine, but I would never presume to say it’s a worldview that works for everyone. It makes the most sense to me, and that’s all that matters as far as I’m concerned. Whether it makes sense to anyone else is their business.

What’s got me thinking about this is partly this post by Star Foster in which she writes about how polytheism is vital to Paganism, as well as a couple of books I’ve picked up lately on polytheistic theology, which I didn’t even know existed until this year. All these things have had the result that, more and more, I’m explicitly calling myself a polytheist. It shapes the way I view the world, and it reminds me that I see the world very differently to many of the people I will meet in my life.

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K is for Know Thyself

I don’t know why I feel like tackling this topic today more than any other topic. I was going to write about Kom Ombo, but I feel that’s better placed as a subpage about Sobek’s history and His Cult centres (that requires more research than I can currently do right now).

I feel like writing about ‘know thyself’ is the most pointless thing in the world. Other people have talked about it and written about it probably better than I will. I also feel some of what knowing yourself means involves what’s known as shadow work, delving inside yourself to meet that shadow and embrace your whole self. For me, it’s internal work, and has nothing to do (much) with external presentation or ‘just being myself’. I find that … too shallow, at least for me. It’s not as simple as that, otherwise it wouldn’t be so important. I don’t know if this was ever the intended Greek meaning of the maxim (I’ve read a few different interpretations but I’m not well-read enough to know which is the most accurate), but it’s how I approach it, and how I think many modern Pagans approach it too.

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G is for Gender, Queerness, and the Gods

I’ve had this image of a Goddess in my head for a few weeks now. She came to me in the midst of a Beltaine fire. The only name for Her I have is the Horned Goddess.   She is – one of Her breasts has scars/marks on it; it has both been removed and built at the same time. The other is untouched. Her genitals are of indeterminate gender, female, but also male, and neither at the same time. But She has wide hips and a feminine appearance, as well as large stag antlers on Her head. She wanted me to draw Her; which I managed, I think, in this sketch. (NSFW; She is naked, after all.) (Black background is for contrast; it’s not a great scan.)

She is some sort of transgendered Goddess, some sort of strange forest Goddess who seems to embrace all sorts of forms of Femininity, not just those who have been born female. (I suspect She may be a bit more queer than just female, but I have nothing to support this at the moment.) I find Her incredibly intriguing, and I don’t know if She’s a totally new Goddess, or an older Goddess in disguise. But She keeps on hanging around on the fringes of my mind, and I have no idea what She might want. That She came to me in connection with Beltaine, the one Sabbat I find very hard to get my head around as a genderqueer pagan, I don’t think is a coincidence.

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C is for Crossroads and Confusion

I feel like this is as good a time as any to tackle this topic as I am at a crossroads in my spiritual life (again). It happens; I am a spiritual wanderer, and there are times when I come to the crossroads and pause, trying to decide what to do and where to go next.

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