Striking the Sacred Torch For Ptah: Rites & Rituals of Hwt-Ka-Ptah

Offering Light to Ptah

Fire is the quintessential offering to the Netjer (Deity), and in the Daily Ritual forms one of the most significant episodes of the cult service. In ancient times the kar-shrine (or naos ) containing the living cult image was sealed and maintained in darkness, until that moment when the God’s servants broke the seal and initiated the complex series of ritual actions known as the Daily Ritual. An oil lamp or taper had been lit at the entrance to the God’s sanctuary, and it was this action that magically dispelled any vestige of chaos, signaling the creation of the world from the Netjer’s hand.

Today we may seem to be separated from the very ancient rites of the Daily Ritual and their ultimate meaning. We cannot seem to be able to wake gently, ease into our day with devotion as did the ancient priests, nor can we seem to find even a few moments of mental stillness in the jolt to move our bodies to work, school or pressing responsibilities. Mornings are usually spoken for, not a proper time, it would seem, for elaborate prayers and rituals.

However, my own experience is that when we can set aside a little time even once a day, be it morning or not, and we clear a space to celebrate a brief but powerful rite, we will find our life being energized, bit by bit, through the activity of invoking the Sacred.

One of the ways I achieve this is through the striking of the sacred fire, or striking of the torch for Lord Ptah. He is my primary Netjer, my namesake and my first Father, and it is to His shrine that I go when first I wake, or whenever I am in need of a mental or spiritual awakening. Following in the footsteps of the Ancients, I light an oil lamp before our awakened cult statue of Lord Ptah, and I offer to Him a prayer that invokes the beginning of light for all created things.

If you cannot set aside time in the morning, then make time where you can, and clear a space that will be used exclusively for devotion. This really is essential, to give over one space to the Netjer, where prayer, thoughtfulness, and the activities of cultic service may be performed. A small table fitted with clean white altar cloth will serve well enough. If one does not have an icon or cult statue of Ptah, then find a photograph of a statue or painting of Ptah, and use this by propping it up in the center of your altar space. When all else fails, use a mental picture, and you may even use a mental flame, if a live one is impossible to produce because of external limitations.

Keep in mind that it is always one’s attitude, mindfulness, and concentration of purpose that is vital. We cannot always control our immediate environment; we can, however, control our mind and our intentions. When you enter that space of sacred service, physically and mentally, be prepared to offer the very best you are capable of. The Gods always understand our very human limitations. What They do not excuse is laziness, carelessness or irreverence. Any ritual act, be it ever so grand or humble, requires a mind prepared to serve with respect and integrity. One’s heart cannot be brought unyielding into the presence of the Divine. Our heart must be ready to give.

The Rite

Previous to engaging in any ritual act, the celebrant needs to be as physically and mentally pure as possible. Try to offer this and any other rite after taking a shower, and taking at least a few moments to stop and adjust one’s mind and intentions. This is a rite of rejuvenation and creation. It awakens the presence of the Netjer within our material world, and this certainly includes the human condition. This is an act where a meeting between the Sacred and human occurs, where mortal life is invigorated by the direct presence of the Immortal.

Enter your shrine or altar area in an attitude of respect, with a mental focus on honoring the Netjer. Although the ritual text has been composed for the God Ptah, it may certainly be adapted for any other Netjer (God) or Netjeret (Goddess). Ritual prostration- going down on one’s knees and then bending forward until one’s forehead touches the floor- is the traditional way to show reverence to the Gods, however, it is also acceptable to bow one’s head, raising both arms in front of the body with palms of the hands facing outward (towards the deity). This is known as duwa, the gesture of adoration.

Have a candle taper, tea light or oil lamp ready. Since I serve in a traditional or Reconstructionist Temple, we prefer to use a replica of an ancient Mediterranean ceramic oil lamp, which has a natural fiber wick and uses olive oil. This is much closer to what the Ancients had; but, times being what they are, I say make use of the tools you have, and use them to the best of your abilities.

Hold the taper, tea light (in a glass or ceramic holder) or oil lamp in your right hand, and your fire source in the other. Take a moment to focus your eyes, heart and mind on your image of the Lord Ptah (or any other Netjer you choose). The candle/ oil lamp is now lighted. Immediately after doing this, recite the following prayer:

Striking the Torch Before the God Ptah(1)

“Come You, come You in peace, O glorious Eye of Heru! Be strong and rejuvenated in peace! It shines like Ra in the double horizon, and the power of Your enemy hides itself straightaway before the Eye of Heru, which seizes it and brings it, and sets it before the seat of Heru. The voice of Heru is Truth by reason of His Eye! The Eye of Heru destroys the enemies of Ptah, the Lord upon the Great Throne(2), in all their places. I am pure!”

The candle/ oil lamp is now presented to the divine image by very slowly moving it back and forth, in a right to left motion, in the presence of the deity. The sacred fire is now set before the Netjer so that its light illuminates the deity image. The following prayer is now offered:

“O Ptah, Tatenen, O Ptah-Ra, You shining one, Who does keep the Gods alive! You radiant one, Who does rise on His sun-mountain, Who lights up the Two Countries with His luster! O Lord of light, shining in brilliancy, when He arises before every eye. Living, when He opens the darkness, glowing sun disk, which moves over the sky and passes through the Netherworld(3).

Your entourage, they praise You. The Company of Nine Gods, of Your first primeval time, it rejoices at Your rising, and it rejoices at Your setting in the West. They say to You, ‘Praise, praise!’

You open up the ways of the sky and the earth. You pass by in Your own boat, when You rise elevated over the Gods, after You have driven away the clouds, to provide for the Netherworld, to visit the souls of the West when You descend in the Western mountains.

You have joined with the people in the Kingdom of death and roused those who are in front of their caverns(4)”.

Making the torch of every day for this God Ptah the Lord of Truth(5)

Your arms should again be raised in the duwa-adoration gesture as you recite the offering formula for bestowal of the sacred fire, which is followed by a formal prayer:

Irit teka en hruw neb en netjer pen Ptah neb Ma’at
(pronounced: Ear-eet tee-ka een hee-roo neb een netcher pen Puh-tah neb Ma-aat)

“Making the torch of every day for this God Ptah the Lord of Truth!”

“O Ptah of light, the torch comes to Your ka, O Ptah the Lord of Truth!(6) There comes that which predicts night after day. The Eye of Ra appears gloriously in White-Walls(7). I come to You, and I cause that it come, the Eye of Heru, arisen upon Your forehead, established upon Your brow! To Your ka, O Ptah, the Eye of Heru is Your protection! Hail to You, Ptah the risen land! You are awake and in peace, You awaken peacefully. The Wedjat Eye awakens in peace. The great Wedjat Eye, Who has created offerings, awakens peacefully!”(8)

If possible, it is preferable to leave the sacred fire burning for as long as possible, and until it burns out completely, if it is a small taper or tea light. If you must extinguish the flame after the conclusion of the rite, do so after a few moments of respectful silence and contemplation on the presence of the Netjer, offering the God your gratitude for His (or Her) presence.

All text copyright © 2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa


Notes

  1.  Adapted for Ptah from the Daily Ritual of Amun-Ra of Ipet-isut (modern Karnak). See MORET, ALEXANDRE. 1902. Le Rituel du Culte Divin Journalier. Paris: Annales du Musee guimet, Bibliotheque d’Etudes 14, Ernest Leroux, Editeur, pages 9-10. Also BUDGE, E.A. WALLIS. The Book of Opening the Mouth: The Egyptian Texts with English Translations. First published in London, 1909. Reissued in 1972 by Benjamin Blom, New York. Reissued in 1980 by Arno Press, New York, page 197.  Wherever I have referred to Budge during my gathering of ancient textual sources for Ptah, I have not adopted Budge’s transcriptions or translations. It is now universally acknowledged by scholars that Budge’s transliteration, transcription and/ or pronunciation of ancient Egyptian (together with his translation of Egyptian texts) is much outdated. Many significant advances have been made in the study of ancient Egyptian language since Budge’s time, thus I have opted in my (pronounceable) transcriptions and translations to follow these current advances.
  2. Here I have given the name-epithet for Lord Ptah that corresponds to the name and appellation of Amun-Ra given in the original text (Amun-Ra neb nezet tawy, “Amun-Ra the Lord of the Throne of the Two Lands”).
  3. Adapted from Papyrus Berlin 3048. See M, SANDMAN HOLMBERG. 1964. The God Ptah (Denmark: Lund), page 151.
  4. Adapted from Papyrus Berlin 3048. Ibid, page 152.
  5. Here I have taken the recitation of “making the torch of every day” (which in the unabridged Daily Temple Ritual occurs after the offerings and reversion of offerings) and placed it together with the recitation for “striking the fire”, which I have adapted from the text of the Daily Ritual given to Amun-Ra in His temple at Ipet-isut . See “Certain Reliefs at Karnak and Medinet Habu and the Ritual of Amenophis I- Concluded,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 8 (1949): 320 (Fig 30), 321-323.
  6. Adapted for Ptah by placing His name and common epithet here in the place of Amun-Ra.
  7. The “White-Walls”, Mennufer, the primary cult center of Ptah. This has been adapted for Ptah by replacing the Ipet-isut of Amun-Ra.
  8. Adapted from Papyrus Berlin 3048. See HOLMBERG, Ibid, page 118, 30*. As the purpose of these rites is to awaken and renew the power of the Netjer in sacred space, the awakening or restoration of the god is linked to the awakening and restoration of the Wedjat Eye, the whole and indestructible power of the Netjer.
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