Living in My Own Divine World

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“SEKHMET THE EYE OF RA”~ An original Kemetic icon by master iconographer Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa / Extra fine watercolor & 22 karat gold on 8″ x 10″ archival panel (SOLD).   ORDER A MUSEUM QUALITY ARCHIVAL PRINT Genuine mineral pigments used as watercolor: Lapis lazuli (Chile), amethyst (Soladad, Brazil), jadeite (Alaska, USA), Mayan blue (Texas, USA), bloodstone (Alaska, USA), rhodonite (Bellahorizonte, Brazil) piemontite (Alaska, USA). Cabochon gemstones: Lapis lazuli (Afghanistan). Austrian crystal elements by Swarovski®

I wake up in the morning and before I distract myself with anything from the mundane world, my knees hit the floor in prayer.  Our Shrine to the Household Gods shines and glimmers in the little tea lights that have been placed just so, ornamenting the gilt cult images of the God Ptah and His Holy Family.  I light myrrh resin incense on a brazier of charcoal and waft its fragrance into a sweet cloud for the Gods to enjoy.  “Men nek irit Heru…”, I half-whisper as I raise the palms of my hands in the ancient gesture of worship.  “Men nek irit Heru.  Take unto yourself the Eye of Heru…take unto yourself the Eye of Heru”.

An Egyptian alabaster votive bowl is filled with powdered sugar-topped lemon tart, another topped off with red wine.  Yes, the Gods love their sweets, their alcohol, and in my household, both of these are given in profusion.  In the meduw-netjer, the divine language of ancient Egypt, I recite the traditional offering prayers, inviting the Netjeru-Gods to “bestow the giving of life” for my household.  I vigorously shake a sistrum- an Egyptian ceremonial rattle- to conclude my worship, after I have silently offered my own personal prayers for the ears of the Gods.  I bestow my prostrations to the Great God Ptah, Hearer of Prayers, and, in our temple, King of the Gods.  His gold-covered Kar-Shrine (or naos) containing a small cult image of the God now stands open to receive the morning rays of the sun’s light, and life in my household can spring to action once more.

I readily admit that I live an unusual life.  Our living room has no television.  Yes, we have the obligatory couch and (book covered) coffee table, however, in the place most people reserve for their entertainment center dominated by the almighty flat panel television, my husband and I have installed our Shrine to the Household Gods, which can be seen from every vantage of our flat.  It creates of our home environment a sacred refuge and place of peace from the stresses of the outside world.  It brings our sometimes fragmented focus back to the reality of the Gods in Their place at the very center of creation.  This is a space for prayer and ritual, where our innermost aspirations may be expressed or realized, but it is also the fuel parlor, the generator for my daily work as an iconographer.

An iconographer practices a trade quite different from that of other artists, who often explode with a creativity fueled by a personal drive to explore and express the human psyche.  The modern artist has at her or his center the Self with a capital “S”.  My experience.  My understanding.  My feelings.  My expression.  These are the seeds that sprout the trees of modern art, which is dominated, of course, by the modern artist.  However, in iconography there has been, historically, much less of an emphasis on the iconographer, on his identity or persona, and almost entirely a focus on the icons themselves.  Iconographers are not commissioned to create their own reality, but are instead asked to express time-honored ideals concerning how the Divine should be depicted, and the most important part of this is the impersonal nature of the work itself.

That is not to say that the creation of an icon requires detachment.  Quite the opposite, if the iconographer is true to his calling.  Iconographers are called like priests and nuns to their craft.  There is a drive behind the work that comes from the reservoir of the Sacred, a current of energy passing out from a deity or deities.  It is this higher energy or inspiration that fuels the creation of icons.  So, the work is impersonal in that it is not the artist’s ego or personality that is driving the work or providing the subject matter.  Icons do not glorify the personality of the iconographer, they glorify the Sacred, the Divine, and many well known icons remain the output of unknown painters.

In the case of ancient Egypt, we but rarely are privy to the names of individual painters and artisans, whose masterpieces may be household names and instantly recognizable.  Take the fabulous golden burial mask of Tutankhamun, as one example.  This tomb treasure is often hailed as an “icon of ancient Egypt”, in the sense that its fame and preciousness have come to represent, in the minds of the masses, the greatness of Egyptian civilization.  However, I would add that the mask of Tutankhamun is also an icon in the original religious context of the word.

To the ancient goldsmiths and jewelers who created it, the burial mask of Tutankhamun was a piece of sacred machinery, through whose great magic the deceased King Tutankhamun would be transformed into a living manifestation of the Sun-God Ra.  The mask itself, though carrying upon it a stylized representation of Tutankhamun, is in fact intended to represent the God Ra Himself- gold of skin with lapis lazuli hair- as the indestructible Lord of Heaven, untouched by death and wholly divine.  The Egyptians saw such treasures not as works of art, in the manner that we see them, but as holy objects embodying the powers of the Gods.  They were, in short, icons.

Not only the incomparable treasures of Tutankhamun, but so many works of ancient Egypt had a sacred purpose that took them beyond the realm of the human viewer.  So many works of art that stun and captivate us today were simply never intended to be seen again by human eyes, once they had been created and brought ceremonially, magically to life.  We do not know the names of the craftsmen who produced them, their genius preserved only in the astounding objects they gave life to.

To the ancient Egyptians, the personality of individual artists was practically insignificant.  Their mode of religion called for cult images wrought from the most precious substances on earth…gold, lapis lazuli, feldspar and turquoise, which represented to the Egyptian mind substances forming part of the anatomy of the living Gods.  The task of the artist was to give earthly bodies to the Gods, Who would be invited to take up residence in the precious cult images once they had been ritually awakened.  Thus the ego or personal experiences of the artisan served no purpose to the Egyptians, who saw ceremonial images as the dwelling places of their gods, not as representations of individual mortals.  My, how things have changed!

Enter me.  My profession must be, at times, an experiment, for I am not an ancient artisan of cult images dwelling in a nation where my gods and their servants are supported by the state.  Gone are the monumental temple sanctuaries filled with incense and solid gold cult images.  What we have today are small ceremonial centers and home-shrines, these lovingly filled with not-so-solid gold images of our ancient gods.  The incense and offerings have remained, though not on the scale consumed by the Gods in ancient times.  Gone too are the monolithic stone statues of the Gods and kings that led way to the imperial sanctuaries.  These things belong to a past that has now become a tourist trap.  What we servants of the old Gods have is the Gods Themselves, Who continue to inspire us in ways that may fall outside the realm of traditional pomp and circumstance, but in circumstances that are, nevertheless, effective as a living religion.

In my world, it is the icon, a small panel covered in intricate details, gold and semi-precious stones, that has as much meaning as a massive stone temple or a solid gold cult image.  Those things have meaning too, but for the past, and since we are living in the present, and the Gods are ever-present, our task is to find new traditional ways of honoring Them and asking for Their intervention in our world.

So, every morning, after I have awoken our household shrine with a heady cloud of myrrh or sandalwood, I sit in my studio at my massive table, where a modern panel of wood, which may initially appear inconsequential, will be transformed into an image of ancient splendor.  It is not only gold or lapis or amethyst that will make this little panel something of value, but, much more importantly, the love of the Gods that is poured into its glittering metal and mineral pigments.  Such love for the Sacred is what fuels and entices me to work fervently, day after day, in my own divine world.

All text copyright © 2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

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The Heart-Prayer of Ptah

Lapis Ptah

Homage to You, Ptah,
And hail to the Gods Who came forth from Your members!

O Ptah of life,
O Ptah of light,
O Ptah of mercy,
Hear my prayer.

O Ear that hears,
O Eyes that see,
O Hands that bless,
Receive my offering.

O Father Ptah,
I give You my heart.
O Father Ptah,
I give You my hands.
O Father Ptah,
I give You my breath,
O Father Ptah,
I give You my ka.
O Father Ptah,
I give You my name.
O Father Ptah,
I receive Yours in return.
O Father Ptah,
I give You my sorrow.
O Father Ptah,
I receive Your power in return.
O Father Ptah,
I become Your own flesh.
O Father Ptah,
You become the Lord of my life.

O Ptah of life,
May Your life be my life.
O Ptah of light,
May Your light be my light.
O Ptah of mercy,
May Your compassion
Liberate me; I who came forth
From Your body!

All text copyright © 1997-2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

Auset is an Urban Goddess~ Part Two

Auset Urban Goddess 2

In the early 80’s I was growing up as part of the MTV generation. Cyndi Lauper, Depeche Mode, Wham!, George Michael, Prince and Michael Jackson were all the rage. But foremost of the 80’s pop royalty was Madonna, savvy media mogul and video temptress, whose attention grabbing blend of sex and urban sheikh fashions, mixed with a high octane cocktail of street smarts and femininity, came to define the 80’s and everything that made us tick then.

The first video I saw of this glamorous street urchin was “Burning Up”, in which Madonna appears as a gyrating, sexually frustrated femme fatale, singing and sultry in the middle of a street as her lover drives toward her. Not an award winner by any stretch, but I was hooked. “Who is this girl?”, I thought, and decided to stay tuned. This was the beginning of a 30 year love affair with the Marilyn Monroe look alike who wasn’t, but also coincided with the initiation of a personal obsession with powerful women and divine femininity that was to take me to the depths and heights of human experience. Though pop goddesses may not seem a very likely introduction to THE GODDESS, for me as a young boy, the entrance of Madonna onto the pop culture stage resonated with a budding belief that the power and sexuality of women was a source of something sacred and mysterious…something primordial and latent in all living things.

I was attending St. Alban’s Perish Day School, a private Catholic institution, when Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” album and video were released. This was a seminal moment of my boyhood. Madonna appeared as a lace and crucifix adorned sex symbol, sometimes veiled, sometimes clad in very little at all, and yet her strength, power and femininity were anything but demure. Here was a girl on a mission to conquer the world, who may at times have appeared as the stereotypical blond bimbo, but whose dominant self possession belied any attempts by men to have or control her in traditional domestic sexist roles.

It was Madonna’s liberated sexuality and confidence that made an impression on me, but also her explicit use of Christian and Catholic iconography. For me, the crucifix and the veil, both making appearances in “Like a Virgin”, symbolized deeper mysteries than Madonna’s need to harvest visuals from her staunch Catholic upbringing. These were hallmarks of an ancient Goddess into whose mysteries I was just beginning to be drawn, a goddess whose veiled countenance was to transfix my inner gaze and provoke a lifelong quest.

On Fridays we were required to attend chapel at St. Alban’s. The chapel was an enchanted building surrounded by rose bushes, clad in vivid stained glass windows and icons of various saints and biblical heroes. I had been raised a Baptist, in the tedious austerity of undecorated churches without incense and ritual, so the Latin Mass, with its flickering candles, chanting and icons, struck a deep and mysterious chord in me. Secretly, I was already praying to ancient Egyptian gods and learning about the Goddess Isis, and had developed an aversion to the concept of monotheism and what I saw as the Christian superiority complex.

When kneeling to say the Lord’s Prayer, which I ardently refused to parrot, I folded my hands and silently prayed to Isis, Osiris and Horus. How else could I go through with it…praying in the house of a god I did not even believe existed? For me, I found consolation in transferring the symbols and dogma of Catholic Christianity into the hieroglyphs and deities of the ancient Egyptian pantheon.

Chapel possessed one virtue for me that helped me during what was a very troubled and difficult childhood. The secret faith I kept locked away deep in my heart had no open outlet through which to find expression. My parents were hardline Baptists…bible thumping church goers who believed and taught in the infallible, inerrant existence of the Christian doctrine. So, it was in the iconography of Catholicism that I was able to covertly maintain a living relationship with the Gods of Egypt. My gods.

The chapel at St. Albans contained a number of striking life size icons, but of all these it was the marble statue of the Virgin Mary that called to my heart. When I looked up into her outstretched arms, her veiled, tender form with its kind and compassionate gaze, I saw the Goddess Isis, most ancient Queen of Goddesses, and I petitioned Her to possess the statue of Mary so I could come and offer Her my prayers and heartaches.

For a year I came every week, and sometimes more frequently, to pray and commune with Isis in Her Catholic disguise, lighting candles, and in my mind reliving the ancient stories of the Goddess and Her holy family. Isis had traversed very troubled times, I knew. Her cherished brother-husband Osiris had been brutally murdered, even cut into pieces after He was slain, and Her son Horus was conceived in secret and reared on the run. The Goddess had lost Her queenship of Egypt, and had had to flee for Her life. She had been a refugee in Her own country, forced to scrape together a living in the marshes of the Delta, and She had almost lost Her son to a near-fatal scorpion bite. She had been alone and persecuted, and knew hunger, fear and heartache.

In Isis I knew that I was not alone, and that far from being a lofty fear-commanding god, Isis was the mother and caretaker of all living things. She took all people unto Her in their troubles, not only those who believed in Her, but all hearts. She did not rule through doctrine or man-made institutions, nor did She demand obedience via the threat of eternal torture in hell. Isis, the Mother of all Gods, simply loves. She is a queen of hearts, and it is through the heart that She calls, nurtures and loves.

One Friday morning Father Treat saw me lighting a candle in front of Mary, and sought me out. With a kind smile he said, “Ah, you are praying to our Lady”. With an even bigger smile I replied, “No, I am praying to Isis”. I am not quite sure what possessed me to confess my secret to Father Treat that day, but the cat was out of the bag! Suddenly I had diarrhea of the mouth, and blurted out everything, right then and there. I told Father Treat under no uncertain terms that my Goddess had given birth to his god, that Isis was the true origin of divinity, and that Her faith, the religion of Her people, was the true and ancient belief of the human race. “Christianity is second hand goods”, I told him. “The real thing began in Egypt”.

That was the end of my secret prayers to Isis, because Father Treat, naturally horrified and beside himself, called my mother to St. Albans for a meeting, during which I was chastised for my blasphemy, and assigned a strict penance for the “wicked lies” I had spoken. “Do you want to go to hell?!”, my mother yelled at me in the car on the way home from school. “Don’t you know that God punished the children of Israel for worshipping the false gods of Egypt?” For some reason I still had a tiny fragment of courage left. “No. He is your god, you deal with him. My god is Isis, and She was Goddess before your god ever existed!”

My father made me spend the whole weekend writing out John 3:16 in a legal notepad, and the controversy lingered in the household for quite a while. I never did recant my heresy, and I even had the nerve to return to chapel on Fridays. How suspiciously Father Treat eyed me as I lit candles in front of the Virgin Mary, and made my heartfelt little prayer to Isis:

Hail Isis, Queen of Egypt,
Mother of the World!
Blessed is the fruit of Your womb,
For the fruit which You have 
Brought forth is the Sun!

Then I went home, turned on MTV, and got my Goddess fix watching Madonna videos. My parents may have seen an 80’s rock sex symbol, dancing in lingerie in front of a burning cross singing “Like a Prayer”, but I saw Isis, the urban goddess, ever present and ever ready to steal hearts…even in the most surprising of places!

All text copyright © 2001-2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

Auset is an Urban Goddess~ Part One

Urban Auset

In the late 90’s I had hit personal crisis big time. The long term relationship I had been in was slowly heading for the rocks. Like an ostrich I stuck my head in the sand and waited, hoping that if I hid long enough, pretended to go about things as usual, that it would all just take care of itself. So very Pisces, eh? My partner was a recovering Mormon from Salt Lake City, whose own father had been excommunicated from the Mormon Church for coming out of the closet. Initially, my partner found a breath of fresh air in my practice of the ancient Egyptian sacred traditions, and he seemed to be able to find a source of healing in the story of Isis and Her holy family.

Things took a drastic turn for the worse when my partner faced a crisis of faith, his Mormon past resurfacing to haunt him…his daily struggle becoming one of spiritual identity and life path. As I seriously considered taking priestly vows, my partner found himself despising religion in total, and unable to cope with my increasing spiritual epiphanies. It was a tense and difficult roller coaster ride….Enter Auset, Isis…enter DeTraci Regula.

My partner’s father was close friends with the owner of Better World Galleria in San Diego, and on a chilly Autumn night my partner and I attended a special event there that was to have serious repercussions on my life and spiritual path. DeTraci Regula was presenting a lecture and signing for her new book “The Mysteries of Isis”, and I knew I had to be there. It was one of those seminal moments in life…the kind you look back on even years later, and realize that without this one event, you would not be the person you are today.

DeTraci Regula is one of those rare speakers who has the ability to bring ancient, abstract or dated concepts right into the current moment as fresh and vibrant, living ideas. This is what DeTraci accomplishes in “The Mysteries of Isis”, which must be ranked as one of the most significant contributions to Goddess worship in the modern age. For me, the profound blessing of this book, together with its author, is the continued emphasis on the universality of the Goddess, and the continued relevance of Her worship and mythos in the current era.

Isis is not just an Egyptian goddess”, DeTraci said at the very start of her lecture. “She has Her feet planted comfortably in Greece, Rome, London…even in China and Japan. Isis is at home in New York City!” DeTraci’s ideas and research strive to take Isis out of the confines of Egyptian antiquity and reveal Her much broader influences and characteristics. At the same time, “Mysteries of Isis” links past and present, antiquity and future, by giving the current devotee a means of utilizing the ancient rites and mysteries in the here and now. This is precisely what I needed on that night in the 90’s when I attended DeTraci’s lecture, facing a crisis in private love life…facing a crossroads.

At this time in my life I was struggling with my ardent devotion to my Gods and Their ancient mysteries and how the expression of this devotion could be reconciled with life in the modern era. Gone were the monumental temples of Isis, where priestesses and priests could celebrate the complex rites and rituals without constraints from the secular world. In ancient Egypt the secular and sacred were blurred, and there was no separation of church and state. Ancient celebrants had it easy, say, in comparison with practitioners in today’s New York City. My partner’s identity crisis brought it home to me that in the current era, the sacred was not so readily embraced or easy to find confirmation of. Things came to a head, and I had to make a choice.

I was single, again, and alone, it so seemed, in taking vows to join the clergy of the ancient Egyptian rites of Isis. I had obsessed myself with DeTraci’s book, and it was through her wise but firm guidance that I handed myself over into the two hands of Isis, sacrificing my old life, and becoming a servant of the ancient Mysteries of the Mysterious One.

Isis Lady of the Two Lands
Are you there?
Hear my prayer Isis, hear my prayer.
Are You there Isis,
Are You there!
Isis Lady of the Two Hands
You are there.
You are there Isis,
You are there.
Hear my prayer Isis,
Hear my prayer!

This Isian song was given to me by DeTraci Regula during much happier times, but it lends itself with such grace to my struggles and tempestuous feelings when I began my path as a consecrated priest. DeTraci said to me once, “Ptahmassu, you came into this world a priest!” Most people would agree with her, and most people seem to see me as a natural priest and ritualist, leaping tall obelisks in a single bound…with a simple flick of a wrist manhandling the harmonies out of any sistrum!

But for me, the actual state of affairs is much more complicated, and the sacrifices I have had to make for my priesthood have often been difficult…sometimes devastating. To all would-be priestesses and priests out there I say, be very careful what you wish for…what you think you are asking for. Initiation into the Mysteries of Isis means making of your heart a sponge, and the Goddess squeezes nothing less than everything out of it…then asks for even more.

I spent time on the streets of San Diego just before the 90’s came to a close. I had had to put everything I owned in storage, and found myself without an address. Reading Isis and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy by day, and spending nights on the couches of this friend or that acquaintance, I rebelled against the concept of working a traditional job and being a respectable member of society (some things haven’t changed, right?!), and opted instead to be a shaven headed urban priest of Isis, the Goddess in the red dress.

One night I had no couch to crash on, so there was nothing for it, I crashed in the covered back doorway of a store…one of the favored haunting places of San Diego’s elite homeless. One of the regulars was already there, a kind old gentleman wearing a very sporty suit coat and shiny dress shoes. He tended to mumble incoherently under his alcoholic breath, but he was not unpleasant, and didn’t mind sharing his blankets with me. At one point he turned to me and blurted out, “She’s watching you, you know”. I was perplexed. “Who is watching me?” He shrugged. “I don’t know. Don’t ask me…but it’s her…the lady in the red dress”. At that, the old drunk let out a confident fart, and turned over in the blankets. Isis! I thought, almost so loud I was sure the old man had heard me. Just then, I heard him stutter, “Yeah, that lady in the red dress”. Isis, I laughed inside my head….You’ve got to be kidding me!

All text copyright © 2001-2014 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

A Crisis of Faith?

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What happens when we have a crisis of faith? People often ask me how I do it…how I seem to maintain this fierce devotion and conviction I have in my priestly life, and in general as a spiritual practitioner. People look at the way I live…the beautiful shrines I maintain, the dazzling rituals I get to perform, the way I strive to maintain and restore the Kemetic (Ancient Egyptian) traditions…and people seem to feel that it is effortless, or that I have the direct line to text message the Gods!

The funny thing is that I have spent much of my life feeling that I fall very short of the kind of spiritual person I seek to be. The closer I get to the doorway of the Gods, the more I am disappointed in how I have maintained my relationship with Them. I pray constantly, I perform the rituals ordained by the historic record…I keep the cult images sacred and share the festival offerings. I try as hard as I can to live a good life, a life in Ma’at, the Truth, the Right Way. Still, I feel that I have not quite fit the part.

I think we all feel these things at times, but what do we do about it? There are times when I ache so badly to be united with the Netjeru that I feel a terrible loss and hole in my heart. I realized quite a while ago that I was born with this feeling of loss, this hole in my heart, this sadness. It occurred to me that the only way I could soothe it was through love, devotion, and service.

Some people tell me that worshiping or serving the Gods is a demure state of affairs, that being humble before any deity is too much like organized religion, that it debases humankind. How can LOVE debase or degrade? How can service make us demure? How can worship, an act of true love, bring us low? One thing the human heart cannot argue against is TRUE LOVE! And just what is true love?

True love is altruistic, it seeks to give without expectation of a reward or recompense of any kind. True love only gives, and receives only in an unselfish manner. When we give to the Gods without expectation, this service manifests the same response from the ones to whom it is given. This is not a subservient or demure act, but an act of strength and freewill. It is the most excellent form of action, worship and love of which the human condition is capable. When we master this in our relationship with the Gods, then we can turn this outward, beyond ourselves, in order to give it to others. This makes others our equals. It uplifts our personal relationships, our families, our communities. It is the root of all enlightened experience.

So, when I feel this darkness and emptiness, and I ask myself how I can become the better man I want to be, I remind myself that LOVE is the real answer…not an abstract principle or ideal, but the kind of love we can use every single day as we go about our lives. I remind myself that service to the Gods through altruistic love forges an unbreakable bond between me and the Netjeru (Gods). When my service and love are selfless, then my Self actually experiences the true nature of the Gods, of Ma’at, more fully and deeply. How then can I feel I have reached a crisis of faith?

All text copyright © 2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

Called By Auset

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When I was in grade school I attended a private Catholic school where every Friday we were required to attend chapel and say Mass. We were expected to kneel and recite the Lord’s Prayer, and sing the appropriate hymns in observance of various Saint’s feast days. I was utterly offended at being required to kneel to a god I regarded as foreign, and recite a prayer that rang hollow in my heart.

At ten years of age I was already secretly consecrated to Auset, Mother Isis, so it was to Her I fervently prayed when the time came to kneel and parrot the words of the Lord’s Prayer after Father Treat. I remember a gilt icon of the Madonna shining above a rack of glittering candles, and silently, deep down in my heart of hearts, I said to Isis: “When it looks like I am praying to her, I am really praying to YOU!”

One morning after Mass was concluded, Father Treat saw me lighting a candle in front of the Madonna, and he said, “Oh, you are praying to our Lady?” “No”, I replied, “I am praying to Isis”. Father Treat called my mother that very morning and told her what I had said, expressing his outrage and concern, and when my mother came to pick me up at school I was confronted by her and Father Treat regarding my religious beliefs.

What could I say? I told both of them that the worship of Isis was far older than the religion of Jesus the Jew, that the magic and power of Isis was far more profound than the miracles performed by Christ, and, finally, that the Goddess had called me personally and answered my prayers directly. How had She called me?

The nectar of the ancient Faith of Isis (Whom the ancient Egyptians called Auset) is the one virtue that I have always found greatly lacking in many of the world’s current religions, and that is unconditional love; what every mother would recognize as the unfailing trait shared by most mothers. Mothers have a capacity that most fathers, and men in general, find wanting. They are able to love their children, simply love them, for all their imperfections and regardless of shortcomings.

Conditional grace is central to the major monotheistic religions. Belief in one doctrine. Absolute obedience to the core professions of the faith. Salvation is granted only to the worthy, those who accept the one deity and belief as expressed in authoritative scripture. Eternal punishment after death for those who do not.

The religion of Isis is very different in these regards. My personal experience of Mother Auset is that She, like all mothers, loves where others fall quite short. She does not condemn those who do not recognize Her divinity. She does not chastise souls for following their conscience in the place of doctrine or religious dogma. She requires no vows for those who call upon Her in need. She professes no wrath for those who follow other beliefs and yet wish to feel Her mercy.

Even those who challenge Her, those who hate Her, those who attack Her can in the same instant be embraced or saved by Her if they but cry out for Her help. She asks for nothing in return.

Those who serve Mother Isis recall the story of Her trials and sufferings as a single mother hiding in the marshes of Egypt from Her enemies. The Goddess, in Her most dire time of need, was persecuted by a haughty rich woman, who slammed her door in the Goddess’ face when Isis was begging for a place to hide Her infant son. It was a poor woman who invited Isis into her home to partake of what little she had to give.

The guardian scorpions of the Goddess were outraged at the behavior of the wealthy woman, and decided to punish her by stinging her baby son to death. When Isis heard of this retribution, She cried out, “I cannot allow the innocent to die because of me”, and the Goddess used Her magic to cure the afflicted child.

This ancient story reveals the heart of the Isian Mysteries, which are quite less mysterious than they may outwardly appear. The truth of the Divine Mother is that Her grace, Her salvation, Her love is entirely unconditional. What She expresses to those who choose to follow Her is the necessity of altruistic love and the example of a mother’s unblemished mercy for all Her children.

The Goddess does not subtract, She adds. The Goddess does not turn away, She embraces. The Goddess does not govern through fate or doctrine, She and She alone alters fate and cuts through the delusion of power that is the leash of dogma. Isis rises above the conditions set by other deities, receiving all souls into Her care regardless of creed, gender, race or belief.

What Isis inspires is not religious fervor, fanaticism or control, but the freedom that only limitless love, true love…a mother’s love can give. This is the message that Mother Isis gave to me when I was six-years-old and first came to know Her.

It is often a difficult message to live or embody, because I, like all children, am rash, egoistic, imperfect and brimming with conflicting emotions. However, what Isis has in abundance is patience. She sees through our faults and cherishes us for the Soul we all possess.

I am Auset Great of Enchantments,
Within whose body the immortal Gods dwell,
Within whose womb the seed of the universe
Did spring.

There is nothing that exists that I have not
Touched with the grace of my fingertips,
Nor a heart that beats without having felt
My divine breath.

My image is that of Eternity,
My body the thread of the Everlasting.
The gods of all nations know me,
The Threefold Creator invokes me,
I am higher than the governors of the Earth,
And over the starry firmament from which
I have descended.

I am Auset Great of Enchantments,
Whose feet are planted in the Stars,
Whose never ending grace existed before
Time and creation existed.
I endure, and I am before the beginning,
And after the end.

All text copyright © 2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

Getting Personal With the Gods

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How I Found Grace in the Religion of Ancient Egypt

When I was six years old I had my first powerful brush with the gods of ancient Egypt. In the pages of Encyclopedia Britannica I found photographs of statues, bas-reliefs, amulets, coffins and paintings depicting super-human beings with animal heads…jackals, snakes, cats, crocodiles and a dung beetle. A glittering golden icon of the god Ptah with his characteristic skull cap, a treasure from the tomb of Tutankhamun, enticed me to keep looking, to dig deeper for more. For most people unfamiliar with the nuances of ancient Egyptian art and religious iconography, the goddesses and gods of the Nile Valley present a bewildering and incomprehensible spectacle. A fusion of human and animal, each bearing their own set of complex crowns, regalia and signs, the netjeru or gods embody the fantastical and magical, seemingly defying the mortal realm and anything we could recognize as logical. The gods of ancient Egypt appear to defy logic, and are infinitely locked within the framework of their strange myths.

I was bitten by the bug (or should I say Scarab?) of ancient Egypt at an age when other kids were discovering cowboys and Indians and J.I. Joe. Today this would be nothing unusual, as ancient Egypt is all the rage from grade school to high school, and the Internet has created an endless place for discovery and research geared towards young people who are fascinated by this ancient world of pyramids and mummies. “King Tut” is a household name even for kindergarteners, and the recent global exhibitions of the Tutankhamun treasures (among many other collections currently circulating) have perpetuated the continued legacy of Egyptomania like never before. However, I grew up in the era before personal computers, the Internet and the iphone (I’m kidding, right?).

I grew up before Border’s and Barnes & Noble, before you could walk into any bookstore and find countless books on ancient Egypt to satisfy the voracious appetite of any Egyptophile. I had to make due with the few and far between titles available in mall bookstores or school libraries. When I did find those rare books (like E.A. Wallis Budge’s The Egyptian Book of the Dead or Mildred Mastin Pace’s Wrapped for Eternity), I devoured them greedily, taking notes and poring over the pictures for countless hours on end. Yes, it was the mummies and monuments, the fabled riches of Tutankhamun’s tomb that drew me in, but even more than those was the religion and magic of a world with which I increasingly found myself identifying. More than anything else from that culture, it was the gods of ancient Egypt that spoke to my mind and seemed to tug incessantly on the strings of my heart.

My first personal experience with an Egyptian deity happened some time after my seventh birthday. I was hospitalized for a severe concussion after falling over a tricycle, and I remember a terrifying moment when nurses were attempting to draw blood, and I squirmed around trying to prevent them from doing their job. I remember my stomach heaving, vomiting, an intense fear coupled with the fierce desire to get out of that hospital. It was then that I prayed to Imhotep- that most famous of Egyptian architects and physicians who after his death was deified as the son of the god Ptah and worshiped as a miraculous healer. I called on him and asked him to make it all better, and that’s exactly what happened. Call it a fantasy or a concussion-induced hallucination if you must, but I will never forget the vision I saw above my hospital bed: A shaven-headed and wise-looking man with a scroll of papyrus unrolled on his lap, surrounded by a scintillating golden aura. He spoke words in a language I did not know in my intellect, and yet my heart seemed to resonate with the sound and meter. All at once I felt a peace and comfort settle over me, and from that day to this I have called upon Lord Imhotep whenever in pain or in need of healing.

“Great One, Son of Ptah, the creative god, made by Thenen,
begotten by him and beloved of him, the god of divine forms in the temples,
who giveth life to all men, the mighty one of wonders,
the maker of times, who cometh unto him that calleth upon him,
wheresoever he may be, who giveth sons to the childless,
the chief Kheri-heb, the image and likeness of Thoth the wise.”

-Address to Imhotep in the temple of Imhotep at Philae
Imhotep by Jamieson B. Murry, M.A., M.D. Oxford University Press, 1926, pp. 46.

While in grade school I attended St. Alban’s Perish Day School, a private Catholic school, where every Friday we were required to attend chapel, take part in Mass, and to observe the saying of the Lord’s Prayer together with those prayers reserved for the feast days of various saints. I had been raised in the Baptist Church, which for me was appallingly sterile and devoid of mystery or passion. It was my experience with the solemnity and ritual of Catholicism that was to change the way I viewed religion. In the Baptist Church of my upbringing there was little to endear a heart already absorbed in the study of ancient rites of a pagan culture; enduring hour-long sermons in stiff pews surrounded by stark white walls and a plain wooden altar.

This is as agonizingly boring as religion gets! However, Catholicism struck a chord with me, and in it I identified with something that seemed to originate in a time and place much older than the origins of Roman Catholicism. When attending Mass- hearing the chants in Latin, being imbued with incense clouding up from swinging censors, seeing gilded icons glowing mysteriously by candle light- I connected with the temple rituals of the ancient Egyptians, for something in my heart recognized the sound of chanting, the smell of incense, and the power of golden icons.

In chapel there was an especially beautiful marble statue of the Virgin Mary, before which always burned dozens of votive candles in blue glass holders. I remember the morning I made my first prayer to Mother Auset (Isis), seeing in the smiling face and outstretched arms of Christ’s mother the spirit of a much older goddess, whose son Heru (Horus) was the savior-god of the ancient Egyptians. At this time I did not yet have my own statues of the Goddess to adore, so I used the statue of the Virgin Mary as my “stand in” to reach Isis. How can I forget the day Father Treat found me lighting a candle in front of the Virgin and said with a smile, “You are praying to Our Lady?” “No”, I answered with an even bigger smile, “I am praying to Isis”.

“Praise to you, Isis, the Great-One,
God’s Mother, Lady of Heaven, queen of the gods.
You are the First Royal Spouse of Omnophris,
The supreme overseer of the Golden-Ones in
The temples, the eldest son, first(born) of Geb.
Praise to you, Isis, the Great-One,
God’s Mother, Lady of Heaven, queen of the gods.
You are the First Royal Spouse of Omnophris,
The Bull, the Lion who overthrows all his enemies,
The Lord and ruler of Eternity.”

-Hymn to the goddess Isis from the temple of Isis at Philae
Six Hymns to Isis in the Sanctuary of Her Temple at Philae and Their Theological  Significance. Part I . By L. V. Žabkar. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 69 (1983), pp. 115-137

Isis was the first goddess of the Egyptian religion to answer my prayers. I came to her at first very timidly, not quite sure how to address a goddess, as I had been raised in the Baptist Church of Christianity, which recognized no goddesses and had no concept of the divine feminine. But I was enchanted by her story, because Isis is no ordinary goddess. Queen of Heaven, yes. Great of Magic, but of course. Crowned and arrayed in the trappings of royalty, to be sure. However, Isis is no loller on the clouds of divine queenship. She is a goddess who knows the sufferings of widowhood, homelessness, imprisonment, forced manual labor, single parenthood, poverty…and the list goes on and on. Something that won the hearts of millions of the ancients was the truly humble story of this powerful goddess whose husband (Ausir or Osiris) was brutally murdered, who then had to flee for her life as a widowed and pregnant mother, to give birth in the marshes of Egypt in hiding and on the run from her husband’s murderer. Isis raised her son Horus in secret, ever aware that the chaotic Set (the murderer of Osiris) would destroy not only her but also her young son. The trials of single motherhood in this day and age included near death encounters with scorpions and crocodiles, and the added humility of begging for scraps and help from rich matrons who slammed their doors in the goddess’ face.

This was the story that captivated the ancients, and, when Christianity was struggling to overtake the East, made it difficult for evangelists to convert adherents of the Goddess to the doctrine of Christ. The faith of Isis, Osiris and Horus is the story of a divine family enduring and transforming through very human circumstances. It is also the story of resurrection from death that formed the foundation of the Egyptian belief in immortality and physical resurrection from the dead. Long before Christians formed their doctrine of a divine son crucified and resurrected from the dead as the path to salvation, the very ancient Egyptian religion asserted the death and resurrection of its god Ausir (Osiris), and the guarantee of his story to all Egyptians that they could follow in his footsteps and be risen from the dead into the paradise of the Blessed. Central to this belief was the magic of the goddess Isis, who had used the insurmountable skill of her magic to revive her murdered husband from the dead. Upon achieving her aim, she conceived a holy child, the falcon-headed god Heru (Horus), who became to the Egyptians the very embodiment of divine justice, truth, and righteousness.

The story of Heru’s struggle to overcome the obstacles of his tumultuous childhood and regain the throne of Egypt from the murderer of his father had a particular meaning to me as a young boy; for the story of Horus is essentially the story of history’s first underdog turned top dog. He is a child who experiences severe tragedy and darkness, then, as a young man, enters a vicious struggle against his uncle in order to regain his stolen throne.

The trials of Heru seem to know no bounds, but he is, in the end, rewarded with justice, and himself becomes the embodiment of truth overcoming brute force and immorality. Horus, once perceived as the outcast renegade of the Egyptian marshes, proves his valor to the gods of Egypt, and wins the kingship of his father as the god of strength and honor. To a young boy who was also a runt, often an outcast amongst other children his age and the butt of many a joke, the story of Heru made me believe in the probability of noble character to surpass mere brute strength, and the significance of maintaining one’s moral and spiritual integrity even in the face of the most violent opposition. My prayers to Isis and Osiris inevitably included earnest petitions to the holy son Horus, the valiant god whose power of truth could help me defeat the schoolyard bullies, and survive the heartache of a troubled domestic life.

“I am Horus the Behdetite, great god, lord of the sky,
Lord of the Upper Egyptian crown,
Prince of the Lower Egyptian crown,
King of the Kings of Upper Egypt,
King of the Kings of Lower Egypt,
Beneficent Prince, the Prince of princes.
I receive the crook and the whip,
For I am the lord of this land.
I take possession of the Two Lands
In assuming the Double Diadem.
I overthrow the for of my father Osiris
As King of Upper and Lower Egypt for ever!”

-The speech of the god Horus from his temple at Edfu
The Triumph of Horus: An Ancient Egyptian Sacred Drama. Translated and edited
By H.W. Fairman. University of California Press, 1974, pp. 106.

I was raised in a very religious family, and I have always been a very religious person. I was even religious as a kindergartener. My problem as a child was that I was drawn to the “wrong” religion. Something about monotheism stuck in my craw and seemed to chew up my insides. And something about church made me shake me head for want of something more. Where are the statues?, I remember asking myself while daydreaming during Sunday school about being anywhere but there. Where are the flowers, the chants…the Mysteries? They had these in ancient Egypt, I told myself, so why shouldn’t they be in the houses of God now? Somehow, it all seemed wrong to me, and I never felt very right sitting in those stiff wooden pews surrounded by black-tied and suited fathers beside their starchy looking wives. I couldn’t stand church, because to my little mind it felt completely separate from the Divine. It seemed more about who was wearing what, and showing off good Christian morale than about finding and serving God. And which God?, I always asked myself. Some distant and wrathful old man flying around out there, just waiting to send irredeemable souls to the lake of fire. Even at eight-years-old I said to myself that one god was just not enough, let alone a jealous and angry god that would condemn his “chosen people” to forty years of hard time in the wilderness. So, I opted for something else.

When I was entering puberty my father told me I needed to be baptized. He was close friends with the preacher, whose son was just about my age and was going to be baptized in a group ceremony for young adults. And how would it look if I decided not to be baptized too? How would it make my father look, my family? Church was, after all, a place where one’s status in society could be firmly established. It’s where you showed off your new car, your wife’s 24 karat gold rope chain, your son’s straight A report card. It was also about showing off your Christian do-goodness. My parents were ahead of the game in that department. They volunteered for everything they could, everything from Wednesday night youth group to Sunday picnics and fund raising bake sales. My father was a pillar of the church, so his son just had to be baptized with the other boys. Period.

So I went to baptism class with the preacher’s son, memorized bible verses and evangelical prattle, and generally hated myself because I didn’t believe in any of it, and felt impure at the thought of taking part in it. Why did I feel impure? It wasn’t because I felt I was tarnishing Christian values by taking part in something so sacred without being a believer. That thought never crossed my mind. I felt overwhelmed by a sense of slandering the gods I truly believed in, the gods I kept locked away in my heart so that my Christian parents couldn’t see them. I would betray anyone, anything but them. How could I go through with it?

I stood behind the baptismal tank with all the other boys, dressed in my pure white robe, looking up behind the altar at a blue-painted sky in which clouds beckoned the mind to dwell in Christ’s kingdom. But my mind was lower than low, consumed in guilt and conflict, because I was consecrating my body (and, supposedly my soul, too) to the Christian faith in front of the whole community. But then something happened. I felt a presence leading and guiding my heart into awareness of how this moment could be transformed into something sacred for my personal religion, for my gods and my true beliefs. Looking at the four corners of the baptismal tank, I saw in my mind’s eye the four tutelary goddesses of ancient Egypt: Auset (Isis), Nebet-het (Nephthys), Selket and Neith. Their kind expressions and outstretched arms surrounded the waters in a protective embrace, just as they had the fabulous golden canopic shrine of Tutankhamun.

And I saw the baptismal tank not as the waters in which John the Baptist had baptised Christ, but rather as the waters of the sacred Nile, the holiest of rivers to the ancient Egyptians. And I called on the gods of those people, just as I was summoned to take my turn in the waters. I offered to them the vessel of my heart in sacrifice, and gave over my soul, my mind, the entirety of my being, to them and only them. With my mouth I parroted the words the minister spoke, the words he and everyone else believed would make me a true and consecrated Christian- but in my heart I prayed fervently to my gods, and gave myself over into their sacred care. When I was dipped beneath the waters I experienced them as the same waters in which the god Osiris was drowned, the waters beneath which opened up the hidden passage to the Netherworld. And I entered, and from that moment on I belonged to the living gods of ancient Egypt. Like Osiris, I died and was born again, and my life was the vehicle for the glorious gods who still spoke and moved when they were listened to and called upon.

“I come unto thee, son of Nut, Osiris, ruler of eternity. I am a follower of Thoth, rejoicing in all that he has done. He brings for thee refreshing breath to thy nose, life and dominion to thy beautiful face, and the north wind that came forth from Atum to thy nostrils, lord of the sacred land. He lets the light shine on thy breast; he illumines for thee the way of darkness”.

-Excerpt from Spell 183 of the Book of the Dead
The Book of the Dead or Going Forth By Day: Ideas of the Ancient Egyptians
Concerning the Hereafter as Expressed in their Own Terms. Translated by
Thomas George Allen. The University of Chicago Press, 1974, pp. 200.

My Kemetic (ancient Egyptian) icons are my answer and my call to the gods of the Nile Valley. However, these gods are not just fixed in space and time, belonging only to the hazy mythos of a long-dead civilization, nor are they solely the gods of ancient Egypt as a historical culture or geographical location. The netjeru or gods are manifestations of the Eternal, beings who both embody and transcend the extraordinary culture that first recognized them as the components of all life. Nor can they be boiled down to mere archetypes, the play of the human intellect as it attempts to define the undefinable and bestow meaning to what is beyond comprehension. I must ask how an archetype is worthy of worship? Do Christians, for example, worship Christ as an archetype of resurrection or salvation? Do they view his power solely as that of some abstract symbol by which the human mind can label a thing hidden deeply within the recesses of its own mind? The answer is self-evident.

The passion of Christianity lies in the physical existence of Christ, in his historical passion of birth, death and resurrection, in the redemption literally passed down to humankind through the spilling of his blood. There is no Jungian symbolism or Freudian theory that can define for Christians the solid truth of Christ’s sacrifice and promise. So too did the ancient Egyptians view their gods as historical and tangible beings, incarnate in and through the created world. Their powers were very immediate, very real to the mind of the Egyptian, who did not bother with abstract universal thinking, but opted instead to experience the Divine in the here and now, in the flesh, and in the world beyond this one that was as earthy and tangible to the Egyptians as their beloved Egypt.

There are those who, in the spirit of New Age thought, assign the gods to the Jungian realm of abstract symbols inherent to emotional states of being, or simply define them as “nature”. The true gods laugh at such egoistic folly, as human beings strive to quantify, label, and explain away through tidy language the quintessence of the Mysteries. My experience of the gods is that just when you find a convenient label to slap on them, they are sure to change and transcend logic in all its secure forms. That is why the netjeru were served by the ancient Egyptians through the cultic rites they called shetau, “the mysteries”, from a word meaning to “make secret”, “make inaccessible”, “mysterious”, “confidential” (Raymond O. Faulkner, A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian, pp. 248-249). The gods so enjoy the delicious complexity of form and symbol, name, color, texture and transformation.

To the ancient Egyptians, each deity was the composite of nearly limitless qualities and manifestations of form. Each assisted in lending the power of recognition to the whole; however, ultimately the gods were mysterious and hidden, experienced truly through the magic of ritual and iconographic forms.

So, I wish not only to connect with the netjeru personally as a devotee summoning up their images within the artistic medium, but also to bring these gods to humankind once more. The mission of my creativity is to literally give birth to the gods, for we are told in the so-called Memphite Theology of the Shabaka Stone that the creator-god Ptah determined the offerings and places of worship of the gods, that he made their body as they desired, and that because of this the gods entered into their bodies of all kinds of wood, minerals, clay, and all kinds of other things that grow thereon (Holmberg, The God Ptah, pp. 22). It is through the artistic medium, then, that the gods make contact with human beings, for the artistic medium is that process by which wood, stone, minerals, clay, and the substances that have sprung from the earth are transfigured into the shapes in which it pleases the gods to dwell.

All text and image copyright © 2011, 2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

Personal Ptah

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I adore Ptah the Great Sculptor of Life,
Giver of all good things to humankind,
Giver of all gifts unto the nations of the world,
The Great Father of humankind Who bestowed
The breath of life to all living things!

He gave the gift of the Sacred Fire to humankind to
Awaken its flesh from darkness and turn away chaos.
He fashioned the body of humankind, bestowing life to form,
Opening up the mouths of all Kas with His arm of divine power.

I adore Ptah the Lord of All Life Who opened up the heart of
My Ka, giving life to the Eternal Body dwelling within my flesh!


Th
e type of relationship I have with Lord Ptah is the closest relationship a human being can have with a deity. It is called “God-owned” in Heathenry. This means that everything in my life, including my very life, belongs first and foremost to Ptah. If He says pick up and move your life for me, I do. If He says I need to do a work, I do it. He is my Father, and the only being Who has that claim legitimately on my flesh, and my soul. My life is lived completely as His vessel, and that is a choice I made of my own free will, because the love I bear Him is so great that the thought of being separated from Him in any way is unthinkable.

I cannot say I know Him, because He is truly unknowable and beyond human comprehension, but I know that I am His, completely and without condition. This kind of love for a deity cannot be jumped into or casually achieved. I have literally walked through death for my Netjer, my Father Ptah, and my life is His to do with as He desires.

All text copyright © 2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

Coming From the Heart: A Conversation With Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa & Anna Applegate~ Part Four

Ptahmassu Portrait

Anna Applegate: What role, if any, do you think Reconstructionist faiths should have in interfaith ambassadorship? Have you personally been involved in such initiatives?

Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa: Personally, I feel that all faiths should take some kind of role in interfaith dialogues, whether that means taking part in a formal interfaith initiative, or simply engaging members of other faiths in discussions and activities from which mutual cooperation and understanding can grow. My experience is that when we invest our interests not only in personal interest, but in the interests of others in the wider spiritual community, we bolster our own personal experience of faith, and create a way for others to understand sacred experiences outside the scope of their own traditions.

When we do this, it helps create awareness and tolerance, which can help to combat prejudice, discrimination, and violence between people of different faiths. Interfaith dialogues have enriched my own appreciation for the traditions I follow, but have also helped me to broaden my perspective, and avoid getting boxed in by closed-mindedness.

Many years ago, when I first began my public spiritual mission, an important part of the work I was doing as a spiritual practitioner and priest was interfaith work, including initiatives for nonviolence and human rights. I had been greatly encouraged in my desire to engage in this kind of work by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, whose interfaith message and teachings on nonviolence have always had a profound influence on my own ethical perspective.

I was invited in October of 1999 (and again in June of 2000) by the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to take part in a series of teachings the Dalai Lama was giving, which I attended in the capacity of visiting clergy in the spirit of interfaith cooperation. The teachings and initiations I received from His Holiness were a significant part of the personal mission I felt was guiding my budding vision as a humanitarian practitioner.

My vision was not only to call for a restoration of the ancient Egyptian spiritual traditions, but also, in a wider perspective, to call for a unity between the practice of religion and human rights ethics…that one could not be separate from the other. In my view, I saw this also as the practice of restoring Ma’at in our world, in cultivating a feeling of solidarity between people of differing views, which could only help in advancing the work of the Sacred Powers. These are all still goals I place at the center of my spiritual practice, which I always strive to include a broader view of the world in which I live and engage.

What I’d really like to see happening is more interfaith dialogue between the various Reconstructionist faiths, and far more cooperation and support between different Kemetic communities. My experience in Kemeticism- both general and Reconstructionist- is that there tends to be a great deal of argument, banter, and disunity between various groups and temples. So much of the fuss seems to be centered around whose version of Kemeticism is the authentic one, or more authentic, or the real thing. Whose interpretation of source texts is correct? Who is using the “right” scholarship to reconstruct the traditions? Which groups have the “real thing”, and which groups don’t?

There is a lot of mud slinging, accusation, and argument taking place that has very little to do with devotion to the Netjeru and Ancestors, and mostly to do with the human ego. Far too much of an emphasis is being placed on source texts and belief, in my opinion, and not near enough emphasis on Sacred Work, cult, devotion, and engagement of the Sacred Powers. After a number of years of trying to connect with other Kemetic groups online, I eventually backed away from online communities entirely, and have concentrated all my effort on building an actual physical cultic house and practice…a hands-on approach, as opposed to a virtual one.

Anna Applegate: Do you believe in evil? If so, how do you define it? How do you avert it?

Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa
: I do believe in evil, yes, and I believe the existence of evil manifests itself in a number of ways. I’d like to begin with a Kemetic view of what evil is, because that’s the spiritual framework I operate in. The Kemetic view of creation gives us two primary forces at play in creation, and these are Ma’at and asfet. Ma’at may be simply defined as “order” and asfet as “chaos”; however, these are very relative terms that need further elucidation. Ma’at is the continuity of the creative process as it was ordered by the Creator God at the beginning of creation, the Zep Tepy or “First Time”, “First Occasion”.

So creation was began and regulated by the Netjer, and established according to a specific pattern of manifestation. The continued existence of all created things is wholly dependent on the maintenance of this pattern, and the tools for accomplishing this were believed in ancient times to have been handed down to the Egyptians for their use. These tools include the Daily Ritual, performed in every temple every day; the engagement of the Netjeru (Gods) through Sacred Works such as temple, votive offerings, and stelae; engagement of the Ancestors, the Blessed Dead; and specific rituals designed to identify and limit the activity of chaos or evil in the material world, which scholars term execration rites.

Ma’at does not just mean “order”, “balance”, “truth” or “right” in the often relative way these terms can be used, but actually the “right way” through which the created world is maintained exactly as the Gods ordered it in Zep Tepy. Ma’at is literally the ongoing process of this divinely regulated creation, which, if deviated from, will result in the collapse of the created world. This collapse, its signs, symptoms and causes, are called asfet, which is anything that upsets the original order of the creative process. Asfet is not just “chaos” or “evil” in a human, social sense, but also self-destruction on the largest possible scale.

The ancient Egyptians were, in a sense, apocalyptic people; they believed in the possibility of cosmic annihilation, which was for them a very real possibility at all times. How could this annihilation be avoided? How can the ongoing process of the divine creation continue? These were the questions that underpinned Egyptian culture and religion. It was through their divinely granted system of rites and rituals that the temples of Egypt engaged the Netjeru in order to keep the Sacred Powers active throughout the human world. These activities were the backbone for the maintenance of Ma’at in ancient Egypt, and without them, Ma’at cannot exist, nor can creation be expanded. The result is asfet, a dissolution of the divinely regulated process of creation.

So how is asfet prevented from gaining a foothold in our world, and infringing on the cohesive force of Ma’at? That is why the Daily Ritual exists, the temple texts were compiled, the rites for engaging the Ancestors and Blessed Dead were established, and this complex framework for divine engagement was woven and remains active in the historical record. So often, modern spiritual celebrants look down on the ancient texts, prayers and rituals as being complicated or restrictive or dogmatic, and wish to move away from them because “these are different times”. They’re not, actually.

The same problems and trials, forms of injustice, and manifestations of chaos exist now that existed in ancient times. The only thing that has changed is our material technology. But the ancient Egyptians were given a tremendous spiritual technology for combating chaos and evil, and this technology is comprised of the liturgies, hymns, ritual gestures and ritual forms that were passed down virtually unchanged for thousands of years. These texts, like those of the Daily Ritual, existed as a direct response to asfet, so that the Netjeru could be directly engaged with humankind in the co-creative process of maintaining and protecting the created world.

In these regards, how do I define evil? I define evil as any force whose aim is to separate myself and the human race from engaging our Sacred Powers and Ancestors in the divine work of Ma’at, which is the maintenance of creation itself. It is by way of our immediate, direct relationships with our Gods and Sacred Powers that this work of protecting creation can continue, and it is our inheritance and responsibility to behave interdependently with the Gods in the furtherance of Their creative work. That is what I recognize as Ma’at, the labor of maintaining the divine creation as it was ordered by the Gods; and evil is anything that rears itself against this sacred relationship, be it human, action, manifestation or entity.

Secondly, I regard evil as that which attempts to strangle our individual mind and conscience from living in the way we know is right. Obviously, this is on a very subjective level, and is deeply personal, but I believe that evil operates in this way; in a way that strives to sever us from our personal knowledge of what is right and wrong, and that includes the operation of our freedom.

Evil seeks to remove our freedom of choice, our freedom of individual conscience, our innate understanding of what is right or wrong for us. Evil strives to entice us into a box, a mode of thinking and living that disregards our conscience and our intellectual and spiritual freedom. Evil for me is any mindset that constricts our ability to reason or choose for ourselves, to operate according to our own free will. Evil is what we are engaging when we prevent others from exercising their free will, when we take away the right or ability of others to choose, think, or live according to their own volition.

Kemetically speaking, but also speaking very much in a general Polytheistic sense, evil can be combated directly through the intimate engagement of our Gods and Sacred Powers. There are very specific rites, rituals, prayers and cult images created for the aversion of evil, and these exist in all Polytheistic traditions. In a Kemetic sense, we have the execration texts and practices, which are a collection of magical recitations and ritual actions designed to hand over the sources of evil and chaos into the hands of the Gods, thereby binding and preventing these sources from operating their influence. These are practices in which I have been trained as a vital part of my work as a priest, and it is certainly one of the basic understandings of what being a priest means.

Being a hem-netjer, a “servant of netjer” or priest, means becoming the hands and feet of the Gods in Their sacred work of maintaining the cosmic order of Ma’at. This means that my primary goal is in the deflection of asfet from within the created world, and this means combating disorder and injustice in as many forms as it takes. How I go about doing this is by using the arsenal of spiritual technology handed down to me by my Ancestors in the historical record, but also by directly engaging the Netjeru and Ancestors throughout all my activities, making sure that I am operating according to Their plan for continuing the process of divine creation.

In another sense, I avert evil by operating according to my conscience, and my conscience tells me that the use of free will, the use of my intelligence to choose for myself, is the strongest threat to evil I can muster. Evil fears free will and freedom itself, which compels the individual mind to think for and act for itself. Evil tells us there is only one way to think, believe, act, and live, and when we try to think outside the restrictive little box, evil closes in and attempts to remove our innate desire for personal freedom.

So, what is a priest, a servant of the Gods to do? He fights evil by looking it directly in the face and declaring I am a free man, and I am going to think for myself! He uses his free will to make choices that do not violate the free will of others to choose, and he summons the Gods and Ancestors each and every day of his life to help him do it! That is how I avert evil!

Anna Applegate: What advice do you give to spiritual seekers who say that they’d like to “work with” a given Deity, as opposed to cultivating a personal devotional relationship with that God or Goddess? Are there ever instances where having a “contractual” relationship with a Power is okay? If not, why not?

Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa: A Kemetic peer of mine recently directed my attention to the way she and others view the concept of “working with” deities. She pointed out to me that “working with” the Gods need not be seen in a negative light, if by “working with” we mean a spiritual partnership with the Gods, a mutually beneficial relationship that can be driven, in Alchemical terms, by the desire to accomplish the “Great Work”.

So, in these terms, I’d have to agree with her, that one can “work with” the deities in a vital partnership for the accomplishment of the highest spiritual labors. We can view the Gods as actually being “hands-on” with us as we endeavor to fulfill our Sacred Work or spiritual aims. Why should we feel that we are alone in the mission of restoring Ma’at, say, to put it in a Kemetic context? The ancient Egyptians saw themselves as participating in the process of maintaining the cosmic order, which was an interdependent process between humankind and the Gods. On the one hand, you have asfet, chaos, the dissolution of the cosmic order of creation, and on the other you have Ma’at, the continuity of creation according to its original framework during Zep Tepy.

Human beings are charged with the task of co-creating with the Gods, keeping the wheels of creation turning properly through maintenance like performing the Daily Ritual. The Daily Ritual is not just “worship” in the contemporary sense of the word, but is actually the vital process through which the cosmos is balanced and directed in a steady course. The ritual episodes of the Daily Ritual are the spiritual technology for engaging the Gods as co-creators with humankind.

Each gesture, each set of prayers, each formula and offering is an integral part of the “work” human beings need to do in order to create harmony with the Gods, which ripples outward to effect the entire created world. So in these regards, “work” is a creative, co-creative process between humankind and the Gods. “Work” means Sacred Work, the labor of engaging the Gods and the Ancestors for the benefit of all created things.

However, I know you’re asking about “working with” the Gods in a way that reads as a strictly business-like, “contractual” relationship, that can sometimes mean the exclusion of a deeper devotional relationship. I’m not fond of “contractual” relationships with deities, and here’s why. Let’s think about our human relationships and how we define them. We have acquaintances, people we know in a casual manner, perhaps like, but don’t necessarily include in our circle of friends…people we might depend on or enjoy spending quality time with.

Then we have people we consider our friends, individuals we actually spend quality time with, share mutual interests with, and generally trust. And then there are those people we have as part of our inner circle of friends, people we might even call our “family”, though there are no blood ties between us. The definitions grow more and more intimate as we define our very best friends, lovers, spouses, and blood family. Think for a moment on how different each of these relationships are, and what each of them contributes to our overall life.

Now let’s apply this outlook to deities. Our relationships with our deities are a two-way street. We are hopefully asking Them to engage with us in a manner that meaningfully contributes to our experience of life, a manner that actually enriches our life and empowers us in every area. We have wants and needs and desires, and we’re asking the Goddesses and Gods to fulfill these. We have “work” to do, and we’re asking Them to help us do this “work”, and sometimes we’re asking Them to do all the “work” for us.

But do we ever stop to consider that the Gods we’re invoking and asking for help are expecting us to meet Them half way? Do we ever anticipate that the level of effort or involvement we bring to the table is going to determine how much our Sacred Powers actually listen to and give us the help we need? Or are we just taking for granted that because the Gods are gods that they’re going to snap to and give us everything we want, simply because They can?

Well, my personal experience over the past 35 years tells me that the Gods are here to help us and to give us the things we want or need. Yes, They will give us what we ask for, and They have the power to do it. However, the Gods expect us to meet Them half way, at least, and They are going to respond in the same manner as we present ourselves to Them. People who use the Gods as some kind of cosmic vending machine are going to find out sooner or later that the Gods stop listening to them and engaging. If we are going to treat Them casually, then They are going to treat us casually.

So, your casual acquaintances, the people you know but don’t consider your closest friends; why don’t you consider them as part of your inner circle, as part of your family…people you know you could depend on in a serious crisis? Probably because your relationship with them is merely polite, casual, friendly but not a truly deep friendship. Maybe you say hello once in a while, or ask them how their day is going. You might see them at work, and now and again exchange a few words.

But who are you going to call when you need someone to really be there and pick up all the pieces for you? You’re going to call the people in your life who have shown you by their effort and actions that they will be there for you and can be completely trusted. We don’t like to think of deities as having these same kinds of discriminating faculties we recognize as being all too human, but They do, and They use them!

If we want our deities to listen to us, be there for us, rescue us, and give us the things we ask for, then we have to be willing to step up to the plate and give Them our time, sincerity, offerings and respect. Without these things as a foundation, the Gods are going to treat us just as casually as we treat Them. If we merely acknowledge the existence of deities, then They are going to merely acknowledge us. They are going to return exactly what we’re willing to give to Them.

Our relationship with our Gods has to come from a genuine effort of cultivation, where we bring our true selves into the dynamic in order to establish a foundation of trust and love, a bond that manifests the blessings of a true and mutual exchange.

The Ancients operated according to the premise of we give because You give, which defines an interdependent system of reciprocity. The Gods give human beings boons, and human beings offer those things back to the Gods. The Gods, then, respond in the selfsame manner, bringing human beings the essence of life, materially and spiritually. But it has to come from both sides. Both Gods and human beings have to meet one another in the middle, otherwise Sacred Work cannot be accomplished, and you will be left with a very one sided partnership.

My experience with people who are “working with” the Gods has often left a bad taste in my mouth, because far too often I see people jumping from pantheon to pantheon every other week (I call them “dharma faeries”), “working with” the Gods in a very skin-deep or superficial manner. I often see these people treating the Gods like a cafeteria, grabbing all the bits and pieces they like, without paying for any of it. Oh, this week I’m “working with” Athena, and next week I’m “working with” Kali. It all get’s very superficial, because instead of actually taking the time and pains to develop a solid relationship with the deities they’re invoking, taking the pains to learn what the deities like to receive within their traditions, people are just snapping their fingers and making demands, then moving on to the next best thing.

I think this kind of spiritual outlook is deeply disrespectful to the Gods, and potentially self-destructive to the people engaging in it. But then again, it all depends on how much you ultimately wish to receive in your interactions with your Gods. You’re going to get no better than what you give, and if you want to grab and go, the Gods are going to grab and go, too. It works both ways, so people need to be conscious of this, that the Gods charge interest on the things we take from Them without bestowing anything in return. The Gods give with one hand, and take with the other.

My honest advice is to check your motives and know your own intentions before approaching any deity…before choosing to “work with” a goddess or god. Be very careful how you ask for the things you want or need, and be prepared to meet the deity on their terms, which I think is very difficult for “dharma faeries” to do. What do I mean by meet the deity on their terms? Gods and Goddesses of all pantheons have a cultural and spiritual framework within which they are used to operating. This is another thing so many people seem to ignore or be unaware of.

Each deity has demonstrated to its devotees throughout history the ways in which she or he likes to be engaged. Deities have favorite foods…oh yes they do! They have colors, textures, smells and sights that have been part of the celebration of their existence since the beginning of their structured worship.

Hellenic deities have a very different flavor and set of expectations than Kemeties deities, or Norse, or Hindu. These are very ancient pantheons, whose desires have been made known and passed down from generation to generation. There’s a reason why- when you examine the devotional track record of any given deity- devotees have brought the same type of offerings to the same deity over very long periods of time.

These aren’t accidents. These aren’t human beings just projecting their own limited framework onto deities. These things become traditions, become part of a deity’s cult, because the deity has indicated, through the bestowal of boons, that such and such an offering is pleasing to them. The same applies to cultic gestures, ritual music, cult images, temple sites, and so on and so forth. Cults are developed through an intimate exchange taking place between people and their gods, and these things shouldn’t be so lightly swept aside if we wish to continue having meaningful relationships with these same deities today.

So, I have to advise people to take some time to learn about the deities you are going to “work with”, if you’re going to develop a “contractual” relationship with them. Demonstrate your respect to that deity or Power by doing your due diligence, as it were, within the tradition that deity has been operating in. Learn the offerings that have been part of that deity’s cult, and have enough respect for these traditions to make a basic effort to include them in your “contract” with the deity.

My own experience is that all deities appreciate even the smallest efforts we make to connect with them in a sincere manner. Starting off on the right foot means bringing your Powers the kinds of offerings they’d expect from those who ask favors of them. If you aren’t willing to offer copious amounts of wine to Dionysus, I can promise you He isn’t going to be interested in anything you have to say!

I don’t think this is rocket science I’m talking about. It’s about basic respect for the Sacred Powers. How can someone demonstrate to you their sincerity to really be your friend? By learning your favorite foods, bringing you your favorite Godiva chocolate on your birthday, knowing your favorite movies, et cetera. The Gods are the very same way. If you want to get Their attention, bring Them the things They love, the things They’ve always wanted, especially if you’re going to ask Them for something in return. People who “work” generally get paid for their labors, and those people wanting the Gods to “work with” them or for them have to be willing to pay for the things they’re asking for. It all comes back to we give because You give.

Anna Applegate: Tell me how Lady Olivia Robertson impacted your work/continues to inspire you.

Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa: I think I was about ten-years-old when I started writing to Lady Olivia. Loreon Vigné (Lora at that time) had initiated me into the Isis Society For Inspirational Studies, and Paul Ramses was helping me to explore the doctrine of reincarnation and past lives, but they wanted me to connect in a much deeper way with the many aspects of the Goddess, the Sacred Feminine, so Lora suggested I introduce myself to Lady Olivia.

You know, at that time I was going through a difficult time in my spiritual development, because my parents were very conservative evangelical Christians. They seemed not to have a problem with my enthusiastic correspondence and telephone conversations with Lora Vigné and Paul Ramses, because I think they considered them more or less as harmless New Age types who were helping me in my “Egyptology studies”. I think they went along with it because I never expressed to them the real nature of my involvement with Egyptian studies, or the kinds of things I was really absorbing from Lora and Paul. But I was lonely, confused, and determined to understand why I felt so strongly called by the Goddesses and Gods of Kemet.

When I wrote to Lady Olivia, she was one of those rare friends who instantly showered me with genuine warmth and interest, who showed a depth of sincerity towards my relationship with the Gods. In one of her first letters to me, Lady Olivia explained how she had had her first physical encounter with the Goddess Isis…the great horned Isis…her first tremendous visitation. With that one letter, Olivia had changed the course of my life, because up until that point I had felt so utterly alone in the experiences I had been having with the very active, living Gods of Egypt.

I sat in my bedroom alone for hours at a time, engaged in what I called my “quiet time”. These were my little meditations, where I calmed my body and mind, and invited the Netjeru to introduce Themselves to me. Slowly but surely the Gods initiated a sparkling relationship and dialogue with me, not as figments of my imagination or archetypes of my subconscious, but as living and breathing manifestations. It was Olivia with whom I could share these experiences, because she was having the same kind of experiences, and it was a great part of her work to help others cultivate their natural spiritual gifts, including awareness of the Gods and Sacred Powers.

If there is one cherished gift Lady Olivia gave to me, it is the gift of remaining open…keeping every single channel I have open to Sacred experience…not closing off my mind to any avenue or form the Sacred might take in order to expand my awareness. So often we fall into that trap. We get caught up in spirituality or religion as an exercise of the intellect, and we lose contact, however temporary, with our intuition and heart.

Lady Olivia always threw the doors of the intuitive heart wide open. She was never closed to any of the Goddesses, Gods, Spirits, Faeries, or Sacred Powers, and that is precisely why she was able to accomplish so much life-altering work everywhere she went, in everything she did. She didn’t accept limitations to spiritual awareness, and her work always seemed to be growing, opening up further doors or channels for the Sacred Powers to reach us. She led such a spiritually vibrant life, so rich in the Gods, and that is her great legacy to all of us.

I believe that Lady Olivia helped save me from my despair and feeling of confinement as a young man. It was such a constricting experience to be raised in the spirit-stifling atmosphere of evangelical Christianity. That kind of environment was a prison for my soul, when all I really wanted was to be with my Gods, to know Them and receive wisdom from Them. I wanted to reconnect with the Netjeru of Kemet, not as some body of mythological, intellectual figures, but as living gods who had the power to shape and transform my life for the better.

Olivia gave that to me, that spark I needed to keep pressing forward in my Sacred Work, even though I felt confined or imprisoned by the faith of my parents. Olivia and Lawrence both had much to offer in regards to how one can live in the midst of close-mindedness, and it was because of their very generous guidance that I was able to maintain my courage to follow my Sacred path, despite the animosity I was eventually subjected to by my parents in their fundamentalist thinking.

What Lady Olivia gave to me, what shaped my work in the past and continues to shape the work I am now engaged in, is this sparkling feeling of joy and devotion for the Gods and Sacred Powers, which really is the foundation of everything Olivia taught. She taught me never to lose my joy, my yearning for sharing with the Gods, my love for the Divine. When you are filled with love and joy, when you are immersed in devotion as an offering of your life and consciousness, then the pull of despair and darkness cannot touch you…it cannot pull you down or destroy you.

When you come open-hearted and sincerely engaged to all of life’s tasks, when you allow the Sacred to breathe through all the things you do, then your life cannot help but be anything other than good. And these are the things Lady Olivia taught me that have shaped my work, past and present. I don’t think I could elaborate on that.

Anna Applegate: You’ve recently launched a business called Icons of Kemet. What prompted you to launch it? What words of advice can you give to people who want to transition to spiritually based entrepreneurship? How has the interaction of business concerns and a spiritual ethos been playing itself out for you?

Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa: My journey with Icons of Kemet began a number of years ago. In 2009 I co-founded Temple of Ptah Nevada as a Kemetic Reconstructionist temple devoted to the restoration of authentic ancient Egyptian spirituality, and part of that work, quite naturally, is the revival of Kemetic iconography or cult images.

As a priest of the God Ptah, I regard it as a vital component of my Sacred Work to revitalize the energetic link that has always existed between the Netjeru and Their historical iconography. Icons or cult images are much more than mere symbols or reminders of a deity’s presence and powers; they are, in fact, physical and living embodiments of that presence and power, open channels through which the Netjer maintains Their activity within the domain of Sacred Space.

Icons of Kemet is first and foremost a tradition and way of life, before it is a “business” in the outer world. What gives Icons of Kemet its legitimacy and mission is its direct link with the Netjeru as living Gods Who maintain contact with the physical world we inhabit. It is through the creation and activation of icons that a gateway remains open for the Netjeru to enter our world, and Icons of Kemet is operating as one of those gateways, perpetuating the physical manifestation of Netjer in our world.

In a “business” sense, the creation of Icons of Kemet is the outcome of two key factors in the continuation of my Sacred Work. The first is the simple fact that devotees of the Netjeru need to have access to Sacred images for use in their worship. It is by way of such images that individuals and temple communities can know they are activating Sacred Spaces for their traditions, and are honoring the Netjeru by maintaining the images of the cult. So, in these regards I wanted to provide the highest quality images of the Netjeru that could continue to serve the Gods and Their devotees in the contemporary world.

Secondly, I realized that the Gods had given me a valuable gift, not only as a means of celebrating Their cults, but also in eventually being able to financially support the temples my husband and I are on a mission to build. You know, DeTraci Regula, Arch Priestess of Temple of Isis California, said something during the 2014 Isis Symposium that has stuck with me every day since. DeTraci was giving a lecture about the continuation of the ancient temples today, and she said that each one of us- as priestesses and priests- came into this world with a unique gift that was ours alone, and that this gift was something that only we could do, and that if we didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done. What we needed to do, she said, was find this gift, develop it, and let that be our path to service. Very wise words!

I think I reached a point in my work a few years ago when it dawned on me that I was sitting on the means to cultivate financial prosperity for our temples, and that was my gift as an iconographer and painter. If I could eventually generate enough interest in my work, I could not only satisfy the needs of the Kemetic community to have special images of its Gods, but at the same time put those images to work in support of our temples. Sure, I could go out and try to find a “normal” day job and try to use that income to fund some of our temple’s goals, or I could use the skills the Gods gave me to celebrate Them and sustain the revival of Their traditions.

The fine art market has opportunities for unique work, and there are patrons out there who will pay huge sums of money for the kind of work I’m offering; and what better way could I find to bring in an income for our Sacred Work, than by using the very images of the Gods to help make Their modern temples a living reality? That is our ultimate goal, as far as a “business” focus is concerned.

I think spiritually based entrepreneurship is a very noble pursuit, but it is also a tremendous risk, and a painfully difficult concept to make feasible in today’s economic climate. The only reason I’ve been able to devote my working life to Icons of Kemet is because we have a full time income from my husband’s career to support our life’s needs; otherwise, there is no possible way I could be maintaining my current vocation. It’s a very difficult trade off, because it means making sacrifices of things we really want in the short run, so that we can manifest the bigger picture.

My advice to others is to first take a good hard look at your goals and priorities, and organize your business plan accordingly. I would also strongly suggest making sure you have some secondary form of income flowing regularly into your household…an income source you can wholly depend on. That way, should something go wrong, or the profitability of your business not manifest, your household will still be secure.

Also, don’t limit the possible financial success of your business by being closed-minded to generating the highest possible income from your endeavors. There seems to be this attitude in the spiritual community at large that making money is a negative activity, and that to be spiritually ethical one must somehow be impoverished, or hand out one’s assets for next to nothing. I face this constantly in my work, where people somehow feel that because I’m an iconographer, and my work is “religious”, that it somehow has less value, and should be just handed out. People have this mindset that if it’s spiritually sound, it should not be given a monetary value. I’m definitely not one of those people!

My experience is that so many people in the Neopagan, spiritual community believe they have this innate right to everything spiritual, and that if someone is asking for financial compensation for their spiritual work, they are doing wrong. I think the moral wrong is actually in the reverse, to actually expect a person to deny their right to make a living and support their household just because their vocation or business has a spiritual focus, which you feel you have some right to.

Everyone has a right to food, clothing, and shelter; to pay their rent or mortgage, support their family and obligations, and pursue their path to personal happiness. We live in a society that requires money for everything, and we can complain about that, throw a tantrum about it and fight it, or we can find ways to make that system work for us and our higher, spiritual goals. That is exactly what I’m doing, and I think it requires a thick skin, a strong vision, and enough personal strength to go against the grain, even of one’s spiritual community.

All text copyright © 2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa, Rev. Anna Applegate

Coming From the Heart: A Conversation With Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa & Anna Applegate~ Part Three

Ptahmassu Portrait

Anna Applegate: The theme of this Autumn issue is “Dark Nights of the Soul.” Would you be willing to share an anecdote of how the Neteru have helped you through personal challenges or episodes of despair? Are they currently helping you navigate the powerful currents of any life challenges?

Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa: I could share so many “dark nights of the soul” with your readers, but I will share just one, which will be quite enough to express how my Netjeru have guided and saved me throughout my life. There is one thing I’d like to say about the Gods in general. I’ve encountered an attitude as I’ve worked with other Kemetics throughout the years that the Netjeru and human beings are something like cats and dogs…they just don’t mix!

There seems to be this undercurrent within a number of Kemetic communities I’ve encountered that seems to reinforce this view that we can worship the Gods, make offerings to Them, fear Them, but not have a close and personal relationship with Them. I have to say that this attitude is ridiculous, and is refuted entirely by the historical record.

Museums around the world are filled with stelae, ex-votos, letters, inscriptions, and votive offerings deposited at both major and minor temple sites throughout Egypt, and these are objects that give testimony to people who have had their most fervent prayers answered by the Gods, and so have dedicated a monument or offering in order to pay thanksgiving to the Gods. Both women and men made petitions for fertility and conception through symbolic offerings at temples, and the textual record from devotional stelae and prayers is immense!

The ancient Egyptians believed that their Netjeru could and did intervene on their behalf, bring healing and relief from suffering, grant requests for material or emotional needs, and deliver Their devotees from death. The massive quantity of devotional figures, amulets, and cult images recovered from town and village sites is proof enough that average Egyptians believed in the immediate presence and power of their Gods, and wanted their Gods close to them!

Honestly, from a very human point of view, what good is a deity who is removed from our daily life and suffering? What need have we for gods that can’t or won’t hear our prayers…who demand worship but refuse to be engaged? What can any such deity or deities possibly offer us? And who would offer prayers or make offerings to such a deity? I’d say the answer is self-evident. Humankind has always responded to deities who are actually involved in human life, needs, sufferings and desires.

Human beings establish ties and relationships with the Sacred Powers because they give us something we need for our physical and emotional survival. More than that, the Gods we worship or call upon actually answer us! We receive a response from Them that creates a bond, and a powerful sense that we are not walking alone. That is the reason religions have survived the test of time. Without a response from the Sacred, religion would cease to exist.

My relationship with my Gods has always been immensely personal. I can’t put my finger on an exact moment and say, oh, there it is, that’s the moment that did it for me! I think I just have a naturally devotional nature, and that nature needs to give and receive love, to feel an intimate exchange between myself and the other. I have never been casual or superficial. If I am going to love, I do it fully and deeply, with abandon; otherwise, I’d rather not be bothered. This is how I love my Gods, and it has never occurred to me that such a relationship was anything other than natural.

I was raised in a very strict, traditional Christian family…a church going family. My siblings and I were trained to memorize bible verses every single day, and attending church services twice a week was compulsory. But for me, there was an emptiness in Christianity, a void because the Christian god and his son were shown to me as aloof, judgmental, vengeful, and completely removed from human affairs. The Christian god I was raised with was an angry god who demanded at all times to be worshiped, but refused to show himself or engage actively with the lives of his followers.

For me, this just never worked. If you want to be my god, if you want me to acknowledge your power and greatness and sacrifices, then you had better answer my prayers, manifest your intervention in my life, and speak to my heart directly. In a manner of speaking, you better bring it to the table, and be ready to throw down…you know what I’m saying?! I don’t want to hear that it’s all there in a book, because words are meaningless to me unless they’re backed up by action.

And I think that’s always been the real difference between Pagans/ Polytheists and monotheists, ancient and contemporary. The Abrahamic religions, the religions of the book, have precisely that, a book. They have faith because they are told to, in books that are the law. Pagans and Polytheists have always asked for, and received, much more than the word from their Gods. Paganism and Polytheism have always been traditions of reciprocity and mutual exchange…I give because You give.

The ancient Gods have always backed up Their end of the deal through direct intervention and demonstration of powers; what I’d call “miracles”. The Gods are anything but removed from the daily lives, cares, and needs of Their devotees. They answer prayers directly, and They show Their living presences throughout the natural, material world They created. They do not demand our worship simply because They’re Gods, but through the immediate demonstration of Their powers, Their ability to govern life’s forces and bend these to Their will. They speak to us directly, and They are willing to prove to us just who They are and how They shape our lives!

My life has been shaped by my Gods, my Netjeru, Who have always answered my prayers directly, even when the answer had to be no, or you’ll have to wait…or you need to rethink what you’re asking for. I have never felt separated from the Netjeru, and no more so than during my “dark nights of the soul”.

Lord Ptah is my namesake, that you know. I also serve Ptah as a hem-netjer or priest, and, as an iconographer or craftsman of cult images, I look to Ptah for His blessing and empowerment in my craft. I could cite all kinds of esoteric or mystical reasons why Ptah called to me, why I answered, and why I honor Him above other gods…above my own life; however, the simple truth is that He saved me. He took me by the hand, quite literally, and led me through a darkness that very nearly claimed my life. And that is His claim on me, this moment of crisis when I trusted in Him and gave my life over into His hands. It is the time that culminated in my life-altering decision to formally receive a Kemetic name from Ptah, but also to belong to Him as His son.

1997 was a turning point in my spiritual life. After years of cultivating a relationship with the Netjeru of Kemet, devoted study, and spiritual guidance from Gods and earthly teachers, I was prepared to take the next and most serious step towards formal ordination as a priest. This was to be a spiritual initiation and transformation, not a legal ordination within an established religious organization. That would come later, and as a formality only. For me, initiation and ordination are not experiences that can be conferred by others. We can go through a physical ceremony performed by others in the name of a religious body, and can receive a piece of legal paperwork that certifies our standing within a religious community, but these things alone do not confer the actual mystical empowerment of initiation or ordination.

My initiation into the Priesthood of Ptah came by ordeal. When I say ordeal, I am talking about a deeply transformative personal experience that- by virtue of the level of emotional or physical pain involved- leads directly to an epiphany that results in one’s spiritual awakening into the mystical knowledge of a deity’s tradition or mythos. Each culture or tradition has its own expression of ordeal, which can take the form of rites of passage, during which those undergoing them are bestowed with a certain kind of knowledge or confirmation, an inner blessing or guidance for their life path.

Many Mystery traditions and cults have this concept as the “dark night of the soul”, when one must undergo a painful self-examination, or a set of experiences whose outcome will determine whether or not an initiate is prepared to be inducted into the Sacred Mysteries proper. Such Mystery traditions or cults, like the Eleusinian and Dionysian Mysteries, use vivid experiences of ecstasy and terror to induce consciousness of the Sacred Powers directly within the minds and hearts of its celebrants. Joy and ecstasy can certainly be powerful tools for engaging the Gods and drawing forth empowerment from Their Mysteries, however, it is my experience that initiation often comes through ordeal, which can be the “dark night of the soul”.

I had recently ended a long term relationship, which had slowly dissolved because of the religious differences between my partner and I. The more I had become immersed in my relationship with my Gods, the more he had felt excluded, threatened, and distanced from me. My partner had not found his own spiritual path, and due to traumatic experiences in his childhood, could not bring himself to accept anything resembling organized religion. What I was doing- being that it was so all-encompassing, so pervasive in my life- was ultimately too “religious” to be reconciled with his life path and direction, and we could no longer see eye to eye. It was the most devastating termination of a relationship I had had. But the situation as it played out have given me an ultimatum: it was follow my Gods, or stay with the man I loved. I chose my Gods.

This was the beginning of my initiation, which I see as the process of me coming into awareness of what my spiritual path really was. It wasn’t the Netjeru who made me choose between my faith or my man; that choice was solely mine, and I had free will to do as I pleased. I could have stayed in the relationship, and accepted that he and I would not harmonize in our spiritual beliefs. However, I wanted to devote each and every aspect of my life to service to my Gods, and that very much included any committed relationship I would invite into my life. If I had human love in my life, that love needed to embrace service to the Netjeru as its foundation; otherwise, there would be only a disharmony that would ultimately hold back the Sacred Work I felt compelled to do for the Netjeru.

At that time I had no job and no savings, only a large line of credit, which I used to secure myself an apartment while I looked around the city for employment. It was then that I shaved my head for the very first time, and donned the white robes that for me signified taking on the Sacred Mantle of priesthood. Shaving my head was a revolutionary step for me, for I had always had a full head of lustrous dark hair, and had been raised with a certain sense of pride that it was the hair that made the man. But for me, the shedding of my hair was part of the sacrifice I was offering my Netjer, Who Himself was smooth of scalp, and Whose ancient priests had shaved their heads during their time of service.

These are the little things we do for our Gods when we decide to make service to Them more important than the ephemeral things of this material world. We can give up our vanity, our sense of self-importance, our innate feeling that we indeed are the center of the universe. We learn through initiation that the Gods are great, that They are alive throughout Their creation, and that our life is the miracle of Their divine hands. We learn to see the bigger picture, that the Sacred Powers are far larger than us, and that we are engaged in an interdependent relationship with Them. When They give, we give…and when we give, They give.

It is in our smallest gestures of love and devotion that are contained the seeds for a larger spiritual awakening, which are bestowed through the fruits of true service, which has nothing to do with the ego, and everything to do with love for its own sake. When one truly loves the Gods, one simply gives, out of instinct; but it is this very instinct, this altruistic instinct, that manifests the most profound rewards. This I have learned only too well.

I seemed not to have found the job I was looking for, my credit ran out, and so did my ability to pay my rent. With the last sum of credit to my name I rented a small self-storage unit, put my shrines, my icons, my books, and my life into storage, and began a strange period of self-imposed homelessness. Most people in my situation would have been desperate at that point, and perhaps not a little spiritually desolate. But something kept me charged and invigorated from within, and perhaps strangely rebellious, too; refusing to acknowledge the seriousness of my situation, or see in it something self-destructive. Instead, I welcomed it, knowing that no matter how painful things became on a skin-deep level, that underneath it all would be the answer to my path in the Netjeru.

I stayed with friends, and friends of friends, sleeping on a couch here or a floor there, scrounging coffee and food from friends at my favorite corner café; and all the while studying the Sacred Texts of the Pert-em-hru or Book of Coming Forth By Day. When a couch or a floor wasn’t on offer for the night, I found relatively safe places to sleep outside, in apartment hallways or beneath shop awnings. I made friends with homeless men who had been forced into their lifestyle through desperate circumstances, and I never felt sorry for myself. I looked for the Gods in everything, continued to shave my head in the sink of a local park restroom, and did absolutely nothing to extricate myself from my ridiculous situation.

One afternoon, I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop reading the Pert-em-hru when I was approached by a young man carrying a copy of the Corpus Hermeticum (or Hermetica). He was Indian, and I knew by his Dastar or turban that he was a Sikh. He told me that he had been watching me for a little while and felt that I might be the person he was looking for. Apparently it was his birthday, and he had given himself a vacation to San Diego as a birthday present. It was in a used bookstore down the street that he had discovered a copy of the Hermetica, which he believed was a much later manifestation of ideals that had been handed down by the temples of Pharaonic Egypt.

It was a teacher of the ancient Egyptian religion he was looking for, and he told me he believed I was that teacher. I invited him to sit down with me, and for the next several hours we engaged in a very animated conversation concerning the Netjeru of Kemet, and the fundamental points of view that defined the religious traditions of ancient Egypt. Finally, the young man told me he was flying back home to Vancouver, British Columbia the following day, and asked me if I would go back with him in the role of his spiritual teacher.

I look back on this event now and realize that it was one of those crossroads people reach that wind up changing the course of their lives. I did not see myself as a spiritual teacher at that time, but as a priest-initiate, traveling through my own personal demons and experiences in order to come into awareness of my ultimate spiritual path. It was not my devotion to my Gods that I was questioning, but my ability to guide and inspire others; for what right does a man in crisis have to advise others in how to pick up the pieces of their life and serve the Gods? That was how I felt then, but I realize now that I was in exactly the right place at the right time, having been guided by the hand of Ptah to the next stage of my initiation.

I flew with Sukhi to Vancouver the next day, never stopping to ask myself how I would be able to fly back to America if things didn’t work out. I had no money in my pocket, no resources of my own, and I was walking blindly into the unknown…into a country I had never visited, with a young man I hardly knew. What I did have was this certainty that I was being guided and taken care of, that Lord Ptah and my Netjeru were asking me to go on this pilgrimage of sorts, where I would have the opportunity to refine my understanding of the spiritual quest, and my own understanding of myself.

Vancouver was a beautiful city, and Sukhi spent the first few days taking me to all the major landmarks, together with the places he loved. We visited the Sikh Gurdwara or mosque where he and his family attended sacred services, which inspired me greatly through the devotion that seemed to be the fabric of that faith. Throughout the evenings, and long into the nights, Sukhi and I debated religion, and I instructed Him in the myths and sacred texts of the Netjeru of Kemet. I shared with him my own devotional compositions, and chanted for him in the ancient Egyptian language.

I had brought only one icon with me, and that was my first icon of Lord Ptah I had purchased as a birthday present for myself with money I received for my 14th birthday. Marble and gold with blue and black enamel, this Ptah was a reproduction of the famous cult statue of Ptah found by Howard Carter in the tomb of Tutankhamun. Every morning we lit a candle and incense in front of Ptah while I chanted the words from the Daily Ritual, and every night we veiled Ptah and “put Him to bed”.

Sometimes we stayed up until the next morning, as Sukhi urged me to read the Pert-em-hru- the Book of Coming Forth By Day- to him out loud. Sukhi had a voracious appetite for spiritual learning, and my time with him in Vancouver felt like a teacher’s boot-camp, where the Netjeru were refining my abilities to share the Sacred Traditions with others, and giving me the opportunity to expand my learning as I was teaching. It was also in Vancouver where I discovered an emotional and spiritual peace I had not known for quite some time; not since before the breakdown of my long term relationship.

But it was not to last. In the middle of the night one night, Sukhi received a long-distance telephone call from a family member in India. His uncle was gravely ill, and his mother wanted him to come home so that he could be there in the event of death. His mother was purchasing airline tickets for Sukhi, and he would be flying out for India in a matter of days. I was stunned. Sukhi asked me what I was going to do, as I had no money or friends or connections in Vancouver, save him. That great sinking feeling overtook me the moment I realized the true test had come. My days of peace and devotion and philosophical introspection were coming to an end.

I had avoided the inevitable for as long as I could, and it was time to pay the piper. How I would have loved to continue my days in the chilly air of a Vancouver Fall, strolling through parks with Sukhi as we debated the chapters of the Coming Forth By Day. How I longed to spend my evenings in devotion, chanting before my icon of Lord Ptah, sharing the incense and flame of candles with Sukhi as he grew deeper into the Mysteries of the Netjeru. What I knew I wanted from my life was a life of devotion, where I was free to serve the Gods through Their ancient rites, and to restore the traditions of the ancient sanctuaries as fully as possible. I wanted to teach, to learn, to be absorbed in the Netjeru; and the very last thing I wanted was the one thing I feared was going to happen, now that Sukhi would be leaving for India.

This was the beginning of the darkest part of my dark night of the soul. Sukhi asked me about my family, if they could help me fly back to San Diego and get me back on my feet. This was the one thing I feared the most. I think I would have gladly cut one of my fingers off if I could have avoided asking anything, let alone this, from my family. Were there any other options? What did Lord Ptah want me to do? Would the Netjeru reveal any other choices or roads I could take to extricate myself peaceably from this situation?

I performed a divination, which was inconclusive, made an offering to Ptah, and asked Him to give me a straight answer in a dream. Dreams have always been used by the Netjeru to communicate important information to Their devotees, and my relationship with Them was no exception. My experience has always been that the Netjeru will answer my questions through the signs and symbols of a dream experience. That night I left the candle in front of Ptah burning, and the Lord unveiled. We did not “put Him to bed” as we had on other nights, and the golden glow of His face was the last thing I saw before I drifted into an uneasy sleep, my heart aching with a feeling of premonition.

In my dream the Lord Ptah appeared as He always had, but instead of giving me His usual blessing…pulling me into His body with His left hand, while stroking the back of my head with His right hand….He removed the white blessing shawl I often wore around my shoulders for the Daily Ritual, and tossed it into the air. The shawl flew through the air like a bird, gathering speed as it soared closer and closer to the ground. The ground took the shape of California, and my blessing shawl fluttered to the earth in the City of San Diego. Ptah pointed at me in a fierce gesture that seemed to strike me like a dart at the level of my heart, and then backed away.

When I woke up with a start, my heart racing and the lump in my throat rising, I knew what I had to do. I was going home to San Diego, and I was going to have to swallow my pride, my pain, my fear, and the outward practice of my faith, and accept the help of my family. I tried one last time to negotiate with the Gods, bringing my tears and heartache before Ptah, begging Him to open up some other way for me. As soon as I began my prayers, I heard His voice in my heart saying “Swallow your tears, my son, and do what you have to do!”

At this point I began to suffer excruciating dental pain from a couple of teeth I knew were probably abscessed, which made the physical, material aspects of my plight omnipresent. Since breaking up with my partner I had lived in a world of suspended responsibility, refusing to take the serious steps that were needed to make myself self-sufficient and productive in society. What I wanted was to be a spiritual recluse, to live as some kind of Kemetic hermit, considering nothing except for devotional service to my Gods.

But was that really the way to serve the Netjeru, by retiring from my worldly responsibilities so I could chant and read the Pert-em-hru all day? Was refusing to take care of my material needs really the way to teach others how to engage the Gods and develop a personal relationship with Them? I don’t think I wanted to hear the answers to those questions then. I resented time. I resented money and the material world. I resented any form of responsibility that would take me away from my daily devotions to the Netjeru; and now, the Netjeru were sending me back to San Diego to immerse myself in all the things that I had been running away from.

In the end Sukhi wound up taking me to the airport and dropping me off unceremoniously in one of the massive and noisy lobbies. He said his goodbyes very sheepishly, ashamed, I think, of having brought me to Vancouver in the first place, and then leaving me stranded at the airport without food, money, or a sure flight back to San Diego. This left me to try my luck with friends, attempting to call everyone I knew before daring to call my mother’s house and beg for her help. When that eventuality finally came, it was certainly the hardest phone call I have ever made in my life.

My relationship with my mother was a strained one, and she was, as a strong evangelical Christian, anything but welcoming of my faith. She made it painfully clear to me how undesirable my presence in her house would be, and I waited a number of hours in that airport while my mother and stepfather debated and discussed whether or not they were going to help me come home.

Home. That’s a cozy way of putting my return to a place where I was unwelcome. I knew this was going to be difficult, painful, an emotional battle up hill, but I think I had underestimated just how much I was going to have to sacrifice to get myself back on my feet. There I was, standing in my mother’s kitchen, a malnourished and shaven-headed waif, still wearing the white yoga pants and long-sleeve linen shirt I wore beneath my outer priest robe; looking for all the world like a Buddhist monk or a Hare Krishna, my lapis prayer beads with silver Ptah pendant hanging around my neck. It was then that my mother spilled her mind concerning my choice of religious vocation, the direction my personal life, and life in general, had gone, and the gross disappointment I had turned out to be. I listened to her lecture, as she verbally dismantled everything I believed in, sharing no sense of love or sorrow or sympathy with the recent dissolution of my long term relationship.

What she could say about my religion, other than its non existence as a defunct pagan idolatry, was that I had not been raised to shave my head, wear a robe, and wander the streets of Hillcrest without a proper job. I had been raised to wear nice clothes, to drive a nice car, to have nice things and live in a nice house; and “nice” meant having a certain amount of money in the bank, living with a sense of pride in all my “nice” worldly things, and having a “nice” normal job that would eventually land me a six figure salary. What my mother regarded as a “successful” life was a life in which I amounted to something of financial and material value in the eyes of the world.

What would make me a real man, a “successful” man, was working an average of 50 or 60 hours a week, so that I could have all those “nice” things in that “nice” house…that I could come home to after I got done with my 12 hour day at my “nice” and “successful” job. After my mother was finished with her tirade, I listened to more of the same from my stepfather. Needless to say, I was at that point thoroughly demoralized, and probably as emotionally devastated as I have ever been in my life.

That night, I sat on my old futon in the guest bedroom of my parent’s house, my overwhelming sense of desperation growing stronger by the hour. I had been told that the prayer beads would have to come off, the hair would have to grow back, and I would be expected to conform to my parent’s standards of normality for the length of my stay in their house, which was still a subject of intense debate. I think I have rarely been in a place where I have felt such a profound lack of love or empathy, or even humanity, and have wished myself removed from the face of the earth. But there I sat, feeling all at once abandoned and wholly dejected, wondering how such a woman could have given me birth, and how I could have let myself come to this. On top of it all, my abscessed teeth had reached a point of crisis, and I was in nearly unbearable agony. What could I do but pray, begging Lord Ptah to bring me some kind of comfort, however small, and to send me a light from somewhere other than there!

My mother came into the guest bedroom with one of her prescription bottles of Vicodin for my tooth pain, which was about as much as she did to bring me a touch of humane comfort in the midst of my struggles. I sat there staring at that bottle, wondering how many it would take to get rid of the pain. Yes, I said to myself, how many would it take? The thought of taking enough Vicodin to end my life seemed perfectly natural to me at that moment. I wasn’t frightened at the prospect of suicide, only frightened by the thought of not taking enough, and enduring the consequences that could follow. I was perfectly calm as I read the label warning against accidental overdose, and made up my mind that I didn’t want to be here anymore…in this world, in this place, in this “family”.

As soon as I made that decision, I somehow felt better than I had in the past few days, and got up to go to the adjoining bathroom for a glass of water to take the Vicodin. I sat the bottle of pills on the edge of the bedside table, and felt a strange calm settle over my throbbing mouth. I still felt the surreal pain coursing through my jaw and throat, but suddenly felt that it was happening to someone else; like I was a visitor in someone else’s body, without having to feel the effects of their pain for myself.

When I came back into the bedroom, the bottle of Vicodin was nowhere to be seen, and I looked around the foot of the bedside table, figuring that the bottle had fallen off the table after I sat it down. It had. It was there just under the edge of the bed. I felt myself bend over to pick up the bottle, saw my hand reach out to touch it, but somehow I felt once again that these were the movements of someone else, and that I was just a visitor. And then I saw something that stopped me exactly where I was. I saw the feet and legs of Ptah standing in front of me. This was no delusion or hallucination, and, despite the excruciating amount of pain I was in, I was still in my right mind. I felt awake, lucid, though still as if I were a visitor in another man’s body.

I let go of the bottle, but refused to stand up straight. I have seen the feet of Ptah many times in my life, and for those of you who have, you know exactly what I’m talking about. His bandaged feet, swaddled in the purest white linen, were actually there in that room with me, and the air was suddenly heady with His sandalwood scent. This was no vision, but a physical reality that I still choose to believe was the living God Ptah.

My heart beat fast in terror as the realization struck me that this was no projection of my subconscious mind during a state of meditation, but a solid manifestation of my Netjer standing before me. I did not see Him move, though I felt the palpable touch of His hands at the nape of my neck. At once, terror, at once disbelief; at once, the realization that I was back in my body, present and painfully aware of what my actions could result in. The throbbing in my mouth reminded me that this body was mine…or was it?

Within the spiritual view of some members of the Heathen community, there is the concept of being “God-owned”, which means that a devotee, of their own free will, has offered up the entirety of their being into the hands of a specific deity. This is a complete relationship of service, devotion, and worship, where the devotee entrusts the fruits and direction of their human life to the care and use of the deity. This is the strongest possible bond that can exist between a deity and human being, and it is a consummate one, integrating everything in a devotee’s life as part of the vehicle of service for the deity. This in no way means exclusion of other deities as part of a devotee’s spiritual life; however, it does mean that this sacred relationship is the primary relationship in one’s spiritual life, which spills over into every single facet of one’s life to encompass even the tiniest aspect of our mortal life.

I have never heard of the term “God-owned” being used within the Kemetic or Kemetic Reconstructionist communities, and I myself never consciously used it until only a few years ago; but now, looking back on this dark night of the soul, I realize that it was then and there, the very moment I had decided to take my own life, when I became Lord Ptah’s own kin, His “God-owned”, to put it in the way of some of my Heathen peers.

It was then and there that Lord Ptah claimed me, charged me with His sacred blessing, and made my flesh the container of His holy purpose. I was no longer the owner of my own skin, free to dispose of it in any way I saw fit, but was, as an instrument for His Sacred Work, a tool in His hands…clay in the hands of the Sculptor of Life. And I knew this then, with more certainty than I have ever known anything in my life.

It was Lord Ptah Who cut through my self-pity and raging sorrow, allowing me to break free of my personal demons in order to come into the awareness of my spiritual gifts and purpose. I suddenly felt that my physical pain was inconsequential, temporary, and would ultimately fall away to leave a renewed man in its place. I understood, as I stood there at the feet of Lord Ptah, that it was through this purifying fire of Sekhmet, His consort, that I would be healed from my own ignorance and self doubt. These would be burned away, perhaps slowly at first, but would in time give rise to my full purpose as Ptah created it.

I had heard my Kemetic name before, in the back of my mind during meditations, and I had begun to use it in my Kemetic work with peers and colleagues, but I had not formally accepted it from Ptah, nor made the final decision to take it as my legal name until that night. It was there in the presence of Ptah that I took my personal vows as His priest, and the nectar of this experience I recorded in a prayer which I call my “heart prayer” of Ptah. For me, this prayer sums up the innermost nature of being “God-owned” or fully consecrated to a deity. It also speaks to its reader of the living nature of the living God Ptah, Who is the Creator of the Gods, and the Father-Mother of all living things:


Ho
mage to You, Ptah,

And hail to the Gods Who came forth from Your members!

O Ptah of life,
O Ptah of light,
O Ptah of mercy,
Hear my prayer.

O Ear that hears,
O Eyes that see,
O Hands that bless,
Receive my offering.

O Father Ptah,
I give You my heart.
O Father Ptah,
I give You my hands.
O Father Ptah,
I give You my breath,
O Father Ptah,
I give You my ka.
O Father Ptah,
I give You my name.
O Father Ptah,
I receive Yours in return.
O Father Ptah,
I give You my sorrow.
O Father Ptah,
I receive Your power in return.
O Father Ptah,
I become Your own flesh.
O Father Ptah,
You become the Lord of my life.

O Ptah of life,
May Your life be my life.
O Ptah of light,
May Your light be my light.
O Ptah of mercy,
May Your compassion
Liberate me; I who came forth
From Your body!

I am also a priest of the Great Goddess Auset, Who has been with me from the time I was a child. There are a number of “dark nights of the soul” stories I could recount from my many years of walking with the Goddess, but because time is short and space is limited here, I have chosen to tell a story of my darkest night of the soul that I have never written down before, and have told only one person, my husband. However, I wanted to end this segment of the interview with a recitation of two very dear prayers I wrote in response to Auset having rescued me during my dark nights of the soul. These are prayers I have continued to use whenever I feel the pull of darkness in my life, whenever I need to bring forth the Light. May they touch all with the same Sacred illumination.

Great Goddess Isis, I have heard Your call in my heart, and I vow to love and serve You until I take my final breath.

O Isis, I take up the knot of the sacred red thread, and I tie this knot around my heart. My vow to serve You is a vow to serve all living things in creation.

My vow to You is to love all beings, to heal all the afflicted, to save all those in peril, to take the hands of those without a friend.

May my life be the vessel of Your kindness, generosity and abundant love.
I reject none, and take unto myself the needs of all creatures in the world.

Receive my vow, O Isis, and may Your great work flourish in my heart for millions upon millions of years!

O Isis Myrionymous, the Many-Named,
Mother of the World, the Great Enchantress,
Whose nightly footsteps spin the sea
Of stars in the celestial vault!
O Bride, veiled, O Mysterious One,
The throne of the Mysteries.

I enter in silence, I depart in gratitude,
Knowing that not even the primordial gods
Have knowledge of Your true name or
Secret, eternal form.
O Goddess, I come into the bosom of
Your protection and wisdom,
Seeking virtue, and hail You as
Isis the Life-Giver, Isis the Axis of the World,
The Savior Who charts the way for the
Lost upon the waters.

Holy Isis, Your throne is virtue,
And to Your disciples in Egypt You
Are Auset, the Divine Seat, in Whose
Lap the God dwells, in Whose wings
Was reared the Sacred Falcon,
In Whose lotus womb was nurtured
The seed of the Resurrected One!

O Ee-sees, the Traveler, the Lady upon the
Waters! The sea is Your veil, churning,
The mighty roar of the wind Your command,
Ordering the heights and the depths in Your
Feared name of Pelagia!

O Queen of Heaven, circled by light,
Diademed with the riches of constellations,
Hallowed as the alabaster crescent and
Silver disk!
Bring me close to Your starry feet,
To know Your paths traversed through
The realm of the Gods.

May Heaven open and Earth take witness,
And may the Gods rejoice,
For all that was ill is renewed in You,
O Isis the Breath of Life!
All that has passed away is brought back
To life, for You are the Weaver of destinies,
Whose command alone reorders the fates
Dictated by the stars!

O Veiled One, Ast-Amenti, come forward,
Taking my hand, washing my heart, bestowing
Knowledge! For You, O Bride of the West,
Are the countenance of Eternity and Everlasting!
You, O Isis the Queen of Heaven, are the ladder
Upon which Souls are reunited with the celestial beginning,
And in You I take refuge, in You I become a
Disciple of the Sacred Way.

All text copyright © 2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa, Rev. Anna Applegate