Heart of Red Jasper Is Your Name

Heart of Red Jasper is Your Name

The Goddess Nuit brings you with her lips when she comes;
west’s mouth opens at twilight where your flashing star rises.
Your luminescence foretells the rising flank of the naked moon;
‘lips of lapis lazuli’ is your name at the moment of his ascension.

Djehuty declares you by the enchantment of his tongue;
you glide from his divine speech as a silver crescent’s boon.
What graces my mouth is the fullness of heaven’s eye;
‘tongue of silver’ is your name when his gleam strikes my lips.

The Goddess Auset binds you to me with her girdle;
she brings at her breast the sanguine knot of sky’s magic.
Seven knots surround your center on her seat of constant ardor;
‘heart of red jasper’ is your name where my breast keeps you.

Ausir the green raises you from his pasture when he comes;
sprouting seed weaves your field as the earth my feet travel.
How you rise by the flood the Good God urges from my loins;
‘thighs of malachite’ is your name as you spring from my hand.

The Goddess Hwt-Her shakes your sycamore of the sky;
with swaying hips she catches you between her western mounds.
My mirror leads lonely eyes up the trail of starry branches;
‘boughs of turquoise’ is your name on the morning heaven sways you.

Amun-Ra brings your cloud of myrrh when he comes;
I inhale the rising sun on my heart’s holy horizon.
The Lord of Thrones has placed you before his tree of myrrh;
‘god-making fragrance’ is your name when your breath leads the sky.

The Goddess Muwt fulfills your soul when her lake swells;
she navigates with the roar of your name by moonlight on her waters.
I am there to drink your zeal as thunder tears the sky;
‘traveler of splendor’ is your name when you sail my lightning skin.

Khonsu-Neferhotep brings your shade when he comes;
an open lotus meets the eyes of the sky by daybreak’s blush.
How the east shares your body with the holy river’s mirror;
‘shadow of the Sun-God’ is your name by dawn and twilight.

The Goddess Sekhmet opens your eyes with her hands of might;
your sky becomes her brow of life where ceaseless flame is kindled.
I tread the horizon where I am led into that sight of power;
‘eye of flame’ is your name when your heart of jasper strikes me.

All text copyright © 2016 Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

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Liturgy For Honoring the Ka of Richard Reidy

Richard Reidy Retouched
The Ausir-One Richard J. Reidy

Liturgy For Honoring the Ka of
Richard Reidy
In the House of Ptah(1)

Copyright 2015 ©Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa
Hwt-Ka-Ptah/ Temple of Ptah Nevada (West Wendover, Nevada)

Honoring the God Ptah
in the name of Richard Reidy

Prior to engaging in this rite, the celebrant or celebrants should observe the standards for ritual purity, both physical and spiritual. Physical cleansing is necessary, and a mental, emotional focus that permits engagement with the Netjeru (Gods) in Sacred Space. It is preferable to wear simple pure white linen (cotton is perfectly acceptable), a robe or garment that has been reserved exclusively for ritual work.

There should be at least one altar table given over to the adoration of the Netjeru. This ceremony honors the Blessed Dead (Akhu) in the company of the Netjer Ptah, the Netjeret (Goddess) Sekhmet, Their divine Son Nefertum, and the Bau-Souls of the ancient Sanctuary of Ptah called Hwt-Ka-Ptah, the “Soul-Mansion of Ptah”. A simple altar is workable for this ceremony, consisting of a white linen altar cloth upon which have been set cult images (statues) or pictures of the God Ptah, His spouse the Goddess Sekhmet, Son Nefertum, and a photograph of the Blessed Dead. A framed photograph will work much easier with this ceremony, but in lieu of this, a photograph may be propped up on the altar so that it will be stable during the ceremony. This may be draped with a scarf or covered to facilitate “opening” or “unveiling” during the ceremony.

You will also need at least one candle taper, oil lamp or tea light, a brazier or holder for the burning of incense, incense, a jar or cup of wine, a jar or cup of milk, and a tray for the presentation of offerings. It is important that your offerings are of the freshest and highest quality possible. Traditional offerings would consist of bread, beer, onions, dates, figs, pomegranates, roast fowl and beef. However, in contemporary times we may also choose to honor our Blessed Dead with food offerings (favorite dishes) personal to them, which may, of course, include ingredients not found in ancient times. The rule of thumb is always strive for the best quality offerings you can find, whether they be food or floral, or goods such as cloth, stones or ritual objects. An abundance of fresh flowers would also be highly appropriate for this offering ritual. A sistrum or ritual rattle is optional here, but strongly recommended.

Striking the Sacred Fire

We begin with the solemn rite of light offering, the most potent and significant act in the cultic service of the Netjeru. A dripless candle taper is preferable for this ceremony, but a small oil lamp, tea light or votive candle will achieve the same ritual aim. Light the taper/ oil lamp/ candle, and then, using your right hand, hold the candle out in front of you towards the sacred images on your altar. Raise your left hand with the palm facing outward towards the Gods (this is called the dua or “adoration” gesture), and then in a strong and clear voice recite the offering formula:

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

Repeat in English:
“Making the torch of every day for this God Ptah the Lord of Truth for Richard Reidy”(2)

The candle is now placed in the front, center position of the altar so that its light can fall upon the sacred images. Both hands are now raised before you in the dua posture, the palms facing outward towards the altar. Recite the offering prayer clearly and with complete conviction:

“Come You, come You in peace, O glorious Eye of Heru! Be strong and rejuvenated in peace! It shines like Ra in the double horizon, and the power of Your enemy hides itself straightaway before the Eye of Heru, which seizes it and brings it, and sets it before the seat of Heru. The voice of Heru is Truth by reason of His Eye! The Eye of Heru destroys the enemies of Ptah, the Lord upon the Great Throne(3), in all their places. I am pure!”(4)

Bestowal of Incense

It is preferable to use resin incense burnt upon disk charcoal for this ceremony, as our aim is to try, as much as possible, to link our ritual actions with those of the Ancestral temples of our tradition. Each of these gestures is a direct correlation with those that were performed for thousands of years, every single day, in the temples of the Netjeru in Kemet. Resin incense was the only kind of incense used by the Ancestors for cultic service, and it is readily available today. Temple of Ptah Nevada uses pure frankincense resin incense for our Daily Ritual, and this is what I suggest for use here.

However, if resin incense is not being used, then use the purest, highest quality stick or cone incense you can find. The emphasis in all ceremonial actions is on quality and intention. Traditional and organic ingredients are always preferable to modern synthetic ones, but we must also be prepared to use the tools we have at hand, and to use them with our best intentions. If true devotion and respect are present, then the materials will be infused with this, and will naturally be more acceptable to the Gods.

If you are using resin incense over disk charcoal, light your charcoal before your ritual starts so that there are no awkward pauses during the ceremony. If you light your charcoal prior to lighting your candle taper, the charcoal will be perfectly ready by the time you reach this second stage of the rite. Place a pellet of incense in the center of the charcoal, and, using a clockwise circular motion, wave the brazier of incense slowly in front of the sacred images. If you are using stick or cone incense, light it now, wafting the scented smoke over the altar before setting it to the right side of the lit candle. The offering formula is now recited, very slowly and with conviction:

Irit sa-netjer en Ptah neb Ma’at iri-ef di ankh en Richard Reidy
(pronounced ear-eet saa-netcher een Puh-tah neb Ma-aat ear-ee-eff dee onkh een Richard Reidy)

Repeat in English:
“Censing to Ptah the Lord of Truth that He may make the giving of life for Richard Reidy”(5)

Presentation of incense to the Family of Ptah
and to the Netjeru of the Soul-Mansion of Ptah

The Family of the God Ptah is now honored as the primary Netjeru of the Sacred House and the Custodians of the Blessed Dead (Akhu). The incense may remain at its resting position on the right side of the altar. Hold both hands, palms down, over the rising smoke of the incense, and, in a slow, clear voice, recite the offering formula:

Irit sa-netjer Ptah Sekhmet Nefertum pesedjet nebu Hwt-Ka-Ptah en Richard Reidy
(pronounced ear-eet saa-netcher Puh-tah Sekh-met Ne-fur-toom pe-see-jet nee-boo Ha-oot-Ka-Puh-tah een Richard Reidy)

Repeat in English:
“Censing to Ptah, Sekhmet, and Nefertum, and to the Company of Nine Gods, the Lords of the Soul-Mansion of Ptah, for Richard Reidy”(6)

Presentation of incense to the Ka of Richard Reidy

The photograph of the Blessed Dead is now unveiled or uncovered for all to see. Hands are raised in the dua adoration gesture while the offering formula is recited:

Irit sa-netjer en her-ek nefer en ka-ek djet a Richard Reidy
(pronounced ear-eet saa-netcher een hair-eek ne-fur een kaa-eek jet aa Richard Reidy)

Repeat in English:
“Censing to your beautiful face and to your ka eternally, O Richard Reidy!”(7)

Litany for Honoring Ptah as the Lord of Life
and Progenitor of the Netjeru for Richard Reidy

A sistrum (sacred rattle) is used to punctuate the recitation of the Litany. After each formula/ phrase/ name is recited, slowly and with conviction, the sistrum is shaken as loudly and vigorously as possible.

Anedj her-ek a Ptah-Sokar-Ausir netjer-aah neb ta-djoser hery-ab Amentet
(pronounced on-edge hair-eek aa Puh-tah-So-car-Aa-oo-seer netcher-aah neb taa-jo-zair hairee-aab aa-men-tet)

A sistrum is now shaken.

Repeat in English:
“Homage to You O Ptah-Sokar-Ausir the Great God, the Lord of the Holy Land in the midst of the West!”(8)

A sistrum is now shaken.

Anedj her-ek a Ptah en Richard Reidy Ptah-Sokar-Ausir hery-ab Shetit netjer-aah heka Amentet nefer meri
(pronounced on-edge hair-eek aa Puh-tah een Richard Reidy Puh-tah-So-car-Aa-oo-seer hairee-aab shet-eet netcher-aah he-kaa aa-men-tet ne-fur mare-ee)

A sistrum is now shaken.

Repeat in English:
“Homage to You O Ptah, for Richard Reidy (who is) loved by Ptah-Sokar-Ausir in the Shetit Shrine, the Great God, the Lord of the Beautiful West!”(9)

A sistrum is now shaken.

The formal Litany or Wehem of nine of the God Ptah’s names/ epithets should be presented as slowly as possible. Take your time. Draw out each syllable for as long as possible, and if chanting or singing comes naturally, then chant or sing these sacred names of Netjer. It is not necessary to repeat the names of the God in English, unless it feels right or necessary to do so. The recitation of the names of the Netjer forms the primary element in the Daily Ritual, which invigorates and activates the temple/ shrine/ Sacred Space. This rite especially calls upon the Netjer to manifest directly as the preserver of life and restorer of the Dead. Punctuate each name with a vigorous shake of the sistrum. These too should be drawn out as long as possible.

Ptah at hatu
(Puh-tah aat haa-too)

Ptah the Father of beginnings(10).

Ptah iru-netjeru
(Puh-tah ear-oo-netcheroo)

Ptah who created the gods(11).

Ptah neb-er-djer
(Puh-tah neb-air-jair)

Ptah the Lord to the limit(12).

Ptah neb ankh
(Puh-tah neb onkh)

Ptah the Lord of life(13).

Ptah nisut neheh djet neb ankh
(Puh-tah nee-soot nay-ha jet neb onkh)

Ptah the king of eternity and everlastingness, the lord of life(14).

Ptah iri ankh
(Puh-tah ear-ee onkh)

Ptah the Maker of life(15).

Ptah netjer aah wer shaa kheper
(Puh-tah netjer aa wear shaa khe-pair)

Ptah the very great god who in the first beginning came into being(16).

Ptah at-atu uwser-uwseru
(Puh-tah aat-aatoo oo-sear-oo-searoo)

Ptah the Father of fathers and Power of powers(17).

Ptah nen tjenuw iru
(Puh-tah nen chenoo ear-oo)

Ptah of innumerable forms(18).

Honoring the Bau-Souls in the Mansion of Ptah
When Advancing to the Holy Place for Richard Reidy(19)

The Ancestral Spirits that link the contemporary temple/ shrine/ Sacred Space with the Netjeru of the most ancient sanctuaries are now honored prior to the central rite of this ceremony. Two offering jars (or bowls) are now presented to the sacred images; one containing milk and the other containing wine. These are placed to the right side of the altar beside the brazier/ burner of incense. A sistrum may be sounded at length prior to reciting the formal prayer, loudly and slowly:

Words to be spoken:
“O You Souls of Mennefer, Souls of Hwt-Ka-Ptah!(20) If You are strong then I am strong; if I am strong, then You are strong. If Your Kas are strong, then my Ka is strong at the head of the living; as they are living, so too shall I live! The Two Jars of Atum contain the preserving essence of my flesh. Give to me, O Sekhmet the Great Goddess, the Beloved of Ptah, life, stability, and increase round about my members, which Djehuty has assembled for life! I am the God Heru of the heavenly heights, the beautiful one of terror, the Lord of Victory, the Great One of awe, the exalted one of the double plumes, the Great One in Abedju! An offering the King gives, I am pure!

Hotep di nisut wab-kuwa (spoken four times)
(pronounced ho-tep dee nee-soot oo-waab-coo-waa)

A sistrum is now shaken.

Repeat in English:
“An offering the King gives, I am pure!” (spoken four times)

A sistrum is now shaken.

Hotep di nisut hery-ab Hwt-Ka-Ptah en ka en Richard Reidy wab-kuwa
(pronounced ho-tep dee nee-soot hairee-aab Haa-oot-Kaa-Puh-tah een kaa eek Richard Reidy oo-waab-coo-waa)

A sistrum is now shaken.

Repeat in English:
“An offering the King gives in the midst of the Soul-Mansion of Ptah, for the Ka of Richard Reidy, I am pure!”

A sistrum is now shaken.

Performing the Rite of ‘An Offering which the King Gives’ For the Ka of Richard Reidy

The htp di niswt or hotep di nisut, “an offering which the king gives” is one of the most significant and prevalent versions of offering prayer that exists from ancient Egypt. Technically speaking, the King of Kemet was the highest priest of each netjer/ netjeret (god or goddess), and was the one person who could directly intercede with the Gods on behalf of humankind. Thus all offerings were said to be the boon of the King, acting as the chief priest of every deity in the land.

Today we are given the opportunity to link our ceremonial actions and Sacred Spaces with the Ancestors through the use of these most powerful words. These are words that have been spoken and written by countless souls, each invoking the divine and kingly presence through which all sacred offerings flow. The recitation of this prayer gives us an immediate connection with all those who spoke it before us. It invokes the Blessed Dead (Akhu) and invites Them to participate in this exchange of the vital spiritual essence of our offerings. This is what brings our Blessed Dead back to us in the present moment.

The tray of offerings is brought out and set reverently to the left side of the altar. The celebrant faces the image of the Blessed Dead, extending her/ his right arm- hand stretched out with fingers together- towards the face of the image (this action is known as nis, “invoking” or “summoning”). A sistrum may be sounded, loudly and at length, before the offering formula is recited:

Hotep di nisut Ausir neb Abedju
Anpu tepy-dju-ef
Ptah-Sokar res-ineb-ef
pesedjet am Abedju di sen
khet nebet nefret wabet ankhet netjer im
en ka en imakhy Richard Reidy ma’a-kheru
(pronounced
Ho-tep dee nee-soot Aa-oo-seer neb Aa-bed-joo
On-poo tep-ee-joo-eff
Puh-tah-So-car res-ee-neb-eff
pe-see-jet aam Aa-bed-joo dee sen
khet nebet nefret waa-bet onkhet netcher eem
een kaa een im-aa-kee Richard Reidy ma-aa-kheeroo)

Repeat in English:
“An offering the King gives. An offering Ausir, Lord of Abedju, and Anpu on His Mountain, and Ptah-Sokar, He Who is South of His Wall, and the Nine Gods at Abedju give!(21) May They give all things good and pure on which a god lives, to the spirit of the revered Richard Reidy, the true-of-voice (justified)!”(22)

A sistrum is now shaken.

“An offering which the King gives to Ptah-Sokar and to Anpu Who is upon His Mountain, that They may grant to go forth on earth to see the sun in the heavens every day, for the Ka of the revered Richard Reidy, the true-of-voice (justified)!”(23)

A sistrum is now shaken.

The offering tray is now raised high before the image of the Blessed Dead, and then lowered and placed gently before him.

Now say:
“May you, O Richard Reidy, wake up pleasantly and remain eternally. Every illness that comes before you will be driven away. Your mouth is opened by Ptah! Your mouth is opened by Sokar, with this copper instrument of his.(24)  Your mouth is opened by Ptah. Your mouth is opened by Sokar, and Djehuty puts your heart in your body.”(25)

Using the extended index and middle fingers of your right hand, touch the mouth of the photograph of the Blessed Dead. The offering formula is now recited:

Djed medu en Ptah-Sokar radi imakh nefer en Richard Reidy
(pronounced jed medoo een Puh-tah-So-car raa-dee im-aak ne-fur een Richard Reidy)

Repeat in English:
“Ptah-Sokar says: I have conferred a beauteous veneration upon Richard Reidy!”(26)

A sistrum is now shaken.

Now say:
“Homage to you, O Richard Reidy, you of the beautiful face, the Lord of Vision, whom Anpu has put together and Ptah-Sokar has lifted up!”27

Once again the offering formula is recited:

Djed medu en Ptah-Sokar hery-ab Hwt-Ka-Ptah a Richard Reidy men en-ek ankh djed was neb seneb
(pronounced jed medoo een Puh-tah-So-car hairee-aab Ha-oot-kaa-Puh-tah aah Richard Reidy men en-eek onkh jed waaz neb sen-eb)

Repeat in English:
“The words spoken by Ptah-Sokar in the midst of the Soul-Mansion of Ptah: O Richard Reidy! Take unto yourself all life, stability and strength, all health and happiness!”(28)

A sistrum is now shaken.

“O Richard Reidy, may your ba follow the Great God Ausir, and may your memory remain in this temple, and may you be allowed to join Ptah in the Duat!”(29)

The Presentation of Offerings to the God Ptah
For Richard Reidy(30)

The offering tray is now raised and lowered four times, very slowly, before the sacred images of the Netjeru Ptah, Sekhmet, and Nefertum. This part of the ritual may be done as slowly as possible, and, if there are multiple celebrants, the sistrum may be sounded very reverently by one celebrant as the other performs the ritual action. After the fourth elevation of the offering tray, the tray is returned to the altar before the sacred images of the Divine Family. The following prayer is now recited:

“Homage to you Ptah upon the Great Throne, the ruler in White-Walls!(31) Come, O attendants, and elevate offerings before the face of the God! Elevate offerings to Ptah upon the Great Throne, the Lord foremost in the Soul-Mansion of Ptah!(32) All life emanates from Him! All health emanates from Him! All stability emanates from Him! All good fortune emanates from him, like Ra, forever!”

A sistrum is now shaken.

The recitation of the offering formula:

Ankh neb kher ef seneb neb kher ef djed neb kher ef was neb kher ef mi Ra djet en ka en imakhy Richard Reidy ma’a-kheru
(pronounced onkh neb care eff seneb neb care eff jed neb care eff ooh-aaz neb care eff mee jet een kaa een im-aa-kee Richard Reidy ma-aa-kheeroo)

Repeat in English:
“All life emanates from Him! All health emanates from Him! All stability emanates from Him! All good fortune emanates from him, like Ra, forever, for the spirit of the revered Richard Reidy, the true-of-voice (justified)!”(33)

“O Richard Reidy, the revered, the true of voice (justified)! You are welcomed by Ptah-Sokar with His artistic arms. You are embraced, and He Who is South of His Wall praises you, and those who are in the Duat make you blessed, their hands being filled with food!”(34)

A sistrum is now shaken.

For the bestowal of the final offering formula, the right arm is stretched out over the offering tray with the palm of the hand facing down. The ritual offerings are consecrated with the ancient invocation offering formula:

Peret er kheru (spoken four times)
(pronounced pair-eet air khee-roo)

Repeat in English:
“Sending forth the voice!” (spoken four times)

The final prayer is now spoken:
“An offering the King gives to Ptah-Sokar and to Ptah, Lord of what exists, remaining in everything, that They may give invocation offerings (peret er kheru) of all things good and pure, upon which a god lives, to the Ka of the revered Richard Reidy, the true-of-voice (justified)!”(35)

A sistrum is now shaken.

The Reversion of Offerings

At the conclusion of the Daily Ritual and all offering rites, it is customary for the ritual offerings to revert back to the priesthood, or in this case to all celebrants present. The offering tray is removed from the altar respectfully, and the consecrated offerings are distributed to those present. In recognition of the Blessed Dead, use this time as an opportunity to share not only the offerings just consecrated, but also memories from the life of the “revered” and “true-of-voice”. Speak his name out loud, and let his life be shared, out loud, so that our Sacred Space becomes a repository of the fruits of his Blessed Ka.

Notes

  1. It is imperative for me to acknowledge the immense debt I owe to the work of my dear friend, mentor and peer Richard J. Reidy, author of Eternal Egypt: Ancient Rituals for the Modern World (iUniverse, Inc., New York, Bloomington, 2010), whose labor of love through the Temple of Ra in San Francisco has been a much needed touchstone for my efforts to restore an authentic devotional practice for the God Ptah in my own Temple of Ptah Nevada. His passing in late November of 2015 came as a devastating shock to myself and others, for whom Richard and his work in Kemetic Reconstructionism have become such a guiding force.This ritual and liturgy for honoring the ka was designed via necessity for use at the time of Richard’s passing into the Duat, and what is seen here is largely informed by the guidance and mentoring he so richly showered on me. I have, as a general rule, used a form of pronounceable transliteration- and a suggested pronunciation beneath each phrase in the ancient Egyptian- instructed through my many and often animated conversations with Richard Reidy. I have done my level best to remain faithful to Richard’s style of transcribing ancient Egyptian texts, though I also owe another debt of gratitude to my Kemetic brother in the Temple of Ra San Francisco, Matt Whealton, KhonsuMes, who has been very generous to me in the providing of advice based upon his vast experience with the study of ancient Egyptian phonology.
  2. Here I have taken the recitation of “making the torch of every day” (which in the unabridged Daily Temple Ritual occurs after the offerings and reversion of offerings) and placed it together with the recitation for “striking the fire”, which I have adapted from the text of the Daily Ritual given to Amun-Ra in His temple at Ipet-isut . See “Certain Reliefs at Karnak and Medinet Habu and the Ritual of Amenophis I- Concluded,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 8 (1949): 320 (Fig 30), 321-323.
  3. Here I have given the name-epithet for Lord Ptah that corresponds to the name and appellation of Amun-Ra given in the original text (Amun-Ra neb nezet tawy, “Amun-Ra the Lord of the Throne of the Two Lands”).
  4. Adapted for Ptah from the Daily Ritual of Amun-Ra of Ipet-isut (modern Karnak). See MORET, ALEXANDRE. 1902. Le Rituel du Culte Divin Journalier. Paris: Annales du Musee guimet, Bibliotheque d’Etudes 14, Ernest Leroux, Editeur, pages 9-10. Also BUDGE, E.A. WALLIS. The Book of Opening the Mouth: The Egyptian Texts with English Translations. First published in London, 1909. Reissued in 1972 by Benjamin Blom, New York. Reissued in 1980 by Arno Press, New York, page 197.
  5. This phrase behaves as an announcement to the deity of the intentions behind the ritual action(s) to be performed in the God’s House. It also serves to define the symbiotic relationship that exists between the deity and the officiant(s) of the rite. Here I have adapted a censing formula originally presented to Amun-Ra in His temple at Ipet-resyt (modern Luxor).The epithet for Lord Ptah inserted here- neb Ma’at, “Lord of Truth”- is used for the Netjer in His chapel at Abedju (modern Abydos), in the scene depicting King Sety thurifying the ark-shrine of Ptah (north wall, western section). See THE EPIGRAPHIC SURVEY. 1998. Reliefs and Inscriptions at Luxor TempleVolume 2 (University of Chicago Oriental Institute Publications Volume 116, Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago), 9, Plate 147. See also CALVERLEY, A.M. and BROOME, M.F. The Temple of King Sethos I at Abydos- Volume 2 (London and Chicago: Egypt Exploration Society), Plate 23.
  6. Adapted from Papyrus Harris I, 44, 2. See M, SANDMAN HOLMBERG. 1964. The God Ptah (Denmark: Lund), 201.
  7. Adapted for this ritual from the thurification text for the God Amun-Ra in His temple at Ipet-resyt (modern Luxor). See THE EPIGRAPHIC SURVEY, Ibid, 9, Plate 145.
  8. Adapted from an inscription found in the tomb of Pennut at Anibe in Nubia, time of Ramses VI. See HOLMBERG, Ibid, page 143, 35*.
  9. Adapted from an inscription from a tomb in Bibān-el-Mulūk from the time of Ramses III. Ibid, page 142, *35.
  10. Adapted from BUDGE, E.A. WALLIS. 1904. The Gods of the Egyptians: Studies in Egyptian Mythology. Vol I (London: Methuen & Company), 501. Wherever I have referred to Budge during my gathering of ancient textual sources for Ptah, I have not adopted Budge’s transliterations or translations. It is now universally acknowledged by scholars that Budge’s transliteration and/ or pronunciation of ancient Egyptian (together with his translation of Egyptian texts) is much outdated. Many significant advances have been made in the study of ancient Egyptian language since Budge’s time, thus I have opted in my (pronounceable) transliterations and translations to follow these current advances.
  11. Adapted for Ptah from a hymn to Amun. HORNUNG, E. 1982. Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press), 149.
  12. I have here attributed to Ptah the epithet given to the Creator God, and to other gods as a description of the extent to which their authority and/ or powers extend. See HORNUNG, Ibid, 169.
  13. BUDGE, Ibid, 500.
  14. BUDGE, Ibid, 510.
  15. BUDGE, Ibid, 511.
  16. Adapted and transcribed from BUDGE, Ibid, 501.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Adapted from BUDGE, Ibid, 510. Budge does not give a transliteration for this epithet of Ptah, citing only the hieroglyphic text together with his translation of them. Here I have given my own (pronounceable) transliteration and translation.
  19. Adapted from the text of the Daily Ritual of Amun-Ra of Ipet-Sut (modern Karnak). See MORET, Ibid, pages 20-21.
  20. The original text presented to the God Amun-Ra calls on the Bau-Souls of Annu (or Heliopolis), but I have adapted this text for use in the House of Ptah, linking our contemporary sanctuary of Ptah with the Bau-Souls of ancient Mennefer (present day Memphis), also adding the ancient venerated sanctuary of Ptah, the Soul-Mansion of Ptah, Hwt-Ka-Ptah.
  21. Adapted from a sacrificial formula found on a Middle Kingdom stela from Abydos. HOLMBERG, Ibid, 130, 33*.
  22. This section of the htp di niswt formula presents the standard phrases that can be most commonly found in examples of this important offering text. Concerning their use in texts relating to the God Ptah in one or more of His aspects, I have relied entirely upon the examples cited in Maj Sandman Holberg’s volume on Ptah, though I have adapted them to suit the aims of the ritual format used here. See HOLMBERG, Ibid. See also DAVIES, NINA DE GARIS and GARDINER, ALAN H. The Tomb of Amenemhet (London: The Theban Tomb Series, 1915), pages 42-43. Also SMITHER, PAUL C. “The Writing of Ḥtp-d’i-nsw in the Middle and New Kingdoms”. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 25.1 (1939): 34–37. For a comparison between elements, reference GARDINER, ALAN H. Egyptian Grammar: Being An Introduction To the Study of Hieroglyphs, Third Edition, Revised. (Griffith Institute, Ashmolean Museum, Oxoford, 1999), pages 170-173, and ALLEN, JAMES P. Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1010), pages 365-367.
  23. Adapted from a htp di niswt formula from the eighteenth dynasty tomb of Amenemhet in the Theban Necropolis. See DAVIES and GARDINER, Ibid, page 42.
  24. Adapted from the medical Papyrus Berlin 3038. See HOLMBERG, Ibid, pages 96-97, 24*.
  25. From a funerary inscription in the Cairo Museum. See HOLMBERG, Ibid, page 96, 24*.
  26. Adapted from an inscription on a Middle Kingdom coffin from Deir el-Bahri. HOLMBERG, Ibid, page 129, 33*.
  27. Text from a twelfth dynasty funerary mask from Meir. See HOLMBERG, Ibid, page 27, 7*.
  28. Adapted from a text in the Hall of Sokar in the Temple of Sety I at Abedju (modern Abydos). HOLMBERG, Ibid, pages 131-132, 33*.
  29. Adapted from a text on an eighteenth dynasty stela in Vienna. HOLMBERG, Ibid, pages 100-101, 26*.
  30. Adapted from the “spell for elevating offerings” in the inscription of King Sety I at Ipet-isut. See NELSON, HAROLD H. “Certain Reliefs at Karnak and Medinet Habu and the Ritual of Amenophis I,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 8 (1949): 201-232 and 310-345. See Fig. 34, pg. 329.
  31. Here I have added the common praise form anedj her-ek, “praise to you”, or “homage to you”, whereas in the original inscription we begin immediately with the title of the recitation, or “spell” as given by Nelson. Also, the original is consecrated to Amun-Ra (of His temple at Ipet-isut or modern Karnak), and is preceded by his name and the epithet heqa Waset, “ruler in Waset (Greek Thebes)”; thus I have given the appropriate name-epithet for Ptah as a substitution, citing him as ruler in his sanctuary in White-Walls or Mennefer. See NELSON, Ibid.
  32. Again I have adapted an inscription of Amun-Ra for Ptah. Sety’s inscription at Ipet-isut gives Amun-Ra neb nezwt tawy,“Amun-Ra Lord of the thrones of the Two Lands”. See NELSON, Ibid.
  33. Adapted from the “spell for elevating offerings” in the inscription of King Sety I at Ipet-isut. See NELSON, Ibid.
  34. Adapted from an inscription in the eighteenth dynasty tomb of Ahmes at Thebes. See HOLMBERG, Ibid, page 99, 25*.
  35. Adapted from a htp di niswt formula from the eighteenth dynasty tomb of Amenemhet in the Theban Necropolis. See DAVIES and GARDINER, Ibid, page 42.

Honoring Sekhmet: The Fourteen Praises of Sekhmet

Ptah-Sekhmet-EyeofRa
“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). 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®

Introduction

O Servant of Truth, give adoration to Sekhmet the Great Mother,
The Mistress to the Limits of Heaven, the Great Goddess of the
Flame of Truth, coming forth from creation as the Eye, the Fire-illumined
One of Ra!

She is Sekhmet the Mother of Goddesses, the Mother of Mothers, the
Protectress of Her Entourage in the House of the Flame, the Great Seeress of Truth dwelling within the Soul-Mansion of Ptah!

We take refuge in You O Sekhmet, O Great Mother of the Gods!

Praises are given to Sekhmet the Holy Flame, the Mistress of the World!

1.  Homage to You, O Sekhmet in Your power,
In Your strength, in Your beauty, in Your divine manifestations,
Bestower of the Great Wisdom repelling chaos, the
Holy Flame coming forth from the Wedjat Eye of Ra.

Praises are given to Sekhmet the Holy Flame, the Mistress of the World!

2.  Homage to You O Sekhmet, O Mother of the Flame of Eternal Life,
Bringing forth all life with Her thunderous roar of fire, driving back
The impenetrable darkness from hearts lost in the madness of chaos!

Praises are given to Sekhmet the Holy Flame, the Mistress of the World!

3.  Homage to You O Sekhmet the Goddess of Light, the Great Female Behdet
Upon Her golden orb as Universal Savioress, the Mother of the oppressed, the
Greatest of Physicians and Doctor of Hearts, Hearer of the dejected, the Hearer
Of Prayers coming forth from the divine body of love!

Praises are given to Sekhmet the Holy Flame, the Mistress of the World!

4.  O Divine Ardor coming forth from the Eternal Flame dwelling within the heat
Of the Heart of Ptah, the Beloved of Ptah, of His body. She embraces Ptah with
The heat of Her lower body as the Great Bestower of the eternal flame of love-
Joys, giver of the warmth of love, the maker of sweetness and of the fire in the
Heart!

Praises are given to Sekhmet the Holy Flame, the Mistress of the World!

5.  She is Sekhmet-the House-of the-Lofty One, the Great Cow, the darling of Ptah the Almighty Bull! She receives the seed of Ptah within Her body, bringing forth the divine love of Ptah, becoming the Great Mother of Creation in Her name of Sekhmet-the Mysterious Lady, the Hand of Ptah the Great God!

Praises are given to Sekhmet the Holy Flame, the Mistress of the World!

6.  She is Sekhmet-the House-of the-Lofty One (Who is) the Mistress of love!
She is joined with Ptah, the Lord of the flaming member of love!

She grasps firmly the noble manhood of Ptah, causing to come forth into being the Seed of Ptah as all created things!

Praises are given to Sekhmet the Holy Flame, the Mistress of the World!

7.  Adoration to Sekhmet the Great Mother of the heart’s wisdom, the dispeller of ignorance, the quieter of the heart with the peace of divine knowledge!

Praise Her, O all people of the Shrine of Ptah, Entourage of the Netjeru (Gods)!
She seizes the heart, filling it with eternal wisdom, annihilating darkness, giving birth to the illumination of the Great Heart!

Praises are given to Sekhmet the Holy Flame, the Mistress of the World!

8.  I adore Primordial Sekhmet, Creatrix of the Gods, the First of Goddesses, the
High Consort of the Great God Ptah, Holder of the Exalted Thrones of Light!

She is the Creation-Power, the Supreme Spirit of Ptah, His power within all
Things, the Governess of the Heavenly Mansion, the Power of Powers
Traversing creation!

She traverses the bodies of all living beings as the Great Female Spirit of Life, Creatrix of the wonders of life!

Praises are given to Sekhmet the Holy Flame, the Mistress of the World!

9.  I adore Primordial Sekhmet, Foremost of Goddesses and First Mother within
The Nuwn!

She is “the Powerful One”- (Who is) “the Mother”, exalted as Neith in the
Primordial Beginning, terrifying as the flame-illuminated Eye of Ra, Fire-
Goddess great in dominance as Sekhmet-the-Vanquisher, the Lady of Fiery
Arrows, exalted upon Her standard as Sekhmet the Vanquisher of Sins, the
Great of Slaughter!

Praises are given to Sekhmet the Holy Flame, the Mistress of the World!

10.  I adore Primordial Sekhmet, the Lady of the Flame!
I say: Homage to You O Goddess of the Killing-Time, the Unquenchable One,
The Drinker of Blood, the powerful-hearted lioness raging in Her eye!

O Sekhmet (Who is)- “She of the Green”, the Consumer of Chaos coming forth from the House of the Flame!

She is Sekhmet-Wadjet, the Mistress of Destruction, the Breath of Flame
Delivering Truth from chaos, delivering all Her children from the impenetrable
Darkness.

Praises are given to Sekhmet the Holy Flame, the Mistress of the World!

11.  I adore Primordial Sekhmet the Universal Savioress (Who is) “the Powerful
One- She Of the Throne-the Greatest of Powerful Pronouncements”, the One at the forefront of Goddesses, the Mother of the Great Goddesses, readied with flames as the greatest Power of heaven!

I take refuge in You O Sekhmet, O Great Mother of the Gods, the Savioress
Of all souls!

I take refuge in Your power, O Mother Sekhmet, Mother of Mercy!

Praises are given to Sekhmet the Holy Flame, the Mistress of the World!

12.  I adore Primordial Sekhmet, the Lady of Illumination coming forth with the
Great Wisdom, making to shine the power of wisdom, making to flourish the
Heart of divine Wisdom for eternity and everlasting!

She is the Wisdom-Body of Ptah, His holy spirit enveloping creation.
She is the divine messenger of the first sacred teaching in the heart of Ptah.

Praises are given to Sekhmet the Holy Flame, the Mistress of the World!

13.  I adore Primordial Sekhmet, the Sanguine-Lady upon Her divine lotus, the
Fierce red-maned lion, the dancer upon blood, the smiter of the heart of Ptah!

I take refuge in You, O Sekhmet, Savioress of the souls of humankind, purifier of the World, making strong the heart above chaos!

Praises are given to Sekhmet the Holy Flame, the Mistress of the World!

14.  I adore Primordial Sekhmet, the Divine Mother of my heart!
I take refuge in Her strength. I take refuge in the power of Her Ka.
I take refuge in Her indestructible wisdom.
I offer unto Her the life of my heart!
I offer unto Her the life of my soul!
I offer unto Her the obeisance of my will!
Unto this Greatest of Goddesses I give the perfection of my Ka!

Praises are given to Sekhmet the Holy Flame, the Mistress of the World!

The Sealing

In the presence of Sekhmet the Mistress of the Heart,
I open up my heart unto Her Divine Ka,
Making a shrine of my heart, making to flourish the Holy Way.
I adore the Great Mother of the Holy Mysteries,
She Who knows all the mysteries of the heart.
She has given unto me my true heart,
The Sacred Fire of the Soul-Mansion-of-Ptah.
Homage to You in peace!

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

Walking With Sekhmet

Sekhmet

People often ask me why I worship a Goddess like Sekhmet…why I call on Her and trust Her with my life. She is, after all, such a fierce Goddess, terrible and seemingly bloodthirsty. How can someone like me, someone who believes in peace and non-violence, attach himself to a Goddess with such a war like reputation?

When I was ordained as a priest of Sekhmet by Lady Olivia Robertson, she told me to “go forth and combat evil”. What is evil, but a force, a construct that pulls us away from our conscience and awareness of what is right and wrong, a system that takes us away from knowledge of our Sacred Powers. The Goddess Sekhmet brings us back into this immediate sense of right and wrong, of Ma’at and consciousness, and that sometimes means tearing us to pieces in order to do it…severing the stronghold our ego and untamed mind has on us.

When I was initiated by the Dalai Lama, His Holiness spoke about our wrathful Dharma Protectors, and he said that some of them are fierce because our untamed mind is fierce. It runs like wild and prevents us from being aware of the true nature of things…things as they really are. So our fierce Dharma Protectors are there to remove the obstacles our mind creates to lucidity and awareness. So, they have to be fierce, to cut through our delusions.

Of course, Sekhmet in a purely Kemetic context cannot be called a “Dharma Protector”, but the concepts are similar. Sekhmet is here to help us achieve health and clarity, to lead us away from self-destruction and delusion. She wakes us up out of our ego and wild wanderings in self-obsession, and She unites us with the Wedjat Eye, the Wholeness of the Netjer manifesting throughout the Gods and creation. She has to be fierce in order to accomplish that. We cannot honor or know Her unless we are first prepared to walk through that fire.

All text copyright © 2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

Netjer, Never One-Dimensional

apis-bull

The God Ptah is generally limited in His functions when it comes to mainstream awareness of how He functions as a Netjer. People limit Him to patron of artisans, sculptors, and craftsmen, and as Creator of the Netjeru and humankind. These are very significant primary functions of Lord Ptah; however, like all the Netjeru, Ptah encompasses vast functions, manifestations, and spheres of influence. One of Ptah’s significant aspects is as a warrior god. In ancient times He became the patron of one of Kemet’s national army branches, and He was known as a mighty god whose anger and power raged like a bull, a bull of sharp horns.

The Hap (Apis) Bull is not only a manifestation of fertility, creation, and sexuality, but also an incarnation of destructive power, and dominance, which Lord Ptah has over all Gods and all things in creation. Ptah is also known to be a vengeful god in His pursuit to maintain the cosmic order of Ma’at. He has been known to strike blind those who lie in His name. We must remember that Ptah chose the Goddess Sekhmet as His beloved spouse, and She is well known for Her wrathfullness and warrior nature. Lord Ptah is equally a destroyer as He is the Creator. As Ptah-Sokar He is Lord of death, and He is a terrible, fearsome god when He manifests in that aspect.

We must not make the mistake of putting our Gods into neat little boxes with tidy labels, and refusing to acknowledge Them in the fullness of Their divinity, simply because some of Their aspects make us uncomfortable or are hard to swallow. Our Gods are not one dimensional. They are not politically correct, nor are They here to live up to our expectations or judgments. The Gods are above our judgment and our subjective morality. They are Gods, and we’re not! Just when we think we’ve pinned Them down, They are going to use every power at Their disposal to demolish our ignorance and idealism.

All text copyright © 2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

Listen To Your Gods

Altar Offering

How do we know what our Gods want from us? How do we know what They expect from us? How can we please Them, honor Them? People who are new to Kemeticism often confide in me how much they want to engage the Netjeru, but are afraid of offending the Gods, or making mistakes in the process of trying to connect with Them. What advice do I have for those who have these very legitimate concerns?

Within the Heathen Community (contemporary followers of the Norse Gods), there is a term that I think can apply equally well to the beliefs and activities of Kemeticists, Kemetic Reconstructionists, and to other Recon communities: UPG, otherwise known as unverified personal gnosis. This term is used to describe those personal spiritual experiences that fall outside the realm of authenticated source texts, lore/ mythos or the historical record. These are very personal experiences that many devotees believe are communicated by their gods, but cannot otherwise be traced within the generally accepted literature or historic track record of the tradition.

Throughout the many years I have been in contact with others who profess a belief in Kemeticism, I have encountered a fairly common phenomenon, which I think can best be described as UPG. Individuals subscribing to Kemeticism tend to develop very close relationships with their Netjeru (Gods), so much so that the Gods take on active roles in the lives of Their devotees, becoming almost part of their family. The Gods tend to hold conversations with us in our heart, send us signs in the outer world, and connect with us in ways that truly feel like our relationships with our biological family, closest friends or peers. That is because the Gods want to be part of our life directly.

Unlike the mainstream monotheistic religions, where the deity tends to be viewed as separate from his creation, and removed from the intimate lives of humankind, the Netjeru of Kemet have shown in the track record of history that They are very engaged with the material world, and are active in the daily lives of human beings. In contemporary times, devotees of the Netjeru often find it difficult to access the academic, scholastic resources on the Gods, sacred texts, and religious practices of Kemet, and feel obliged to connect with the Netjeru on their own terms. This can often lead to some very colorful contemporary practices that are not necessarily linked with those of ancient times.

I have corresponded with a devotee of Bastet who swore that the Goddess adored the fruit flavored gummy fish she had been placing on the altar. Okay. Who am I to question personal displays of affection between a Netjer and their admirer? If an offering is truly given out of love and respect for the deity, then I have to accept that this is a good action, even if I question the rightness of offering a candy treat of little nutritional value to a great goddess.

My point is that UPG, unverified personal gnosis, seems to be a strong force amongst those who are trying to reconnect with very ancient faiths that have been broken down by the machine of monotheism. There are gaps in the historical record, or access to that record is more or less limited to those with strong academic tendencies and/ or resources, those for whom Reconstruction is the surest way to reclaim our ancient faiths. But how can the average devotee make such a connection?

What is happening is that individuals are reconnecting with the Netjeru via intuition and instinct, following their own inner guidance as they determine who the Gods are and how They should be approached. UPG comes in the form of little epiphanies or flashes of inspiration, where one just knows that Sekhmet wants that shiny red and gold altar cloth. When one lays the cloth down for the Goddess, one just feels very right about it, and things feel like they’ve fallen perfectly into place.

Of course, the Recon way to approach this situation would be to dig into the appropriate cultic text to check for references to red and red fabrics in the mythos and worship of the Goddess. Does red cloth play a role, however small, in the rituals or festival celebrations of Sekhmet? What about Her titles or epithets? Can we find a link with red cloth there? How has the color red played a role in the mythos of the Goddess as preserved in the historical record? I think the reader has the idea.

The Reconstructionist approach strives to fill in as much as possible from the actual records the Ancients left us, which span an enormous length of time and provide us a road map to recovering our ancient traditions. However, for many people, the Reconstructionist approach can be difficult, if not a little challenging to one’s patience.

One might be forgiven for cursing on the other side of one’s face, when simply wanting to touch base with one’s deities, but feeling instead like it’s a process of jumping through academic hoops in order to do the simplest thing. This kind of experience can remove the joy and spontaneity from one’s connection to the Gods, if one is constantly worried about “getting it right” according to the available record.

UPG, therefore, offers the average aspirant the luxury of allowing instinct- rather than historical necessity- to guide, making the spiritual experience feel readily accessible, instead of the exclusive domain of those in the academic know. These are the feelings I’ve had expressed to me consistently by those who inquire about Kemeticism and Kemetic Reconstructionism, and wish to understand how I approach it.

I think UPG is fine, and it works for many people. It tends to give practitioners a hands-on feeling to the Netjeru, and comes without constraints. One simply “feels” one’s way through it. Far be it from me to disparage a person’s heartfelt experiences with their Gods. If Bastet really wants gummy fish from you, then I suppose that’s between you and the Goddess. I’d probably advise they be of the highest quality possible, and at least served on the most traditional offering vessel you can find. But then that’s just me, as I tend (as a hem-netjer or priest) to be a traditional kind of guy.

My advice to practitioners is to make a sincere effort to get to know your Netjeru before you decide for sure that yes, Bastet loves gummy fish and always has. I feel that getting to know the Gods is kind of similar to how we get to know our human friends. It takes work, effort, sincerity, and a willingness to learn something new.

The Netjeru of Kemet are very ancient deities, Who have operated within a specific cultural framework for thousands of years. These Gods are used to the types of offerings They’ve received in Their cults for the duration of millennia, and, in my experience, They still expect to receive. With only a little effort, one can indeed find all the basic information one needs in order to honor the Netjeru respectfully and traditionally. It is just as easy to pick up a bottle of wine or a bunch of figs as it is to head over to the candy isle for that very dignified bag of gummy fish!

One might be very surprised by the reaction of the Gods when you have put effort into finding the things They’ve loved for thousands of years, and offer them in a respectful manner that extends true reverence. These very reverential experiences are the ones that build the most powerful relationships between us and our Gods. Try it, and you will see how satisfying the results can be. You may even find yourself becoming enchanted by the traditional way of communing with these most ancient Gods.

First and foremost, whichever road you choose, UPG or solid Reconstructionism (and perhaps, if you’re like me, some of both blended happily together), learn to open yourself up fully and respectfully to the Gods you worship. Learn to speak your heart to Them, to meditate on Them, and to ask Them for Their direct guidance. Yes the Netjeru can and do speak directly to Their devotees. It may take quite a while before you really feel that level of communication growing, but through honest effort it will happen.

Lastly, learn to listen, to take the time to follow that inner guidance that you will eventually be able to discern as coming from your Gods. There is no magical formula that can produce these results, but you can rest assured that the Netjeru of Kemet, Who have guided and engaged humanity for countless thousands of years, will guide you as you make the honest effort to know Them.

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

A Goddess Great of Heart

HeartSekhmet

Sekhmet the Eye of Ra, the Great Goddess, Mistress of Heaven, Great of Slaughter, She Who Heals. The Goddess Sekhmet manifests in ways that seem to contradict or work against one another. This is a Goddess Who nearly ended the human race, Who relished the blood and carnage of Her victims, Who seeks vengeance when the Gods are dishonored. Her Seven Arrows are the plagues, storms, waves of searing heat, and terror of death. We cannot come before Her with anything other than awe, reverence, and respectful fear. How do we embrace Her, love Her? More importantly, why would we?

There are difficult Netjeru, like Sutekh ( Setesh, Set), Who at first appear to go very much against the grain of our human sensibilities. We want our Gods to be beautiful, tender, generous, strong, but not out of control. But that is precisely what the Netjeru ultimately are. They are Gods, and we are humans. They are the Eternal, and we are subject to the whims of immediate mortality. Gods like Sekhmet and Sutekh terrify us because we know, deep down in our gut, that They bring us the very face of REALITY, without candy coating or sweetness. They bring us our medicine, and They make us swallow it, without a spoonful of sugar!

Sekhmet is the merit or “beloved”, “spouse” of the Creator Ptah, and this seems at first a very strange match. Lord Ptah, for all intents and purposes, is a benevolent creator-god Who hears our prayers and watches over craftspeople and the arts. He’s kindly, “benevolent of countenance” (wen-nefer her); so, why Sekhmet? Beyond the academic approach of how cults and deities intermingle, we can see, if we actually engage Sekhmet, that Lord Ptah chose Her, quite wisely, because Sekhmet is the most dynamic Goddess Whose very embodiment is the sekhem or vital power through which creation can evolve. Sekhmet is the necessary ingredient within the creative process, which always begins with a certain explosiveness or violence. Think of the pain of childbirth, yet its ultimate joyous conclusion. Sekhmet IS the pain of violent contractions and the hand that tears life from the flesh…She is the process of beginnings.

Sekhmet watches over the processes that impact our mortal condition the most, thus She is the Patroness of physicians and healing. But She is also the Physician of the heart. She gives the boon (hetep) of peace (hetep) at the time of trauma, even if She uses that trauma ultimately to our benefit. This is what Gods like Sekhmet and Sutekh really do, so how can we NOT embrace Them, fully and deeply, and give Them our sincere respect?

The terrible presence of Sekhmet is only caused by our fear of our own mortality, and the fire of our mind and emotions, and our ego, running out of control. Sekhmet threatens to tame and harness these forces for our own good, and that is why we can also call Her the Good Goddess. She is good, beautiful, and necessary, the Goddess Who appears when we need to take the right kind of medicine, even if it goes down very hard. It is Her hand that touches the heart with healing, soothing, and ultimately profound peace. To love Her is to come into the awareness of our fullest passions, emotions, intellect and physical vitality. No matter what course we travel, Sekhmet the Eye of Ra is traveling beside us, alive in Her terror as the Great Goddess with the healing hands.

All text copyright © 2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

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

Ptahmassu Portrait

Anna Applegate: Do you feel that polytheism should be incorporated under a broad, encompassing “Paganism,” or should it be its own tradition distinct from Paganism? If distinct, how do you see the communities relating to each other?

Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa: This is a complicated and controversial question. If by “Polytheism” we agree that this refers to all traditions that accept the validity of many gods…that include the worship of many gods as a vital component of their identity…then yes, in these regards we might very well label all Polytheistic traditions as “Pagan”. Academics certainly do, when they are referring to the ancient pre-Christian religions of humankind. Academics almost always refer to all pre-Christian and/ or non-monotheistic beliefs as “pagan”. However, they mean pagan not with a capital p, as is used by modern adherents of Neopaganism, but as in not Christian, before Christianity, or gods and practices falling outside the domain of the Abrahamic faiths.

My personal experience is that many individuals who refer to themselves as Polytheists try to distance what they believe and practice from the labels of Pagan and Paganism, simply because so many people instantly associate these terms with Wicca and Witchcraft, which are in many ways very different paths from, say, Hellenic Reconstructionism or Heathenry. There has also always been a rather negative connotation tacked on- admittedly very unfairly- to the term pagan, as used historically by Christians in order to denote and slander those not belonging to the army of Christ.

This all gets very sticky when you start canvassing today’s spiritual communities for their definition of precisely what Paganism is, and what it means to be Pagan. Is Paganism the practice of Witchcraft? Are Wiccans Pagans? Are all who believe in many gods Pagans, or is Paganism simply another wider term for anyone practicing an earth-centered religion or spirituality? Who, then, has a right to decide who is Pagan and who is not? With a lack of a central authority, as if there could ever be such a thing in today’s spiritual climate, how can we place an absolute division between Paganism and Polytheism?

It seems to me that there are so many grey areas, so many instances where Paganism and Polytheism mesh or intermingle, or at least share some similar components. I honestly feel that this has to be an individual question, left to each practitioner’s discernment and ideals. I know a number of practitioners of various traditions who describe themselves as both Pagan and Polytheist, and plenty of others who like to draw a distinct line between the concepts of Paganism and Polytheism. Each has their own valid argument for the language they use or the terms they invoke.

How about we start with respect? It all comes down to respecting the choices of others to belong or label or identify themselves in the way that is healthy for them as individuals. We may choose a different path or expression from others, but there needs to be a basic respect for the right of others to choose, just as we have our right to choose. This seems to me to be the best way to form healthy spiritual communities; communities that are strong and can accomplish Sacred Work more fully together, as peers and equals.

I think it would be near impossible, and perhaps undesirable, for all who define themselves as Polytheists to be lumped together under one communal umbrella of belief. Even within Reconstructionist communities, such as Kemetic and Hellenic, there is fierce debate concerning use of the term polytheism. Multiply this by the number of groups, communities, and individuals who might identify themselves as Polytheists, then add to that the number of people who subscribe to both Polytheist and Pagan identifications, and the question of one or the other just gets drowned in the hubbub over what Polytheism is; how a belief, group or individual practitioner fits into the dictionary definition of polytheism, as opposed to a less clinical understanding of Polytheism as understood in contemporary spiritual circles.

At the end of the day it all sounds like a bunch of noise to me, truth be told. Once again, I think we can get so caught up in the use of labels, identifications, and definitions of belief that we lose sight of our higher spiritual aims and Sacred Work. In my estimation, both Paganism and Polytheism serve very similar aims, and those are service to the Gods, and service to creation through communion with the Gods, together with our Ancestors. Ultimately the philosophical ramifications and debates must take a back seat to the work of actually engaging and honoring the Sacred Powers. If someone’s idea of spiritual work is sitting in a corner and arguing over “Polytheism” versus “Paganism”, should we or shouldn’t we, then I’ll opt to excuse myself so that I can get busy getting down to the real work of honoring my Gods and Ancestors.

Anna Applegate: A lot of Kemetic Goddesses have been adopted by traditions and philosophies outside of historically informed Kemetic practices. Goddesses like Sekhmet have been co-opted by the women’s spirituality movement/Dianic Wicca and related views as a symbol of female emancipation from patriarchal mores. For example, I recently made the acquaintance of a Hermetic teacher here in Chicago who argues that Sekhmet is a “tantric goddess” like Kali and that “desire, ecstasy, and illumination are interrelated and fundamental to understanding Sekhmet and tantra.” What is your take on that?

Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa: Firstly, I think it’s very important for us to acknowledge how vast the Netjeru are, how vast the deities of all pantheons are. Attempts are often made to constrict deities into the roles we humans have assigned to them. We want a goddess of love to play her role with grace, and we somehow expect that she’ll always show up in that capacity. We want a “mother goddess” to remain a mother, to adhere to those foremost qualities we’ve come to expect from our own biological mothers. We feel most comfortable with deities when we can label them…”god of war”, “fertility god”, “goddess of the household”, et cetera.

People are often attracted to a specific goddess or god because that deity manifests traits or qualities they themselves have. For example, I am an iconographer, painter, sculptor and craftsman, and obviously a great part of my attraction to my patron and namesake Ptah is due to the fact that Lord Ptah is the Divine Artisan, historically venerated as the protector of painters and sculptors. So, it goes without saying that it was a very natural relationship to develop between an artisan and the Father of all artisans.

My experience is that most Polytheists and Pagans share this kind of affinity with the gods they’ve chosen as their own. However, something that also happens is that people fall into a comfort zone with their gods, desiring to see and experience only those aspects that first attracted them to their divine patrons in the first place. The gods wind up being stereotyped, put into neat little boxes that fit comfortably into one’s preconceptions and notions. Sometimes, the gods become almost one dimensional in the way their devotees see them…the old “goddess of love”, “god of war”, “goddess of healing” labels that may or may not have the significance to the deity we think they have. People are often threatened by the dynamic nature of the Gods, when the Gods demonstrate that they aren’t going to operate according to the neat and tidy little labels we’ve tried to paste on them.

In the case of the Netjeru of Kemet, these are gods who each have their own unlimited arsenal of names, forms, epithets, iconographic features, and powers or spheres of influence. The Netjeru cannot be pinned down with limited frameworks or labels such as “goddess of love”, “god of war”, “fertility god”, et cetera. Scholars and academics have always attempted to do this to some extent with the Goddesses and Gods of Egypt, and I think it’s quite futile and grossly inappropriate.

Each deity, each netjer has basic qualities or attributes that demonstrate a prominent aspect of its nature, however, these natures are fluid, changing from circumstance to circumstance of the deity’s manifestation. Each geographic location, town, village, temple and shrine in Egypt has localized forms that are particular to that space, and these local forms each have powers, attributes, and iconography specific to that location, and these may or may not be visible in other locations.

If one makes a true and detailed study of the iconography and names or epithets of any given deity in the Kemetic pantheon, one will recognize very quickly the futility of slapping one overall label on any netjer. Literally hundreds, and sometimes thousands of epithets, names or forms of some deities can be found in a single location source. Magnify this by the number of temples, shrines, papyri and artifacts that may exist in reference to that deity, and you are faced not only with an overwhelmingly complex pantheon of deities, but also individual deities who each have vast quantities of forms and names and attributes. So much for “god of war”, “goddess of love” labels!

The reason I’m going into all of this is because your question touches on a sense of framework, a historical framework, for recognizing and accepting the roles the Netjeru of Kemet have to play in our lives. Reconstructionists are faced with the difficult task of trying to piece back together and recreate authenticity in the systems we develop for engaging our gods. We want to be as faithful as we can be to the way in which our Ancestors honored the Netjeru, and our motivation is meeting the Gods on Their own terms, according to the sights, sounds, tastes, gestures, and modes of worship the Gods have responded to for thousands of years.

These are practices that have maintained the presences of the Gods actively in our world for immense stretches of time, and our goal as Reconstructionists is to strive to maintain that presence as strongly as we can, using the time honored and time tested tools handed down to us by the Ancients within the historical record.

What happens if we disregard this? What happens when we remove the Netjeru from Their Kemetic context, and install Them within another cultural, spiritual framework? What happens when we strip that Kemetic framework away…that legacy of sights, sounds, smells, and gestures through which these deities have engaged humankind for thousands of years? Is anything lost or sacrificed in the process? Is something lost in translation, as it were. My first response is yes.

The Netjeru first made Themselves known to human beings in Kemet, in that specific location, and used that land, and all of the attributes it possessed, in order to communicate Their powers to human beings. One can quite accurately say that the Netjeru as we know Them are the spiritual legacy of the ancient Egyptian land and people. Without these people and their land the Netjeru would still exist, of course, however, the system or technology for engaging Them would not have come down to us in the form it has.

The Gods chose the land of Kemet for a reason, and They chose the people of Kemet as the custodians of that framework, that technology or tradition, through which They could be engaged. A near five-thousand year track record exists that shows us exactly how we can maintain these gods in our world, commune with Them, co-create with Them, maintain creation with Them.

The ancient Egyptians believed that their system of writing, rites, rituals and temple traditions were handed down by the Gods during Zep Tepy, the First Time of the Gods, and that the proper maintenance of creation, Ma’at, depended on these things being continued and preserved. The original names of the Netjeru, the means of invoking Them, and the tools for accomplishing Their work in our world have all been preserved in the historical record. This is the record we have for direct access to these goddesses and gods, and I think we would be quite foolish not to use it.

So, you have Kemetic deities being removed from Their native system of engagement and dropped into another. Do I think that works? Yes and no. I think it works for those who are doing it, otherwise they probably wouldn’t do it, if they felt no response at all…if they could not achieve anything in the spiritual work they were trying to accomplish. Kemetic deities have always been borrowed by non-Kemetic spiritualities, including Wicca, Witchcraft, New Thought/ New Age circles, Golden Dawn…and the list could go on and on.

I think people have always been attracted to certain Kemetic deities, especially Auset/ Isis and Sekhmet. We know the track record of the Goddess Auset throughout history, and have seen how this Goddess transcended geographical and cultural boundaries, language barriers and religions, and became one of the most celebrated cults of the Mediterranean world. This went far beyond the borders of Egypt, speaking to the hearts of people who had never heard of or experienced the ancient rites of Isis in Her native land. Isis became as much a goddess of the Roman world as She had been a goddess of the Egyptian world, in Her name of Auset.

Continue reading “Coming From the Heart: A Conversation With Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa & Anna Applegate~ Part Two”