The Elixir of Life~ Part Four

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O Netjer, You are the Sa of Creation, the Sap, the Quintessence, the Fluid of Life from which created things draw sustenance! You are not one but the All, encompassing every form, every characteristic, every quality in the Universe, and are beyond the things dwelling in Creation. You are the Netjeru, and the Netjeru manifest Your hidden essence, though They do not reveal it to the naked eye! How can I know You, O God of the Gods? How can I draw nearer to receive Your essence?

My heart sings a praise, yet gives rise to questions, here in this womb where the God’s living image is maintained, where His Sa is channeled for the benefit of all men. I kiss the Earth before the Netjer, quieting my heart, hearing my breath as it slips softly from my lips. The Netjer rises in His shine of gold. His voice enters the ears of my heart, though no audible sound disturbs the sanctified quiet of the Holy of Holies.

“Where am I”, the Netjer says, “if not in the shrine of your heart? For where else can you receive the Wisdom of my Ka, if not in understanding, if not in awe of the gifts of life and Creation? I am the Ka from which all Kas were born, the Divine Artisan from Whose word the Spirits of the Gods came into being, from Whom life was animated and the Earth was given form. I am the Power from the Nuwn, the mysterious body of the Sa, and even the Netjeru do not know my true name or form. I am in what is seen and embody what is not seen. My Ka is Spirit, and enters the heart as Spirit, and awakens Creation as Spirit, as the Primordial Substance of Life.

This in man is transmitted in blood and seed, yet the beating of his heart contains it, and the actions of his body move on account of it. It is when the Sa departs for its transformations between the worlds that a man dies to his Earthly body and enters his Ka. He sees his Sa rejoined to the Sa of Sas from which it was drawn, and he sees that the heart is the true vessel of wisdom by which he is judged. Let his heart contain Wisdom, virtue and Ma’at. Let his heart shine with perception of what is right, and thus transform him into a Being of Illumination. Let him practice justice while he is alive upon the Earth, benefiting his peers, being a brother to all, being a just Ka whose desires have been invested with the Spirit of his Netjer.

Where is the Netjer of man? The Netjeru have come to dwell in Their bodies of Earth and stone and wood as it was ordained by my mouth in the Ocean of Nuwn, thus have the Kas of the Gods come to dwell in Their bodies upon the Earth, even as the Kas of humankind were bestowed with bodies for the use of their Kas. But it is the Ka that possesses eternal life, not the body. The Kas of the Gods are eternal as are the Kas of men, but their bodies are vivified only by the Ka and empowered by the substance of the Sa. Each Ka possesses the imprint of the Netjer Who fashioned it, and bears the sign of its Netjer within the understanding of the heart.

Sia-hat sia-hat sia-hat. Know the heart, know the heart, know the heart! It is in his heart, the reflection of his true nature, that a man carries the seal of his Netjer, the vehicle of his Ka. He may be in ignorance of it. He may betray it or choose to be blind to it, but his Netjer is the power of his Ka, the propeller of his Sa, and he will come to know it and embrace it throughout his many transformations. His body will be transformed, but his Ka will not. He will go to his Ka when his body makes union with the Earth, and he will see his Netjer and know that his Netjer is the parent of his Ka.

Fortunate are they who recognize the true nature of their heart while walking upon the Earth, and embrace their Netjer as the living power of their Ka. When a man knows his heart and embraces his Netjer he will act in harmony with the heart and Netjer resident in all things he encounters. He will not be in opposition to the Laws of Harmony hailed as Ma’at, the Foundation upon which Creation was brought into being. He will not struggle against his nature, his Netjer, nor will he find cause to struggle against the nature of Creation as it is. He will find harmony and know hotep, the peace of embracing one’s Ka, the satisfaction of perceiving the state of Creation as it truly is”.

Once again my heart is overawed and leaps with the joy of recognition. To know my heart is to know my Netjer and live in attunement with it! My Netjer is my nature, and if I choose to embrace It and live in harmony with It, then I will not rebel against the harmony of my own Ka, the satisfaction, the peace, the hotep of life. My heart has been sealed by a Netjer, and to know that Netjer and dwell in peace with it is to live in accordance with Ma’at, the Laws of Harmony out of which Creation unfolds. To live in harmony with life…to live in harmony with Creation. These should be the goals of my heart, my will and my desire. O Netjer, open up my heart for me that I might know it! May I perceive! May I see! May I obtain recognition!

Though this Holy of Holies is enveloped in the eternal stillness of stone, hidden doorways and sealed chambers, I perceive that the moment of the Sun’s ascendancy over the night has arrived. The horizon of the East opens to welcome the fiery countenance of the Netjer Ra, Whose eyes emit light beams of white-hot radiance. Earth will awaken. The river will dance on account of Him, reflecting in its cool depths the gold of His limbs as they slide to and fro over the currents. There will be life again in the fields of verdant splendor, alive with the cascade of warm yellow rays caressing palms and reeds and burgeoning vegetation. The mountains will absorb His presence in the Heavens, their rocky faces dancing wildly in the waves of heat cast off by the Sun’s burning form. It will all come alive again, and this place of silent majesty, unchanging in its mysteries and cool tranquility, will give birth to song that will perfume the air with its divine fragrance.

The Netjer has awoken in His House. But is He not always awake, stirring in the quiet heart that listens for His voice? Is not the Ka the true dwelling place of Netjer, though His Temple may house the artistic housing of His Ka? It is for me to find Him there, the Netjer of my Ka, Whose presence in me is the true life of my body, the immortality of my Soul; for I cannot cling to the things of this Earth, however beautiful they may be. One day I will move alone on my Ka towards the Divine Domain where hearts are judged and the container of all my deeds emptied out before the Scales of the Divine Law. How will I find my way along that dark river of the Duwat? How will I find my way upon the Earth before I must find my way over the Earth beyond? I must regard my heart, trust my heart, petition my heart to be good to me, to fill my actions with justice. I must petition the Netjer of my Ka to come forth and shield my heart from depravity, to open my eyes with the discernment of Wisdom. Shall I ask you, O Sia, to charge my heart with eyes to comprehend the Knowledge of the Gods, to see the Heavens and the Earth as they are, to know the true names, the Nutjers, of all things?

“First embrace me”, the voice of the Netjer rings out from the splendid home of His shrine. “Welcome the day by welcoming my Ka into the heart of this Temple. This Temple is the heart where Creation is sparked, where new life springs forth like a stalk of wheat! My flame is the Sa of action known to all men, the desire to bring light into a dark place, the will to flourish even in the midst of dissolution. Light a fire in my presence when dawn’s fragile light first breaks over the horizon. This honors me, but it truly honors the Spirit of Creation present in all that lives. It speaks of solidarity with the coming into being of beingness itself. To light a fire is to invoke the presence of life’s beginnings, as the fire of seed, born of passion, invokes life and manifests Sa.

Bring incense, the divine fragrance, for the satisfaction of my Ka, for all sweet and beautiful things are the substance upon which I feed. I breathe Ma’at like the blossom of a lotus held to my nostrils, for She is the harmony of all created things functioning in their place, evolving coherently as compliments. Waft this fragrance before me as the pure offering of your heart, inhaling Truth, inhaling goodness. Bring fresh water and place it at my feet as a symbol of your purity, for the pure heart is my dwelling place and the vessel in which my Ka is submerged. Be submerged in purity and you will be submerged in me. Begin anew every day, casting off the fetters of yesterday, renouncing any ill that may be upon your heart, and cease to transgress on this new day that has been created for you and gifted to all living things. Cease to do ill and accomplish what is excellent in the manner of a just heart, a heart filled with nobility, a heart imbued with the Spirit of the Divine Ka.

Why else would you plunge in the Lake of Purification? Why else would you pour out water before me and light a fire in my House, if not to recreate the first day when all was new and untainted and filled with promise? This I bestow to you, my son, that you will go forward from this day at peace with your heart and in the embrace of the Netjer of your Ka. Create with me by creating this Temple as the manifestation of your heart. Continue the work of Creation by lighting a flame for the work of your Ka in this world. Such works as those completed by the Ka are eternal, and never suffer the way of death or diminishment. All good and pure works are embodiments of the first creative act, the act of transmitting the Sa, the Fluid of Life, for the benefit of all beings. To push back chaos, to embrace the Order of Creation through Ma’at, through Supreme Truth, is the eternal flame of my Temple, and to keep it is to keep Creation pure and sacred, to honor the finest qualities of the heart in men. Come forth and embrace me! Receive the Sa from which your Ka will flourish forever!”

Sa a’ah! The Ka of the Netjer Menu (Min) is manifest from His Divine House, the Mansion of the Great Leopard, the Celestial House in which dwell the Gods of the Heavens and the Earth. Surrounding Him on all sides are bolts of pure white light, and the aura rising up from His head is the green of real malachite. A fragrance of sandalwood is emitted by His presence, imbuing the air around Him with peace and beauty. His skin is black, both absorbing and manifesting translucent beams of light. His countenance is more beautiful than any Earthly man, though His endowments are those of all men. Shining perpetually, His body is unclothed, garbed only by the brightness of the Sun’s light. Manifesting the ardor of Creation and desire, the Netjer’s massive organ of love is swollen with seed in the throes of perpetual ecstasy. With His left fist He tightly grasps His throbbing organ, while His right arm is raised at His side in the gesture of protection.

With His right arm He supports the standard of the nekhakha, the flail of power and victory, the scepter for sweeping away all obstacles and chaos. Gold and real lapis lazuli grace His sturdy neck, the compliment of a thick, well-muscled body from whose sinews the aura of strength and valor proceeds. His firm chin is ornamented with the long and braided beard of all father gods, the repository of creative power. Neb Menu’s brow is crowned with the golden helmet and twin plumes that are His insignia, stretching regal and erect into the illumination above Him, quivering slightly with the elegant movements of His head.

The Great Leopard moves forward to meet my trembling obeisance, yet something in the calm pools of His dark green eyes stills the fear and awe in my heart, and lifts my Ka into the raptures of love. I am captured by Him, and His fragrance moves through me. The ocean of my heart is calm around me, reflecting the luminescence of His limbs, the rays of real turquoise and lapis cascading from His firm body. The Earth halts to receive the message of Heaven, as this Temple of mine is elevated into intoxication. My breath slows, my heart beats softly in my ears, and all at once I am filled by the moment of His Ka infusing my flesh with the Essence.

Sa Netjer. Sa ankh. Sa uwdj. First I am filled with white light, the incarnation of the Divine Sa. I am embraced by the hand of the God, receiving His Essence, shinning with the shield of His illumination, safeguarded from dissolution and fear. No ill can touch me as I walk upon the path now open before my feet. I cannot be taken in by darkness, nor can death destroy my Ka! I am empowered with the Essence of the Netjer and moved forward by its light. I am as the indestructible Stars!

Now I am granted the Nectar of Life in the manifestation of golden light, pouring into my nostrils, passing through my lips and quenching my throat, anointing my Ka with the everlasting life of Truth and Wisdom. I need not fear death, nor shall death claim me forever! My Ka shall rise to take its place with the Beings of Light Who reside with the Netjer, imbued with His indestructibility. I am claimed by life and will not stray from it forever! I am watered by the light of the Netjer’s Ka, and cannot be separated from It for eternity!

What comes to me now is the green fire of rebirth, blossoming from a stalk of papyrus, growing upwards from the feet of the God to wrap its vitality around my flesh. I am infused with new life as a gift from the Netjer. I cannot be cut back by the pitfalls of the Earth, nor ensnared by the jaws of weakness, terror or sin! My vibrancy is the vibrancy of the green Wedjat Eye, wholesome against all defilements! Everything touched by my heart shall flourish as a thing good and pure in the name of Ma’at. I cannot be cut down. My growth cannot be hindered forever!

The hand of Neb Menu cradles the nape of my neck, proffering divine shelter, allaying fear and granting love. His tenderness passes into me. The chambers of my heart are expanded, prepared to receive the breath of the Divine Ka. My lips part as His breath enters my mouth and nostrils in a stream of luminescent white light, His lips touching mine, the warmth of His body enveloping me like a flame. I am at once poured into Him, like water emptied out from an overflowing river. My lungs are charged with His breath, my heart submerged and quieted, my breath revivified.

I have been transformed into the God, my heart whispers to me, and the God has been transformed into me. I am as this Spirit of Creation ascending to the celestial ladder. I have removed my Earth and joined the Company of Spirits. I have gone down through the Primordial Waters and been raised up by the hand of the Air. Shuw is with me! Tefnuwt bestows to me Her breath of fire, and I am unhindered in my progress to the Imperishable Stars! What fetters can hold me? What hand can pull me back when I am imbued with the Savor of the Netjer, Lord of the Shining Standard!

O Spiritualized One, hear me! Take me down this road of yours called Ma’at, this lotus held at the nostrils of Ra. Articulate my feet that they might walk upon the proper course, steered by the Power of the God, His Sa from His body. I am the son of the Great Leopard, Keeper of the Celestial Temple, and I have received initiation in the House of the God. His anointment was bestowed to me, His words inscribed upon my heart, and I go forward as a vessel at the direction of Ma’at, firm on my course, infused with Wisdom from the mouth of the God.

I listen in silence. I progress in peace. I repel strife, greed, hatred and destruction! What I create is Creation, being the Essence of the All, Neb-Ra-Djar, the encompassment of all that is. I do not kill, I do not dismantle Creation, and I do not renounce the Netjer of my heart, the life of my Ka. I am filled with the Waters of Life, quenched in the Pool of Creation, and fed by the tree upon which Wisdom grows. My name is inscribed in the Book of the Netjer, and His Divine House opened before me. Where my heart remains known to me, there too shall dwell the Netjer my Lord. I go forth in peace, the way made free upon the approach of my feet.

The Temple now stirs with the swift approach of a new day, while the seclusion of the Sanctuary falls as calm as it was before the presence and voice of the God threw it into sudden and vibrant life. Ra has now emerged with His full glory in the reaches beyond, possessing an azure sky, welcomed home by a joyous chorus of birdsong. Will all be as it was before? Will I trek into the open day to find all as I had left it, confused and swarming with troubles that could find no solutions? What will my life be beyond the shining majesty of the God’s House, His Temple?

Or, can I remember in the world beyond that it is the heart that serves as the true dwelling place of the Divine Ka? Whatever else may be dedicated to His name, however glorious, however beautiful, it is the vessel of the heart that carries Him as the Mansion of the Spirit. I am at a loss for words, not knowing how to think or feel, and my calm body yearns for the welcome relief of sleep. But it is time for you to wake up, yells my heart. It is time for you to walk with both your eyes wide open! There is no time for sleep when the path of knowledge awaits, and a lifetime is piteously short! Remember to know me. Remember to keep me open, always. Remember to embrace your Netjer as the Sa of your own heart, and all your deeds will be worthy of your Higher Ka!

I bow my head to the Netjer in my heart, letting my breath settle, my heart grow silent again. What need have I of this thing around my neck, I ask myself as I am suddenly aware of the rolled and bound shelter hanging about me. Why should I put faith in such things, when my true shelter, my true protector is the unseen shield beating within my flesh? There lies my protection or my downfall, and all other things I should gratefully give back to the Netjer Who lights my way; for only in knowing gratitude can I truly give gratitude.

First I must feel it within my Self, and use its luminosity as a torch of generosity for others. I should give the contents of my heart to others through the act of giving itself, without expectation of a thing in return. Is this not the perfection of love, of all Truth, of the path of initiation woven by the Mysteries of the Netjeru? Are not the Netjeru manifest in the Kas of all living things, fed by the Sa from which Creation is conceived. In this I have found my purpose, and thankfully pour my heart out in the presence of my own Wisdom.

Bending down before the shrine of the Netjer, I lay my shelter as a token of my heart for all that has been so generously given. This is my Sa, my Essence, the life in my Spirit, and to that which fashioned it, I give it back without attachment. Such is the greatest gift I could give. Such is the greatest gift I could receive.

All text copyright  ©  2006, 2015 Rev. Ptahmassu K.M. Nofra-Uaa

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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

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

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 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”