Anna Applegate: The theme of this Autumn issue is “Dark Nights of the Soul.” Would you be willing to share an anecdote of how the Neteru have helped you through personal challenges or episodes of despair? Are they currently helping you navigate the powerful currents of any life challenges?
Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa: I could share so many “dark nights of the soul” with your readers, but I will share just one, which will be quite enough to express how my Netjeru have guided and saved me throughout my life. There is one thing I’d like to say about the Gods in general. I’ve encountered an attitude as I’ve worked with other Kemetics throughout the years that the Netjeru and human beings are something like cats and dogs…they just don’t mix!
There seems to be this undercurrent within a number of Kemetic communities I’ve encountered that seems to reinforce this view that we can worship the Gods, make offerings to Them, fear Them, but not have a close and personal relationship with Them. I have to say that this attitude is ridiculous, and is refuted entirely by the historical record.
Museums around the world are filled with stelae, ex-votos, letters, inscriptions, and votive offerings deposited at both major and minor temple sites throughout Egypt, and these are objects that give testimony to people who have had their most fervent prayers answered by the Gods, and so have dedicated a monument or offering in order to pay thanksgiving to the Gods. Both women and men made petitions for fertility and conception through symbolic offerings at temples, and the textual record from devotional stelae and prayers is immense!
The ancient Egyptians believed that their Netjeru could and did intervene on their behalf, bring healing and relief from suffering, grant requests for material or emotional needs, and deliver Their devotees from death. The massive quantity of devotional figures, amulets, and cult images recovered from town and village sites is proof enough that average Egyptians believed in the immediate presence and power of their Gods, and wanted their Gods close to them!
Honestly, from a very human point of view, what good is a deity who is removed from our daily life and suffering? What need have we for gods that can’t or won’t hear our prayers…who demand worship but refuse to be engaged? What can any such deity or deities possibly offer us? And who would offer prayers or make offerings to such a deity? I’d say the answer is self-evident. Humankind has always responded to deities who are actually involved in human life, needs, sufferings and desires.
Human beings establish ties and relationships with the Sacred Powers because they give us something we need for our physical and emotional survival. More than that, the Gods we worship or call upon actually answer us! We receive a response from Them that creates a bond, and a powerful sense that we are not walking alone. That is the reason religions have survived the test of time. Without a response from the Sacred, religion would cease to exist.
My relationship with my Gods has always been immensely personal. I can’t put my finger on an exact moment and say, oh, there it is, that’s the moment that did it for me! I think I just have a naturally devotional nature, and that nature needs to give and receive love, to feel an intimate exchange between myself and the other. I have never been casual or superficial. If I am going to love, I do it fully and deeply, with abandon; otherwise, I’d rather not be bothered. This is how I love my Gods, and it has never occurred to me that such a relationship was anything other than natural.
I was raised in a very strict, traditional Christian family…a church going family. My siblings and I were trained to memorize bible verses every single day, and attending church services twice a week was compulsory. But for me, there was an emptiness in Christianity, a void because the Christian god and his son were shown to me as aloof, judgmental, vengeful, and completely removed from human affairs. The Christian god I was raised with was an angry god who demanded at all times to be worshiped, but refused to show himself or engage actively with the lives of his followers.
For me, this just never worked. If you want to be my god, if you want me to acknowledge your power and greatness and sacrifices, then you had better answer my prayers, manifest your intervention in my life, and speak to my heart directly. In a manner of speaking, you better bring it to the table, and be ready to throw down…you know what I’m saying?! I don’t want to hear that it’s all there in a book, because words are meaningless to me unless they’re backed up by action.
And I think that’s always been the real difference between Pagans/ Polytheists and monotheists, ancient and contemporary. The Abrahamic religions, the religions of the book, have precisely that, a book. They have faith because they are told to, in books that are the law. Pagans and Polytheists have always asked for, and received, much more than the word from their Gods. Paganism and Polytheism have always been traditions of reciprocity and mutual exchange…I give because You give.
The ancient Gods have always backed up Their end of the deal through direct intervention and demonstration of powers; what I’d call “miracles”. The Gods are anything but removed from the daily lives, cares, and needs of Their devotees. They answer prayers directly, and They show Their living presences throughout the natural, material world They created. They do not demand our worship simply because They’re Gods, but through the immediate demonstration of Their powers, Their ability to govern life’s forces and bend these to Their will. They speak to us directly, and They are willing to prove to us just who They are and how They shape our lives!
My life has been shaped by my Gods, my Netjeru, Who have always answered my prayers directly, even when the answer had to be no, or you’ll have to wait…or you need to rethink what you’re asking for. I have never felt separated from the Netjeru, and no more so than during my “dark nights of the soul”.
Lord Ptah is my namesake, that you know. I also serve Ptah as a hem-netjer or priest, and, as an iconographer or craftsman of cult images, I look to Ptah for His blessing and empowerment in my craft. I could cite all kinds of esoteric or mystical reasons why Ptah called to me, why I answered, and why I honor Him above other gods…above my own life; however, the simple truth is that He saved me. He took me by the hand, quite literally, and led me through a darkness that very nearly claimed my life. And that is His claim on me, this moment of crisis when I trusted in Him and gave my life over into His hands. It is the time that culminated in my life-altering decision to formally receive a Kemetic name from Ptah, but also to belong to Him as His son.
1997 was a turning point in my spiritual life. After years of cultivating a relationship with the Netjeru of Kemet, devoted study, and spiritual guidance from Gods and earthly teachers, I was prepared to take the next and most serious step towards formal ordination as a priest. This was to be a spiritual initiation and transformation, not a legal ordination within an established religious organization. That would come later, and as a formality only. For me, initiation and ordination are not experiences that can be conferred by others. We can go through a physical ceremony performed by others in the name of a religious body, and can receive a piece of legal paperwork that certifies our standing within a religious community, but these things alone do not confer the actual mystical empowerment of initiation or ordination.
My initiation into the Priesthood of Ptah came by ordeal. When I say ordeal, I am talking about a deeply transformative personal experience that- by virtue of the level of emotional or physical pain involved- leads directly to an epiphany that results in one’s spiritual awakening into the mystical knowledge of a deity’s tradition or mythos. Each culture or tradition has its own expression of ordeal, which can take the form of rites of passage, during which those undergoing them are bestowed with a certain kind of knowledge or confirmation, an inner blessing or guidance for their life path.
Many Mystery traditions and cults have this concept as the “dark night of the soul”, when one must undergo a painful self-examination, or a set of experiences whose outcome will determine whether or not an initiate is prepared to be inducted into the Sacred Mysteries proper. Such Mystery traditions or cults, like the Eleusinian and Dionysian Mysteries, use vivid experiences of ecstasy and terror to induce consciousness of the Sacred Powers directly within the minds and hearts of its celebrants. Joy and ecstasy can certainly be powerful tools for engaging the Gods and drawing forth empowerment from Their Mysteries, however, it is my experience that initiation often comes through ordeal, which can be the “dark night of the soul”.
I had recently ended a long term relationship, which had slowly dissolved because of the religious differences between my partner and I. The more I had become immersed in my relationship with my Gods, the more he had felt excluded, threatened, and distanced from me. My partner had not found his own spiritual path, and due to traumatic experiences in his childhood, could not bring himself to accept anything resembling organized religion. What I was doing- being that it was so all-encompassing, so pervasive in my life- was ultimately too “religious” to be reconciled with his life path and direction, and we could no longer see eye to eye. It was the most devastating termination of a relationship I had had. But the situation as it played out have given me an ultimatum: it was follow my Gods, or stay with the man I loved. I chose my Gods.
This was the beginning of my initiation, which I see as the process of me coming into awareness of what my spiritual path really was. It wasn’t the Netjeru who made me choose between my faith or my man; that choice was solely mine, and I had free will to do as I pleased. I could have stayed in the relationship, and accepted that he and I would not harmonize in our spiritual beliefs. However, I wanted to devote each and every aspect of my life to service to my Gods, and that very much included any committed relationship I would invite into my life. If I had human love in my life, that love needed to embrace service to the Netjeru as its foundation; otherwise, there would be only a disharmony that would ultimately hold back the Sacred Work I felt compelled to do for the Netjeru.
At that time I had no job and no savings, only a large line of credit, which I used to secure myself an apartment while I looked around the city for employment. It was then that I shaved my head for the very first time, and donned the white robes that for me signified taking on the Sacred Mantle of priesthood. Shaving my head was a revolutionary step for me, for I had always had a full head of lustrous dark hair, and had been raised with a certain sense of pride that it was the hair that made the man. But for me, the shedding of my hair was part of the sacrifice I was offering my Netjer, Who Himself was smooth of scalp, and Whose ancient priests had shaved their heads during their time of service.
These are the little things we do for our Gods when we decide to make service to Them more important than the ephemeral things of this material world. We can give up our vanity, our sense of self-importance, our innate feeling that we indeed are the center of the universe. We learn through initiation that the Gods are great, that They are alive throughout Their creation, and that our life is the miracle of Their divine hands. We learn to see the bigger picture, that the Sacred Powers are far larger than us, and that we are engaged in an interdependent relationship with Them. When They give, we give…and when we give, They give.
It is in our smallest gestures of love and devotion that are contained the seeds for a larger spiritual awakening, which are bestowed through the fruits of true service, which has nothing to do with the ego, and everything to do with love for its own sake. When one truly loves the Gods, one simply gives, out of instinct; but it is this very instinct, this altruistic instinct, that manifests the most profound rewards. This I have learned only too well.
I seemed not to have found the job I was looking for, my credit ran out, and so did my ability to pay my rent. With the last sum of credit to my name I rented a small self-storage unit, put my shrines, my icons, my books, and my life into storage, and began a strange period of self-imposed homelessness. Most people in my situation would have been desperate at that point, and perhaps not a little spiritually desolate. But something kept me charged and invigorated from within, and perhaps strangely rebellious, too; refusing to acknowledge the seriousness of my situation, or see in it something self-destructive. Instead, I welcomed it, knowing that no matter how painful things became on a skin-deep level, that underneath it all would be the answer to my path in the Netjeru.
I stayed with friends, and friends of friends, sleeping on a couch here or a floor there, scrounging coffee and food from friends at my favorite corner café; and all the while studying the Sacred Texts of the Pert-em-hru or Book of Coming Forth By Day. When a couch or a floor wasn’t on offer for the night, I found relatively safe places to sleep outside, in apartment hallways or beneath shop awnings. I made friends with homeless men who had been forced into their lifestyle through desperate circumstances, and I never felt sorry for myself. I looked for the Gods in everything, continued to shave my head in the sink of a local park restroom, and did absolutely nothing to extricate myself from my ridiculous situation.
One afternoon, I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop reading the Pert-em-hru when I was approached by a young man carrying a copy of the Corpus Hermeticum (or Hermetica). He was Indian, and I knew by his Dastar or turban that he was a Sikh. He told me that he had been watching me for a little while and felt that I might be the person he was looking for. Apparently it was his birthday, and he had given himself a vacation to San Diego as a birthday present. It was in a used bookstore down the street that he had discovered a copy of the Hermetica, which he believed was a much later manifestation of ideals that had been handed down by the temples of Pharaonic Egypt.
It was a teacher of the ancient Egyptian religion he was looking for, and he told me he believed I was that teacher. I invited him to sit down with me, and for the next several hours we engaged in a very animated conversation concerning the Netjeru of Kemet, and the fundamental points of view that defined the religious traditions of ancient Egypt. Finally, the young man told me he was flying back home to Vancouver, British Columbia the following day, and asked me if I would go back with him in the role of his spiritual teacher.
I look back on this event now and realize that it was one of those crossroads people reach that wind up changing the course of their lives. I did not see myself as a spiritual teacher at that time, but as a priest-initiate, traveling through my own personal demons and experiences in order to come into awareness of my ultimate spiritual path. It was not my devotion to my Gods that I was questioning, but my ability to guide and inspire others; for what right does a man in crisis have to advise others in how to pick up the pieces of their life and serve the Gods? That was how I felt then, but I realize now that I was in exactly the right place at the right time, having been guided by the hand of Ptah to the next stage of my initiation.
I flew with Sukhi to Vancouver the next day, never stopping to ask myself how I would be able to fly back to America if things didn’t work out. I had no money in my pocket, no resources of my own, and I was walking blindly into the unknown…into a country I had never visited, with a young man I hardly knew. What I did have was this certainty that I was being guided and taken care of, that Lord Ptah and my Netjeru were asking me to go on this pilgrimage of sorts, where I would have the opportunity to refine my understanding of the spiritual quest, and my own understanding of myself.
Vancouver was a beautiful city, and Sukhi spent the first few days taking me to all the major landmarks, together with the places he loved. We visited the Sikh Gurdwara or mosque where he and his family attended sacred services, which inspired me greatly through the devotion that seemed to be the fabric of that faith. Throughout the evenings, and long into the nights, Sukhi and I debated religion, and I instructed Him in the myths and sacred texts of the Netjeru of Kemet. I shared with him my own devotional compositions, and chanted for him in the ancient Egyptian language.
I had brought only one icon with me, and that was my first icon of Lord Ptah I had purchased as a birthday present for myself with money I received for my 14th birthday. Marble and gold with blue and black enamel, this Ptah was a reproduction of the famous cult statue of Ptah found by Howard Carter in the tomb of Tutankhamun. Every morning we lit a candle and incense in front of Ptah while I chanted the words from the Daily Ritual, and every night we veiled Ptah and “put Him to bed”.
Sometimes we stayed up until the next morning, as Sukhi urged me to read the Pert-em-hru- the Book of Coming Forth By Day- to him out loud. Sukhi had a voracious appetite for spiritual learning, and my time with him in Vancouver felt like a teacher’s boot-camp, where the Netjeru were refining my abilities to share the Sacred Traditions with others, and giving me the opportunity to expand my learning as I was teaching. It was also in Vancouver where I discovered an emotional and spiritual peace I had not known for quite some time; not since before the breakdown of my long term relationship.
But it was not to last. In the middle of the night one night, Sukhi received a long-distance telephone call from a family member in India. His uncle was gravely ill, and his mother wanted him to come home so that he could be there in the event of death. His mother was purchasing airline tickets for Sukhi, and he would be flying out for India in a matter of days. I was stunned. Sukhi asked me what I was going to do, as I had no money or friends or connections in Vancouver, save him. That great sinking feeling overtook me the moment I realized the true test had come. My days of peace and devotion and philosophical introspection were coming to an end.
I had avoided the inevitable for as long as I could, and it was time to pay the piper. How I would have loved to continue my days in the chilly air of a Vancouver Fall, strolling through parks with Sukhi as we debated the chapters of the Coming Forth By Day. How I longed to spend my evenings in devotion, chanting before my icon of Lord Ptah, sharing the incense and flame of candles with Sukhi as he grew deeper into the Mysteries of the Netjeru. What I knew I wanted from my life was a life of devotion, where I was free to serve the Gods through Their ancient rites, and to restore the traditions of the ancient sanctuaries as fully as possible. I wanted to teach, to learn, to be absorbed in the Netjeru; and the very last thing I wanted was the one thing I feared was going to happen, now that Sukhi would be leaving for India.
This was the beginning of the darkest part of my dark night of the soul. Sukhi asked me about my family, if they could help me fly back to San Diego and get me back on my feet. This was the one thing I feared the most. I think I would have gladly cut one of my fingers off if I could have avoided asking anything, let alone this, from my family. Were there any other options? What did Lord Ptah want me to do? Would the Netjeru reveal any other choices or roads I could take to extricate myself peaceably from this situation?
I performed a divination, which was inconclusive, made an offering to Ptah, and asked Him to give me a straight answer in a dream. Dreams have always been used by the Netjeru to communicate important information to Their devotees, and my relationship with Them was no exception. My experience has always been that the Netjeru will answer my questions through the signs and symbols of a dream experience. That night I left the candle in front of Ptah burning, and the Lord unveiled. We did not “put Him to bed” as we had on other nights, and the golden glow of His face was the last thing I saw before I drifted into an uneasy sleep, my heart aching with a feeling of premonition.
In my dream the Lord Ptah appeared as He always had, but instead of giving me His usual blessing…pulling me into His body with His left hand, while stroking the back of my head with His right hand….He removed the white blessing shawl I often wore around my shoulders for the Daily Ritual, and tossed it into the air. The shawl flew through the air like a bird, gathering speed as it soared closer and closer to the ground. The ground took the shape of California, and my blessing shawl fluttered to the earth in the City of San Diego. Ptah pointed at me in a fierce gesture that seemed to strike me like a dart at the level of my heart, and then backed away.
When I woke up with a start, my heart racing and the lump in my throat rising, I knew what I had to do. I was going home to San Diego, and I was going to have to swallow my pride, my pain, my fear, and the outward practice of my faith, and accept the help of my family. I tried one last time to negotiate with the Gods, bringing my tears and heartache before Ptah, begging Him to open up some other way for me. As soon as I began my prayers, I heard His voice in my heart saying “Swallow your tears, my son, and do what you have to do!”
At this point I began to suffer excruciating dental pain from a couple of teeth I knew were probably abscessed, which made the physical, material aspects of my plight omnipresent. Since breaking up with my partner I had lived in a world of suspended responsibility, refusing to take the serious steps that were needed to make myself self-sufficient and productive in society. What I wanted was to be a spiritual recluse, to live as some kind of Kemetic hermit, considering nothing except for devotional service to my Gods.
But was that really the way to serve the Netjeru, by retiring from my worldly responsibilities so I could chant and read the Pert-em-hru all day? Was refusing to take care of my material needs really the way to teach others how to engage the Gods and develop a personal relationship with Them? I don’t think I wanted to hear the answers to those questions then. I resented time. I resented money and the material world. I resented any form of responsibility that would take me away from my daily devotions to the Netjeru; and now, the Netjeru were sending me back to San Diego to immerse myself in all the things that I had been running away from.
In the end Sukhi wound up taking me to the airport and dropping me off unceremoniously in one of the massive and noisy lobbies. He said his goodbyes very sheepishly, ashamed, I think, of having brought me to Vancouver in the first place, and then leaving me stranded at the airport without food, money, or a sure flight back to San Diego. This left me to try my luck with friends, attempting to call everyone I knew before daring to call my mother’s house and beg for her help. When that eventuality finally came, it was certainly the hardest phone call I have ever made in my life.
My relationship with my mother was a strained one, and she was, as a strong evangelical Christian, anything but welcoming of my faith. She made it painfully clear to me how undesirable my presence in her house would be, and I waited a number of hours in that airport while my mother and stepfather debated and discussed whether or not they were going to help me come home.
Home. That’s a cozy way of putting my return to a place where I was unwelcome. I knew this was going to be difficult, painful, an emotional battle up hill, but I think I had underestimated just how much I was going to have to sacrifice to get myself back on my feet. There I was, standing in my mother’s kitchen, a malnourished and shaven-headed waif, still wearing the white yoga pants and long-sleeve linen shirt I wore beneath my outer priest robe; looking for all the world like a Buddhist monk or a Hare Krishna, my lapis prayer beads with silver Ptah pendant hanging around my neck. It was then that my mother spilled her mind concerning my choice of religious vocation, the direction my personal life, and life in general, had gone, and the gross disappointment I had turned out to be. I listened to her lecture, as she verbally dismantled everything I believed in, sharing no sense of love or sorrow or sympathy with the recent dissolution of my long term relationship.
What she could say about my religion, other than its non existence as a defunct pagan idolatry, was that I had not been raised to shave my head, wear a robe, and wander the streets of Hillcrest without a proper job. I had been raised to wear nice clothes, to drive a nice car, to have nice things and live in a nice house; and “nice” meant having a certain amount of money in the bank, living with a sense of pride in all my “nice” worldly things, and having a “nice” normal job that would eventually land me a six figure salary. What my mother regarded as a “successful” life was a life in which I amounted to something of financial and material value in the eyes of the world.
What would make me a real man, a “successful” man, was working an average of 50 or 60 hours a week, so that I could have all those “nice” things in that “nice” house…that I could come home to after I got done with my 12 hour day at my “nice” and “successful” job. After my mother was finished with her tirade, I listened to more of the same from my stepfather. Needless to say, I was at that point thoroughly demoralized, and probably as emotionally devastated as I have ever been in my life.
That night, I sat on my old futon in the guest bedroom of my parent’s house, my overwhelming sense of desperation growing stronger by the hour. I had been told that the prayer beads would have to come off, the hair would have to grow back, and I would be expected to conform to my parent’s standards of normality for the length of my stay in their house, which was still a subject of intense debate. I think I have rarely been in a place where I have felt such a profound lack of love or empathy, or even humanity, and have wished myself removed from the face of the earth. But there I sat, feeling all at once abandoned and wholly dejected, wondering how such a woman could have given me birth, and how I could have let myself come to this. On top of it all, my abscessed teeth had reached a point of crisis, and I was in nearly unbearable agony. What could I do but pray, begging Lord Ptah to bring me some kind of comfort, however small, and to send me a light from somewhere other than there!
My mother came into the guest bedroom with one of her prescription bottles of Vicodin for my tooth pain, which was about as much as she did to bring me a touch of humane comfort in the midst of my struggles. I sat there staring at that bottle, wondering how many it would take to get rid of the pain. Yes, I said to myself, how many would it take? The thought of taking enough Vicodin to end my life seemed perfectly natural to me at that moment. I wasn’t frightened at the prospect of suicide, only frightened by the thought of not taking enough, and enduring the consequences that could follow. I was perfectly calm as I read the label warning against accidental overdose, and made up my mind that I didn’t want to be here anymore…in this world, in this place, in this “family”.
As soon as I made that decision, I somehow felt better than I had in the past few days, and got up to go to the adjoining bathroom for a glass of water to take the Vicodin. I sat the bottle of pills on the edge of the bedside table, and felt a strange calm settle over my throbbing mouth. I still felt the surreal pain coursing through my jaw and throat, but suddenly felt that it was happening to someone else; like I was a visitor in someone else’s body, without having to feel the effects of their pain for myself.
When I came back into the bedroom, the bottle of Vicodin was nowhere to be seen, and I looked around the foot of the bedside table, figuring that the bottle had fallen off the table after I sat it down. It had. It was there just under the edge of the bed. I felt myself bend over to pick up the bottle, saw my hand reach out to touch it, but somehow I felt once again that these were the movements of someone else, and that I was just a visitor. And then I saw something that stopped me exactly where I was. I saw the feet and legs of Ptah standing in front of me. This was no delusion or hallucination, and, despite the excruciating amount of pain I was in, I was still in my right mind. I felt awake, lucid, though still as if I were a visitor in another man’s body.
I let go of the bottle, but refused to stand up straight. I have seen the feet of Ptah many times in my life, and for those of you who have, you know exactly what I’m talking about. His bandaged feet, swaddled in the purest white linen, were actually there in that room with me, and the air was suddenly heady with His sandalwood scent. This was no vision, but a physical reality that I still choose to believe was the living God Ptah.
My heart beat fast in terror as the realization struck me that this was no projection of my subconscious mind during a state of meditation, but a solid manifestation of my Netjer standing before me. I did not see Him move, though I felt the palpable touch of His hands at the nape of my neck. At once, terror, at once disbelief; at once, the realization that I was back in my body, present and painfully aware of what my actions could result in. The throbbing in my mouth reminded me that this body was mine…or was it?
Within the spiritual view of some members of the Heathen community, there is the concept of being “God-owned”, which means that a devotee, of their own free will, has offered up the entirety of their being into the hands of a specific deity. This is a complete relationship of service, devotion, and worship, where the devotee entrusts the fruits and direction of their human life to the care and use of the deity. This is the strongest possible bond that can exist between a deity and human being, and it is a consummate one, integrating everything in a devotee’s life as part of the vehicle of service for the deity. This in no way means exclusion of other deities as part of a devotee’s spiritual life; however, it does mean that this sacred relationship is the primary relationship in one’s spiritual life, which spills over into every single facet of one’s life to encompass even the tiniest aspect of our mortal life.
I have never heard of the term “God-owned” being used within the Kemetic or Kemetic Reconstructionist communities, and I myself never consciously used it until only a few years ago; but now, looking back on this dark night of the soul, I realize that it was then and there, the very moment I had decided to take my own life, when I became Lord Ptah’s own kin, His “God-owned”, to put it in the way of some of my Heathen peers.
It was then and there that Lord Ptah claimed me, charged me with His sacred blessing, and made my flesh the container of His holy purpose. I was no longer the owner of my own skin, free to dispose of it in any way I saw fit, but was, as an instrument for His Sacred Work, a tool in His hands…clay in the hands of the Sculptor of Life. And I knew this then, with more certainty than I have ever known anything in my life.
It was Lord Ptah Who cut through my self-pity and raging sorrow, allowing me to break free of my personal demons in order to come into the awareness of my spiritual gifts and purpose. I suddenly felt that my physical pain was inconsequential, temporary, and would ultimately fall away to leave a renewed man in its place. I understood, as I stood there at the feet of Lord Ptah, that it was through this purifying fire of Sekhmet, His consort, that I would be healed from my own ignorance and self doubt. These would be burned away, perhaps slowly at first, but would in time give rise to my full purpose as Ptah created it.
I had heard my Kemetic name before, in the back of my mind during meditations, and I had begun to use it in my Kemetic work with peers and colleagues, but I had not formally accepted it from Ptah, nor made the final decision to take it as my legal name until that night. It was there in the presence of Ptah that I took my personal vows as His priest, and the nectar of this experience I recorded in a prayer which I call my “heart prayer” of Ptah. For me, this prayer sums up the innermost nature of being “God-owned” or fully consecrated to a deity. It also speaks to its reader of the living nature of the living God Ptah, Who is the Creator of the Gods, and the Father-Mother of all living things:
Homage to You, Ptah,
And hail to the Gods Who came forth from Your members!
O Ptah of life,
O Ptah of light,
O Ptah of mercy,
Hear my prayer.
O Ear that hears,
O Eyes that see,
O Hands that bless,
Receive my offering.
O Father Ptah,
I give You my heart.
O Father Ptah,
I give You my hands.
O Father Ptah,
I give You my breath,
O Father Ptah,
I give You my ka.
O Father Ptah,
I give You my name.
O Father Ptah,
I receive Yours in return.
O Father Ptah,
I give You my sorrow.
O Father Ptah,
I receive Your power in return.
O Father Ptah,
I become Your own flesh.
O Father Ptah,
You become the Lord of my life.
O Ptah of life,
May Your life be my life.
O Ptah of light,
May Your light be my light.
O Ptah of mercy,
May Your compassion
Liberate me; I who came forth
From Your body!
I am also a priest of the Great Goddess Auset, Who has been with me from the time I was a child. There are a number of “dark nights of the soul” stories I could recount from my many years of walking with the Goddess, but because time is short and space is limited here, I have chosen to tell a story of my darkest night of the soul that I have never written down before, and have told only one person, my husband. However, I wanted to end this segment of the interview with a recitation of two very dear prayers I wrote in response to Auset having rescued me during my dark nights of the soul. These are prayers I have continued to use whenever I feel the pull of darkness in my life, whenever I need to bring forth the Light. May they touch all with the same Sacred illumination.
Great Goddess Isis, I have heard Your call in my heart, and I vow to love and serve You until I take my final breath.
O Isis, I take up the knot of the sacred red thread, and I tie this knot around my heart. My vow to serve You is a vow to serve all living things in creation.
My vow to You is to love all beings, to heal all the afflicted, to save all those in peril, to take the hands of those without a friend.
May my life be the vessel of Your kindness, generosity and abundant love.
I reject none, and take unto myself the needs of all creatures in the world.
Receive my vow, O Isis, and may Your great work flourish in my heart for millions upon millions of years!
O Isis Myrionymous, the Many-Named,
Mother of the World, the Great Enchantress,
Whose nightly footsteps spin the sea
Of stars in the celestial vault!
O Bride, veiled, O Mysterious One,
The throne of the Mysteries.
I enter in silence, I depart in gratitude,
Knowing that not even the primordial gods
Have knowledge of Your true name or
Secret, eternal form.
O Goddess, I come into the bosom of
Your protection and wisdom,
Seeking virtue, and hail You as
Isis the Life-Giver, Isis the Axis of the World,
The Savior Who charts the way for the
Lost upon the waters.
Holy Isis, Your throne is virtue,
And to Your disciples in Egypt You
Are Auset, the Divine Seat, in Whose
Lap the God dwells, in Whose wings
Was reared the Sacred Falcon,
In Whose lotus womb was nurtured
The seed of the Resurrected One!
O Ee-sees, the Traveler, the Lady upon the
Waters! The sea is Your veil, churning,
The mighty roar of the wind Your command,
Ordering the heights and the depths in Your
Feared name of Pelagia!
O Queen of Heaven, circled by light,
Diademed with the riches of constellations,
Hallowed as the alabaster crescent and
Bring me close to Your starry feet,
To know Your paths traversed through
The realm of the Gods.
May Heaven open and Earth take witness,
And may the Gods rejoice,
For all that was ill is renewed in You,
O Isis the Breath of Life!
All that has passed away is brought back
To life, for You are the Weaver of destinies,
Whose command alone reorders the fates
Dictated by the stars!
O Veiled One, Ast-Amenti, come forward,
Taking my hand, washing my heart, bestowing
Knowledge! For You, O Bride of the West,
Are the countenance of Eternity and Everlasting!
You, O Isis the Queen of Heaven, are the ladder
Upon which Souls are reunited with the celestial beginning,
And in You I take refuge, in You I become a
Disciple of the Sacred Way.
All text copyright © 2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa, Rev. Anna Applegate