Bring Me the Red Cloth

Bring Me the Red Cloth (2)

Where my feet have traveled leaves the dust upon them;
those mountains yonder, over whose peaks the spirits hover,
between whose amber towers the swallows make pilgrimage.
I hear their animated conversation beneath the wind’s howl,
who weaves his forecast for the wings of hawks and sparrows.
They have come the way I have come, though I on feet and they on air;
we tread the roads above and below, our end the same in time’s keeping.

But I require a body of spirit when that of flesh has tired;
I know my blood and I know my bones, taken by the desert hallows.
Tears and cornflowers have given my toes ornaments of the sky;
shall I now drift on forget-me-nots, or take the wings of poppies?
I would rather have the lotus with me when dusk closes his inevitable hand.

Bring me a torch to brighten my way, and tell dusk to flee like a shadow.
There are sunbeams in my hand through which the morning is born;
let me be one of those blinking lances piercing the flank of the veil;
to know my mother’s thighs of heaven and shine with the face of her sun.

Bring me sandals for my pilgrim’s feet, and tell the Gods to open a road.
There are the doors of the sky through which birds ascend;
let me be a swallow of red breast and red cowl, of lapis wing and foot;
to grapple the sky and proclaim the clouds as my call opens wide the doors.

Bring me a scepter of fine gold for my hand, and tell the sky to obey me.
There are the clouds and their rains before me, the offerings of the vault;
let me be a hawk of gilded form and feather, of striking light above the surface;
to appear through the rivers of the sky as master of all the waters know.

Bring me horizon’s eyes for my brow, and tell the dawn to behold me.
There is the east and there is the west, whose doors know spirit’s wings;
let me be a falcon of divine luminescence, of wholesome sight and knowledge;
to foresee the morning after night’s bleary fall where vision becomes my apex.

Bring me a mount of electrum for my perch, and tell the abyss to retreat.
There are dark waters where eternity dwells, a sea of beginning’s making;
let me be a heron of dazzling white crest, of shimmering eye and bill;
to awaken the eye of horizon’s becoming in east where I am sired.

Bring me a rudder for my boat of the sky, and tell the waters to fear me.
There is the north and there is the south, of wind and water rushing;
let me be a holy crocodile, of malachite jaw and carnelian stare;
to cut through the depths of untamed floods where stealth and speed become me.

Bring me the breath of the Sun-God, and tell darkness he has his master.
There is the beginning and there is the end, an ocean without horizon;
let me be that lotus of celestial view, of fiery crown and center;
to break the surface with my copper mirror as first light’s face appears.

Bring me the red cloth of my beginning, and tell my mother to bear me.
There is seed and there is a womb, a father and mother within me;
let me be that child in his trappings, an image of eternal design;
to knit together my flesh and my bones as spirit meets its makers.

I require a new beginning once my end has found me;
I know my slumber and my blindness, when land becomes my lover.
Shroud and coffin have given my loins ornaments of the soil;
shall I now be still with the willow, or have sycamore boughs as my cradle?
I would rather have the lotus with me when earth takes me in hand.

Where my feet have traveled leaves the stars upon them;
those constellations yonder, in whose spheres the spirits glimmer,
in whose wake I circumnavigate the sky.
I behold their untiring dance in the north, where souls on wings ascend;
their passage from the ground below makes death a stellar path.
They have come the way I have come, though I on feet and they on air;
we tread the roads above and below, our end the same in time’s keeping.

All text copyright © 2016 Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

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Sacred Verses (30): We Are All Shadows / Traveling Through the Open Doors

We Are All Shadows

Earth, you are the residence of my bones,
the keep of my flesh with me from the beginning,
the house my ancient father made for me;
I will never be separated from you,
as your mountains will never be separated from your horizons;
they will endure on your loins as the sycamore endures,
rearing the green essence of field and meadow,
orchard and vineyard, cavern and grove.
You have passed to me these secret things from your seed,
and I carry them with me as the swallows carry the sun.

Sky, you are the residence of my spirit,
the keep of my shade with me from the beginning,
the house my ancient mother made for me;
I will never be separated from you,
as your stars will never be separated from your vault;
they will remain imperishable as your directions are imperishable,
holding aloft the gleam of Mooring Post and Bull’s Foreleg,
She-Hippopotamus and Crocodile, Lion and Myriad.
You have passed to me these constant things from your breast,
and I carry them with me as the winds carry the clouds.

We are all shadows
traveling through the open doors of the earth,
who gives us his seed of the ages stretching back to our beginning;
where we come from the gap of darkness and into the day;
where the thighs of our mother stretch forth to give us the world;
where the world is held up by the ocean encircled by void;
where the void is the source of the many from which the world is woven;
where darkness is the warp and light the weft of the primordial gods;
where the Gods comprise earth and sky, below and above, seed and womb;
where are hidden the children of the earth in the tears of daylight;
where the west swallows the stars that are born again from her body;
where the east spreads wide for the mirror of the swelling sun;
where are completed all the Mysteries that go forth as creation’s shadows.

We are all shadows
traveling through the open doors of the sky,
who gives us her breast of the eternal courses traversed by the sun;
traversed by the Unwearying Stars who rise and set by me;
traversed by the ark of daybreak which sails with me;
traversed by the ark of twilight which moors with me;
traversed by the souls of the north which provide breath for me;
traversed by the souls of the south which provide water for me;
traversed by the hawk of the east who shines gold on me;
traversed by the stork of the west who gives flight to me;
traversed by the Sun-God whose right eye opens for me;
traversed by the Moon-God whose left eye opens for me;
traversed by all the Secrets that go forth as life’s shadows.

We are all shadows
traveling through the open doors of flesh and bone;
I take the pathway of doors my corpse provides,
steering me with the hand of my senses into the field beyond.
Life is my father, the deeds of my skin,
and death is my mother, whose clothing of the dusk conceals the virgin dawn.

We are all shadows
traveling through the open doors of the eyes;
I take the road of doors my mirrors provide,
gazing through my corpse and predicting the spirit following the flesh.
Daylight is the map my living feet tread,
and nightfall is the guide of my starry stride.

We are all shadows
traveling through the open doors of the ears;
I take the counsel of doors my music provides,
singing from the sparrows who hear the sun’s summons.
Earthly voices are the direction of my bones,
while the words of the sky provide wings for my soul.

We are all shadows
traveling through the open doors of the nose;
I inhale the incense of doors the earth provides,
swelling my worldly lungs with the savor of the immortal Gods.
Sweat is the scent of my corpse of the earth,
while breath is the flavor of my spirit of air going forth.

We are all shadows
traveling through the open doors of the mountains;
I ascend the soil of doors the beginning provides,
bursting up through the ocean of my mother as the mound.
My base is the road taken by the sun when he declines,
while my apex is the golden throne his ascension mounts.

We are all shadows
traveling through the open doors of the winds;
I sail the watercourse of doors sky’s breath provides,
moving in and moving out from the reach of the horizons.
My coming from the north revivifies the eternal sky,
while my coming from the south renews the enduring earth.

We are all shadows
traveling through the open doors of the rivers;
I quicken the flood of doors the netherworld provides,
overflowing every channel where my name spreads like water.
My water of the fields is the green of precious turquoise,
while my water in the sky is the starry veil of lapis lazuli.

We are all shadows
traveling through the open doors of the east;
I take to my breast the lotus of doors daybreak provides,
striking my heart with the fiery crest of a heron.
His call is my name rising from the pyramidion of the sun,
and his alighting is my soul’s forthcoming to the region of eternity.

We are all shadows
traveling through the open doors of the west;
I enter the mouth of doors twilight provides,
reuniting with my mother who acclaims her star-born child.
Her darkness is the secret cavern where my corpse is renewed,
while her light is the celestial door thrown open for my soul.

I am a shadow, like all the shadows
traveling through the open doors of the worlds;
we enter the lifetimes of doors eternity provides,
going forth by dawn and coming in by dusk.
Our life is the earth our corpse mirrors in daylight,
while death is the sky our soul ascends when night is opened.

All text copyright © 2016 Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

Seize the Sky/ Mirrors of Hwt-Her

Mirrors of Hwt-Her

Hwt-Her of lofty form, standing firm in your field of turquoise,
striding heavenly circuits with horns of gold blazing,
your lapis veil the dancing ground of indestructible stars;
you are the mansion suspended above the brow of the earth,
whose hawk of enduring metal seeks the shelter of your thighs.
Taking his young body to your breast of heavenly milk,
your enchantments of the dawn grant him wings of stellar dominion.
Seize his wings, your wings, and bring them down for me, for me!

Come down O Goddess, bending low to the home of earthbound souls,
swinging your lights on the horizon before us, opening your two eyes;
these the dwellings of your whirling spirits, dancing as seven ladies in your train.
We see the horizons overtaken with riotous color of your two bodies,
one brightening the day with electrum, and the other clothing the night in alabaster; mirrors of the sky in whose depths the lights mingle.
Seize the sky, your sky, and pull it down for me, for me!

Swimming in your sky-waters, dappled with lapis lazuli,
carrying the Unwearying Stars in your belly,
your torches of gold going before you in the Nether Sky;
yours is the body of sublime form holding fast the gaze of the earth,
who beholds your thighs of fine and burnished gold welcoming the sun.
You praise him with your lips above, and with those below you hold him;
his emergence as that lotus of light-rays renews the world from your cavern .
Seize the sun, your sun, and send him out for me, for me!

Come down O Goddess, with mirrors foretelling your eyes;
let the east be your right eye and the west your left,
and my eyes behold you opening, opening.
May heaven open and the earth open;
your mirrors are dawn and twilight where spirits rise.
May the north open and the south open;
your mirrors are breath of sky and the flood becoming.
May the east open and the west open;
your mirrors are the birth and swallowing of the Sun-God.
May the lotus in his dark abyss open;
your mirrors are the going forth and withdrawal of the beginning.
May the secret Mound in his waters open;
your mirrors are the birth pangs and devouring of the earth.
May the Sacred Eye in its green wholeness open;
your mirrors are the division and reconciliation of powers.
May the Eye of the Sun open and the Eye of the Moon open;
your mirrors are the Day-Ark and the Night-Ark forthcoming.
May the Bakhu-Mountain open and the Manu-Mountain open;
your mirrors are the cleft of east and gap of the west receiving.
May the eastern and western portals open;
your mirrors are the stations of rebirth and eternity unceasing.
Come down O Goddess, with your mirrors predicting day after night;
let their spirits follow after you as your body of heaven opens,
and my earthly body opening, opening!

See now my legs striding the circuits of the stars by you;
you, the sky-mansion of unbroken light, between whose thighs the sun soars.
My body becomes your stars by you, seized by your hand and lifted up.
My eyes become your zenith by you, seized by your brow and lifted up.
My nose becomes your lotus by you, seized by your breath and lifted up.
My lips become your command by you, seized by your tongue and lifted up.
My tongue becomes your authority by you, seized by your heart and lifted up.
My heart becomes your enchantment by you, seized by your magic and lifted up.
My seed becomes your magic by you, seized by your womb and lifted up.
My thighs become your two horizons by you, seized by your eyes and lifted up.
My breast becomes your falcon of gold by you, seized by your thighs and lifted up.

Hear now my voice of turquoise shooting from your field;
you, the Mistress of Turquoise upon whose breasts the stars grow.
Take up my spirit-body to your starry breast and set him there;
establish his wings as those of a hawk of gold to glimmer forever.
You shine, and I see my reflection in your mirrors of the horizons.
You open your lips of the west, and I descend beneath your belly.
You dance in the mantle of the Unwearying Stars, and I rise up as one of them.
You throw back the doors of the nether portals,
and I go forth to the Mooring Post of the sky.
You place the diadem of the vault upon your apex,
and I become one of those Imperishable Stars enduring.
You open the lotus of the sun before your full face,
and I become the countenance of light filling your two eyes.
You shake your fecund thighs between the eastern sycamores,
and I become the Sun-Calf reborn from your turquoise sky.
You rule the nether region where earthbound spirits travel,
and I become a soul in flight encircled by your arms.
I become a portion of that ascended veil dazzling on your fresh horizon;
and you seize the sky to bring it down for me, for me.

All text copyright © 2016 Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

Sacred Verses (27): The Gods Drink Their Image

The Gods Drink Their Image

I go in carrying my corpse in my hands;
all that I have from my Mother of my many lives,
their fears and transgressions pecking like crows;
these my entourage from my many lives,
their black cloaks haunting my shade for all its deeds.
We carry with us the corpses of all our accomplishments,
and like sparrows they gossip our names to the sky.
Sky, hungry sky, swallowing my sun into the hallowed west;
you swallow my mortal flesh whole, and with it my deeds;
for the sky is our beginning and our end,
and the Gods drink their image when it comes back to them.

I go in carrying my fear on my naked bones;
does he know his name, his scent, his flavor;
all that he has from his Father of his many forms.
Once I was green and gold like a field of corn,
my lighthearted soul fluttering above me as the azure sky.
I knew laughing and drinking and lovemaking,
the gleaming mirror of the sun throbbing from my loins.
I knew the names of my light-spirits, swallows on the wind,
tittering with the sky in the language of the fresh earth;
their speech the ancient tongue of an earth and sky united.
I knew these words and this language in my heart,
which received the knowledge of memory from the swallows;
and they received it from the Sun-God,
whose lotus breath knows our beginning and our end;
and the Gods drink their image when it comes back to them.

Where are my swallows now, who saw with their carnelian eyes
the rising of my sun on the fresh horizon of the east;
when I was still young, flawless, and green as the earth was green;
when I stood with my bare ankles in the flood,
my hands sifting the droplets of their beginning;
when my brow wore the diadem of the sun’s rosy light,
his rays playing over my wet breast and thighs;
when my shade traveled near me and knew innocence
as its companion,
before it played with snares and become entangled in nets;
when my eyes could see the future of their earth,
his Father below and his Mother above;
when the indomitable mountains appeared yielding
to the soft touch of the eyes, their peaks as lips to kiss;
when my mouth knew its first kiss and tasted its first lovemaking,
the flood sliding between my open thighs
to receive the power of the desirous sun;
when my passions knew only their beginning, never their end,
and the Gods drink their image when it comes back to them.

My light-spirits began as swallows as all spirits do;
they know from their birth the language of the rising sun.
They alight on the edge of the sky to hear the stars,
to catch their unwearying travels in the words their memory weaves.
This is the language of the swallows kept by the Sun-God,
whose beams traverse the four directions where swallows fly.
Their breasts and rosy faces have been kissed by the sun’s lips,
and their wings by the midnight sky, where their flights have ended.

If we spoke the language of swallows, we would hear how we began;
how the shade of our beginning was fashioned in the deep,
where the coils of serpents choked the first Mound of the earth;
how the Sun-God found his mirror alone in the surging darkness,
peering for the first time at his reflection of burnished gold;
how the loins of our first Father grew a sycamore on the Mound,
its boughs the bearers of his passions stretching from the abyss;
how the turquoise sky was upraised by the sycamore of the first dawn,
her body of gold becoming the Mother of the untiring stars;
how the light-spirits were born as swallows to perch near the elder sun,
their ears hearing his first words ring out into the burden of shadows;
how the bodies of the Gods were fashioned from the ancient elements,
their powers of gold and turquoise springing up from the first Mound;
these powers knowing their beginning, but never their end;
and the Gods drink their image when it comes back to them.

This is where we gathered our powers and our forms,
our lives reaching out before us like shoots of green in a void;
where we began as light-spirits untarnished by the shade of mortality.
This is how I began when I was still a child and could hear
the language of swallows carried on the wind.
They gave me the memories of the Gods in their first bodies,
which appeared upon the mirror of waters the beginning held.
Our beginning, our youth, our green souls were reflected with them;
many in number, they opened their wet ears to hear the song of those Gods,
being our gods and our voices, our language and our forms.
How those waters of the void fell from us, leaving our corpses awake;
how I held my swallows in my hands like the beatings of my own heart.
Have I now wings to travel like those hearts on blue-black wings,
to carry words of turquoise that sprout from stagnant shade?
Have I now wings that know their beginning, but never know their end;
and the Gods drink their image when it comes back to them.

I have gone in carrying my heart in my hands;
all that I have from my Mother of my many lives,
and all my Father gave me from his loins clothed in shade.
All my transgressions perch on my heart’s shoulders
like those swallows on sky’s edge;
she recalls their exploits as they recall my deeds,
and as the Sun-God knows his language from beginning’s form.
My youth has slumbered within my bones, my greenest hours faded;
I come again into the breast of the sky to shed my earthly skin.

Sky, my fragile youth and my beginning,
the Mother of my light-spirit whose breathing lights the vault;
I drink you in as my lips swallow your starry breast,
your thighs beneath me open to receive the sun of my green loins.
May my image grow within you as a star of undying aura,
born again in the east on your horizon of ascending light;
this light that glitters by day in the company of ancient swallows,
reaching up into the turquoise veil with their lapis wings.

Earth, my heady passions and my forthcoming,
the Father of my flesh and bones whose breathing fills the sky;
I drink your seed in as my lips swallow your inundation,
your skin on my skin bestowing me your savor.
May my flesh and bones be received by your hallows
to charge the cavern of beginnings;
where our Ancestors meet to receive their light-spirits
after travels through the memory of time.
Let me travel with them and hear their memories,
to become a swallow of the sky and air;
these qualities that know their beginning, but never their end;
and the Gods drink their image when it comes back to them.

I go in carrying my peace on sun-clad bones;
he knows his names, his youth, his beginning;
all that he has from his Father of his many forms.
He has drunk from his Mother’s sky of many lifetimes,
reckoning his past and his many transgressions.
But fear is unknown to him when he passes over
into the house of the midnight sky;
for he has tasted the waters of our beginning,
where all that once was has received the untarnished flood.
His reflection is the green and gold of the untouched Gods,
these qualities knowing their beginning, never their end;
and the Gods drink their image when it comes back to them.

All text copyright © 2016 Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

Girdle of the Sky

Girdle of the Sky

She is the sycamore mistress whose supple arms encircle the sky,
her gilt branches winking in the languid embrace of the sun’s final moments.
How he stretches down for her, dappling those leaves and naked feet;
how lofty reach those arms of gold, those fingers of turquoise splendor.

Her name is House of Heaven as she stands upon her hill;
receiving the Sun-God’s diadem which outshines him upon her brow.
Two upright horns in whose curve radiates the power above the vault;
she receives him by eventide with half moon lips through which the stars
glimmer.

We enter her twilight cleft in the western mount where Sun-God slumbers;
his descended body swallowed by her mouth of celestial flood.
Is she not the keeper of his seasons, the golden vessel in which he lies;
when she becomes the tree of the fecund mound to receive him when he dies.

When the sacred river is at its flood she dips her naked toes;
a net of dusky gold glistens in her wake, her footfall watched by gods.
Ruddy lips catch a taste of the flood rushing fast to savor her ankles;
how quickly turn the heads of gods and men to steal a glance as she drifts by.

She dips low beneath the flood like that lotus when sundown calls;
how her twin mounds of east and west rise with vigor above the waters.
The Sun-God chases the wind to find his secret throne between them;
and blushes the flood as its wet kiss finds the source of life’s nourishment.

On the riverbank beside her weave and dance the papyrus scepters;
zesh-zesht, zesh-zesht they whisper as her wet thighs emerge.
Sycamore cow is her name when her flood meets the earth,
when all that is green becomes an ornament of turquoise at her breast.

Here Gods and men process to the quaking of hips and thighs;
when heaven’s shrine thunders, her voice cracks open earth and sky.
Drum and rattle and terror are hers as she takes to ecstatic movement;
how the eyes of all tumble down when she crashes in a cloud of myrrh!

Beneath the acacias whose branches sweep the vault she dances
without respite;
malachite green and real lapis lazuli follow her sacral tread.
With brow in the sky and feet under soil she knots the worlds in union;
her divine throne making her home the keeping of Gods and men.

She has made of her sycamore branches a perch for the Sacred Falcon;
he alights with eyes wide open to the shrine of celestial play.
With her lithe body she girdles the sky whose sun becomes her lover;
as nightfall sweeps the river he receives heaven’s dappled embrace.

It is she who lifts him above the earth, the place where he alights;
her lotus breath becomes his name when she holds him firm by night.
Her stars she bestows to her lover of air, her eyes become his crown;
when earth pays homage to his sacred feet it is she who draws him down.

Night finds her braided tresses home of moon with stars behind;
a crescent to form a diadem and a net of gold to shine.
When daylight brightens her perfect form as girdle of the sky,
a gilded belly flashes copper navel above an ebony shrine.

Sycamore Goddess whom earth and sky follow appears full-faced by dawn;
the Sun-God’s yawning arms stretch far to hail her lotus face unfurling.
Our sacred river leaps in its turbulent courses to kiss her vaunted roots;
the earth itself rising to follow when her fingers arouse his Two Banks.

What raiment does she need when all of heaven is her mantle;
creation wraps her primordial form in fine gold and beams of turquoise.
Yet ground and vault dance with desire for the raptures of her light;
our sky’s girdle by which the life of the sun becomes our eternal mansion.

All text copyright © 2016 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