Ancestor Veneration

Ancestor Veneration

Kemetic Orthodoxy practices and encourages ancestor veneration. We believe that, after death, the soul of the departed goes on a long journey through the Duat, the Unseen world, that culminates in the Weighing of the Heart, where that person’s heart – the seat of their personhood, emotions, and memory – is weighed against the feather of Ma’at, the goddess of balance and justice. It’s been said that Ma’at has a heavy feather, for we suspect that few are truly “bad” enough to outweigh it and be uncreated (consumed forever) by Ammit, the Devourer. Once a person passes the Weighing, they become an akh, plural akhu, the blessed dead. They go on to Wesir’s (Osiris) kingdom in the Duat, a land for the dead that is not so dissimilar from the land of the living; people work, live, love, and serve Wesir as their god-king. (This is very simplified and abbreviated; forgive me. There’s plenty to read on the subject of the Egyptian afterlife for those so inclined.)

A note about the biology of the soul, according to Kemetic thought: The human soul has several components, the two most frequently mentioned being the ba (plural bau) and ka (plural kau). The ba is the eternal, everlasting part, and for those of us who believe in reincarnation, that’s the part that moves on past this life and begins the next. The ka is the personality of who you are in this life, and it’s the ka that becomes an akh. In a nutshell, this means that a person who has passed can both reincarnate and be a recognizable ancestor-ghost with whom their living relatives can communicate and to whom we can make offerings. (An extra note: If you believe in reincarnation, this means that you can interact with your own former kau as akhu. That’s really cool to me. :D)

My Thoughts

I don’t have a lot of ties to my blood family; I am much more inclined to small, one-on-one relationships than being part of a clan. The idea of venerating my ancestors is not an instinctual one for me, mostly because I don’t have a lot of emotional attachment to kin; however, I can get behind the idea of honoring those who came before and who produced the people who produced me. I’m fully aware of the changing of the times, and being an oddball even according to liberal modern people, I’m wary of thinking my ancestors “get” me, which can be a stumbling block in relating to my akhu. Nonetheless, I’m trying to ease myself into a better, hopefully more interactive relationship with my akhu; I do have a small shrine to them, and I keep a small glass of water filled and a small vase with a few green things/found flowers in it. I think fondly of my mom’s mom and my dad’s dad, both passed, and hope that all my akhu, “known and unknown,” think fondly of me.