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PBP Fridays: K is for Khepri, Khepera, Kheperu

PBP Fridays: K is for Khepri, Khepera, Kheperu

Ancient Egyptians had a thing with having a god for a word or a concept (see ma’at/Ma’at, Sia, Hu, etc); Khepera (also known as Khepri) is both a god and the word “becoming.” He’s also a dung beetle–or, alternately, a man with a scarab for a head. The word for scarab is “kheper,” making Khepera-the-god a threefold pun, which is another thing ancient Egyptians greatly enjoyed; it’s theorized that puns contribute layers of meanings to a thing and thus give it greater effectiveness/power/depth. Some modern Kemetics use “Kheperu!” in the same way Christians use “Amen!” and Wiccans use “so mote it be”; it means “becomes” and is so a suitable way to end a prayer or ritual by supporting and affirming the message and/or magic.

Scarabs were a theophany (animal representation) of the Egyptian sun god(s); large, golden beetles, they rolled balls of dung around like the sun rolled across the sky. Young beetles sprang forth from the balls, seemingly created from nothing, and the ancient Egyptians considered this a metaphor for creation and rebirth. The word for the scarab is thus linked to the word for “to come into being” or “become” and, of course, tied to Khepera’s name along with the beetle symbolism and the attributes of rebirth. Khepera is the god of the dawning sun, harking back to that relationship to creation and rebirth that the baby scarabs represent, and He is thought to push the sun across the sky during the day and through the underworld at night. He forms a triad with other sun gods: Ra is the midday sun, Tem the setting sun, and Khepera is, of course, the rising sun being reborn from the eastern horizon.

A fun example of the many uses of the word “kheper” in its forms:

Kheper-i kheper kheperu, kheper-kuy,
m kheper n khepri kheperu m sep tepy.

“I became, and the becoming became. I became by becoming the form of Khepra, god of transformations, who came into being in the First Time. Through me all transformations were enacted.”

Personally, I really like Khepera, both for the unusualness of His depiction and theophany and for what He represents: rebirth and creation are a big deal in my life, and any god involved in that process gets my notice and appreciation. Dua Khepera!

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: I is for Isfet

PBP Fridays: I is for Isfet

Isfet is a concept found in ancient Egypt (and in modern Kemetic practices), and it has no direct perfect translation to English. It is the opposite of ma’at, which is rightness and truth, harmony and balance; so isfet can be called wrongness and falseness, disharmony and imbalance. Isfet could be called evil, or chaos, but neither is quite right. It is subtler than “evil,” I think, and is perhaps the closest thing that Kemetics have to “sin.” If one makes a mistake that hurts another person, it is not isfet; to deliberately choose to go against ma’at and bring about harm is isfet.

One of ancient Egypt’s creation myths – the one featuring Nit (Neith) as the Creatrix – states that isfet, in the form of Ap-p the Uncreated (Apophis), came into being while Nit was creating the world. While She spoke life into existence, a drop of spittle fell from Her mouth; it was part of the power of creation, yet without purpose or form. It has attempted to undo creation ever since, a sign that sometimes things happen which even the gods don’t intend.

Isfet itself is a term that refers to the doings of the Uncreated and how they are expressed in the world. Isfet is the concept; gereg is lying (speaking isfet), and binet is akin to oppressing or harming (performing or acting on isfet).

As a Kemetic, I strive to bring ma’at to the world through my words, actions, and heart; likewise, I strive to minimize and extinguish isfet from my person and my life. Much like any standard of purity, it is a constant effort to promote ma’at; however, since isfet is never accidental and always deliberate, I find it much more cleanly-cut to measure against my own standards. For example, I may be having a terrible day and be struggling to be as strong in ma’at as I would like, but I can at least work to curb my tongue and not strike out at others in frustration and pain, and therefore I can avoid creating isfet in that moment.

In Egyptian mythology, fighting the Uncreated is the work of many gods, the strongest of which is Set; but other gods have given humans heka (magic) in order to battle and defeat isfet in our mortal lives. We are not unarmed; we can always strive to lessen the power of the wrongness that crops up in the world. Each day is a new opportunity to rise above isfet and protect each other from harm.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: G is for Genderqueer and GLBTQ Netjeru

PBP Fridays: G is for Genderqueer and GLBTQ Netjeru

As a genderfunky and pansexual individual myself, I have a special interest in mythological figures who are also queer in some fashion. To my pleasant surprise, we have several Egyptian gods, or Netjeru, Who have some queerness in Them. This post is meant to be a brief introductions to the ones I know.

Firstly, we have Nit, the Creatrix. Of the handful of primary creator deities in ancient Egypt, Nit was the only one said to be female, but all creator deities are to some extent genderfluid and/or genderless, being gods that have reproduced asexually through various means (masturbation, spit, intentional thought) to create the rest of the gods. Nit Herself, despite being hailed as a goddess, bears the epithet “The Mother and Father of All Things” and has been addressed as “Male Who made female; Female Who made male” at the temples of Esna. She is the God Who bore women and the Goddess Who bore men, and so within Herself contains all sexes, all genders. Nit is said to have created childbirth, and, when referred to as a creatrix, Her name is written with the hieroglyph of an ejaculating phallus. She has been referred to as the deity of the Nun (pronounced noon), the great primordial waters of creation, or as the Nun personified. Another snippet from the Esna inscription reads:

Wide water Who created eternity; water Who made everlastingness;
Who rose in Nun while earth was in darkness.
Living Ancestor, Who had Her origins in Nun, before the creation of Geb and the raising of Nut.
Genetrix, Cobra Who was at the beginning, Mother of time primordial, She Who created Her own birth…

(Geb is the god of the earth; Nut is the goddess of the sky.) For more about Nit, you can read the research I’ve compiled thus far.

Nit has also been identified with/as Nebt-het (Nephthys), Lady of Death. In ancient texts, Nebt-het has been described as being “an imitation woman with no vagina” because of Her barrenness, and She has no children with Her husband, Set, Lord of the Red Desert, which is a striking difference from most Kemetic triads of mother-father-child. Some modern Egyptologists have interpreted Nebt-het as being a lesbian; more to the point, She is sekhyt, a Kemetic word often translated as “eunuch” but more accurately indicates any person who doesn’t fit within the traditional gender roles of male or female, any person who is infertile, and/or a sexless/unsexed person.

That leads us to Nebt-het’s husband and consort, Set, God of Chaos. Set is a highly sexual god; He’s been lured off after Aset (Isis) in guise of a beautiful maiden before, and He’s also tried to seduce Heru-sa-Aset (Horus the Younger), both during the Contendings of Horus and Set, which is the tale of Who would become king after Wesir’s (Osiris’) death. Heru-sa-Aset, in turn, tricked Set into consuming some of His semen on lettuce, also as a part of the Contendings myth. Some Egyptologists suggest Set is strictly homosexual, but He would also be more suited to the term sekhyt, as He’s often considered sterile due to His association with the barren desert, over which He rules. Heru-sa-Aset may or may not be considered bisexual or sekhyt, depending on the source; He does go on to father the four Sons of Heru, showing that He is indeed fertile, but His actions with Set may suggest a bisexual inclination (or just an attempt to gain a political upper hand).

In addition, Hapi, god of the Nile, was a male deity associated with the fertility and life-giving powers of the Nile river; as a result, He was shown as a round-bellied man with full breasts. The breasts may have been symbolic, or He may have been considered a fully hermaphroditic deity, though He did still have a wife.

Fertility was a big deal in ancient Egypt and was the primary requisite for a person receiving the full privileges of womanhood or manhood, but even in the biggest myths, genderbending and alternate sexualities were represented; there’ve also been inscriptions in tombs indicating homosexual relations between men. (I don’t know of any between women; if you do, please share!) Set and Nebt-het, both important deities in Kemet, were sekhyt Netjeru, and all creator deities, especially Nit, held within Them both male and female qualities. If I’ve missed any queer Egyptian gods, please feel free to chime in, or add your opinions/experience with the gods mentioned here!

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

where Hethert(-Nut) and Nebt-het touch

where Hethert(-Nut) and Nebt-het touch

This post is much more of a thought-seed than an essay, so please treat it as such; I lack conclusions. :)

In Hemet’s booklet Nebt-het: Lady of the House, she states:

Nebt-het, or nb.t-hw.t, means “lady of the house” or “lady of the mansion/temple,” as hw.t represents a more formal structure than does the usual pr, “house.”

Some Egyptologists suggest that the “house” in the name Nebt-het should have the same, celestial-oriented meaning as does the “house” (hw.t) in the name of the goddess Hethert (Greek Hathor, Kemetic hwt-hr), but Nebt-het does seem to have a very intimate connection with humanity and not just the sky. In this regard, I believe the celestial component is interesting … but unnecessary for an understanding of Her nature.

Given that my Mothers are Nebt-het Herself and Hethert-Nut, Hethert-as-the-sky, Hethert-the-Celestial-Cow, I am quite interested in this potential connection created by the hw.t, “-het,” in both Their names.

And since yesterday was a holy day for Tasenetnofret, The Good Sister, Whose name is one of Nebt-het’s epithets and yet Who is a form of Hethert, well…

I have to wonder where these two great goddesses might touch or even overlap each other. Nebt-het, goddess of death, guide to the souls of the passed and comforter to those mourning, and Hethert, lady of joy and love and music, in Her form of Hethert-Nut, the great cow of the night sky, upholder of the Sun Himself. Netjeru of the firmaments and all the souls and stars within them. Perhaps it was even Hethert-Nut Herself Who established that the house of the gods was within the sky, when She lifted Ra away from humanity on Earth so that He could watch from a safe distance.

And where Hemet mentions Nebt-het’s intimate connection to humanity, well, I cannot say that Hethert lacks such a connection – She, the Lady of love and pleasure and happiness, which we humans seek out and delight in! Hethert, Who ancient Egyptians praised as one of their foremost goddesses! And if Hethert is still a sky goddess in Her own right, especially in Her name of Hethert-Nut, then surely Nebt-het can also be part of the heavens without being distant from us. Besides, Nebt-het has been an Eye of Ra before, a fierce daughter of the sun, and all the Eyes have always been celestial, too.

So, perhaps it is not such a far stretch to see that Hethert-Nut and Nebt-het can meet in the darkness and depth of the sky, these ladies of life and death, sun and shadow.

edited to add:

According to the 2010 edition of the Nebt-het booklet mentioned above, there is, in fact, a syncretization of these goddesses! Hethert-Nebthet is listed as a Hierakonpolis Netjeru, and Nebthet-Hethert is the Lady of the House of the Sistrum, one of the Seven Hetherts/Hathors. The latter is especially fascinating to me, given that Nebt-het was the first deity I ever played music for, let alone created original music for!

And, from the preface to the 2010 edition, I now find these very relevant lines:

Nebt-het is the Lady of the House. The House is the sky, the place where ancestors shine down from as the twinkling stars, to watch all we do and guide us through our human lives.

Indeed, it looks like the sky is the common ground for Nebt-het, Hethert, and Nut, all the ladies Whom I call Mother. :)

The Blessing of Brigid

The Blessing of Brigid

From The Virtual Abbey:

Our celebrations, always full of spontaneity, are grounded in our own liturgical traditions. On Brigid’s day, we culminate with this song adapted from “The Blessing of Brigid” in Carmina Gadelica:

One group sings over and over:

I am under the shielding of Brigid each day,
I am under the shielding of Brigid each night.

While others sing in counterpart:

Brigid is my comrade-woman,
Brigid is my maker of song,
Brigid is my helping-woman,
my choicest of women,
my guide.

This is incredibly heartfelt and gorgeous.

PBP Fridays: B is for Brigid

PBP Fridays: B is for Brigid

Before I encountered Sekhmet, nigh six years ago, I was an avid lover of Celtic mythology (even if I wasn’t a very good student of it). The two gods Who stood out to me then were Lugh and Brigid, and I want to talk about Them both as part of the Pagan Blog Project… both to remember my time with Them and to do some more thorough research that I hadn’t done when I was younger.

In fact, I think I’m going to cover the research portion with the same Cliffs Notes format as I’ve used for Nit and Nebt-het so far.

attributes

– poetry
– healing
– smithing
– fire
– all high things
— high-rising flames, highlands, hill forts, upland areas
— wisdom, excellence, perfection, intelligence, druidic knowledge
— skill in warfare, craftsmanship, medicine
—— goddess of warriors without status
– home and hearth
— protection thereof
—— protects livestock
— fertility and prosperity
—— aids women, especially in conception and childbirth
– holy wells and rivers
– goddess of the land (who would be married to the king)
— bringer of spring

relationships

– daughter of the Dagda + one of the Tuatha De Danann, a poet
– wife of Bres of the Formorians
– mother of Ruadan
– had two sisters of the same name: one was a goddess of healing, one a goddess of poetry, one a goddess of smithing
– half-sister to Cermait, Aengus, Midir, Bobd Derg
– owns two oxen, Fe and Men
– owns the “king of boars,” Torc Triath
– owns the “king of sheep,” Cirb
– equated to Minerva and Athena
– related to St. Brigid

names

– “Brigid” means “exalted one.”
– “Breo-saighit” means “a fiery arrow.”
– Other names/spellings: Brigit, Brighid, Brid, Bridget, Brighde/Bride, Fraid, Brigindu, Brigantia, Braga, Braganca, Brigantis, Bregenz, Bidang

notes

– Invented keening when mourning for Her son, who was killed in battle.
– Invented a whistle used for night travel.
– Her day is February 2, both St. Brigid’s Day and Imbolc/Imbolg.
– “At Luxeuil in the Saône valley of eastern France, … Bricta is specifically identified as the consort of Luxovius, a god of healing and light which may be cognate with Lug.”

Lady Augusta Gregory (Gods and Fighting Men, 1904):

[She is] a woman of poetry, and poets worshipped her, for her sway was very great and very noble. And she was a woman of healing along with that, and a woman of smith’s work, and it was she first made the whistle for calling one to another through the night. And the one side of her face was ugly, but the other side was very comely. And the meaning of her name was Breo-saighit, a fiery arrow.

The Second Battle of Magh Turedh:

Bríg came and keened for her son. At first she shrieked, in the end she wept. Then for the first time weeping and shrieking were heard in Ireland. (Now she is the Bríg who invented a whistle for signalling at night.)

And now for some personal recollection.

When I worshipped Brigid, I did not comprehend or interact with gods as I do now. It’s a strikingly strong difference; today, I have very tangible, palpable experiences with my gods. Some 8-10 years ago, I didn’t – I just aimed my devotion, my love, and my prayers at Them and hoped They heard me. I would occasionally feel the presence of a god, but that was usually Cernunnos, not Brigid or Lugh.

Yet Brigid remained incredibly important to me, however little I studied Her, however little I directly experienced Her. I started calling February 2 the Day of Fire and looked to it as the first hope of spring, the first landmark that winter’s hold would begin to loosen over the snow-dowsed mountains. The time between my personal new year on Jan 15 and the Day of Fire on Feb 2 was a period of incubation and preparation for steering the new year, a time of imagining and planning how I would continue to build my own self.

Brigid, first and foremost to me, was the Lady of the Forge. Hearth-fire was well and good; it protected, it gave life through its warmth and light, but it was the heat and deep color of the forge that stood out the most to me. I was, and still am, ever-changing; the forge became a way to rebuild myself. When terrible things happened and stripped away parts of me, I knew I was only being melted down, the dross removed, in order to be reforged into a stronger, different person. I found comfort and security through radical changes and hard times by knowing that I was in Brigid’s forge, being improved time and time again.

I am still very fond of Brigid and Her Day of Fire, which is coming up rather quickly. Maybe I’ll reach out to Her once more.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: A is for Anhur

PBP Fridays: A is for Anhur

Anhur is an obscure Egyptian god, also known as Onuris to the Greeks. He originated near Abydos as a god of war and hunting, one of the few Egyptian hunting deities. His name means He Who Leads Back The Distant One; He plays the male lead in the myth of the Distant Goddess.

The myth, in short, tells the tale of the Eye of Ra becoming angry and leaving Kemet (Egypt) to go away, often to Nubia. The reason that the Eye goddess becomes angry can vary, but a frequent version of the myth tells how Ra sends his Eye to search for Shu and Tefnut, Who have gone off wandering in the world that is not yet done being created; when the Eye finds Them and returns Them to Ra, She finds that Ra has grown another Eye in Her absence. Angry with Her replacement, She storms off and wanders the desert, hostile and disconsolate.

In order to regain His protection under the Eye goddess, Ra sends a hunter-seeker to find Her and persuade Her to return. Depending on the version, the god Ra sends accomplishes this feat by a mixture of cajoling, praise, promises of riches and joys upon Her return, and reminders of the Eye’s duty to Her father. When the Eye comes back to civilized lands, She is met with rejoicing, offerings, and festivities by the people of Kemet.

Different gods can play the roles of the Eye and the seeker in this myth. Often, it’s Shu who is sent to bring His sister-consort Tefnut back; other times, it’s Djehuty in His baboon form that teases and flatters an Eye goddess like Hethert or Tefnut until She agrees to return. However, Anhur Himself is often the hunter who finds, and the Eye Who He brings back is Mekhit/Mehit or Menhit, the lioness Who then becomes His consort and wife. The meaning of Anhur’s name suggests the myth may have originated with Him, though Shu and Djehuty are more frequently cited in the retelling.

To make the myth deeper, Mekhit, The Completed One, could symbolize the full moon, and so Anhur bringing Her back could be interpreted as restoring the lost/wounded Eye of Heru to Heru-sa-Aset and restoring balance to the world.

As a war god, Anhur bore the title Slayer Of Enemies and was a patron of the Egyptian army and the archetype of the royal warrior. He was shown standing at the forefront of Ra’s barque to defend the sun god from enemies.

As associated with Shu, Anhur’s name could also mean Sky Bearer, and He was sometimes called Anhur-Shu. Anhur was also linked to Heru-wer as a saviour-through-war deity, earning Him the name of Ari-hes-nefer, Heru Of The Beautiful House. Other epithets include Bull of Thinis, Strong of Arm, High of Feather, The Good Warrior, and the Lord of Lances.

Anhur was depicted as a bearded man in a robe, wearing a four-feathered headdress similar to Shu’s, bearing a spear or lance; He was sometimes shown as lion-headed, as well. He usually holds a length of rope in His left hand, indicating His role in bringing back the leonine Eye of Ra.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.