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the Feast of Heka

the Feast of Heka

Now I am Heka. What I said was good, and what came forth from My mouth was good, and what I now say, the same shall be performed, for I am Heka.

~ Coffin Texts, Utterance 325

Today is a feast for Heka, the god Who is the manifestation of heka, the innate quasi-magical power of authoritative speech. It is a very good day to ponder which words come from your mouth and fingers, what impact those words might have, and what power your own voice holds to effect change in your life and this world.

And, since it is a feasting holiday, I would encourage you to also contemplate what you are feeding the mouth that is the conduit for such influence that your words hold.

To Heka, I offer all good and pure things, may they please and nourish You. As You are fed and strengthened, so my own heka is fed and strengthened; as I feed and strengthen my own heka, so You are fed and strengthened.

Quasi-Guest Post: My Partner’s Wep Ronpet

Quasi-Guest Post: My Partner’s Wep Ronpet

As I’d hoped, my (non-Kemetic) partner did indeed make pansnakes and ritually slay them on the first day of the new Kemetic year. More than that, however, he sent me a narrative, accompanied by photos, which I am sharing with you all. I laughed so hard I cried when I got them on Saturday. :D

*cue ominous foreshadowy music* From the murky Teflon depths of isfet…
It’s alive! Alive!
Back, foul creatures! Back, I say!
Ho! Ha ha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! THRUST!
Taste cold steel… and justice!
If it bleeds, we can kill it.
Hisssss! (Translation: Run away! Run away!)
No surrender, no retreat!
Usually one goes from the frying pan into the fire, not the other way around…
Villain! Have at thee!
You may be quick, but my blade is quicker. En garde!
Ha! Missed me, missed me, now ya gotta ki… Ya know what, never mind. Hya!
Tsunami CHOP!
*shinnng!* *slow motion choppy sound from Samurai Jack*
One two! One two! And through and through. The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
…and with its head he went galumphing back. Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Hail the conquering hero!
What is best in life?

To crush isfet, see it driven before you, and eat the tasty tasty remains. *nomnomnom!*

historical heka, modern heka

historical heka, modern heka

Going through Faulkner’s translation of the Coffin Texts, I’m finding some gems.

Spell 470: “I have appeared as Pakhet the Great, whose eyes are keen and whose claws are sharp, the lioness who sees and catches by night. … I find Orion standing on the path with the staff in his hand, and I set up the staff and receive it, and I am a god by means of it.”

Spell 471, written on a man’s coffin: “A man has power through his magic. I have stood up as a holy woman, I have sat down as […] the sky, because you know my magic which I take to the sky.”

These make me gleeful, because I am nerdy and queer, and I like finding obscure lioness Netjeru and references to men standing up as women. This is a big part of this soft-recon / researchy-revivalism path that appeals to me—I like finding others’ words and integrating them into myself and my worldview. I nom language, and it nourishes me. I feel connected when I can read or hear something from a different time, culture, or just a different person and understand it, grok it, digest it, use it.

But I don’t live entirely off others’ words. I am a writer, too. I write my own heka, some shared publicly, some still private. My tone of voice when writing heka is based on the historical sources I’ve read, and that tone evokes a particular feeling that helps me remember that it’s heka, not just journaling or pondering or wishing. For example, check the difference between “My eyes are the eyes of Nebt-het” and “I have Nebt-het’s eyes.” Both are entirely valid!… but one feels more like heka to me than the other.

(Of course, this is all from a strictly English view. I can’t read Middle Egyptian (yet?), so I can only speak to the language in which I am fluent and in which I do most of my verbal thinking and discourse.)

Finding and using historical heka, and writing and using my own, is a balancing act for me. While some Kemetics may prefer one source over the other, I really enjoy having a blend of ancient heka that resonates with me and heka I create for myself. So I write heka and prayers in a paper journal multiple times a week, and I peruse the Coffin Texts, seeking both style and inspiration from ancient voices filtered through the pages.

“. . . his pen is a wand which lets him surpass; he will perform deeds and achieve governance – so says Osiris of [name]. One who has recourse to the storm, with protection in his hand . . .”

(Spell 665, CT.)

subtle gods

subtle gods

I gather the usual supplies: incense, candle, cool liquid. I resist the urge to get the I’m-sorry-it’s-been-so-long wine from the fridge, choosing instead Nebt-het’s other favorite, blackberry-grape water. I pour some for Her, then savor the rest—the taste takes me back to the first summer-soaked days in Texas, when our house was yet empty and I was only beginning to know Her.

I make the offerings, kneel before the shrine, and call on my Mothers. There is no tangible response, and wise words ring through my head, remembered: Most of the gods are subtle. That is one thing They can be said to be, overall. We tend to miss Them, rather than Their not being around.

When I shift my own perceptions to a finer grain, looking for the hints of grey that fill the gaps in the primary spectrum, I find a sense of Her. Nebt-het is subtlety squared, soft and velvet like shadows, and if I shine the light of my attention too hard towards Her, I’ll never see Her.

She likes the drink, and I think She likes the necklace I made for Her; it’s enough of a response, at least, for me to wear it around my neck. It loops twice and is heavy.

Hethert-Nut is more palpable, but I have to stretch to reach Her, and I do not have enough of a stable root system threading through the hard clay soil that I can extend myself beyond the atmosphere without wavering, unbalanced. I feel like a sea fern, all lace and undulation, but at least I glimpse Her nebulae and can feel Her radiant, suffusive love.

I ask two questions of each of Them, and the answers They give are what I had expected, save one which is humbling. For the umpteenth time, I wonder how I could do this better, how I could perceive my Mothers more clearly and strongly; I know I’m capable of sensing more, given my interactions with Ma’ahes, Who can paint the insides of my eyes His sunset-orange.

But I already know the answer. It’s the way I initially approached Serqet: heart-felt action with zero expectations. Going into shrine with high hopes of a mind-blowing, visceral experience with the Netjeru will frequently prevent me from being open enough to feel what actually happens—which is often more subtle and quieter than I might wish.

Thank You, Nebt-het, for showing me how to look for the subtle nature of Netjer, just by being Who You are. I love You.

Treading the Fishes

Treading the Fishes

I took a bit of catfish from my partner’s dinner plate and squirreled it away with a piece of crabcake from my own meal, wrapping them both in a napkin and tucking it into my shirt pocket. When he didn’t bat an eye or remark on my seafood hoarding, I laughed. “It’s for Treading the Fishes,” I told him, and he made the ohhh of recognition. For a non-Kemetic, he’s pretty savvy.

Treading the Fishes is a multi-day festival that celebrates recurring fertility and kingship; lasting from III Shomu 19 (Monday) to III Shomu 23 (Friday), it involves the king treading on dried fish, hence the name. Stomping the fish is symbolic of conquering isfet (uncreation), but also ties into the cyclical fertility of the land, as the fish are buried to provide nutrients to the soil for the next growing season. The king would also re-dedicate herself to her nation of Kemet and offer the Heqa sceptor, a symbol of rulership, to Khnum, the Netjeru Who makes the each human on His potter’s wheel.

So I took my tiny bit of fishes out to our little garden-like section near the front door and dug a shallow pit, then tucked the food, now wrapped inside a folded paper, into the soil. I covered the packet with fresh dirt, watered it with pure water (to help the paper start decomposing), and gave it a good couple stomps; I am certainly no king or representative of one, but I am happy to participate in symbolically refertilizing the earth and helping ensure the next good growing season. The act of setting aside some bounty to fuel and welcome the next surge of abundance feels very important to me, not to mention useful and applicable in many different areas of life.

On the paper that held the now-dried fish, I had written a little heka:

As the land provides for me,
so I provide for the land in what ways I can;
as Netjer provides for me,
so I offer to Netjer in what ways I can.
I give back part of what I receive
to open the way for abundance.
Dua Wesir and Set, Who dance the cycle
of green growth and fallow rest,
both equal in the eyes of Ma’at!
Dua Geb, Who encompasses both crest and trough,
Who makes us mortals live with His gifts!

KRT: Heka

KRT: Heka

This post is part of the Kemetic Round Table, which aims to answer some of the most common questions and provide a wealth of diverse options for the Kemetic novice to explore.

Today’s Kemetic Round Table post covers heka; specifically, what it is and how it is used.

I would like to, first and foremost, direct your attention to two exemplary posts: the first by Sarduriur as a general academic overview of what heka is (and is not), and the second by Saryt as an interpretation of heka applied to music. They are both stellar reads and speak volumes beyond what I will cover here.

Furthermore, since I’ve already written my take on the basics of heka, I would like to give some examples of heka, rather than restate myself or repeat portions of the aforelinked fantastic essays.

To sum up briefly: Heka is not magic as Westerners think of magic; it is authoritative utterance or meaningful speech, and it is a power that lies within every person and every Netjeru. Heka is a natural and neutral tool, neither innately positive or negative, and can be used to defend and attack as well as propitiate and strengthen. Heka was frequently used to identify oneself with different deities in order to assume Their characteristics (and powers) and can be akin to sympathetic magic in that regard; to speak (or scribe) is to make it so.

Now, let’s get to a couple of modern heka samples, shall we? They should illustrate just how simple and clear-cut heka can be; it’s not all fancy ceremonial litanies that take half an hour to recite! (Not to knock long-form heka, mind; it has its place, as do the briefer kinds.)

first heka: for migraines

I suffer from migraines, and while I have them in hand for the most part, they can still take me out at the kneecaps if I’m caught unawares. Because a migraine feels like my brain is unraveling in a rather painful and messy fashion, I liken it to uncreation, and I invoke the Eye of Ra Who has made me to protect me. (In my particular case, the Eye can be both Nebt-het (Nephthys), my divine Mother, and Sekhmet.) While this heka could also be done by my directly assuming the role of the Eye goddess, I am usually too swamped by the migraine symptoms to confidently pull that off.

This migraine seeks to uncreate me!
Its darkness is the darkness of Apep‘s coils;
its pain is the pain of Apep‘s teeth.
My Lady the Eye burns away the shadows;
She burns away the pain and cauterizes me.
My Lady the Eye has created me
and no force shall undo Her work in me.

second heka: for eye trouble

I wear contacts, and on rare occasion, I’ll get some little grain of grit sandwiched between a lens and my eye. It’s deeply uncomfortable and often sharply painful, and since I don’t currently have glasses of an appropriate Rx, I’m stuck hoping I can wash the offending particle out and put my contact right back in. Given that I’d be legally blind without contacts, it’s kind of vital that I be able to wear ’em, especially at work or while driving. I’ve used the below heka a couple times to considerable effect; the first two lines are paraphrased from an ancient prayer to Bast-Ra.

Turn to me, peace-loving Netjer, forgive me;
Make light for me so I can see Your beauty.
My eye is the eye of Heru that was wounded and made whole again.

third heka: job-hunting

This heka was made for my partner, the first part to be spoken before starting a job-hunting session (online or in person) and the second part to conclude that session. I involve Heru-wer only because He’s willing, but other deities could easily take His place if the need arose.

Heru-wer, accept this incense and grant me opportunity.
My eyes are Your eyes, my hands Your talons;
I will swoop down and seize success.
. . .
Thank You for Your long sight and swift wings, Heru.
May we enjoy victory together – nekhtet!

fourth heka: protection

This is part of a longer execration heka; I conclude the heka by invoking my personal Netjeru (plus Set) for protection.

Nebt-het watches over me,
Hethert-Nut uplifts me,
Ma’ahes guards me,
Serqet guides me.
Sekhmet is over me,
Set is behind me,
Netjer is around me.
I am safe from all isfet.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other takes on heka by my fellow Round Table bloggers!

Sepa, Centipede God

Sepa, Centipede God

Today is a Feast Day for Sepa, the centipede god of ancient Egypt. Sepa is considered to be a protector against poisonous bites and stings, which is a common attribute among deities of venomous creatures, including scorpions (Serqet) and snakes (Wadjet and others). He’s also invoked against the Uncreated One in its serpent form, reinforcing Sepa’s ability to protect mortals against everyday snakes.

The Kemetic Orthodoxy calendar lists Him as Heru-Sepa, or Horus-Who-is-Sepa, and as a son of Sekhmet. Unfortunately, on short notice, the most reliable information I can find on Sepa is the aforementioned link to Henadology, and the primary reference for that article is in French (which is fine) but not among my personal collection (which is less fine), so I can’t verify it first-hand. Nothing in the Henadology article, nor in the quick’n’cursory research I did, shows me how Sepa is a form of Heru; it seems like Sepa is more thoroughly linked to Wesir (Osiris) and funerary purifications, only encountering Heru when He brings Sepa (linked to the inundation) to Cairo. I freely admit that my initial spark of curiosity about Sepa was due to His being a son of Sekhmet, but without knowing from whence that came historically, I am hesitant to put my full weight on it as a bridge to Him.

All the same, I have been thinking about seeking out Netjeru with Whom I am unfamiliar or unacquainted and saying hello. Centipedes freak me right the hell out, so why not start with their god? (I have a strange sense of what constitutes a good idea.)

Things I have been extrapolating, inferring, and/or contemplating, which I have not verified in any historical source:

  • Most centipedes are primarily carnivorous and only eat vegetable matter when starving, but are otherwise opportunistic feeders. That means I feel pretty good about offering meats and/or cheeses to Sepa, but not fruits, and not really sweets (which are frequently grain-based).
  • Centipedes tend to be nocturnal, which means approaching Sepa after dark is not only a-okay but potentially downright preferential.
  • Centipedes are heavily dependent on water, since they dry out easily, so cool water is an exceptionally appropriate offering for a centipede god of the desert.
  • And since centipedes are so water-dependent, perhaps that partially explains Sepa’s link to the inundation: centipedes flourish as the flood courses through the land, providing them the essential moisture to thrive.
  • Some (unverified) online sites suggest that Sepa is associated with fertility for one or both of these two reasons: centipedes follow along after earthworms, which fertilize the soil as they pass; and Sepa has been depicted with the head of a donkey, linking Him to donkey manure used in fertilization of the fields.
  • Likewise, some sites suggest that part of Sepa’s protective role, especially in regards to protecting Wesir, is due to the fact that centipedes will eat the bugs that feast on a dead body.
  • Sepa has been depicted as a mummiform man with two small “horns” on His head; I wonder if these horns correspond with centipede forcipules?
  • Here (unverified site; I want to look this scene up in a book soon), Sepa is invoked as a god of the east in a purification by a sem-priest; I can only imagine He’s being called upon to purify the body or ka of all toxins.

So, tonight, I did a light purification and laid a modest offering spread for the Feast of Sepa: sausage slices and sharp cheddar, cool water, incense, and a candle. I invited Him in to partake of the food and drink and spent most of the time in shrine contemplating what little I had learned of Him and what other parts I was guessing at. I wondered if I was the only Kemetic who, in that moment, was offering to Him, as He is not a well-known god, but rather than feeling the enormity of a mostly-undistracted Netjeru’s direct attention, I got the distinct sense that He stays quite industrious in the Unseen, in the underworld, working to protect Wesir and to purify the kau who come to be weighed against Ma’at’s feather. I did have the pleasure (eh-heh) of receiving a few impressions of a rather large centipede, enjoying the offerings I’d laid out on my altar; I haven’t the faintest whether it was my imagination, one of Sepa’s netjeri, or Sepa Himself. Took a bit of self-control not to flinch, either way!

I reverted the food offerings, but left the water on the shrine to evaporate naturally (a slow process in a humid environment), my way of providing a longer-term offering symbolic of that which sustains all life—including centipedes.

Dua Sepa! May You never thirst!

Celebrating Feasts, Festivals, Processions, etc

Celebrating Feasts, Festivals, Processions, etc

When I was planning my Pagan Blog Project topics, earlier in the year, I listed “Feasts and Festivals” for one of the weeks of F. The Kemetic calendar has a lot of types of holidays, and I thought it would be really useful to my practice, and potentially to my readers, to figure out the differences and how I’d celebrate/observe them.

And then another Kemetic blogger beat me to the punch with a really well-written post about keeping Kemetic holidays, based on what we know and are willing and able to celebrate. *shakes fist!* :)

In all honesty, though, having that post already written sort of nullifies my need to go into great detail, so instead, I’m linking to it for my readers’ benefit and will do a quick, mostly-for-my-own-reference breakdown below.

Please note that I’m discussing how I myself do or will celebrate, not suggesting it be the end-all for anyone else! Holidays are a learning experience for me, and I don’t really do any of ’em the same way twice. Also, I do not actually celebrate every single Kemetic holiday… especially given that there’s one or more almost every day of the year! I pick and choose, based on my available time, my purity, and how close I am (or would like to be) to the Netjeru in question.

Feast: The perfect excuse to have a little extra awesome in one’s diet! I dedicate the meal of the day to that particular god, or offer Them a special small treat or drink.

Festival: No holds barred! I’ll usually base my activities/offerings on the characteristics of the Netjeru in festival and what They’re associated with, such as martial arts for Sekhmet or music for Hethert-Nut.

Procession: This is a hard one for me, as I don’t normally celebrate them currently. My ideas consist of taking a physical representation of the god on a walkabout, or taking myself out for a walk/drive and offering the time and experience to the god in question, almost like a walking meditation.

Saq (Appearance): Like festivals, these can be very flexible holidays, but I think I’d like my fallback idea to be a candle and incense in offering, and a few minutes of quiet contemplation/interaction in shrine. I feel like a Saq is a time for me to be receptive and attentive, rather than proactive and celebratory.

God Birthday: A time for gifts! Offerings of activities (like music-making) or physical presents (like art or flowers), as well as more traditional offerings of food, drink, candles, and incense. Like festivals, offerings and gifts will be Netjeru-specific.

Lunar Celebration: I’m not close to any of the traditional moon gods, so I currently don’t do anything here. What I’d liiike to do is establish one Netjeru as my go-to lunar deity and begin actually getting back into touch with the cycles of the moon…

Major Holiday: There’s usually enough information on the big holidays, like Wep Ronpet (New Year) and the Mysteries of Wesir (Osiris), that I don’t have to invent my own way of celebration, happily.