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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!

PBP Fridays: H is for Heka, Egyptian Magic

PBP Fridays: H is for Heka, Egyptian Magic

The Kemetic (ancient Egyptian) word heka is most frequently translated to be “magic,” but it’s not quite the kind of magic that most of us in the Western world are familiar with. Heka is word-magic, the power inherent in the written or spoken word, the power of authoritative utterance. It most literally translates to “activating the ka,” which is the part of one’s being or spirit that comprises one’s current personality and psyche; the power of heka is tied to the soul and the innate power of who we are. Unlike a lot of modern magical methods, heka does not require casting circle, creating sacred space, raising or channeling energy, or invoking any entities into your personal space. Heka is language at its most powerful, and as language, prayers can be heka just as easily as “spells” can be heka.

Ancient Egyptians and many modern Kemetics place special emphasis on how they speak and what they say (or write). Heka is in every word that passes our lips and hands, not just the words we intend to be magical or prayerful. As I write this entry, I commit heka. As I pray to my gods and sing Them songs, I engage with heka. As I write my little charms in Kalash on the whiteboards at work, I inscribe heka. As I hold a conversation about silly things or deep things with my friends, coworkers, and myself, I create heka.

One of the things I love about the power of heka is that its strength and effectiveness is solidly backed by science. The power of what we say and how we say it has been extensively studied from almost every point of view, from hard psychology to self-help authors to New Age affirmation gurus to modern magicians. There’s a huge difference in how our bodies and brain chemicals and intangible minds react to “I won’t smoke anymore” vs. “I want to quit smoking” vs. “I am quitting smoking” (or “I quit smoking”).

Heka is the understanding that what you say matters. Ancient Egyptians often offered teaching wisdoms to this point: speak only in surety, do not speak out of anger, holding your tongue is to be the bigger person. The value in speaking with care and deliberation has not lessened as the ages have worn on; as a point of self-control, as part of compassionate interaction, heka has a crucial role to play in how we communicate with others and express ourselves.

Not to mention the power of intentional heka used in prayer and magic! To focus all the power of language into short forms of prayer or ritual or spellwork, written or spoken, is an amazing thing. It’s like poetry, like music, able to distill the immensity of the human experience – or at least one facet of it – down to a singular, streaming flow of words. One can bring to bear all the power of linguistic aesthetics and magical potential, calling on positive phrases and avoiding negative ones, choosing particular words for their beauty and their acute meanings. To craft heka as prayer or spell, written or spoken, is to forge a blade and hone it to a glistening, unwavering edge. With intentional heka, one etches oneself upon the slate of the universe, for good or ill, in the name of willful change or gratitude or whatever one sees fit. We can change the world – the big one outside and the smaller ones inside ourselves – with the shapes of our tongues and teeth and ink-bearing hands.

Heka can come in many forms and trappings, including those we more commonly associate with ritual – light the candle, light the incense, say the words of purification, wash, say the words of prayer or of spellwork, and even add raised energy to the mix. Ancient Egyptians so believed in the power of heka that many of their spells and rituals involved taking on a particular god’s name – and thus, all powers and relationships S/He had – in order to accomplish a goal. At its heart, heka is the power of the language we choose and use. Our words have power, and we are responsible for how that power is dispensed through our vocabulary.

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