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PBP Fridays: T is for Theophany

PBP Fridays: T is for Theophany

A theophany is a god’s appearance: Their visual representation in mortal eyes. One of the most well-known hallmarks of the ancient Egyptian pantheon is the prevalence of gods Who have animal aspects in Their images. Even to non-Kemetics—even to non-polytheists—the phrase “animal-headed god” brings to mind the variety of Kemetic gods sporting hawk and lioness faces, even though there are plenty of other deities in other pantheons and cultures that have powerful animal associations or forms.

It’s easy to assume that the Netjeru were considered in antiquity to be partially animals because of Their widespread animal theophanies, but this is not exactly the case. As gods, the Netjeru can take on any appearance They wish (even if They do often have preferences and thus more common appearances), but a theophany is just that: an appearance. Animal theophanies did not indicate that the Netjeru in question was that animal, but simply that the god could (and did!) use that animal’s appearance. A lioness-headed goddess could also be seen as fully human, or fully lioness, or perhaps even as a woman-headed lioness at times—theophanies were nearly a form of language in and of themselves, allowing humans to more fully understand the nature of the Netjeru. It could even help interpret a Netjeru’s “mood” or state of being: Hethert (Hathor) could be a dancing woman, a maternal wild cow, or a vengeful lioness, and while She always had the capacity for all three within Her, Her visual appearance could give a strong clue to which aspect(s) of Her were at the forefront.

In further example, a jackal Netjeru was not bound to the physical realities of a flesh-and-bone jackal, but instead wore the symbolism and mythology of the jackal like a suit: jackals were beautiful and swift creatures, but they also lived in the same areas where ancient Egyptians buried their dead, so jackal Netjeru were often associated with the dead and/or the process of embalming and preserving. The shriek of a kite was like the wail of a woman mourning, so Aset (Isis) and Nebt-het (Nephthys) were kites when They were wrought with grief over Wesir’s (Osiris’) death—or when They needed quick wings and long vision to find Wesir’s body.

Ancient Egyptian gods are rife with symbolism and rich in layered meanings; it’s important not to assume that a god with a particular theophany will only appear in that singular way, or that a god is chained to the physical realities of that animal if They do choose a theophany. I made that mistake myself when I laughed over the idea that Set could ever be seen as a spotted hyena, given all I know about hyenas and how mismatched their embodied qualities are with Set’s mythical attributes. Months later, I got a glimpse of how Set could, in fact, take a hyena as a theophany (which is a modern/theoretical theophany, by the way; it’s not historically-attested to my knowledge). From my personal journal:

Set-as-hyena, the one Who challenges and purifies. Set-as-hyena, the strength in the night, the sovereign, the bone-breaker, He Who removes corpses and the sickness they hold. Set-as-hyena, male but not hyena-masculine, the male that is too dominant to appease the females and stay with the clan, set off alone and powerful. Set-as-hyena, wearing a red pelt, male but built like a female and acting as one— which is masculine in other animals— so ungendered, genderfree, mixing male and female into His own particular blend of sex: yes, the shadow of the form of a spotted hyena.

In other words: think of theophanies like clothing that a god chooses to darn—not like a skin that a mortal is born with and cannot change.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

a million of music

a million of music

My body speaks, my lips repeat
pure Ihy-music for Hethert.
Music, millions
and hundreds and thousands of it,
Because You love music,
a million of music for Your ka,
In all Your places.

~ King Antef (source: Hathor Rising, A. Roberts)

Personal conjecture: Ihy is Hethert’s (Hathor’s) son, Whose name reflects the jubilation of musical instruments in the sound they produce and in the act of playing them. “Ihy-music” in this may indicate both Ihy, Whose music soothes and pleases His mother, and also, more generally, ecstatic music.

PBP Fridays: M is for Marking the Days

PBP Fridays: M is for Marking the Days

I always thought of Summer Solstice as a Wiccan thing (when I was young), or an eclectic-pagan thing (when I was slightly older). I didn’t think it would follow me home to Kemeticism.

But here it is, a radiant drop of sunlight in the form of a lioness, the Wandering Goddess come home to Kemet at the peak of the daylit year.

As part of writing about Anhur, I summarized 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 (Hathor) or Tefnut until She agrees to return. However, Anhur Himself is often the hunter Who finds, and the Eye Whom He brings back is Mekhit/Mehit/Menhit, the lioness Who then becomes His consort and wife.

Today, the Summer Solstice, is the Feast of Hethert, Eye of Ra—today we celebrate the Lady of Gold’s return to Kemet in the longest day of the year. Today is the joyous peak of the year’s wheel, the explosion of life and heat and light that shines in glory of Hethert’s return to us.

The beauty of your face
Glitters when you rise,
O come in peace.

One is drunk
At your beautiful face,
O Gold, Hathor.

~ inscription from a tomb at Thebes (source: Hathor Rising, A. Roberts)

Welcome home, Hethert, Mistress of Heaven! You bless the world with Your smile and the warmth You bring. Dua Hethert, Gracious One!

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

Last year’s first M post was a Monstrous Manifesto.

PBP Fridays: I is for Ihy, The Musician

PBP Fridays: I is for Ihy, The Musician

I am writing this late, but yesterday was III Shomu 12, the day of Ihy’s birth… so it is not inappropriate that I catch up on this entry now. :)

Ihy is a child god, son of Hethert (Hathor) and Heru-wer (Horus the Elder), though He is occasionally described as being the son of other Netjeru. His name has been interpreted as “sistrum player” or “musician,” as well as “calf” (being that Hethert often took the form of a cow)—He is called the Bull of Confusion, the Lord of Hearts. He is the youthful patron or creator of music, the sistrum, and the jubilation that emanated from both sound and instrument. While He is primarily a joyful, musical god, He was also linked to the afterlife as “the lord of bread” and was “in charge of the beer,” a boon both for mortal offerings and the cyclical pacification of His mother in Her name of Sekhmet. He has also been linked, as other child gods were, to the blue lotus that represented renewal and birth and was called “the child who shines in the lotus.”

He was usually depicted nude, with the side-lock denoting youthfulness, often with a finger to His mouth; however, he was not always depicted as child-sized and was occasionally shown as large as adult Netjeru. To the right here, He’s shown wearing a uraeus and holding a sistrum decorated with His mother’s face. In some birth houses, He was equated with the king, and scenes celebrated the conception and birth of the divine child, which identified the king with Ihy and bestowed upon him the powers and protections of the child god Himself.

Spell 334 describes His birth:

My awesomeness precedes me
As Ihy, the Son of Hathor,
I am he who begets a begetting,
I flowed out from between her thighs,
In this my name Jackal of the Light,
I broke forth from the egg…
I escaped in her blood,
I am the Lord of blood. I am a turbulent bull…
I came into being, I crept, I traveled around.
I grew, I became tall like my father

In the Coffin Texts, Ihy’s resemblance to His mother Hethert is described:

My perfume is the incense
which my mother Hathor uses for her censing,
My efflux is the sacred oil
which my mother Hathor uses for her flesh…
My intestines are the beads of her menat
which my mother Hathor places at her throat,
And my hands are her sistrum
which my mother Hathor
Uses for her contentment.

And, for His (one day belated) birthday, a modern offering:

A song for You, O Ihy,
most musical of all Netjeru!
A song for You and a song for me,
that we may sing together!
As You shake the sistrum for Your mother
that She may be made glad,
so I shake the sistrum for You
that You may share in my joy!
A song for us, O Ihy,
to exult and celebrate life!

Sources:

  • Egyptian Mythology (Geraldine Pinch)
  • The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt (Richard Wilkinson)
  • The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses (George Hart)
  • Hathor Rising (Alison Roberts)

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

Last year’s second I post was on isfet.

Tasenetnofret, The Good Sister

Tasenetnofret, The Good Sister

Alternate title: “Colorless,” My Ass

In the Kemetic calendar, today is a day for Tasenetnofret, The Good Sister, a Name Who is a form of Hethert (Hathor), but also an epithet of Nebt-het (Nephthys). This is the one place I have found where my Mothers, Nebt-het and Hethert-Nut, actually overlap.

While idly browsing the Wepwawet Wiki, looking at hieroglyphs, I stumbled across Tasenetnofret’s page. She was described as “a colorless manifestation of Hethert in the role of divine wife.”

I’m pretty sure my reaction was along the lines of “oh no you din’t!” My Mothers? Colorless?!

(Please note that I am not actually taking offense at the editors of Wepwawet Wiki. I realize there’s not a lot of sources out there detailing Tasenetnofret, which can give any Netjeru a lackluster image. I felt compelled to action, not outrage. ~_^)

So, in an immediate effort to rectify this monochromatic statement, I went about painting a very colorful gift for Tasenetnofret:

Dua Tasenetnofret! May Your eyes feast on the most vivid of beautiful colors, always.

Invocation of Hethert(-Nut)

Invocation of Hethert(-Nut)

from the Papyrus Chester Beatty, Stanza 3:

I praise the Golden Goddess, I exalt Her Majesty, I raise the Lady of Heaven up.
I make praise for Hethert-Nut*, and chants for my Mistress.

*orig. Hethert

I wanted to share this because it strikes me as particularly beautiful and devotional, and I want more short and sweet things with which to praise my Mama. ^_^

totally a Hethert quote

totally a Hethert quote

Let the flickering flame of your soul play all about me,
That into my limbs may come the keenness of fire,
The life and joy of tongues of flame,
And, going out from you, tightly strung and in tune,
I may rouse the blear-eyed world,
And pour into it the beauty which you have begotten.

– Amy Lowell, “The Giver of Stars”