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PBP Fridays: X is for Xeric Gods

PBP Fridays: X is for Xeric Gods

Xeric is an adjective meaning “adapted to a dry environment” (thanks, Dictionary.com!). Just as each pantheon is adapted to the environment in which its culture lives and dies, so too are the Egyptian gods well-adapted to the dance of desert-and-flood of the Nile river valley. In other words, the Netjeru are xeric deities.

I’ve always found it intriguing to compare the Netjeru I’ve come to love with other, often more popular, pantheons. While it’s certainly true that we human devotees have a tendency to categorize deities across cultures – the “mother goddess” or the “young king” or the “magician” are deity archetypes that persist around the world – the gods of ancient Egypt are often strangers to their pantheonic counterparts.

For example, Kemetics lack an explicit god of the sea… or of snow (outside of a blizzard)… or of forests… because Kemet lacks snow and forests, and the sea was the realm of outside-Kemet, of foreigners. We must then extrapolate and infer: Well, Set is a god of foreigners and foreign lands, and there is a myth where He tamed the angry sea, so perhaps Him—or gods associated with the Nun, the primordial waters, such as Nit. Set is also hailed as a god of all kinds of storms, so blizzards are His – but what of gentle, restful snowfall? I found myself associating winter with Nebt-het not too long ago. And for forests, ancient Egypt had deities of papyrus marshes and tree goddesses, but neither of those truly matches the sum of what a forest is.

Coming from the northern Appalachians with a grounding basis in Celtic mythology, I still struggle sometimes to relate the land in which I live to the gods that I worship. I’ve certainly gotten better over the past couple years, having pondered how to match the Kemetic yearly cycle with my local region’s cycle and how I travel with Egyptian gods on American soil. However, given that the tree-furred mountains of my home state and the endless tides of the sea command so much of my heart and ka, it’s still a little strange to lack a Name to put to those natural forces, short of the ones I can intuit or logic-leap to.

On the other hand, I find it fascinating and an enjoyable intellectual exercise to figure out how to fill the “gaps,” so to speak. Need a god that suits the alpine tundra of Nevada and Colorado? Well, it’s a harsh and dry and often-cold place outside of civilization, which makes Set an appropriate choice. Need a god of waterfalls? Given the abundance of water and the force as it falls, Hapy as god of the Nile might suit—or one of the deities of the inundation specifically, like Anuket. Need a god of, say, computer languages and software or website coding? Well, Seshat created the system of writing and all written symbols, and She’s the Lady of Builders to boot, so if you’re making a digital “house” with a particular language, She might fit!

Even though it’s occasionally a challenge to relate to gods so well-adapted to a vastly different environment than the one I live in, I still love the challenge of exploring Them and Their nuances to find where the borders touch and the lands overlap in Them.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: Q is for Qebshenef

PBP Fridays: Q is for Qebshenef

Qebshenef is one of the Four Sons of Heru (Horus), a group of netjeri (spirits) associated with the canopic jars that hold the organs of the mummified deceased. The Four Sons also protect the throne of Wesir (Osiris) in the Unseen and assist the deceased through the Duat. Each of the Sons is protected by one of the funerary goddesses and associated with one of the cardinal directions.

Qebshenef, whose name means “cooling his brother (with water),” is hawk-headed and holds the intestines. He is guarded by Serqet (Selkis), the scorpion goddess, and associated with the south.

Imset, whose name means “the kindly one,” is human-headed and wears the nemes headcloth. He holds the liver, is guarded by Aset (Isis), and is associated with the west.

Duamutef, whose name means “praising his mother,” is jackal-headed and holds the stomach. He is guarded by Nit (Neith), the Great He-She, and associated with the north.

Hapy (not Hapi, god of the Nile), whose name means “runner,” is baboon-headed and holds the lungs. He is guarded by Nebt-het (Nephthys) and associated with the east.

While the Four Sons have the above associations in regards to their canopic jars, they also assist the deceased in different ways, including carrying or lifting up the deceased, preparing a ladder into the sky, protecting against attacks and decay, preventing hunger and thirst, bringing the deceased a boat “which Khnum built,” and steering that boat.

The Sons themselves are alternatingly stated to be sons of Aset (Isis) and Heru-wer (Horus the Elder) or Khenty-irty (Horus of Khem), but were also implied to be sons of Heru-sa-Aset (Horus the Younger) by virtue of being the grandchildren of Wesir (Osiris). They’ve also been described as the bau (souls) of Pe (a city in Lower Egypt) and Nekhen (a city in Upper Egypt), along with Heru Himself. In various texts, they’re identified as stars near Ursa Major, as emanations of Heru or as Heru’s bau (souls), and as the king’s “children’s children” (the king being as Wesir, Heru’s own father). They’ve also been identified in spells as the hands, arms, fingernails, and/or feet of the deceased or described accompanying the deceased through the Duat.

Sources:

  • http://kemet.org/names-of-netjer
  • http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/religion/sons_of_horus.htm
  • http://henadology.wordpress.com/theology/netjeru/horus-sons-of/

Henadology’s article is particularly well-fleshed-out and worth further reading, as my entry here merely summarizes the basics of the Four Sons.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Friday: O is for Olukun/Yemonja

PBP Friday: O is for Olukun/Yemonja

I hesitate to write this post. It’s not because I am a Kemetic writing outside my pantheon, but because being a soft reconstructionist has taught me how to respectfully and thoroughly study and research something before (or at least while) I engage with it. And that means I can recognize when I lack that foundational knowledge; I feel like I’m on unsteady ground when so unread.

I have one book on Ifa: The Way of the Orisa by Philip Neimark, an American convert and practitioner of Ifa. This book has a wealth of differences between the singular book I have read on Haitian Vodou (Haitian Vodou by Mambo Chita Tann), which I know is a very well-sourced, academically-solid, and culturally-respectful treatise. Some of these are doubtlessly regional differences—there are several flavors of Yoruban religion, and dialects change the spellings of words and names—but what gives me such pause is that I haven’t read any other books to broaden my horizon on orisa or Ifa. I’ve also learned enough in the years since I bought this book to question the author’s privilege and potential Westernizing spin.

And yet. If I don’t write this post, how can I encourage other polytheists and pagans to write freely and earnestly about their experiences and the mythologies that they enjoy and study, no matter how new they are?

So I am writing, with the neon disclaimer that I’m very aware I have exactly one author’s viewpoint on the subject, and I have no idea how that author compares with others in his field in terms of accuracy versus modern re-interpretation. The reason I am writing is because, however objectively qualitative that author is or is not, his book impressed upon me Olukun/Yemonja, and that impression has lingered, full of seaspray and undertow.

Yemonja/Olukun is an ocean orisa of great might and dual, intertwined natures; some forms of Yoruba-based religions separate the one into two. However, Ifa treats it as one and emphasizes the importance of maintaining this balance of seemingly opposed natures. Yemonja is described as the feminine energy, full of a mother’s nurturing and generosity, the life-giving gifts of the waves, while Olukun is the masculine energy, powerful and volatile, the icy depths of the sea. Together, Yemonja/Olukun is referred to as a she (in the book) but is a dynamic balance between those two genders; I would interpret it as being a third gender as a result, but that’s me.

Being such a Water-child, being drawn to the ocean like a magnet to the north, and being genderqueer… needless to say, this simplified but imagery-rich idea of Yemonja/Olukun appealed to me deeply and viscerally. In fact, I wrote a song called From The Ocean, exploring the angles between this one orisa’s complementary natures. Even now, when I see the myopic weakness of my single-source understanding of this orisa, my emotional-spiritual reaction to it (and, yes, to how the author describes its “children” in the book, which is staggeringly accurate to my own nature) cannot be invalidated by my skeptical intellect.

As an additional point of interest, one aspect of my Mother Nebt-het (Nephthys) is Nit (Neith), a very old hunter-goddess, a creatrix… a Netjeru of the primordial ocean, and the Great He-She. The parallels I can draw between Nit’s epithets and Yemonja/Olukun’s description are… intriguing, to say the least, and bear further meditation.

In closing, I will say that the heart knows the love and the links from blood to brine, even when the brain cannot yet prove the pattern of the chains that bind them so tightly.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

for Nit

for Nit

O Mistress of the Bow, Ruler of Arrows,
Nit the Great Who Opens the Way,
May You string Your bow with the Uncreated’s gut
and fletch Your arrows with the white feather of Ma’at!
Lay forth Your arrows into all isfet
and drive it bleeding from Your crashing shores!

O Eldest, O Mother and Father of all things,
praise and prayer and festival unto You!
You Who created all life and all gods,
Crocodile Nurse, Cow Mother, Creatrix,
blessed and beautiful are Your name and Your face!
Hail Nit, Mother of the Gods!

small steps back on the path

small steps back on the path

22 OCTOBER – III Akhet 21: Feast of Shu, Day of Renenutet and Nit

Tonight, I offered incense to Shu, pure water and Celtic sea salt to Nit, and a piece of farmhouse bread to Renenutet. I lit a red candle for Nit on the left and a cream one for Renenutet on the right, and I gave Them thanks and admiration. Shu as the breath of the wind that I adore and that uplifts me, He Who upholds my Mother, Hethert-Nut; Nit as another Name for my Mother Nebt-het, Lady of the Deep Waters, He-She Creatrix; Renenutet as the Lady of the Harvest, Who protects our crops that we may have bread at all.

And then Deathcat decided to nest on my calves, leaning against the backs of my knees, as I knelt before my shrine.

So I stayed a little longer. And it was nice.

Dua Shu! Dua Nit! Dua Renenutet!

PBP Fridays: N is for the Circle of N (Nebt-het, Nut, the Nun, and Nit)

PBP Fridays: N is for the Circle of N (Nebt-het, Nut, the Nun, and Nit)

The Circle of N

Nebt-het, She Who Borders The Sea
which was once all that existed
as the Nun, primordial ocean
which is deified as, among other Names,
Nit, the Creatrix, all-gendered
Who begat all the world
and can take the form of
the Celestial Cow
which is Nut, the starry heavens,
the uplifted sky arched over
Her lover the earth;

and this enormous divine cow
is also the goddess The Great Flood
and is a form of not only Nut
but also Nit
Who is likewise a form of Nebt-het
and is also the Nun personified;

and so we come full circle,
the proto-ocean Nun
into the creatrix Nit
into the Lady of the House, Nebt-het,
and that House is the sky, Nut.

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.