KEMET THIS WEEK - PODCAST #9
OPENING SONG/PRAYERRev. Tamara: Bas-es ahmetek,
Iryet Ra, iryet Ra;
Iryet Ra, iryet Ra;
Khuwi Muti iryet Ra,
Iryet Ra, iryet Ra;
Khu netyu meruwi, iryet Ra.
INTRODUCTION/WEEKLY CALENDARRev. Craig:
Em hotep, and welcome to "Kemet This Week", the official podcast of the House of Netjer and the Kemetic Orthodox Faith. Our opening prayer was provided by the Reverend Tamara Siuda, and our musical accompaniment is courtesy of the Rev. Dave Dean.
This week we will be having our regular fellowship chat on Thursday night starting at 8:30 p.m. Central time and open to all Shemsu and Remetj of the faith. WORD OF THE WEEK Rev. Craig:
Starting with this podcast we would like to introduce a new feature; our word of the week.
We use a great number of Kemetic words both in formal liturgy and daily life, and getting a handle on them can be a little tricky. So, each week we will be introducing a new word, its proper spelling [in English], and pronunciation.
Of course we have to start this feature with the most important word of all; ma'at.
Ma'at is both the name of a concept, the universal force of piety, of justice, of honor and truth, and of the Goddess who embodies that concept. According to legend, the entire universe was spoken into existence by the utterance of a single, divine word, and that word was ma'at.
<musical interlude>"I HAVE A QUESTION"Rev. Craig:
This is Kai Imakhu Antybast, and I have a question.
When is scripture not scripture?
Starting next week, you and I are going to delve into some classic Kemetic literature. We will sink our teeth into a few old favorites, and see if there are some lessons to be learned there.
We will be starting with the Maxims of Ptahhotep, an old kingdom document dating back to the 6th dynasty. The Maxims are a time-honored look at ethics and morals as viewed by the Ancient Egyptians.
It is not perfect, but - oh, hey, wait - did he just say what I think he said? Not perfect?!? The Maxims of Ptahhotep are a landmark, one of the most famous examples of what we today know as the "wisdom literature." That is scripture, right, how can it not be perfect?
Well, for one thing, it's not scripture. We don't have any.
Scripture, in the common parlance, refers to work believed to be directly word-for-word inspired or even written by the hand of God. The Pentateuch, the Gospels, the Qu'ran; these are considered scriptural documents and their contents are believed by the followers of their respective religions to be the word of God.
This concept, to be perfectly clear, does not exist in the Kemetic idiom. The Pyramid Texts, the Book of the Dead were written by people: human beings just like you and me who wrote down their thoughts, their ideas, and their explanations for why the world is the way it is.
Could those writers have been inspired by God? Yes. If anything, the way our greatest writings hold up and remain applicable to daily life to this very day testifies that this is so.
But, is it a point of doctrine, a piece of solid dogma, that the Neteru wrote these words? No. To believe that is to accord dangerous weight to these author's writings, a burden they did not ask to have placed upon their shoulders.
And so, this brings us to the Maxims of Ptahhotep: the writings of an aging vizier who wanted to record his thoughts on proper behavior and righteous action for the benefit of his own son, and, thankfully, for the benefit of us all thousands of years later.
I am using the excellent translation by Miriam Lichtheim, by the way, and it starts out like this:
"Instruction of the Mayor of the City, The Vizier Ptahhotep, under the majesty of King Isezi, who lives for all eternity. The Mayor of the City, the Vizier Ptahhotep, said; 'O King, my Lord, age is here. Old age arrived. Feebleness came. Weakness grows. Child-like, one sleeps all day. Eyes are dim, ears deaf, strength is waning through weariness. The mouth, silenced, speaks not. The heart, void, recalls not the past. The bones ache throughout. Good has become evil, all taste is gone. What age does to people is evil in everything. The nose clogged breathes not, and painful are standing and sitting. May this servant be ordered to make a staff of old age so as to tell him the words of those who heard, the ways of the ancestors who have listened to the gods, may such be done for you so that strife may be banned from the people of the two shores may serve you. ' Said the majesty of this God, 'Instruct them, then, in the sayings of the past. May you become a model for children of the great. May obedience enter him, and the devotion of him who speaks to him. No one is born wise.'"
We'll stop there for now. Come back next time and we'll find out together exactly what the good vizier wanted us all to know.
<musical interlude>ASK THE NISUTRev. Tamara:
This week I'd like to start a new idea in my podcast. For a few weeks I am going to talk about Kemetic Orthodox basics: the beliefs, culture and structure that make us who we are, and how these relate both to the ancient practice of the religion honoring our ancient Gods and Goddesses, and how we continue to worship them in the modern day.
Today's topic is the subject of offerings.
I've been asked some questions lately about the mechanics of making offerings to the Gods, Goddesses, ancestors, and other non-human spirits; and as it is a common practice universal to all ancient people of Kemet, and modern Kemetic Orthodox, to give offerings to the Gods and Goddesses and to the dead, it is as good a place as any to start our discussion.
In ancient times, offerings were generally a gift from the royal treasury to the various city and village temples. "The offering which the King gives" was such a standard thing that it became part of the ritual words spoken before offering anything at a tomb to an ancestor, and even today Egyptologists often refer to those words as the "hotep di Nisut" or the "offering which the king gives" prayer.
Before offerings were taken to the tombs and shrines of the blessed dead, however, they were given firstly to the Gods and Goddesses of the land.
By presenting all of the offerings first to the divine, they were provided with the holy power and gratitude of those Gods, or added to, in a way. The foods, drinks, objects and devotions given to the Gods and Goddesses in this manner became even bigger than they had been originally, and multiplied with divine favor.
In a curious action sometimes referred to as the reversion of offerings, after the Gods and Goddesses had been presented with the food it was divided up according to various rules and regulations and given to the celebrants of the rituals, whether they were priests or lay-people.
Much like Hindus share the food offerings in a ritual called "prasad," the food offered to the Gods and Goddesses became a feast for the living who served them. Major national festivals were characterized by massive offerings that then became the ingredients of days-long feasts and drinking and celebration throughout the land.
A significant part of the divine offerings were reverted, or set aside, for the use of the dead. Ka priests, or priests whose job it was to make sure that the dead were provided with their own offerings and rituals, would take the divine offerings to a tomb and say the ritual, then a portion of that
portion was left at the tomb's door, or a ritually created portal called a false door, as it was generally a picture or an image of a door carved into a wall above the burial chamber.
The rest of the offerings went home with the ka priest as his payment for offering the service and the reversion of offerings was then complete.
Why the offerings were totally removed from the Gods' altars, and only partially from the ancestors' altars, is a significant event, and is related to the theology behind how the offerings were made, to whom they were made, and for what purpose.
As the Gods and Goddesses are not, and were not, ever human and do not need to do things like eat or drink, they do not require sustenance, and thus do not take away from the offerings. Instead, they imbue the offerings with their divine spirit, giving back what is given to them and making it greater. Thus the offerings are divinized so that they are pure and appropriate for all other uses.
The dead, on the other hand, are not Gods. They were once human, and so in the spirit world they too require sustenance. However, since they are in the spirit world and not in the living world, all of the offerings taken to a tomb were not given to them.
Only a tiny part was set aside as a token of that offering, much like the burnt offerings of ancient Judaism, where only a token part of the sacrifice was made to set a certain side apart for a special purpose.
The offerings given to the dead were eaten, not physically in the seen world necessarily, though often animals and other creatures might come to a tomb and recycle them accordingly; but as the dead do not have holy powers like the Gods, they took of the unseen substance of the offering and left the physical remainder behind, just like a person might eat a loaf of bread, but not the wrapper that it came in.
Today as Kemetic Orthodox we do our offerings almost identically to the way that they were done in antiquity with a few exceptions.
The vast majority of our members are not priests, nor do they butcher their own meat, or run temples. However, they are encouraged to give offerings to the Gods in order that they might be divinized, and to set aside a token portion of the food that they eat or the favorite things of their ancestors in their ancestor shrines to commemorate the dead and keep them happy and involved in our lives.
For example, here at the temple, once a week, I cook a dinner and I set aside a plate for the ancestors.
The plate sits with us as we eat, to invite the ancestors to come and eat with us and share in the fellowship. Part of the meal, if not all of it, has been offered to the Gods beforehand already.
After the dinner is over, the plate is taken to the ancestor shrine and left there overnight to remind all of the dead that they are part of our lives even from the west, and to permit them to partake of the unseen substance of that offering.
The next day, the plate is removed, along with the flowers or liquids or other offerings that have been given and depleted in the Ancestor shrine.
This is not a waste. The ancestor's partake of the offerings and remove their vitality. It would only be a waste if one removed the offerings given to Gods and Goddesses and did nothing with those, because the purpose of divine offerings is to be shared. The purpose of ancestor offerings is to be shared as well, and they are, as we share them with them except for that special portion which is reserved for them alone.
One day, when we too go West, we shall share in that portion and we will be grateful for it.
<musical interlude>Rev. Craig:
You have been listening to "Kemet This Week", Episode 9, for the week of May 26, 2008. Thanks for joining us, and we will see you next time. For more information on the House of Netjer and the Kemetic Orthodox faith, please visit www.kemet.org
. For more information on the music of the Rev. Dave Dean, visit Lotuswire.net and Fallsastar.com.