(It is ironic that the most complicated (in my mind, anyway) segment of the soul, the akh, begins with A. Every fiber of my mind is straining to start with the ka, then move to the ba, and then (and only then) tackle the akh. Unfortunately, this is an alphabetic challenge…and so, we’re going to tackle the difficult first.)
We have a ka, the source of our vital energy that is passed to us from our ancestors. When we die, we return to our ka and become part of our ancestral group. We have a ba, our spiritual manifestation that seeks to return to the Duat even as it is tied to return to our physical body (as can be seen in many examples in tomb art and writing). When our ba is made Divine, it becomes an akh – a self-renewing spirit completely released from the physical body. The akhu (plural) are ascended and unified with the source of spiritual radiance. It is this very thing we ask for when praying for the dead:
A Thousand of bread, a Thousand of beer, a Thousand of every good thing. May N. Ascend!
Honoring our akhu (Blessed Dead) is something many of us do without even knowing it. I go through family albums periodically when I am at my parents’ house and try to say the names of the dead out loud when I note their photographs. I tell stories about things I did with my grandparents, or the family stories that have passed down from them. (Example – my paternal great-grandmother, Florence, used to give all the kids American flags for Christmas and birthdays. Why this happened remains a mystery even to my father and his siblings.) I visit graves, bringing offerings of flowers and cool water, and I recite prayers for the dead. I talk to my maternal grandmother on a constant basis and every day I miss her. I’m willing to bet many of you do the same.
I wanted to set up something more formal for years before I did so. I wanted, like so many other Kemetics, a shrine at which I could honor my dead – something official and sacred and special. I thought about it for years (3, to be exact) before I did it. And then, just last year I finally managed to set up a shrine for my akhu. It’s on my mantelpiece and manages to come across (to most people) as a happy little monument to family…which, after all, it is.
Currently, in these post-holiday hours, it holds the following items, each of which has some connection to my Blessed Dead:
- A photo of my maternal grandmother
- My maternal grandfather’s Living Bible
- A glass paperweight and a carousel horse music box, to represent my paternal grandparents
- A collapsible yak
- A wooden creche
- A footed offering bowl
- A hand-blown perfume bottle filled with cool water
- Two LED candles, one pillar and one tealight
- A Moroccan-style tea light lantern
- A wooden, collapsible Christmas tree with ornaments
- A ceramic Christmas tree tea light holder
- A figurine of Jack Skellington in his Santa Claus costume
- A handcrafted leather rose in a bud vase
Look at how formal it is!
At some point this week the shrine will get an overhaul since my “ancestral” winter holidays are over. Some pieces will be put into storage until December, and others will be wiped clean and repositioned. The water in the perfume bottle will be refreshed, and I will add some handmade flowers as a perpetual offering. As always, during the cleaning, I will say the names of the dead aloud for anyone listening to hear.