I promised, in my previous post, that I’d do a series on my religious work and it seemed only right to start with my Kemetic things, since I’ve been practicing them the longest.
The main part of my Kemetic work is to promote ma’at, which doesn’t really have a direct translation – it can be considered a combination of order, justice, truth, and balance. I’ve written about ma’at at length in the past, so I won’t do a full recap here but I will mention this: ma’at is a force that promotes community through connection and is not diametrically opposed to chaos.
When one’s ultimate goal is to promote ma’at, it is amazing to see what daily acts become religious work…and most of my Kemetic religious work is all wrapped up in my daily acts. Remembering to return my shopping basket to the basket bin, or my shopping cart to the cart corral so no one else is inconvenienced? Ma’at. Donating clothing to Goodwill or cans of food to a food drive or loaning money through micro-finance? Ma’at. Helping my parents with their business by re-organizing their office files, or helping a friend organize her craft room so she can find everything? Ma’at. It is in the mindset as well as the acts themselves, and once I got the mindset down, the rest because significantly easier.
Another part of my Kemetic work includes the honoring of my ancestors, or akhu. Again, I’ve written about the akhu before and I don’t want to do a full recap here, but I will mention that my belief system includes the fact that I am here because of my ancestors, and their ka flows to me and through me. Without the akhu, I would not be here, and so it behooves me to honor them. I keep a shrine for my akhu at which I give offerings to refresh the ka of my ancestors and so, also my own. The shrine is in my living room, on the mantel, which means I pass it multiple times per day and I try to take a moment each time to remember how much I’ve been given, through them. I clean it and reset it on a routine basis, depending on the time of year. In fact, this past weekend, I cleaned and reset my akhu shrine for the “holiday” season.
I put holiday in quotation marks because the only religious holiday I’ll be celebrating in December is a Jubilee of Nut on the 30th. Ausir’s Mysteries ended before December began, and while I do mark the solstice, Christmas, and the turning of the civil year, I mark them as secular holidays rather than religious ones. The solstice will be spent with friends during an annual celebration, Christmas will include gathering and a meal with family and friends, and the turning of the civil year will most likely involve movies and a glass of champagne with my husband at midnight.
But, since most of my Beloved Dead celebrated religious holidays this time of year, and since the iconography and symbols meant something to them, I decorate my akhu shrine to take that into account. What does this mean? Well, it means cleaning off the shrine itself (my living room mantelpiece), cleaning the icons, and rearranging them to include symbols of the season that represent how they lived. This includes two Christmas tree decorations (one ceramic that holds a tea light, and one collapsible wooden one brought back from a Christmas market in Prague), and a creche. After redecoration, I shared a beer with my akhu to refresh their ka. (And I mean shared – offerings are meant to revert once their essence is consumed, and so I drank the remaining beer once my akhu were finished.
After these two things comes deity-specific work. This can be divided into two pieces – work done as general honor or worship of the netjeru, and work done by request from a specific ntjr(t). Piece one includes prayers and offerings, celebration of religious holidays, ritual, and heka. Waking the gods falls into this category, as does petitioning for aid, reading aloud from Eternal Egypt when a section applies, and giving cool water or beer to refresh the ka of the netjeru.
Piece two includes things like following the Nut Cycle (not an easy task, given the TEETH involved), acting as a health advocate for those who need help (and ask for it), writing (this blog, and others), and learning to tear myself apart and then put things together again, piece by piece.
Now, I’m sure there are people out there who will read this post and go, “That’s it? What about <insert random thing they do here>?” I’m expecting that, actually – as we’re all individuals it would be odd if we all did exactly the same thing in exactly the same way all the time. If your work is different than mine, but it works for you and your gods, there’s no reason to stop and switch to doing the things I do. Sure, there are basic concepts that pertain to Kemeticism (like ma’at, for instance) but the manner in which it is upheld is an individual choice.
Wouldn’t things be pointless and boring if we all did exactly the same thing?