First Day of the Last Month of Shomu

Back when I read Parker’s book on the calendars of ancient Egypt (available for download from the Oriental Institute here,by the way) I came away with the impression that at one point in time, each month may have begun with a festival upon its first day and/or each month had a festival connected with the month itself. (File this as ‘fixed in next version’, for some values of the calendar.)

My calendar notes for the first day of 4 Shomu are very interesting. (Edited to add: this year, falling on 30 June.) The Cairo calendar has it as a day for making abet-offerings for those in heaven, and a feast for Wennefer, which is of course a title of Wesir. Ramesses’s temple in Abydos likewise marks a festival of Wennefer. Kom Ombo West says ‘Appearance of the Standard of Heru’. The large Edfu calendar, Hathor Edfu calendar, and large Hathor calendar at Dendera all say “Feast of Her Majesty”. The short Dendera calendar says “Feast of Hathor”.

Now, I ponder the potential relevance of relating this to the Festival of Mut from two days before, where I suggested that the festival in which ‘her majesty’ performs rites for the gods might be a reference to Mut’s boating expedition – and indeed that note in Esna is for a festival lasting three days, which would thus conclude here. However, when I compiled my original notes into a draft calendar, it was without benefit of additional research, and I simply marked this date as “Offerings to the Westerners and the Lady of the West”.

But perhaps it is “Offerings to the Westerners By the Lady of the West”. In any case, regardless of all other things: the Westerners and the Foremost of Westerners are receiving feasts on this day, perhaps under the royal authority of Hetharu (and perhaps this ties in the appearance of the standard of Heru? sketchy, but plausible, if one wants to combine across various timeframes in the expectation that there is some thread of consistency involved).

If this is the conclusion of a three day festival kicked off by Mut’s boating party, then that celebration of the temporal presence and honoring of the gods by the living and corporeal royal authority changes over the course of that three days, and shifts its focus Westwards, into the Duat. Royal authority in the seen world (as represented by Mut) emerges from the Duat, from the chain of ancestors and ultimately from Wesir Wennefer, the good and just, and the offerings of a mortal feast must extend, over time, into the immortal realms.

This is all ass-pull, of course. I’m making it all up, from a few scraps of thoughts. But I think, from here, it makes sense.

Anyone got any references for what the hell an abet-offering might be?

Festival of Mut

I have in my calendar for Thursday “Great Feast of Mut”, and of course I have made my life marginally more complicated by not noting that that’s not a specific name I had in my references. (Ha ha ha, given the last post and all.)

This one is set by the Cairo Calendar as found in Brier’s Ancient Egyptian Magic, and my notes have it recorded in the spreadsheet as “Festival of Mut in Shera (Karnak lake), feed her and followers”. According to Barbara Lesko in The Great Goddesses of Egypt, this feast day was apparently sufficiently splendid to give rise to a common given name that translates “Mut-in-her-bark”, but I found nothing else.

There is a Feast of the Gods listed in the Esna calendar also on 3 Shomu 29. Karnak, according to Wikipedia, was some 2.5 kilometers north of Luxor; Esna, 55 kilometers south. Thus, the comparative local-ness of these festivals and their name similarities suggests to me they’re probably related in some way. The Esna temple is one of the latest surviving calendars – but yet it appears to me to have an oblique reference to Mut, the sovereign person embodying the particulars of royal authority:

29th day of the 3rd month of Summer:
Feast of the gods, on the occasion of the feast of her Majesty performing the ritual which concerns them, taking 3 days.

Temple Festival Calendars of Ancient Egypt, El-Sabban

“Her Majesty” seems to me in this context to be a statement about Mut, possibly an attenuated one by that stage in history, Who is clearly the host of this ritual and feast for the other gods. Possibly She took them on a catered yacht outing.

So I search out my Brier and pull the full quote from the Cairo calendar:

Very favorable

Today is the festival of Mut in Shera [the lake at the Temple of Karnak]. It is the day of feeding the gods and her followers.

Not actually informative, really.

In any case, my best guess for an appropriate mark for this festival in my current state of lack of research is to act as host to invited Powers, presiding over the feast as a royal lady would do, with whatever full protocols and entertainments that would muster.

Possibly also on a boat.

(Sometimes the research is really informative, sometimes it’s “better luck next year”.)

Calendars and Footnotes

Last week sometime, I had one of those minorly interesting things come up. Someone elsewhere asked for advice on how to celebrate a particular festival.

Now, the festival name this person gave was not one that appears in the surviving temple festival calendars (I have all that data pulled out into a spreadsheet as part of my own calendric ruminations), which meant a lot of people responded with variants on “What are you talking about?” (It was kind of a generic name, so one of the variants was “Well, which ancestor festival?”)

Eventually, more information happened: a Gregorian calendar date.

Now, as folks who have wrestled with the Egyptian calendar at any length will know and whine about, there is no standard Gregorian calendar date for any-damn-thing in ancient sources. (I mean, setting aside the fact that the damn thing was established in 1582.) Even with the non-fluxing civil calendar, which did eventually pick up a lot of festivals, there were just 365 days until the Romans decided they weren’t down with that nonsense, so every four years the date would slip one notch further away.

And that’s assuming that there’s agreement on when the year would start, which … there isn’t.

But there is no shortage of various people who have pinned calendars to particular Gregorian dates. Hell, the current calendar I use is one of them, for the most part.

If you have multiple websites saying that such-and-such Egyptian festival falls on such-and-so date, therefore, the odds are really damn good that what you’ve got are those multiple websites all ripping off the same source of material – someone who pinned the calendar down to a particular set of dates, with their own New Year value, their own way of eliding the lunar cycles, and so on. Odds are also good that those websites will not source whose work they’re stealing, which means that if – as in this case – someone has changed the name or done some sort of allusive reference, well, who the fuck knows?

Now, about two months ago I picked up a few books that seemed interesting and potentially useful. One of them was a neopagan exploration of some mythologies – a bit too archetypical and psychological for my general tastes, but I like to have a variety of resources available to me. I had noticed at the back that it had a calendar of holidays, pinned to particular Gregorian dates. (Further, it had footnotes saying whose work it was reprinting.)

So I went and dug up that book, and flipped to the back, and lo, upon the given Gregorian date, there was a festival with the name being asked about. It was actually situated within the Egyptian year, with Egyptian month names listed, which meant that I could easily go back to my reference notes for the Egyptian year and say “Okay, if you’re looking for information put forward by Kemetics, this is the festival you want to plug into your search engine. The calendars you are looking at were put together by the Church of the Eternal Source.”

Footnotes generated. Mission accomplished?

But this is one of the things that drives me nuts. “We celebrate this at this time!” Who says so? What is the basis for that statement? What sources back it up? Where is the information? This isn’t something that people actually talk about – it’s all take it on faith stuff.

Which works fine within an organisation where people have committed to trusting the decisions of the people who did the work – those organisations will not only have a calendar, but have made decisions about how to celebrate the holidays they’ve located in the calendar. But those calendars have a tendency to escape into the wild and become separated from the information that the organisations have, and maybe even from the fact that they were put together by an organisation in the first place.

I don’t think that this is a good idea.

Festival of the Beautiful Reunion

I was going to write about something else, but then I checked my calendar and had a round of “Ack! This is tomorrow!”

And then I cracked out the books and had a round of, “… and preparations would have started two weeks ago in ancient times!” Heh. Well, these things will work out over time, eh?

My calendar for this month says “at the new moon: the Festival of the Beautiful Reunion kicks off the First Fruits of the Harvest”. My reference for how the festival is conducted is pulled from chapter 9 of Barbara Watterson’s The House of Horus at Edfu: Ritual in an Ancient Egyptian Temple.

So, to set the stage: in ancient times, starting at the last full moon, preparations would have been made in Dendera, the offerings of harvest crops, and the preparation of the sacred barge. Hetharu would travel, making state visits, the hundred-mile journey to Edfu, with more and more boats joining in the procession as She passed, until – on the new moon – she arrived at Edfu and was met at the pier by Heru.

It is interesting to note that the actual harvest would likely have begun some two months or so before, and thus the fact that the temple calendars refer to this as the first fruits may be something of a misnomer (and the evidence suggests that it was probably a threshing festival). However, given that our farmshare just paid out its first crate of greens last week, I’m tickled by the timing: right around here, the first fruits actually are being harvested around now. By which I mean “strawberries”. (We also snagged a bin of blueberries at a farmstand the other day.) So it works out all right for northern hemisphere temperate climate as-is, if taken literally.

This is a peaceful holiday, kind of mellow apparently, with even the crocodiles taking the day off. The reunion of these two Powers is a graceful and stately one, with several formal repetitions of the Opening of the Mouth as well as the Powers observing the state of the fields together, watching a ceremony called the driving of the calves, and receiving offerings of ma’at and selections from the recent harvest. We guess They withdrew to a private chapel in the Edfu temple for Their personal renewal of their long-distance marriage to the accompaniment of the welcome songs performed by the temple musicians. Overnight, there was great feasting made available among the populace, which certainly would go a long way towards enhancing the popularity of the festival.

In the following morning, the Beautiful Reunion gives way to the Festival of Behdet (the proper name of Edfu). The Powers went in procession to the local burial grounds, there to make offerings to the ancestors foundational to the city, perhaps in the sacred grove there. Offerings made, a ceremony known as treading the grave (apparently to obscure the signs of burial so that the dead might remain safely undisturbed by malevolent purposes) was performed, and sacrifices of red-pelted animals were made. Four geese were released, one to each of the four cardinal directions, to declare Heru’s claiming of the two crowns.

Additionally, various execration rites were performed: the destruction of a red wax hippo, the recording of names of enemies, the rite of the trampling of the fishes, the smiting of enemies with a sword. These, unlike the other formal rites, may have been conducted at least somewhat publically, to demonstrate the magical protection of the nation was in place.

Similar rites to these were performed on the second, third, and fourth days of the Festival of Behdet, visiting the mounds of a different powerful ancestor each time; upon the fourth night, it is said that the Powers in celebration conceived a son. From the fifth through the fourteenth day, additional festivities were pursued, perhaps on a smaller scale, at which point Hetharu reclaimed Her barge and followed the river home, riding with the current under the light of the full moon.

So, now that I’ve done a summary of the ancient rites as written in Watterson’s book, some thoughts about modern approaches.

There are several major factors intertwining to formulate this festival. One of them, of course, is fertility, which touches upon not only the marriage but the harvest and the offerings made to the divine ancestors. One is sovereignty: it is one place that Heru claims His right to the throne, which is of course also bound up with His performance of the offering rites to the ancestors and the rites dispelling the power of enemies. Protection, of course, comes in with the execration rites as performed and the sacrifices made.

The First Fruits of the Harvest portion of this festival is notably more literal for me in New England than it would have been for the ancient Egyptians, despite the dramatic differences in our growing seasons. Here we are having the first hints of fresh crops appearing on our tables, while the ancients would have been offering bread made from grain reaped and winnowed in accord with ritual prescriptions. For me, then, this must be a festival of the promise of the wealth of the land, rather than its accomplishment; I do not think that this is too far askew of ancient expressions, since the promise and the resolution are so tightly bound together.

Here we have abundance displayed, though, and the feast of is of many different kinds of roast, bread of course, and wine. It is a night of drunken merriment, and if Watterson’s quotation is to be trusted, that night of merriment would indeed have lasted all night. Certainly it is at least worth raising a glass, even if we have to turn in early to make it in to work in the morning.

And because of the abundance – and the nature of harvest as allegorical for the death of Wesir – in the morning, we go to the foundational ancestors, the ones that underlie the land itself here. I find in this festival an ambiguity between Westerners, Powers of the land, and possibly Powers of the land who are also Westerners. (But the Duat is a complicated place….) In any case, these ancestors are responsible for the fertility of the land, and thus partake of its bounty.

I think this ambiguity is a worthwhile matter to consider. The idea of the land as ancestral power – the earth itself made up of the bodies of those which have gone before and the remains of stones – is a potent one. We not only have human ancestors, but the pre-human and non-human as well, making up the humus upon which everything depends. Do you have a relationship with your land-ancestors? Can you build one, by bringing gifts to their mounds and asking what they want? If you are inclined to claim any form of dominion, what do the ancestors of the place where you live think of that?

It is by affirming that tie to the ancestors and the land that Heru takes dominion and claims the two crowns. He announces this with a flight of geese – the animal of Geb – as He ascends to the Throne of Geb. (I find that interesting.)

This is, of course, a generational festival: the ancestors, the married couple, the conception of Their child. Perhaps, for those of us who are married, it may be time to consider renewing and rejuvenating our vows, as the Powers are doing. It is also not just a matter of looking to the founding powers of the land, but to the children who will inherit that land. Raise a glass to them as well, whether our own (born or unborn) or those that will come after in a broader community.

But back to the feasting. A number of different forms of roast are mentioned – and a meat offering is always a declaration of victory over enemies. We are not nations, to speak of enemies domestic and foreign, but within the sovereignties of our own lives: what opposes us, what opposes ma’at in our lives? What bad habits can we write down on a piece of paper, set the kids to scribbling over with crayons, cut up with scissors, and set on fire? What can we inscribe on a little red wax hippo before doing a solid morris dance on its remains? Is it “indecision” that plagues, or “quick-temperedness”? In short, when we cut the joint of meat, what enemy power are we devouring to turn it from opposing us to residing in the belly where it feeds our power?

Last month, with the Beautiful Festival of the Valley, we let the flow of energies between the seen and the unseen rejuvenate both. Here, we are all in the seen, with the cosmic wedding of Heru and Hetharu, and Their renewal of bonds with the land They rule. The flow of rejuvenation continues, and the first fruits of the harvest are upon our tables and the tables of the gods. Here, the lands are united, the earth and heaven are united, and the Throne of Geb is occupied once more.

Sacred Kings Just Ain’t What They Used To Be

It’s not like Kemetic theology is the only world system that has some concept of sacred king, either. (I was reading a couple of articles on the Wild Hunt recently talking about sacral kingship as part of the structure of Theodism, for example.) But the world is different now, and that sort of blend of temporal and spiritual authority isn’t common – and not wide-ranging. (Even if you buy a farm somewhere and make a pact with the local land spirits and all that stuff that’s bound up with sacred kingship – as some have – someone’s still going to come around and demand you pay the real estate taxes. Which means, at minimum, a construction of “kingship” that either is flexible enough to accept being subject to someone else’s laws or deal with the consequences when someone shows up to foreclose or something. Banks don’t listen to land spirits, because land spirits don’t make mortgage payments.)

If you look at Egyptian history and religion, of course, it is very clear that an interregnum was a time of crisis. Much like the Days Upon the Year, the time between the passing of one king and the establishment of the next was unordered time, not kept in place by the rituals and routines of state; it was widely considered perilous to not have the sacred task properly embodied upon the throne. The occasional practice of co-regencies was part of how the dangers of these periods were kept in check: with more than one royal authority available, the mooring-day of one would not throw everything into question, as the other would be trained up and ready to go immediately. The job of the king in the ancient Kemetic world was essential.

That does not mean that the person of the king was particularly sacrosanct. Sure, the average onion-hoer was going to be in total awe of the king, who was the symbol of the connection between seen and unseen worlds, observed from afar at most, and all that jazz. But if you look at the actual world of the courtiers – people who knew each king personally – there are the usual human schemes, the occasional assassination plot, women trying to make sure their offspring were in position to ascend to the throne, and at least one case of semi-scandalous rumours about whether or not the king and one of his senior generals were fooling around on the side. Holiness was in the job description, not the person; several books I’ve read have explicitly stated that royal funerary shrines were built to the Kingly Ka, not the king as a mortal man.

Of course, the king was not the only one who did the job, and some modern organisations duck around the whole sacred king problem by organising in the form of groups of priests. Since the rituals were in large part performed by groups of priests in the ancient world, as delegates of the king, some folks figure on taking up the delegation part and leave the king himself to the role of archetype or symbol where his magical effectiveness is not going to be sullied by knowing too much about his sex life or his drinking habits or whatever else might confuse the space between person and role.

The sanctity of the king role was a matter of fiat, of assertion. The king was the child of the Creator and a mortal woman, and thus – to steal terminology from a completely different system – ran the gamut from Kether to Malkuth. The world of the divine and the world of the human were unified in his person. Why was this so? Because that is how the job was defined; it was simply a given of existence.

To look for an understanding of authority in order to build a concept of kingship that works without command of a nation, we have to go to less stratospheric heights of theology. I am fond of constructing my model of appropriate temporal authority from the sorts of things that nomarchs and officials put in their tombs; of personal authority from the wisdom texts and similar matters. These can tell us what it is to live as a good person, what it is to be a good ruler, in the frameworks of the ancients, so that we can decide best how being a good person – or a good ruler – would look in the modern day, and arrange our lives (and perhaps our votes) accordingly.

But neither of those things touches on theological authority, that thing that the king in particular had; neither is particularly cosmic, touching on things that could disrupt the steady flow of time itself if not in proper place.

I actually just finished reading Kaldera’s Dealing with Deities: Practical Polytheistic Theology, and there is a one-off image in there that’s profoundly useful to this theological authority question. In a section talking about dealing with particularly limited, more human-like visions of a deity vs. the more cosmic, abstract, and impersonal manifestations thereof, Kaldera uses the image of a stalactite – a relationship with the Power in question near the point, as it were, or up closer to the broader and less intimate base. And then he makes a comment in passing:

She pointed out that we humans are the stalagmites, reaching up from the floor of the cave, and sometimes–eventually, in rare cases–we touch the most humanlike end of the divine stalactite that reaches down, and the two join together. In caves, these become pillars of stone from floor to ceiling; …

This is the theological role of the king: to be that pillar. To the ancients, this was accomplished in terms of axioms. The potential to be the pillar was intrinsic in a king’s conception, and brought to fruition by the rituals of the investiture, at which point that pillarness simply was, enabling the king to perform necessary rituals and his delegates to continue to do so in temples around the nation. The connection was made, and thus actions that depended on that connection existing became possible.

So, therefore: where are the columns of the universe in diaspora? Some islands have their kings; some islands have their councils of priests acting in the name of a discarnate and abstracted king, or ritualists who step up to perform in the name of that role. That leaves a number of atolls uncounted, and the worlds still need to be connected.

What brings the worlds closer together, for those who are not happy with axiomatic fiat?

The pat answer, of course, is ma’at. A cosmos in ma’at is one in which the seen and unseen worlds are aligned and interpenetrating properly, and thus any action taken to promote, uphold, demonstrate, or align with ma’at is also an action that unites the worlds.

This lacks a certain practical applicability, in the “What do I actually do now?” kind of way.

We can look to those old nomarchs, who would say that they fed the hungry, clothed the naked, provided boats to the boatless, saw to the provision of public works, and protected the people from bandits, and that by these acts one could see the favor of the gods for their rule. (But really, unless we’re either government officials or the people out there digging ditches, our contributions to public works projects probably boil down to “I paid my taxes, mostly on time.” On the other hand: pay your taxes. Mostly on time.)

We can look to things like the wisdom texts and the Negative Confessions of the Book of Going Forth By Day to find understandings of codes of behaviour that are living in ma’at and figure out ways to put away the shopping carts and other basic oilings of the cogs of society.

But these are too mundane to entirely satisfy spiritually, perhaps.

Plant a garden. One of those fervent wishes that comes up over and over is the desire to return to the garden one rested in in life. Living in an apartment? Got a window box? How about one of those grow-light things you can use to grow kitchen herbs? That’s not feasable? How about donating to tree-planting charities or places that fund gardens (or farms – Heifer International has a few options along these lines, I found on a quick look).

Even if you can’t grow any food for yourself, educate yourself a little on where food comes from. (There is a book titled Food: The Gift of Osiris; while I haven’t read it yet, its existence serves as a reminder. Knowledge about where your food comes from is an appropriate devotional act for Him.) Build good relationship with your food, and with the communities where your food is grown.

For that matter, build good relationship with the realms of any Power you feel a connection with. The better your relationship (and the relationships of others) with Their areas of interest, the more in touch They can be with the world. Figure out which Powers have interest in the work that you do and remember Them as you do it. If you know mythic stories that have resonance, symbols that draw your attention to sanctity in what you do, work on those things.

Learn to make peace with your ancestors with whom you have difficult relationships, as best as you can; healing them is healing yourself and forging a stronger connection between the seen and unseen. Build relationships through your bloodline as well as with other akhu in your social, spiritual, or intellectual communities; the ancestors are a primary vehicle by which life-energy is brought into the seen world, much as Wesir’s governance over food is a similar mechanism for the restoration and rejuvenation of being.

Beyond that, it starts to get really personal. Serve the deities that you serve; act as Their hands. Improve your skills and pursue spiritual growth, so that there is more space in the world for creation. Remember earth reaching for heaven with desire. Learn to recognise the holy. Govern yourself.

The Seductive Illusion of Sure Knowledge

It is perhaps not terribly apparent from what I write, but I have a circle of friends that I sometimes think of and refer to as my debugging team. They’re the people I bring stuff to in order to say, “Please, tell me: am I full of shit, here?” It’s important, when building things that need to be stable, to check your work.

None of my debuggers are Kemetic. While several have relationships at some level with Egyptian Powers, none are operating in a system that is of Egypt. It doesn’t matter; the skillset for determining whether a system is well-constructed doesn’t depend on which Powers provided the training or the impetus for gathering knowledge or the symbolic set one is using. (And diversity is of itself creative; zero (Nun) became two (Creator and not-Creator); two became three (Atum and children, say); three became millions. To pursue monoculture is to pursue the void – there is no “one” here, because the myths begin with “before there were two things”. Diversity prevents ossification, another not-so-secret lesson from the Lord of the Red Land. Celebrate your differences, they make what you build together strong! … this is a tangent.)

Anyway. I was talking with one of these folks a while back – one who is very British Isles in focus, in particular – about the whole process of making things up, and grounding it in what is known of historical practice, and so on.

And one of the things that came up is that, well, folks who are doing work focusing on the folklore and Powers of the British Isles, well, for the most part they have crap to deal with. In the mishmash of cultures that often considered writing too static to contain holy truths, which built in wood and earth more than stone, went through waves of various invasions, and were overall stuck in the sort of damp that makes rot a regular concern, the sort of information that Kemetics can kind of take for granted doesn’t exist. There are scraps, sure, just as archaeology and bits of recorded and surviving folklore can point everywhere to hints of things, but how to put that together, and what to use to fill in the vast interstices, is not clear.

People still do it, that’s the thing: pursue dreamwork, make arrangements with spirits, chase intuition, discover what actions work and which ones don’t. “Spirit-taught”, Raven Kaldera calls some of this – I’m reading one of his books now, as it happens – is sometimes the only way to go, because that’s the only way of building up from the beginning something that might be in tune with those spirits. The knowledge is just plain gone.

But Kemetics, well, we have nearly full rituals carved on walls, with illustrations of procedures and sacred texts. We have recipes for incense, likewise carved on those walls, as well as preserved by Greek pharmacists in mild variations that enable us to make guesses about the more obscure ingredients. We have heaps of papyrus that survived in the aridity of the desert, unconsumed by the dissolving moisture of an English rain. We know so much, right? It is easy to construct something functional and real and satisfying, because there is so much there.


Consider this:

There is a structure in the first room of some ancient Egyptian houses, a sort of raised, partially enclosed platform built into or against the wall. These were reasonably common; I’ve seen them described every time I read about the archaeology of Egyptian villages. The term for it is the perhaps misleading “lit clos”.

Nobody knows what they were for. I’ve seen people suggest that they might be beds for the homeowners. That they might be a sort of raised crib or playpen for young children to keep them in view and out of trouble. That they might have to do with women’s mysteries, birth, and similar matters. Perhaps they had some religious function, some say, since the areas were decorated with images of Bes or potentially used as a shrine, leading one researcher to summarise this with:

Overall the proposals for the usage of the elevated beds consist of a sleeping area, a bed linked to female sexuality, birth, nursing and purification, an altar, a chapel or a seating area. As most of the theories have not been strongly supported by evidence as a whole, these proposals are inconclusive.

before arguing that the front room of the houses, in which the lit clos structures were always built, were private gardens, decorated with rejuvenation/resurrection iconography, and that the raised structures were ancestor shrines, perhaps with additional ties to related and relevant gods such as Hetharu.

It’s easy to pretend we have a full picture, if we don’t pay attention to the things we don’t know. Which might even be important. It’s easy to be diverted by the big flashy rituals carved in stone that hardly anyone ever witnessed, and feel that that’s a complete view of a religion. After all, we have more substantial knowledge than those folks trying to do things with the native spirits of the British Isles, right?

But in and among that we can live in ignorance of what we don’t know. We can pretend that information is the same as structure, that what we have is comprehensive because hell, there’s a lot of it, that has to be good for something, right? We know so much, what we don’t know doesn’t matter, so we can gloss it over.

I think about the lit clos a lot. And am really glad I stumbled across the PDF I linked above, and will have to read it more thoroughly later, because it has meat to chew on. When I make something up after thinking about the lit clos, it’ll be good to have that reference available to me. It’s a know your mortar thing, to be able to see the actual gaps.

It is important not to be blinded by data when seeking knowledge. As Kemetics, we can in theory accumulate so much data that we forget what we don’t know.

Remember the lit clos.

Another Book Review for the Guide!

I am sure that many people in the extended pagan community are familiar with the prolific reviewer of pagan books and pagan-friendly material, Mike Gleason. He is, I believe, a high priest in the Alexandrian line of Wicca, and I have been reading his reviews for something like ten years, since back when I was lurking on alt.religion.wicca.moderated on usenet. (I currently see them primarily through a local mailing list, though they also get reposted on the Cauldron with permission at irregular intervals.)

In any case, I promptly broke out the search engine to see if I could find the review somewhere linkable, and here we go, in the archives of his reviewer’s mailing list: Mike Gleason’s review of the Traveller’s Guide to the Duat.

Poem Break with the Twin Souls

Given that The Traveller’s Guide to the Duat is partially written in poetry, perhaps I should have a poetry section here. So, a poem.

This is a pantoum, which is a poetic form I was introduced to in high school in a creative writing class. I loved the pantoums; I probably wrote at least fifty of them. I still write them irregularly. The form on this one is kind of loose; the repeated lines should be identical, strictly speaking.

This one I wrote in 2008.

In the Ear of Heru-Sa-Aset

Self-rule is the first thing:
To know the length of your arm
Is to know the scope of your reach
And the limits of your strength.

Know that the length of your arm
Spans the width of your governance
And the limits of your strength
Hem in the boundaries of solitude

Span the width of your governance
With all the hands that serve your shoulder
Hem the boundaries of solitude
Beyond the skin of your embodiment.

With all the hands that serve your shoulder,
Self-rule is the first thing.
Possess the skin of your embodiment,
Know the scope of your reach.


(Try something like this when going to sleep, perhaps.)

Sprawl out as much as you like, stretching yourself across the surface you’re lying on. Feel the weight of your body, the exhaustion of falling to earth, the exhaustion of earth, falling.

Feel his own collapse like it is your own, for earth has fallen from heaven and lies beneath her. His weariness is immense, as he lies, sprawled, stretched out and flattened by fatigue. He is spent in every way, exhausted from his separation, sexually spent, dormant.

Your body sprawled against the earth is like the tumbled mass of a mountain, the great roots of a tree. You are of one essence, and you share that great weariness, the sleepy weight of the day. Sink into the horizon, the space between day and night, matter and spirit, wakefulness and dream.

As you touch sleep, feel the deep water beneath, the hidden depths of the exhausted earth. Feel how it stirs, how it moves as water will move. Feel the sap run, the yearning of earth for heaven, the way each tree rises into the void to try to touch her, each anthill and each mountain range fills with life, the restoration of a connection that is now held in dream.

Rest. Want. Be.

You are here.

Sponsoring a Community, Agriculturally

It seems oddly apropos that, right after I resurrect my old book review of Reclaiming the Commons, we attended an informational meeting for the CSA that we joined.

But I got ten minutes into the meeting, and wound up writing bits of this post in my head. So I write more.

The basic idea behind a CSA, if you’re not familiar with it, is that one of the hard parts of farming is selling the stuff, so if one can get subscribers who commit to buying a share of the week’s produce, well, that’s much more sustainable than hoping that someone shows up at the market stall before the produce goes all weird. A lot of CSAs are organised around ideas of local, often organic production, partly because demand for that kind of food is rising so there’s a handy niche to exploit.

In general, for people who are looking to bring some practical ma’at into their diet and can afford the buy-in, I’d recommend looking for a CSA. It fulfills all kinds of warm fuzzies: local food, seasonal food, organic food, supporting the local community and local economy in a cooperative fashion, variety of vegetables… Certainly, my family’s food habits have broadened notably over the years due to more than a few encounters that started out, “… so what the heck is this and how do I cook it?” I mean, garlic scapes. Garlic scapes are kind of awesome, but we would never have known….

So anyway, the presentation for the CSA began with a discussion of their partner, the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project. Which is another excellent example of ma’at in action: this is an organisation that works with primarily refugee or other immigrant populations, but also locals, to help them establish small farms. It includes such useful things as a business curriculum to establish a financial plan (which is something that I think is really important when trying to promote small businesses) and land that can be rented for farm space in order to build and test skills and start to develop a sustainable output. They then, once people run out of short-term land rentals through the training program, try to connect people with potential farmland – up to and including letting them rent people’s backyards, corners of church land, and other odds and ends of arable terrain.

Of course, many of these farms are tiny – the first year graduates of the program get a quarter acre of training land available to them, I think – and the resulting output isn’t always huge. Which means that the World PEAS Cooperative serves to gather up these crops and sell them for these small farmers. Primarily through the CSA.

And if that wasn’t enough awesome “ma’at is the force that gathers people together into communities”, they also allow people to sponsor shares to go to low-income families – many of whom would not have the opportunity to have fresh vegetables easily, and also would not have some of the crops from their native cuisines available to them otherwise. And they provide produce to elder homes in the company of Meals On Wheels.

I am really amazingly happy with this CSA, even though I’m expecting to crack open a box someday and ask, “Okay, how do you properly prepare a bitter melon?” (There was a photo of one in the Powerpoint we watched. When question time came around we asked what the heck it was.)