Execration Via Small Child

I commented upon this subject when I wrote The Festival of the Beautiful Reunion. But it seems worth chronicling actually performing these rites.

I will begin by quoting Barbara Watterson’s The House of Horus in Edfu: Ritual in an Ancient Egyptian Temple, specifically a part of the chapter entitled “The Feast of the Joyous Union”:

The subsequent rites were of a prophylactic nature. A red wax model of a hippopotamus, with the names of the King’s enemies inscribed on it, was brought in. The names of these enemies were then written on a sheet of new papyrus; and a hippopotamus was modelled in sand. And then, according to the texts, ‘every harmful thing that you can think of was done to them.’

Now, we don’t have a whole lot of enemies of the state kicking around here, but that’s not saying that we don’t have enemies. So I wrote them down on the piece of paper: “stress”, “lack of sleep” (of course we have lack of sleep, there’s a baby), “unexpected house repairs”, and a few other things. On, of course, a sheet of new paper.

And then I drew a good Egyptian knife through each of them. And I drew a red hippo, and drew some knives through that. (I didn’t have a handy source of red wax or sand, but I figured a big red hippo in crayon was not a bad start.) And a big snake, and knives! And an antelope for good measure. I think that one only got one knife.

And, of course, the older kid did her own scratchings-out of these enemies. In a variety of colours. It took a little encouragement to get her going, but we got some good thorough scribbles on there between the two of us.

Then, of course, taking a page from the additional ritual of ‘treading the fish’, we stomped on our enemies. I must say that jumping is one of the kid’s favorite things – one of her regular nicknames around here is Stompy – and this is probably one of my favorite photographs of her ever. It’s not every day that Mama says “Here, let’s jump on this!”

We did a lot of rounds of her jumping on it. Then I did a round of jumping on it. We jumped on it together, as well, doing a little stompy circle dance around and around on that little piece of increasingly crinkled paper. (Unfortunately, the photographs of us together didn’t have a whole lot of awesome in them, because I was stomping pretty slowly so as not to bowl her over in our stompdance upon the inscriptions of our enemies.)

Those enemies took a lot of stomping, but we were up for the task. Stomp stomp stomp stomp stomp.

Of course, after that we had to rip up the piece of paper, and really I wound up doing most of that because we’ve gone to some effort to teach her not to rip up pieces of paper, because we have a lot of books around here.

Though I did start a few tears, and she finished them off, and eventually we had a little heap of crayon-scrawled, mashed scraps of irregular paper, all ready to take outside and burn.

Which is what we did.

I wound up setting up the heap of paper on a pile of cinderblocks we have sitting in front of the house, and of course she wanted to watch so she climbed up to perch on the wall and I had to warn her not to play with the fire. But we set it on fire, and she declared that it was, indeed fire, and I kept poking at the scraps to make sure that all those bits got burned, all those dangerous symbolic animals and lurkers around the fringes, all those bits of angst and issues that were causing us trouble.

And then there was the satisfaction of victory, our enemies obliterated. The safety and security of the state of us is preserved for another year, thus:

2 thoughts on “Execration Via Small Child

  1. SatAset says:

    That is great. Absolutely a great way to adapt the festival ritual for modern times and for children!

  2. Shefyt says:

    This is awesome. Small children are the best execrators. ^_^

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