(Yeah, I know, I’m still really falling down on the blogginess. Sorry about that. Hoping to have normal broadcast resuming soon; I’m getting my office put back together slowly….)
Opet is a major New Kingdom-era festival, the sort of thing that a reconstructionist-affiliated person can’t really ignore: it was one of the big deal things.
It was also a very state festival, and to those people whose Kemetic practice is not state-oriented or state-affiliated, this is complicated and maybe a little disconcerting. How can we celebrate the procession of Amun and Mut to recognise Their son the king, re-witness his crowning, and otherwise Yay Temporal Power in a time and place where, when there are displays of religiously-tinged temporal power, those displays are – to say the least – not Kemetic?
Well, first of all: I would call for people celebrating Opet to be aware of – and responsible for – their temporal power. In all its forms. Religiously speaking, we cannot claim that it’s legitimate to separate authority from religious obligation, when the entire theological structure of ancient Egypt is about the innate religious obligation structure bound up in having power.
This is not the festival season to tip badly, in other words.
The hidden, animating spiritual power of Amun comes to the temporal power of the king. This is a good time to renew: to reaffirm old vows, to dust off forgotten promises, to doublecheck the structure of commitments and do those necessary tuneups to keep everything running smoothly.
That animating spiritual power comes in the form of a parent visiting a child. (Thus do we return to my old favorite line from the Pyramid Texts about the ka of the Creator being placed within the first children.) Those of us who are parents are the first authorities, the ones who teach our children about power, who come to them with affirmation and understanding, who establish them in their places. This is not a small thing, and it is certainly worth a little thought.
In addition to the parent-child relationship, the relationship affirmed is between king and nation, and beyond that to all communities: the celebrations in ancient times included a vast state-sponsored feast. What can we do to feed our communities – both literally and metaphorically? (I know food banks around here get a lot of stuff in November and a lot less other parts of the year. Perhaps the Kemetics can do something for food banks in September.
(Meanwhile, of course, I’m writing this during the local election season, which also is ramping up into high gear during Opet, and contemplating community and connection and authority and how that all goes together. I am not interested in talking politics here, specifically, but for Kemetics in the United States I think it’s worth taking Opet to think about spiritual and temporal authority as reflected in the election processes. And actually read the texts of ballot initiatives, because those suckers are tricky bastards.)
When we look at what ancient authorities said in their propaganda pieces (as recorded on their tombs) we find a lot of useful things: about the protection of the populace from bandits, about the sponsoring of public improvements and public works projects, about the feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, and emboatening the boatless. I consider Opet a good time to think about charitable giving (I’m a big fan of Heifer International), about seeking out people to do microloans to (last year I used Kiva to make a loan to someone who needed house repairs), and other such things.
The Theban triad – the particular Powers of this holiday – are Powers of Creation, and also of continuance. On a mystical level, to welcome them is to welcome holiness and life, to allow ourselves to be filled with the secret breath of the living air.
As we live, so shall you live. Kheperu. Nekhtet!