Justice and Peace

There is a chant that goes “No Justice, No Peace”.

We offer ma’at; we establish ma’at; we allow Ma’at to ascend to her shrine. Ma’at is the fundamental offering to the gods, the law under which we establish our societies.

Ma’at is justice. Ma’at is order, is law.

Ma’at is truth.

And the truth is there in the chant, in the slogan. Without justice – without ma’at – there is not order, there is not law, there is not truth, because these are the same thing. Without ma’at there is no balance, no reciprocality, no connection between people.

(And my favorite quote on the subject remains “Ma’at is that force which gathers people together into communities.”)

Substitute in words: Justice is that which gathers people together. Truth is that which gathers people together. Play with these concepts a little. Explore.

According to Sylvie Cauville’s Offerings to the Gods in Egyptian Temples, there is a gift back from the gods when ma’at is properly offered.

I ensure for you that the palace remains stable thanks to your perfect conduct….(p 198)

When we give justice….

…. there is peace.

Thanks to Fred Clark of Slacktivist for the seed for this thought.


More rhythmic ponders:

Most of the months of the Egyptian year have a name referencing their primary festival. The last month of the year was called “Mesore”. Birth of Ra.

In ~2500 BCE, the heliacal rising of Sirius would have fallen in early to mid-July, meaning the previous month would have contained the relevant hemisphere’s summer solstice.

Which is interesting.

One of the calendar books I’ve read – and oh gods I have no idea which one anymore – suggested that Ra had twinned birthdays, as with other forms of twinning – the northern and southern birthdays, corresponding to the solstices. I seem to recall there’s some surviving columns that can be archaeoastronomically tied to the northern and southern reaches of the solar motion. (And that there is an inscription about them – Hatshepsut maybe? – describing the “two roads between which my father walks” or some such. Maybe someone will be able to footnote my brain.)

So there’s an interesting pole to put on the year. Maybe. If one’s so inclined.

It is of course not attested in the way that other things are. But it has an interesting feel.

I dither about it every so often.

(In case it’s not obvious, I have just figured out how to schedule posts on WordPress which means that I may have interesting runs of braindump while I chew on specific problems.)

Time and Pacification

So I was thinking about the Great Festival of Djehwty after referencing it in the previous post.

Here is another thing that fits together:

The day after the Great Festival of Djehwty is the Festival of Drunkenness.

Among the associations of that Festival, of course, is the pacification of the Eye – one may recall the red beer offered to Sekhmet in the myth of the Destruction of Mankind. During the unsettled time of the transition from year to year and the Days Upon the Year, the Eye goddesses are ascendant, powerful, dangerous; amulets of cats and lions may have been exchanged to ward off their dangerous attention.

So: if my theory about Djehwty’s guidance over the delicate flow of time in the transition between years is accurate, then the Great Festival is the point at which time is reasserted as entirely, safely normal.

And the day after that the Eye is pacified.

This does not strike me as coincidental: it seems to me that the Eye, having been released and likely enjoying her rampage, needs to be brought back into ordered time, and the point at which that can and must be done is at the point at which time is brought back into its proper place.

… whoa.

Calendric Rhythms

The basic problem I had with how I was approaching calendar work originally was its literalism. I was compiling lists of festivals and suggestions of festivals, figuring out which ones coincided and how, trying to track down practices for each one, individually, when they hit my threshhold of reaching more thoroughly.

The effect of this was kind of like sticking thumbtacks into very precise points on a piece of plain cardboard and wondering why I didn’t have any sense of the landscape that I was trying to map.

For my new approach, I want to paint the map.

The Egyptian map of the year was divided into three parts plus the Days Upon The Year. Akhet (flood), Peret (planting, literally “emergence”), Shomu (harvest). And these parts were not only a seasonal cycle, but a life-cycle, something likely familiar from many forms of project, the shape of things being done in a life.

In the first part of Akhet came the flood. And the flood is complicated. If it came too low, there would be a weak harvest come Shomu; if it came too high, it would wash away anything built close to the water, even that which was up above the line commonly thought safe. The earth it carried with it rejuvenated the land, driving back the desert once more, but as water meets hot dryness it produces the sort of muggy atmosphere that certain diseases love to breed in. This is the beginning of the year, the beginning of the cosmos, the beginning of every project: potential and disaster tangled up together, needing to be welcomed and needing to be protected against, the pieces needing to be sorted through, some of the preparation simply surviving until the waters recede and there is a little less flood to brave in order to get somewhere.

This is a metaphor of life made fact, written out for the ancients year after year: Change comes. Change sweeps away everything in its path. Change is a disaster. Change is an opportunity. Change is different every time. Change is fundamentally the same all the time. Change brings things that need to be weathered. After the change, the planting, making concrete the creative power that comes as part of change.

And so, after the flood passed, people went out and they planted, using the rich mud left by the flood. After the chaotic urges of the beginning, the start of things, it is time to go start making concrete progress, putting things under the surface, letting them grow.

The major festival that falls between Akhet and Peret is the Mysteries of Wesir, which just passed. As the transition goes from flood to growth, from Wesir to Heru, and Heru is established at the beginning of the season of Peret.

If Akhet is the season of chaos and creation – of potential and dissolution – the season that ends with the burial of Wesir and the planting of the seeds – then Peret is the season that establishes order. All of the positive potential of the flood that we can get our hands on is now being put into use, organised, set to work. After the inspiration, the laundry. Using that which the flood brings is a steady progression of work, and if the planting is not done, if the weeding is not done, if the work of the fields is not done, it does not matter how good the flood was.

I haven’t, in my research, come across a major festival for the transition between Peret and Shomu; the end of Peret and the beginning of Shomu both have some dates for offerings to all the gods. But, really, the transition from the steady work of making progress with the work to bring each thing to completion is not actually always clear-cut.

And Shomu is the season that gives back to the desert, where the waters sink away, and the harvest comes in – the season that ensures that there will be food for the year, and the season where privation threatens as the waters fade. It is the season where bounties come in, and where the need for bounties to come in is made clear.

It is in the middle of this season that we find the Beautiful Festival of the Western Valley, assuring that the harvest will come in, that there continues to be reciprocation from the land of the unseen, from whence the flood, in its time, will once again emerge. That the harvest will nourish and help people stay strong, until the next one. And the year, eventually, comes to its conclusion, awaiting the flood.

Which leaves, of course, the Days Upon The Year, that time outside of time, governed only by the attention of Djehwty to keep any form of time going. And these dangerous days fall when – in the abstract and ideal world – floodwater meets parched earth, the spent land meets the fertile renewal, the actual place where the opposites meet, the mysterious and dangerous place between completion and starting over.