Human Responsibility

Assmann argues that the ancient Egyptian gods were thought to be absent from everyday life (as opposed to the Greek gods, for example), creating a particular human responsibility that was required to draw them into the earthly realm. Whether we accept Assmann’s bold statement that the Egyptians doubted the “real” existence of their gods in their temple space, it does seem to be the case that the state, the community, and the household took on the responsibility of pulling divinity into their lives through means of complex and symbolic rituals, all of them charged with magical power.

– “The Daily Offering Meal in the Ritual of Amenhotep I: An Instance of the Local Adaptation of Cult Liturgy”, Kathlyn M. Cooney and J. Brett McClain

Models of Authority

Every so often I come across someone referring to something I wrote – sometimes attached to me, sometimes broken loose and wandering free across the wild internet – and tagged with “of course, a priest would say that” or “this person is a priest” or some other thing.

Other times I encounter people taking some of my work as some sort of scriptural revealed text, a The Right Thing To Do, some sort of authoritarian declaration of correct practice.

These things make me want to ragequit and stop putting my research on the internet. They make me tired.

Whoever had created humanity had left in a major design flaw. It was its tendency to bend at the knees.

– Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay

I am not a priest.

To the extent that I am training to be a priest, it is not Kemetic, and I am for damn sure not your priest.

I am a researcher. I am a scribe. I am a writer. I am – occasionally – a mystic. I have aspirations to being a rekhyt and a sau.

I am putting out ideas and information in the hopes that some people find it useful, while I work it out for my own usage and systematisation. Take what you find useful. Ignore what you don’t find useful.

Do I think I’m right in some abstract sense? No. That would be stupid. I don’t think it is possible to be right in some abstract sense. There is no perfect reconstruction, and no way of making one. Everything is adaptation from limited information, and tweaked to work for the people building it.

Do I think I’m making something that works? Well, that’s the goal. If it works for you too, use it. If it doesn’t, don’t. Your personal practice, your involvement with your gods, your responsibilities, those are certainly not my business. I neither desire nor value your ritual compliance. Your piety is a problem for you, your ancestors, and the Powers.

Put the shopping carts away or don’t.

And come up with a word for someone who says things other than “priest”, damnit.

(Nothing active is making me feel the need to say this right now, mind, it’s just something that’s been stewing for months.)

And now something practical

The remainder of the verso is occupied with magical spells of considerable interest, unfortunately marred by numerous lacunae. The first of these is directed against a complaint called by the Egyptians gs-tp ‘half-head’, which Goodwin long ago recog nized as the origin of the Greek [hemicrania], our ‘migraine’ or ‘megrim’. There could be no more eloquent testimony to the dependence of Greek upon Egyptian medicine.

i) A CHARM FOR EXORCIZING HEADACHE. 0 Rë, 0 Atüm, 0 Shu, 0 Tefënet, 0 GEb, 0 Nut, O Anubis in front of the divine shrine, 0 Horus, 0 Seth, 0 [Isis], 0 Nephthys, 0 Great Ennead, O Little Ennead, come and see your father entering girt with radiance to see the horn(?) of Sakhmet. Come ye (?) to remove that enemy, dead man or dead woman, adversary male or female which is in the face of N, born of M. TO BE RECITED over a crocodile of clay with grain in its mouth, and its eye of faience set [in] its head. One shall tie (?) (it) and inscribe a drawing of the gods upon a strip of fine linen to be placed upon his head. TO BE RECITED an image of Rë, Atüm, Shu, Meliyt, Gab, Nut, Anubis, Horus, Seth, Isis, Nephthys, and an oryx on whose back stands a figure’ carrying his lance.

from Hieratic Papyri in the British Museum, Third Series, Chester Beatty Gift, edited by Alan H. Gardiner

An old book, but, you know, even a seventy-year-old translation of a spell against migraine is worth knowing. At least I assume that other migraine sufferers will agree with me on that one. ;)

And now, flowers!

Corresponding to the length of the papyrus stalk, gaily colored blossoms or petals, especially blue Nymphaeae, cornflowers, and red poppies, are grouped by stages around this trunk so that the bouquet as a whole looks as though it consisted of many members nested one inside another. One is strongly reminded of certain Egyptian faience necklaces of the Empire, the individual members of which consist of blossoms thrust into one another, of the same sort as are still much worn in Indian today, and among us, too, are prepared by children out of elder blossoms.

– Ludwig Keimer, “Egyptian Formal Bouquets”, The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 41.3 (1925)

One of the interesting things about doing research is the rabbitholes that one goes down. I started from the book on temple ritual that I’ve been quoting on and off, which has a mention of the Ritual of the Royal Ancestors having variations for particular holidays. Which included a mention of something about bouquet presentation for the sixth-day festival, so I tried to chase that down, and my attempt to chase down the papyrus the author there was quoting came up with something that does not appear to actually contain the information I want, but which is too long and dry to actually plow through all at once. So I went looking for information about ancient bouquets, and came across this old analysis of their structure.

Which is really a long way of saying, “Man, getting anything done is hard. There are so many ideas to chase around….”

But anyway, according to this paper, a typical ancient Egyptian bouquet started with a sheaf of papyrus or other reed stems bound together (which reminds me of some of the djed pillar representations) with symmetrical arrangements of flowers using that as a base. Often flared at one end, though some of them were basically columns of stuff that went on and on and on. In case anyone wants to shoot for floral authenticity here.