Loops and Transitions

During the first six days of the lunar month, the six parts of Horus’ injured eye were collected. The sixth day was a festival day. Since the wall on which the Horus cycle is inscribed has six panels, this numbering may be significant. However, there does not appear to be any more compelling reason to relate this particular cycle with a sequence of lunar festival days. Symbolism relating to natural cycles–the daily solar cycle, the monthly lunar cycle, the yearly seasonal cycle, etc.–often appears in rituals celebrating one of the others. When one natural cycle was at an important transition point (eg. the moon was blacked out), references to natural cycles not currently in a critical transition (eg. the sun shining in the sky) could lend stability to the transition. Thus, the presence of a focus on lunar symbolism does not indicate that a cycle was for a lunar festival.

Katherine Eaton, Ancient Egyptian Temple Ritual.

This strikes me as relating to both last week’s quote of the week and my post about the underlying logic of the Great Festival of Djehwty.

Back to Work

I had a doctor’s appointment and thus wound up sitting and reading on my tablet while waiting for her to show up, which meant I found this glorious tidbit:

The burial of the king and the burial of Osiris employed the same symbolic motifs and the same types of ritual actors. after all, a primary goal of the king’s mortuary ritual was to facilitate his transformation into Osiris. Thus, these features do not set the DRP apart from other ancient Egyptian ritual cycles. Both the veneration of kings, living and deceased, and the manipulation of the Horus and Seth motif are ubiquitous in ancient Egyptian ritual as it was performed every day. Moreover, the fact that these features were part of the fabric of everyday life, and therefore familiar and perhaps even comforting, gave this special application of the rites the power to reduce the anxiety of the fraught transition of royal power (if that was indeed its purpose). As with mortuary ritual, the desire was not to celebrate, or even mark the potentially dangerous change, but rather to incorporate it into the fabric of everyday life as much as possible, thereby conquering the potential for chaos.

Katherine Eaton, Ancient Egyptian Temple Ritual.

One of the things I’ve said on and off is that Set’s role in the cosmos may be as an antagonist, but he is ultimately the antagonist that becomes part of the system. I tend to approach this as an outsider – a system which is large enough to contain and encompass Set is large enough for people like me. However, this is an establishment perspective on the same thing, that even the form of Set which is the usurper and murderer is part of the system, because by ritually wrestling with his presence in the cosmos, we become prepared to deal with the inevitable disruptions that fall within his domains. Basically, it’s ritual PTSD/grief therapy which can be done in advance of loss, into which the experience of actual non-ritualized loss can be sorted, normalized, and accepted.

Holy shit, guys. This is brill.

I’ma sit with this for a bit now.

A publication announcement…

My latest publication is out: a story in Les Cabinets des Polytheists, a book from the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, edited by Rebecca Buchanan. The book is a collection of polytheistic fairy tales of various sorts.

So, a summary of the setup for my contribution, “Spine of the World”:

Three brothers, out on the sacred hunt according to the customs of their land, manage to offend an apparent witch in the vicinity of a mighty tree, who lays a curse upon them. When the oldest brother dies and the middle brother goes mad, it is upon the shoulders of the youngest to venture forth in search of a cure for the affliction… or perhaps he is simply caught in the throes of his own form of the doom.

His quest will take him through the halls of several Powers, and he will get guidance along the way from a number of interesting beings, such as a blue-skinned androgyne named Flood, a mysterious black dog with a golden collar and a tendency to stare, and a giant snake….

(My first readers had fun playing Guess Which God That Is.)

Timing On This Was Funny

Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II must have been very willing to allow himself to be depicted in an ancestral ritual, thus demonstrating his legitimacy as king and, perhaps more importantly, the legitimacy of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, reaffirming its right to govern Egypt. By worshipping his Ancestors he established a link between himself and those who had been kings of Egypt since time immemorial. From the point of view of the priesthood, this was a desirable thing. It did not matter to them that the king whose legitimacy was being proclaimed on the Naos of Edfu Temple was a Macedonian, a foreigner, a fact that is made abundantly clear in the scenes in which Euergetes II is depicted wearing Greek dress. To the priests of Egypt, especially those devoted to Horus, the royal god par excellence, it was Kingship itself and not any individual king that was all-important.

The House of Horus at Edfu: Ritual in an Ancient Egyptian Temple, Barbara Watterson

I found this hilarious because I happened to read that chunk a couple of days after my latest Hills of the Horizon column was posted: A Defense of Sacred Kingship. Which approaches a similar point from a catastrophically different angle.

(The passage in the Watterson goes on to note that the priesthood was interested in preserving the customs of Egyptian ritual kingship until they could get rid of the %$*&# Greeks, mind, which is oblique of the thing I found funny.)

(… please excuse weird errors in my transcription, there’s some damn autocorrect on and it changed the author name and introduced other errors and WTF.)