Kemetic Round Table: Off the Beaten Path

I had a lot of trouble getting started on this one because my faith, in practice, is less “veering off the beaten path” than it is “accidentally comes across the beaten path in passing once in a blue moon”. My introduction to kemeticism, or at least to kemetic gods, was ugly, messy, and traumatic; the kind of thing you don’t talk about publicly unless you want to take the risk of being dogpiled for saying that the gods hurt you and that they were wrong to do so. Besides which, before I had ever even summoned the nerve to defy God and google the words “Egyptian pagan”, I experienced Set making it viscerally clear he wanted a romantic and sexual relationship with me. Being a 14 year old Christian at the time, I was terrified and mortified and assumed I would never be able to talk to anybody about what was happening to me. Imagine how much more incredulous I was when Heru indicated a few years later that he wanted that kind of relationship with me as well! (I had never even heard of healthy polyamory at that point!) To this day, the leader of the Kemetic Orthodoxy takes the official position that the existence of kemetic godspouses is impossible, and people like me are just too dumb to realize that the NTRW could never love us in that way. Considering how large swaths of the larger pagan community are obsessed with respectability politics, sometimes godspouses are treated as a punching bag for “normal” pagans to distance themselves from the social stigma of being a werido who worships Ra and believes in magic, to prove to themselves and others that they’re “one of the good ones”.

I don’t blame people who think that the idea of being in a serious romantic relationship with a god is weird or far-fetched, but it is it really significantly weirder than believing the gods do anything else that we believe they do? It’s not as though the idea that gods and spirits would want to have sex with, or fall in love with, mortal humans is completely unheard of in historical sources (including in some Egyptian sources that talked about goddesses having sex with Pharoahs and other royal family members). Why would gods from pre-Christian societies adhere to our modern Puritanical views of sex and romance being dirty, degrading, or a “base animal instinct” that is incompatible with genuine, serious religious faith and devotion? Why would the NTRW, with only one established online temple with a nisut and no priesthood infrastructure to support the ancient policy of only and exclusively interacting with the richest and most powerful members of their society, refuse to adapt their methods in order to gain offerings and worship? With the comparatively few historical records we have about any of the daily lives of the common people, are we really supposed to believe that it’s impossible the gods ever did anything in addition to the stuff we have that’s historically verifiable in the first place? At the end of the day, if you think that the idea is stupid you’re not going to be talked out of it; but neither are you going to convince me, or any other godspouse, that these relationships are a figment of our imagination. I wouldn’t have stopped being a devout Christian and put myself in a position where I was even further alienated from my family and culture as a minor if what I was experiencing wasn’t, to me, as real as anything else going on in my life, and if continuing to try to force myself to deny what had become my new reality, my new normal, wasn’t tearing me apart psychologically.

Besides all that, I’ve always been a person for whom gods of various pantheons appear and express interest in a relationship or in working together with some regularity. I never thought this was unusual at all until I started talking to other pagans and realized that, while eclectics do exist and it’s not exactly taboo, it looks like most people generally stick to one or two pantheons at a time. I’m not sure if it’s significant or not, but it certainly makes a lot of aspects of kemeticism somewhat unusual when I have the ability to go to an entirely different pantheon’s god for work that I need to do, but don’t want to do under the supervision of the NTRW for one reason or another. I spend a not-insignificant amount of time in the astral networking with entities I’m interested in working with (or whom I may need to pay off for a favor at some point) from all over the place. My UPG regarding this is that the NTRW find it useful to have somebody they can send off to talk to a god, or anybody really, who resides in a part of the astral that they would have more trouble getting to (safely and quietly, anyways) than them: “Oh hey Smarmy, didn’t you say you were going to go talk to Loki soon? When you do, be sure to get the message to Freya that she’s invited to Sekhmet’s festival next week!” (A fake example, but you get the gist.)

Even my actual practice of kemeticism seems always one or two steps removed from the “traditional” most of the time, although I usually try to start with the most traditional version of stuff that I can realistically pull off. My ancestor veneration is a great example: I built the practice with the ritual tools for the transfiguration, glorification, and propitiation of the Akhu in the Duat, and modified them to a practice that does the same thing for my ancestors, biological and ideological, who have not necessarily passed through the Hall of Judgement to reach the Duat: the Outlaw Dead. I recently found from browsing the online Anarchist Library that what I was trying to achieve with the Outlaw Dead is already a sort of tradition, referred to as spiritual anarchism. Between that and my magical workings being based far more heavily on chaos magic principles than in heka or anything kemetic really, I always stick out like a sore thumb among the NTRW and their assistants in the Duat. They value tradition and authority and always seem a little distrustful of my preference of handling a lot of my business with “foreigners”. ‘Why not just keep it within the family? We’ve got everything you could possibly need right here in kemeticism!’ seems to be the most usual reaction -from the spirits I’ve spoken to in the Duat, at least. However, compared to their reactions to me truthfully expressing my philosophical and political views on hierarchy, authority, and state power (all bad), my penchant for travelling outside the Duat on the regular is just a slight quirk as far as they’re concerned.

Being a godspouse and talking about the phenomenon I refer to as “divine abuse” (when a human experiences a god abusing them in some way) are the most controversial “off the beaten path” thing I do here on Earth, but my anarchist methodology is the thing the gods seem to actually consider the weirdest, and sometimes most isfetic, thing about my path. My philosophical and moral objections to the idea that the divine right to rule ever existed, as well as to the idea that authority and hierarchy are  holy concepts and the only possible way to organize a healthy society (or that societies that have them can even be referred to as “healthy” at all), defines everything from the formulation and use of my heka outside of rituals, to the sorts of rituals I’m willing to write and perform for the NTRW, to the spirit work projects I’ve been given, to my approach to my relationship with various NTRW and the pantheon as a whole. It’s not always a problem according to the NTRW; similarly to how they’ll give me particular tasks because I like to visit and work with gods from all over, they seem to take the position that there are some situations in which my anarchic ways and philosophy make me useful to them, and they’re willing to tolerate the annoying parts of working with me because it gives them one more tool at their disposal in the long run.

For the most part though, it doesn’t seem like anything I’ve listed genuinely upsets any of the NTRW -or if it does, they don’t let on. It’s human beings that make being weird in any way so unnecessarily difficult and isolating, and honestly, I’d be lying if I said it never gets to me. Having been rejected by the religious community that meant everything to me as a child, both by being part of various demographics the local churches hated and by being the sort of child for whom “because God/the Bible said so” never really cut it as an answer, was obviously very painful. Like most pagans, I hoped to find a supportive community to talk about experiences with and to share fellowship; and like many pagans, I found that being candid publicly about anything unusual or controversial within pagan spaces, is just plain not worth the backlash you get nine times out of ten. After hanging out in online and meatspace pagan spaces for roughly five or six years at this point, I’ve come to the conclusion that the general pagan public is somewhat obsessed with respectability politics. Constantly, people whose practices and religious philosophies most closely resemble Christianity (or culturally Christian atheism) with their strict following of religious dogma; aversion to the idea of humans doing magic, having real agency in their spiritual lives, or gods taking active roles in our lives as anything but distant, wrathful deities ready to smite at the smallest whiff of disrespect; black-and-white morality, with humans as inherently dirty and so flawed the gods are always justified in hurting us in any way; their gods as invariably right and moral even when they are doing monstrous things (these same people who invariably are be furious when compared to Christians, despite having the exact same attitude toward their religions as the pastors who used to tell everyone God required them to torment me and mine and believe that dinosaur fossils are a trick from the Devil in order to get to Heaven); they relish in making a sport of finding some teenager on WitchTok saying something stupid and making them that day’s example of Bad Stupid Pagans Who Are Not Serious And Good Pagans Like Us. We, as a community, are so insecure from the mainstream considering us evil, crazy, or weirdos, that we effectively hold our own witch hunts of a sort: we find pagans who believe in weirder shit than we do (by our standards) or who aren’t academic or loyal enough to history and good taste (by our standards), and we scapegoat them in hopes of that somehow gaining us respect and acknowledgement from the mainstream that, in reality, looks down on all of us regardless.

But the most contentious thing I believe is that divine abuse exists. A related, but more benign concept can be described as having a divine antagonist; the theory that at times, deities antagonize humans because the human is dealing with a warped version of their ideals or aspects in their own personality or psyche, and the antagonism represents a genuine chance to develop past your shortcomings. I think it’s highly likely that many situations where a person is experiencing a god pushing them around and ignoring their boundaries is some version of this phenomenon. It’s very likely that in many situations where a human thinks a deity is out to get them, it’s actually a projection from trauma or a thousand other things that can harm one’s discernment -but that’s not my call to make about anyone else’s spirituality, nor anyone else’s to make about mine. I worry that my talking about this publicly may make people paranoid it could happen to them, therefore increasing the chances of their anxiety manifesting something nasty; but I have to say how I think things really are, and I think that although the gods are good and great and worthy of worship, they sometimes make mistakes, and they sometimes put their own interests over even those of the humans who love them the most. I think it’s stupid to tell people that such-and-such god “isn’t for beginners” and you absolutely must be a practicing witch for some amount of time or read a certain amount of scholarly books in order to safely worship a deity who was once worshipped by entire societies, including children; but I don’t think we’re doing any spirit workers or mystics any favors when we say that it is categorically impossible that a god is choosing to abuse their power over a human, and that the human would be better off by trying to remove that deity from their life altogether.

 The vitriol and mass shaming you generally run into if you publicly say that our gods did something wrong honestly never fails to shock me, no matter how many times I see it. People say you’re crazy, or that you just “expect deities to be hugboxes” and that you’re clearly just misunderstanding “tough lessons” as abuse.  All I can say to that is, in my years in pagan circles, I’ve ran into far more people with stories like this than some people would have you believe; most people who I’ve talked to about it have confirmed they avoid telling people about it because of how they’ve learned to fear how other people will react. And who can blame them, when people often react to this topic by insisting that the only possible reason a god could do something harmful to a person is if they’re a bad person who deserves what’s happening to them, either for disrespecting the gods or for being an abusive douchebag in general? If you really feel that your gods must be 100% perfect, incapable of making mistakes or being wrong to be worth worshipping, that all the myths that portray gods doing bad things must only and exclusively be interpreted as metaphors, that working with all deities is 100% safe and no bad things can ever happen to good people as a result of it, well…I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong by believing that, but you don’t get to insist that everyone who doesn’t is a bad or fake polytheist -much less a bad person.

I’m a revivalist rather than reconstructionist because I fundamentally believe that radical changes to our traditional religious organization and philosophy from antiquity are necessary to a long-lasting, healthy revived kemetic polytheist tradition. Being a pantheon so focused on tradition and loyalty to the past, I believe that we ought to do things as traditionally as possible as far as rituals and offerings;  however, it’s no better for me to deny my convictions or experiences with how magic, the astral, and the spirits and gods in it work, in order to conform to what is “traditional” or “normal” by modern standards in kemeticism, than it was for me to do the same for Christianity. I struggle with my insecurities and with the deep wound from childhood onward caused by being consistently rejected by my peers and religious community, but I am overall content with my decisions and my path, no matter what anybody might say. Finally, I’ll leave you with a chunk from a piece of anarchist theory that I feel captures the perspective I practice kemeticism from, as a follower of the “evil” god of the desert and wilderness:

“The extent to which global heating will cause the expansion of hot deserts is unknown but that they will do so — and drastically — is a pretty safe bet. The interaction of soil, climate and civil power will continue to be a dominant factor determining both history and the opening up of territory for freer lives. That agricultural systems will fail as the arid worlds spread means that, once again, civilisations will have to retreat from much of their previously conquered lands. In some places this will be total, in others a matter of degrees.

In my mother tongue deserts are uninhabitable, abandoned, deserted ; but by whom? Not by the coyotes or the cactus wrens. Not by the harvester ants or the rattlesnakes. Not by the namib quicksteps, the meercats, the acacias, the tahrs, the sandgrouse and the red kangaroos. Deserts and arid environments generally are often biologically diverse, though by their nature, the life is sparser than in other biomes. While some desert areas are lifeless, in most communities of animals, birds, insects, bacteria and plants run, fly, crawl, spread and grow in lives unordered, undomesticated by civilisation. Wildness is in us and all around us. The battle to contain and control it is the constant labour of civilisation. When that battle is lost and the fields are deserted, wildness persists. Behind the dust, meanwhile, under the vulture-haunted sky, the desert waits — mesas, butte, canyon, reef, sink, escarpment, pinnacle, maze, dry lake, sand dune and Barren Mountain.”

Beautiful Feast of the Western Valley for the Outlaw Dead

This is an adaptation of the ritual rubric in Eternal Egypt: Ancient Rituals for the Modern World by Richard J. Reidy, posted in anticipation of a group ancestor veneration ritual we’re doing on the 28th.

Required Materials

Icon of Set

Icon of Outlaw Dead

Lighter/matches

Incense + incense holder

Four red candles

2 to 15 white candles (ideally there would be 14 candles for each faction of the OD, and one for Set. if you are only working with, say, 3 specific OD factions, you only need 4 candles. If you don’t want to deal with the fire hazard, 1 candle for Set and 1 for the OD collectively will work.)

Offerings: traditionally, bread, beer, “water from the inundation” (water you’ve blessed beforehand is a good modern interpretation of flood water from the Nile), wine, milk, incense, and cool water. Bread, beer, wine, and milk can be replaced with another offering or with votive offerings for the purposes of this rite. Water and incense should be seen as both an offering and a ritual tool for the functioning of the rite.

4 bowls (to pour offerings of water, beer, wine, and milk into)

Bouquet of flowers/1 flower

Music playing device

Broom

Place four red candles before the icons.

Face the icon and recite, “Rejoice, O Netjer of this temple, for a perfect offering, complete in word and in substance, is accomplished in accordance with what has been done before.”

Light the first red candle and recite, “The torch comes to your Ka, O Sutekh, Lord of the Oasis, and the torch comes to your Ka, O Osiris Imperishable Stars, you spirits of the Outlaw Dead. There comes he who promises the night after the day; there comes the two sisters from Ra; there comes she who was manifested in Ombos, for I cause it to come, even that Eye of Heru which was foretold to you, O Sutekh, Lord of the Oasis.”

Light the second red candle and recite, “The Eye of Heru is your protection, O Sutekh, Lord of the Oasis. It spreads its protection over you; it defeats all your adversaries. Truly your adversaries are fallen.”

Light the third red candle and recite, “To your Ka, O Sutekh, Lord of the Oasis! The Eye of Heru is your protection. It spreads its protection over you; it defeats your adversaries for you. Truly your adversaries are fallen. To your Ka, O Imperishable Stars! The Eye of Heru is your protection. It spreads its protection over you; it defeats all your adversaries for you. Truly your adversaries are fallen.”

Light the fourth red candle and recite, “The Eye of Heru comes intact and shining like Ra in the horizon. May the four torches go in to your Ka, O Sutekh, Lord of the Oasis. May the four torches go in to your Ka, O Imperishable Stars. O you children of Heru-Imsety, Happy, Duamutef, and Qebehsenuef- as you spread your protection over your uncle Sutekh, Lord of the Oasis, so spread your protection over these Imperishable Stars so that they might live with the Netjeru. To your Ka, O Sutekh, Lord of the Oasis! The Eye of Heru is your protection. It spreads its protection over you; it defeats all your adversaries for you. Truly your adversaries are fallen. To your Ka, O Imperishable Stars! The Eye of Heru is your protection. It spreads its protection over you; it defeats all your adversaries for you. Truly your adversaries are fallen.

It is Sutekh, Lord of the Oasis, who causes a torch to be bright for the potent Bas in Nekhen. May you make the living Ba of the Imperishable Stars strong with their torch so that they may not be repelled or driven off from the portals of the West. Then there will be brought to them offerings of things good and pure; you will send up thanks for this power, for the Imperishable Stars will be returned to their true shape, their true godlike form. Hear me, all of you, The Dead Unmourned, The Spirits Unvenerated, all you who has lived, has died, and wish to be reborn into the next life, or stay with the gods or with these spirits, you who is Pacified by the many offerings, who is made Pure by the many prayers, who is made Justified through this ritual.”

Present the offerings before the icons of Set and the Dead. Traditionally it should be seven offerings: bread, beer, “water from the inundation” (water you’ve blessed beforehand is a good modern interpretation of flood water from the Nile), wine, milk, incense, and cool water. It is acceptable to offer a regular meal or a votive offering if this is not possible, but incense and water should not be excluded. Offerings in multiples of 4 or especially 7 are best.

Recite, “An-Offering-Which-The-King-Gives to those who are in the Duat and in the land of the dead, to the Great Ennead and the Small Ennead, to Sutekh the Lord of the Red Land, to the followers of Ra and the followers of Osiris, to those watchmen who protect their Lord, and to the attendants who are beside the bier of Osiris-Wennofer justified, that your Ba and your Ka may receive the offerings of food: bread, beer, water from the flood by which the netjeru live, wine, milk, incense and cool water. O excellent Bas of the West, and Osiris Imperishable Stars, justified, these offerings are for you.”

Extend your arms toward the icons, elbows bent and palms toward icons, and recite: “Sutekh, Lord of the Oasis, great Netjer, lord of Ombos, Osiris Imperishable Stars justified, the Outlaw Dead, if you are in Heaven, come to your Ba. If you are on earth, come to your shining spirit. If you are in the south, the north, the west or the east, come so that you may be content. Be strong in your body, so that you may come therefrom, you having become an incarnated Ba and a shining spirit, mighty as Ra and equipped as a Netjer. Come to this your bread, your beer, and your cool water so that you may become strong through every good and pure offering, Sutekh, Lord of the Oasis, great Netjer, Lord of Ombos, Osiris Imperishable Stars justified, the spirits of the Outlaw Dead.”

Set out three bowls before the icons. Recite, “Praising Sutekh, Lord of the Oasis, great Netjer, lord of Ombos, and bringing the Bas of the transfigured Outlaw Dead to the ritual of the Festival of the Valley.”

Pour milk into one bowl, wine into another, and water into the third. Recite, “It is pure, it is pure, An-Offering-Which-The-King-Gives. Accept this libation of the coolest water, wine and milk. O doorkeepers, lords of the Sacred Land, lords of burial, receive what is given to you and pull open the gates of the Duat. Open the gates of the West. Open the double doors of the silent region.”

Extend your arms toward the icons, elbows bent and palms toward icons, and recite: “Come forth, O Osiris Imperishable Stars, justified. Come forth, you spirits of the Outlaw Dead, sacred to Seth-Typhon, God of Rebels. Awake! Turn yourself about, back toward life! O Osiris Imperishable Stars, justified, raise yourself up. O Outlaw Dead, raise yourself up. Bring yourself to me. Arise and receive offerings from my hand. I will be a helper for you! May you emerge from the Earth and behold Ra. May you follow Amun in this, his beautiful festival of the desert valley.”

Light the incense and wave it slowly over the icons as you recite: “Crossing the river you see heaven, while the fragrance of incense is in front of you and you ferry across heaven adorned. As a transfigured and equipped spirit you are adorned most richly, and you eat bread and offerings in front of Ra, from the altars of Djehuty while your intelligence is given to you in the House of Intelligence and your heart in the House of the Heart and an offering is made for you and for your Ka and for your body. Your Ba is in heaven and your body is in the Duat, twice great and twice mighty. You wake up sound and intact in heaven and in your resting place, sustained by the deathlessness and ferocity of the Lord of Dread. You are nourished by the rain from his storms, you are protected from the horrors of the afterlife by his mighty arm. Take the name of Sutekh, who judges the honor of thieves, you spirits of the Outlaw Dead, Osiris Imperishable Stars justified.”

Continue censing the icons and recite: “O Sutekh, Lord of the Oasis, great Netjer, lord of Ombos, Osiris Imperishable Stars justified, heaven is open for you. Earth is open for you. The ways of your resting place are open for you, so that you may go out and come in with Ra, so that you may walk freely like the Lord of Eternity. May you receive bread from what is offered on the altar of the Bas of Iunu, your food being like that of the Great Ennead. May you accept offerings from what is put out for you, pure bread on the altar of Heru, so that your flesh becomes alive and your muscles flourishing, so that you may be clear-sighted on your dark way. Hapy will give you water; Nepty will give you bread; Hathor will give you beer; and Hesyt will give you milk. You cleanse your feet in a basin of silver and turquoise, with a cloth from the hands of Tayet. You drink water from the shore of the Nile, and offerings are given to you beside Sutekh. A seat is prepared for you, and you assume the form of a Netjer. You alight at every place according to your desire, like the Great God in Ombos. Your Ba goes to heaven and your body rests in the Duat.”

Light a white candle in front of each icon, one for Set and one for each of the Outlaw Dead (when venerating them all at once, it is best to use 14 candles if possible, or one for each of the factions you are working with. If not, one candle collectively is acceptable.) Recite: “When you are justified in your resting place, you raise your face to the heaven of Ra and you see Heru in his steersman. A luminous disk is made for you in your resting place, in front of your image so that it may light up for you the darkness in the Duat, so that it may shine as Shu on your head. A boat is placed in front of you. The two sisters glorify you and Djehuty spreads out for you his writing equipment so that you may become divine like the Netjeru. He leads you through the mysterious gates, and when you pass by ‘He-who-protects-the-dead’, Ra comes to you and gives you his brightness. His rays flood through your eyes while the arms of Tatenen are prepared to receive you. Those in the West rejoice greatly. All plans against you are abolished. They are abolished.

You receive illumination from the disk of Ra, being placed beside Ra in his barque in the Room of Awakening. He opens your face. He illumines your seat so that you may be like Deba-of-the-One-Joined-Together. Sepulchral meals are presented to your Ka beside Sutekh and Heru. You receive justification from those who preside over your resting place, and your Ba lives for ever and for ever. Your seat is established and your name flourishes even like that of the Great Noble in Djedu.

Raise yourself up so that you may feel joy again; and your Ba is alive for ever like sah in the womb of Nut. Ihy leads you across the stream, he brings you to the sanctuary of the forgotten Dead. May your beautiful face be content for you have received your bread and you have inhaled the scent of the incense- they shall be pure for your Ka, Sutekh, Lord of the Oasis, lord of Ombos, in heaven, on earth, on your seat in the House of Reconciliation.”

Set out a separate bowl for libations from the previous three. With each of the seven declarations “to you belongs water”, pour a bit of water into the bowl, for a total of seven different pourings. Recite:

“To you belongs water,” and pour;

“To you belongs water, O Osiris Imperishable Stars justified,” and pour;

“to you belongs water,” and pour;

“to you belongs water of millions of millions,” and pour;

“to you belongs water of millions of nemset jars and a hundred thousands of meker jars,” and pour;

“to you belongs water of the Great River from the waters of Heru in the region of Heliopolis,” and pour;

“to you belongs water from the beginning of infinity to the end of eternity, O He Before the Sky Trembles, Lord of the Oasis, Great of Strength, O lord of infinity, king of the Desert, sovereign, ruler of Upper Egypt, O Protector of Ra, great God of Rebels, in heaven, on the frontier and in the dark places, great being of the first generation, beautiful of face, third of the five Netjeru; heir of infinity for whom the time has come; beneficent Ba among every Ba and every outlaw, excellent of heart, who has defeated A/pep, enduring for ever and for all eternity.” and pour.

Take the offering of water/sacred water and elevate them four times before their icon as you recite: “May Water be given to the noble Ka who rests in the eternal residence of Shu in Iunu, and in Mennefer. Your horizon is in the Castle of the Prince. The bas foremost in Iunu come to you. They present Ma’at to you as an offering every day. Your father Shu and your mother Tefnut come to you bearing nemset jars of turquoise, filled with water the color of faience, their content being pure water…”

Sprinkle sacred water in a circle around the images the first time and recite, “…and they give you this water which you desire, your body being received into their hands while your forebears and those who have begotten and given birth to you come to you; they loosen the bonds of your funeral wrappings daily like those of the Great Noble.”

Sprinkle sacred water around the images the second time and recite, “…Hapy comes to you from his cavern. He moistens the fertile land for you. The Netjeru of the First Time come to you every day, carrying offerings for you. Aset and Nebet-Het come to you; they raise you up into the horizon. The lord of the Duat comes to you, accompanied by his retinue, his female mourners preceding him. Equipped with the spells of Aset and Nebet-het, the Great Mourner, they unite your limbs. Djehuty reads the Book of the Opening of the Mouth for you, while Heru, your sem-priest, pronounces magic spells for you, Seshat opens for the House of Life. Aset and Nebet-Het make you divine, and Hu and Sia adore you.”

Sprinkle sacred water around the icons for the third time and recite, “Ptah prepares for you a burial cloth with his hands, with the garments of Tayet. He washes your body and he purifies you. Then Shu and Tefnut reanimate you with their hands with milk of Hesat, and water is poured for you in front of the excellent Bas. They say to you, ‘Stand up, because your heart lives and we have fashioned your flesh.’ They make your heart healthy. They place you into the earth and they protect you. They protect you. They receive their spirit in your resting place like that of Tatenen, the great Netjer.”

Sprinkle sacred water around the icons for the fourth time and recite: “Heru comes to you, having assumed the white crown, with the red crown shining upon his head. Aset rejoices at his sight, her son, a spirit who comes forth justified and who established Ma’at in her place, near the beauty of Nut. Water is given for you, O noble spirit, so that the heart of your spirit rejoices. Give water to this noble spirit when his Ba comes to see him. Rejoice, O Great Noble, for Heru is given his office; he comes forth justified from the ‘Hall of the Two Truths’, he comes forth triumphant.

Decree for the majesty of Ishtar, O luminous Queen of Heaven, consort of Sutekh, issued by her royal family, the holy Igigi: “We shall tell your brother Osiris of your mighty deeds so that he may hear what you have accomplished and praise you on account of your victories. May you remember all of your good deeds.”

Taking the part of Ishtar, recite: “O stormy Bull of Heaven, I have made for you your house with my qadishtu. I have tethered your severed thigh to the sky, where it has become your Sickle-Sword. Heaven rejoices, while my minister Ninshubur convinces the Igigi to appease my sister Ereshkigal. Your effigy is holy and the “Mansion of the Prince” bears your mystery. You are Šarru in the northern sky while I am Irnini as your protectress.”

Pour a libation for Set and recite: “Oh Sutekh, may you receive water from my hands, for I am your lover Ishtar. O Lord of the Desert, may every joy be with you. I have healed for you your love of Ma’at, and I have placed your Ba in the horizon. I have brought your blessed souls, the Outlaw Dead, into the Netjeru’s protection; O Osiris Imperishable Stars, justified.”

Pour another libation for Set and recite: “Receive for yourself this libation from your bride, in accordance with what you desire. I am your sister-in-arms. I am a daughter and Eye of Ra. I have caused your beautiful face to see. O my good lord, say what I should do in front of you so that I may assist these transfigured souls to their sanctuary, your Oasis. I have presented to you offerings consisting of barley cakes; they will last forever and forever. I have assembled for you the world into one single city and they make for you the ‘linen of one day.” I have caused you to rise upon the throne in Upper Egypt; I have caused you to rest in your palace. I have caused that your images appear in every land while you are in the horizon of Ra, your boat remaining beside his boat. Your statues appear in the temples while the Netjeru are with you as an Ennead; the divine lord of every temple offers to you even his own temple throne. I have placed the sky under your Ba and the Duat under your effigy. Every region has your statues, they being pure, while they praise you, Sutekh, Lord of the Outlaw Dead. You are rejuvenated for ever and over, O Osiris Imperishable Stars justified.

You are rejuvenated, O Seth-Typhon, you are rejuvenated in heaven. You appear in the eastern horizon of the sky, having spent days and passed hours, and you come in accordance with the proper time every year, and you rise as the moon at the time of the festival of illuminations. Your name endures in the ‘Mansion of the Prince’ and you come as Hapy to cover the fertile lands, so that all the world may live through your Ka. Your phallus is strong and you repeat your forms of yesterday. You are rejuvenated for ever and ever, O Osiris Imperishable Stars, justified, O Spirits of the Outlaw Dead.”

Standing before the offerings and libations already given, hold your arms outstretched with palm facing up and open, pointing toward the table of offerings. Recite, “An-Offering-Which-The-King-Gives. O Sutekh, I have poured for you, water which comes our from Elephantine and milk from Athribis. I have brought to you nemset jars full of fresh offerings from the estate of Ra so that you may receive that which Tatenen was given and loaves from what is offered. I have done this so that your Ba is able to come out to worship your god, there being no one who can turn you out from heaven or from earth. Your ba lives and your limbs flourish. You are rejuvenated as the ruler of ‘the rebellious ones’. You are great and you are elevated in Ombos and your seat is noble in Upper Egypt. A libation of cool water is poured for you consisting of the best liquid on the offering table in the middle of the mound of Tjeme. Rejoice, for you have joined gladness in the noble ished tree and your Ba is divinized in the realm of the dead. Receive for yourself offerings of every kind, and rejoice for you have joined Manu. Your father Shu praises you, O Sutekh, Lord of the Oasis, great Netjer, lord of Ombos.

Sutekh of Sepermeru who is in the Northern Sky, Seth-Typhon, Lord of Inebriation, the Red Lord, Osiris the beloved one, ruler of eternity, Imsety, Hapi, Duamutef, Qebehsenuf, Netjeru who are in the mound of Tjeme, Nejeru who are in the mansion of Sokar, Netjeru who are in the Mansion of Gold, Netjeru who are in the Great Place, great and noble bull, Great Ogdoad, oldest of the very primeval times, Osiris, Heru, Sutekh, Aset and Nebet-Het, enneads and divine bodies: may you receive, may your Ba receive and may your ka receive offerings and provisions -bread, beer, wine, milk, and water from the flood by which the Netjeru live.”

Pour a libation and recite, “Accept the Eye of Heru, I offer to you the water which is in it, fresh water as love and praise for Osiris, the Imperishable Stars justified, the spirits of the Outlaw Dead.”

Pour a libation of fresh water and recite: “Sutekh, accept this, your libation. Your libation belongs to you through in your name of ‘Storm Bringer’. Accept this vital fluid which comes from you and which Heru restores to you. The Eye of Heru is given to you, for the children of Heru recognize you as divine. The sky is given to you in your name of Champion of Ra and your enemies are fallen beneath in your name of Netjer; Heru recognizes you as ‘the Rejuvenated Ones’. Rejuvenate! Rejuvenate in your name ‘Rejuvenated Waters’. The waters exist as the strength of Sutekh. He is great, he is noble, he is strong, he is free and he is powerful through this living water. He has encircles for himself and he has given to himself, pervading each and every land. Sutekh, you are great and you are noble. You are strong and you are free through this libation of life-giving water.”

Pour a second libation of water. Recite: “Osiris, Heru, Sutekh, Aset and Nebet-Het, enneads and divine bodies, accept the Eye of Heru; I offer the water which is in it, fresh water as of love and praise.”

Pour a third libation of water. Recite: “O Osiris Imperishable Stars justified, you spirits of the Outlaw Dead, may you receive a libation of fresh water after the Netjer becomes satisfied, each and every day. May you live and may your ba live both now and forever!”

Place flowers, or a flower, before the icons of the Dead. Recite four times: “Khonsu causes Amun to be your protection as you live eternally. May Amun fulfill what you desire, O beloved one. May you be a favored one, and may Amun favor you for all your good deeds. May he favor you and love you. May he perpetuate you and overthrow your adversaries whether dead or alive.”

Recite twice: “May you and your ba live both now and forever!”

Play music for the Outlaw Dead, and recite: “O you spirits of the Outlaw Dead, I am your descendant, I am your friend. Sutekh protects you from all harm, Fenrir Wolf patrols the boundaries, the Imperishable Stars who are like Netjeru feed and clothe and organize you. You are in the city of Ombos, you are in the House of Reconciliation, you are in the Oasis. This is the sanctuary for foreigners and immigrants, rebels, lost souls, for those who died unknown or unmourned, for those who were killed in the name of the law or of decency, for the freedom fighters and deserting soldiers; for the heretics and sex workers and persecuted queer folk; for the sick, disabled or mad, for the poor and starving; for the victims of empires and white supremacist capitalism, for the victims of racism and genocide. If you would cause harm to any of these spirits, you are abolished! You are defeated! Seth-Typhon himself hates and destroys you! The enemies of your descendants are fallen! Truly, they are defeated by your living friends and by Seth-Typhon, in the name of your descendants! Your descendants will live free. Your descendants will not be martyred. Seth-Typhon himself hates and destroys your descendant’s enemies! They are defeated! They are defeated!

To all others, no harm will come to your spirit in this place. Rest and feast and be adored, then move on as you will, or stay and adopt the ways and laws of the Outlaw Dead: to each according to their need, from each according to their ability; nothing is true, all is permitted; and so long as you harm only those who must be harmed, do what thou wilt is the whole of the law. We address you with love, gratitude, honor and solidarity from the land of the living!”

“We ask that you keep watch over us, your friends and allies, as our own ancestors. You protect and watch over secondgenerationimmigrant, who made a donation in your name to migrant rescue. Secondgenerationimmigrant, Ally of the Outlaw Dead, is a friend to you and you are a friend to them; if you are strong, they are strong. Your spirit lives in them and they honor your spirit and descendants.

You protect and watch over nephilemofthewoods, who made a donation in your name to the LGBTQ Freedom Fund. Nephilemofthewoodsis, Ally of the Outlaw Dead, a friend to you and you are a friend to them; if you are strong, they are strong. Your spirit lives in them and they honor your spirit and descendants.

You protect and watch over any59, who made a donation in your name to the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project. Any59, Ally of the Outlaw Dead, a friend to you and you are a friend to them; if you are strong, they are strong. Your spirit lives in them and they honor your spirit and descendants.

You protect and watch over shandamarie, who made a donation in your name to the National Bail Out Fund. Shandamarie Ally of the Outlaw Dead, a friend to you and you are a friend to them; if you are strong, they are strong. Your spirit lives in them and they honor your spirit and descendants.”

If you have any requests to make of the dead or any magic to perform, this is where you perform it.

When you are done, begin extinguishing the candles one by one as you recite: “This is the Eye of Heru by which you have become great, by which you live, and by which you have power, O Sutekh. This is the Eye of Heru which you consume and through which you enchant your body. The Wedjat Eye now enters into the West, into Manu, but it shall return. Truly, the Eye of Heru returns in peace!”

Sweep the area around the icons and recite: “The distress that causes confusion has been driven away, and all the Netjeru are in harmony. I have given Heru his Eye, I have placed the Wedjat Eye in the correct position. I have given Sutekh his testicles, so that the two Lords are content through the work of my hands. I know the sky, I know the earth; I know Heru, I know Sutekh. Heru is appeased with His Eyes, and Sutekh is appeased with His Testicles. I am Djehuty, who reconciles the Netjeru, who makes offerings in their correct form.”

Set aside the broom and bow toward the icon. Recite: “Djehuty has come. He has filled the Eye of Heru; He has restored the Testicles of Sutekh. No evil shall enter this temple. Ptah has closed the door, Djehuty has set it fast. The door is closed; the door is set fast with the bolt.”

Bow once again, and then left the offerings before the icons and recite: “O Sutekh, every adversary withdraws or you. Heru has turned himself to his Eye in its name of ‘Reversion-of-Offerings’. I am Djehuty. I come to perform this rite for Osiris. These, your divine offerings revert, they revert to your servants for life, for stability, for health and for joy! O that the Eye of Heru may flourish for you eternally!”

Take the offerings away from the icons. The ceremony is complete. A suggested traditional toast for the reverted meal: “For your Ka! Drink the good intoxicating drink, celebrate a beautiful day!”

Beautiful Feast of the Western Valley

This is a (slight) adaptation of the ritual rubric in Eternal Egypt: Ancient Rituals for the Modern World by Richard J. Reidy, posted in anticipation of a group ancestor veneration ritual we’re doing on the 28th.

Required Materials

Icon of Osiris

Icon of the akhu

Lighter/matches

Incense + incense holder

Four red candles

2 white candles 

Offerings: traditionally, bread, beer, “water from the inundation” (water you’ve blessed beforehand is a good modern interpretation of flood water from the Nile), wine, milk, incense, and cool water. Bread, beer, wine, and milk can be replaced with another offering or with votive offerings for the purposes of this rite. Water and incense should be seen as both an offering and a ritual tool for the functioning of the rite.

4 bowls (to pour offerings of water, beer, wine, and milk into)

Bouquet of flowers/1 flower

Broom

Prepare blessed water “from the flood”.

Place four red candles before the icons.

Face the icon and recite, “Rejoice, O Netjer of this temple, for a perfect offering, complete in word and in substance, is accomplished in accordance with what has been done before.”

Light the first red candle and recite, “The torch comes to your Ka, O Osiris, Foremost of the Westerners, and the torch comes to your Ka, O Osiris Imperishable Stars. There comes he who promises the night after the day; there comes the two sisters from Ra; there comes she who was manifested in Abdju, for I cause it to come, even that Eye of Heru which was foretold to you, O Osirs, Foremost of the Westerners.”

Light the second red candle and recite, “The Eye of Heru is your protection, O Osiris, Foremost of the Westerners. It spreads its protection over you; it defeats all your adversaries. Truly your adversaries are fallen.”

Light the third red candle and recite, “To your Ka, O Osiris, Foremost of the Westerners! The Eye of Heru is your protection. It spreads its protection over you; it defeats your adversaries for you. Truly your adversaries are fallen. To your Ka, O Imperishable Stars! The Eye of Heru is your protection. It spreads its protection over you; it defeats all your adversaries for you. Truly your adversaries are fallen.”

Light the fourth red candle and recite, “The Eye of Heru comes intact and shining like Ra in the horizon. May the four torches go in to your Ka, O Osiris, Foremost of the Westerners. May the four torches go in to your Ka, O Imperishable Stars. O you children of Heru-Imsety, Happy, Duamutef, and Qebehsenuef- as you spread your protection over your father Osiris, Foremost of the Westerners, so spread your protection over these Imperishable Stars so that they might live with the Netjeru. To your Ka, O Osiris, Foremost of Westerners! The Eye of Heru is your protection. It spreads its protection over you; it defeats all your adversaries for you. Truly your adversaries are fallen. To your Ka, O Imperishable Stars! The Eye of Heru is your protection. It spreads its protection over you; it defeats all your adversaries for you. Truly your adversaries are fallen.

It is Osiris, Foremost of the Westerners, who causes a torch to be bright for the potent Bas in Nekhen. May you make the living Ba of the Imperishable Stars strong with their torch so that they may not be repelled or driven off from the portals of the West. Then there will be brought to them offerings of things good and pure; you will send up thanks for this power, for the Imperishable Stars will be returned to their true shape, their true godlike form.”

Present the offerings before the icons of Osiris and the Dead. Traditionally it should be seven offerings: bread, beer, “water from the inundation” (water you’ve blessed beforehand is a good modern interpretation of flood water from the Nile), wine, milk, incense, and cool water. It is acceptable to offer a regular meal or a votive offering if this is not possible, but incense and water should not be excluded. Offerings in multiples of 4 or especially 7 are best.

Recite, “An-Offering-Which-The-King-Gives to those who are in the Duat, to the Great Ennead and the Small Ennead, to the followers of Ra and the followers of Osiris, to those watchmen who protect their Lord, and to the attendants who are beside the bier of Ausir-Wennofer justified, that your Ba and your Ka may receive the offerings of food: bread, beer, water from the flood by which the netjeru live, wine, milk, incense and cool water. O excellent Bas of the West, and Osiris Imperishable Stars, justified, these offerings are for you.”

Extend your arms toward the icons, elbows bent and palms toward icons, and recite: “O Osiris, chief of the Westerners, great Netjer, lord of Abdju, Osiris Imperishable Stars justified, if you are in Heaven, come to your Ba. If you are on earth, come to your shining spirit. If you are in the south, the north, the west or the east, come so that you may be content. Be strong in your body, so tht you may come therefrom, you having become an incarnated Ba and a shining spirit, mighty as Ra and equipped as a Netjer. Come to this your bread, your beer, and your cool water so that you may become strong through every good and pure offering, O Osiris, chief of the Westerners, great Netjer, Lord of Abdju, Osiris Imperishable Stars justified.”

Set out three bowls before the icons. Recite, “Praising Osiris, chief of the Westerners, great Netjer, lord of Abdju, and bringing the Bas of the transfigured spirits to the ritual of the Festival of the Valley.”

Pour milk into one bowl, wine into another, and water into the third. Recite, “It is pure, it is pure, An-Offering-Which-The-King-Gives. Accept this libation of the coolest water, wine and milk. O doorkeepers, lords of the Sacred Land, lords of burial, receive what is given to you and pull open the gates of the Duat. Open the gates of the West. Open the double doors of the silent region.”

Extend your arms toward the icons, elbows bent and palms toward icons, and recite: “Come forth, O Osiris Imperishable Stars, justified. Awake! Turn yourself about, back toward life! O Osiris Imperishable Stars, justified, raise yourself up. Bring yourself to me. Arise and receive offerings from my hand. I will be a helper for you! May you emerge from the Earth and behold Ra. May you follow Amun in this, his beautiful festival of the desert valley.”

Light the incense and wave it slowly over the icons as you recite: “Crossing the river you see heaven, while the fragrance of incense is in front of you and you ferry across heaven adorned. As a transfigured and equipped spirit you are adorned most richly, and you eat bread and offerings in front of Ra, from the altars of Djehuty while your intelligence is given to you in the House of Intelligence and your heart in the House of the Heart and an offering is made for you and for your Ka and for your body. Your Ba is in heaven and your body is in the Duat, twice great and twice mighty. You wake up sound and intact in heaven and in your resting place, Osiris, chief of the Westerners, beneficent one, who was no failure in his deeds, Osiris Imperishable Stars justified.”

Continue censing the icons and recite: “O Osiris chief of the Westerners, great Netjer, lord of Abdju, Osiris Imperishable Stars justified, heaven is open for you. Earth is open for you. The ways of your resting place are open for you, so that you may go out and come in with Ra, so that you may walk freely like the Lord of Eternity. May you receive bread from what is offered on the altar of the Bas of Iunu, your food being like that of the Great Ennead. May you accept offerings from what is put out for you, pure bread on the altar of Heru, so that your flesh becomes alive and your muscles flourishing, so that you may be clear-sighted on your dark way. Happy will give you water; Nepty will give you bread; Hathor will give you beer; and Hesyt will give you milk. You cleanse your feet in a basin of silver and turquoise, with a cloth from the hands of Tayet. You drink water from the shore of the Nile, and offerings are given to you beside Osiris. A seat is prepared for you, and you assume the form of a Netjer. You alight at every plae according to your desire, like the Great Noble in Djedu. Your Ba goes to heaven and your body rests in the Duat.”

Light a white candle in front of each icon, one for Osiris and one for the akhu. Recite: “When you are justified in your resting place, you raise your face to the heaven of Ra and you see Heru in his steersman. A luminous disk is made for you in your resting place, in front of your image so that it may light up for you the darkness in the Duat, so that it may shine as Shu on your head. A boat is placed in front of you. The two sisters florify you and Djehuty spreads out for you his writing equipment so that you may become divine like the Netjeru. He leads you through the mysterious gates, and when you pass by ‘He-who-protects-the-dead’, Ra comes to you and gives you his brightness. His rays flood through your eyes while the arms of Tatenen are prepared to receive you. Those in the West rejoice greatly. All plans against you are abolished. They are abolished.

You receive illumination from the disk of Ra, being placed beside Ra in his barque in the Room of Awakening. He opens your face. He illumines your seat so that you may be like Deba-of-the-One-Joined-Togethr. Sepulchral meals are presented to your Ka beside Osiris-Wennofer. You receive justification from those who preside over your resting place, and your Ba lives for ever and for ever. Your seat is established and your name flourishes even like that of the Great Noble in Djedu.

Raise yourself up so that you may feel joy again; and your Ba is alive for ever like sah in the womb of Nut. Aset transforms herself into a bier. She receives you as a couch while your son Heru, his arms carrying the crown of justification, adorns your head. May your beautiful face be content for you have received your bread and you have inhaled the scent of the incense- they shall be pure for your Ka, O Osiris chief of the Westerners, lord of Abdju, in heaven, on earth, on your seat in Upper Kemet or on your seat in lower Kemet.”

Set out a separate bowl for libations from the previous four. With each of the seven declarations “to you belongs water”, pour a bit of water into the bowl, for a total of seven different pourings. Recite:

“To you belongs water,” and pour;

“To you belongs water, O Osiris Imperishable Stars justified,” and pour;

“to you belongs water,” and pour;

“to you belongs water of millions of millions,” and pour;

“to you belongs water of millions of nemset jars and a hundred thousands of meker jars,” and pour;

“to you belongs water of the Great River from the waters of Heru in the region of Heliopolis,” and pour;

“to you belongs water from the beginning of infinity to the end of eternity, O possessor of honors, chief of the Westerners, who awakens intact, O lord of infinity, king of the Two Lands, sovereign, ruler of eternity, O lord of the cool water, great one of the two sources, in heaven, in his resting place an din his tomb, great being of the first generation, beautiful of face, first of the five Netjeru; heir of infinity for whom the time has come; beneficent Ba among every Ba and every tomb-chapel, excellent of heart, who has fixed the two uraei on his head, enduring for ever and for all eternity.” and pour.

Take the offering of water/sacred water and elevate them four times before their icon as you recite: “May Water be given to the noble Ka who rests in the eternal residence of Shu in Iunu, and in Mennefer. Your horizon is in the Castle of the Prince. The bas foremost in Iunu come to you. They present Ma’at to you as an offering every day. Your father Shu and your mother Tefnut come to you bearing nemset jars of turquoise, filled with water the color of faience, their content being pure water…”

Sprinkle sacred water in a circle around the images the first time and recite, “…and they give you this water which you desire, your body being received into their hands while your forebears and those who have begotten and given birth to you come to you; they loosen the bonds of your funeral wrappings daily like those of the Great Noble.:

Sprinkle sacred water around the images the second time and recite, “…Hapy comes to you from his cavern. He moistens the fertile land for you. The Netjeru of the First Time come to you every day, carrying offerings for you. Aset and Nebet-Het come to you; they raise you up into the horizon. The lord of the Duat comes to you, accompanied by his retinue, his female mourners preceding him. Equipped with the spells of Aset and Nebet-het, the Great Mourner, they unite your limbs. Djehuty reads the Book of the Opening of the Mouth for you, while Heru, your sem-priest, pronounces magic spells for you, Seshat opens for the House of Life. Aset and Nebet-Het make you divine, and Hu and Sia adore you.”

Sprinkle sacred water around the icons for the third time and recite, “Ptah prepares for you a burial cloth with his hands, with the garments of Tayet. He washes your body and he purifies you. Then Shu and Tefnut reanimate you with their hands with milk of Hesat, and water is poured for you in front of the excellent Bas. They say to you, ‘Stand up, because your heart lives and we have fashioned your flesh.’ They make your heart healthy. They place you into the earth and they protect you. They protect you. They receive their spirit in your resting place like that of Tatenen, the great Netjer.”

Sprinkle sacred water around the icons for the fourth time and recite: “Heru comes to you, having assumed the white crown, with the red crown shining upon his head. Aset rejoices at his sight, her son, an Akh who comes forth justified and who established Ma’at in her place, near the beauty of Nut. Water is given for you, O noble Akh, so that the heart of your Akh rejoices. Give water to this noble Akh when his Ba comes to see him. Rejoice, O Great Noble, for Heru is given his office; he comes forth justified from the ‘Hall of the Two Truths’, he comes forth triumphant.

Decree for the majesty of Aset, issued by the Netjeru: ‘We shall not stand between you and your brother Osiris so that he may hear what you have said and praise you on account of what we have done. May you remember all of our good deeds.”

Taking the part of Aset, recite: “I have made for you your house with my sister Nebet-Het. I have caused you to enter the ‘left Eye’ and become the moon. Heaven rejoices, while Djehuty, protector of the moon, fills the Wedjat Eye in the Great mansion. Your effigy is holy and the ‘Mansion of the Prince’ bears your mystery. You are Sah in the southern sky while I am Sopdet as your protectress.”

Pour a libation for Osiris and recite: “Oh Osiris, may you receive water from my hands, for I am your sister Aset. O lord of the Netjeru, may every joy be with you. I have healed for you your son Heru and I have placed your Ba in the horizon. I have established for you your son on your seat of eternity; O Osiris Imperishable Stars, justified.”

Pour another libation for Osiris and recite: “Receive for yourself this libation from your sister, in accordance with what you desire. I am your sister. I am your wife. I am the daughter of your mother. I have caused your beautiful face to see. O my good lord, say what I should do in front of you so that I may please your heart through it. I have placed your son Heru upon your seat. I have done it because of your love for your father Geb. May your protection be in the Mysterious Place for I know your excellent form. I have presented to you offerings consisting of barley cakes; they will last forever and forever. I have assembled for you the world into one single city and they make for you the ‘linen of one day’. I have caused you to rise upon the throne; I have caused you to rest in your palace. I have caused that your images appear in every land while you are in the horizon of Ra, your boat remaining beside his boat. Your statues appear in the temples while the Netjeru are with you as an Ennead; the divine lord of every temple offers to you even his own temple throne. I have placed the sky under your Ba and the Duat under your effigy. Every region has your statues, they being pure, while they praise you, Osiris Wennofer justified. You are rejuvenated for ever and over, O Osiris Imperishable Stars justified.

You are rejuvenated, O Osiris, you are rejuvenated in heaven. You appear in the eastern horizon of the sky, having spent days and passed hours, and you come in accordance with the proper time every year, and you rise as the moon at the time of the festival of illuminations. Your name endures in the ‘Mansion of the Prince’ and you come as Hapy to cover the fertile lands, so that all the world may live through your Ka. Your phallus is strong and you repeat your forms of yesterday. Aset safeguards you and protects you as lord of the uraeus, O Osiris Wennofer justified. You are rejuvenated for ever and ever, O Osiris Imperishable Stars, justified.”

Standing before the offerings and libations already given, hold your arms outstreateched with palm facing up and open, pointing toward the table of offerings. Recite, “An-Offering-Which-The-King-Gives. O Osiris, I have poured for you, water which comes our from Elephantine and milk from Athribis. I have brought to you nemset jars full of fresh offerings from the estate of Ra so that you may receive that which Tatenen was given and loaves from what is offered. I have done this so that your Ba is able to come out to worship your god, there being no one who can turn you out from heaven or from earth. Your ba lives and your limbs flourish. You are rejuvenated as the ruler of ‘the living ones’. You are great and you are elevated in Djedu and your seat is noble in To-Wer. A libation of cool water is poured for you consisting of the best liquid on the offering table in the middle of the mound of Tjeme. Rejoice, for you have joined gladness in the noble ished tree and your Ba is divinized in the realm of the dead. Receive for yourself offerings of every kind, and rejoice for you have joined Manu. Your father Shu praises you, O Osiris, chief of the Westerners, great Netjer, lord of Abdju.

Osiris of Coptos who is first in the Mansion of Gold, Osiris-Sokar, Osiris, lord of Djedu, Wennofer, Osiris the beloved one, ruler of eternity, Imsety, Hapi, Duamutef, Qebehsenuf, Netjeru who are in the mound of Tjeme, Nejeru who are in the mansion of Sokar, Netjeru who are in the Mansion of Gold, Netjeru who are in the Great Place, great and noble bull, Great Ogdoad, oldest of the very primeval times, Osiris, Heru, Sutekh, Aset and Nebet-Het, enneads and divine bodies: may you receive, may your Ba receive and may your ka receive offerings and provisions -bread, beer, wine, milk, and water from the flood by which the Netjeru live.”

Pour a libation and recite, “Accept the Eye of Heru, I offer to you the water which is in it, fresh water as love and praise for Osiris, the Imperishable Stars justified.”

Pour a libation of fresh water and recite: “Sokar-Osiris, accept this, your libation. Your libation belongs to you through in your name of ‘Fresh Water’. Accept this vital fluid which comes from you and which Heru restores to you. The Eye of Heru is given to you, for the children of Heru recognize you as divine. The sky is given to you in your name of Ra and your enemies are fallen beneath in your name of Netjer; Heru recognizes you as ‘the Rejuvenated Ones’. Rejuvenate! Rejuvenate in your name ‘Rejuvenated Waters’. The waters exist as the strength of Osiris. He is great, he is noble, he is strong, he is free and he is powerful through this living water. He has encircles for himself and he has given to himself, pervading each and every land. Sokar-Osiris, you are great and you are noble. You are strong and you are free through this libation of life-giving water.”

Pour a second libation of water. Recite: “Osiris, Heru, Sutekh, Aset and Nebet-Het, enneads and divine bodies, accept the Eye of Heru; I offer the water which is in it, fresh water as of love and praise.”

Pour a third libation of water. Recite: “O Osiris Imperishable Stars justified, may you receive a libation of fresh water after the Netjer becomes satisfied, each and every day. May you live and may your ba live both now and forever!”

Place flowers, or a flower, before the icons of the akhu. Recite four times: “Khonsu causes Amun to be your protection as you live eternally. May Amun fulfill what you desire, O beloved one. May you be a favored one, and may Amun favor you for all your good deeds. May he favor you and love you. May he perpetuate you and overthrow your adversaries whether dead or alive.”

Recite twice: “May you and your ba live both now and forever!”

“We ask that you keep watch over us, your friends and allies, as our own ancestors. You protect and watch over Devil’s Lettuce, who made a donation in your name to the Dakhleh Oasis Project. Devil’s Lettuce, Ally of the Akhu of the Duat, is a friend to you and you are a friend to them; if you are strong, they are strong. Your spirit lives in them and they honor your spirit and descendants.

We ask that you keep watch over us, your friends and allies, as our own ancestors. You protect and watch over secondgenerationimmigrant, who made a donation in your name to the Dakhleh Oasis Project. Secondgenerationimmigrant, Ally of the Akhu of the Duat, is a friend to you and you are a friend to them; if you are strong, they are strong. Your spirit lives in them and they honor your spirit and descendants.”

If you have any requests to make of the dead or any magic to perform, this is where you perform it.

When you are done, begin extinguishing the candles one by one as you recite: “This is the Eye of Heru by which you have become great, by which you live, and by which you have power, O Osiris. This is the Eye of Heru which you consume and through which you enchant your body. The Wedjat Eye now enters into the West, into Manu, but it shall return. Truly, the Eye of Heru returns in peace!”

Sweep the area around the icons and recite: “The distress that causes confusion has been driven away, and all the Netjeru are in harmony. I have given Heru his Eye, I have placed the Wedjat Eye in the correct position. I have given Sutekh his testicles, so that the two Lords are content through the work of my hands. I know the sky, I know the earth; I know Heru, I know Sutekh. Heru is appeased with His Eyes, and Sutekh is appeased with His Testicles. I am Djehuty, who reconciles the Netjeru, who makes offerings in their correct form.”

Set aside the broom and bow toward the icon. Recite: “Djehuty has come. He has filled the Eye of Heru; He has restored the Testicles of Sutekh. No evil shall enter this temple. Ptah has closed the door, Djehuty has set it fast. The door is closed; the door is set fast with the bolt.”

Bow once again, and then left the offerings before the icons and recite: “O Osiris, every adversary withdraws or you. Heru has turned himself to his Eye in its name of ‘Reversion-of-Offerings’. I am Djehuty. I come to perform this rite for Osiris. These, your divine offerings revert, they revert to your servants for life, for stability, for health and for joy! O that the Eye of Heru may flourish for you eternally!”

Take the offerings away from the icons. The ceremony is complete. A suggested traditional toast for the reverted meal: “For your Ka! Drink the good intoxicating drink, celebrate a beautiful day!”

Kemetic Round Table: Ma’at and Isfet

The ancient Egyptians believed in a universe where the correct function and order of the interpersonal, the societal, and the cosmic were all as intertwined as they were vital to continued existence. In the moment that existence was created and perfect order was established, Zep Tepi or the First Time, the rightful king of Kemet crowned by the NTRW ruled over all of creation, and the people did not rebel against him; the heavens and the Earth were pristine and stable in their functions and beauty; children loved their parents and their parents loved their children; the priests made the proper offerings and did the proper rituals to propitiate the NTRW and help to keep the cosmos in alignment. All of the interdependent parts of our universe worked together in peace and harmony. This idealized state of being is what is maintained, protected, and endlessly sought after by the practice of serving and living within ma’at, and each new day is a new chance to bring this perfect state of being back into existence (or as close to it as possible, anyways) by doing what is right and helpful (ma’at), and by shunning -or at times, destroying- what is wrong and harmful (isfet). The gods, humanity, and all the universe is nourished by Ma’at.

Ma’at is often loosely translated to “truth, justice, and order”, but those English words do not carry the connotations of ma’at, nor do our modern minds intuitively understand the social and cultural context in which the concept existed, and therefore what the ancient Egyptians meant by it. In order to understand the term ma’at, a newbie kemetic has a lot of studying to do. Broadly speaking, the main tenets of ma’at include:

Humility. From the poorest peasants to the pharaoh himself, it’s of vital importance to be humble. This humility manifests itself by people in positions of authority being merciful and not ordering around their inferiors or otherwise being high-handed; by not getting angry and snapping back at someone who’s insulted you, or otherwise seeking revenge when you’ve been wronged; or by children and students listening to and obeying their parents, elders or teachers. The goal of humility is to see everyone as an individual worthy of respect (“all people regardless of rank have equal worth” is actually an ideal you find in a lot of the literature on ma’at, despite the historical reality of Kemet as a highly stratified society), and to treat those around you with gentleness and restraint.

““If you are powerful in causing respect for you,
by knowledge, by calming in speech,
do not order people, except by the guidelines.
The aggressive man ends up in trouble.
Do not have your heart too high, or it will be brought down.” – Instruction of Ptahhotep

“Then he addressed his son:
Do not be proud on account of your knowledge,
but discuss with the ignorant as with the wise.
The limits of art cannot be delivered;
there is no artist whose talent is fulfilled.
Fine words are more sought after than greenstone,
but can be found with the women at the grindstone.” –The Instruction of Ptahhotep

“If you are a leader
with broad scope in what is commanded to you,
you should do outstanding things,
so as to be remembered in days to come.
A (legal) case does not arise out of the midst of praises.
The hidden beast intrudes – and then there is resistance.” –The Instruction of Ptahhotep

“If you are to be a leader
be patient in your hearing when the petitioner speaks,
do not halt him until his belly is emptied
of what he had planned to have said.
The victim loves to sate his heart
even more than accomplishing what he came for –
if a petition is halted,
people say ‘but why did he break that rule?’.
Not everything for which he petitions can come to be,
but a good hearing is soothing for the heart.” –The Instruction of Ptahhotep

Moderation and self-control. It is absolutely vital to “rule (one’s) heart”; to be the master of one’s appetites, passions, and behavior. Not doing so leads to a slew of hated sins: greed and selfishness, loud and obnoxious behavior, and crimes of passion are the most often cited. With greed and anger or violence as some of the most particularly reviled manifestations of isfet, this moral was one of the most important to the people of Kemet. For example, the Instruction addressed to Kagemni reads: “When you sit with company, shun the food you like. Restraint of heart is (only) a brief moment! Gluttony is base and one points the finger at it. A cup of water quenches thirst, a mouthful of herbs strengthens the heart. A single good thing stands for goodness as a whole, a little something stands for much.”

Generosity. Across sources and time, one of the most common traits associated with being a good, upstanding Ma’atian citizen is being generous to those around you, and warnings against the sin of greed are almost as common as warnings against excess and anger; this was especially important for people with wealth and prestige of any kind. Aid to the vulnerable and oppressed was vtial, and its importance cannot be overstated. For example, in The Instruction of King Amenemhet (a postmortem message addressed to the king’s son about his own assassination), the speaker declares: “I gave to the beggar, I raised the orphan, I gave success to the poor as to the wealthy”, and that “none hungered in my years, none thirsted in them” as evidence he was a righteous man who did not deserve the betrayal of his people his murder represents.

“If you wish your conduct to be good
and to save yourself from all evil,
resist the opportunity of greed.
It is a sore disease of the worm,
no advance can come of it.
It embroils fathers and mothers,
with mother’s brothers.
It entangles the wife and the man,
it is a levy of all evils,
a bundle of all hatefulness.
The man endures whose guideline is Right,
who proceeds according to his paces.
He can draw up a will by it.
There is no tomb for the greedy hearted.” –The Instruction of Ptahhotep

Live life to its fullest/honor your full potential. An often unremarked upon aspect of the Instructions, “wisdom texts” and afterlife/tomb boasts (which, being intended to serve as an eternal monument for the dead person who it refers to, guaranteeing that their good name will not die and they will live on in the afterlife) is that taking advantage of one’s years and doing good work while you’re alive is important. Many tombs spend most of their letters to the living talking about all of their accomplishments, although they usually end with reassurances that the dead was truthful, generous and altruistic. It’s as important to provide for yourself and be self-sufficient as it is to be generous to those in need whenever possible. Part of wisdom is being clever and skilled at your job and becoming useful and important to one’s community because of it. Arguably, the emphasis on this is because most of our records come from the aristocracy, where it makes more sense to measure one’s moral worth by their land, wealth, and number of slaves, as well as one’s high social standing with the king and other important figures. Still, there is enough written about doing well for oneself, enjoying the comforts of life, and being true to one’s desires that it merits being mentioned when speaking about the ideal, Ma’atian life.

 “Follow your heart as long as you live.
Do not make a loss on what is said,
do not subtract time from following the heart.
Harming its time is an offence to the ka.
Do not deflect the moment of every day
beyond establishing your heart.
As things happen, follow (your) heart.
There is no profit in things if it is stifled.” -The Instruction of Ptahhotep

“A man who worries all day long
will never be allowed a good moment.
A man who lazes all day long
will never have a solid house.
A shot filled is like an oar abandoned on the ground,
when another is taken,
his heart has obeyed the wish ‘if only I had’…”-The Instruction of Ptahhotep

Truthfulness/Good Heka. To be a Ma’atian person, you need to tell the truth. Often being mentioned in tandem with greed, officials committing fraud or giving false testimony is a common trope in Ancient Egyptian negative confessions and instructions for morality.

“This use of “grg” or lying and falsehood as a metaphor for disorder, injustice and wrong in general appears also in the Middle Kingdom text, the Book of Khunanpu. Here Khunanpu lists as one of the five basic characteristics of the Maatian ruler as “shtm gvg,” a destroyer of falsehood. And throughout his discourse on Maat, he defines falsehood as one of the cardinal evils which are corrosive and destructive of the moral order, i.e., Maat. Such falsehood violates the communicative ground as much as the failure to listen and respond actively and appropriately. As untruthfulness, then, falsehood is not simply deception but the presence of evil and disorder in the moral community. And as evil and disorder, it is a challenge to the moral order and thus must be driven out so that Maat can return to its place, as the texts teach.” –Maat, the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt by Maulana Karenga

There is a strong focus on how one speaks and conducts themselves, reflecting the idea that images and words have a great power both mundane and magical. Lots of literature on ma’at stresses the correct and wise ways to speak to people in various situations, stressing truth-telling, eloquence, and restraint in conversation. Notice how in this speaker’s description of his moral behavior, the emphasis is on what he did (and didn’t) say: “Greetings to you who will come after, Who will come into being in the future. I shall cause you to call me blessed! …I kept my mouth clean of harming one who harmed me, My patience, turned my enemies into my associates, I controlled my mouth and was skilled in responding, And I was not tolerant of evil….I did not give praise to one who flattered me…When I hated slander, loved agreement, A voice was raised for them to protect them from evil….” -Maat, the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt by Maulana Karenga

It should be noted that while “having good heka” is an important enough tenet of ma’at to get its own paragraph, in many ways “good heka” is not a moral end in itself, but the practical way in which ones’ inner morality manifests in ones’ relationships and life in general.

Reciprocity. This doesn’t just mean the reciprocity between individuals and parts of society, or between humans and gods, but the basic idea that good should be, and inevitably will be paid back unto good by nature of the act, rather than being selectively rewarded to the pious by the gods. Being good will inherently make your life better and make more people like you, causing your reputation to be good and stand as a monument to you after you die -guaranteeing your immortality- as a natural, inevitable consequence of a life well lived.

“If you are weak, follow a man of excellence
and all your conduct will be good before god.
When you have known lesser men before,
do not be proud against him,
from what you knew of him before.
Respect him according to what he has become,
for goods do not come of their own accord.” –The Instruction of Ptahhotep

“And self-interest plays its part as natural companion of the virtues. For virtues are not “ideals” but basic needful endowments which nature built into the human constitution.” –Moral Values in Ancient Egypt, Miriam Lichtheim

Harmony with one’s family and society. A Ma’atian person is loyal to their parents, takes care of their wife and children, feeds the hungry, is competent at their job, and is a kind and trustworthy figure if they’re in any kind of position of authority. Lots of the advice about ma’at centers around avoiding conflicts or otherwise bothering people around you. There is also a common motif of “turning enemies into friends”. Being kind to and on good terms with one’s family members is also a ubiquitous theme.

“If you are excellent, found your household,
love your wife within reckoning.
Fill her belly, clother her back,
ointment is the remedy for her body.
Gladden her heart as long as you live.” –Instruction of Ptahhotep

“First of all one sees the importance of location in Maatian ethics, that is to day, the need to define oneself in terms of one’s community. Doing Maat, then, is always concrete and contextual. One acts in a definite community called my town or my province or district and in relation to the people in it. It is in such a context of family, town and province that one proves one’s worthiness or excellence (ikr) and attains the status of imjhw, an honored one. Certainly, the greatest proof of worthiness is being able to claim, as the treasurer Neferyu, does in his declaration of virtues, “My entire town is my witness”. Secondly, Maat is defined in terms of both speech and action with a constant and central dual stress in Maatian discourse.” –Maat, the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt by Maulana Karenga

Defeating or driving out isfet. The Egyptians saw the cosmos as an eternal conflict between these two ideals, and humans are supposed to pull our weight. Evil must be defeated and driven out so ma’at can reign; following ma’at requires that you do good to “replace” or “answer” evil: “However, on second look, one can read the virtue of answering evil with good another expression of the fundamental Maatian principle of replacing isfet with Maat or in its original form, “putting Maat in the place of isfet.” Thus, one does not give good to evil or as in Christianity, do good for evil. Rather one answers (wfb) responds to evil by doing a good, i.e., Maat, which replaces and destroys evil.” –Maat, the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt by Maulana Karenga

It is worth noting that although violence and acts of revenge are generally understood to be against ma’at in most contexts, engaging in violence against others who were seen as representations of isfet -generally, “rebels” such as criminals or foreign powers- was sometimes seen as a requirement of a ma’atian person, particularly the king. In Violence in the Service of Order, when discussing an incident where foreigners were ritually killed for crimes against a temple and therefore ma’at, Muhlestein writes: “One wonders whether both Nubians and Asiatics were really the perpetrators of the crimes against the temple. Perhaps as foreigners, and thus representatives of Isfet, they were chosen as a scapegoat for the cultic crimes that had happened at Tod. It is also possible that the real perpetrators were punished but were textually described as foreigners. While the answers to these questions are elusive, it is clear that the king engaged in impalement, decapitation, and burning, and that all or one of these punishments were enacted in a ritual setting. Moreover, while some of the account may be exaggerated, it also seems inevitable that such practices were part of Senusret I’s zeitgeist. Decapitating and burning rebellious enemies, as part of a sacrificial slaughter, was clearly part of the royal repertoire.”

Maintaining the cult of the NTRW. Part of humanity’s responsibility toward ma’at is to assist the gods in their magical workings to keep the universe here and functioning as well as it can through various ways of Giving Stuff To The Gods. I’ve dedicated the least amount of this piece to this aspect of ma’at not because it’s unimportant, but because the bulk of kemetic how-to information one can get online addresses this particular aspect of maintaining ma’at: what sort of offerings to give, which holidays to celebrate, how to do different rites, how to understand the mythologies and associations of the gods, things like that. In antiquity there were a plethora of different cult centers in different cities performing different, interdependent and yet symbiotic rituals and myth re-enactments on a micro scale; today, there are a plethora of different paths that pay tribute to the NTRW and even more ways to worship and offer to them. I will leave it to the reader and whichever NTR they are working with to shake out the finer details of this part of ma’at, since there is so much more extensive writing on this topic than I could shake a stick at in a WordPress post.

Ma’at is a principle that strives to maintain balance and harmony on the greater cosmic scale, in our society and communities on Earth, in our family and friendships, and in our own hearts. It is a moral concept that requires us to treat one another with compassion and dignity, because we understand that in Ma’at, all people are fundamentally equally deserving of love and kindness. We are encouraged to think before we speak, to be levelheaded and make our decisions based on what will be best for everybody rather than out of pride, a desire for revenge, or a selfish dedication to our own vices over the needs of others:

“The key point of this discussion, then, is that the practice of Maat is conceived and carried out within the worldview which links the Divine, the natural and the social. These three domains are interrelated, interactive and mutually affective. And a Maatian person understands this and acts accordingly, as the history of the idea of Maat, which is presented below, demonstrates. As Assmann contends, Maat is an “einheitstiftende Idee,” a unity creating idea, which unites God, society, nature and universe. […] Ethically this has meaning in that it becomes a task of king and members of society to uphold this Maat-grounded world, which is essentially good, and to restore and recreate it constantly. It is in this context that Maat expresses itself as an ongoing ethical project, a project which is the central focus of this work.”-Maat, the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt by Maulana Karenga

While researching this, I was grateful for the research I had been doing into funerary cults for various akhu-related projects, because it hammers in an important aspect of the teaching of ma’at: the goal is not just to live a good, long, full life on Earth, but also to guarantee one’s soul’s longevity in the next life. Despite what most Egyptology 101 stuff says, ancient Egyptians didn’t necessarily believe that one must be mummified in order to exist in the next world. It was equally important to be remembered for your good character and good behavior. There are two roads to immortality: following the principles of ma’at and doing good deeds, and having accomplishments in one’s career. The good deeds one does, the impact they leave on the world, and the positive memory of them in people’s hearts is a spiritual monument, serving the same purpose as grand tombs and mummification rituals for dead kings and aristocrats. This is another manifestation of the idea that Ma’at is a force that sustains all life, particularly divine life: “Moreover, in regards to Ra, “Maat serves as his nourishment; he lives by it, it is offered to him and it is also his daughter”. Maat, of course, is also nourishment for all the divinities as well as humans as the text quoted above states.” –Maat, the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt by Maulana Karenga

Speaking of which, it’s also worth noting that a not-inconsequential amount of advice in ancient Egyptian texts is addressed to the king, or instructing people to be obedient to the king. This is one of the ideas that have to be either dropped, or adapted greatly in order to be incorporated into the modern person’s mindset or sense of morality. I believe we can still incorporate lessons about the king -both in how a good king, and one’s responsibility to the king- into our kingless lives by understanding the function of kingship as the prototype of how to be a moral and effective person in a position of power or leadership, and creating harmony in your interpersonal relationships and community by doing so. Everybody is, ultimately, the “king” of their own lives, and we are all responsible for doing the same things the king was supposed to do, but in a micro sense.

I have to admit that I’ve always felt sort of alienated by some of the ancient Egyptian ideas of the kind of person considered to be good, and to have lived a good life. There’s a sort of “just world” assumption that if one is a good, generous, and peace-loving person, they will obviously live a good life and be on good terms with their community as natural cause and effect…but in reality, sometimes you don’t have to do anything wrong to be ousted by one’s loved ones and become the black sheep. Still, ancient wisdom in the texts about upholding ma’at through pro-social behavior is starkly represented in our kemetic circles today: you can study nonstop, you can have tons of great ideas, you can lay all the groundwork you want, but at the end of the day, you can only have a kemetic community by getting a bunch of us together who actually like each other, and want to build the same sort of future for us and our faith.

Either way, there’s no denying that there are many acts and ideas associated with ma’at from antiquity that make me uncomfortable, and that always bring up the question of how closely I need to base my sense of morality off of the ancient Egyptian’s ideas. Some ideas, like Reputation-As-Morality or the tradition of sacral kingship, can be adapted or interpreted into my worldview. Some, like the constant demonization of the Other as an ideological enemy, are things I believe ought to be left in the past. It’s obvious that trying to recreate the ancient Egyptian moral and religious mindset can only ever go as far as learning how to more accurately LARP as an ancient Egyptian scribe, but that doesn’t mean we should assume we automatically know better than them, either. Which parts of our cultural understanding of ourselves and the world might be thrown out as superstitious and unenlightened nonsense if people a thousand years in the future focus only on our current American xenophobia, authoritarianism, and caste system of the racist police and prison industrial complex? The ancient Egyptians had wisdom to teach us, and if we just throw out everything they believed that doesn’t immediately sound right to our modern consciences, we may end up missing out on the legitimate wisdom of the sages because we simply don’t know how to listen. The right balance has to be struck between respecting tradition and making use of the ancient Egyptians’ perspective and understanding which things legitimately need to be left in the past; you would be hard-pressed to find a modern kemetic of even the most Purist Reconstructionist type claiming that worshipping one king as the human incarnation of Heru, for example.

Personally, the phrase that comes to mind most often when I try to distill the concept of ma’at down to its barest essentials, is “balance and harmony”. The emphasis in most acts described as “ma’at” is on acting in ways that are most likely to create healthy interdependent relationships between yourself and those around you, and more broadly, with the universe in general. TheTwistedRope wrote a good couple of posts (Ma’at as a System, Isfet as a System, A Proposed Model for Determining Ma’at vs. Isfet) on defining ma’at as a regenerative system, which can help apply the concept to things such as our industrialized society on a larger level, and I have written a post on how trying to keep Ma’at apolitical is both ahistorical and counterproductive to doing ma’at in a practical sense (The Case For Social Justice in Ma’at). Both of these pieces explore a different angle of “ma’at as harmony”. Trying to follow ma’at by making choices that will lead to harmony in my relationships, household, and life makes more intuitive sense to me than prioritizing “order” because although these two words are essentially synonyms, the connotations of “protecting order and justice” will always be of an authoritarian “order” enforced by the ruling powers (which, under TTR’s definition of “ma’at as a system”, would be a degenerative rather than a regenerative system), not a healthy and voluntary order that works for the well-being of all living things involved. When I look at how my actions affect the world around me in an economic and political sense, I conclude that being anti-racist, anti-colonialist, and anti-capitalist is the most efficient way to contribute toward my society’s larger attempts to build a harmonious order that will provide human rights and dignity to everybody in it, as well as preserve the existence of the Earth and the life it sustains.

Understanding isfet as a concept is part of understanding ma’at, since these two concepts are understood as in constant battle, ebb and flow, with one another. Understanding isfet as a concept has always been a little complicated for me, since one of my primary deities is Set, the god of Chaos, and therefore making no distinction between chaos and isfet as concepts only muddies the water. In order to talk about how ma’at and isfet are reflected in my practice, I can’t really just stick to scholarly articles describing how the ancient Egyptians saw these concepts. I want to try to communicate to the reader the level of existential dread that isfet, and its icon A/p/e/p, truly represents in the kemetic mind (or at least, in mine).

When I picture isfet in my mind, it always has the same nickname: The God-Awful Nothing. Anyone who’s experienced a long period of clinical depression knows the feeling this short line of poetry refers to; the dark weeks and months when it seems like something has emptied your body of your thoughts, your desires, your dreams, your past, even your entire identity, all to make room for the heaviest emptiness in the universe to sit inside of you instead. It makes attaching joy or meaning to anything almost impossible, and that leeches motivation to do good things from you. Life is not a gift given to you by your ancestors, or an incomprehensible miracle that has allowed something as complex and beautiful as a human being to not just exist in the universe but to experience it; life has become an unfunny joke that the universe doesn’t realize no one is laughing at anymore, the thing allows us to exist only to suffer. Food isn’t an opportunity to enjoy yourself and add some flavor to your day, it’s just a chore to get through to avoid hunger pains. Why did you buy those books? Why did you set those goals? Why did you ever put effort into learning an instrument? What’s the point of any of it? There’s just nothing there anymore.

Why did you make plans with your friends this weekend, when the last three attempts just left you exhausted? You try to reach for the feeling of the relationship, your memories of your friends enjoying your company and you theirs, and you just come up with more nothing. You must’ve imagined the entire friendship, your every important relationship, out of sheer delusion, attempting to fill up the nothingness of loneliness in spite of their obvious contempt for you. You should cancel your pointless plans to do meaningless things with people who have become so distant to you, emotionally, that they may as well be on other planets. The nothingness whispers, and you listen, and one by one people stop checking up on you. The nothing was right, after all. You never really had friends in the first place.

Nothing really matters, so you start drinking too much. You stop going to work, or you barely trudge through your days. You don’t make any more attempts to draw or see movies you were once excited for or play video games you once loved. You spend more and more of your time in your bed, doing nothing, staring glassy-eyed at nothing, thinking and hoping and longing for nothing, nothing, nothing.

Depression is so devastating because it distorts one’s thinking so that everything in your life suddenly seems to be an empty shell with nothing beneath it, your relationships seem to crumble beneath your fingers (even when you in fact have a support system that is trying to help you all the time!), and your actions seem completely meaningless because you can’t emotionally feel its consequences or intent or the usual emotional and subconscious mishmash of symbolism in your actions, when your brain has so thoroughly convinced you that nothing can be good because nothing matters. Petting a dog? Who cares. Doing a good job at work? Who cares. Cutting off your friends? Who cares. Playing your favorite video game? Who cares. Seeing your family? Who cares. Hurting yourself? Who cares? In this way, the God-Awful Nothing, the emptiness that causes you to hurt yourself and others when suffering from something like depression is isfet.

However, the God-Awful Nothing is even more insidious on a wider, societal scale. I propose that, in the philosophy of overcoming A/pep, evil itself (including the wide-scale acts of evil and destruction such as war, genocide, oppression) is caused by a kind of “nonbeing” of the spirit. Most of the things we do that hurt others is out of thoughtlessness; not carelessness, but the decision -conscious or subconscious- not to reserve any time or effort to think about what we’re doing, or who we’re hurting, or why, or how the other person will feel. In this way, many acts of ignorance and bigotry that cause the most harm -especially when you consider that it’s generally an entire society acting like this- are just manifestations of people taking the path of least resistance. If you asked them why they’re doing it, they may not even realize they’re doing it at all. Pull back the curtain to see what’s behind the act, and you’ll find something even worse than malice: nothing. Just nothing. We hurt each other because we don’t have it in us to try not to.

When we do act maliciously, it’s usually because we haven’t given any thought to why we should have the right to hurt, whether it’s okay to hurt someone unnecessarily, or maybe we force ourselves not to think by telling ourselves thought-defying cliches like “this is just how the world is” or “people hurt me, so why shouldn’t I hurt others?” in order to ignore our consciences. Even saying “lack of empathy” doesn’t really cover it, because people with little to no empathy can act compassionately by choosing to think about these things, and people who pride themselves on their empathy often act in ways sorely lacking it towards those they consider “acceptable targets”. People become and remain bigots or toxic, self-centered people not because they necessarily are trying to be evil and malicious, but because the sad fact of the matter is that it just takes the least effort. In other words, so many of the most widespread and most insidious social phenomenon, are made up of the things that we end up doing when we aren’t trying to do anything at all. This idea was reflected by Hannah Arendt in Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil:

“The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together…. The sad truth of the matter is that most evil is done by people who never made up their minds to be or do either evil or good… Evil comes from a failure to think. It defies thought for as soon as thought tries to engage itself with evil and examine the premises and principles from which it originates, it is frustrated because it finds nothing there. That is the banality of evil.”

I like this idea of isfet in particular because while it still holds a sufficient amount of horror at how easy it is for regular people to contribute to the force that degrades all goodness and life, it also inherently humanizes even people who I, personally, hate. If I understand that the times that I’ve been selfish or lost my temper were times when I wasn’t trying hard enough to do the right thing rather than an act of some alien, abstract, inhuman evil in me, then I understand that the same holds true for others, as well. It doesn’t inspire me to be so forgiving as to ignore evil being done, but it does require me to recognize that even the people I consider the most reprehensible are fundamentally human, and capable of change for the better. This is the reason I can ultimately ignore the philosophical implications of ma’at being opposed to “rebels” or “foreigners” that I discussed earlier. The paradigm of Ma’at Vs. Isfet is life-affirming in the sense that it starts from the basic assumption that the world is not fallen or sinful, but inherently good and worthy of life; that the problems and evil that the world does contain are aberrations and accidents, not some fatal irredeemable flaw in the universe’s contents or function. Ultimately, opposing isfet means understanding that the world and the people in it, for all our issues and chaos and brokenness, are still infinitely better than the alternative, and infinitely worth the effort of protecting, maintaining, and improving.

Isfet finds a foothold in our lives when we accept that it’s better not to make our own choices, consider other points of view, challenge our preconceptions, challenge ourselves to do better: first by thinking and speaking, and then by acting. It is literally caused by a lack of the vital moral spark that causes us to devote ourselves to defending and maintaining Ma’at. Our mission as kemetics to assist the gods in opposing A/p/e/p is often described as “making sure the world keeps existing”, and that’s true; however, we ought to remember that the existence of the entire universe is the gods’ responsibility. Our responsibility is the continuing existence of humanity– not just in the literal sense that we need to make good decisions to make sure our species is able to stay alive, but that our job is to preserve our sense of humanity as intelligent, thinking beings that care about each other. We must preserve the understanding that our actions have the capacity to gain us immortality because of how they affect those around us, and that our duty as human beings is to treat everyone as an equal, with dignity and care, especially when they are vulnerable and in need. Just as the gods defeat the monstrous manifestation of nonbeing in the form of A/p/e/p by defeating i/t in battle each and every night, so must we defeat the metaphorical manifestation of nonbeing within ourselves in the form of not giving a shit by being excellent to ourselves, the Earth, the gods, and one another, each and every day.

Personal Mythology: Exploring Kemet 2

The text message screen reads:

Temper.

Who are you???

Who are you???

Who are you???

Who are you???

One question at a time.

Ha ha.

Would you believe I’m your conscience?

that was a sarcastic laugh btw

Yes, I gathered that.

no, i don’t believe you’re my conscience.
seriously, i haven’t spoken to anyone in weeks.
Do you know where i am? Or how to leave?

and who ARE you???

I know it may seem hard to believe, but I don’t
want to tell you who I am because you won’t
believe me.

i believe in a lot of weird stuff i didn’t last
month, and i just saw some really weird shit. try me

I am the Egyptian god of knowledge, magic
and writing, the thrice-great ibis god Thoth.

Bullshit

Look, if you don’t want to tell me who you are,
you don’t have to. is there anything you can tell me
about this place? ive been lost for weeks!

That, I can do.

My “thrice-great” new best friend with a weird sense of humor texts for so long I start to wonder if he’s just typing random buttons to mess with me, and then my phone dings repeatedly with each new message as one full paragraph after another pops up before my eyes, much too fast to be anything but a prepared story, copy/pasted piece by piece:

There once was a land named Kemet. It was rich and famous, powerful and ancient. Its people were convinced they were the holiest of all people, the wisest of all nations. Powerful pharaohs immortalized their accomplishments throughout successful reigns, only for their successors to deface their statues and erase their legacies in vain attempts to guarantee their own posthumous fame, at the expense of another’s.

The empire was mighty and colorful and feared by is neighbors. Its people were well-fed and well-educated, pious and eloquent, old-fashioned and proud. They were born through the pain of their mothers, played by rivers or in the burning sun; they told jokes to each other, worked hard, got drunk, fell in love, raised families, and when it was their time, they died. They hoped to join Osiris’ holy kingdom in death, to be vindicated by the feather of ma’at and allowed eternal life in presence of their gods.

There is much more to tell about these people, but unfortunately, we must focus on their demise. When it was Kemet’s time, it fell, and its people suffered and died just as their foreign neighbors had. Osiris’ kingdom slowly received less and less, until it appeared that Kemet was no more, existing only in the dreams of the living and forgotten upon waking. But dreams are a kingdom in their own right, and some strange beings can build a home for themselves out of dreams.

That is where you are, child. Kemet’s last territory: our kingdom of memories and dreams.

I read the words with a strange mix of incredulous skepticism, and a small but steadily growing anxiety at the eerie familiarity of this story. No matter how far it stretches my suspension of disbelief, it just feels true. With shaking fingers, I type a reply:

And ghosts.

We’ve got a few of those, yes.

I wonder why I expected them to deny it, and a shudder sucker-punches me with a sudden inability to ignore the growing terror. If I thought I was afraid when I believed I was completely alone, it’s nothing compared to realizing I am less alone than I would like to be, after all.

srsly, what do i call u?

Thrice-Great, if you must. And what should
I call you, O smarmy neophyte?

Like hell I’m telling this weirdo my name.

how bout u just call me smarmy neophyte?

Very well. Smarmy it is.

I spend the longest period of time in one spot that I have since I entered the ruins, asking questions and trying to convince the mysterious figure to play it straight with me. I quickly (privately) conclude that whoever it is, they’re not the sort of person I would otherwise talk to for very long. They go on informative tangents about seemingly random topics, often concluding with a moral lesson about the subject matter rather than practical answers to my questions. It’s not unlike talking to a professor who’s trying to stick to his lesson plan despite the fact that I’m lost, cold, hungry, and scared -for the moment, I’m more concerned with finding my way out than learning about Egyptology. I’m able to gather that they are claiming this place is a sort of psychic otherworldly mirror to the place’s physical ruins, one populated by the ideas, ghosts, spirits, and gods of the culture it had hosted when it lived.

I find the idea fascinating, and after witnessing this place’s bizarre magical properties firsthand, I have no reason to assume they are lying -although the claim that “the gods live much further in, if you continue trying to leave you’re unlikely to encounter them anyways” to sound suspiciously convenient for someone who once claimed to be one of said gods, but refused to talk on the phone or send a picture, claiming they “can only send words”. Give me a break. If you’re going to impersonate a god, I thought, you should at least make it sound convincing. Who does this guy think he’s fooling? I save the number in my contacts as “Thrice Great” (noting that there still is no phone number in the contact information), and jokingly start referring to him as 3G as both a callback to his absurd claim, and to the strange pockets of magical Wi-Fi that make our conversations possible.

But despite his lack of candor, my new friend obviously knows their way around this place. 3G tells me how to navigate through the halls I’ve already seen. Apparently the routes change somewhat predictably, according to the “hour of the night and the position of the stars”, and even if I manage to find my way back to the right “special dimensions”, I may have to wait until the same day and hour next year to safely travel back to Earth.

i can’t wait that long!!

Relax. There is another option.

what is it?

We’ll need to meet face-to-face to discuss it.
I’ll send you directions to my office.

im supposed to just believe you? how do I know
this isn’t a wild goose chase, or a trap?

What else are you going to do? You’ve
wandered too far to retrace your steps alone.

3G’s right; what other choice do I have? When he sends the instruction to take a left and go down that corridor until I find another Wi-Fi signal, I steel myself against the possibilities the path may hold, and take a left.


I’ll never admit it aloud -least of all to 3G- but the two hours it takes to find the pocket of connectivity 3G are among the most nerve-wracking of my life. After so long talking to no one but myself and the inscrutable writing on the walls around me, being able to text anyone at all is almost intoxicating, even without the tales of ancient magic and myth. I start to wonder if I’ve lost my mind and begun to hallucinate, so I get out my notes and sketch my path as I walk in order to keep my mind occupied.

This is unfortunate, because the path takes me through an abandoned temple of Heru, and the walls are decorated with the more grisly details of his story. A few months ago I was too green to read these hieroglyphics as I walk, being on my very first field assignment and inexperienced with interpreting the symbols without help. Now though, I’ve memorized enough of the symbols to be able to make out the gist as I walk slowly, keeping pace with the six-inch-tall birdheaded avatar of the falcon god as it transforms into a hippo and struggles with another of the dangerous water mammals, the one with the stationary hieroglyphics above the scene name as the god of chaos, Set, with his distinctive long-eared mystery animal.

I scribble “Contendings” over the sketch of the hallway I’m walking in, then look back at the next portion of the wall. I don’t need to struggle through the descriptive hieroglyphics to recognize the story the avatars are acting out: Heru’s mother Aset, moved by her murderous brother’s cry for help, flings her spear at her son. I watch, strangely fascinated as the spear moves in slow motion into the hippo’s shoulder; the avatar pauses in its battle against the other wounded hippo, and then transforms back into the falcon-headed god. He pulls the spear out of his shoulder, flings it aside, and then rushes toward the winged female avatar of his mother.

Despite knowing what happens next, I wince when the avatar pulls out its little hieroglyphic sword and decapitates his mother. The head even seems to roll once on the dirt, before the avatar for Aset fades altogether, and Heru’s avatar takes off running. To my surprise, he runs faster than I’m walking, and then disappears around a corner- the opposite way that 3G had advised me to walk.

I’m possessed by a short-lived, wild impulse to forget about the map, and follow the avatar to the conclusion of his story. It’s a bad idea. For one thing, I know how the story goes; for another, these hieroglyphics never tell just one myth at a time. One myth leads into another, or sometimes are just the justification for a lengthy, dry wall full of Egyptian spells for everything from fighting headaches, to having a healthy baby, to defeating the enemies of Ra. If I try to follow Heru’s little avatar into the desert, there’s no telling where I’ll end up -and who’s to say the route won’t change, once I leave?

Following the hieroglyphics through this maze is the quickest road to insanity. I take a right, following the path that is outlined in the text messages on my phone, rubbing a stubborn stray eyelash out of my right eye as I walk.


The next pocket of Wi-Fi is where 3G had said it would be, and as soon as I see I have a stronger signal here than I’ve had since last week, I immediately pull out the sharp iron spike I’d managed to break off a booby trap a few days in and start carving the symbol into the wall. As I finish the third, smallest curved line, my ringtone goes off, and once I’m done with my task, I pull out the phone and check my messages.

That’s the wrong symbol, you know.

it’s the wifi symbol

I know; that’s the wrong symbol. You should
be using ear stelae. I can send you an
example if you like.

those are for talking to gods. i just need
to remember where the wifi is

Haven’t you noticed the power the old glyphs
have in here? If you want to make it through
this place, it will behoove you to play by its
rules.

christ, why do you always have to talk like that?

“It would behoove you,” I mutter to myself, mocking. What a windbag.

Wait a minute.

how did you even see what i carved???

I would tell you, but you won’t believe me.
Forgive my impatience, but we both have
more pressing matters to attend to -no time
to argue every little matter. It is simply enough
that I can see, nevermind how.

this is so fucked up. you’re probably a serial
killer in a room full of screens from hidden cameras

Don’t be so melodramatic. You must trust me:
I am your ally, and once you arrive at my
office, all will be explained. For now, heed my
warning: those who try to navigate through
Kemet while denying the power of heka itself
never fare well.

Overwhelmed, I sink to the floor under the “incorrect” symbol I’ve carved, not caring if it means I lose the signal. I’d assumed 3G was someone else like me, who’d been in here so long that they lost touch with reality (and with normal social skills), become so obsessed with the magic of the place they fancy themselves a deific guide to others travelling through. He clearly was able to contact me through some kind of hieroglyphic magic, but I’d never considered that he had the ability to watch me -all in order to scold me about taking the ancient Egyptian’s magic seriously, no less!

I scroll up to re-read one of the first texts 3G sent: “I am the Egyptian god of knowledge, magic and writing, the thrice-great ibis god Thoth.” Thoth the Egyptian god would certainly feel strongly about defacing temples with non-Egyptian symbols, as well as the important of heka. Could it be…?

I shake the silly thought from my head vigorously, rubbing my eye as it begins to itch again (I must’ve scratched it when I was digging the eyelash out earlier). 3G is just an annoying pedant who’s figured out how to use this place’s magic to his advantage and likes roleplaying as a big powerful ancient god, nothing more. But either way, he clearly has great insight into how to navigate, and may even have greater power here than he’s letting on. If I play along with his delusions of grandeur and appear to acquiesce to his demands, I may be able to get further assistance -or even learn how he’s able to use hieroglyphics to halt objects flying through the air, or spy on people who are connected to magical Wi-fi. I text back:

ok, ok. i’ll change it.

I do my best to carve the top curve around, into an ear shape, and add a few more adjustments to make the signal look as similar to the ancient ear stelae that the Egyptians used to carve near temples, in order to boost their voices to be heard by their gods.

Good. Now that we’ve settled that, we can move
on to figuring out the best route forward.


tfw you’re writing a character who’s smarter than you :/ but the character still is doing the urban fantasy thing where they’re like “yeah this magic thing is undoubtedly magic but i’m 100% positive this OTHER magic thing is obviously bullshit, i’m not an idiot” even though that makes no sense :/

Personal Mythology: Exploring Kemet

So, I’m trying something slightly new here, since this idea caused me to be possessed by the spirit of creative writing and write more in one sitting than I have in months. This first entry of a short story is a sort of heavily metaphorical meditation on my experience with, and feelings toward, kemeticism and my place in the religion. I’ve been trying to start working on a personal mythology for a while, and this seems as good a way to start as any. I’ve used creative writing as a powerful magical tool before, particularly for shadow work, and I’m excited to see where this experiment takes me, as well as hoping to make some art that other kemetics can enjoy and relate to!

Due to the fantasy elements in the story, as well as my experience with religion being tied tightly to my astral experiences, it may come across as an autobiographical astral log, but I wrote it hoping for something closer to a combination of symbolism, personal history, and deeper emotional and philosophical truths in the same way legends and myths about our religious figures are. The character I’m writing about is supposed to represent the part of me that’s passionate about kemeticism and curious about the ancient Egyptians/their beliefs, but isn’t actually supposed to be a direct self-insert; I’m not going to school to be an archaeologist, and I certainly didn’t get into college with a sports scholarship, for example.

Finally, while I am doing this as religious offering of sorts, this is still just fiction, and I fully intend to make it funny and entertaining. If I do end up including gods in the story, you should see them as fictional characters based on said gods, the same way characters in historical fiction are based on actual people, but aren’t supposed to be interpreted as the author claiming those figures literally acted the way they did in said work of fiction.


When I arrive at the vast ruins of a once-great city-state that I have been hired to explore, record, and study in as much detail as I can for the next few months, I can barely contain my excitement -so much so that my co-workers tease me for having “crazy eyes” as they drop me off. As I pack my bag, my mind is full of fanciful visions of what I’ll discover here, palaces and tombs and marketplaces and temples and its famous river, the Nile, still flowing through its center. I brought my flashlight and some maps, my phone and some cheat sheets of meanings for some of the most common ancient words in their arcane script that the ancients carved beautifully into many of the more important walls, my compass and cameras, some tarot cards, some books, some courage. I know, I know -an embarrassingly inappropriate set of tools for exploring Kemet, not even a weapon in sight. But give me a break; remember, I was told the city had died long ago. How was I supposed to know it was magical?

I rushed headlong into the places where angels fear to tread, over-confident in my knowledge and ability find my way out, too excited at the prospect of studying my field from the ancient walls themselves instead of dry and boring books for a change. But despite the notes I took, despite leaving a trail and counting my steps, the doors didn’t line up with where they had been before. I tried retracing my steps and going again, but was shocked to discover the door I was looking for was in an third different place the third time I searched for it. I was lost in a labyrinth, one I swiftly became sure was changing as I walked through it. I felt a slight foreboding dread, like the first shift in the wind before a storm, as I realized this place was furthest thing from dead, although some more superstitious than I had been warned it was inhabited mainly by ghosts.

I shivered. What was this place?


The strange arcane writing of those who built this city on Earth, and who dreamed it into its current state of liminality and memories, is not the only writing to be found. To my shock, there’s no short supply of graffiti on the walls as well, mostly chipped and faded and in languages I don’t speak, but Google translate and a vague comprehension of the subject matter can do a lot if you’ve got nothing better to do than try for hours, crouched in a corner and holding a shaky flashlight over your scribbled notes and a book or two that I either brought with me, or found lying around -sometimes in neat stacks, sometimes even with food or a picture of the ancient peoples’ gods nearby. It feels wrong somehow, to disturb them, like stealing- but how else would I stay alive, and learn enough about this bizarre place to have a hope of finding my way?

But I’d be lying if I said I were in a hurry to leave. This place turns out to be strange and dangerous, littered with dilapidated infrastructure and even the occasional booby trap of varying cruelty, but it’s also full of new and exciting discoveries. I had walked in here hopeful to discover even a handful of strange uses of well-known hieroglyphics, or maybe the remains of a humble home altar. Instead I found hieroglyphics I had never seen before, next to symbols from entirely different languages, as people from all over the planet and all walks of life had apparently traveled through these halls just as I was throughout the ages. As a young scientist, barely out of school and for whom the distinction of “historian” is still well out of reach, the idea of somehow going back to Earth to show off all the pictures and notes I’ve taken in here appeals irresistibly to not only my scientific curiosity, but my ambition. Just imagine the theories I’d be able to argue for, I tell myself as I struggle to navigate through confusing and frustrating passageways, sometimes by only my flashlight and the light of the moon. I’ll be a world-famous Egyptologist for sure, just wait.

I tell myself that that’s why I’m still here, continuing to search through and document these ruins -for prestige, fame and fortune, or for the betterment of mankind through scientific advancement, when I’m feeling particularly philanthropic. All the same, part of me knows the real reason I’m here is that I’m unable to find my way out, and the reason I’m taking so many notes, is that it’s easier to focus on the exciting mysteries and magic of the place I’m lost in than to contemplate the possibility I’ll be lost forever.

Some of the walls don’t just have carvings and graffiti, some of the hieroglyphs move. They show their meaning through their interaction with the other symbols and drawings, and when I check them against my growing knowledge of their meanings, I can make out the familiar stories in the hieroglyphic’s movements: Nut giving birth. Aset tricking Ra into revealing his Name, forcing him to surrender the throne of Kemet to Osiris. Nephthys and Aset, mourning for their lost king. Horus, victorious, flanked by his mother, or holding his father’s corpse above his head, or victorious in battle. It’s fascinating, and after days of reading dry and confusing material, the boredom has allowed me to find even these slow-moving and hard to follow narratives as fascinating as movies once were.

Sometimes, in moments of overwhelming loneliness that I can no longer deny is tipping into madness, I try to talk to the hieroglyphics, my voice cracking from lack of use. I ask them how to leave. I ask them where I am, why my maps don’t match up with anything in here, although they looked accurate as anything based on satellite pictures of the place. I ask them why they’re showing me these same stories over and over, when the stories were the first thing I read -the fun part of studying, before I had to take the long, dry requisite Egyptology courses to be allowed on a trip like this- so what’s the point? Why can’t they tell us anything new, or tell me where I am, or where to go?

The symbols are implacable in their wisdom; in constant motion and interaction with one another, but never straying an inch from their paths. Their dance is an ancient and solemn one, unmoved by something so petty as a beating heart, or its eventual deterioration into the soil. I learn not to stare too long at them, but to keep my mind occupied with other mysteries besides the price these symbols paid for their famed longevity: an existence of profound indifference.


There are others exploring these same ruins. Sometimes I could swear one is just a wall or two away from me; sometimes I even think I hear them walking around or talking in jovial tones nearby, but when I call out, nobody responds. I wonder if they’re ghosts, after all. I wonder if I’m starting to lose it.

But somehow, I don’t think I am. If no one else was in here, where else would these little piles of food come from? Sometimes they’re full meals, warm to the touch even. How, if no one had been there recently?

Besides, there is the question of the graffiti. Some of it is in English, written recently, with practical advice: “Avoid the upcoming stairs on the left, they lead to a dropoff into a dungeon.” “Remember to stay hydrated in the daytime!” “This hieroglyphic is often mistranslated. Look in the book I left below for more information.” (The book is long since missing by the time I get there.) Sometimes it’s more emotional or poetic, which feels at once touching, and somehow even more eerie than the shifting walls and doors and hieroglyphics telling their bitterly identical, slow stories. “Keep your chin up! Discovery is worth the trouble! 😊” “Remember, the gods love you!” “This part was really difficult for me, but I made it. Don’t give up!”

My favorites tend to be the jokes though. I’m not quite as excited when I find one as when I find a new definition for a couple of symbols, or some very helpful advice on how to get through a confusing or booby-trapped passage, but it’s the jokes (ranging from silly puns to bitter swear words and rants at the unfairness of the moving walls, or even decrying the character of the gods themselves) scribbled over older instructions that make me feel the least alone. Heretical or not, it’s refreshing to know that other people also got frustrated and angry as they traveled through this frustrating, abandoned-but-not-quite-dead, magical, and just plain fuckoff confusing maze (which in all fairness to all of us, looked completely normal from the outside). “Fuck this place!” someone wrote, and someone else in another room wrote a bawdy joke about “The Lettuce Incident” that left me (starved for entertainment and comedy as I am) weak against the wall, shaking from laughter. How is this place both an older Pompeii, and an ill-supervised subway station?

It’s not long before I’m itching to write my own messages to future hapless explorers on the walls -I’ve discovered quite a few handy tips as I’ve wandered, and am even starting on an updated map of some of the parts that stay relatively the same each time I wind up passing through again- but I’m nervous I’d be misleading people. I’ve been here for months and have barely scratched the surfaces of the mysteries this places holds. How can I further deface these halls when I’m not even 100% sure the warnings and instructions are right? I’ve got bruises and skinned knees and more than a few scars from bad tips I took by faith as I explored -but not as many as I have from going at it with no advice at all. Besides, marking where I’ve already gone is the best way not to get lost again.

I eventually compromise with sticky notes. Better than nothing, but extremely temporary, so easy to just peel off and discard completely. I wish I could think of a better idea.

I wish a lot of things.


Whenever I find a place where my cell has service, I tend to spend hours there, procrastinating. It’s one of the few places where I ignore my inner academic screeching with fury, and carve a common symbol for Wi-Fi deeply into the walls, to be sure I’ll be able to find the spots later. Most of them are not exactly a great connection, but I’m able to research my theories and notes in my own language and most others I’ve found, with only a few seconds on waiting for slow-ass internet to load instead of hours of guesswork and comparing it with my own notes of dubious accuracy. (I went to school to become an archaeologist, after all, not a linguist.) For some reason, the battery never dies, but calling and texting people outside of this place doesn’t work. My phone will let me read, but not interact with the outside world in any way, even through tweeting. I still try it every time, and one day, the phone’s text back that it was unable to send the text to my mother because I’m still out of service, the isolation is all at once too much for me to bear. In a fit of rage and stupidity, I throw my phone down the hall as hard as I can -and since I originally got into my university on a softball scholarship, that turns out to be quite a bit harder than I expected.

I’m horrified by my impulsivity before it even begins to sink toward the ground, but as I watch helplessly my best and only link to the outside world fly through the air, something stranger than usual happens.

A hieroglyph on the wall glows red as the phone sails by it, freezing the phone in midair.

My jaw drops.

The phone sinks slowly to only a foot over the floor, and then the glow around the hieroglyph disappears and the phone thuds to the ground. There’s a puff of dust around it, like the world’s tiniest and most harmless mushroom cloud. The hieroglyph has faded seamlessly into the wall, and in my complete confusion, I didn’t recognize a single discernible trait of the symbol itself, other than its color. My mind flashes, unbidden, through scenes from movies with lasers in mysterious hallways -they usually don’t bode well for the person trying to make it through those hallways- but what I’d seen wasn’t exactly a laser, per se. I’m also pretty sure this place doesn’t work on Resident Evil logic. Besides, I just passed through that way a few minutes ago, and neither me nor my phone seemed to merit the not-laser’s attention then.

I silently pray that this place doesn’t work on Resident Evil logic, and slowly tiptoe toward my phone like I’m afraid it’ll detonate. My phone continues to sit in the dust, like a perfectly normal phone, except for the fact that it had just been levitated out of the would-be predictable, catastrophic consequences of my fit of rage. With shaking hands, I pick it up, wipe the dust off the screen onto my shirt, and turn it on.

There are no words I know, or have learned since entering this place, that describe the excitement and terror I feel when I see that I’ve got a new notification for the first time since I entered this labyrinth.

Somehow, I have just received a text.

Feverishly, I tap my entry code into my phone -annoyed at myself for changing the PIN to an 8 digit number one day, when the boredom and anxiety bled into senseless, illogical paranoia- and with shaking hands, I type the code incorrectly twice before I manage to open it.

I tap on the screen, revealing the text has only one word: Temper.

I have no reason to believe replying will work, but I can’t help it. I type back, Who are you???

It doesn’t send, and I hit the button over and over again in frustration and panic -and, if I’m completely honest with myself, the very same burning curiosity that led me to study archaeology and anthropology in the first place, to study long hours over months and years of my education in order to have the privilege to discover new things about the past with my own hands and eyes. How did this happen? What new mystery have I stumbled upon?

I remember all at once that the Wi-Fi only works a few yards behind where I’m standing, and I practically run headlong into the wall in my haste to stand where I had just been.

The symbol for service slowly creeps up to two bars, and I’m shocked when I see the loading animation for my text for a full, nerve-wracking five seconds, before my phone sends the messages I had accidentally told it to as I pressed the button over and over. The texts pop up one on top of the other, Who are you??? Who are you??? Who are you??? Who are you??? I think to myself that the repeating words and rows of question marks are strangely appropriate, as it pretty much represents my new inner mantra.

I stare into the screen, hoping against hope, dreading receiving any kind of a message, dreading receiving nothing even more than that. The text is normal except for the fact that there’s no name or number attached to it; just a blank void, another mystery.

I gasp out loud when the three dots appear over the left side of the screen, indicating that whoever I’ve somehow contacted, is now texting back.


Tune in next time to discover (along with me) WHO is texting the protagonist, WHAT the protagonist’s name and gender even are, and also WHERE the hell I am going with this!

Setian Justice

I originally wrote this post months ago, before quarantine had begun, and back when the idea of a mass popular uprising in the U.S. against the police seemed like a distant pipe dream. It was just a philosophical debate back then, but as the months have gone by and I’ve procrastinated finishing and posting this due to a series of chaotic circumstances caused directly by the pandemic (and by my community’s political leaders choosing to ignore it in favor of protecting profit and “law and order” in the streets), I’ve come to realize I’m remiss in my responsibilities if I continue to sit on this post.

Alternatively titled: A Response to ‘Horian Peace


I used to be friends with the author of the above post, until I had to cut him off when I realized I could no longer continue to make exceptions to my integrity because I enjoy the person’s company and advice. I don’t want to start shit with him, or bring him any negative attention for this post, but I am taking the risk -effectively further estranging someone who I genuinely believe doesn’t deserve to be #cancelled, because the views he eloquently expressed in this post are very, very common in both the kemetic and larger pagan community. I believe that it is one of the biggest obstacles we face as a community, that it’s at least partially responsible for the widespread racism in white pagan spaces, and I believe that it is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” kind of ideology -one that too many genuinely kind and intelligent people subscribe to, because it’s so benign and seems so helpful at first glance. I would be remiss in my responsibilities both as a follower of Set and as a political activist in general (for all you losers and haters out there: yes, I also attend protests and do political volunteer work in my real life, with my physical body; no, I will not send you evidence to prove it, thereby risking my safety or political goals for internet clout) if I didn’t address the threat this mindset presents to us, and if I’m going to choose any person or any post to represent this mindset, I’d rather it be someone who deserves the clicks, generally speaking. I’m formatting this post as a response to his post, but it’s really directed at any kemetics who share his opinions in general. I have seen only a handful of kemetics siding with “law and order” with regards to the protests and riots demanding justice for George Floyd (and all other Black Americans whose lives are forfeit according to this great holy nation we call America), and I’m hoping this post will prevent me from seeing very many more.

The post I linked above was liked and shared by several kemetics, on WP and tumblr, with whom I’ve had certain amounts of disagreements with about politics -which is my polite way of saying I think they’re bigoted dipshits who functionally oppose Ma’at while claiming to uphold it. You’ll notice the difference in tone between how I talk about said dipshits and how I talk about the Horian I’m actually responding to, and that’s intentional; enabling and emboldening bigots is not quite as bad as being a bigot yourself.

But it is almost as bad, because without people who are willing to do just that, bigots and fascists would be revealed immediately for the paper tigers that they are. But nice, normal people like my Horian ex-friend, people who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who just want to survive and be left in peace, who want crops without plowing up the ground and rain without thunder and lightning -I don’t doubt their good intentions. My fiancee (son of Tyr, and the guy nice enough to help edit this post even though he’s a Heathen redditor with no idea who or what the hell I am talking about. I love you man thanks again ❤ Note from editor: when I asked if kemetics would know who Tyr was or what “Heathen” meant I was swiftly informed that I have “Norse privilege”. Make of that you will.) often reminds me that I should assume people are stupid instead of evil 9 times out of 10. This is usually good advice, but I don’t think y’all are stupid or evil (most of you, anyways). I don’t think you’re “fluffy and naive” either. I think you’re willfully ignorant; I think you’re acting in self-serving ways while pretending to be martyrs about it; I think there’s a strong possibility that you’re a coward; and honestly, I think that you’ve been lied to your whole lives about what good and evil is. In kemetic terms, I think that you’ve mistaken the peace we defend from isfet for the refusal to pick up arms against isfet.

Horus himself recently told me “words are [my] wand” (which is his polite way of saying “watch your mouth or I’ll watch it for you”); and he’s not wrong. I don’t want to continue my bad habit of lashing out in anger when the right thing to do is stay my hand. However, ever since COVID-19 hit, and the news is full of stories of the death and destruction caused by our government’s incompetence and greed, as well as laying bare the absolute brutality and class warfare at the core of America’s police and justice system; as I realized that both the malice of the powerful, and the complacency of our society in general, were to blame for what is happening to our home, I realized this is something that is worth the fight. (Editor’s note: At time of notation, the death toll is 20+ and 11,000+ people have been arrested.) And now that I see most of the nation’s biggest cities have reached the flashpoint some part of me has expected all my life, I realized that it’s my responsibility to remind my fellow kemetics that our hearts will be judged by Anubis’s scales one day, and if you choose to side with the rich and powerful over the poor, sick, and suffering, that decision is likely to weigh heavy on your heart from now until the day you die.

Now, to bring this back to the original conversation the post is referring to: Shezep is arguing, in a nutshell, that it is better to make compromises with those that hate us -at the time, he was referring to Donald Trump supporters and TERFs- in hopes that our kindness to them will eventually convince them to see us as human beings, and treat us with the respect we are due. He decried the amount of arguing and fighting going on in the community about political differences, and claimed it was because “he knows what happens when peace fails” and that, at the end of the day, it was better to, well…turn the other cheek.

If the arguments in Shezep’s post were being used in response to any kind of violent, or even socially disruptive but peaceful, demonstrations against Kemetic/Pagan bigotry, I would be inclined to take them more seriously (even if I would still argue against them). But this is how people (including him) in the Kemetic community talk about online arguments, a lot of them more in the tone of one of the more heated debates one might hear in a college class or a professional setting, about how we should address these community issues -or rather, if we should be addressing them at all. Tell me this: if just arguing online is an unacceptably cruel and “chaotic” way to fight racism and transphobia in our communities, how in the goddamn fuck are we supposed to fight it?

If you honestly consider the risk of a flame war to be too great to justify telling a TERF to go fuck themselves as an act of solidarity towards all trans/nonbinary kemetics, you need to quit acting like you’re motivated by a desire to protect the community. You are motivated by a desire to remain comfortable and keep your hands clean, and it’s obvious to everyone who hasn’t bought into either American conservatism, or this stupid Kumbaya bullshit that American Democrats delude themselves into believing counts as “being on the right side of history”. History is written by the victors, and I didn’t see very much victory on our side until people accepted the necessity of Setian justice. The George Floyd protests and riots have achieved the following: a 75% budget cut to the LAPD, The Minneapolis city council is pushing for complete abolition of the MPD and the NYPD has had to suspend personal days off for its officers, forcing them to work 7 days a week and 12 hours shifts. These are the first of many victories to come in the next weeks and months.

So no, trying to befriend and politely explain to bigots why bigotry is bad is not a feasible plan. No matter how charming and awesome at debating you are, you will never convince enough of these people to change their minds, to even slightly reduce the threat they post to the marginalized members of our community. The only thing you are doing is setting the precedent, in the minds of the victims and the victimizer, that keeping the peace with the bully is more important than protecting the bullied. You cannot beat a bigot by agreeing to play their game by their rules:

“Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.”

― Jean-Paul Sartre

The reason this Horian’s words have gotten under my skin so much that I’ve been thinking about this post for so long after he posted it, is that I used to be friends with some truly awful, violent people and their children; people I couldn’t safely come out to, people who’d beaten me up before, people who’d done all varieties of morally unacceptable shit, up to and including joining Nazi Skinhead gangs in prison (and then grooming their children into the same cult of hate and ignorance). I usually don’t talk about it online -not out of white guilt, but because people honest to God accuse me of making it up for attention when I talk about it publicly. I genuinely cared, and still care, about some of them, despite that; and sometimes I was able to change their minds about stuff by talking to them. It’s possible, but it takes a lot of time; I would need to be talking to someone about this for months at least to make any kind of leeway with your typical obnoxious conservative, much less convince an ex-Proud Boy to start being proud of voting blue. (Not that the ones I talked to were in that particular Hitler fan club, to my knowledge, but the joke doesn’t work otherwise.) In my religious life, I’m a friend and ally to the spirits known as the Outlaw Dead, and “outlaws” include people I, personally, find reprehensible (although I do make and enforce rules declaring any hate groups or war criminals persona not grata in my practice). I understand, far better than most people assume I do, the value of loving your enemy, of forgiveness, of sometimes pursuing the “hearts and minds” strategy, of pursuing nonviolent methods whenever feasible. (For example, the National Guard in Atalanta Georgia used peaceful crowd control methods, by playing music and dancing with the protesters. This not only protected the protesters 1st amendment rights, but kept the situation peaceful as anyone trying to start a fight would be extremely obvious in that situation.)

The thing is, “winning hearts and minds” makes for a great soundbite, but it simply isn’t a strategy that could realistically be used to make the kind of changes we need in our community; not to mention that it can be actually dangerous for people to put themselves in that position. It turned out to be a pretty bad strategy for socialists in 1939 Germany, for example. Especially considering you’re not a member of all the marginalized groups you’re encouraging to take this strategy, it is completely out of line to tell them, “No, we shouldn’t be mean to your oppressors; we just need to spend weeks, months, and years making them a regular part of our lives until we form a strong enough interpersonal relationship with people who hate us, that they’ll choose our friendship over the hate they’ve made a part of their identity for most of their lives”. Even if it was guaranteed to get results (which it usually does not!), that is a lot of work, time, and resources for a relatively small amount of enemies turned to possible allies. But actually standing up and making yourself a problem for the oppressors (Editors note: It also happens to be way more fun, in case anyone’s keeping score.)? Well, then the bastards are willing to negotiate. It wasn’t until police precincts were set on fire and the police had to face mobs of angry, unemployed, scared citizens with nothing to lose that they started to realize the tear gas and riot gear can’t subdue the mob forever, and they would have to make an actual effort to do their job without randomly beating and killing anyone they can get away with beating and killing. Part of the reason the Minneapolis city council is even considering police abolition is because rioters burned down the 3rd precinct. They also forced the officers to evacuate under a hail water bottles, trash and stones. The thin blue line dissolved the second citizens stood up, the same way the divine right of kings dissolved when people stopped believing in it.

I would also like to bring your attention to a famous poem about societies being taken in by fascism:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” The man who wrote this poem was a Catholic priest who got sent to a death camp, because rather than using his influence to oppose the tyrant, the Pope was doing everything in his power to appease Hitler and his followers.

Sometimes you don’t have control over your life, particularly when you’re a kid as I was, or an “essential worker” or laid off worker in America during June 2020, and sometimes you have to look the other way to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. However, that attitude (as well as blinding faith in authority and in the illusion that we are at the end of history) allowed to run amok results in the people giving up all their political power and passively allowing the rise of poor leadership that makes selfish and arrogant decisions. When that goes on for too long, you get a nation unequipped and unwilling to do what’s necessary to combat a plague, and then unequipped to do anything but surrender when half a city becomes a mob. Setian justice is being served as I type this, across the nation; I suppose I should feel vindicated, and in some ways I do. But…goddamn, man, what a mess. What an absolute waste. What a tragedy that it took this many deaths and this much blood and this many buildings burned in order to get justice for George, for Black America, for all of us who the government has condemned to die for the sake of “the economy”. If we had made it more of a problem a few years ago -general strikes, letter writing campaigns, outlawing hate symbols, refusing to compromise any of our public spaces to a death cult that believes in America over science and White Jesus over compassion….if we had refused to compromise earlier, this blood may never have been shed.

Politics starts with culture, and if we want to avoid remaining complacent (and therefore culpable) in these manifestations of isfet in our communities, we have to first look at how we talk about these issues. Online, where all you have to do is press a button to get someone away from you, we have a responsibility to stand up for our principles, even when it makes people uncomfortable or jeopardizes our social capital in our religious groups. If we don’t, they are not principles, but lies we tell ourselves to pretend we’re good people. Trying to encourage people to be wise and merciful in how they fight, to use the required force and no more, to allow our enemies quarter and defend their human rights as well as our own if it comes down to that, to encourage compromise itself; these calls to caution and moderation, to wise and compassionate action in conflict, are not the same thing as calls for no action at all -especially when action is sorely, sorely needed. Don’t think we don’t notice who you consistently choose to defend with your cries for “peace”, and don’t imagine that the bigots don’t notice either. As bitter as it is to be in the situation where “I’ve spent more time around violent racists and fascists than you have” is a helpful card to play, I am, in fact, playing that card: I was raised by and among these people. I know how they think and act, and I know that your “Horian Peace” theory isn’t just “naive” -it is disgracefully negligent.

Look, if I could do this shit as a child in real life dealing with dangerous adults, we as a community can do this shit now, as adults in internet conversations with other adults. If you legitimately cannot do that, you really should just keep your mouth shut, because you’re more likely to hurt the cause than help it. I agree with the premise that peace must be defended whenever possible. I disagree with your definition of peace, and I disagree with the sacrifices you’re willing to make in order to defend it. In fact, I believe that your actions, words, and attitudes on the matter are more likely to lead to more frequent and escalated conflicts, because you’re not defending a positive peace, which is the presence of justice, but a negative peace, which is the absence of tension. You don’t want to accept the new normal, any more than the cops who are currently getting their last acts of brutality in while they still can, before whatever reforms coming into effect in order to keep the people from burning the nation to the ground.

And on a personal note, the condescending tone of this post pisses me off at least as much as the content. My childhood was defined (and not in a good way!) by my father’s choice to join the military, in anger, fear, and ignorance, after 9/11; my adolescence was defined by the fallout of that decision; my entire life and the lives of everyone of my generation has been defined by the wartime culture of post-9/11 paranoia, racist hate, the horrific soil that grew the seeds of America’s current neo-fascist phase; the same soil that gave us the President that got rid of the pandemic response plan created by the last guy out of pettiness and spite; that didn’t shut down the country soon enough or long enough despite being repeatedly warned what would happen; the pre/sident whose leadership is currently costing literally hundreds of thousands of lives. The same pre/sident whose supporters the Horian who made the original post had been chastising everyone for not tolerating in our spaces because we wanted our spaces to be safe for all Kemetics except the ones who’ve made an identity around excluding and humiliating others for being different.

You’re not special for “knowing what happens when peace fails”; anyone can just look outside and see it. Peace has already failed. You are risking nothing -not even an argument, not even a couple moments of awkward discomfort- and decrying the “brutality” of people who choose to risk our reputations, comfort, mental health, and sometimes real-life financial livelihoods and safety so that we can say no, actually, you can’t be racist or transphobic and be a good kemetic, much less a good person. Trying to make sure bigots are uncomfortable in our spaces is not “dehumanizing them”; it’s taking them at their word about what they want to do to other human beings. It’s doing the bare minimum to act compassionately to their targets. Another great MLKJ quote is, “Hate cannot defeat hate; only love can do that”. But we cannot focus on the love required of us toward bigots to the exclusion of the love required of us toward their targets, and that is what sanctimonious, irresponsible comments on these matters do.

To those who still think this way: How dare you condescend to lecture us about “what happens when peace has failed”? How dare you live in a self-serving fantasy to protect your ego from the fact that your inaction has consequences, and then go write self-righteous posts blaming those consequences on the victims of the pandemic and of evil, tyrannical leadership? And as for Shezep, how dare you claim that all this is “Horian” when Horus is the champion of justice, vengeance against wrongdoers, and violently opposing threats to himself and his people, to Kemet, to Order, to Ma’at? You sound like the “Setians” who are openly and proudly xenophobic -and no wonder, since whenever one of us mean SJW Setians argues with the racist ones, you and your group of “both sides are always valid” enablers are some of the loudest voices siding with the racist version of Setianism, and the racist version of Kemeticism.

The kemetic community does not exist in a vacuum, and if you’re going to talk about this like it’s a real armed conflict, you need to take into account the larger political context of these conversations. It’s one of the greatest tragedies of being a human being that sometimes, at pivotal points in history, you must choose between peace and justice. We have the dubious honor of being alive in one such period; possibly the most important one yet, due to the climate emergency and the unlikelihood of our world’s nations taking it as seriously as it needs to be taken. I don’t like it either, but right now, we literally cannot have both peace and justice. We have to choose, and while I genuinely hope this post doesn’t hurt you too much, I also hope you at least regret that you’ve lost at least one friend over this…because you have made the wrong choice. I ask that, if you can, you believe me when I say I’m singling you out because I would rather give your blog a platform on mine than any other kemetic I’ve seen making these arguments. Also, I wouldn’t write long bitchy opinions responding to your opinions if I didn’t see value what you have to say; you argued your point eloquently, and that’s why it merited a genuine response. I hope you and yours are doing well. May we all survive these catastrophes, and all others to come.


 

Working With the Outlaw Dead

A year ago today I did a version of a kemetic ritual honoring the akhu that was specifically supposed to honor the “unmournable” akhu in Set’s name. At the time, I thought it would just be a one-time thing; a way to release souls who had not been mourned or had the opportunity to move on to the other side. Hoping to help aid them, I even summoned most of the psychopomps I knew the names of (Anubis, Hermes, and Jesus), hoping to get everyone to their preferred afterlife after an hour or two of fellowship. I thought that would be the end of it, but it very much wasn’t.  (Spirit/astral work in a nutshell, huh?) A lot of them ended up sticking around, requesting sanctuary in the place where they’d been given food, booze, entertainment and attention for the first time in, apparently, a very long time. I hadn’t done very much of any kind of spirit work at that point, but I ended up deciding to let them stay. That ended up being a better idea than I could’ve imagined, and I’ve added veneration of the Outlaw Dead as a permanent aspect of my practice; one that’s arguably even more important than my veneration of my deities.

Originally, it was only a ritual to mourn and release the unmourned. Now, the term went from “unmournable akhu” to “Outlaw Dead”, because it includes not only people who died without being mourned or given the rites their culture required, but people who lived and/or died as “outlaws”, mourned or not; not only criminals and enemies of the state, but people who were marginalized by their societies for any reason (especially those who died because of said marginalization/oppression). And then, since the original ritual itself was specifically meant to help the “unmourned” dead move on, with only the spirits who chose to stay and work with me staying, most of the Outlaw Dead I currently work with fall under the “outlaw/outsider” category, rather than simply “unmourned”. For this and other reasons, the Outlaw Dead are great to call on for magic with an activist bent. They’re also great to ask for help in general; I’m still regularly surprised by how quickly, and how much, they help when asked. Other witchy people I’ve had over have remarked on the positive energy they sense from their altar, especially during and after rituals.

In this post I’m going to first give some general advice on working with them safely and respectfully, and then share some specifics about what I do.

General Advice

If you already have a tradition, consider looking up what they did to honor their ancestors before copying what I’m doing here. Most religions have some kind of ancestor veneration, and the whole point (originally) of the ritual I did was to give some kind of mourning ceremony to the souls who weren’t properly mourned. If you have a tradition already, think of which kinds of people traditionally wouldn’t have been mourned, and make the required adjustments to make those souls the target of your rites. If you’re a strict recon, this may not be for you, as I have yet to find any prominent traditions that included veneration of specifically “outlaws” to their own culture. Working with them has also caused some run-ins with other deities; I’m pretty sure that Hermes, for example, wanted to bring more of the Outlaw Dead to the other side than wanted to go, and I suspect there was some sort of argument between him and Set about it. (Sorry, man. I guess I owe you a beer, if I ever visit a Hellenic’s altar and they’ll explain to me how Greek offerings work.) Heru and Tyr have both claimed that the chaotic/outlaw energy and goings-on can sometimes make their space uncomfortable to be in, so at the very least, separate the spaces where you venerate them from orderly, lawful entities.

Keep in mind that when you decide to invite the Outlaw Dead into your home….you are working with at least some spirits who did not, in their human lives, follow the rules. Be prepared for them to not do what you say right away, as you’re going to probably need to bribe or threaten at least some of them at some point. If you don’t want them to stay, tell them so, and be prepared to do banishing rituals if they don’t leave…although, whatever psychopomp you know best should be available and willing to help you carry any stragglers to the light for you, as an alternative to magical violence. It isn’t required to have a god or more powerful spirit in charge of the whole operation, but it’s what I do since I still don’t consider myself a particularly experienced or powerful witch, and therefore wanted to have the Set backing me up in case of emergencies. To their credit, though, the only real problems they’ve caused were political in nature; they haven’t ever, to my knowledge, gone back on their agreement to abide by the rules I gave to protect myself, my roommates, and our cat.

If you want them to stay, though…set ground rules immediately. Explain why the rules are there; “because I said so” doesn’t cut it. Bind them with your intent, but give them plenty of opportunities to escape if they so please. It’s not a bad idea to give them specific jobs, for example, the daily upkeep of your wards and protection of your household, since when I first started working with them I got more frequent requests for jobs than offerings. It’s also likely that if more than one or two are staying, they’ll want to be put into factions; in which case, it’s a good idea to give them specific ‘anchors’ in the form of pretty rocks or trinkets that you can move around as they request. I’ve taken to sometimes carrying a few of them (who’ve consented via divination) with me after asking them for luck, or protection. For more formal spells, though, I generally just use the sigils I made for them rather than their anchors.

Here’s the contract/binding words I used, after outlining the rules of the household and what I would expect from them while they stayed and received my offerings and veneration:

“And finally, I bind you with the description of our praxis:

From each according to their ability,
To each according to to their needs;
And so long as you harm only those who must be harmed,
Do as thou wilt.

With love, admiration, gratitude, and solidarity,
-[my real name]”

I made sigils for the 14 distinct “factions” of the Outlaw dead I work with, which I am including here with their permission. I don’t think that it would be necessary for anyone else who wants to honor the Outlaw Dead to use the same symbols, but these ought to call on the ones I work with when activated. They’re divided into either functions or identity markers, and I asked them each which faction they’d like to be in when I added eight more factions for a total of 14 a few months ago.

outlaw dead.jpg

(From left to right, respectively, starting on the first row: the Outlaw Dead as a whole; Serious Business/Bureaucrats; Warriors; Nature Lovers. Second row: Sick and Mad; Girls and Women; Poor and Starving; Heretics and Religious Minorities. Third row: Indigenous People; Team Edgy; Party Crowd; Idea Outlaws. Fourth row: Racial/Ethnic Minorities; Enemies of the State; Queer and LGBT+.)

I don’t think that it’s actually necessary to use any specific ritual to summon the Outlaw Dead, but as this is the one I used that got such surprising results, I’m choosing to include a variation of a ritual Devo posted last year from Eternal Egypt: Ancient Rituals for the Modern World by Richard J. Reidy (with a few more slight changes I’ve added since the last time I posted it) in case anyone is curious.


Approaching the Shrine:

Awake in peace, Lord of the Red Land, awake in peace.
I come to you, your servant, your son, I come to you.
Your beautiful scent, it calls me forward.
And upon you filling my nostrils
I, your servant, your son, I come to you.
I have made my way and I enter into your presence.
I am one of you.
Do not repulse me on the god’s path.
My feet are not impeded, I am not turned back from the god’s place.
I have looked upon you. I know you.
Your mighty Sha have enclosed me.
I have entered this place with ma’at in my heart
In order to honor the Akh of the Outlaw Dead upon this day.

*Step forward, or open the shrine, depending on your setup*

I open your temple. I come to you.
Your warmth and beauty surrounds me as I enter. I am not repulsed.
Behold, I have come to you to offer Ma’at,
to make sound the Eye for its lord.

Presentation of Light:

The torch comes to your ka, O Set, Lord of the Oasis.
Here comes he who promises the night after the day;
Here comes the two sisters from Ra;
Here comes she who was manifested in Abdju.
For I have caused it to come to you.
Even the Eye of Horus comes to you
Because I have made it so.

*Light first wick*

Come to this Eye of Horus, Great Set.
Let its light renew your youth in peace.

*Light second wick*

Come to this Eye of Horus, O Numerous Akhu who hear my call.
Come to this light and let it renew your youth in peace.

The Eye of Horus is your protection, O Weary One.
It spreads its protection over you; it defeats all of your adversaries.
Truly, your adversaries are fallen.

The Eye of Horus is your protection, O Akhu.
It spreads its protection over you; it defeats all of your adversaries.
Truly, your adversaries are fallen.

The Eye of Horus comes intact and shining
like Ra on the horizon.
The four torches go to your ka, O Set.
The four torches are your protection, O Lord of Ma’at
You are truly Enduring because of their protection.

It is Set who causes a torch to be bright for the potent Bas in the Duat and beyond.
May you make the living Ba of each and every Akh within your Domain
to be strong with their torch so that they will not be
repelled or turned back from the portals of the West.

Through your Rebellion and Strength,
Each and every akh in your Domain flourishes.
They are restored to their true shape and form
As sure as the sun crosses the sky every day.

Purification of offering space:

*Take up water bowl/pitcher*

O water, may you remove all evil,
I give you essential water, O Destroyer of the Damned One, a tide in your time.
I bring the flood waters to purify your sanctuary.
I bring you the flood waters to purify your temple
and your statue in your place.

*wet your finger and touch the four sides of your shrine, offering table or plate, etc.*

O Set, your altar is cleansed by the water;
Your altar is purified by the incense;
You are cleansed by Horus;
You are purified by Thoth.
Water invigorates your body;
It is I, your servant,
who comes to you in the palace where you reside.

Presentation of Libations:

These your cool waters, O Set
have come from your nephew, Horus.
I have come to you having gotten Horus’s eye,
So that your heart may become cool with it;
I have gotten it under your feet.
Accept the outflow that comes from you:
So that your heart will not become weary.

*Pour the water into first cup or bowl*

This water is the Eye of Horus,
take it to your countenance,
that it may brighten your face.

O Set, take this Eye of Horus
Which has been given to you by your son
So that you may live in Eternity
Glorious and pure.

*Pour the water into second cup or bowl*

O Glorious Spirits, take this Eye of Horus
It parts your mouth so that you may you taste its taste
Accept this Eye so that you may live in Eternity
Glorious and pure.

Presentation of Offerings:
Oh Lord of Power and Strength, stand up and sit down to a thousand of bread,
a thousand of beer, roast meat, your rib-meat from the slaughterhouse, “pulled” bread from the broadhall.

*place first offering*

As you are provided with a god’s-offering, these akhu are provided with bread.
You have come to your ba, Set, ba among the akhs,
in control of all that he sees, He Before Whom the Sky Trembles.
I have given you Horus’s eye, I have allotted it to you: may it endure for you with you.

*place second offering*

O Glorious Akhu, stand up and receive this your bread from me.
O Great Spirits, I will be an attendant for you.
O Enduring Akhu, accept Horus’s eye, your bread-loaf, and eat.

As everything is for those under your protection,
let everything be for the bodies of the Outlaw Dead.

Grow aroused, you Great Akhu
Take this Eye of Horus and become uplifted.
In your place of Completeness you do not hunger. You have no thirst.
Your contentment is all you know in the land of the Duat.
Your heart becomes awash with joy
And your hearts fill with ma’at.

As you take in the Eye of Horus
You shall become as complete as every NTR:
your head as Horus of the Duat—an Imperishable Star;
your face as Eyes-Forward—an Imperishable Star;
your ears Atum’s twins—an Imperishable Star;
your eyes Atum’s twins—an Imperishable Star;
your nose as the Jackal—an Imperishable Star;
your teeth Sopdu—an Imperishable Star;
your arms Hapi and Duamutef—when you demand to go up to the sky, you go up;
your legs Imseti and Qebehsenuef—when you demand to go down to the undersky, you go down;
your limbs Atum’s twins—an Imperishable Star.

O Great Akhu, become clean through Horus’s Eye and
Make your bones firm.
O Great Akhu, become Whole through Horus’s Eye and
All of your obstructions will be removed through Set’s mighty Sha.

You will not perish, your ka will not perish
As Set lives, you shall live.
As you live, Set lives.

Sun and Thoth, take each and every akh with you,
that they may eat of what you eat of,
that they may drink of what you drink of,
that they may live on what you live on,
that they may sit where you sit,
that they may grow powerful from what you grow powerful from,
that they may sail in what you sail in.
The booth of each and every akh is plaited of reeds;
the flood of each and every akh is in the Marsh of Offerings;
their feasts are among you, gods;
the water of each and every akh is wine, like the Sun.
They will circumnavigate the sky like the Sun,
They shall course the sky like Thoth.
And both akhu and NTRW shall live in peace in the Duat.
Whole and Complete. A million times effective.

Reversion of offerings:

O He Who Makes the Sky Tremble, your enemies withdraw from you.
Heru has turned himself to his Eye in its name of Reversion-of-Offerings.
These your divine offerings revert;
They revert to your servant for life, stability, health and joy.
So that you may flourish for eternity.


I don’t do this ritual every time I offer to the Outlaw Dead, but when I have time and something special to offer or ask for, I try to. I’ve also decided to make it a custom to do this ritual on the first full moon of January, or the Wolf Moon, as that’s the astrological anniversary of my meeting them.

When working with them more casually, the process is as follows:

  1. Designate an altar space/ritual space. Mine looks like this:
  2. Light a candle for each faction you’re working with. This is the mains source of energy and focus for the corresponding spirits to dwell in while the ritual is in progress.
  3. Set out offerings.
  4. Play music. I always play this song first, and then put on this playlist.
  5. Greet the Dead.
  6. If you are going to perform magic or a ritual with/for them, describe it to the Dead and ask for their permission before beginning.
  7. End the ritual by blowing out the candles and turning off the music.

My process for performing spells calling on the Outlaw Dead for help is as follows:

  1. Using your divination method of choice for yes/no answers, obtain consent from specific factions to be used for a spell.
  2. Describe the spell to the Dead.
  3. Create a sigil for spell, incorporating the sigils for the Dead you’re calling on along with the object of the spell.
  4. Charge and activate sigil with preferred method.
  5. Spell jars can also be left on the altar for the Outlaw Dead to work on; adding sigils to the decoration of the jar describing the factions called upon and the spell itself recommended.

Conclusion

While I’ve added a bunch of warnings, and I do try to err on the side of caution when I work with them (as with all astral and spirit work), I would consider it unfair to say that these are particularly unsafe or malicious spirits. There have been some conflicts (such as the aforementioned issues with Heru and Tyr), but on the whole, they’ve been an overwhelmingly positive, generous, and helpful addition to my religious practice. I’m posting this with their permission and input because I hope that they can find more people to honor and work with them in the larger kemetic and pagan communities. I’m not sure anyone who asked for this post a year ago is still interested, but hey -better late than never.

It’s also a good idea to remember that “Outlaws” also includes the souls of people you, personally, would consider despicable. Personally, I just expect them to follow the ground rules I’ve laid out, and try not to inquire into exactly what kind of “outlaw” any of them were beyond the faction they requested to be sorted into. If you prefer, though, you could always add an aspect of your spell that bars, for example, the spirits of violent criminals from your space. I choose not to do this because I feel my role in my work with them is not to judge them for what they did when they were alive. The point of the practice is, as I wrote above, radical love, admiration, gratitude, and solidarity. No shortcuts to make myself more comfortable with the moral gray area all of us, especially “outlaws”, live in.

It’s not just about getting magical help and feeling like a particularly edgy necromancer (although I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t part of why I enjoy it). The core of this practice is about appreciation for other people, in particular people who it can be dangerous or inconvenient to be associated with, or hard to love and forgive because of the mistakes they’ve made. In this case, it’s dead people, but the practice of “radical love, admiration, gratitude, and solidarity” has improved my sense of empathy for other living humans, my sense of responsibility toward them, and lit a fire under my ass vis a vis activism and getting my life together so that I can one day have the power to defend the human rights of living outlaws as well. For this reason most of all, I sincerely hope other pagans find this post useful, and incorporate some level of veneration for the Outlaw Dead into their practices.

open letter to the pied piper

going through and changing all the proper nouns and so on to lowercase letters is a pain in the ass, but so is being alive in general. hail jesus and also satan. trigger warning for the usual suspects.

im about to go break a bottle of whiskey in the desert somehow, if i still have the energy after i post this. whoever knows what the future holds, anymore.


pied piper, if you can hear this, it’s 2019, and i hope you’re pleased with yourself.

no one watches over us. our parents are missing, in body, mind, or soul; they stare through us, glassy-eyed, seeing not a child but a burden. Jesus hides behind stained-glass windows, where pastors promise us brimstone and hellfire. makes it difficult to have a real conversation. the wages of sin, of shy sapphic touches and mexican ditch-weed passed between shaking, scraped-up, badly painted fingers. Holiness is as aloof as the aurora borealis; we live in the desert. some people are willing to wait their whole lives to see proof of the beautiful rumor with their own two eyes, instead of on a northerner’s instagram. we’re children, but we’re not dumb; we know we’ll never see it ourselves. our elders assure us we’ll never manage to leave the South for good. they assure us no matter what we think we want, in the end we will be happy to live and die, here in this town with nothing to do but wait to die. they seem pretty damn pleased with themselves for being so sure of that.

we go where children aren’t allowed to go, late at night, we walk through dark alleys to avoid patrolling cops enforcing curfew. Nobody watches over us but the moon. we are all silvery pales and deep inky darkness, the night sky reflected on human flesh.

you will never feel this electric again, the way you do the first time you smoke weed beneath the stars, ducked into one of the shadows the streetlamps cast, during the intermission of a garage band concert two blocks away. between the adrenaline from the show and the high and committing a felony within a mile of the police station, you feel not invincible but luminescent. knowing your family members who are known felons would beat the shit out of the kid who’s getting you high only makes it better. years older than a child but held hostage in a high school that never teaches you anything interesting until you’re old enough to be kicked to the curb for not stepping in line, all you can do is take your thrills where you can get ‘em and enjoy the company wherever you can find it. that’s the moment you make your decision, although at the time you think it’s just a realization. living here in west texas is like being in prison or the “disciplinary alternative education program” where my friends used to get high before they went in, and offer me a hit or two before the teachers showed up, and i would turn them down because i didnt need the fucking headache; it’s not so bad, except that they won’t let you leave.

i told my mom that a pedophile had just moved into the neighborhood, and she told me to go ahead and walk to DAEP anyways. she didnt want to wake up in the morning and drive me. she told me not to skateboard there and not to carry a knife. i did what the fuck i wanted to, on the way to and from the place where they let me do my school work and then read all day until it was time to leave. i was never good at skateboarding, but people kept telling me to wear a helmet. to this day, i still go around without a helmet on my head every time i’m on wheels. shocker, i know.

loneliness, anger, fear grow inside us like termites gnawing at rotting wood. the town elders assure us Christ alone can save us. we are living even as we devour ourselves and each other and any chance at salvation, we become empty. when we breathe air whistles through us, stinging the rotting places we can still feel, chilling the empty parts. we listen to the strange melodies of breath entering and exiting us, strange half-alive half-dead harmonicas. our pain molds the music we make the way a guitarist tunes her strings. when the stars align just right, one or two or three of us will sit together as we drink cheap stolen whiskey or smoke cheap weed and cigarettes, and we will tell each other about the strange elation of emptiness and the slow, never-ending grinding of worms and maggots making lunch out of our insides. we will tell each other it actually doesn’t hurt that badly, but it does always hurt. if we’re lucky and move slowly and don’t startle each other, sometimes, we’ll sit together beneath the stars and share stories as we share vices. if all goes well, we learn we are not alone. there are other queers and witches and goddamn hippies and devil-worshiping rockers among us, even here, twenty feet away from our neighbors who love to call the cops on us.

no matter what happens, we sit in some safe place outside of our houses at night, waiting for the Devil to show up and offer us everything under the sun as he tries to get us into his van. so long as we’re together, we just laugh in his face and keep drinking. i guess the town elders were right. part of us definitely died there. part of us continues to die there. the town elders continue to kill their grandchildren by insisting we will be buried in the same graveyard as them. i’m starting to remember all the things i thought i would forget forever, and i gotta admit: wherever it is that i die, i’m not gonna regret not attending their funerals. if they wanna be buried in their hometown so badly, that’s their prerogative. i’d rather let you kill me on the streets of a city they all told me i’d never be able to reach. i’d rather be a ghost that haunts the city of angels than be buried in the same dirt as my great-grandmother.

pied piper, im 21 now, and i’m still one of the children who look up towards the moon, exhale smoke in his direction, a small quiet prayer with no return address: have mercy on us. don’t judge so harshly. we are still young, after all.

-have you had enough yet? have you collected your fee, or should i keep talking?


little red

hopefully i’m done posting poetry for today. i’m trying to get my hands on a list of all the American representatives currently voting to approve a state of emergency in order to let a little-dick waste of space build a useless wall, so that we can all get this Execration Party Started, but that’s gonna take a few days at least. anyways, here’s the first fairy tale rewrite poem i wrote! if i’d written it a year or two later it would’ve been part of the “if you can hear this” series, and i really like it, so i’m gonna retcon it in now. 


“in my version the wolf makes a quick getaway with little red riding hood slipping, traumatized, out of his innards, covered in blood, covered in horror

the ax-man walks her back home and tells her to stay out of the forest but

but at night little red stares up at the ceiling of her log cabin house and her insides burn with fury. they burn with the memory of the slick warmth of that wolf’s stomach, the wolf she trusted, the wolf who lied and swallowed her whole. they burn with the knowledge that she has lost the woods and the freedom she once had to sprint through them, innocent, laughing, fearless. they burn with the knowledge that she now carries worldliness and distrust and her running is not for joy, now, it is for terror and as she thinks of the wolf that did this to her, her insides burn with a promise.

and so as little red grows up she starts to take a liking to axes, eavesdrops at the conversations of local hunters and trackers for years. she finds axes small enough for her to carry and learn to swing, pretending she is just gathering firewood, speaking to no one of how she sometimes thinks that she herself is an ax being sharpened by time and anger and the sound of a wolf howling in the dark forest where she can no longer stray without her heart beating in her ears and her skin growing cold, warning of terror

one day, when she feels ready, she re-enters the woods, her woods, where she has been too afraid to travel for so long

and at first it makes her sick to even go past the first line of trees but she goes back, day after day, each time getting a little further because she knows the wolf is still out there

until one day that very wolf looks up and sees the meal he lost, sans red cloak (terrible camouflage) but with an ax in her hand and when he sees her smile he runs -or rather, he tries

but little red had always been the faster of the two

and when she returns to her home, triumphant, she wears that wolf’s fur as her new cloak, and what do you know-

it’s red, too.”

I never liked how the story ends in deus ex machina


I’m here to file my report as the vixen of the wolf pack;
Tell Patient Zero he can have his rib back