Articles, Aset, Auset, Isis

Why I Honor Aset

Someone asked me a question a while ago: Why do you honor Aset?

I said protection. And I was a little flustered so I couldn’t think of other things to say. Love was another answer too. I’m not used to talking religion with people in person and with family members no less.

I thought this was a good answer, but it’s not all of it. It is so much more complicated.

I’ve been drawn to Aset since I was nine years old. My Dad went to Egypt that year and got me a pendant of Her. I wore it all the time. Then, that Christmas, I got a book on Egyptian Mythology. It was George Hart’s Egyptian Myths. Then came the love of all things Egypt. But Aset (Isis as I knew Her then) was always my focus. I read about Her for years. I read about the Fellowship of Isis and Olivia Durdin-Robertson. I read some of Budge’s works before I knew better. I read other books too.

After learning that Budge’s work wasn’t the best source, I cooled on Egypt for awhile. I read comic books and fantasy and science fiction novels. I read books about mythology. Japanese, Egyptian and Norse were my favorites to study.

I was enamored with mythology and religion. It’s no wonder I went for Religious Studies degrees in college. But I digress.

Why do I worship an Egyptian Goddess and Aset no less? She’s been there in my life since I was 9 and never left! 🙂 I do love Her as a child loves her mother. She created me so a part of me is like Her, like when DNA is passed down from one generation to the next or in this case, personality traits and existing within existence as an autonomous being. Entwined within the hum of my soul is MY NAME and She is there. She spoke my Name upon my creation. She is my Mother.

And this is one reason I honor Her.

Because She is my Mother, I do Her work in the world. For we are the Hands and Eyes of God. I write for Her. I record hymns and names and the history of Her worship. I honor Her with offerings on a nominally daily basis.

And so I honor this Egyptian Goddess. And that is part of why.

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Articles, Athena, Devotional Practice, Polytheism, Shrine

My Meeting with Zeus

When I woke up today, I saw a white haired bearded man seated on my table as I walked into the room. I’ve never had this happen before. He sat on my table and I could see him placing cards on the table as if He were dealing out cards.

“Who are you?”

“Zeus.”

I have an Oracle deck for the Hellenic Pantheon so I pulled that out and started pulling cards. I got up at one point to shower and give offerings to the Hellenic deities in my Household. When I was done, I got the inclination that He still wanted me to pull cards.

I got some cards over and over again. Messages I wasn’t getting were beginning to weave together, reading after reading. During the last reading session, He called me a “mantis” (this apparently means diviner in Greek).

A few of the messages I got were:

*fill your life with joy
*fill your life with beauty
*do what you love
*know who you are and act on it; master yourself
*love yourself
*Know why you honor the Gods you do (Thinking they are cool isn’t enough of a good reason.)
*transformation of old habits into new ones
*creation of joy
*creativity and inspiration; new projects and new beginnings

One of the things He wanted to know was the reason why I was doing things. He wanted to know why I was honoring Athena. I told Him that I admired Her and I honored Her because She helped me with my home once. The first time I ever met Her, the Goddess Athena had me write a four (or 7; I can’t remember the exact number) page poem to Her. But I also remembered I was told (by Aset) that honoring the Hellenic deities would teach me how to treat my home like a temple. That I would learn to treat my home as a sacred and holy place. This is something sorely lacking within Kemetic religion.

Household worship is the staple to Hellenic religious practice and that foundation is largely missing within Kemetic religion. So I honored Hestia today and Hera and Zeus along with Athena. I libated to these Gods of Olympos. I always give Them libations as I don’t have a safe way to burn or a practical way to bury the food offerings.

And as I’m writing this I’m remembering something Athena told me to do that I haven’t been doing. So this is a good reminder. Ask Her for help with my home.

And that question of Why do you honor the Gods that you do? is harder to answer than I thought.

There are many reasons to honor certain deities over others:

*affinity with the occupation you have
*They created you and you are Their spiritual child
*They have work for you to do for Them
*They rule over the Household and you (hopefully) live in a house/apartment/condo, etc.
*They showed up since you honor their brother, mother, father, sister, wife, husband etc.
*Some other reason

So why do I honor some of the Olympic deities? Why do I honor Athena?

The obvious answer is that She’s a Goddess and what fool doesn’t give the deities their due?

Just because They deserve honor doesn’t mean we can honor every single god or goddess. Some deities will get along with certain devotees better than others. I tend to honor deities of knowledge, order, magic, death and healing. Someone else may have different threads of influences from their deities.

My other answer to this would be that I’m an independent scholar with a Masters degree, that I bead necklaces and may start to paint. Being an artisan and a scholar are under the domain of Athena.

But that doesn’t really answer the question. Why am I honoring Her?

Athena showed up unexpectedly in my life. I honestly did not see Her coming. But She came and I just started to respond. I honored Her when I could; I try to honor Her on Her monthly festivals on the 3rd, 13th and 23rd day of each month. Sometimes I forgot or I was too lazy or I was sick or on my period or some other reason I didn’t honor Her on that day.

But when I could I’d try to show up and give an offering. And sometimes I made mistakes and did things I know not to do now. And sometimes why you show up isn’t as important as that you took the effort to show up. And sometimes why are you here isn’t a reprimand, but a question. Do you know what you are doing? Do you know what you are building or making? Do you know what it means to become acquainted with a God?

Do you know what you are doing when you honor this God instead of that one? Or you honor this God from this pantheon and this other God from this other pantheon? Do you know the relationships you are building?

Do you understand that when you honor a God and invite Them into your home, then They are a permanent houseguest? And if you need to take down their shrines or altars, you need to ask Their permission? That is not your space anymore. It is Theirs.

Do you know, dear child, do you know that when you honor a God, you are building a relationship between two beings and both have agency? And both have power.

And both of them have the power of choice.

Do you build a shrine and a relationship with a foundation of kharis (holy blessings; reciprocity gift-giving) or do you build it on superficial manners and willful ignorance?

How you build the shrine to Them is what the foundation of your relationship is made of.

Blessings flow where offerings go.

Build it well.

Articles, Polytheism

Polytheist Practice

This blog post (linked here: There IS No “Pagan Umbrella”: Reframing the (Current) Pagan/Polytheist Debate) inspired my post below.

I think the polytheist community needs to be its own thing. We are not Pagans, using Outer Court Wicca practices and Hermetic Practices to conduct rituals. Not everyone calls quarters, casts circles, calls upon a God and Goddess, does a magical working and concludes the rite with cakes and ale.

In fact, most polytheists, I would argue, don’t do this. Most Polytheists that I’m familiar with (Kemetic, Hellenic Heathen/Germanic and possibly Canaanite) do things very differently.

1) Most of us honor ancestors and have ancestor altars in our homes to honor our departed loved ones.

2) We have shrines to Gods and Goddesses in our homes and They are treated as individual beings with their own personalities, attributes and affinities. They are given offerings, ritual and are worshiped at their shrines during certain times (daily, weekly, monthly and/or during festivals). Also, some people follow deities from one pantheon while others follow deities from more than one pantheon. And some follow more than one religious path. It varies.

3) Some of us honor House or Land spirits. Some honor other spirits.

4) Many of us honor the deities in rituals consisting of incense (or essential oils, flowers, scent of some kind, etc.), candles, offerings and libations as well as ancient or modern hymns. Gestures of adoration and praise can also be incorporated in this.

5) Many of us derive our religious practices from ancient sources such as those found in archaeology, anthropology and literature as well as temples where applicable. We also derive our practices from getting input from the deities Themselves. (Since we are dealing with incorporeal, sentient, distinct entities, we would ask for Their input on how They would like to be honored). So experiences with the deities would also help inform our practices.

6) We also adapt our religious practices to our time and place. We don’t live in the ancient world and we are not the ancients. So we offer fig newtons to Kemetic deities and chocolate to Hetharu and strawberries to Aset and cheese to Wepwawet and red wine to Sekhmet. We offer what we are able to given the deities historic (or modern) associations, our own budgets, our own abilities and our own religious taboos (if we have any; someone who has a taboo against eating pork may not offer it, etc.)

Articles, Aset, Auset, Isis, Bast, Bastet, Bast-Mut, Sekhmet, Sekhmet-Mut

Aset and Mut

Mut’s name means “Mother”. She is often portrayed as a lioness-headed woman, a woman with the Double Crown or a woman with the Horns and Sundisk Crown. She is the goddess of royalty, the King’s inheritance, renewal of the dead, motherhood, women and protection. She is an Eye of Ra goddess and is attested as Ra’s daughter. She’s the wife of Amun or Amun-Ra and the mother of Khonsu. In the Distant Goddess myth, Mut turns into Sekhmet, leaves and returns when her anger is appeased. She turns back into Mut at the shores of the lake Isheru. Mut has a few syncretizations mostly, Sekhmet-Mut, Bast-Mut, Hethert-Mut and Aset-Mut.

At the Temple of Medjed in Asyut, there is a composite deity called Aset-Mut-Hethert who is portrayed as a woman wearing the horns and sundisk crown (1). When Mut’s roles called for fertility or sexual functions they were given to Aset (2).

There is a hymn containing a reference to Aset-Mut.

In a hymn to Hethert, it says: Hail Great One of many names…
You from whom the divine entities come forth
In this Your name of Mut-Aset!(3)

Aset and Mut were worshiped together at the Temple of Shanhur. This Temple had theologies from both Coptos and Thebes. Aset’s renewal cycle within the Temple was via the Wesir Mythos (Wesir is associated with Min here) and Mut’s was the Distant Goddess myth cycle. Aset and Mut were also honored together as both celestial mothers and as bearing moon gods as sons. Both of them were solar goddesses who renewed the moon disk each month (4). And also both of their consorts/sons were Ka-mut-ef “Ka or Bull of His Mother” (5). There is a speculation due to Aset’s name being on both entrances (as opposed to Mut’s name being on one of them) that at this temple there is a blending or joining of Aset and Mut or Mut may be a manifestation of Aset, but this is not conclusive (6).

The “Great Goddess Aset” often appears alongside depictions of the goddess Mut. In the bandeau inscriptions, the same happens. Those on the east are dedicated to the “Great Goddess Aset”, those on the west to Mut. However, both the east and west bandeau inscriptions on the facade of the sanctuary contains dedications exclusively to forms of Aset. This suggests an existence of a certain fusion between Aset and Mut (7).

Mut is the matriarch. She is the mother goddess of the throne. She is the mother of the king and the establishment of the king’s royal power. Aset is the mother of the king as the goddess who places the rulers on their thrones. A king cannot rule without the blessings of the mother goddesses. Aset and Mut rule over royal inheritance, the renewal of the dead and goddesses of sovereignty. Both of them are goddesses of the ka as being passed down through the royal lineage and family lines.

Mut and Aset are both daughters of Ra and the cobra and lioness goddess as the Eye of Ra. Both of them are manifestations of the “Celestial Cow” who gave birth to the heavenly bodies.

Both of them are the beneficial power of the sun in both giving warmth and giving the plants sunlight. Both of them are goddesses of royal power, authority, inheritance of the throne, sovereignty, solar power, renewal of both the sun and land and the remembrance of the deceased.

Sources

1) DuQuesne, Terence. “The Great Goddess and her Companions in Middle Egypt”. Mythos und Ritual. Festschrift für Jan Assmann zum 70. Geburtstag. (2008), 23.

2) Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2003), 155.

3) Baring, Anne and Jules Cashford. “Isis of Egypt: Queen of Heaven, Earth and the Underworld”. The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image. Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, ed. New York: Penguin, 1993, pp. 255.

4) Willems, Harco, and Filip Coppens, Marleen De Meyer and Peter Dils. The Temple of Shanhur: Volume 1. (Peeters, 2003), 26-29, and 47-48.

5) Willems, Harco, and Filip Coppens, Marleen De Meyer and Peter Dils. The Temple of Shanhur: Volume 1. (Peeters, 2003), 33-34.

6) Willems, Harco, and Filip Coppens, Marleen De Meyer and Peter Dils. The Temple of Shanhur: Volume 1. (Peeters, 2003), 28, 47-48 and 101.

7) Willems, Harco, and Filip Coppens, Marleen De Meyer and Peter Dils. The Temple of Shanhur: Volume 1. (Peeters, 2003), 48.

Articles, Aset, Auset, Isis, Wepwawet

Aset and Wepwawet

Wepwawet

Wepwawet’s (also Upwawet; Greek: Ophois) name means “Opener of the Ways”. Wepwawet is normally depicted as a:

*Standing Canine on a standard
*Standing Canine on a standard, with the shedshed and Uraeus
*Standing or enthroned man with a Jackal’s head
*recumbant jackal

According to Terence DuQuesne, jackals “symbolized vigor, beauty and elegance” as well as with their associations with boundary places such as the desert and the dead (1). The Egyptian jackals have golden-yellow coats, are nocturnal and partner as long as they live (2). As Wepwawet’s theophany, this could describe some of the god’s own attributes.

Wepwawet is a warrior depicted as holding a mace and a bow. As Opener of the Way, Wepwawet does this for ritual, the sun to rise, the deceased to go to the Duat, and the baby to come to the womb (3). Wepwawet was a guardian of cemeteries (4).

As a solar god, Wepwawet helped the sun god to be born from the sky goddess during the coming dawn (5).
The Greeks identified him with the wolf and the Egyptian jackal has been found scientifically to be a species of wolf or coyote. There was a syncretic form of the god, Wepwawet-Ra who was especially worshiped during the New Kingdom (6).

Wepwawet and Aset

There are two Middle Kingdom hymns that name Wepwawet as the eldest son of Nut so he could also be viewed as the brother of Aset (7).

At Abydos, Wepwawet was a son of Aset and Wesir. He was the son or consort of Aset (8) ; he had an epithet “Son of Aset” (9). Wepwawet is attested as the son of Aset from “the tomb of Userhat at Thebes” dated from the late 18th Dynasty to the early 19th Dynasty (10).

Kahl adds that Aset’s cult was worshiped in Asyut from the time of Ramssess the Second and Wepwawet, was honored as Wesir’s son so therefore he would be Aset’s son also (11). Within the New Kingdom, at the city of Asyut, there are stelae that have Wepwawet’s image where he is identified as the “Son of Aset”. In some cases not even his name is recorded, just his image and the epithet (12).

An inscription from the Temple of Aset at Philae, says,”Wepwawet, Great God in Asyut, Son of Aset in the Chambers of Hnkstj.t” (13). An offering inscription at the Temple of Edfu states that Aset ordered her son Heru to share the offering with “his brother Wepwawet” (14).

Within the Papiri dell Societa Italiana manual, a statue of Aset nursing her son Wepwawet is mentioned within a grove of trees sacred to Wepwawet in the town of Asyut (15).

Aset is the Maker of Kings while Wepwawet as the Opener of the Way, makes way for the King to receive his power and sit upon his throne.

Wepwawet, as the son of Aset, is a deity associated with magic, opening the way for the sun to rise, the baby to go to the womb of the mother and a guide for the dead. All of these things, Aset also does as a Mistress of Magic, aiding the sun to rise, helping the child to be born acting as a midwife and guiding the dead in the afterlife.

Wepwawet is a warrior holding a mace and bow leading the armies into battle, while his mother Aset holds a scimitar to protect the state and ensure victory for the armies of Kemet.

Aset and Wepwawet are psychopomps, magicians and trickster deities. As both mother and son are deities of the threshold, Wepwawet is the god that walks the liminal paths and Aset connects those worlds and paths together.

Sources

1) DuQuesne, Terence. Anubis, Upwawet and Other Deities: Personal Worship and Official Religion in Ancient Egypt. (The Egyptian Museum of Cairo, 2008), 10.

(2) DuQuesne, Terence. Anubis, Upwawet and Other Deities: Personal Worship and Official Religion in Ancient Egypt. (The Egyptian Museum of Cairo, 2008), 21.

(3) Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2003), 191.

(4) Pinch, Geraldine. Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses and Traditions of Ancient Egypt. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 213.

(5) DuQuesne, Terence. “Exalting the God: Processions of Upwawet in Asyut in the New Kingdom”. Discussions in Egyptology, Vol. 57. 2003, pp. 44.

(6) Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2003), 191. DuQuesne, Terence. The Salakhana Trove: Votive Stelae and Other Objects from Asyut. (London: Darengo Publications, 2009), 120, 145, 261 and 290.

(7) Franke, Detlef. “Middle Kingdom Hymns and Other Sundry Religious Texts-An Inventory”, Egypt: Temple of the Whole World: Studies in Honour of Jan Assmann. Sibylle Meyer, ed. (Brill Academic Publishers, 2004), 105.

(8) DuQuesne, Terence. “The Great Goddess and her Companions in Middle Egypt”. ‘Mythos und Ritual. Festschrift für Jan Assmann zum 70. Geburtstag. (2008), 3 and 23.

(9) Houser-Wegner, Jennifer. “Wepwawet,” Ancient Gods Speak: A Guide to Egyptian Religion. Donald Redford, ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 382. DuQuesne, Terence. “The Great Goddess and her Companions in Middle Egypt”. ‘Mythos und Ritual. Festschrift für Jan Assmann zum 70. Geburtstag.’ (2008), 3 and 23.

(10) DuQuesne, Terence. The Salakhana Trove: Votive Stelae and Other Objects from Asyut. (London: Darengo Publications, 2009), 47.

(11) Kahl, Jochem. Ancient Asyut: the First Synthesis after Three Hundred Years of Research. (Harrassowitz Verlag, 2007), 56.

(12) DuQuesne, Terence. The Salakhana Trove: Votive Stelae and Other Objects from Asyut. (London: Darengo Publications, 2009), 167 and 257.

(13) Junker, Hermann. Der Grosse Pylon des Tempels der Isis in Phila. (Wien: Kommission bei Rudolf M. Rohrer, 1958), 115.

(14) DuQuesne, Terence. “The Great Goddess and her Companions in Middle Egypt”. ‘Mythos und Ritual. Festschrift für Jan Assmann zum 70. Geburtstag.’ (2008), 17-18.

(15) Kahl, Jochem. Ancient Asyut: the First Synthesis after Three Hundred Years of Research. (Harrassowitz Verlag, 2007), 35.

Articles, Aset, Auset, Isis, Set, Seth

Aset and Set

Set was the brother of Aset and her siblings Wesir, Nebet Het, and Heru Wer. His parents were Geb and Nut. His wife was Nebet Het and his son by her was Yinepu. His other consorts were Nit, and the Semitic goddesses Anat and Astarte. Sobek, the crocodile god was the son of Nit and Set. Like Nebet Het, Set was associated with “drunkenness, violence and other forms of liminality” (Siuda, 16; footnote 63).

Set was the god of the desert, foreign lands, storms, strength and male sexuality. Set was originally a god of Kingship alongside Heru Wer. As far back as the Pyramid Texts, he is said to have murdered Wesir which allowed Wesir to become King of the Duat.

Set was also the only god who could slay Apep each night on his journey with Ra in the Sun Bark. He was especially venerated in Upper Egypt and during the Reign of the Ramesside Kings as their patron god. He was a god of violence and war. During the Third Intermediate Period, the foreign invaders the Hyksos identified their god Ba’al with Set and so he became less popular, even to the point of being demonized among the native ancient Egyptians. The Greeks identified him with Typhon who was against all gods.

His theophanies include the pig, panther, bull, hippopatomus, donkey, oryx, griffin and crocodiles (Pinch, 192). He was often depicted as a man with the Set-animal on his head or in an animal form of the Set-Animal.

Within Kemetic thought, Set is a god of necessary change. He uproots so new things can grow; he destroys with the purpose of creation. He is a necessary part of the system. His struggle and reconciliation with Heru (either Heru Wer or Heru-sa-Aset) is integral to the duality of complimentary opposites which permeate the Kemetic worldview. Heru is concerned with the community, while Set is concerned with the strength of the individual. One can not be strong without either.

Set killed Wesir. Without this act, the Akhu would have no king, no judgment and no afterlife. Set did what he did because it was necessary. He is not an evil god. He just does what needs doing. After he killed Wesir, Set took his brother’s throne since at the time, he was the only one who could. Once Heru-sa-Aset could challenge him, it was Set’s trials that made Heru-sa-Aset a stronger candidate for kingship.

Heru-sa-Aset goes through a transformation from a weak son into a strong man who has the ability to rule. He goes through this transformation because of the challenge of Set and the restorative magical powers of Aset. Aset brings life and renewal to what Set destroys including Heru’s Eye and Wesir.

Aset as the goddess of the throne, the king’s authority and sovereignty, challenged Set’s claim to the throne throughout the trials. One way to interpret this is that Aset was the symbol of the ancestral kings and social order. Set as an agent of change was holding the throne inbetween times of stability.

Renowned for her great magical gifts, Aset possesses the cunning and skill needed to challenge Set’s lustful passions, which now threaten to cut her (and Egypt) off from all tradition, custom and ancestry by his claim to the throne of Wesir (Roberts, 101-102).

During the night, the sun travels to the Duat. A cosmic battle ensues between the Gods and Apep, a serpent who is the embodiment of Uncreation. Apep doesn’t just want to destroy creation, he wants to unmake everything so that nothing ever existed.

Every night the gods fight this entity. Aset uses her magic to ensare him and make him powerless; then Set slays him. These two gods must work together in order for creation to continue each day.

As the strongest of the gods, Set is the one who kills Apep. He does this task because he’s the only one who can. Likewise, as the strongest of the goddesses, Aset is the only one who can do what she does. She will do just about anything—including stopping the Sun Bark itself—in order to preserve the natural cosmic order of the Universe and thus preserve all life. While Set is a deity of change, Aset is a deity of transformation. One is a more blunt process than the other. As Set challenges the rightful King, Aset challenges how the King wields his/her power and authority appropriately.

As Set is the god of thunderstorms, Aset is the goddess of the life-giving rains. While Set’s storms cleanse so that new growth can occur from even the most desolate of lands, Aset’s cleansing has to do with the renewal of the ka of all living things. She replenishes while he destroys, but both bring renewal.

Yet Aset also reconciles the Two Lords. She does so “without dissolving their opposition” (Baring and Cashford, 240). In one myth, she heals Heru’s Eye by restoring it to life in a vineyard while in another myth, Aset healed Set when he was harmed by the Seed Goddess. She restores both of them to wholeness.

Aset renews after Set clears away damage to a system. Their dance is that of the constant healing and renewal of Heru’s Eye. Set sees a broken chain, a weak spot in a system or in a person and pushes against it in the hopes that it will become stronger. Aset renews and restores the stability of the system. Her form of renewal is from the ka. When the ka is cleansed and fed, transformation can occur.

Both Set and Aset strip away what is no longer needed via Set’s method of direct confrontation or challenge and Aset’s magical hekau and ka cleansing. Their different methods can restore one to wholeness.

Sources

Baring, Anne and Jules Cashford. “Isis of Egypt: Queen of Heaven, Earth and the Underworld”. in The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image. Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, ed. New York: Penguin, 1993.

Pinch, Geraldine. Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses and Traditions of Ancient Egypt. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Roberts, Alison. Hathor Rising: The Power of the Goddess in Ancient Egypt. Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1997.

Siuda, Tamara. Nebt-Het: Lady of the House. Illinois: Stargazer Design, 2010.

Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2003.

Articles, Aset, Auset, Isis, Aset-Serqet, Auset-Serqet, Isis-Selkis, Goddesses

Aset-Serqet

Aset-Serqet is Aset as the scorpion and a healer against poison. Some Kemetics view Serqet as a hypostasis or a specialized form of Aset and others view this as a syncretic deity. And still others view Aset-Serqet as a localized form of Aset that was worshiped in some parts of ancient Egypt and Nubia.

Serqet’s (also Serket; Greek: Selkis) full name is Serqet-hetyt meaning “She who causes the throat to breathe”. Serqet is depicted as a woman with a scorpion on her head, or as one of her theophanies: a scorpion, lioness or cobra. Sometimes Serqet was shown as a woman crowned with a non-venomous water scorpion to emphasize her beneficial attributes.

Serqet is associated with the dead as a protector of the canopic jars, a protector of the deceased, as a deity associated with the embalming chamber and as a guardian within the Duat.

Scorpions were seen as a “symbol of motherhood” since they carry their young on their backs. Alternatively, Serqet can be viewed as a deity who wards off the scorpion’s poison or even the one who causes it. Like Aset, Serqet is a goddess of magic and healing, especially getting rid of toxins, such as scorpion stings.

Aset and Serqet are connected mythologically, within the historical archeological record and some would say that Aset’s cult eventually absorbed Serqet so that Serqet became a hypostasis of Aset.

During the myth of “Aset and the Seven Scorpions”, the seven scorpions guarding Aset and Heru-sa-Aset are thought to be manifestations of Serqet. Although appearing separately, Serqet helped Aset when Heru-sa-Aset was bitten in the marshes when he was a child (1). Within healing “narrative spells” Aset is aided by her “sister” Serqet (2). Serqet narrates the myth of ”Aset and the Secret Name of Ra” (3). The myth is a part of a healing spell and this may explain why Serqet is the narrator, but Aset is also a goddess of healing and is more prominent in healing spells in general and scorpion bite spells in particular (4). Serqet appears with Aset in mythology as a narrator of a myth or as a manifestation to aid Aset. It is inconclusive whether or not Serqet is portrayed as a separate deity or as a form of Aset.

Within the historical record, their connection is more blatant. A depiction of a scorpion with a woman’s head crowned with the horns and solar disk “may represent Serqet with the attributes of Aset, Aset in scorpion form or simply a fusion of the two goddesses” (5). There is a Late Period statue of Aset suckling her son Heru, but she has a scorpion headdress. This is thought to be representing either Aset-Serqet or Aset-Hedjedjet, another scorpion goddess Aset is associated with (6). Serqet and Hedjedjet resemble each other and may or may not be different forms of the same goddess.

Within the Nubian Temples from the New Kingdom such as Beit el Wali, Amada, Kalabsha and Dakka there are depictions of Aset as Aset-Serqet wearing the scorpion ontop of her head (7).

“Among iconographic particularities of the Egyptian divinities depicted in Nubian Temples, the scorpion decorating the head of Aset deserves our special attention. Such pictures of the goddess occur in the temples of El-Lessiya, Amada, Dakka, and Buhen. We may presume that in Nubia Aset was already associated with the scorpion-goddess Serqet at the time of the XVIII Dynasty, this affinity being attested in Egypt by later iconographic sources.” (8)

Some Kemetics and Egyptologists see the Nubian portrayal of Aset as Aset-Serqet as evidence that Aset had subsumed Serqet’s cult. Serqet may have been associated with Aset much earlier than Dynasty 18, but we don’t have evidence yet to definitively support either theory.

Sources
(1) Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2000), 234.

(2) Pinch, Geraldine. Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses and Traditions of Ancient Egypt. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 189.

(3) Pinch, Geraldine. Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses and Traditions of Ancient Egypt. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 69.

(4) Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2000), 235.

(5) Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2000), 235.

(6) Capel, Anne K. and Glenn E. Markoe, ed. Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven: Women in Ancient Egypt. (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1996), 128.

(7) Siuda, Tamara. Nebt-Het: Lady of the House. (Stargazer Design, 2010), 9 and 18.

(8) Mysliwiec, Karol. Eighteenth Dynasty Before the Amarna Period. ( E. J. Brill Leiden, 1985), 5.

Articles, Devotional Practice, Festivals, Priesthood, Ritual Protocol, Shrine

Menstruation Taboo

Question: I’ve heard you are not allowed to worship Aset when you have your menses. Is this true?

A: The taboo is against all blood in the shrine, not just menstruating women. The animals that were sacrificed in ancient Kemet were slaughtered in a slaughter area and then the meat was brought to the gods in the inner sanctum. Notice that the meat was offered to the deity and not the blood (1). Given this and the fact that the priests did their best to be clean, it is speculated that blood was taboo within the temple complex during the rites to the gods.

There are ancient purity texts with menstruating women added to the list as taboo to keep away from the open statues in temples. But this does not appear on all of them so this may have been a practice that depended on the local and the deities of that town (2). Also, much of these guidelines are from the later periods so some content may be suspect of foreign influence. It is interesting to note that ancient Hellenic practices did not include a blood or menstruation taboo so this would add more credence to this being a Kemetic practice.

Hsmn is the ancient Egyptian word for menstruation and it also can mean “purification”; this may be a euphemism where the ancient Egyptians thought that the process of menses was a form of bodily purification (3). In spells, the menstrual blood flow is compared to the overflowing Nile flood and the linen tampons were compared to a temple of the goddess Tayet or a dam (4). The tomb was thought to be the womb of the sky goddess where the dead were reborn into the afterlife. Since menstruation was thought of as the absence of fertility and is essentially “dead”, then in order to preserve the cosmic balance, menstruating women were not allowed near the tombs or the cult areas of the gods during their menstruation (5). It is inappropriate to bring the dead blood into contact with the deities and ancestors in their sacred spaces.

Because of this, many priests do not do formal ritual when they are menstruating. But this does not mean that they can not worship their gods. They can give offerings and light candles or incense, but not within the formal structure of the rite. They can also do a number of other things which we think are mundane that when dedicated to a deity could be acts of worship.

Some non-priest Kemetics do perform ritual during their menses and repurify the shrine after their menses are over. There are others that look to what the rite is doing and modify the rite to respect the menstrual taboo while still honoring the gods.

Kiya Nicoll has come up with a way to do this. The ritual itself is lighting candles and incense and pouring libations. Lighting candles and incense are universal practices in almost every religion and can be done at any time. The pouring out of libations (and in one version Wepwawet is called to Open the Way) is connecting the worlds together. During menses, a woman could do the purification rite, light the candles and incense and skip the pouring of libations.

The reason for this is that blood flowing outside the body has its own energy and this can attract harmful unseen forces which you don’t want in your shrine space. Another reason is that leaking blood is a leakage of life-force.

Also, the menses blood is a waste product, and just as you would not urinate or go to the bathroom in shrine, you wouldn’t bring the discarded waste from your uterine lining into shrine either. The fourth reason is this is not about us. This is about what the gods have asked of us and they have asked not to be honored in a formal, priestly ritual officiated by menstruating women or someone who is bleeding.

There are some exceptions to this. Medical conditions that cause bleeding (not just of menses) to happen chronically would require the person to be as clean as possible in order to do ritual. If you come to an event and you have your menstruation, the only thing you would be barred from doing is officiating the ritual or touching the opened icons.

Aset tends to be stricter about purity guidelines than other deities may be in personal worship. I’d ask Her before performing ritual to Her during your period.

Notes

1) Sauneron, Serge. Priests in Ancient Egypt, (Cornell University Press, 2000), 159-160. Gertie Englund. “Offerings”, in Ancient Gods Speak: A Guide to Egyptian Religion. Ed. By Donald Redford, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 284.

2) Frandsen, Paul John. “Taboo,” in Ancient Gods Speak: A Guide to Egyptian Religion. Ed. By Donald Redford, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 349-351. Frandsen, Paul John. “The Menstrual ‘Taboo’ in Ancient Egypt,” in The Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 66, no. 2, (Univ. of Copenhagen, 2007), 88-89. Blackman, Aylward M. Gods, Priests and Men. (New York: Kegan Paul International, 1998), 17-18. Wilforg, Terry, G. “Menstrual Syncrony and the Place of Women in Ancient Egypt,” in Gold of Praise: Studies in Ancient Egypt in Honor of Edward Wente. (Michigan: University of Michigan, 1999), 422 and 431.

3) Frandsen, Paul John. “The Menstrual ‘Taboo’ in Ancient Egypt,” in The Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 66, no. 2, (Univ. of Copenhagen, 2007), 84.

4) Frandsen, Paul John. “The Menstrual ‘Taboo’ in Ancient Egypt,” in The Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 66, no. 2, (Univ. of Copenhagen, 2007), 86.

5) Frandsen, Paul John. “The Menstrual ‘Taboo’ in Ancient Egypt,” in The Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 66, no. 2, (Univ. of Copenhagen, 2007), 101-103.

Articles, Aset, Auset, Isis, Awakening of Aset, Awakening of Auset, Awakening of Isis, Festivals, Uncategorized

Awakening of Aset by the Majesty of Ra

I am trying to write a ritual for Tuesday’s Awakening of Aset festival.

And…I can’t.

I don’t know how. I have never been trained how to write ritual.

I can tell you the basics of water, flame and fragrance in the daily ritual and Zep Tepi. I get those things.

What I don’t know what to do is write a ritual for a specific festival. How do I take “Awakening of Aset by the Majesty of Ra” and turn it into a full ritual?

Doing Senut and then taking Aset’s statue out into the sunlight or lighting candles if no sunlight is available seems like a cop-out. There needs to be something more here.

Like most uniting with Ra festivals, the Eye Goddess unifies with Ra to renew all of creation. She is His daughter here, His Eye of Ra, His Fierce Protectress and the Solar Goddess of the Dawn. She is the Leopard, the Lioness, the Cobra. She’s offered a sistrum (pl. sistra) to pacify Her rage, to dispel evil. She’s offered a mirror to gaze into Her Solar Power and Beauty. She’s offered a Menat to keep the darkness at bay with magical precious stone beads and rattling sounds. She’s praised and hailed as a Goddess whose Power is glorified when She unites with Her Father.

She is Ra’s Power. She is His Flame. He may lead, but She avenges. She destroys the enemies of Ra and Her son and brother. She is armed with a scimitar and a wailing scream that can stop the Sun God in His tracks. She owns His Name.

She is the Goddess of all Magical Power and the authority to rule.

And this is Her time in the light.

How do I even begin to capture this so that others may experience this wonder?

Note:

There are many festivals that celebrate An Eye Goddess’s unification with the Sundisk and another festival of Pacifying the Eye Goddess. Wine, sistra and menat-necklaces were offered at Eye Goddess or Distant Goddess feasts and mirrors and sistra were offered at the unification with Ra festivals.

For more information: Willems, Harco, and Filip Coppens, Marleen De Meyer and Peter Dils. The Temple of Shanhur: Volume 1. (Peeters, 2003), 40-42.