By Pet-sekhmet Ankh-Djehuti
Critics of Egyptian Paganism often begin their assault on our venerable Faith by claiming that Egyptian Beliefs and Culture is alien to our 21st Century Western minds. This comes mostly from Egyptology, and its academic interest in keeping Old Religions subjects of laboratory study and intellectual speculation. But sadly, it is a valid point of contention among many otherwise sane Egyptian Souls.
Many of us today, rather than being Nomic Priests along the banks of The Nile, live in cosmopolitan Western cities. Instead of the Inundation and Desert Storms of the native Egyptian seasons, most of us see snow and blizzards. Rather than Hieroglyphic Papyri and Stele, most of our knowledge of Egyptian Magick comes from major bookstores or the Internet. This does not even cover dietary differences from New World additions like corn, yams, potatoes and coffee or more subtle cultural shifts like democracy, air travel and mass media. Taken together it is easy to see how our lives superficially differ from the Ancient Servants of The Nedjer.
Other Living Religions have adopted technology and media to support and expand the basis of the Faith. Printing presses allowed Jewish Qabalists to reach much larger audiences than when those texts were transmitted as part of oral tradition. Buddhism as it has come Westward in the past century quickly adapted its traditions to fit the modern mass media model, as did Hinduism after its adoption by The Beatles. Clinging too deeply to the ancient ways in a different world not only makes a religion seem out of touch, as many see Catholicism today, but also limits the role of its clergy.
Accepting the challenges that come with making a Faith as complex and personal as the Egyptian into something useful to Westerners must be done with moderation. Adopting too many ideas from either Eastern or Neo-pagan sources weakens the actual Egyptian Mysteries, while trying to recreate ancient lifestyles and rituals quickly becomes theatrics. Ma’at is balance and harmony in every aspect of one’s life, and finding a new Western Ma’at should be the work of all living Egyptian Priests.
Those who accept too many corrupt ideas from Neo-pagan or Oriental sources, although it may be akin to the Hellenistic or Roman forms of Egyptian Worship must admit they are synthesizing. It is true that as the Nomic Religions first encountered each other, and the religions of Africa and the Bronze Age Mediterranean, they incorporated some ideas and beliefs. Even the Magick of Egypt bears some resemblance to both Yoruba and Sumerian, but that is not to say that Egypt accepted any of those cultures’ beliefs. The opposite is true of the conquerors of Egypt, from Hyksos to Julius Caesar; they became more Egyptian, rather than the simple-minded opposite. Those who seek to import beliefs into the Egyptian Faith should read those histories and see the scope of their error.
Reconstructing the Egyptian Faith also has some value, but only when tempered with personal devotion and service to The Nedjer. Dryly rebuilding Egypt in either Mummy-movie-esque costumes and archaic rituals, or “holographic” imaginings of Egypt by those unversed in its modern culture, history or Hieroglyphic is little more than a delusional role-playing game. The Egyptological Academics miss the substance of the system through the trench warfare of proof and belief. The Reconstructionists then try to animate those empty beliefs into some Egyptian Parody of a Renaissance Festival. The sheer insanity of it all is clear to anyone, except of course, those in the costumes.
Both sides do see shadows of the answer, but in their fervent need to be the True Egyptians in America, have missed the truth both extremes raise. The Reconstructionists challenge one to have a historical and cultural basis for ideas about The Nedjer, where the Neo-pagans try to keep it down to earth and away from academic speculation. The Ma’at here is authentic Faith, just as one should not add Elmo to The Nedjer Altar, The History Channel should not also restrain one.
Authentic beliefs should be based in the Hieroglyphic language and the culture of Ancient Egypt. Much of this is still mysterious and not understood by Priests, in a manner consistent with the Wisdom Teachings, the Mythos, and Egyptology. Believing that the Nedjer walk among us is authentic, but few know how to prove it from existent materials.
Authentic Rituals need only be done in a ritually pure way, to the Nedjer, and in the ancient language. New songs, spells, and holidays have already been published by several authors- nearly all containing some hint of a Living Practice. Time will perfect these early attempts, as it did for the early Priests of Pre-Dynastic Egypt.
Ritual purity will need to be understood in a more concrete and less historical way. The sheer difficulties of acquiring Natron have begun to open up this topic in circles of Egyptian Priests. The absence of permanent temples to The Nedjer complicates this issue further, because the standards known were late, and those of full-time Priests, not those still working their office jobs.
Authentic ideals can be best understood, not through analyzing Mummies, or Tut’s Ushabi’s, but through the Mythology and Literature. “The Ship-wrecked Sailor” despite its brevity teaches one more about the values of the Egyptians than any dissertation on the Hall of The Assessors of The Heart. The same is true of their poetry, Senet, and belly dancing.
Authentic Temple Communities will grow out of all of the other areas mentioned. It is important to understand that in Egypt they were more like the sturdy Monastery of the Middle Ages- bustling with children being educated, offerings accepted, papyri being copied, even taxes being collected. These functions from the labor of temple artisans and brew makers, to the prayers and education all need to be incorporated into modern Temple Complexes.
Authentic attitude was never one of pride, perhaps out of humility to the Nedjer, or fear of the Divine Pharaoh. Americans tend to get caught up in ‘conversion fever’, and feel the need to preach to the Infidels about the True Gods. The Classical authors found none of this in Egypt, and rarely were taught much of anything. This very obscurity is why so little was known of Egypt, before the Rosetta Stone. The Wisdom Texts are rarely studied guides in the matter of learning the proper humility the Nedjer require, and written for that purpose.
Authentic piety would be built, like the Pyramids, stone by stone from these authentic principles. Discovered in this way for oneself, and with the aid of authentic Egyptian Priests: those of Moderate Ma’at, free of the extremes mentioned above, serving the Living Gods, in an evolving and relevant way. Other interpretations of these symbols and philosophies exist but seem heavily tainted by the personal religious histories of their flocks.