Ekunyi's Embers

Posts Tagged ‘senut’

Kemetic Round Table – Walking two Paths

The Kemetic Round Table works to connect Kemetic bloggers of various practices and paths in order to provide helpful information for those new to Kemeticism. More information about the project can be found here.

This week’s prompt asked: “Can I work with other pantheons? Can I perform rituals that aren’t Kemetic based?

This is going to be brief, as the bulk of my thoughts on these questions are summarized beautifully here at Making Bright, and I find myself unable to add much, conceptually, to what Nellethiel has already eloquently discussed. What I can share is a bit of personal experience, offering one perspective on why those ideas are so important to me.

One of the two primary Kemetic deities I work with transcends multiple spiritual areas of my life. I’ve written about my complex relationship with Bast in greater detail in an earlier post, but suffice it to say, I’ve known Her from childhood and She has transitioned with me through the many spiritual changes I’ve gone through over the years. She was my “invisible friend” as a very young child, my Goddess in an adolescent Wiccan phase, one of my primary spiritual guides in the animist period of my collegiate years, and now is my divined Mother in Kemetic practice.

I still interact with Her in both of Her most recent incarnations. I pray to her in shrine, and on other, separate occasions, I walk with her in meditations. She can be fierce in her expectations for me on both paths. She requires regular devotions and offerings, that I worship her as Netjeru, one of many faces of the divine. She also expects that I will seek her out as one of my guides in journey, her feline form one of many various plants and animals I speak with to learn more about myself, my community, and my world.

While my animist practice is not necessarily what one would consider a separate “pantheon,” it does come with a very different set of ritual expectations. I have a separate altar space for my primary animistic guide at any given time, and this space often includes animal by-products. For example, right now I have a Great Horned Owl’s feather, vertabrae, and talon on this shrine, items that were gifted to me many years back from partial remains a friend found and cleaned. These items, sacred in my animist practice, are extremely impure from a Kemetic standpoint, and thus I actually prefer to keep them in a separate room from my gods’ shrine.

My animistic practice also takes place outside of a set shrine space. Journeying techniques involve astral work: I sit in a dark room, slow my breathing, sometimes play a slow, even, percussive rhythm to assist in the process of moving beyond my body. My Kemetic work is always done before the shrine, eyes open, the candle’s flicker and the glow of incense helping me to transcend the profane and move to sacred experience. The two processes are unique to me, and involve a deliberate choice to interact with one or the other, gods or spirits.

This does not mean that the two do not, on occasion, intertwine. More than once I have been in the midst of a meditation when suddenly a god, or gods, jumped in to mess with me, show me something, or challenge me further. Given that they are gods, I would not presume to box them in to one form of interaction over another,  but in my opinion, it is important that I leave that option to Them. If They want to reach out to me astrally, or if They request that I meet Them in that space rather than shrine, I will. But in the meantime, as someone who does identify as Kemetic, I primarily choose to work with them in a manner based on Kemetic practice: in shrine, with candle, incense and offerings, celebrating Their sacred days, studying Their myths, and doing my best to live in ma’at in all other aspects of my life.  

As Nellethiel wrote, “anything is possible in the realm of polytheism. Just be mindful of what it means to be a part of Kemeticism as the religious movement and practice it is today (as the modern reconstructed/revived ancient religion of Egypt).”

Anything is possible. It is possible that Bast is my goddess and my guide. It is possible that Set might challenge me with a storm right when I’m trying to learn something from the oak tree I’ve climbed. It is possible that the golden hawk I visualized myself flying beside was Heru-wer, teaching me something outside of senut. But it is important to be mindful of the means by which these interactions took place, to know what is faithfully reconstructing ancient practice and what is better described as my own homebrew animist work with a bit of Kemetic flair. It is vitally important to acknowledge the source of things, that we might discuss our multiple paths with others, respecting each method as distinct while not discounting its validity.

 

Kemetic Round Table – Shrines on the Go

The Kemetic Round Table works to connect Kemetic bloggers of various practices and paths in order to provide helpful information for those new to Kemeticism. More information about the project can be found here.

This week’s prompt asked: “Shrine basics: Setting up your first shrine: How do I do it, what do I need, and what rules are there (if any).

I’ve seen a number of great posts this week which cover the basics of maintaining a shrine, that sacred space that serves not only as a place for performing ritual acts, but also divine temple of sorts where you welcome the gods into your home and into your life. I highly recommend Sobeqsenu’s post here for a concise outline of putting together the basics for your shrine and Satsekhem’s post here which provides a helpful clarification of the distinction between altars and shrines, and why both can be equally valid and important aspects of one’s spiritual life.

Several KRT-authors have also touched on the usefulness of compact or travel shrines. Near the end of her post, Sarduriur offers useful advice for Kemetics or other polytheists living in a space where cohabitants. Devo also suggests wearable shrine options in the form of sacred jewelry, and offers ways to use that jewelry in the same context as an icon.

Given that I am presently visiting my sibling Itenumuti and hir partner in Texas, I thought it might be appropriate to expand a little bit on my personal use of a travel shrine, and provide one take on how one can endeavor to transfer the experience of spiritual work at home to spiritual work on the road.

How do you make a travel shrine?

The sky is the limit when it comes down to how you want to create your travel shrine. Some practitioners choose a box of some kind, often made of wood, ivory, metal, or  even synthetic materials if your gods do not view this as a purity concern. Others wear devotional jewelry on their body, or attached to an important item. Either way, you are welcome to decorate your travel shrine as ornately or discretely as necessary. Go with what strikes a comfortable balance between your relationship with your gods, and the necessity of your current living situation.

If you use a box and intend to place ritual items within it, I recommend finding one with a clasp of some kind, so you can close it securely and lower the risk of spilling items consecrated to spiritual use into a messy location. Of course you can always purify them again, but at least for me, the prospect of accidently dropping an icon into something unmentionable makes me cringe.

What goes into a travel shrine?

There are a few things to keep in mind for what to place within your travel shrine:

1.) What do you need to complete the rituals you will be enacting while you are on the road?

If you are of a path like Kemetic Orthodoxy and hope to continue with the state ritual (senut) — or a ritual with similarly established necessary items —  as you complete it at home, you will want to find a way to fit all of these items for this ritual into your travel shrine. If you have an adapted ritual for travel, perhaps you can bring fewer things. If you are someone who regularly interacts with his or her gods, via meditation, divination, or any other forms, you can always ask Them what They expect of you while you’re off on grand adventures, and “pack” accordingly.

2.) How long will you be gone? 

Packing for two weeks is much different than packing for two months. Try to think ahead for how much of any given ritual item you use at a time. Can you just pack a few small sticks of incense in your travel shrine, or would it be wise to bring an extra box in your suitcase? Unlike the roll of toothpaste you accidentally left on your bathroom sink, you’re probably not going to be able to drive to the nearest drugstore and easily pick up some natron and kyphi. Do your best to think ahead for what you need, and how much of it you need.

3.) Where will you be staying?

Staying in the home of an open-minded friend for the duration of your trip is far different than staying a week in a hotel. Keep in mind what the rules will be for burning candles and incense in your travel location. Tealight LED candles are a cheap and easily-acquired alternative to burning an actual wick, and scented oils can serve as an offering to the gods without the producing the same powerful scent of many incense options, should your host be sensitive to such.

4.) How are you getting there? 

If you’re driving or taking the train, chances are good that you won’t have to worry too much about what you put into your travel shrine. The TSA, however, may find issue with certain items in your shrine. A few important things to note: if you need to pack matches with you, and you are taking them in your carry-on luggage, you must use strike-on-box matches, and you can only bring one box. Strike anywhere matches are not permitted, and neither are torch or micro-lighters. Though perhaps more self-explanatory, if you use a ritual blade of any sort, don’t pack that in your carry-on either.

How do you use your travel shrine once you’ve arrived?

There is no hard and fast rule for ritual use of your travel shrine. Again, take into consideration where you are going, who you are staying with, and how long you are going to be there. Personally, if I am going to be staying in one space for the duration of my trip, a space where I can safely practice without any issue from my cohabitants, I will try to establish a specific spot for my travel shrine early on. Much like my shrine at home, I clean the area before setting up icons, and I purify my body before I enter the sacred space. I welcome my gods to stay in this shrine for the entirety of the time in the new location. I give offerings, usually just cool water while I’m actually in shrine (note my tiny offering cup in the pictures below) but silently offer some of my food before meals. I will then pray, sing, meditate, create art — any and all of the usual activities I would do with, or for, my gods while I was at home.

If I am staying in a hotel, or in a space where my cohabitants would be bothered my spirituality, I take greater precautions. I unpack my shrine, complete my chosen ritual the same way as described above, but after ritual, I pack all icons and ritual implements away in the travel shrine, and tuck it safely back into a bag where I know it will come to no harm. In the case of hotels, I have heard more than one story of cleaning staff accidentally damaging a shrine while they were doing their daily administrations. In the case of a less understanding host, I do this as a sign of respect to whoever has allowed me to stay within their home.

(The caveat here, of course, is if you are going to be living with this person for an extended period of time. In this case, I would suggest a full, free, and frank conversation of your faith before moving in with them, if such a conversation is at all humanly possible. As always, you know your own life better than any other, do what you think is best.)

What does a full travel shrine look like?

You can look at some of the blogs I mentioned above for ideas, but I’ve also included a few photos to show my current travel shrine.

The outside of my travel shrine. I love this box for its compact size, the shining gold caps on the exterior, and of course: the handy clasp.

This gives you a sense of how I pack the shrine, and some of the things I include within it. Please note the strike-on-box matches, as well as one of two lovely icons by Tenu depicting the names of my Parent deities.

Moving one layer down, you can see the incense, a candle, an ankh candle holder, and a small offering cup for fresh water (which is partially blocking a tiny, lotus-shaped incense holder) and two more icons which I made myself from polymer clay. They recently received some touch-ups after their original paint job began coming off.

Finally, here is the full travel shrine when it is set up. I currently place the three-dimensional icons of Set and Bast across from their painted names. This is a visual reminder for me; I was recently tasked in finding the similarities between my parent deities, in an effort to better balance which of Them I more frequently turn to. I enjoy sporadically changing elements of my travel shrine, whether it is the color of the candle I pack, or the type of incense I burn, depending on which Netjeru I am working with, and what I hope to achieve spiritually while I am traveling.

May your own adventures be fulfilling, and your gods near.

 

Kemetic Round Table – Ritual Purity

The Kemetic Round Table (KRT) is a blogging project aimed at providing practical, useful information for modern Kemetic religious practitioners. We noticed that many beginners in the Kemetic community have a lot of the same questions, and that there is currently no solid (and newbie safe) resource for newcomers to gain knowledge about the faith and practice. So we decided that every few weeks, a group of Kemetic bloggers would tackle a common new comer question and answer it as it obtains to their own personal practice. We’d then post our responses where others could read and learn about how other Kemetics are practicing. –  What is the Kemetic Round Table?

As many of us take our first steps into this exciting new blogging project, it seems fitting that we begin with a discussion of the preparations we make before stepping into sacred space, participating in Kemetic ritual. A number of contributors have already written excellent posts on the matter. I highly recommend Sarduriur’s post at Shadows of the Sun for a discussion of the history behind matters of ritual purity, Helmsman of Yinepu’s post at Kemetic Reconnaissance for a definition of “w’ab” or “clean,” and Qednofretaset’s post at Seven Scorpions which provides a clear-cut explanation of ritual purity requirements for the Kemetic Orthodox practice of senut, which I will touch on below.

I do identify as a member of the Kemetic Orthodox faith, having recently taken Shemsu vows to my gods and my community. Many who have found this particular flavor of Kemetic worship to fulfill their spiritual needs will complete the state rite of senut daily, effectively connecting themselves to the the rest of our community through very specific designated recitations, actions, and prayers. Before senut, practitioners are asked to wash their external body and orifices with a combination of natron and water, over which a particular blessing has been given. Once clean, they wear white clothing used solely for ritual made of neither synthetic materials nor animal skin. They are also asked to obstain from senut if they are bleeding (this includes menstruation) or are feeling particularly ill.

I very much enjoy and respect the process of preparing for senut. It provides a sense of connection to other members of my community to go through the steps, to know that many others have gone through these same processes, and may, somewhere, simultaneously be experiencing something similar to what I am experiencing in those moments of bathing, cleaning myself physically and emotionally, speaking sacred words aloud. It counters the loneliness of having no local Kemetic community, builds unseen bonds across the miles to friends and acquaintances.

This said, I generally only do the full state rite of senut once a month.

This is not for lack of faith or loyalty to my community! I sit in shrine several times a week to provide offerings to my gods, to play music for them, to simply sit in the presence of their icons and find comfort in a candle’s glow and the shadows of my Parents and Beloveds as they dance upon the wall. In preparation for all of these varieties of ritual I do purify. However, due to circumstances related to both my reproductive health and my schedule as a graduate student, I can only meet the full requirements of purity for senut on very rare occasions. Through much deliberation, both individually and with my gods, I decided that the best way to honor my commitment to Kemetic Orthodoxy is to make sure that when I prepare myself to purify for senut, I prepare myself for senut as the community proscribed. When I cannot meet those standards, I simply do something other than senut while in shrine, using none of the prayers associated with the rite, and feel neither guilt nor shame for the necessity.

And what does “something else” entail? Showering if I have time, often incorporating a bit of energy work. It’s an old trick I used long before my Kemetic days, where I envision the water rushing through me as well as over me in a stream of silver, breaking up the darkened bits, revitalizing connections between chakras. It takes tremendous focus, and even on days when I’m having a hell of a time pulling myself out the maelstrom of worries whirling around in my skull, if I’m going to be successful at the visualizaton, I must let go of the day-to-day concerns. I generally feel fantastic, inside and out, when I step out and begin the walk down the hall to the room with my shrine.

If I don’t have time, I will at least make an effort to wash my hands, my face, brush my teeth. I think there’s something about the deliberate choice to engage in the process of making myself clean, no matter to what degree, that helps me separate the sacred experiences to come from the secular experiences earlier in the day.

And personally I acknowledge that purity is on a gradient. The instant I step from the shower, whether this was a moment when I spoke the words of senut and washed with natron, or instead completed a visualization exercise, I’m going to need to use the towel I likely used the day before, my cat is going to rub up against my ankles and “share” her fuzz with me while I walk down the hall. As I dry and sweat in the heat of a small apartment mid-winter, I will lose the physical sense of purity gained a minute earlier. Whether I put on ritual whites or another clean outfit, there will be fuzz from the sweater that was hanging next to it, a bit of dust from that closet shelf I’ve been putting off wiping down with a damp cloth.

This doesn’t matter. What matters was the effort, the process of purifying, the deliberate choice to make myself ready — in mind, in body, in emotion — to sit with my gods, to separate myself from that paper that needs to be written, that phone call that needs to be made.

I call Set “Father,” Bast “Mother.” If I were to travel to visit my biological parents, I know that they would want my full attention and love during the period of time I stayed with them. I see the purifying process as a similar display of respect and affection.

For you see, in my acts of purification I am both traveling from a profane state to a numinous one and readying myself to focus solely on my gods for however long I am in shrine. If I intend to do senut, I complete the act through the methods required for senut, and I do so whole-heartedly with great attention to detail. If I am unable to meet those standards, or choose to worship in a way outside of senut, I purify in my own unique way. Out of respect to the community of Kemetic Orthodox to which I belong, I do not mix the two, but I certainly do not see one as more or less valuable and effective than the other.

The purpose, the shift, will happen either way. That, to me, is what counts. Your mileage may vary.