The Conceptualisation of Death and the Afterlife in ancient Egypt
Death was very much present in and a
part of ancient Egyptian daily life. From an Egyptian religious point of view,
ultimate death, or non-existence, was the worst fate imaginable. Avoiding this
fate was the common thread in funerary culture throughout the history of
ancient Egypt. To a Western mind this may seem an “obsession” with death, while
in reality it was rather a preoccupation with life in all its forms. Although
the ancient Egyptian concepts of the afterlife were subject to change over the
course of its roughly 6 millennia of history, I’ll attempt to give you a “quick
and dirty” overview below. (Though to be honest, I doubt I can keep this below
2,000 words.) I’ll tackle Pharaonic history – that is to say, the period
roughly between 2700 and 1000 BC, since that is my area of expertise.
“The sun god who was the ultimate source of light, energy, and life. The first sunrise, when the sun emerged as a shining bird or golden child from dark watery chaos, was the most important event in Egyptian myth. Ra merged with the primeval form of the creator to make the cosmos and its laws. He ruled as King of the Gods, first on earth and later from the heavens. Ra was born to his mother the sky goddess each morning. He passed through many transformations before being absorbed back into her each evening. Alternatively, the progress of the sun was pictured as a voyage across the skies above and below the earth. Each night the divine crew of the solar barque had to overcome the forces of chaos so that Ra could revive the sleeping dead and renew the world.” ― Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt, by Geraldine Pinch
Aside from the regular food and/or beverages that you may give during a ritual or prayer, offerings can also take the form of actions within your daily life. In regards to Sutekh, the following (but not limited to) can be done in honor of Him:
» Maintain Good Hygiene — One of the lessons that Sutekh often teaches is that change is crucial. Break out of those old, unhealthy habits and strive to maintain a hygienic lifestyle. Remember to brush your teeth, shower daily, wash your hands, and allow yourself time to rest. This allows you to get rid of what’s unnecessary in your life and to bring in what you need.
» Exercise — Returning to the idea of change, working to improve your physical shape is a healthy way to dedicate time and energy to Sutekh. Go outside and jog a few blocks, all in the name of Sutekh!
» Participate in a Political March/Event — Sutekh is the Lord of Chaos, and going out and directing your energy towards advocating for an issue is a great way to represent chaos. This does not mean, however, to go into rallies and commit illegal acts (e.g., vandalism and violence). Remember that Sutekh isn’t absolute chaos; Sutekh is also a protector - he safeguarded Ra on his solar barque. Stand up for what you believe, however do so with a ‘Big Stick’ ideology (”speak softly and carry a big stick”). You aren’t turning a blind eye by not throwing stones and smashing car hoods, you’re showing the masses that you’re serious and to be respected.
» Research — Learn as much as you can about Sutekh, your path, and more. By continuing to learn about your path and expanding your knowledge past it, you’re preventing stagnation in your life. In my experience, Sutekh wants you to be actively progressing and moving forward in your life. By learning more about your path or him, you’re doing just that: actively progressing.
» Affection and Sensuality — Sutekh is a rather sexual god and is known for phallic imagery/jokes. This aspect of Him can be honored with masturbation or showing your affection for those around you. Give your friend a hug, kiss your significant other, or have some fun in bed.
Disclaimer: This is entirely UPG (some based on my personal experiences and some based on others) and should be used only as a guide.
detail from the highly sacred “Book of the Earth”, I part, IV register, that is the Cosmogonic Text known as the “Book of Aker”: detail from the third scene, “the Passage through the Cavern of Nun”; from the “House of Eternity” of King Ramses V and King Ramses VI, KV9, Valley of the Kings, west ‘Uaset’-Thebes. Below, at right, the right half of the body of the Double Lion God Aker; inside the body of Aker is represented Shu; on the top, the Solar Barque of the Night with Ra in His form of ram-headed scarab flanked by two 'Ba’-birds making adorations to Him; the 'Ba’-bird at right is “the'Ba’ of Atum” while the other is “the 'Ba’ of Khepri”; below, at left, the God of the Primaeval Mound (T3-ṯnn) receiving the Night Barque of Ra into the body of Aker
Does Set have to work overtime on a solar eclipse?
An apt question for today e 7 e )+ and I’m fairly sure he does – or well, he would have needed to, back when he was still part of Ra’s royal guard on the Solar Barque (it’s not really his responsibility anymore during his exile…).
If I remember correctly, the Ancient Egyptians had interpreted the event of a solar eclipse as a direct attack from Apep. It was during the few times the chaos serpent actually overpowered Ra and “consumed” the sun disk – which could be taken literally, or could mean that he otherwise obstructed the view of the sun and it’s life-giving power.
I haven’t figured out how this would be adapted to DEITIES verse (not likely in the literal manner I drew in my earlier eclipse joke), but I imagine that a solar eclipse could be a sizable threat to the pantheon – especially if it were to last any longer than it usually does. Maybe one reason it’s comparatively “fleeting” is because Set and other deities would work harder to drive away Apep and other demons in order to release the sun, since they can’t afford it to stay obscured for very long. Idk, but the idea might be fun to explore one day… +
The sun god Re with the crew of his sun barque defends the cosmos against Ap/opis. Particularly at the critical moments or places of sunrise and sunset, on the borders of cosmos and chaos, is the conflict represented in the coordination of space and time. Osiris is enthroned in the underworld, but Re journeys continually…Sometimes Re is shown alone in it, but often various other gods also appear as members of the crew.
These gods have a particular relationship with Re. As occupants of the ship, each represents an aspect of Re himself. It is clear that ‘Hw’ and 'St3’, 'M3’t’ and 'Hk3’ are hypostases of the sun-god, his authoritative word and insight, his justice and magic power. It is interesting that gods whom egyptologists do not usually regard as personifications of concepts, seem to be aspects of Re when they occupy a place in the sun barque. In his very thorough monograph on Thoth, Boylan remarks that in the solar barque this god represents the businesslike and efficient character of Re’s rule. The problems of unity and plurality, monotheism and polytheism, can not be worked out here. E. Otto has drawn attention to an interesting parallel in the anthropomorphic field: in a tomb of the 18th dynasty offerings were not only found addressed to the dead man or to his Ka, as usual, but the unity was extended to a more detailed plurality consisting of name, Ka, altar, tomb, fate, lifetime, Meskhenet, Renenet, Khnum, Ba, Akh, body, shadow, and “all his forms”. Just as the human manner of being after death has many aspects relating to continued individual existence, so also the manner of being of Re, the lord of the universe, can apparently be specified in various gods or be more precisely qualified by them.
Pst, would you have any recommended reading/documentaries/etc for newer/ish kemetics?
Hey there, I’m glad you sent this ask.
Firstly, I recommend you check out Devo’s stuff. They have a
lot of resources listed here. This will help get you started. They go over a
lot of common questions, offering, “god phones” devotee problems, ect, and some
big holidays. For a lot of the US folk, Wep Ronpet is coming up. They go over
that as well. You may have to dig a little to find it. Then I’d check this out. (For
the resources, not saying you have to / should join KO. That’s up to your own discursion.)
Other resources to help learn about the gods include:
(I would like to point out that a lot of sites lack in a lot
of information. There’s usually a lot to learn about a specific deity.)
You want to learn about your deity, some of their myths,
attributes, strengths, failings, flaws, ect. I’m not sure who you followed so I’m
not going to list any specifics, but if you are interested in Set // Sutekh //
Sutah I can help you out there. I have some resources for Anubis, and you’ll
never have a hard time finding books about Ra, Horus, Osiris and Ma’at.
Other things you might want to learn about:
Ma’at, Isfet, Ra upon his Solar Barque and A/p/e/p, as those are
integral parts of the religion for me. You can go farther and learn about The Book of the Dead & the Hall of
Judgement. ((You may already know what this if you’ve ever looked up
pictures of Anubis & Ammut.))
After you research ALLLL Of that and you’re still curious:
I’d suggest learning about the culture and land the Gods
once resided over. (Despite what some people may say, the Kemetic Gods and
Politics go hand in hand. Kingship was a BIG DEAL. It can’t be ignored. I have
a good book about that if you’re interested in knocking out history and
political endeavors, it’s called The Oxford Guide to Ancient History)
simplified timeline, there’s often documentaries on YouTube as well. (You’d
want to find ones that specifically deals with the religion, as some of the
pyramid building stuff tends to get weird and boring.)
There are a lot of
aspects of the religion and culture you can learn about. Some things you might particularly
be interested in is:
(The Ma’at book can be hard to read, but if you want to
learn a bit about it but you can’t work through it I have posted quotes you can
find here if you
scroll down a bit. There’s also some coffin texts in there as well.)
So I know I rambled a bit so here’s a TLDR:
1. Read TheTwistedRope’s resources. 2. Research what deity you’re interested
in. 3. Learn about the big concepts and names in the religion. 4. Learn about
moral teachings. 5. Learn about the history & culture of Ancient Egypt.
This is my suggestion, I’m sure a lot of people will
disagree with me, but this is what I did / still doing.
kneel down and close your eyes, devotee
breathe in, breathe out, sink into yourself
now open your inner eyes
and find yourself in this private chamber
deep within the temple complex
grand Bubastis beside the Nile
worship place of Bast, The Fiery One
the only sound torches flickering on the walls
and the soft patter of paw-steps in the shadows
temple cats or the spirits of their kin
the air is heavy with the scent of incense
and on the walls carvings laid with gold and lapis dance in the torchlight
images of the Lady of the East at Her work
standing proud and fierce upon Ra’s solar barque
or kneeling with Her children all around
scenes of hunting fields and sunlit courtyards
of celebration and devotion to the Lady of Truth
and standing tall and regal before your bowed form
a statue of the Mother Cat Herself in polished stone and shining gold
taller than any human, older than a thousand lifetimes
in one hand She holds a sistrum and the other an ankh
tools of Her trade, protectress and guide
at Her feet burn candles and incense
and offerings lay all around
cloth and ribbon, perfume jars and precious stones
place your own offerings at Her feet
bow your head and open your heart
in this chamber you are safe and welcome
the Lady of the Flame fills you with love like the eternal sun
devotion like the heart of the fire
peace like the most delicate perfume
the Lady hears all
speak and She will answer
Lately I’ve been getting hints that she
wants me to honor her in her own right rather than just Set’s companion. But I
haven’t make any decision. Either she’s too subtle or I’m just used to Set’s ‘in
your face’ type of communication, I’m still waiting for her to drop me more
clues into what sort of work / relationship which she want to draw me in. For
now I’m just enjoying giving her pretty stuffs because I really like do her and
adore her that much.
I got a few questions regarding the two
arts of Set and Nebt-het in the background, and yeah, one of them is my own art
(the one with the red curtain) and I’ve got them on my shrine since November. I
know that this is a total strike towards the more ‘popular’ depiction of their
relationship by Plutarch and his cronies. But I’m not afraid, because I know at
least Ramesses II, Seti I and Thutmose III agreed that they can be worshipped
as a pair.
I’ve discussed about this that the pair SetXNebt-het and the triad AsetXOsirisXNebt-het
don’t have to clash against one another. This isn’t shipping war in a fandom
in which some claimed HoMin is real instead of YunJae. Both groups can
coexist within the religion, she still could be loyal to Osiris & Aset and still
have a good relationship with Set in the other side of the myth/cult, just as
the other deities have versions of their myths. I know that Nebt-het chose to
side with Aset in the Osirian myth, doesn’t necessarily mean that she has to be
contra-Set once and for all. That would be so unfair, imo. There are also references
in her Henadology page about how Nebt-het shares some of Set’s epithets and
qualities. She resurrected Set when he’s felled. &&& She’s related
to the Abdu fish whose role is to swim before the solar barque and warn Ra
about the poop. Yes, she’s that baddass. Not to mention about the fire breath.
Okay, let’s talk about the food. Coca
cola and Cheetos, those items must exist whenever I involve her in a
celebration. I was sad that the distributors didn’t ship Cheetos to our area
and I thought I’m gonna go without it, but my cousin bought me some right on her
birthday. (Like. Wow, she did care about me saying that my god(dess) wants a
thing. After living with parents who were against my religion 110%, I’m still
surprised to get such help.). Other than that I got her a crunch cake, which
creamy topping was ruined (melted on the way home), but I managed to fix it
with cheese and cookies. A bunny-shaped strawberry pudding. Plus a glass of
coconut ice :D *recalls the joke about Set being a coconut ice seller because
my cousin borrowed his sword to crack some coconuts*
scene from the “Book of Coming Forth by Day” of Lady Heruben, XXI Dynasty (now in the cairo museum…): Seth at the prow of the Sacred Barque of Ra, repelling and slaying with His spear the cursed apopi (represented as a huge snake), the enemy of the Gods, during the nocturnal journey of Ra. Ra-Harakhty is represented enthroned in the middle of the Solar Barque; behind Him, Horus and Thoth (both mummiform), and the ‘Udjat’-Eye; the Sacred Barque of Ra is carried by two rows of four jackals (representing the “Souls of the West”) and four Uraei. To the left, a baboon-headed God slaughtering with His knives the cursed apopi. To the right, the blessed Lady Heruben making adorations to the Gods and to Their Triumph over the cursed apopi
Ships on stamps! Ancient ships on stamps! And medieval ones, too! In order: an Egyptian barque, a Phoenician ship, a Greek trireme, a Roman merchantman, the Viking Gokstad, a Prussian cog, a medieval holk, and a Genoese carrack. Which of these pretty keels would your face like to cause a thousand to be launched by reason of?
Stamp details: Issued on: January 25, 1965 From: Warsaw, Poland MC #1562-1569
Ma'at is this sort of ambiguous term that is at the heart of what Kemeticism is about. It’s what makes the world and all of Creation worth fighting for. IT’s what the gods are said to live off of and it’s really what all Kemetics (and humanity in general, I’d say) is supposed to be striving to maintain.
Ma'at is often defined as “truth” or “justice”, but that’s not really accurate. Most Kemetics on Tumblr define ma'at as “balance”. It’s the balance that you strike that allows you to be happy and healthy and lead a productive life. It’s the balance that you strike that allows your country to grow and prosper. It’s the balance between doing enough to help others, but doing enough to also care for yourself.
A lot of people think that ma'at is all about peace and love, but a lot of Kemetics also realize that peace and love only gets you so far. Sometimes you have to draw lines in the sand. Sometimes you have to smite out rebellion. Sometimes you have to do things that are a bit on the unsavory side in order to bring things back into balance. That is why our pantheon also allows things like Set, Sekhmet and war deities to fight on the Solar Barque every night. Because sometimes these types of methods are needed to maintain Order and balance. Sometimes you have to cut things off at the pass in order to prevent even larger/bigger loss. But part of maintaining ma'at is knowing how much is too much and how little is too little.
So… uh… hopefully that makes sense.
I’ve got a post here that discusses some ways of bringing ma'at into daily life that may be helpful.