I noticed, a while back, that each of us who work with gods tend to become a quasi-expert in that particular deity. Now, I’m thinking specifically in a Kemetic framework here, but I suppose it could be true across the polytheistic board. I know I tend to recommend various friends of mine for different deities: Bezen for jackals; Devo for Sutekh, Wesir, and occasionally Aset; Helms for specific items and lesser know deities; Sard for Sutekh, Khnum, Montu, and netjeri. I suppose I am considered the go-to girl for Sekhmet and occasionally Het-heru. I have networked a bit on Tumblr, so I can direct people to others who work with Djehuti, Seshat, and that ilk. We’re all experts… on the gods.
The thing is that while we are learning all we can, how many of us are forgetting what Kemetism is all about?
I know I am. I forget all the time.
I also know that I am not alone in this. Sometimes, it is difficult to keep in your mind that the religion you are carving out isn’t just about the gods, what to offer, and how to continue to earn their favor. It isn’t just about forging relationships on a level that is inherently personal to each of us. I have a hard time, especially lately, in remembering that my path has concepts that are integral to its very formation all of those millennia ago. I know that I’m not the only person around in the Kemetic hemisphere to have these issues, though. I know that I cannot possibly be the only person in the entire Kemetic arena of the polytheistic stage that has to stop and remind myself, on occasion, that the foremost of concepts in all of this are two-fold: live in ma’at and community.
Now, I will admit that this is my own view on the subject matter. Anyone else who reads this entry, of which I’m hoping there are a few, can speak up and tell me what you-all believe the inherent concepts of the religion are. And I will accept those concepts as much as I can. But to me, the two major and foremost things that we need to keep in mind is to live in ma’at first, followed by community. To me, you cannot have one without the other; you must live in ma’at to formulate a coherent and viable community. The thing is that this post really isn’t about community. I’m sure I’ll be jumping back into that topic at a later date in time. Right now, let’s talk about how we live in ma’at, how we offer ma’at, and what the we’re doing here.
As a Kemetic, when you start to think about living in ma’at, it can get kind of insane for a while. It’s a concept that really has absolutely no place in the English language. I really cannot convey how difficult this concept can be just in the premise of a language barrier. Whenever you read a book and that concept comes up, each definition or translation is different from each other. I have seen it translated as “truth,” “harmony,” “justice,” “cosmic harmony,” and a thousand other things. This is something I’ve discussed before – taking words from other languages and trying to fit them into a square hole, but the peg is a circle. You can’t cram it in there because it just won’t fit properly. But these are words that existed in these languages, both ancient and newer, for a reason. These concepts are things that we used to hold very dear to ourselves – ma’at in ancient Egypt, mir in Russian, ilunga in southwest Congo, schadenfreude in German, and kalpa in Sanskrit. We have close approximations to words like these, but more often than not there is no clear-cut translation that can make these words and concepts connect easily in our English minds.
I think this may be a major barrier to actually beginning to live a Kemetic lifestyle, to actually become a part of the whole experience and use your religion.
One of the arguments you see in some forums is the difference between orthopraxic and orthodoxic. The latter is the use of correct belief and rituals in a religious sense, while the former is correct action or activity, specifically in conduct. Kemetism is an orthopraxy just by its very foundation. This is made abundantly clear when you begin to start working on living in ma’at. It isn’t what you believe that makes the path here. It isn’t whether you have faith or whether you don’t. It is a matter of what you do in that faith that matters. And that is never more clear than when you begin to study and begin to try to live in ma’at in Kemetism.
Each person has a different take on what exactly living in ma’at can convey, which can also cause issues for those of us who want to live in ma’at. In some circles, this means taking the Papyrus of Ani and molding the 42 Negative Confessions there into a type of law system. While law happened in ancient Egypt, it didn’t matter what you wrote in your negative confessions. These were items that you were confessing to the gods that you very assuredly did not do, which would prove that your heart didn’t weigh more than the feather it was being weighed against. However, the 42 Confessions are horrifically out of date, if you ask me. How often do we have to admit that we never stole offerings from the temples or killed the cows of the gods’ temples? So, by turning these into laws of a sort, we’re missing the point.
The first point being is that, while some of these are universal, not all of them are.
And the second point being is that living in ma’at is as mercurial as human nature.
Some people think that living in ma’at means that we should put the shopping carts away. This isn’t so bad of a concept either. It means everything is orderly. It means that everyone does their part to make everything work out in that orderly concept. The problem is that not everyone puts their carts away, do they? They leave them in the middle of parking spaces, which then aggravates anyone trying to get a light grocery shopping done with no parking spaces left. People leave their carts up on the islands separating sections of the parking lot. Some people bring them back to the store front doors, crowding up space but making it easier to grab one when you go in.
I used to think about this particular theology and put it into practice. I do, in fact, put the grocery cart away when I am done using it. It is because of this theological essay that I started doing this with more intent, with more awareness, than I normally would. I’ve been bad – I’ve left the cart beside the parking space or I’ve failed to return it into its little slot. Sometimes, I’ve ever just left it in the middle of another parking place. But for the most part, I do still put the shopping carts away. The thing is that I tend to view this theology on its face as “orderly.” And I don’t necessarily equate ma’at with “orderly.” It reminds me, in a manner of speaking, of those movies where humans line up like the mindless little automatons we can be and do as we are bid.
I don’t feel that ma’at wants us to be little mindless automatons.
As I said above, living in ma’at is as mercurial as human nature.
So, what exactly is living in ma’at? How are people supposed to do this thing that we don’t even really fully comprehend because translations are incomplete or impossible? How are Kemetics supposed to put this orthopraxy into practice and you know, do instead of think and believe?
I get stuck at this part every time.
I think sometimes people tend to view me in this way that I’m not really. They tend to see my blog and see how vocal I am about it all. I think, sometimes, people equate this in a way with someone who has “got their stuff together.” I can be completely honest here since it is my blog and no one is probably going to read this: I do not have my stuff together. I don’t know what I’m doing more often than not. I have motions that I go through – I give the offerings, I do the execrations, I say the words. But there are days where I break down in front of my shrine because I am feeling so horrific about everything. There are days where the motions are as bare-boned as that word makes it sound. I putter around with my cool water and don’t bother with the bread or the incense or the candles. I am not together. More often than not, I don’t know what the hell I am doing.
I think a part of that is because I am constantly questioning this main, huge, big, important concept to my religion: What is living in ma’at and how can I do that?
I forget about this concept all the time. I said it above; I’ll say it again. I forget about living in ma’at all the effing time. There are days when I’m not nice. There are days when I’m too involved in my own things to stop what I’m doing and help others out. There are days where I’m so busy running from the second I’m up that I forget about this whole integral part of my religious practice.
I don’t know what this thing is, honestly. I don’t really know.
But I know that my gods need it.
They need it and I need it.
I just have to figure out what “it” is.
Note: The list of words I used to conceptualize the fact that some words do not translate into English are not all words relating to the concept of “ma’at.” The word from the Congo actually means something like, “I will forgive you on the first offense and the second offense, but on the third offense, it is on like Donkey Kong.” Something like.