Egyptian Amazons

Famous(or infamous depending on who you ask) the Amazons were described as a society of fierce warrior women who lived apart from men. They fought the most famous heroes of Greek mythology and captured the imagination of writers both ancient and modern.

The Amazons have always interested me, especially after stumbling upon the work of author Adrienne Mayor and her book simply titled “The Amazons”. In the book she dives into the histories of ancient nomads from the Steppes who may have inspired ancient authors as well as the myriad of Amazon legends themselves.

There are many misconceptions regarding the Amazons, one of the biggest being that they were only to be found in the Greek world. These fascinating heroines were also to be found in tales among the Persians, Romans,Syrians, Egyptians, and other ancient cultures. As someone who primarily identifies their religious beliefs as Kemetic the stories based in Egypt are of particular interest to me.

One myth tells of the Syrian Amazon Queen Serpot (“Blue Lotus”) who fought against the Egyptian Prince Pedikhons, the conflict eventually ending in single combat between the two rulers. However the two were evenly matched and ended up joining forces.

Another tale centers around Amazonian Queen Myrina who was famous for conquering the city of Cyrenê. After conflict with the famous Heracles, Queen Myrina found herself traveling through Egypt. This was far back in mythic times when the god Heru (Horus) was directly ruling the country as Pharaoh. Queen Myrina allied with the god and went on to conquer Libya and portions of Turkey.

While we cannot be for sure on the birthplace of the Amazons, many ancient writers place it in North Africa particularly around Lake Tritonis (southern Tunisia today). The primary source of information regarding the “Libyan Amazons” seems to come from Greek historian Diodorus Siculus and places a great deal of importance upon the worship of a goddess known as Tannit among them.

Tannit was known to the Egyptians as Nit (Neith), Tanit to the Phoenicians and later identified as Athena to the Greeks (by Herodotus). The name Tannit was said to mean Ta-Nit, which translates as “the Land of Nit“, referring to North Africa as a whole. Nit’s major cult center amongst the Egyptians was the city of Tanis.

Now that I’ve established a little bit of a background and connection here it’s time to discuss the Amazons and modern Kemetics. Are these mythical warrior women relevant to modern day worshipers and if so, in what way? It’s important to note that the legends we have of Amazons in Egypt come primarily from Greek sources and not Egyptian. On the other hand, the Tannit-Amazon-Nit connection is a fascinating tidbit that could imply and older association. 

The story of Queen Myrina is interesting because it places her life and rule rule during the earliest days of Egyptian mythical history, a time when gods and mortals walked side by side in the flesh.

I still have a lot to ponder and research but I will definitely be covering more of this subject in the future.

Kemetic Body Positivity: Beautiful Bellies

Today’s self love reminder: Ancient Egyptian’s thought rolls were lovely and painstakingly drew and carved them.

In some ancient cultures being heavier was a symbol of power because it meant you could afford to eat.

Egypt was a little unusual in that regard. Being well fed was definitely a status symbol for higher class people. The pharaoh Akhenaten had a very large stomach and he flaunted it as a sign of the prosperity his reign would bring to Egypt. We know from physical remains that a large number of pharaohs were quite heavy.

That being said, the relative calm and predictable nature of the Nile’s flood meant that agriculture was fairly easy compared to what other cultures had to go through. We even have surviving art that shows farmers just chucking seeds behind them in a field.

Droughts and famine did happen and could be severe but they were the exception rather than the rule. Egyptians ate a diet mostly consisting of bread, beer, root vegetables, fish and fruit. They loved to drink and party and ate lots of red meat and waterfowl during festivals. They also made junk food sweetened with honey. Pharaohs ate lots of candy.

Because food and drink was plentiful compared to other societies you didn’t have to be upper class to eat well. We actually have art of heavyset peasants.

It’s fascinating because they would be so confused by our culture’s obsession with thinness. To them, rolls and plump stomachs were good things. There’s a reason that in hymns to Hapi He’s referred to as “fattening the land of Egypt” and that “every belly is made glad”.

Body Positivity And The Gods

We’ve probably all heard the expression “So-and-so has the body of a god”. But with so many traditions and pantheons full of deities what does that mean and why does it matter? This is my take, one that has helped bring me comfort in the face of an increasingly harsh, shallow society.

Most people in the Western World are familiar with the Greek and Roman gods. At least in terms of Their names and how They are depicted. Male gods shown with muscled frames, defined abs and legs that appear to be carved from steel. Goddesses have a bit more body diversity but still tend to conform to a certain “ideal” type.

This is what most people have in mind when they think about what gods “look like”. And there’s nothing wrong with that. This isn’t a slam or argument against any particular depiction of deity but rather an appeal to explore others.

Modern artwork showing deities is often characterized by this concept that all gods are muscle bound and all goddesses are slender with big breasts and tiny waists. I remember coming across a lovely work of photo art from a modern Hellenic temple showing the smith god Hephaestus as a slightly heavyset man. The comments on the work were extremely disheartening. “Gods are supposed to look perfect!” “He wouldn’t be able to do His job like that!”

One commenter explained in detail that he was unable to connect with deities not depicted as “physically perfect”. I remember being completely taken aback not only by people’s complete disregard for the fact that the model was an actual human being but also the association between a specific body type and “perfect”. Perfect by who’s terms? Are you saying that despite His noticeably strong muscles He wouldn’t be able to perform His work because His stomach isn’t flat? Absolute absurdity.

“Physical perfection” is a demonstrably artificial concept anyone. Perfect for what? A sprinter isn’t built like a football player, a strongman doesn’t have the body of a swimmer, etc. Outside of our shallow, image obsessed media it has no actual definition. We have been collectively trained to strive for a “perfection” that simply doesn’t exist so that companies can sell more products.

Cultures across the world have carved, drawn and imagined their gods in a wide variety of different ways. The Egyptian god Hapi is shown with a large chest and big belly, representing His associations with abundance.

Another god Bes, (also Egyptian) is envisioned as short and plump. Despite these features (which would be labeled as “flaws” by our modern society) Bes was beloved in ancient times an in the modern day by Kemetics.

Fertility and mother goddesses the world over are given the image of a curved woman with a large, round body emphasizing Their creative powers. These ample goddesses are beloved and venerated in nearly every tradition. Their images adorn jewelry, altars, artwork and books.

Another much loved god Who doesn’t match the image of a deity so many have in their head is Hotei, Japanese (as well as Chinese) god of happiness and contentment. His image can be found not only in temples but also outside of bars and restaurants, of which He is considered the patron god.

Yet another of the “Seven Lucky Gods” of Japan can be included here. Ebisu, patron god of fishermen, luck and wealth. Ebisu is described as a “full-figured” man dressed as a fisherman. To this day He plays an important role in Japanese culture, appearing in many mediums.

One of the most popularly worshiped Hindu gods of all time is Ganesh or Ganesha. Considered by some branches of the Hindu faith to be the Supreme Being, Ganesha is shown in images as an elephant headed man, sometimes with multiple arms and a large protruding stomach. Depending on the tradition this can represent everything from satisfaction to the infinite number of worlds existing within Him.

These aren’t the only body types that are left out when we view gods through the lense of modern ideas of “physical perfection”. As I don’t have infinite room here however I’ll have to discuss them next time!

What does all of this mean thing? It means that the images we create of our gods reflects ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with buff gods but there is also nothing wrong with heavyset or even fat ones either. People aren’t meant to look alike or have the same builds and neither are our gods.

Netjeri: The Divine Spirits

We just love “Net” words in Kemeticism.


For the average ancient Egyptian the world was filled with gods and spirits. Spiritual entities and creatures lived alongside the physical world and could be interacted with.

These creatures were often considered spiritual manifestations of physical phenomenon with medical treatments combining medicine with prayers and rituals aimed at influencing these creatures.

Amulets were worn to encourage protection of the person by the gods but also by these spirits. Or to keep them away entirely. Some of these beings are identified as serving specific deities while others do not.

Accounts of the ancient Egyptian underworld also populate it with a vast array of different spirit beings and creatures. While they seem to be less popular subjects in modern media Egyptian religion and mythology is not far behind that of the Greeks in terms of exotic, amazing mythological beings.

Such spirits include Sha beasts, Bennu birds (Phoenixes), griffins, sphinxes, serpopards, stas and more. The Sha is a sleek canine with large, square ears, a forked tail and long snout.

The Bennu is a heronlike bird with connections to the Phoenix myth. Serpopards are beings with the body of a leopard and the long neck and head of a snake. Finally, Stas are described as having the head and neck of an asp (a venomous snake) and a large, catlike body.

So we know these spirits were considered important in ancient times but what about nowadays? Working with various spiritual entities is common in many religious and/or spiritual traditions. In the Kemetic Orthodox tradition the name netjeri is given to any and all nonhuman, non god spirits.

Because the ancient Egyptians would often incorporate aspects of other religions into their own faith many modern Kemetics have no issue calling upon spirits from other cultures (angels and fae are common examples) in addition to traditional Kemetic spirits.

Certain gods such as Sekhmet (though certainly not limited to Her) are known to have spirits who serve as emissaries. These emissaries are often referred to as Arrows or as members of a deity’s retinue. It’s highly likely that all Netjeru have these emissaries in Their service.

All Jackal’s Eve: A Moomas time myth for Kids (And the young at heart)

(Quick note: I didn’t create All Jackal’s Eve, it’s a fun tradition celebrated by some Kemetic families the day before Moomas. I was however inspired to write this as a contribution to the stories and celebrations!)

Every year on the night before Moomas Yinepu (Anubis) and Wepwawet celebrate the anniversary of the Celestial Cow by visiting Kemetic families all over the world. They hitch a golden sledge up to a team of living golden jackals and load it up with gifts and blessings for all those who did their best to live within Ma’at.

There are seven jackals, with one at the front and the rest side by side. Merry little oil lamps🪔 light Their way through the darkness as They sail across Nut’s starry body.

All the while our Akhu celebrate with feasting and parties, pointing the way towards our homes to the tireless golden jackals. If you see twinkling lights in the sky this night you just might be seeing the celebration as our ancestors smile down on us.

Children leave snacks out as offerings to the jackal gods and letters to be read. Yinepu and Wepwawet visit every home and leave presents under Moomas trees and in stockings. The trees represent the sacred evergreens imported into Egypt in ancient times and the bright lights strung on them represent our akhu shining as stars up above.

©Terra Akhert 2019

In Defense of Syncretism

Throughout my time being active in the various pagan communities online I’ve been noticing an odd and frankly puzzling trend. I’m talking about the exhausting tendency of many modern pagans to dismiss syncretism out of hand. This despite the fact that that many such syncretisms have historical precedence.

As a Kemetic I’ve found myself more and more intrigued by the historical associations made by the ancient Greeks between their gods and those of the Egyptians during the Ptolemaic Period. For example, the Greeks believed that the Egyptian god Amun was the same as their god Zeus. They also associated Bast with Artemis, Min with Pan, Hethert with Aphrodite and so on. Frankly the Greeks had a long history of doing this kind of thing from what I’ve seen.

There were also historical instances of people believing many of the Greek and Roman gods to be one and the same. Whether people believed certain deities to be the same or different has always varied by time period and individual. Obviously a person is under no obligation to practice any form of syncretism but shooting down someone who does is disrespectful and shortsighted.

I remember many years ago when I was still new to Paganism I stumbled upon a post someone wrote concerning the identification of Artemis and Bast. The article was so full of righteous indignation that it will probably stick in my mind for years more to come. The author bemoaned “inexperienced new pagans” “confusing these goddesses together”. They ranted about how frustrated they were and that they “knew” the two were different.

I remember being struck by the strange defensiveness of the post. Surely a person confident in their relationship with a deity would not feel so threatened by someone else’s beliefs? Especially since those beliefs are also rooted in ancient practices?

The truth is that beliefs regarding the nature of the gods varied extensively throughout historical eras and geographical locations. We need to remember to be open minded when coming into contact with pagans whose beliefs and ideas are different from ours. Instead of immediately jumping to the conclusion that the other person is wrong and/or ignorant why don’t we instead try to see their point of view?

I want to make it clear that I’m not talking about empathizing with people who warp pagan beliefs to justify their bigotry and hate. Screw those people. They should never be welcome in these communities.

Now to the question of what I believe regarding syncretism:

I do believe in some syncretism within my personal practice. I’ve found myself increasingly interested in the fusion of the Greek, Roman and Egyptian pantheons mentioned at the beginning of the post.

I do believe some Greek and Roman gods are the same, though this statement does not extend to all of the gods as there are definitely deities unique to one pantheon or another (and some adapted from other pantheons altogether)! As far as the Egyptian gods go: They have a long history of merging together to create composite or synced gods while also preserving the individuality of the deities involved. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for this to be extended to Their experiences with different pantheons. We even have examples of this happening in the form of Hermanubis, a composite Hermes-Anubis deity.

My point with this article is not to demand every polytheist immediately adopt syncretistic beliefs. Your beliefs are your own. Instead I’m pointing out that these beliefs are not new and every bit as valid to those who hold them.

©Terra Akhert 2019

 

Musings on Loki

This is something I wrote some time ago but it continues to be true in my experience and I wanted to share it with others. As I’ve stated on multiple occasions I have a deeply devotional but also sometimes chaotic relationship with the god Loki.

Loki can be a very hard god but He is so worth it. He is an individual so sometimes He is all smiles and laughter. Other times He is deep and thoughtful. Sometimes, He is Worldbreaker in all His terribleness. He frightens us, shaking the ground under our feet and tearing at the illusions we have built up about ourselves. He smiles as He rips apart our walls, not because he is sadistic or evil but because He genuinely cares about us and He knows it is for the best. After the deed is done we shake with relief because we have seen divine fury strike out around us, rending and gutting our self doubt. We have seen the fires of Muspelheim reach out to devour that which we had for so long devour our very minds. Memories, doubts about ourselves, irrational fears, they all melt and twist in FlameHair’s fire, till we rise out the other side, stronger and more sure of ourselves.

Loki can be a hard god because He points out our flaws, not to be mean but to show us that no one is perfect. We must work on ourselves but we must not be deluded into thinking we will ever reach some arbitrary benchmark of perfection. Loki wants us to grow as people but He also wants us to love ourselves how we are because if we are constantly waiting until we are good enough to love then we will never love ourselves. We are already good enough to love and loved all the more because we try.

This is why Loki can be a hard god, He genuinely cares about us as individuals.

©Terra Akhert 2019

Harm None?

In my time on the Pagan part of the Internet I’ve seen plenty of posts about whether or not you have to be vegan in order to be Wiccan, or whether or not it’s OK to euthanize a critically injured animal. I’ve even seen people go as far as to say non vegans practicing Wicca aren’t actually Wiccans at all. What it basically all boils down to is the true meaning of “harm none”. It’s actually impossible to go through your life without causing any harm.

You harm microbes when you wash your hands and when you clean. You squash ants when you walk. If you eat meat then an animal had to die. If you are a vegan then a plant in many causes had to die. They are living things as well. Vegetables and other crops must be planted, the equipment used for this kills mice and bugs who live in the fields. Bugs hit car windshields, animals accidentally hit by cars and so on and so on.

My point isn’t to be depressed or upset by this harm. Animals can’t go through their life without harming others either, it’s just the world we live in. The Rede is very important but it’s not the be-all end-all. It’s not our version of the 10 Commandments.

It is extremely good advice, something to strive for in our lives. Do not however expect perfection, do your best to be a good person and to minimize the harm you cause but realize that you will cause harm to someone or something just in the course of living. This doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad Wiccan. This makes you human. The world isn’t black-and-white, it’s filled with shades of gray.

I remember a couple years ago a person had started a thread in a Wiccan group I was a part of on social media. Essentially the woman was interested in taxidermy and crafting jewelry out of bone, claws and other animal parts, all humanely sourced from natural deaths. Inevitably someone started a second thread about this talking about how shocking and “unWiccan” this was. How “disgusting” this person must be and how they are wannabes for “enabling this behavior” and that they should “go read some Wiccan books”.

To be quite blunt? It struck a very raw nerve with me.

Honestly this narrow mindedness and absolute refusal to acknowledge the natural world (which includes death) while proclaiming to honor it is why other Pagans bash us Wiccans. People of different traditions have always used animal parts in jewelry and sacred ritual, our god (The Horned God) is even a hunter! Heck, The Goddess is often portrayed as one too.

By judging others for engaging in practices that are not causing undue suffering and are in accordance with their own traditions people like that are the ones who aren’t acting Wiccan. Other disrespectful and insulting comments on threads such as this one? How about “Read some Wiccan books”? Which ones? Just the ones that agree with your thinking or any of the hundreds published by different authors with different opinions?

What of people whose ancestors are Native American and  have used animal products in jewelry and sacred rituals since the beginning of their people? I am in no way comparing any form of Wicca to any Native tradition but that kind of Puritanism towards other belief systems makes me all kinds of uncomfortable.

Yours, Not Theirs

I have always been very interested in religion and spirituality. When I was just a kid I even had a little girl’s bible that I read cover to cover. As I grew up I started asking questions and exploring my beliefs. I don’t remember exactly when I discovered Wicca but I devoured everything I could find on it. I also began studying comparative religion. The rest is basically history.

I consider myself Wiccan though I take inspiration from many sources. These include but aren’t limited to New Orleans Style Voodoo, Rokkatru and some Christian beliefs. I also call myself a witch. My path puts an emphasis on the Faerie Realm.

I believe in one all powerful source Whom I call God. To me God has a masculine side (The Horned God) and a feminine side (The Triple Goddess), like two sides of one coin. I see all the gods and goddesses as being manifestations/aspects of Them while also being individuals at the same time. It’s like shining a light through a prism. It’s all one light but it shines through as a rainbow of different colors. I try to live each day being the best version of myself. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t. I like to do practical things to honor nature like putting up bird feeders, growing plants, etc.

I celebrate the phases of the moon as to me they represent the phases of The Triple Goddess and of the changing cycles of the earth. In a similar way I celebrate the Solstices as different points along the lifecycle of The Horned God. I’m very much a “Circle Of Life” type of person.

To me magick has to do with the flow of the universe. Some of this energy comes from within us, some from all around the universe and some from the gods. Magick is basically working with the rhythms of the universe to accomplish changes. It’s every bit as natural as as, the force of gravity.

This is my Wicca, but it may not be yours. Our beliefs and practices are heavily affected by our experiences and perceptions of the world around us. That’s the reason why there is no “One Size Fits All” situation here. Don’t through rules and traditions headlong out the window for no reason but don’t be afraid of your practice, your beliefs looking different from the person next to you. Yours isn’t their’s.

The Black Bird Buffet

There is a fast food place not terribly far from where I live, which I suppose can be said for most people living in the United States. Around the side of the establishment is a fenced in dumpster area, usually overflowing with leftovers from the buffet. Recently I’ve begun noticing a large number of black birds swarming the area and feasting on the morsels within. In the days after I first saw  the avian feeding frenzy I’ve had trouble getting it off my mind. My initial thought was a lamentation of just how wasteful our species can be, followed shortly thereafter with “well I’m glad someone is eating it”. Neither of those thoughts are what this article is really about though.

Those birds out there exist within the same space as us but still in their own world, separate and alien from ours. The two are of course related, completely interdependent on one another. What we do effects them and what they do effects us even though our worlds are different. As someone who practices two traditions that both put an emphasis on the spirit world and the connection between theirs and ours, it was impossible for me not to see a resemblance.

In my own faith and practice I believe that there are two main divisions or worlds in which we exist, the physical world and the spirit world. These worlds exist side by side and influence one another. In Wicca or Wiccan inspired beliefs we often refer to the existence of a “veil between worlds”. The terminology is interesting here because it heavily implies that these worlds are not as far from one another as they may appear. A veil is a very thin cloth, basically porous. This reflects the idea of spirits passing from one world to the other and back again in a constant loop.

The tldr here? Your house is haunted. Everyone’s is, some places are just way more active than others.

Now back to the birds. They have their own complex behavior, pecking order and forms of communication. Heck, who are we to say they don’t have their own form of culture as well? Throughout history, humans have been fascinated with the idea of a culture for wild animals and we see this reflected in the extensive mythologizing of them. Mythology and folktales are told throughout the world of animals speaking,  living in tribes or other societies, having laws and codes of ethics. This fascination hasn’t stopped in modern times either, just look to the wildly popular Warriors series by Erin Hunter for evidence of that.

I suppose what I’m really trying to get at in this rambling mess is that those birds served as a reminder that more exists in this world than what we see in our daily lives. It’s easy to get stuck in this rut of doing the same thing over and over and missing the bigger picture. Kemeticism and Wicca help me to see glimpses of this grand scheme (whatever it is exactly) in the small everyday things. All you have to do is look up occasionally.

 

©Terra Akhert 2019