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Author Topic: The Role of Priesthood in Modern Kemeticism  (Read 8306 times)

Helmsman_of_Inepu

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The Role of Priesthood in Modern Kemeticism
« on: July 06, 2011, 02:12:44 pm »
In modern Recon Kemeticism, what types of priesthood do you think are needed?

What functions are needed, given our dispersed nature, and small numbers?
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Re: The Role of Priesthood in Modern Kemeticism
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2011, 04:28:22 pm »
Quote from: Helmsman_of_Inepu;2003
In modern Recon Kemeticism, what types of priesthood do you think are needed?

What functions are needed, given our dispersed nature, and small numbers?

 
To be completely honest, I don't think it's possible for modern Recon Kemeticism to have a single priesthood that defines itself with this, this, and this. The problem is that everyone who is intent on practicing recon has to do the research surrounding said lifestyle. The problem is that the information is so far-flung, varied, or unclear that everyone takes a different piece of it and uses that piece. Due to this, I feel that having a single universal priesthood is nearly impossible. Each priest/ess will have their own spin, argue the semantics with the others...

Honestly, I think we all need something like a guidance counselor of the divine.
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Re: The Role of Priesthood in Modern Kemeticism
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2011, 04:49:48 pm »
Quote from: Helmsman_of_Inepu;2003
In modern Recon Kemeticism, what types of priesthood do you think are needed?

 
Very likely biased because of my own leanings, but I think that aside from the basic assumption that priests have open statues and perform rituals, I also think priests should be keepers of knowledge about their respective deities. This seems sorely missing sometimes.

I'd also like to see priests who are more 'hands-on' in a way, such as being available to help people in dedicating devotional items (or who offer such items which have already been pre-dedicated, maybe even made by them.) Also available for doing things like blessing river crossings, although I doubt there is much call for that. ;) There are other hands-on kind of things which might fall more into the territory of magicians, but priests were often magicians as well IIRC?
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Re: The Role of Priesthood in Modern Kemeticism
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2011, 05:08:17 pm »
Quote from: Bezenwepwy;2094
Very likely biased because of my own leanings,

 
I think you and I are along the same lines. When I think of priests, I think of someone with an open statue that serves the gods- yes. But I think that priests should also serve their community.

I love the way Shinto priests do their thing. They- like in AE- run on shifts. It's usually unpaid (unless you're the top priest- that's about the only full time paid position at a jinja). They do daily service to the kami- usually twice a day at least. They also have festivals that involve the local community to celebrate holidays, and maintain balance within the world. They are available to be called to areas where they can bless your house, your car, your business- whatever. They can also be asked to create various charms and perform rites in your name.

I think a priest (in a perfect world) would/could/should be able to do all of these things. Is that possible with our current knowledge? I'm not sure. I feel that priesthood is more than maintaining an open statue.

At least, I think :P

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Darkhawk

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Re: The Role of Priesthood in Modern Kemeticism
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2011, 07:27:33 pm »
Quote from: Helmsman_of_Inepu;2003
In modern Recon Kemeticism, what types of priesthood do you think are needed?

What functions are needed, given our dispersed nature, and small numbers?

 
I think it's worth looking at what ancient expectations of priesthood were, and what modern interpretations of clergy are.

There's the stuff people generally think of when talking about priesthood: care of opened statues in sanctuaries, administering sacrifices, maintaining the libraries in the temple scriptorium, preparation of mummies, performance of other rituals, and so on.  There were also priests who were hired to perform ongoing funerary duties for families - such as one in which there was no son, or in which the son was more interested in hiring out the duty than doing it himself.

I think it is unclear whether or not most priests were servants of particular gods, as opposed to servants of the gods of their particular temple (generally selected by being in their home town or some such).  It is entirely likely that some priests selected which temples to work in (if they had a choice at all) by which provided them with the most prestige or the highest pay rather than personal dedication.  Much of these sort of banal reasons for seeking priesthood collapsed with the Egyptian state, but they were significant in their time, and it's worth acknowledging their significance.  Personal piety and devotions to the gods served in the temples certainly existed, but it was far from relevant to the rites.

Another of their primary functions was basically administrating aspects of the government bureaucracy: collection of taxes, redistribution of wealth, employment of workers and artisans, and so on.  There were times when the sheer administrative power of priesthoods was rival to the kingship; it ruled the country at times.  (There is some evidence that the Amarna heresy was partially fueled by power conflicts with the priesthood of Amon.)  Again, these factors are not relevant to modern Kemetic stuff (even though some people in HON have talked about treating their temple as a sort of sovereign state entity, at least in the past) but I think it is important to keep in mind that they were not minor.  The temple in an Egyptian city was like the one big company who employs almost everyone in a company town.

It was reasonably common for temple priests to also hire out their services as magicians to the local population.  While amulet-crafters (whose techniques were primarily iconographic) were probably more at the semi-literate level, doctors and other magicians were trained, literate, and usually priests at least part-time.  They may have been, at least at times, teachers educating children in literacy and similar things - schools were attached to temples.  If so, this is the closest to moral/religious instruction that priests handed out, as children were taught to write by being required to copy wisdom texts and other didactic documents, inculturating Egyptian moral behaviour along with their letters.

Not all ancient priests were responsible for open statues directly; I believe that was basically the "high priest" rank job.  W'abu would be responsible for shuffling offerings about in the antechamber to the sanctuary room, but never enter the sanctuary themselves.  I would expect specialist priests (doctors as priests of Sekhmet, possibly archivists in the House of Life, sem priests) to be doing other things, too, rather than tending statuary, even if they had the rank/training to attend an open statue.

So that's my "brief" understanding of ancient priesthood.

Now, add to this: due to the influence of Christianity, many modern people have strong opinions about what someone who is a religious official should be doing.  There is a focus on care of a congregation rather than of the gods, with pastoral counselling and similar concerns.  There are expectations of performing weddings, say (there is no evidence for the existence of religious marriage in Egypt), as well as officiating at funerals and dedication ceremonies for children.  There is an expectation that there are things that cannot be done by laity, as well, rather than things that any competent adult in the religion can do.  Some people expect speeches, sermons, moral guidance and instruction.  Some people expect charitable work and exhortations to perform same.  In general, the role of a cleric is a public one, with status within the community and interacting betwen the realm of the sacred and the mundane - even political - world.

To sum up the upshot of this stuff from my perspective:

1)  Care and feeding of an open statue is not a priestly job, it is a high-priestly job.  This is neither here nor there as a thing, except that I think that those people who want to attend open statues should keep in mind that they're looking for an elite job that would have been managed with a corps of support staff in ancient times.

2)  Priestly work even in ancient times covers a whole lot more than statuary.  I would consider training as an herbalist (or other alt-medicine practitioner) or a doctor to be training as a Sekhmet priest.  A possible interpretation of Naydler in Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts might be that someone trained in vision quest induction and dealing with spirits (shamanistic work) is doing a fraction of the stuff that may have been done by sem priests in AE.  Teaching in a school could be a priest job.  Being a librarian might, by a bit of a stretch, also be a priest job, considering the House of Life priests.  Certainly, doing magical/spiritual work such as blessings is a priest sideline job, as Devo described Shinto priests as doing.  I can see someone setting up as a ka-priest and performing regular rites for the honored dead in exchange for a stipend to cover offerings.

3)  The priest/community balance nowadays is way the fuck different than it was in ancient times.  People expect far more in the way of interactivity from their priesthood now, and perhaps less in the way of formal ritual.  What level of effect those expectations have on individual priests is something they have to work out.

4)  The modern feeling that priesthood is an expression of personal piety is not heavily historical, and I think can only exist because of the tremendous changes wrought in Egyptian-style religion by the destruction of the pharaonic state.  These changes are not minor, and are also filed as "things people need to think about".  To put it in religious terms, ancient Egyptians were under the default governance of Heru, sovereign of the Egyptian state and keeper of order; modern Kemetics are all defaulting to being the people of Set, Who governs foreign lands where they do shit weird.  I think this actually makes the choice to turn to Heru (in the form of the traditional system and structure) intensely meaningful, but it also makes it complicated.

That last means that I - an unrepentant member of the host of Set, from foreign lands where they do shit weird - have a hard time offering advice for people who are trying to rebuild the company of Heru.  Not My Department, y'know?
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Nehet

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Re: The Role of Priesthood in Modern Kemeticism
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2011, 09:11:56 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;2211
To put it in religious terms, ancient Egyptians were under the default governance of Heru, sovereign of the Egyptian state and keeper of order; modern Kemetics are all defaulting to being the people of Set, Who governs foreign lands where they do shit weird.  I think this actually makes the choice to turn to Heru (in the form of the traditional system and structure) intensely meaningful, but it also makes it complicated.

That last means that I - an unrepentant member of the host of Set, from foreign lands where they do shit weird - have a hard time offering advice for people who are trying to rebuild the company of Heru.  Not My Department, y'know?

 
I've thought about that, actually.  We seem to be in a Setian era, and I've wondered what that means for us.   I am constantly running up against Sutekh's kids.  Interestingly enough, have yet to run into one reconstructionist who is a devotee of Ausir  :)  (Admittedly, it's sometimes a bit overwhelming).  

I guess my "department" is re-assembling things in a more traditional structure, providing support for people to do the old rites if they're called to do them.

I have no illusions about the feasibility of having  a priesthood similar to what Darkhawk described.  That era is past.  All I know is that I feel something profound when I'm doing the old rituals.  Something falls into place, like Ma'at is around me, a tangible force, literally "the breath of the nose."  I have no doubt in my mind that this work matters to the Gods.   I don't believe the Gods want those rituals to be done by everybody.  I do believe they want them to be done by somebody.

FWIW, I'm here, happy to be a sounding board for anyone who wants to go in that direction.  I don't know everything but I know what it's like to wrestle with these rituals.  I know what it's like to feel intimidated.  I know what it's like to get past that.  It's not exactly "hands on" training (or even training at all), but people can vent to me at any time.  I'm very vent-friendly.

(pops open lid of PM box).
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Live, Ausir, for all time and all eternity! Ankh Neheh Djet!

Devo

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Re: The Role of Priesthood in Modern Kemeticism
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2011, 09:57:43 pm »
Quote from: Nehet;2300
I've thought about that, actually.  We seem to be in a Setian era, and I've wondered what that means for us.   I am constantly running up against Sutekh's kids.  Interestingly enough, have yet to run into one reconstructionist who is a devotee of Ausir  :)  (Admittedly, it's sometimes a bit overwhelming).


Does it seem odd that I work with Asar off and on. Love the guy. When Set gets to be too much, I sometimes go visit him lol.

I think it's awesome you want to be a sounding board, or offering yourself to be as such. I just don't know what to do, or ask (as I believe I mentioned in my PM). It is a bit daunting, trying to figure out what works, and what doesn't. When I read the rituals, I get transported somewhere else. When I go to speak them, I feel stupid. And then there is the feeling of something missing.

For Kemetics as a whole, I'm not sure where the priesthood is going. And it's so hard to figure out what makes someone a 'legit' priest. I've met my fair share of Kemetics who call themselves priests- when they really don't fit the bill. And without universal criteria, it's hard to know where to draw the line btwn "is" and "isn't".

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Darkhawk

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Re: The Role of Priesthood in Modern Kemeticism
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2011, 11:30:58 pm »
Quote from: Devo;2330

For Kemetics as a whole, I'm not sure where the priesthood is going. And it's so hard to figure out what makes someone a 'legit' priest. I've met my fair share of Kemetics who call themselves priests- when they really don't fit the bill. And without universal criteria, it's hard to know where to draw the line btwn "is" and "isn't".

 
I think this is another good reason to do the "What is a priest supposed to be doing and why" think-through.  (This is one of the things that went into my Epic Post Is Epic above.)  When you have a set of criteria and expectations about what a priest does then you will be able to judge whether any individual priest satisfies them.
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Nehet

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Re: The Role of Priesthood in Modern Kemeticism
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2011, 11:35:22 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;2374
I think this is another good reason to do the "What is a priest supposed to be doing and why" think-through.  (This is one of the things that went into my Epic Post Is Epic above.)  When you have a set of criteria and expectations about what a priest does then you will be able to judge whether any individual priest satisfies them.

 
Honestly, the word "priest" is looking less and less useful every minute. :confused:
See, life is but a movement of eternal return.  Even Trees fall ~ Berlin papyrus 3024, (A man tired of life).

Live, Ausir, for all time and all eternity! Ankh Neheh Djet!

Devo

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Re: The Role of Priesthood in Modern Kemeticism
« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2011, 11:42:22 pm »
Quote from: Nehet;2378
Honestly, the word "priest" is looking less and less useful every minute. :confused:

 
Overused much?

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Re: The Role of Priesthood in Modern Kemeticism
« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2011, 11:46:18 pm »
Quote from: Nehet;2378
Honestly, the word "priest" is looking less and less useful every minute. :confused:

 
I do wonder if that's because the etymology of the word 'priest' is not exactly compatible with the ancient Egyptian role that many think of? Maybe a different word is needed?

(This popped into my head because I'm reading Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece and in the first couple of chapters the author discusses the fact that 'priest' and 'priestess' are not an as accurate translation of 'hiereus' and 'hiereia'. The latter were not intermediaries per se, but rather better translated as "they who are in charge of/take care of holy things", because anyone could approach the Gods. It was just the hiereus/hiereia did specific things with specific stuff.)
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Setnakht

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Re: The Role of Priesthood in Modern Kemeticism
« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2011, 12:49:32 am »
Quote from: Nehet;2378
Honestly, the word "priest" is looking less and less useful every minute. :confused:

 
If we look back at the ancient Egyptian term for priest we find hem-netjer, or servant of the god. We also find hem-ka, or servant of the ka, for those priests whose duties revolved around offerings for the dead. The fact that the word used was 'servant' may point in the direction for a better understanding of how the ancients viewed the priesthood--as servanthood.
     The priests served the god in a variety of ways--with the intent of bringing the god's Ka into daily union with the material statue, and thus with the material world. Emily Teeter in her wonderful new book, Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt, explains, "The statue functioned as a transient receptacle for the presence or essence (ba) of the god. . . . The divine statue was provided as a physical form (ka) in which the ba could reside so that human beings could communicate with it." (pp. 43-44)
     The hem-netjer not only provided food and clothing for the enlivened image of the god, but on a much deeper and dramatic level was the conduit for bringing divine life into the statue each day. The morning rite included a ritual embrace of the statue, whose purpose was to serve as a vehicle for trandferring life force (Ka) into the statue. The human priest, acting as a god himself, touches the statue and states, "My two arms are upon you like those of Heru; my two hands are upon you like those of Djehuty; my fingers are upon you like those of Anpu." (Reidy, Eternal Egypt, p. 33)
     So priesthood, or better servanthood, implies, I believe, bringing the god into the enlivened statue through ritual. We no longer need a state-sponsored structure such as existed in ancient Egypt, but, setting aside all the ancient and elaborate structures, at bottom we find ritual service to the god or goddess. For many years I have done daily ritual for Amun-Ra and so I see myself as his ritual servant. It doesn't make me better or worse than anyone else. It is my way of materially sustaining a specific divine presence in the world. The daily ritual is my way of doing that. It has sustained me through some difficult times. Others may not be able--for any number of reasons--to commit to a daily ritual. To me that's okay. We each can help build Ma'at in whatever ways may present themselves. But I must say, daily ritual has greatly enriched my life.

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Re: The Role of Priesthood in Modern Kemeticism
« Reply #12 on: July 07, 2011, 02:00:59 am »
Quote from: Setnakht;2407
I see myself as his ritual servant.


Sometimes I think it would make more sense for me to describe myself as this (in training), rather than using the word "priest".  

Quote from: Setnakht;2407
It has sustained me through some difficult times. Others may not be able--for any number of reasons--to commit to a daily ritual. To me that's okay. We each can help build Ma'at in whatever ways may present themselves. But I must say, daily ritual has greatly enriched my life.

 
Yes, it has done this for me as well.

I remember when my brother died.  I brought my statue all the way back to Cleveland and did my little ritual in secret, in my old room.  I remember when I woke up the first morning of being home.  I looked at my little box in my suitcase where I had my statue.  

I remember thinking: "I can't do this.  How can I bring myself to do this when my world is falling apart?"

But I made myself to do the ritual, and began to feel a sense of peace that I hadn't felt since I'd heard the bad news.

I realized that ritual is even more important to me during difficult times.  

It wasn't easy for me to get into the "habit" of daily ritual, but now my day wouldn't feel complete without it.  I guess that's just what happens after awhile.  I'm Nehet, and I'm a ritualaholic.

There are much worse addictions.
See, life is but a movement of eternal return.  Even Trees fall ~ Berlin papyrus 3024, (A man tired of life).

Live, Ausir, for all time and all eternity! Ankh Neheh Djet!

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Re: The Role of Priesthood in Modern Kemeticism
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2011, 12:48:39 pm »
Quote from: Nehet;2378
Honestly, the word "priest" is looking less and less useful every minute. :confused:

 
I suspect it would be most useful to work out what, specifically, one's calling is and use appropriate terminology for it - which can probably be found in or at worse adapted from AE.  I think it's clear that 'priest' in practice is kind of a vague catch-all term, and there were many, many different terms and titles for priests, not all of which may be modern-applicable.
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Re: The Role of Priesthood in Modern Kemeticism
« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2011, 04:27:14 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;2211
These changes are not minor, and are also filed as "things people need to think about".  To put it in religious terms, ancient Egyptians were under the default governance of Heru, sovereign of the Egyptian state and keeper of order; modern Kemetics are all defaulting to being the people of Set, Who governs foreign lands where they do shit weird.  I think this actually makes the choice to turn to Heru (in the form of the traditional system and structure) intensely meaningful, but it also makes it complicated.

That last means that I - an unrepentant member of the host of Set, from foreign lands where they do shit weird - have a hard time offering advice for people who are trying to rebuild the company of Heru.  Not My Department, y'know?


And as someone who serves Aset this is very confounding.  

Your post also makes me think of the Bawy and that both of them make the King.  And now since we are in the Diaspora, we are more on Set's terrain than Herus.  Their reconciliation could really help us out here.
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