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Author Topic: Down to Basics: Ritual Scripts  (Read 5099 times)
Darkhawk
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« Topic Start: September 28, 2009, 04:33:54 pm »

I'm looking at what folks are doing over in Hazel & Oak, and thinking that some similar stuff might be productive over here.  So, here's one.

Liturgy.

It's no secret that we have a ton of ritual and magical texts available to us for the parsing.  The temple organisations have assembled their liturgies already (I believe the standard Senut/Daily Rite/what you call it texts are all from the Pyramid Texts, for example).

So: building rituals.

What, as neo-reconstructionist types, do we want to do here?

My own personal preference is not to take the temple texts for granted and just nick them.  (Not just because of the "YOU THEFTER!" spitwars out there in the community, though that's a part of it.)  There are huge piles of texts out there that we can sift through for things.

But there are also ... huge piles of texts out there.  Which is a hell of a lot of work to go through.  (I'm even more aware of this just trying to parse  through the PT/CT/BotD for a current project, and knowing how many other texts would be useful for me for what I'm doing.)  It's easy to just run with what other people have already done.

Or write our own.  How far do we want to go in writing our own ritual texts when we have a very traditional-oriented religion (at least in theory) and an epic pile of scripts that we could be using?  When I had a major ritual  I wanted to do, I adapted an appropriate text (from the BotD) to do it with rather than run from scratch, because I'm more comfortable reusing the old stuff, for example.

So: throwing it out to the floor.  What do people do?  What do people aspire to doing when they get their shit together?
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« Reply #1: September 30, 2009, 11:31:13 pm »

I'm looking at what folks are doing over in Hazel & Oak, and thinking that some similar stuff might be productive over here.  So, here's one.

Liturgy.

It's no secret that we have a ton of ritual and magical texts available to us for the parsing.  The temple organisations have assembled their liturgies already (I believe the standard Senut/Daily Rite/what you call it texts are all from the Pyramid Texts, for example).

So: building rituals.

What, as neo-reconstructionist types, do we want to do here?

My own personal preference is not to take the temple texts for granted and just nick them.  (Not just because of the "YOU THEFTER!" spitwars out there in the community, though that's a part of it.)  There are huge piles of texts out there that we can sift through for things.

But there are also ... huge piles of texts out there.  Which is a hell of a lot of work to go through.  (I'm even more aware of this just trying to parse  through the PT/CT/BotD for a current project, and knowing how many other texts would be useful for me for what I'm doing.)  It's easy to just run with what other people have already done.

Or write our own.  How far do we want to go in writing our own ritual texts when we have a very traditional-oriented religion (at least in theory) and an epic pile of scripts that we could be using?  When I had a major ritual  I wanted to do, I adapted an appropriate text (from the BotD) to do it with rather than run from scratch, because I'm more comfortable reusing the old stuff, for example.

So: throwing it out to the floor.  What do people do?  What do people aspire to doing when they get their shit together?

I think an intimidating aspect is not that I would want to just nick from the originals, but I'd want to see what are the parts of the ritual, and what are the theoretical reasons for them being part of the ritual.  From there I would use original documents as an outline to what I would want to do now, and make an updated version that is relevant to my personal social context.  e.g. I kinda liked the written outline of what would be typical of a wine offering available in the Kemetic Recon page of this forum.

Then again, I'm wondering if there is more on ritual from a layman's point of view.  While I am into the recon aspect, I definitely don't want to act as a priest, and have all the responsibilities of taking care of a statue as part of it. 
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Darkhawk
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« Reply #2: October 01, 2009, 01:06:53 am »

Then again, I'm wondering if there is more on ritual from a layman's point of view.  While I am into the recon aspect, I definitely don't want to act as a priest, and have all the responsibilities of taking care of a statue as part of it. 

I suspect that all the ritual we have texts for will be, in essence, the ritual actor stepping into the space between the seen and unseen worlds, which is defined as a King-job.  (With priests being the official delegates of the King for this purpose.)

That actually doesn't bother me at all, as some of the ritual  texts we have involve the enactor claiming to be various gods.  Stepping into the space defined by a major cosmic power is sort of par for the course. Wink

Having an open statue to care for is a role for serving in a temple as one of the direct bodyservants of the god, not ritual-in-general, in any case.
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« Reply #3: October 01, 2009, 01:30:16 am »

I suspect that all the ritual we have texts for will be, in essence, the ritual actor stepping into the space between the seen and unseen worlds, which is defined as a King-job.  (With priests being the official delegates of the King for this purpose.)

That actually doesn't bother me at all, as some of the ritual  texts we have involve the enactor claiming to be various gods.  Stepping into the space defined by a major cosmic power is sort of par for the course. Wink[/quote]

But do they mean they are literally that god, or merely claim the traits of those gods?  I think remember someone claiming to have specific body parts of different gods, which makes me think more that they have the virility of this or that god, or something more in that sense.

Having an open statue to care for is a role for serving in a temple as one of the direct bodyservants of the god, not ritual-in-general, in any case.

I'm not sure I understand.  The priest that cares for the deity statue would have performed ritual.  I guess I assumed that was the only one we were talking about.  What other kinds of ritual are you referring to?
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« Reply #4: October 01, 2009, 01:13:48 pm »

But do they mean they are literally that god, or merely claim the traits of those gods?  I think remember someone claiming to have specific body parts of different gods, which makes me think more that they have the virility of this or that god, or something more in that sense.

An example (a bit of Faulkner translation of the BotD, Chapter 147):

"... I am the secret one of the cloudburst, the one who separated the Two Companions.  It is in order that I might drive evilaway from Osiris that I have come.  I am the one who clothed  his own standard, who emerges in the Wereret-crown.  I have established offerings in Abydos. ..."

Other texts that I don't have time for looking up right now include claiming to be gods by name, or claiming the power to threaten and compel Them.

Quote
I'm not sure I understand.  The priest that cares for the deity statue would have performed ritual.  I guess I assumed that was the only one we were talking about.  What other kinds of ritual are you referring to?

The overwhelming majority of people are not bodyservants in the house of the god. That doesn't mean we don't do religious stuff!
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« Reply #5: October 01, 2009, 08:41:47 pm »

An example (a bit of Faulkner translation of the BotD, Chapter 147):

"... I am the secret one of the cloudburst, the one who separated the Two Companions.  It is in order that I might drive evilaway from Osiris that I have come.  I am the one who clothed  his own standard, who emerges in the Wereret-crown.  I have established offerings in Abydos. ..."

Other texts that I don't have time for looking up right now include claiming to be gods by name, or claiming the power to threaten and compel Them.

I'm sorry, what is this quote an example of?  What does this person mean by "secret one of the cloudburst"?  I'm not sure I understand.

Quote
The overwhelming majority of people are not bodyservants in the house of the god. That doesn't mean we don't do religious stuff!

I just am not sure then how we're defining ritual.  I think he bodyservants and the ritual of feeding and cleansing and soforth is the most recognizable ritual.  I can also see the temple musicians, hymns and dancers as ritual.  Can you describe others offhand?  I recently purchased a book about Egyptian temples specifically (I can't recall the name right now) so I hope to learn a lot more about this specific part of the religion soon.

I'm very curious to see what your own answer to the question you pose would be, as well as other's answers.  If ritual is just doing actions with religious intent (correct me if I'm wrong) then I think doing things that are in the realm of expertise of whatever god/dess you worship would be an act of ritual and worship, e.g. putting on perfume for Bast, singing and dancing for Het-Hert, etc.  I suppose for lack of information I'm more inclined to kind of guess what the laypeople's ritual might be like in a modern context as opposed to rote memorization and enactment of classic ritual.  Though I'm still not sure how this "modern" ritual would stack up with the reenactment of cosmic creation in order to uphold Ma'at.
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« Reply #6: October 02, 2009, 03:04:29 pm »

I'm sorry, what is this quote an example of?  What does this person mean by "secret one of the cloudburst"?  I'm not sure I understand.

That's someoneclaiming to be a god.  Using a litany of titles/descriptors like "the secret one of the cloudburst".

Quote
I just am not sure then how we're defining ritual.

The same way people generally do?  Procedures for religious action?

The text and cleansing-with-natron I do in the shower is a ritual.  The offering of flame and incense is a ritual.  Holiday festivities and actions bound up with them, rituals.  Many workings of heka, ritual.
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« Reply #7: October 02, 2009, 04:21:56 pm »

That's someoneclaiming to be a god.  Using a litany of titles/descriptors like "the secret one of the cloudburst".

The same way people generally do?  Procedures for religious action?

The text and cleansing-with-natron I do in the shower is a ritual.  The offering of flame and incense is a ritual.  Holiday festivities and actions bound up with them, rituals.  Many workings of heka, ritual.

I see, thanks.  I thought it was illegal to export natron from Egypt.  Do you make your own?  Also do you have any specific words you say based on textual precedent when offering flame and incense? 
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« Reply #8: October 02, 2009, 05:11:30 pm »

I see, thanks.  I thought it was illegal to export natron from Egypt.  Do you make your own?  Also do you have any specific words you say based on textual precedent when offering flame and incense? 

I use a mixture of salt and baking soda that's chemically similar to natron (though not identical, as it misses a bunch of the trace elements); genuine natron is in fact illegal to export.

The texts I use for both ritual purification and flame and incense offerings are adapted out of the Pyramid Texts.  One is the text used not only by every temple organisation I know but the Eternal Source people (the bit that begins 'the fire burns, the fire shines').
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« Reply #9: October 03, 2009, 02:19:37 pm »

I use a mixture of salt and baking soda that's chemically similar to natron (though not identical, as it misses a bunch of the trace elements); genuine natron is in fact illegal to export.

The texts I use for both ritual purification and flame and incense offerings are adapted out of the Pyramid Texts.  One is the text used not only by every temple organisation I know but the Eternal Source people (the bit that begins 'the fire burns, the fire shines').

Thanks for this!  Grin  I guess when you made this you expected to speak with some people who already have some established ritual of their own.  I'm just starting out and feel a lack of the "ritual religious" aspect while my actual study is taking the front seat.  But your suggestions really do help.

Quote
How far do we want to go in writing our own ritual texts when we have a very traditional-oriented religion (at least in theory) and an epic pile of scripts that we could be using?

I just reread this and I was thinking about the implications of practicing an ancient religion in a modern context.  While I think it's great that people are satisfied with using the old texts and continuing ritual unchanged from how they were done, I think for my own practice I'd like to take into account that Egyptian religion was not a revealed religion but one that accepted a plurality of meanings and mythologies that correspond with one another, even if they also contradict each other.  Taking that into account, would it be wrong to consider its practice in diaspora and tweak some of the older rituals to suit a more modern context?  I'm not talking about a complete revamp in a neopagan fluff-fest, but more like changes that reflect the totality of the history of Egypt and its corresponding changes in ideas?

I guess I'm kinda fumbling because I'm not really familiar with ritual texts and how they might be out of date, so I'm making a more hypothetical argument that I plan on working on later once I get the required texts.
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« Reply #10: October 03, 2009, 02:44:58 pm »


So: building rituals.

What, as neo-reconstructionist types, do we want to do here?


I've been hesitant to post because I'm still floundering around in secondary sources, but I have to ask: what significant differences do you see between the two broad liturgical routes you outlined (ie adapting from ritual texts as opposed to writing your own)?

I ask because it seems to me that, in the absence of a fixed, revealed doctrine, the two seem not too dissimilar. Adapting from ritual texts would involve a lot of research, going through different ritual versions, tracking down relevant historical changes and drawing analogies with modern changes, etc. But creating your own would also involve a lot of research, perhaps less exhaustive but then you have more creative wok, and still need to know enough texts well enough to create a compatible style, etc.

Given my conceptions of the two liturgical routes as being pretty similar I find it difficult to follow why you differentiated them...hence why I'm wondering how differently you conceive them to be.
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« Reply #11: October 03, 2009, 10:16:40 pm »

Taking that into account, would it be wrong to consider its practice in diaspora and tweak some of the older rituals to suit a more modern context?  I'm not talking about a complete revamp in a neopagan fluff-fest, but more like changes that reflect the totality of the history of Egypt and its corresponding changes in ideas?

I think that sort of adaptation is pretty much inevitable, if only because of the difference in scale.

What we know about is largely temple ritual and a smattering of folk practices that are poorly attested.  Which means that anything we do as individuals is on a different scale than what the ancients did - whether it's "doing ritual purification in the shower rather than a sacred pool" or "doing personal ritual alone rather than in a family context".

I don't think that there's a lot that really requires changing in the sense of "these concepts no longer suit the world" - if I did, I wouldn't be even as recon as I am - but figuring out how to make it work in very changed and diasporic circumstances is the fiddly bit.  If one goes and reads through various texts (you can find public domain versions at http://www.sacred-texts.com/egy/index.htm though keep in mind reading them that we know a lot more about the language  than we did when Budge was writing) one can find all kinds of concepts, illustrations,  and so on, which can be rendered into more accessible language or used as a basis for ideas.

Which is more or less where I'm coming from, is figuring chunks of that out.
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« Reply #12: October 03, 2009, 10:32:00 pm »

I've been hesitant to post because I'm still floundering around in secondary sources, but I have to ask: what significant differences do you see between the two broad liturgical routes you outlined (ie adapting from ritual texts as opposed to writing your own)?

I ask because it seems to me that, in the absence of a fixed, revealed doctrine, the two seem not too dissimilar. Adapting from ritual texts would involve a lot of research, going through different ritual versions, tracking down relevant historical changes and drawing analogies with modern changes, etc. But creating your own would also involve a lot of research, perhaps less exhaustive but then you have more creative wok, and still need to know enough texts well enough to create a compatible style, etc.

Given my conceptions of the two liturgical routes as being pretty similar I find it difficult to follow why you differentiated them...hence why I'm wondering how differently you conceive them to be.

Hrm, well, here's an example.  It's a bit personal, but it will do for something that I did pretty much from scratch.

A year ago, I was having some serious trouble conceiving.  After a lot of thought I came to the conclusion that one thing that might be wrong was a sense of contamination on my ka (life-energy) which made it difficult for me to pass it on to a child, thereby leading to what was happening.

So from here, consider the two routes:

One, I could have tried to come up with some way of cleansing my ka, working from basic principles.  If I was sticking to an Egyptian religio-magical context, I would probably have noted natron and water as purifying agents and worked from there.  I don't know what I would have come up with, because I didn't go this way.

Instead, I looked at Spell 105 in the Book of Going Forth By Day, titled 'For propitiating N's Ka for him in the realm of the dead.'  In this text, the speaker addresses the ka, claiming to be capable and powerful, and having natron and incense for cleansing it so that any conflict between them might be resolved (which was, obviously, my specific goal), a papyrus-amulet to prove their worth, and a few other fiddly bits.  I swapped the phrase "ka of my lifetime" (which implies end-of-life) for "my living ka", built ritual actions around the text and my Egyptian magical theory, and performed the ritual.  (And conceived my daughter four days later.)

Completely different process.  I operated under the principle that what I needed to do was something that was basically there (and for the sort of thing I was doing, cleansing and aligning souls, the textual support for procedures is gigantic) and all I needed to do was make it into something I could perform.  I wasn't trying to make something up or invent it, it was all there.  I didn't write the script (I rearranged the words from Faulkner's translation a little, at most); there was essentially no invention involved, not even significant research (admittedly I was operating on a knowledge-base of basically how Egyptian magic worked and the existence of the reconciliation spell in the first place, but not anything like the sort of work required to come up with this stuff on my own).
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« Reply #13: October 03, 2009, 11:45:09 pm »

Hrm, well, here's an example.  It's a bit personal, but it will do for something that I did pretty much from scratch.

AH. Now I see why you differentiated the two. I took 'liturgy' to mean primarily the spells/words of praise I've seen so far. Assuming some familiarity with Egyptian cultural and religious imagery, I'm pretty sure I could write stuff like that. Am also pretty sure that I couldn't write specialized stuff about cleansing the ka either though!

Maybe a relevant difference is that the latter is based on a highly specialized metaphysical concept. The closest counterpart I can think of in 'mainstream' religions would be some sort of soul-cleansing repentance, but again, still way off from the Egyptian concept.

Which, while it doesn't answer the 'what do we want to do' in your question, does for me give rise to a working guideline: if I want a ritual which has an aim fairly common to religions in general (eg adorations, supplications for protection, justice, etc.) I'm confident I could write my own stuff, given some familiarity with Egyptian symbolism and style. But if I'm aiming for a ritual predicated on very specialized Egyptian concepts, then I'd probably adapt adapt adapt. All the more so if there are fewer sources for that particular type of ritual.

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« Reply #14: October 04, 2009, 01:21:19 pm »

Which, while it doesn't answer the 'what do we want to do' in your question, does for me give rise to a working guideline: if I want a ritual which has an aim fairly common to religions in general (eg adorations, supplications for protection, justice, etc.) I'm confident I could write my own stuff, given some familiarity with Egyptian symbolism and style. But if I'm aiming for a ritual predicated on very specialized Egyptian concepts, then I'd probably adapt adapt adapt. All the more so if there are fewer sources for that particular type of ritual.

That does seem like a good place to work from.

In thinking of liturgy I tend to think of formal celebratory stuff.   Songs of praise can be put into liturgical structures - gods know I know, I was almost raised Methodist - but are a distinct ... genre?  Thingy.
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