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Author Topic: A question on sources (PhD research)  (Read 4427 times)
knight77
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« Topic Start: October 07, 2009, 05:16:53 am »

Hello again

shooting from the hip with some more questions. Folks seem a little reluctant to get into discussion if they know they're going to be quoted in academic research. Just to be clear, I'm happy to use a web handle to assure anonymity (details below).

Question:

What types of sources/resources do you use when exploring your religion, and how do you establish a criteria within which to evaluate them?

In addition, are any of these resources contested? If so by whom and why?





I should note that I will likely quote my own threads in my work. This does not mean I'll quote you from any other source. However, if you are uncomfortable with this please feel free to abstain, or alternatively pm me with a pseudonym for you that I can use in future work. Your privacy is important to me, and details can be found on my site http://profaneegyptologists.blogspot.com/. (I'll re quote this section with all the questions I plan to use this way).
« Last Edit: October 07, 2009, 05:32:36 am by knight77 » Logged

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« Reply #1: October 07, 2009, 06:39:23 pm »


Primarily these days I'm bouncing between Egyptology books and translations of original texts.  I used to be  a lot more dependent on the stuff that temples had  already digested, but at the moment I'm doing a lot of my own research and interpretation.

I tend to trust that most recent peer-reviewed publications are reasonably sound, so I tend to prefer the ones that make the most emotional sense to me, for better or for worse, where that is relevant.  (In cases of 'such and such festival was held in this manner and on this date' it's just a fact, and that's not something for which evaluation on emotional criteria is appropriate.)

I know of no contestations per se, though I am aware of some of the standard disagreements in the field.
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knight77
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« Reply #2: October 07, 2009, 09:49:20 pm »

Primarily these days I'm bouncing between Egyptology books and translations of original texts.  I used to be  a lot more dependent on the stuff that temples had  already digested, but at the moment I'm doing a lot of my own research and interpretation.

I tend to trust that most recent peer-reviewed publications are reasonably sound, so I tend to prefer the ones that make the most emotional sense to me, for better or for worse, where that is relevant.  (In cases of 'such and such festival was held in this manner and on this date' it's just a fact, and that's not something for which evaluation on emotional criteria is appropriate.)

I know of no contestations per se, though I am aware of some of the standard disagreements in the field.

That's interesting, thanks for getting the ball rolling! If I may ask, what works were 'pre-digested'? Do you find any particular translations/translators more appropriate than others?

I remember being recommended Normandi Ellis' Awakening Osiris after saying I couldn't relate to the material in Budge's Book of the Dead. The way that book spoke to the individual was far more resonant. Ramses Saleem's interpretations were also very enlightening, but in a very different way.
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« Reply #3: October 07, 2009, 10:49:16 pm »

That's interesting, thanks for getting the ball rolling! If I may ask, what works were 'pre-digested'? Do you find any particular translations/translators more appropriate than others?

By 'pre-digested' I mean that people had already, for example, plowed through the Pyramid Texts and picked out verses to serve as the centrepieces of ritual.  All the Kemetic temples I've dealt with plus the Eternal Source people, for example, use Utterance 269 from the PT as the basis for everyday ritual.  I suspect that most people just aren't interested in digging through and finding texts that can be adapted.

I have the Faulkner translations of the PT, the CT, and the BotD, personally; I know there is more recent work, but I haven't gotten it.  So many books, so little money. :}
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« Reply #4: December 17, 2009, 12:41:34 pm »

Question:

What types of sources/resources do you use when exploring your religion, and how do you establish a criteria within which to evaluate them?

In addition, are any of these resources contested? If so by whom and why?

At the start of my exploration into Kemetic reconstructionism, I learned the interpretations of the major temple groups (at the time: House of Netjer, Akhet Hwt-Hrw, and Per Ankh).  Kemetic religion is highly complex, and too vast of a subject for many people to just jump in to the academic texts and start assimilating facts- without some sort of a framework to hang it all on, the information you pick up lacks a meaningful context.  For me, the temple classes provided that initial framework.

These days, my understanding of the religion is based largely on what I've learned from academic quality books and original sources- I use those sources, and personal experience illuminated by those sources, to continually re-examine my old framework and occasionally rebuild it.  Since I do not claim any sort of past-life knowledge of ancient Egypt, or an unbroken lineage of teachings passed down from the priests' hands, I accept the fact that occasionally the interpretations of ancient Egypt conceived by modern students of the culture may be revealed to be inaccurate and in need of adjustment.  This would not cause a crisis of faith for me, as I know my limitations but feel that my intention to be as respectful of tradition as I possibly can is a pleasing gift to the gods and in accordance with ma'at.

To find sources I trust, I prefer books published by academically respected Egyptologists- I read the "about the author" sections to look for degrees, areas of activity, and motivation for writing the book.  I pay attention to publishers, and favor books printed by universities or publishers with a reputation for their selection of academic level texts.  I try to buy books with as recent a publication date as possible, since new discoveries can change our views at any time, but I'll make allowances for an earlier publication if the author has credentials and his or her information seems to be reasonably in line with what I've read in other books.  I cross check, preferring information which is verified in several books which have met the standards I laid out above.  I usually avoid books written by non-reconstructionist Pagans, or anyone claiming a past life as a platform of authority for their writing on the subject.  I'll read them for inspiration sometimes, especially if they're well written, but it's been my unfortunate experience that non-recon Pagans often do not have the same value for research and sourcing as recons do.  After all, they're coming at the religion from a different perspective.  As for past-lifers, I have trouble remembering specifics from my own childhood in this life, so recollections from past lives just don't impress me with great confidence for accuracy- even assuming that the past life experiences are 100% legitimate.  The veracity of a past life experience is something I can't verify one way or the other anyway, and a subject on which I prefer not to pass any personal judgement, but memories fade and can be faulty.  I want information which is supported by what we're actually finding in the field.

The best way- in my opinion- to figure out which books are trustworthy and which aren't is to read a lot of them.  After a while you get a feel for the different schools of thought within the field, and the methodology of each Egyptologist.  Then you can use the bibliographies of the ones who impress you to find the works which that Egyptologist trusted enough to use as a basis for his or her own work, and you get a feel for when to take the theories of other authors with a grain of natron. Smiley  If someone proposes an idea which flies in the face of the ancient Egyptian culture as currently understood, that's a red flag.  That doesn't mean it's automatically to be rejected, but it requires further study to determine whether the author's conclusions are justified.  However, that sort of judgement call requires a well rounded familiarity with ancient Egyptian society which can only come from having read and become familiar with many studies on many subjects. 

That's why this is such a tricky issue for new Kemetics- in order to judge which books are good learning material you really have to know what sorts of things they ought to be teaching.  It's a catch 22 for those who are trying to enter the study, which is why most temples provide reading lists to get people started.  Those very books from the temple lists might prompt a student to question that temple's interpretation of the faith, but I think that's good.  Nobody here has all the answers, and it's best that people keep asking questions so we don't forget that fact!
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« Reply #5: December 17, 2009, 07:37:05 pm »

Question:

What types of sources/resources do you use when exploring your religion, and how do you establish a criteria within which to evaluate them?

In addition, are any of these resources contested? If so by whom and why?

When I first started into this realm, my practice mostly stemmed from that which was found in Google searches and my own gut reactions to what I was reading. I picked up a basic book, Egyptian Paganism for Beginners, at a used book store. I read the book cover to cover and although, I never fully agreed with anything they preached within, I found it a helpful source. I did more research into the various temples found online and realized that nothing there was for me. After that, I decided to get my information from the horse's mouth, so to speak.

I had already started collecting books on ancient Egypt and had been for years at that point, so my collection was incredibly helpful. I chose a lot of the older books first, mostly those published by Weigall, before I moved forward in time. I also found it fascinating to watch the synthesis of old knowledge melding into the newer concepts. This way, I was able to get a farther scope of knowledge than your average Joe, as well, which has helped in my faith.

When it comes to establishing criteria, I have to agree with WebenBanu--the only way to get the feeling that what you're reading is what you need or desire is by reading a lot of sources, both old and new. After a while, as she said, you tend to get a feeling for what you're reading. Having a thousand degrees is helpful when writing an authoritative source on the religion and magical practices of ancient Egyptians, but I don't always find that to be true, myself. Sometimes, I find the most intriguing suppositions and theories put out to be by someone who can only attest to a high school diploma and a myriad of attempts at trying for a higher education.

I believe most of my Weigall books are contested, although I do not know by whom or why. I think it comes down to the basic fact that his thoughts on the ancient Egyptian religion stem from suppositions from over a hundred years ago and so, therefore, not as popular as say something put forth by Zawi Hawass.

In case you want specific names: I have found Ancient Egyptian Magic by Bob Brier very helpful.
« Last Edit: December 17, 2009, 07:40:05 pm by kemet83, Reason: Addition of information: book name/author. » Logged

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« Reply #6: December 18, 2009, 10:57:22 am »


What types of sources/resources do you use when exploring your religion, and how do you establish a criteria within which to evaluate them?

In addition, are any of these resources contested? If so by whom and why?


For me, I buy as many books as I can find, and I read them. It's pretty much that simple. I have used a variety of sources to find out what books are considered to be most helpful/popular by other Kemetics, and I also will go onto someplace like Amazon, and flip through book searches to find books that I feel would be of help. For criteria, more or less I want books that are more recent (anything before 1950 I'm very very very iffy on) and books that are written by egyptologists, or authors with some sort of education in what they're talking about. I honestly don't trust temple texts for anything, and I double check anything I read on the internet or non-recon books.

If my sources are contested, I couldn't tell you. Everyone has their own opinion and ideas, so I'm sure most knowledge will always be questioned.

-Devo
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« Reply #7: January 18, 2010, 10:44:15 am »

Thanks everybody, I hadn't realised that people had come back to this post. Glad I checked back through the boards.

I'm intrigued to see that so many of you use Egyptological material and academic criteria, though actually I'm not terribly surprised. Much of the recon work I've encountered thus far has used very good and thorough research. From my perspective this is wonderful, as it means that there are fewer chasms to bridge between our knowledge bases.

Excellent, thanks again chaps!

Paul



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