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Author Topic: Merging Gods, and Soft vs Hard polythiesm.  (Read 17610 times)
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« Topic Start: November 11, 2010, 07:26:41 pm »

Hey there everyone! I'm still working on finding my path...I've been trying to find it for a few years now, but I do feel a connection to the Egyptian pantheon. I think that might be partially due to the fact that my mom (who has a degree in geography specializing in the middle east), but that's another story. Anyway, onto my questions.

I noticed a lot of hard polytheists among Kemetic pagans, which I find surprising, seeing as how it seems as though many scholars point to the Egyptians being soft polytheists as opposed to hard polytheists. This makes more sense, seeing as the Egyptian Gods are constantly merging with each other (Amun-Ra, Ra-Herekety, etc.). I was curious as to what your guys thoughts are on hard polytheism, soft polytheism, and the merging of the Gods are?
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« Reply #1: November 11, 2010, 08:17:54 pm »

I was curious as to what your guys thoughts are on hard polytheism, soft polytheism, and the merging of the Gods are?
Here are a few statements from the Egyptologist Jan Assmann on polytheism, p. 57 in Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt:

“We thus maintain that just as the principle of connectivity breathed life into the body, binding the individual limbs into a body, so it breathed life into an individual as a person by integrating him into the constellations of society. It is easy to see that this concept of the person corresponded perfectly with the structure of a polytheistic religion. Deities, too, existed as persons in reciprocal relationships in which they acted on and spoke with one another. They were what they were as persons only with respect to one another. Constellative theology and anthropology mirror and model themselves on one another, stressing the ties, roles, and functions that bind the constituent members of the group. What they view as the worst evil are the concepts of isolation, loneliness, self-sufficiency, and independence. From their point of view, these are symptoms of death, dissolution, and destruction. Even for godhood, loneliness is an unbearable condition.”

In his book, The Search for God in Ancient Egypt, p. 241, Assmann states:
“It was only the Ramesside Period that arrived at the epoch-making solution that prevailed until the Christianization of the ancient world. It returned to polytheism, that is, to the concept of the world, as an ineluctable reality, though with its pantheistic theology of transcendence, it developed an entirely new terminology that made it possible to conceive of the diversity of deities as the colorful reflection of a hidden unity. It worshipped the unity as the hidden god, the ‘deus absconditus et ineffabilis,’ [i.e., literally ‘the hidden and ineffable god’], the ‘sacred ba of gods and men’ whose names, symbols, emanations, manifestations, shadows, and images were the various deities.”
Notice here the quoted text, “the sacred ba of gods AND men.” Even from this one statement we may draw the conclusion of the multiplicity of gods. If we humans contain in ourselves the sacred ba, and we are distinct individuals, so the gods contain that sacred ba of the creator—but are, like humans, distinct individuals.
This gets us into the area of the Egyptians’ emanationist theology, but the idea is there—there is a real and deep connection with the creator deity, but as separate beings.
As for the merging of various Netjeru that you wrote of, it might be helpful to think of such mergings as genuine mystical unions between two deities. In the book Eternal Egypt by Richard Reidy the author quotes Erik Hornung, saying, "A well-known relief in the tomb of Nofretiri [wife of Ramses II. . . shows a ram-headed mummy between Isis and Nephthys captioned "This is Re when he has come to rest (htp) in Osiris' and 'This is Osiris when he comes to rest in Re.'" Reidy goes on to write, "A variant of this formula appears in Theban Tomb 290 in which 'the text is followed by the adverb "daily." thus showing how it should be understood: Re enters into Osiris and Osiris enters into Re daily, and the combination is dissolved again daily." Reidy is q
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« Reply #2: November 11, 2010, 08:26:11 pm »

Here are a few statements from the Egyptologist Jan Assmann on polytheism, p. 57 in Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt:

“We thus maintain that just as the principle of connectivity breathed life into the body, binding the individual limbs into a body, so it breathed life into an individual as a person by integrating him into the constellations of society. It is easy to see that this concept of the person corresponded perfectly with the structure of a polytheistic religion. Deities, too, existed as persons in reciprocal relationships in which they acted on and spoke with one another. They were what they were as persons only with respect to one another. Constellative theology and anthropology mirror and model themselves on one another, stressing the ties, roles, and functions that bind the constituent members of the group. What they view as the worst evil are the concepts of isolation, loneliness, self-sufficiency, and independence. From their point of view, these are symptoms of death, dissolution, and destruction. Even for godhood, loneliness is an unbearable condition.”

In his book, The Search for God in Ancient Egypt, p. 241, Assmann states:
“It was only the Ramesside Period that arrived at the epoch-making solution that prevailed until the Christianization of the ancient world. It returned to polytheism, that is, to the concept of the world, as an ineluctable reality, though with its pantheistic theology of transcendence, it developed an entirely new terminology that made it possible to conceive of the diversity of deities as the colorful reflection of a hidden unity. It worshipped the unity as the hidden god, the ‘deus absconditus et ineffabilis,’ [i.e., literally ‘the hidden and ineffable god’], the ‘sacred ba of gods and men’ whose names, symbols, emanations, manifestations, shadows, and images were the various deities.”
Notice here the quoted text, “the sacred ba of gods AND men.” Even from this one statement we may draw the conclusion of the multiplicity of gods. If we humans contain in ourselves the sacred ba, and we are distinct individuals, so the gods contain that sacred ba of the creator—but are, like humans, distinct individuals.
This gets us into the area of the Egyptians’ emanationist theology, but the idea is there—there is a real and deep connection with the creator deity, but as separate beings.
As for the merging of various Netjeru that you wrote of, it might be helpful to think of such mergings as genuine mystical unions between two deities. In the book Eternal Egypt by Richard Reidy the author quotes Erik Hornung, saying, "A well-known relief in the tomb of Nofretiri [wife of Ramses II]. . . shows a ram-headed mummy between Isis and Nephthys captioned "This is Re when he has come to rest (htp) in Osiris' and 'This is Osiris when he comes to rest in Re.'" Reidy goes on to write, "A variant of this formula appears in Theban Tomb 290 in which 'the text is followed by the adverb "daily." thus showing how it should be understood: Re enters into Osiris and Osiris enters into Re daily, and the combination is dissolved again daily." Reidy is q
My apologies for messing up the last sentence : Undecided I had meant to write,
Reidy is quoting Erik Hornung, Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt, pages 93 & 95.
In Reidy's book this all appears on page 60.
The main point is that the ancient Egpytians seem to be polytheists who had a
special understanding of the union that occurs mystically between various deities,
but that each deity retained his/her own unique existence.
i hope that helps.
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« Reply #3: November 11, 2010, 09:19:15 pm »

Hey there everyone! I'm still working on finding my path...I've been trying to find it for a few years now, but I do feel a connection to the Egyptian pantheon. I think that might be partially due to the fact that my mom (who has a degree in geography specializing in the middle east), but that's another story. Anyway, onto my questions.

I noticed a lot of hard polytheists among Kemetic pagans, which I find surprising, seeing as how it seems as though many scholars point to the Egyptians being soft polytheists as opposed to hard polytheists. This makes more sense, seeing as the Egyptian Gods are constantly merging with each other (Amun-Ra, Ra-Herekety, etc.). I was curious as to what your guys thoughts are on hard polytheism, soft polytheism, and the merging of the Gods are?

I see what you're saying, although I don't think it's as simple as hard versus soft polytheism. I wouldn't say that the gods are all manifestations of one god, and though they can be viewed as distinct individual personalities, certain gods can be considered the same as another deity. It gets very confusing.

Egyptian cosmology was described to me as having a "dream-like" quality. A person can't just understand it intellectually in a linear-logical kind of way, one has to think in terms of symbolism and metaphor. Different truths can be held simultaneously without contradiction. Sehkmet can be a form of Hathor in her vengeful aspect, and Sekhmet can be a distinct deity in her own right, and one idea doesn't contradict the other.

Hathor is a very interesting goddess because she is identified with so many other goddesses. Isis and Hathor are very intimately connected, and Isis basically absorbed all of Hathor's attributes over time. Both were considered symbolic mother of the king, and Hathor may have originally been Horus' mother in the story of his battle with Seth. Through Hathor, Isis became associated with sky and motherhood in general and not just specific to Horus, as she originally was a goddess embodying the throne and a cunning goddess of magical power.

Anyway, I'm getting off-topic. The point is, Egyptian polytheism is quite fluid and dream-like, and it's hard to understand it in terms of "hard" and "soft".
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« Reply #4: November 11, 2010, 10:59:20 pm »

I was curious as to what your guys thoughts are on hard polytheism, soft polytheism, and the merging of the Gods are?

I'm hard polytheist and take the merging of the Gods as this: Each deity is separate and individual, and when They combine (such as the case with Sekhmet and Het-heru), the combined Sekhmet-Het-heru is Sekhmet assuming the role/attributes of Het-heru and Het-heru assuming the role/attributes of Sekhmet. Both are valid and exist simultaneously, but are two separate entities collected in one.

For another example, I worship Anpu as Anpu-Wepwawet, or Anpu taking on the role of Wepwawet (Opener of the Way), but to me, He is distinctly Anpu, not Anpu and Wepwawet in the same "body," nor is He Wepwawet taking on the role(s) of Anpu.
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« Reply #5: November 12, 2010, 03:04:53 pm »

I'm hard polytheist and take the merging of the Gods as this: Each deity is separate and individual, and when They combine (such as the case with Sekhmet and Het-heru), the combined Sekhmet-Het-heru is Sekhmet assuming the role/attributes of Het-heru and Het-heru assuming the role/attributes of Sekhmet. Both are valid and exist simultaneously, but are two separate entities collected in one.

This.
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« Reply #6: November 12, 2010, 08:46:40 pm »

I'm hard polytheist and take the merging of the Gods as this: Each deity is separate and individual, and when They combine (such as the case with Sekhmet and Het-heru), the combined Sekhmet-Het-heru is Sekhmet assuming the role/attributes of Het-heru and Het-heru assuming the role/attributes of Sekhmet. Both are valid and exist simultaneously, but are two separate entities collected in one.

For another example, I worship Anpu as Anpu-Wepwawet, or Anpu taking on the role of Wepwawet (Opener of the Way), but to me, He is distinctly Anpu, not Anpu and Wepwawet in the same "body," nor is He Wepwawet taking on the role(s) of Anpu.

Thanks a lot for the advice you guys! There were some deities that you could find worshiped throughout Egypt, but for the most part worship was very splintered among certain groups and regions. It wouldn't surprise me if politics had something to do with this too.

I guess one of the main problems for me is, who should I be making offerings to? Like if I were to be making an offering to Ra, should I make it to Ra, Ra-Horakhty, Amun-Ra, etc., or should I just let the deity that wants my attention speak to me?
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« Reply #7: November 12, 2010, 09:26:08 pm »

I guess one of the main problems for me is, who should I be making offerings to? Like if I were to be making an offering to Ra, should I make it to Ra, Ra-Horakhty, Amun-Ra, etc., or should I just let the deity that wants my attention speak to me?

I think it would depend on what you need at the time of offering. I normally only offer to my Patron, but I have offered to Djehuty, Set, and Ma'at before on certain occasions (I guess you could say They spoke to me at the time). If you want to make an offering to Ra for whatever reason, then do it to Ra; if you want to make an offering to either Amun assuming the role/attributes of Ra or vice versa, then do it to Amun-Ra, etc.
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« Reply #8: November 12, 2010, 09:26:48 pm »

I guess one of the main problems for me is, who should I be making offerings to? Like if I were to be making an offering to Ra, should I make it to Ra, Ra-Horakhty, Amun-Ra, etc., or should I just let the deity that wants my attention speak to me?

If you don't have a reason to offer to a specific god, offer to the gods in general and let Them sort it out. Wink
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« Reply #9: November 13, 2010, 07:55:39 am »


To add another quote in the mix which might give another way of viewing syncretized gods, from Spiegel's "Die Götter von Abydos" as translate from the original german by David Lorton:

"The combination of two or more divine names (as, e.g. Sobek-Re, Amun-Re, Re-Harakhte, Ptah-Sokar-Osiris, etc) becomes, on the contrary, much more comprehensible, if one considers them as an attempt to transfer entire conceptual complexes of the concept of the divine which were developed in one cultic sphere into another, in order thereby to broaden and deepen the definition of the nature of the divine in the latter cultic sphere. Moreover, it is not primarily a matter of heightening the power of the god in question, but of heightening and deepening the understanding of him by the faithful who are devoted to his cult. To be sure, the greater attractiveness of the broadened and deepened concept of the god could bring new adherents to the cult of the god in question and thus increase his influence in the religious life of Egypt. The motive of the combination, however, is always the desire for a progressive perception of the divine, which brings to the revered deity other divine names as bearers of already formed and developed representation and conceptual complexes - but not these gods as persons."
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« Reply #10: November 13, 2010, 08:06:25 am »

Thanks a lot for the advice you guys! There were some deities that you could find worshiped throughout Egypt, but for the most part worship was very splintered among certain groups and regions. It wouldn't surprise me if politics had something to do with this too.

I guess one of the main problems for me is, who should I be making offerings to? Like if I were to be making an offering to Ra, should I make it to Ra, Ra-Horakhty, Amun-Ra, etc., or should I just let the deity that wants my attention speak to me?

Have any of the Re-forms contacted you for your attention?
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« Reply #11: November 13, 2010, 05:50:29 pm »

I guess one of the main problems for me is, who should I be making offerings to? Like if I were to be making an offering to Ra, should I make it to Ra, Ra-Horakhty, Amun-Ra, etc., or should I just let the deity that wants my attention speak to me?
It seems to me, based on my experience and the experiences of folks in two Kemetic temples, that one way a Netjer or Netjeret calls you is to inspire within you a curiosity and special interest in him/her. If you find yourself gravitating to one or another deity, that would seem to be a good way to determine that the deity is indeed calling you for a deeper relationship with him/her. Perhaps you're attracted by some things in their mythology, or perhaps you can't even quite pin down a reason for the interest/attraction. In a way it's like when we are attracted to another person--we may not always be able to explain the attraction. It simply IS.
In regard to your interest in Ra, Ra-Horakhty, and Amun-Ra, follow your heart.
The ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for 'heart' is shaped like a vase or vessel with a
handle on each side, something to be filled. Perhaps that vase-shaped heart is a reminder that our hearts are there to be filled with something or someone divine.
 
 
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« Reply #12: November 13, 2010, 08:26:58 pm »

Have any of the Re-forms contacted you for your attention?

Sobek has always seemed to speak to me, and I believe to be my patron, but I also seem to have a connection with other deities as well. I suppose Ill just let things come to me, as well, the come to me Grin.
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« Reply #13: November 13, 2010, 11:29:48 pm »

Sobek has always seemed to speak to me, and I believe to be my patron, but I also seem to have a connection with other deities as well. I suppose Ill just let things come to me, as well, the come to me Grin.

Start off with Sobek and see where that leads.  Smiley If someone else wants your attention, they'll let you know.
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« Reply #14: November 22, 2010, 07:11:10 pm »

Start off with Sobek and see where that leads.  Smiley If someone else wants your attention, they'll let you know.

I love Sobek, even though he doesn't speak to me. I worship only Sekhmet and Isis but I'm hoping that other gods will come to me. I'm a little confused by the thread. What is considered Hard polythiesm and soft? I know that some gods did merge over time, which is confusing in itself. So what's the difference between these two kinds of polythiesm.
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