My friend, Sard, has written a wonderful piece on the use of colour in Ancient Egyptian Art. As per usual, her writing and citations are absolutely impeccable. This piece is well worth the read and addresses many questions and misconceptions on the topic that are floating around online.
Category Archives: Religion
Sometime on Good Friday, the Goddess Temple in Cactus Springs, Nevada was invaded by thieves. The space that had always been open to anyone wanting to come visit the Goddess, to pray and to enjoy the peace of the sanctuary could do so unhindered. It was this that made it possible for those with a more heinous mission in mind to succeed in stealing the centrepiece of that place, a four foot tall statue of Sekhmet that weighed just under 100 pounds.
The Priestess in Residence came into the Temple to find Sekhmet gone. The thieves had left behind only tire tracks, and in them was the necklace that the statue had been wearing, indicating that she had been tipped while being spirited away in the night from the place that had been her home for the last 21 years.
For the celebration of Earth Day that was scheduled to be held at the Temple, a picture of the statue was set in the place of where the image once stood. The Earth Day Celebration went on as planned.
Right now, there is much speculation within the Pagan community as to why it happened or who might have done it. The first thing that came to mind is that somehow, since it was done on Good Friday, it was religiously motivated, as if to remove an image sacred to those who are not a part of the Big Three monotheistic faiths. Others have suggested someone just wanted to make Sekhmet their own. Others have posited that because of the area of the country and because Sekhmet personifies power itself, that the culprits could be drug dealers who believe that stealing a bit of mojo is perfectly acceptable. Whatever the motivations are, the Pagan community and all those who love Sekhmet are upset by the theft.
Initially $500 was being offered for information that led to the arrest and prosecution of the culprits. That has since been kicked up to a $2,000 reward. I would not be surprised if that figure increased yet again.
The unfortunate byproduct of this tragic event are those Pagans who wring their hands and drape themselves over the furniture, wailing that this is about religious persecution – or that if this had happened in a Christian church or Jewish synagogue, the press coverage would somehow be more than it has been. I understand the deeply personal feelings that people have toward Sekhmet and that someone would do something so terrible is frustrating and brings up anger, sadness and the overall feeling of somehow being violated. I also know what it feels like when the issues and events we hold near and dear are not adequately covered as we feel they ought to be. I think anyone who is on the receiving end of being even in a small way touched by any sort of crime – be it a hate crime or something else must feel that irritation that no one could possibly understand. Pagans in particular, seem to love to latch on to crises of this type because it makes them feel as some “persecuted other”. I never saw much use in wallowing in that sort of self-pity, personally.
To be honest, I never thought I would see the day Sekhmet’s children would resort to playing the victim card and yet I have in these past few days. Some have resorted to comparing and contrasting our religious site being desecrated and comparing our pain to the pain of others when thier faith was lashed out against. Somehow they conveniently have forgotten in another crime that is unrelated but took place just before Easter where three innocent lives were lost last week during Passover. Ironically, all three of the victims who were slain by a white supremicist were Christians. It is my view and in the interests of ma’at that I believe that no one should be singled out, begrudged or feel persecuted for their beliefs, or have their sacred spaces violated. The ones who whine about how we of “Other” faiths that are not Jewish, Christian or Muslim are so very persecuted and discriminated against conveniently forget the burned churches, the desecrated mosques, the ravaged Sikh temples, that have all have been the scenes of senseless violence and desecration, all based on hate and intolerance. Our prayers go out to their families and our voices whisper hopes toward peace and understanding. It is what we should do for each other as human beings. Skin colour, race, religious conviction, sex, sexual preference and any number of other things does not trump the fact that we are all human beings and have to share the space, so to speak.
While the stealing of the statue is a tragic, heinous thing, too many within Paganism’s ranks love to use that common excuse that gets handed out is to blame the media – especially when screaming “religious persecution”.
This, in my personal opinion, is not an act of persecution. We need to stop with the assumptions that somehow it was. There were no slurs painted over the space, the building was left intact- they took the statue, something that cannot be replaced. It’s a theft. Cameras may be necessary as a precaution to insure against future thefts, or worse, the safety of worshipers. That’s the way of things these days. It has to be, unfortunately. Slanting the story is not helpful. We now live in a world where that kind of trust is not something that can be easily given to just anyone. We used to sleep with our doors unlocked and our kids could play in their own front yards. Both things are becoming increasingly rare now – but of course, that has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with a society that is largely out of control.
We are not the dominant religion, that is true. We are not Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, but we can practice our religion for the most part unmolested. Do people lose their lives here over being pagan? Hardly. That is what the comparison with the Passover shootings was about – and it is relevant. Can people in India, Africa, and even Egypt itself say the same? Absolutely not. I know of native Egyptians who do worship Sekhmet – but they cannot do so openly or it is a death sentence.
There is no point to the practice of comparing and contrasting of pain and transgressions and tresspasses against “Us” versus the ones suffered by “Them” – whichever side we happen to be on. Any religion being oppressed, any desecration of a holy site is an outrage and intolerable. As a Priestess of Sekhmet, I ask is our suffering any greater than the churches that get burned down, the mosques that are desecrated, the medicine wheels that are destroyed? No. Absolutely not.
Whomever did this – be they someone who lusted for Sekhmet’s image itself, or someone in the drug cartels or someone just doing something ignorant and hateful, I can say without reservation that they will have literal hell to pay. In spite of Sekhmet’s loving, healing aspects – and She has many – there are very dark parts of this Goddess that are invoked when Ma’at has been transgressed. To those who know Sekhmet and those “darker” aspects of Her, know without any shadow of a doubt that the move was a very stupid one indeed.
That statue will be returned – or not. But we are undamaged, and Sekhmet’s worship is undeterred. One thing is for certain, however, those who stole Her image will get what they have coming to them. I know for a fact, Sekhmet’s Arrows Do. Not. Miss.
In my years of experience, Sekhmet, as far as Deities go, is most definitely NOT a victim; and neither, I dare I say it, are Her children. We will not curl up into a ball and wail and bemoan the situation. We will not stop doing what we have been doing since the resurgence of Sekhmet’s worship in the world. We know who our Mother is, and She knows us. We who know that we belong to Her carry Sekhmet within us. Our minds hone in on Her with a singular focus. We do this because She IS the very Personification of Power or Sekhem itself. To succumb to this blow is to give that Power away.
Rest assured, we have absolutely no intention of doing that.
(Mirrored at niankhsekhmet.com)
The eye has served as a powerful image for humanity for millennia. The Eye, in Kemetic belief, centres around the Udjat Eye – which is that of protection. Also the Eye of Heru (Horus is his Greek name) and the Eye of Ra – which are separate entities from Ra’s more than 70 forms – and can function independently of him.
Even in the earliest periods of Ancient Egyptian history and culture , the sun and the moon were often regarded as very eyes of the Great Falcon, Horus. Later the two were differentiated in that the Eye of Horus was the Left Eye or the Moon, while the Right Eye was Ra or the sun. One particular myth which comes to us from the tomb of Tutankhamun, talks of how Horus’ eye was blinded but then restored by Hathor – who is Herself an Eye of Ra. This ties into the cycles of the moon and of the waxing and waning action of that heavenly body that is ever present above us.
The more well known “Eyes of Ra” are HetHert (Hathor), Sekhmet, Bast, Wadjet, Mut, Meretseger and even Aset (Isis). The Eyes of Ra were considered to be the protectors and enforcers of divine law. Probably the best known myth surrounding this is the “Destruction of Mankind” where Hathor, the goddess of love, beauty and all that is good is told that Mankind has rebelled and attempted not only to overthrow the Netjeru (gods) but destroy them utterly, is sent forth by Ra in order to punish them : Thus Sekhmet was born.
These goddesses, known as Eyes also resided in the crown, or uraeus that was upon the brow of royalty. These goddesses held the power of the King and their power is manifested through him. This is where the function of the Queens or Great Royal Wives were the stand-ins for the Eye Goddesses, such as Hathor and Isis and insured the protection of Kingly Power and function within the Two Lands.
The Eye of Horus, or Eye of Ra or Udjat Eye were all a part of this greater protection. There were almost always eyes included within funerary equipment in the form of amulets, and painted motifs on coffins, walls. The Eye was a major theme to protect not just the pharaoh, but common people as well. It worked to keep away evil, to insure the path toward the Afterlife of the Duat was kept clear. The sailors of Ancient Egypt would often paint the eye on the prow of their ships and even skiffs to insure safe travel. Even today, modern Kemetics will have Eyes either painted on their vehicles, or in similar fashion to the Fish motif of the Christians, they will have an eye on their car. I certainly have them on all of our vehicles.
The Eye as depicted in Ancient Egyptian art is based off of the markings of falcons, such as the Peregrine Falcon ( Falco peregrinus ), a totemic representative of the God Horus. As depicted on many Eye artifacts, whether it be an actual amulet, piece of jewelery or a painted motif, shows the “teardrop” marking near the bottom of the Eye, not dissimilar from the markings on the Peregrine falcon. A similar line is also found just below the eye of the African Cheetah, who at times can be taken to represent Eye Goddesses that take the form of big cats.
Hieroglyphically, there are several symbols for the Eye. Gardiner Sign list, symbols D4 through D17 either depict the Eye or parts of the Eye. The attached meaning in Ancient Egyptian to these often talk of “doing” or “making” or one who “makes or does”. This idea ties rather emphatically to the eye and what it symbolizes as being an active rather than a passive role. “Here comes protection”, or “The Eye goes forth”, which could be in a protective or punishing type of function. The Eye of Ra is there to protect and to defend authority and keep the balance and either defend or restore ma’at.
The Eye is also used symbolically within Ancient Egyptian mathematics as a sort of symbolic break down for the concepts of measurement in the form of fractions. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus and the Lahun or Kahun Papyrus, both have tables of unit fractions (1 as the numinator), and scribes would often have these tables for use within their work.
The various parts of the Eye would be broken down in this fashion:
- Right side of the eye = 1/2
- Pupil = 1/4
- Eyebrow = 1/8
- Left side of the eye = 1/16
- Curved tail = 1/32
- Teardrop or downward marking= 1/64
Unfortunately, however, studying this particular diagram does nothing for those of us who are mathematically impaired, no matter how much we love all topics that pertain to Ancient Egypt!
Another symbol of the Eye of Ra in specifics is the sun disk that appears on the heads of solar deities in the Egyptian pantheon, such as Sekhmet, Horus, and even Ra Himself. The sun disk and the Uraeus at the centre were protective and punishing at the same time. The sun or Ra moving across the sky could be found in the symbolism of the Solar Barque, which carried Ra across the sky each day. In the Barque of Ra or the Solar Barque, other deities rode with Ra. Certainly the body of the heavens was equated with the Celestial Cow who travels with Ra.
The symbolism of the Eye is central to Ancient Egyptian belief and the complexity of everything this one symbol can encompass can be both complex and at times confusing. While the Eye was a protector, it was also a punisher of wrongdoers. While it was protective of that order or Ma’at, it was sometimes difficult to control and would tend to wander. The cycle of the Wandering Eye returning to the Two Lands to signify that balance would once again be restored was met with great joy and merrymaking. When the Eye is restored and reestablished, we, too, are likewise restored and reestablished as well.
Roberts, Alison. Hathor Rising: The Power of the Goddess in Ancient Egypt. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International, 1997
Roberts, Alison. Golden Shrine, Goddess Queen: Egypt’s Anointing Mysteries. Rottingdean, East Sussex: NorthGate, 2008.
Roberts, Alison. My Heart My Mother: Death and Rebirth in Ancient Egypt. Rottingdean, East Sussex: NorthGate, 2000.
Shaw, Ian, and Paul T. Nicholson. The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995. Print.
Wikipedia, “The Eye of Horus”. Web.
Wilkinson, Richard H. Reading Egyptian Art: A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Egyptian Painting and Sculpture., p.176 – 177; London: Thames and Hudson, 1992
“Who the hell translated this? It’s completely wrong. They must have used Budge; I don’t know why they keep reprinting his books!” – Daniel Jackson, from the movie, “Stargate”
People: I am here to tell you once and for all, ditch the Budge translations that you have. Stop using them in your arguments and your writings. You are making your work and yourself into a laughing stock. I don’t care that you have meticulously collected all of his works over time or how much you spent for that gold embossed, leather bound volume of the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead It’s as of this writing, about 150 years out of date. If you do choose to ignore the advice and use him anyway, any of your “translations” are likely riddled with inaccuracies. They may be nice to look at on the shelf lining your office and to utilize their pubic domain illustrations, however, they are *really* problematic hieroglyphically.
And need I bring up that Budge was known to plagiarize his students? No. I didn’t think so.
Sir Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge was born in 1857 and died in 1934. Commonly referred to in his title of Sir E. A. Wallis Budge. Budge was the curator of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities at the British Museum in London from 1894 to 1924. He was knighted in 1920. He began working for the British Museum in 1883, making archaeological excavations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Sudan. During these expeditions, he managed to accumulate many Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets, Egyptian papyri, and manuscripts written in Arabic, Coptic, Ethiopic, Greek, and Syriac languages. Budge was quite prolific and the author of many books such as “The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead”, “The Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary”, “Egyptian Vocabulary”, ” An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Reading Book for Beginners”, “The Gods of the Egyptians”, “The Egyptian Heaven and Hell”, “Egyptian Magic”, and on and on.
The late Dr. Barbara Mertz, (aka Elizabeth Peters) in her novels frequently mentions Budge. In the novels, the heroine’s husband repeatedly refers to Budge saying, “Budge is a poor archaeologist and an unscrupulous plunderer of Egypt.” Very true. By today’s standards, he was most certainly that.
If you read Budge, then you must examine what he is writing through his cultural lens of Protestant Christianity via the Church of England. Much of how Egyptology expeditions got funded in that day was by convincing the rich nobles and businessmen in the Empire that the study was a worthwhile endeavor. Aside from the prospect of discovering a rich cache of treasure, forwarding the idea that the ancient Egyptians had beliefs quite similar to those of Christians, of course, before the benefit of Christ having come. etc. was how those expeditions got the much needed dosh. We all know, however, that this notion of Egyptian religion being “just like Christianity”, is just downright incorrect. (Or we should know this, at least). Budge ignored much of the progress of the German schools of Egyptology and the various advances in translation even in his own day – probably out of sheer Victorian arrogance more than anything else. Today, translations by R.O. Faulkner and others are much better and are easily available in print and in eBook form.
The bottom line is this: There are those, like me, who will more than likely discount any book or paper if that author cites as a resource, books written by E.A. Wallis Budge. The only way around this is if that author would also cross-reference those sources written by Budge with newer, more accurate ones as well. Some readers will simply see the name ‘Budge” and pitch it over their shoulder, unread. Really, I can’t say that I blame them. That little jab at Sir Ernest that was made by the screenwriters of “Stargate” was for a reason. Using a translation by Budge would be the equivalent of relying on the diaries of Charles Darwin to explain current modern stem cell and DNA research. Historical, Egyptoligical and scientific research has long since moved on. To put it in perspective, most of Sir E.A. Wallis Budge’s books were written before Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922! A layperson or independent Egyptophile knows far more about ancient Egypt or ancient Kemet today than someone did in Budge’s day – even if they read all of his books. That is because back then, Egyptology was a very young science – and even today it can be a very underfunded science. With the recent events in Egypt, moving further may be even more difficult. We will have to see about that one.
If you are an author of anything Egyptian or Kemetic, you have the duty and the obligation to use good, current resource materials rather than cheap reprints in the public domain . Those public domain works, more often than not, do not take our greater understanding of Egypt and Egyptology into account since Budge’s day. To not fulfill this obligation and duty is not only a case of simple ignorance of better material, but rather it shows a flagrant disrespect for the time and intelligence of readers. We now have, via the Internet, wider availability of either free or inexpensive access to scores of current material that is historically sound. Why someone would choose not to avail themselves of these resources is inexplicable. Bear in mind, someone like me looks at newly published books on ancient Egypt with a very critical eye. If an author use a less than reputable resources, the review of the newly offered book will reflect this. In Kemetic circles, that can be death to any viability in the marketplace.
So, please. Put down and put away the books by Budge; or at the very least, use a stack of them as doorstops.