The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook by Tamara L. Siuda

The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook
Tamara L. Siuda
Stargazer Design, 2005-2009
167 pages

Reviewed by Ser

I started reading The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook without any expectations, other than hopefully learning more about Ancient Egyptian religion. I believe having an open mind led me to enjoy this book beyond it’s face value of a book full of prayers.

This book was written with practitioners of Kemetic Orthodoxy in mind, but I believe non-practitioners can still get something from this book, if only a better understanding of what those following KO believe and practice. There are two small chapters at the beginning dedicated to the definition of prayer, setting up shrines, and how to properly pray at a KO shrine (along with some recipes for natron and kapet); these chapters build a brief foundation for the prayers to follow, but I would have enjoyed more background.

Chapters 3 through 11 are each devoted to a different type of prayer, such as prayers for certain holidays, prayers for ancestors and prayers for specific deities. I enjoyed the latter in particular, as for each god and goddess the author included a historical section that included details about the deities going beyond simple attributes. Information in these sections include the origins of worship for that particular deity, the evolution of worship, and even some customary offerings that other practitioners have had good experiences with. Deities are also named in Egyptian style, rather than Classical, which I enjoyed (for example: Aset, instead of Isis). A wide variety of prayer styles is also included, from short mantras to lengthy prayers I imagine are used in full ceremony. There are even a couple of short, non-deity specific prayers that I enjoyed specifically.

Throughout the book are a few typos, but not enough to really detract from the book. (However I think they should have been caught before the second edition was released.) While reading, I would have liked a bit more explanation on the holidays, though I expect that would be better suited for a general Kemetic Orthodoxy book than a specifically named Prayerbook.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and am pleased with the variety of prayers included. This book wasn’t too applicable to my own studies, though it did present me with some new ideas and things to ponder. While I really can’t see this as a stand-alone book by any means, it does well as a companion book to anyone serious about studying Kemetic Orthodoxy or the worship of Ancient Egyptian deities in general.

Four pawprints out of five.

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Nebt-het: Lady of the House by Tamara L. Siuda

Nebt-het: Lady of the House
Tamara L. Siuda
lulu.com, 2010
36 pages

Reviewed by Ser

In the book’s preface, we learn that Nebt-het: Lady of the House started life as a “formal academic paper” for the author’s master’s degree. While Amazon lists the book as containing 36 pages, in actuality the “meat” of this book is only 9 1/2 pages. It reads just like a paper, too: rather dryly.

The preface to the 2010 edition is a spiritual dedication to Nebt-het herself, so I expected the rest of the book to follow suit. It does not. After the 9 1/2 pages of the paper, there is an additional 9 pages of references or “Notes”, another 3 pages of “Bibliography and Works Cited”, and 6 1/2 pages of alternative names and associations of Nebt-het. $12 is a lot to pay for 9 1/2 pages of someone’s school paper, a lot of which (though not all) contains information that I could find online after a few minutes of Googling. Whether this is because of the book or in spite of it, I can’t tell. (It does make me consider publishing my own school papers to earn a few bucks.)

There is a line stating something was discussed earlier, “on page 5”. When turning back to refresh myself of the subject, page 5 turned out to be the preface to the 2004 edition. I had to count individual pages of the paper itself to find the location being referred to. A small revision is needed to clarify this point to save the reader time and possible confusion.

That said, it is nice to have the scant information on Nebt-het in one place, as well as a listing of the many epithets of the goddess. I don’t doubt this information would be useful to anyone interested in learning more about Nebt-het and how she ties into Ancient Egyptian theology. As this paper is no longer for school purposes, I feel that there should really be more of the second preface’s contents included – the personal experiences and feelings that can give the goddess personality. I expected to learn of Nebt-het through the author’s point of view; this may be because I was reading Siuda’s “The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook” simultaneously, which does include some of her personal experiences. I believe this book itself would be better served on the internet as a beginner’s reference (perhaps on kemet.org, which I believe is owned by the author?), or as the first chapter in a book on Nebt-het, followed by stories of current worship and encounters.

Three pawprints out of five.

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Manifest Divinity by Lisa Spiral Besnett

Manifest Divinity
Lisa Spiral Besnett
Megalithica Books, 2013
116 pages

Reviewed by Devo

When I first looked at this book, I will admit that I expected it to be a lot of fluff. However, I was interested in reading about another person’s conception of what divinity is, and how it can be seen in the world, so I decided to give the book a shot.

I was very surprised by this book- in a good way.

The author herself expresses that the intent of her book is to:

“My hope in this book is to help establish a framework to talk about spiritual experience that is not dependent on a particular religious practice or belief.”

And I think that she does a pretty good job with this. She starts the book off by discussing some of her own approaches to divinity, or the Divine, and also goes over what the Divine is. To summarize it briefly, her definition would be as follows:

“I consider any awe experience to be a manifestation of the Divine. Manifest Divinity actually implies that the Divine is present and obvious. We simply bring our attention to it, or bring the Divine into our awareness. When this comes as a surprise, without any effort on our part, the result is awe.

I believe that anything which leaves us awestruck is a manifestation of the Divine. I dare say being filled with a feeling of love that makes one want to hold the whole world in their arms is a manifestation of the Divine.”

The author also discusses some of the shortcomings of our modern society to approaching, seeing and understanding the divine. And finally, she goes into five different forms of Divine manifestation and how we can work to see the Divine in these manifested forms.

All in all, I liked the book. I thought that it was well written and that people of various faiths and practices could read the book and find a way to understand the concepts being brought forward. On the by and large, the author keeps her discussion of the Divine broad and general enough that you don’t feel like she’s necessarily writing about any one type of divinity, or for any particular faith.

The language of the book is approachable and easy to read- you could easily read this book over the course of a few days. And the content within the book could be re-read for new ideas regularly. The author also includes questions at the end of each chapter for you to utilize for becoming closer to the Divine- which should allow the reader to utilize the book over time as they expand their relationship with the Divine. I also think that some of the concepts and discussion points brought forward in this book could be useful for someone who is trying to create their own religion, or for someone who is new to a polytheistic faith, or is trying to explore divinity structures outside of a monotheistic frame.

I think one of the most important things that the author brings forward in this book is the idea that the Divine is bigger than us, and that the Divine’s goals and morals may not necessarily line up with our own. She does cover the idea that you can tell a divine entity no, and that each of us needs to understand where our stopping point for the divine is. So the author does cover topics that I’ve seen a lot of authors gloss over.

If I had to pick something that I dislike about this book, it’s the constant reiteration that the Divine is unknowable, and mind breaking. I’ve never been a big fan of that idea, and the author’s concepts relating to that particular concept didn’t do much to change my notions on it. I would have preferred the focus to be more on “don’t put the Divine in a box” over “you are too human to really grok the depth of the Divine”.

However, despite this, I think that the book does have a lot of merit, and I think it’s worth reading. I feel it can be useful for helping people to further understand ways that the Divine can present itself in the world.

Four and a half out of five pawprints.

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Pain and Faith in the Wiccan World by Crystal Blanton

Pain and Faith in the Wiccan World: Spirituality, Ethics, and Transformation
Crystal Blanton
Megalithica Books, 2013
188 pages

Reviewed by Hilde

There are a lot of self-help books on how to work through and recover from grief, trauma, and pain for both secular and Christian audiences. While some people are able to utilize these resources despite the conflicts with their own faith, others may feel the need for a book that resonates with their own beliefs.

Blanton combines modern therapy techniques with the tradition of Wicca to provide a resource that is easily accessible for those who are in the midst of their struggle and those who wish to support them.

While the author gives accurate definitions and explanations on the topics of pain, growth, grief, and forgiveness, she gives these topics life by including the experiences of herself and others throughout the narrative. The additional use of quotes by other authors gives extra insight and additional valuable resources for the reader to pursue.

Each chapter is accurately titled and includes a quote at the beginning to enhance the topic. One of the things I especially liked about this book is the number of techniques the author makes available for the reader in her TIAT (Tips, Insights, Action, and Tools) section at the end of each chapter. General suggestions like journaling, questionnaires, self-care, and cognitive-behavioral techniques comfortably sit alongside candle-lighting, prayer, object burials, and other rituals.

The main portion of the book is devoted to helping the injured person, but at the end there is a section specifically tailored for the supporters. It discusses the many ways to support the person, including the importance of being objective. It also stresses the importance of self-care when assisting somebody through such a difficult time.

If a reader has read self-help books about grief, trauma, and pain this will be old territory; however, it does an excellent job in reframing these topics within the Wiccan faith.

Five pawprints out of five.

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The Traveller’s Guide to the Duat by Kiya Nicoll

The Traveller’s Guide to the Duat
Kiya Nicoll
Megalithica Books, 2012
160 pages

Reviewed by Devo

Today I’m reviewing the book “The Traveller’s Guide to the Duat” by Kiya Nicoll. This book has been circling around a lot of the Kemetic community, and I was interested to take a look when Lupa gave me the chance to review it. I think if I could sum up this book in a sentence, it would be that it is too in-depth to be a 101 book, but not in-depth enough to be a 202 book. I understand that the author was trying to make the book approachable for non-Kemetics and laymen, but I felt that the language used made the concepts more difficult to grasp than needed. Perhaps this is just my method of reading and understanding, but I often found myself reading a section three and four times, trying to understand what was going on. Using things such as “retirement plan” to refer to death, or “book a tour” to refer to visiting the Duat while dreaming just ended up making me more confused on topics and concepts that should be fairly straight forward.

In this book, the author discusses magical type things (charms, rituals and other similar items), but she doesn’t go very in depth about how to perform them or utilize them in modern practice. It’s almost like everything that could be useful for actual protection is only mentioned in passing without much detail. So while I get the general gist of what she’s getting at, I don’t actually feel competent enough to perform the things she is suggesting. I find this to be a real shame, because there are some really interesting ideas mentioned in the book, and I would have been interested to see them taken a step further so that modern practitioners could put them to use.

Sometimes the author leans towards authenticity over actual practicality. In one section of the book, the author suggests the use of malachite-based cosmetics to help with distant travel within the Duat. I understand the desire to showcase things that are from ancient Egypt that were used in antiquity. However, I think that in cases where the user’s health could be as stake- its important to add disclaimers such as “malachite that has been placed on the skin can kill you, or make you very sick. As an alternative, you could use modern green eyeliner”.

There are some basic formatting issues in the book that bug me. The Sidebars in the book being labeled as “Sidebar” was confusing, and wasn’t something I was used to. Normally a sidebar gets its own page, or is literally- a bar of text that floats on the side of the page, however the sidebars in this book were inline with the rest of the text- you’d get a header, notifying you of the sidebar, but you never knew exactly where it ended, and for me, this just made for more confusion. The inconsistent header text styles also bothered me. These are little things compared to content, but were still enough that I noticed them.

I noticed that the author introduces terms without any sort of definition within the text, so you have to go to the back of the book for definitions sometimes- which can be cumbersome. Because I’ve read a fair amount of books on ancient Egyptian religion, most of the terms were no problem for me- however, for someone who isn’t well versed in these terms, this could be a problem.
One of my favorite sections of the book was the short overview of materials for amulet creation.

I particularly liked the section on the Eye of Horus. It was a more in-depth description than I have seen in most places. The explanation of the Eye of Horus/Heru was one of the clearer ones I had read:

“The Eye itself was used hieroglyphically to represent fractions; each stroke was a different proportion of the whole (“wedjat” means “whole” or “restored one”). Thus, it is a unity of many parts, an individual manifestation which is itself a community of members.”

“The Pyramid Texts refer several times to the Eye of Heru that has been illuminated by the finger of Set. In the great conflict… each attacked the other in his place of power… Without the conflict between the rivals, the Eye remains unilluminated: the dedicant does not become an initiate. The power of the Eye resides in the fact that it contains the legacy of its damage; it is strong enough to handle the turmoils of conflict in a world that contains chaos and destruction.”

Some other quotes that caught my eye:

“Broadly speaking, the Duat lies between seen world and the Nun. It is closer to the realm of formless potential than the material world, and thus more fluid in form and concept, as well as being more vulnerable to the dangerous forces of unbeing… Whether one imagines this space as part of an underworld into which the sun vanishes when it dis below the horizon or the interior of the goddess Nut who swallows the sun in the evening to give birth to it in the morning makes no difference; this world is neither, both, infinitely distant and perfectly overlapping that which we can see. The horizon is the seam between the two worlds: always visible, never reachable.”

“As your ba contains your reputation, you will wish to be concerned with your good name. Those who speak ill of you are capable of doing harm to this soul, harm which may separate you or make you ba fractious and disinclined to associate with you.”

All in all, I think the book can have some uses, but I don’t find it very user friendly due to the language used and the confusing layout of topics and order of discussion. Perhaps if I knew more about the Book of Going Forth By Day (aka the Book of the Dead- which is largely what this book is based off of), it would have made more sense to me. However, considering this book is supposed to be approachable to all people- you should be able to grasp the concepts without having read anything else about the Duat.

Two pawprints out of five.

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