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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