Invoking the Scribes of Ancient Egypt: The Initiatory Path of Spiritual Journaling by Normandi Ellis and Gloria Taylor Brown

Invoking the Scribes of Ancient Egypt: The Initiatory Path of Spiritual Journaling
Normandi Ellis and Gloria Taylor Brown
Bear & Company, 2011
xii + 307 pages

reviewed by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

This book has an intriguing concept, and in its scope it attempts to provide (at least) four things to potential readers: a travelogue of an especially inspirational pilgrimage to and tour of Egypt; a series of writing exercises; a group of thematic rituals and guided meditations; and personal accounts by various participants in the pilgrimage and tour that don’t necessarily have to do directly with what occurred on the trip, but may relate to their earlier experiences, or particular reflections on lessons learned as a result of the trip and the writing exercises done on it, often including short poetic compositions. To entitle this entire collection both “Invoking the Scribes of Ancient Egypt” and “The Initiatory Path of Spiritual Journaling,” however, is a bit of a stretch in both cases, unfortunately.

Information on scribal practices in Egypt is not as plentiful as many of us might hope, but it is far more extensive than is indicated in this book. While both the scribes of Egypt and the participants in this tour and pilgrimage were both “writing in Egypt,” the similarities somewhat end there. To suggest that what exercises are given in this book—however useful or profound they might end up being for some readers and writers—is in any sense a continuation of ancient Egyptian practices any more than any other type of writing done in Egypt today, or done anywhere else in the world by anyone, would need to have better lines drawn to indicate such than what is presented in this book. Further, to refer to the practice of keeping a journal of one’s spiritual exercises and reflections (which is, undoubtedly, a useful and enriching practice) as an “initiatory path” is also an overstatement. Initiation is a far more serious, intense, and dedicated spiritual practice than keeping a journal is, and many individuals keep journals as assiduously as (if not more so than) some spiritual practitioners, and yet to call one “spiritual” simply by virtue of some of the topics addressed in it is likewise an exaggeration, at very least.

For those who take the existence of the Egyptian deities seriously, some of the writing exercises might not be very palatable. Writing an “I Am Isis” aretalogical poem, for example, may strike some as impious, since that formulation and the goddess are being used as a projection screen for one’s own self-exploration.

Some of the rituals given in this book—including those at the beginning and end of the pilgrimage—are not Egyptian-specific, and in fact draw upon an eclectic range of spiritual traditions, including various Native American concepts (though no singular people or culture is named, only vague notions of totem-type animals and their desirable characteristics). In both rituals, which have a directional (East, South, West, North, Above, Below, Center) focus, ending with the phrase “…all our relations” and then “Ah ho” is the format followed. I don’t know the cultural background or training of the main ritualist amongst the group, but I can’t help but feel that doing this sort of North American indigenous tradition-inspired practice as a beginning and end to a pilgrimage in Egypt is inappropriate at best, and culturally appropriative at worst.

Egyptian tradition is not my primary area of familiarity, but even I know that some matters are rather inaccurately portrayed. The Great Sphinx is addressed by some participants as a female (p. 47), and even though the gender of the statue is not entirely certain, the Egyptians of antiquity considered it male. The Egyptian goddess Satis is called the “goddess of satisfaction” at one point (p. 57), but the etymologies of the name “Satis” and the word “satisfaction” are not at all connected (and originate in two entirely different, non-cognate languages!), and Satis herself has no direct connection to such a concept. In reference to Imhotep, the architect of the step pyramid at Saqqara (amongst many other venerable accomplishments), Gloria Taylor Brown writes “[He] is the only example of which I am aware where a historical man has been added to the pantheon of Egypt” (p. 245). Brown’s biography in the book suggests she is a lifelong student of Egyptian studies and teacher of Egyptian mysteries. Thus, it is rather upsetting that she doesn’t seem to know about the possibilities for deification of humans that are present in a great deal of ancient Egyptian religion, nor the further examples of it, including Petesi and Paher (whose temple is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York), and which continued through to the early second century of the current era as well with, at very least, Antinous. Granted, few amongst the pharaohs, even, achieved renown as great as Imhotep, but he is far from the only example.

For readers who are not interested in a close study of Egyptian precedents for spiritual practice, and who don’t mind a fair bit of New Age material (including references to Edgar Cayce, Omm Sety, and various other New Age-Egyptian connections), as well as spiritual traditions from a variety of other cultures, being mixed into the ever-intriguing cauldron of Egyptian “mystery,” this will be a very satisfying book. What I found the most interesting and useful about it was the photos and the two principal authors’ narratives about some aspects of the various sites that were visited on the tour. The type of writing exercises offered here are found in many other places, and if approached outside of the specific Egyptian tour and pilgrimage context, may be just as effective to pursue for those who wish to do so.

Two pawprints out of five.

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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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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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The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook by Tamara Siuda

The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook
Tamara L. Siuda
Stargazer Design, 2009
168 pages

Reviewed by Devo

Before I get into the bulk of this, I’d like to state that I have a bias – I don’t like reading prayers and hymns. They are alright if you’re using them to learn about a god or a ritual, but on a whole I don’t really get a lot out of reading prayers/hymns.

The setup of the book is pretty straightforward. Siuda discusses the basics of prayer – its uses, how you do it, etc. She then discusses some of the basics of Kemetic Orthodoxy practice and then goes into a listing of prayers for gods, goddesses, akhu (blessed dead), family uses, and children. The book also contains prayers for blessings, protection, and some heka (magic) basics as well as prayers for holidays and daily usage. The deity listings contain various epithets and stats on each deity- which is rounded out with a few prayers for each. Lastly, there is a basic calendar that you can utilize in your daily practice and the bibliography and index. The book is easy to read and quite short.

Due to the age of this book, I would be careful to place a lot of stock into the Kemetic Orthodoxy sections. This book was written with Kemetic Orthodoxy in mind – it is geared for members of that faith. However, because it is an older book, some things seem irrelevant now (in regards to Kemetic Orthodoxy) and it seems to me that the book could use an update for this particular section.
The thing I liked most about the Prayerbook was the listing of gods and some of their basic attributes. There are some things that she mentions in the Prayerbook that helps me to understand various references while on the Kemetic Orthodoxy website, and there are a couple of interesting facts/tidbits that I was unaware about that were nice to learn. In fact, I wish this section were longer, and more inclusive, so that I could learn more. This was the most helpful section for me.

What I don’t care for in the gods section is the hymns/litanies/etc. that followed each entry. It felt to me that these excerpts were exactly that – excerpts, and that there was a bigger something that was missing. I would have rather read the whole hymn/litany/etc or not at all. Not just three or four lines out of it. So for me, there was a disconnect.

On a whole, the book is okay. I personally don’t care for it, but it is interesting to see a bit where Kemetic Orthodoxy started. I personally don’t like that the book is insufficient as both a Kemeticism 101 book and as a prayerbook. I wanted something closer to Eternal Egypt where things are cited more thoroughly and explained better. I feel that the book could have benefitted if the author would have explained some of the symbolism behind the litanies and hymns because if you don’t understand that, then the whole point gets lost. Because of a lack of this added information, I really didn’t feel the book was of any use to me personally.

I would recommend reading the book if you want to get a better basis for Kemetic Orthodoxy or want a list of pre-made prayers that you can use, but otherwise, I don’t feel the book has much to offer a recon/independent Kemetic, unless you’re interested in the gods section.

Three pawprints out of five

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Reading Egyptian Art by Richard Wilkinson

Reading Egyptian Art: A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Egyptian Painting and Sculpture
Richard Wilkinson
Thames & Hudson, 1994
224 pages

Reviewed by Devo

I have to say that I’m very impressed with this book. This is the first book that I’ve read in a long time that presented any new material for me to learn. And after reading this book, I feel like I could potentially navigate ancient Egyptian reliefs with a bit more knowledge and ability.

This book is set up pretty simply. On any given spread, you will see a hieroglyph and its name. On the right side, you’ll see the glyph explained in detail about what it represents, its symbolism, uses, etc. On the left hand side, you’ll see various pictures and examples of the glyph being used. It makes a nice reference, esp. when you’re looking at some relief, and want to know more about it. In the back, there is a basic index of hieroglyphs, in case you want the full list.

The book presents a wide variety of glyphs which have been categorized into easily navigable chapters and sections for easy reference. The writing is straight forward and very easy to read. The writing style works well for beginner and seasoned reader alike.

The only down side to this book is that I wish he covered more glyphs. I flip through the back, and look at other symbols, and I want to know what they mean, what they represent. I wish there was a full reference of every major ancient Egyptian hieroglyph, so that I could study it more. Other than that, I have no complaints with this book. I learned a lot of mythology I didn’t know before, I learned more specifics about the gods that I was unaware of, and I got to learn more about the basic symbols you see all the time, but usually aren’t explained well.
All in all, I would definitely recommend this book if you’re interested in learning more about symbolism and hieroglyphs in Ancient Egyptian art.

Five pawprints out of five.

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Following the Sun by Sharon LaBorde

Following the Sun: A Practical Guide to Egyptian Religion
Sharon LaBorde
Self-published (lulu.com), 2010
300 pages

Reviewed by Devo

This book disappointed me on many levels, though I can’t say that it was unexpected. There were many things that irritated me about this book, though a few things stick out in particular. Those being: the author’s sourcing, the author’s tone/writing style, and the actual content of the book.

My biggest complaint about this book is the sourcing (or lack thereof). For me, if you’re not an actual Egyptologist and you’re writing about historical ancient Egypt, you have to have good sourcing in order to be taken seriously. Otherwise, your work means nothing. There are many tidbits and facts in this book that I have never seen before. This is normally a good thing, because it means I’m learning new information. However, in this case, the lack of sourcing makes the book totally useless because I can’t vouch for the validity of much of anything that is written.

My second issue with this book is the author’s tone while writing. I assume that she wanted to be considered “jovial” or easy to approach. However, it just makes the author appear dumbed down, or that the author feels that you, the reader, are dumb. It was so frustrating. Along with her tone, I didn’t like that she made it sound like Kemeticism IS this or IS that. There is no wiggle room. Nothing irritates me more than a black and white book that speaks as though it knows all. Ugh. She is quick to call certain theories “zany” or outlandish. She is very harsh towards ideas that are not her own. Along the lines of harsh content, both her Intro and Conclusion had “stories” in them that made reference to people who misunderstood Kemeticism. That’s fine, but the way she relates these stories to the reader is more of a “I met this person, and they said something stupid in relation to Kemeticism. And now that you’ve read my book, you won’t be as stupid as they were!” What if the people she referenced happened to read her book and they saw her caustic remarks?

And finally, I didn’t like the content of the book. I felt that the content wasn’t well researched at all. And you can definitely see the biases of the author through the content (e.g. a total slap to anything remotely Kemetic Orthodox in nature, or her constant references to the 18th dynasty, a dynasty that she is very much into). To me, an author should promote an unbiased and well researched book, and this book is neither.

All in all, I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone, especially not to a beginner (which is ironically the target audience for this book). I fear that if a beginner read this book before anything else- that they would have to unlearn a lot of things that are not generally accepted in the Kemetic community. Plus, due to the bad sourcing, I am afraid that some of the facts or scenarios laid out in this book are incorrect, thereby causing problems for the newcomer who stumbles their way into the online Kemetic community.

1 pawprint out of 5

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The Priests of Ancient Egypt by Sauneron, Lorton and Corteggiani

The Priests of Ancient Egypt: New Edition
Serge Sauneron (author), David Lorton (author), Jean-Pierre Corteggiani (author)
Cornell University Press (May 25, 2000)
264 pages

Reviewed by Devo

This book is considered a staple for Kemetics in many circles, and it doesn’t disappoint. This book goes far more in-depth into the priesthood of ancient Egypt than almost any other book that I have read so far.

The book starts off discussing the generalized idea about what priests are and do. Sauneron shows us that while many people have an ideal about what priests were like (morally speaking) there were examples of priests who were less than savory in their dealings. I would guess he does this to break any romanticism we have with the notion of being a priest. Priests were people just like us- and they were fallible as we are now.

Sauneron also discusses the basics of temple ritual, what a priest’s day might entail while in the temple. Most of this was not entirely new to me, but it was still interesting to read another perspective on it. He also goes into detail about different areas priests would have studied. He made a point to mention that each priest within the temple would have had a specialty. There was rarely a priest who knew EVERYTHING. Usually, you had someone who read stuff. Someone who oversaw just the offerings. Someone who spent their day making the linen and clothes for the icon. Someone who was there to deem if an animal was pure enough to be sacrificed to the god. Someone who knew the music that the god liked… etc. I think this is an important concept for modern Kemetics to consider, since it seems like we all have to know everything about everything in order to get somewhere. He also gave a generalized history of ancient Egypt and how the priesthood could have played a role in it. It was interesting to see his ideas about how the Ramessides were trying to placate the priests of Amun while trying to promote their own god- Set. I’ve never seen anyone really discuss whether the 19th dynasty had problems with the temple of Amun or not. So the concept was interesting to consider.

I liked learning little facts that I’ve seen asked around the Kemetic community, yet never knew answers to. For example, Sauneron does mention that there was likely some type of initiation ritual for new priests. He says not a lot of information is known, but that something happened to transition them from outside to inside. In the case of higher priests appointed by the King, they would receive a ring and ceremonial staff, which I thought was interesting to know.

Overall, the book had some interesting stuff to it. I learned a few new things and it reinforced a lot of what I have already read. Here are a few excerpts from the book:

A priest is any man who, through bodily purification, puts himself in the state of physical purity necessary to approach the holy place, or to touch any objects or dishes of food consecrated to the god.

Maat is the aspect of the world that the gods have chosen, it is the universal order as they established it from its basic constituent elements, such as the course of the starts and the succession of days, down to the humblest of its manifestations” the harmony of the living, their religious piety; it is the cosmic balance, and the regular recurrence of the seasonal phenomena; it is also the respect for the earthly order set up by the gods – truth, and justice.

The Egyptians distinguished in the sky, beyond the sun and the moon, the stars which never rest – our planets: Mercury, Venus (the star of the evening and the morning), Mars (the red Horus), Jupiter (the glittering star), and Saturn (Horus the bull).

I think the biggest complaint I have about this book is that he cites late sources a lot. It seems like the majority of his information comes from Greek writers. While I know that it’s possible that this was his only major resource to pull from, I would certainly enjoy using more native sources – information directly from the priests themselves- not outsiders who came to Egypt at the very end of her life.

All in all, I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the priesthood of Egypt, and whoever might be interested in creating a priestly role for themselves (or taking on such a role) in the modern era. I think by looking back at how the ancients did it, it can create a lot of ideas about how we can approach the concept today, and translate it into something that works in this time and place. I also feel this book does a good job at clearing up some of the misconceptions one might have about what bring a priest in ancient Egypt was about.

4.5 pawprints out of 5 pawprints

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Eternal Egypt by Richard Reidy

Eternal Egypt
Richard Reidy
Self-published (iUniverse), 2010
364 pages

This book is almost like a Bible for modern Kemetics. I can’t really emphasize how much I (and others) have used this book. It’s pretty much what the Kemetic community was waiting for and needed.

The layout of the book is pretty straight forward: it’s a series of rituals taken from ancient Egyptian temple walls and reliefs, and put into a format that modern practitioners can use in their own practices. There are two large rituals to Ra (morning and night rituals), execration rites for the enemies of Ra, rituals for celebrating your ancestors (akhu), a couple of examples and rubrics for rituals that honor specific deities (netjeru), and finally the rite of “Opening the Mouth” (which isn’t something most modern practitioners would perform lightheartedly). The purpose of the book can serve two-fold. It’s great for those who wish to practice the rituals from antiquity, and it’s great for those who are looking to learn about how rites in Egypt were performed.

The rites in this book can be used by solitary practitioners and by groups of people as well. The author uses these rites in his own temple in California. I have personally done a couple of these rites by myself in my own home and it felt great. I will add, though, that the “ingredients” list for some of these rituals is very extensive, and you might not be able to do every single ritual “by the book” right away. This is because he has tried to be as thorough and authentic in his presentation of the rituals from ancient Egypt- including some of the more complicated items needed to correctly perform these rites.

There are more than just the rites themselves in the book – Reidy is sure to explain the symbolism and meaning behind a lot of the aspects and items used within the ritual. This information helps to enrich the process of doing the rites because you really grok how this works on multiple levels. It helps to draw you in and feel a part of the heka that is stored in the words, motions and actions of each ritual. And all of his information is properly cited and sourced- with only one bibliography point being attested to Budge (which he addresses the reasons behind this in his book). It’s rare to find books for modern practitioners where such care has been taken to properly cite your sources.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in practicing rituals from ancient Egypt, wants to learn how it was done, or wants to learn how they can take their current rituals and format them into an Egyptian style. Out of all of the books on Egypt I own – Reidy’s book is the only one I open regularly and flip through to get new ideas and revisit ideas and concepts. For anyone who is serious about performing rites for Egyptian gods, I think this book is a must-have.

5 pawprints out of 5

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Abydos by David O’Connor

Abydos: Egypt’s First Pharaohs and the Cult of Osiris
David O’Connor
Thames & Hudson, 2011
216 pages

Reviewed by Devo

If you have any interest in Abydos or early Egyptian tombs/structures, this would be a good book for you. The information is well written and seems to be pretty bias free. The author is very good at stating what we know, what we don’t know, and his thoughts on what might have happened. He doesn’t present his theories as truths- which is something a lot of Egyptological books have a problem with. For this reason alone, I would recommend this book. However, there is a lot of useful information in general. I learned quite a bit about Abydos- its structures, its history. The only thing I would have liked to have learned more about is Osiris- his cult and how his cult interacted with Khentiamentiu. However, there is still a fair amount of information regarding Osiris’ cult and his temple.

He goes in depth about the history of Abydos- from dynasty 0 all the way to the Late Period. He discusses various building projects there, talks about the layout and designs of many of the temples, the anomalies of some of the structures and what we can learn from them. Considering that Abydos is usually only mentioned as being “Osiris’ city” or “the place where Seti built that big temple with the kings list”- it’s nice to see a more in depth approach. Of course, as O’Connor mentions in his book- you find some answers, only to come up with more questions. I, too, have more questions for having read this book, but I have more answers too.

A particular quote that I liked:

The vast cemetery field comprising the Middle and North cemeteries and Umm el Qa’ab was personified as Hapetnebes, “Shoe who hides her lord”, a term peculiar to Abydos. The endless, open desert plain of Abydos was imagined to be a goddess, generated by & embodied in the landscape itself. “She who hides her lord” was complex in meaning. At one level, this goddess as landscape literally hid and thus protected Osiris himself- buried at Umm el Qa’ab – as well as his countless followers, eash one also an Osiris entombed in the Abydene cemeteries. But Hapetnebes was also a more positive force in that Osiris, buried within her, experienced revitalization or rebirth every year. In this perspective, “She who hides her lord’ is virtually lanscape conceited of as a mother goddess, in whose womb lies the potential for and actualization of life. She thus relates to the subtle interplay of meaning btwn desert and floodplain in the prototypical Egyptian landscape. The desert, seemingly dead, generates life for Osiris and deceased Egyptians; and thus relates to those more obvious manifestations of vitatlity and reproduction, the inundation and consequent vegetation, both seen as manifestations of Osiris’ capacity to regenerate.

He also discussed a bit about what we modernly call the Mysteries of Osiris. It was common for the Mysteries to involve a procession that started at Osiris’ temple and worked towards Umm el Qa’ab- what was believed to be Osiris’ tomb. During the procession, agents of Set would try to stop these people by attacking them. Of course, Osiris’ “team” would win, and they’d make their way to the tomb where rituals were more than likely done. This was also an interesting tidbit to learn.

I think for me, besides the two nuggets above, the biggest help this book served for me was to learn about early dynastic pharaohs. Most authors completely skip over early and pre-dynastic Egypt. More or less saying that they were there, stopping to look at Menes, Scorpion King, Narmer Pallet… and then moving on. If you’re lucky, you might see “Naqada” listed. However, O’Connor does go pretty deep into early dynastic goings on in Abydos (at least in regards to the structures there). So I feel like I’ve had a huge history gap somewhat filled. I know that this comes with the territory- Abydos housing tombs for early kings and all, but it was still nice.

Overall, I would recommend this book. I will add the caveat that it’s not likely meant for absolute beginners- if you don’t have a basis of Egyptian history or terminology, you might want to start elsewhere. That aside, it’s well written and has good information. And if you’re into Osiris or Abydos in general- it helps to give a more complete picture of both. The author is respectful of his subject matter, and I think he approaches the topics that he discusses really well. So go read it!

4.5 pawprints out of 5

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