Egyptian Paganism for Beginners: Bring the Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt into Daily Life, by Jocelyn Almond and Keith Seddon
Llewellyn Worldwide, 0738704385, 2004, 276 pp. (Incl. bibliography and index)
It should be noted first off that this is not a book of ancient Egyptian paganism as it would have been practiced, but rather a modern interpretation using Egyptian godforms in a modern neo-pagan setting, helpfully divided into two sections.
In part one, Egyptian concepts of God are related with the authors’ understanding that ‘each of the major neteru can represent the Supreme Being, each showing a slightly different facet of the One who is unknowable and inconceivable in his or her entirety. The neteru retain their individual identities, so the devotee is able to encounter the One in a very personal and intimate way.’ (pg 7) Briefly described are a few Egyptian-specific terms such as the ka, sekhem, and the Heavenly Trine, and fortunately the authors honestly note that one ‘cannot be sure that the ancient Egyptian words…mean the exact equivalent of terms we use today for such concepts’ (pg 11). Also described are the elements involved in creating a shrine, the opening of the mouth ceremony, and further notes on Egyptian magick; as well as general pagan and magickal concepts such as casting a circle, totem and assumption of godforms.
The second part is dedicated to the various Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. Following various descriptions of their histories throughout the dynasties are invocations, replies, calls, meditations and commentary for many of the major Gods and Goddesses. Though they do state that it is ‘…not intended to be a dictionary of gods and goddesses the neteru are not presented in alphabetical order, but in the order that we believe is going to be the most helpful for explaining the nature of ancient Egyptian religious beliefs and practices, showing an overall view of the religions’ further noting that ‘only a small selection of the neteru is featured’ (pg 8).
There are, however, a few points of contention. For one, the understanding of chakra and kundalini lore was very simplified, and not really relevant to the text at hand, having no sensible place in Egyptian religion. Also, there did seem to be an overabundance of comparisons to Judeo-Christian mythology, perhaps they’re trying to provide a reference point for those coming from such a background, but I found it more of a distraction than useful. There’s no need to equate the two, as they come from completely different mythological and ritual backgrounds.
While not an expression of ancient Egyptian religion and ritual as it may have been practiced, it does provide a basic introduction to modern Egyptian paganism, not a bad start to one’s exploration of this path.
Circle of Isis: Ancient Egyptian Magic for Modern Witches, by Ellen Cannon Reed
New Page Books, 1564145689, 2002
Ms. Reed leaves no doubt in the mind of the reader where she is coming from – she is Wiccan. Many may dispute an Egyptian orientation for a religion with “European DNA,” but it obviously works for her, and no one has a right to question that.
She makes no pretence of presenting “the ancient wisdom of Egypt” (which she refers to as Tamera instead of ancient Egypt), but rather presents her interpretation of that wisdom. Bravo! It is a treat to read a book where the author admits that society and attitudes have changed, and that the old ways must also change and be reinterpreted.
On a personal level, many of the author’s comments and stories ring very true for me. I have shared circle with others who have similar views and experiences.
Ms. Reed introduces us to the Gods and Goddesses of Tamera (“Beloved Land”). And not just the “Big Three” – Isis, Osiris and Horus. She tells us about them as the ancient knew them, then lets us know how she and others experience them today. Her transitions from one deity to another are smooth and flow easily.
She devotes over 100 pages to the Gods and Goddesses of Tamera, and while by no means exhaustive, it is a list well worth taking the time to assimilate. Many have old stories attached, as well as relaying personal perceptions.
She spends very little time on the “traditional” descriptions, instead telling us how the deities appear to individuals today. She also enables us to relate to them as individuals and, dare I say it? – as people.
Ms. Reed reinforces, at several points in her book, that if you are uncomfortable with the ideas of predators, the “dark side” of things, and difficult situations, it is YOUR problem. All of these are facts of life. Her views are NOT “New Age” (even though her current book is so classified). She knows well that “in order to cure, you need to be able to curse,” as one of my teachers said over a quarter of a century ago.
Reading this book took me back years. I began my Craft involvement with an Egyptian flavour. Isis has always been with me, Bast, Sekhmet and Anubis also keep me company. Over the years I have experienced many other pantheons, but this book has reminded me of the original focus of much of my devotion.
Included in this book is a good sampling of incense recipes (including one for Kyphi) which I am grateful for, as well as oils, songs, meditations, amulets and talismans, hieroglyphs and more. It is a valuable resource for one looking for a jumping off point for their own investigations.
The incense recipes she offers, while not “traditional”, certainly offer an alternative to the store-bought cones and sticks. Give them a try.
Also included in this book is an Egyptian calendar. I have only seen one other publication which included this calendar, and that dates back 30 years or more. A copy used to hang over my desk at home.
The divination methods Ms. Reed has devised should certainly provide some interesting results.
While a “traditional” Egyptian devotee might find this book less than appealing, the offerings from Ms. Reed will resonate with the desires of many readers. If you decide to invest the time and money to get this book, you will be rewarded.
There is no light, nor any motion. There is no mass, nor any sound. Still, in the lampless heart of the ocean, Fasten me down and hold me drowned Within thy womb, within thy thought, Where there is naught-where there is naught!In the beginning was the KAOS water, the pure creative force of undivided being. Crowley called this "Nuit", which seems to be the combination of the sky goddess "Nut" with the chaos God "Nu", or "Nun". This was the potential for manifestation before the dream of Siva, before the suffering of Sophia that coalesed into the mist of dark reality. This primal force exits in a perpetual state of non-being, always edging toward being. A binary movement sets up from this tension of pre-creation, from a state of collapsed oneness, to a state of open potential. This is the struggle between Siva; the force of perfect order, and Sakti; the force of pure chaos. In Siva is the need to collapse to stable systems, the continual drive for one-ness that uni-fests as the point monad of Kether on the Tree of Life. In Sakti is the need for continual creation, the pure fertile need to populate Universe with the divine sparks of manifested intelligence. From these two forces arises the numinous Androgyne. This force exists at the beginning of physical creation, from its parthenogenic fullness it emanates across the Pleroma of the void, and down the Tree to Malkuth. Read More
From "Kali", by Aleister Crowley