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Review: Egyptian Paganism for Beginners, by Jocelyn Almond and Keith Seddon

By Psyche | August 2, 2004 | Leave a comment

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.