As a new Kemetic I frequent the forums searching for similar experiences to my own. Maybe I want to confirm I’m on the right path or perhaps my spiritual journey is unique to me. Some Kemetics describe their gods as being possessive or having all the subtlety of a hammer. I’m thinking this is a combination of 1. What god are you working with? 2. What kind of a person are you?
While a whisper might work for one devotee a shout does well for another. When I started considering Isis I didn’t have that bolt out of the blue Aha! moment. It would have been great to have an amazing vision or a voice from On High tell me I was chosen. But that’s not what happened.
Recently I visited southern Europe where I saw Catholic cathedrals everywhere. Needless to say statues and depictions of Mary and the Child Jesus were everywhere. The odd thing was I didn’t really see Mary and Jesus. Instead I saw the Goddess and her Son. I saw Isis and the Child Horus. I made the mistake of commenting to a friend (who is Catholic) that all the depictions of Mary were similar to many Mother Goddesses. My friend was offended I’d make the connection between Mary and a Goddess.
My fascination with Isis, however, grew over the trip. Finally it reached a point where you could say I received a sign. I was touring the Vatican Museum of all places. I’m sure the Vatican hoped pilgrims would receive a Christian religious experience. Instead I found myself staring back at an enormous statue of a Roman Isis.
I’d seen this statue many times before so when I saw it in a room I nearly missed at the Vatican Museum it was a shock. I was transfixed. It was as if there was enormous magnet in the room creating an attraction, drawing me to the statue. I tried to remain calm and unfazed as there was a guard in the room.
After I left the Roman Isis statue I wandered into the Egyptian area where I found many oxidized bronze statues of Isis and sistrums. It was a reminder of how close I was to Isis and her worship in the Roman Empire. I didn’t tell my friend about my experience at the Vatican Museum, but I felt it was Isis’s invitation to me.
When I finally made up my mind to offer my first prayer to Isis I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if Isis still existed. Perhaps deities “die” after so long not being worshipped and remembered. During the prayer, I instantly felt her loving and warm presence. It was like a mother overjoyed to finally hear from her daughter after so many years.
What are your experiences with the gods? How do they connect with you?
Perhaps one of the perks of being a pagan is you can ask different deities for help. Recently I’ve started doing research on Thoth (Djehuty) because he is the patron of writing. Since I write for a living I often need inspiration and more than the occasional nudge to get my ass in the chair and start working.
A few nights ago I asked for Thoth’s help in a particularly difficult and uninspiring ad I was writing for a client. Nothing was coming and I stressed over coming up with something clever that would sell their product. Yes, for purely selfish reasons I asked for Thoth’s help.
I don’t know if i expected anything. Maybe I thought I’d get a big busy signal or maybe Thoth had other prayers to answer. What I didn’t anticipate was the Presence (with a capital P) Thoth filled the room with when he showed up. It was if a high powered executive just walked into the room. You had to take notice!
This isn’t to say the presence and the power that emanated from Thoth was intimidating or angry. After I was able to think again after getting used to the Presence, I asked Thoth for help and made an offering to him. While I can’t say I’ve come up with the perfect idea for the ad yet I’m getting many more ideas than yesterday.
Thoth seems to be a god I can work with although I have read how he can be overwhelming and sometimes demanding. I’m okay with it if he nudges me in the right direction and helps me to use my talent.
I have to say in the past it’s been tough for me to relate to the animal-headed gods in Kemeticism. Maybe I need a more human face to my gods. I haven’t prayed to Thoth simply because he looks strange with the head of an Ibis. I wonder if other Kemetics find this a difficulty in connecting with their gods or if this is something they celebrate.
Regardless I am cautiously enthusiastic in my devotions to Thoth.
It surprises me how quickly my day has turned from happiness to sorrow. I landed a writing contract this afternoon for a healthcare company. Then as I was making dinner and feeling pretty wonderful when my family received a phone call from a dear friend. My friend’s mother, Esther, had passed away.
I knew Esther since I was a teenager and she was always kind to me. She always was under the impression I was starving and kept giving me food even after a rich dinner she had cooked. Even though Esther was in her 90s it seemed too short a time somehow. I mourn not only her loss but the lost opportunities to visit her now.
In my private practice I wonder how best to honor her. She was an Orthodox Jew which probably would be at odds with prayers and offerings from a Kemetic. That said, somehow I believe that any honor and devotion we give to our dear departed in no matter what religion will find their way to them.
Esther never knew I became Kemetic and probably wouldn’t be happy given the long antagonistic history between the Ancient Egyptians and the Semitic people. Perhaps Exodus never happened, but it’s very probable the Jews brought some of the Ancient Egyptian religion with them. The story of the Golden Calf was a warning and admonishment against bringing foreign religion with them.
Regardless I will honor Esther tonight in my shrine. If you are reading this also please keep Esther in your prayers. May she find peace and happiness in the West.
Isis has received a lot of strange offerings from me since I started my daily devotions. When I first began I was pretty traditional in what she received. Often I’d give her a cup of milk and a few pieces of chocolate. She seemed to enjoy them but I imagined she’d get bored of the same offerings every day. I also started reading about how the Ancient Egyptians didn’t waste the offerings to the gods, but consumed them after the ritual. I imagined I’d start putting on weight if I was eating chocolates every night.
I began giving Isis non-food offerings as well. Incense is a favorite one and she seems to enjoy sandalwood incense. Also during the summer I’d cut fresh roses and place them in her altar. I especially offered her a hot pink rose. Not only did she love the color but the rose had a special significance to me. The rose bush I offered flowers from was in very poor health when I received it through the mail. As I nursed it back to health I asked for Isis to give me her blessing and to help the flowers bloom as a sign. The rose bush shortly thereafter flourished and produced many beautiful flowers before the frost.
|My altar with a rose from my garden.
Isis also seems fond of offerings made specifically with her in mind. One night I thought of making a chocolate cake even though I hadn’t planned on it. Isis kept giving a nudge she wanted chocolate cake. I finally told her, “I’ll make you the cake if I can find some frosting.” (I didn’t know if I had any left.) Almost immediately I found a can of frosting so then I was obligated to make the cake! Needless to say we both enjoyed the cake and Isis was happy to receive that as an offering for most of the week.
|Isis sometimes gets fresh-baked cake
I guess it’s safe to say Isis has a sweet tooth! As a mother goddess she also seems to like anything connected with fertility symbols such as milk or grains. She loves it when I bring her fresh-baked bread or a sweet piece of fruit. Isis sometimes has received some odd offerings. Up to this point she hasn’t complained though.
Here’s a list on some of the offerings I routinely give to Isis.
Chocolate cake or brownies (she loves it more if you make them)
Tea (fresh brewed)
Crackers and Cheese
While some of these offerings are odd I’ve never gotten the impression Isis is upset or choosy about the offerings. Perhaps it’s the love behind the offering that’s more valuable to her. Some nights I feel more of an impulse to give her treats like a dessert while other times I want to give her something more substantial such as bread, cheese or fruit. This Thanksgiving she will receive a portion of the turkey with dressing. What better way to include the gods into our family by sharing a dinner with them?
I’ve frequented Kemetic forums and there seems to be a lot of debate in the name of the goddess. Some believe Isis is a Greco-Roman goddess completely different from the Ancient Egyptian goddess Aset or Auset. Most Kemetics look down on using the name Isis at all since it originated in Greece not Egypt.
Since I don’t follow Kemetic Orthodoxy I believe there is some wiggle room in the names we use for our deities. Many of the common names we’re familiar with are either Greek or Roman. The name Isis, for instance, was given to the goddess by the Greeks where her name probably sounded like Ees-ees. In my prayer I’ve tried both using the name Isis and Aset to see if there is a different feel to my worship and to determine if indeed they are two separate goddesses.
From my own experience using the name Isis is much more comfortable and accessible to me somehow. Perhaps it’s because I’m accustomed to the name, but there is a beauty in the sound and a visual symmetry to the name Isis that Aset lacks somehow. That said, I don’t restrict my worship of the goddess to just Isis or Aset. I use them interchangeably. My blog is named “Loves Isis” but my name is MeresAset means “Loving Isis.” I truly believe Isis and Aset are not different goddesses but the same goddess who goes by different names as a courtesy to us so we might connect with her easier.
When the worship of Aset spread across the Mediterranean the goddess received a Greco-Roman “makeover.” Instead of traditional Egyptian tube dress and formal pose, Isis wore a toga and had a much more natural style. The priests and priestesses of the Isis Cult realized the importance of making the goddess accessible and welcoming to many people within the context of their culture.
There were no dreams or visions (at least that we know of) where Aset showed her anger at being given a new name and a different look. First and foremost she the was mother to all who loved her regardless of whether they were Egyptian and called her by her Egyptian name.
Likewise today it’s my belief that whether you call upon her as Isis or Aset she is the same goddess. She wants us to be comfortable in our relationship with her and she welcomes those who love her regardless of their place of origin. She has traveled a long way since those early days at the dawn of civilization on the Nile delta. Just as we change, grow and mature over time so does our goddess. Whether we call upon her as Isis or Aset it’s our love for her that’s important – not the name we use.
I’ve sometimes wondered myself why I found myself so attracted to the Goddess Isis. Perhaps it began in the Catholic tradition of the veneration of the Virgin Mary. Isis’s maternal aspect certainly was appealing in the early stages I started learning about Isis.
I often was depressed as I was underemployed and suffered from low self-esteem. When Isis emerged in my life it was as a loving goddess who enfolded me in her wings. I felt no judgement or disappointment on her part. It was just love, peace and the warm protectiveness of a mother watching over her daughter.
My depression diminished and I felt a need to change my life. Isis started revealing ways I could improve my life situation and also some problems stemming from my lack of self confidence. Isis is an inspiration because she is a goddess who’s experienced hardship, loneliness and grief herself.
Her husband Osiris was murdered by her brother, Set. She raised Horus as a single mother and lived an exile in the Nile Delta to protect her son from his uncle. Isis then had to use her cunning and magic to trick Set into acknowledging Horus’s right to the throne.
What I find inspiring about Isis is her refusal to give up. Even in her grief she searched for her dead husband, Osiris. Set severed and scattered Osiris’s body so Isis might never find him. Isis not only found her husband, she resurrected him with magic and bore him a son, Horus.
Isis stands for everything a woman should be – independent, self-assured and confident in her power. She isn’t dependent on her husband or her son for her identity. Her strength and wisdom is within herself and she’s willing to use it to receive justice and restore ma’at to the world.
She also draws strength from being a woman. Isis also is no second-class deity because she is a woman. She is not a passive goddess standing in the shadows of other male Egyptian deities. She has an unbreakable spirit and emerges triumphant through her magic and inner strength. I wonder how different women would be if they looked to Isis as their heroine and goddess rather than growing up believing they are second-class and powerless because of the “sin of Eve.”
One of the daunting but fun tasks you first do as a new Kemetic is building your own shrine to your chosen deity or deities. Coming from a Catholic background this didn’t seem so taboo. Already I had a few Virgin Mary statues and Greek Orthodox icons of Jesus.
Before I’d bought any Isis statues the Mary statue to right I used as my representation for Isis. I still use this statue when I want a more realistic looking, natural statue during my devotions.
Building a shrine can be daunting especially for a new Kemetic. You wonder, “Am I doing this right?” “Is there something that must or must not be placed in my shrine?”
When I first started buying items for my shrine I was hung up in what had to be in the shrine. I needed traditional, Egyptian-looking statues of my chosen goddess, Isis. I wanted a Sistrum, an Ancient Egyptian style rattle. Due to the expense of buying a sistrum I ended up purchasing a string of jingle bells which sounds just as pretty as a sistrum.
I also wanted to purchase something lotus related to place in my shrine as the lotus was the sacred flower of Ancient Egypt. I bought a pair of crystal lotus votive candle holders. Fire safety was a concern for me since the shrine was located in my bedroom. I decided LED candles were a safer option and I could light them for long periods unattended without risk of a possible fire.
Incense is another common offering Kemetics offer to their gods. Incense is a problem for me as I don’t want to keep anything burning in my bedroom. If I offer incense I usually burn it downstairs by the fireplace which is much safer and doesn’t draw too much attention.
There really is no wrong way to build your shrine. It can large and complex or quite simple. As you can see I have a very minimal shrine with the focal point on my Isis statue.
I also venerate a beautiful papyrus painting I bought from Egypt with the Goddess Isis having the traditional throne glyph on her head. This throne glyph is a precursor to Isis’s later crown with the horns and sun disk which later was incorporated into the goddess’s identity when Isis merged with the Goddess Hathor.
Another question is where should you put the shrine? I cleared off space on my dresser. It’s highly visible and a wonderful reminder to pray before I go to bed. It’s also comforting to know the goddess is with you in your everyday living space and is watching over you even in the most mundane tasks. Having a holy place within your own house is very different from the separate sanctuaries in the Judeo-Christian tradition. A house shrine, however, invites the gods to be apart of your life and your home.