Shrine Safety

Candles and burning incense are beautiful, but can be dangerous if left unattended. I have a cat so I’ve come up with safer alternatives to using traditional candles and a lighter during my rituals. Here are some safer options I use during my daily ritual.

Kemetic Round Table: My Daily Ritual

When I first came to Kemeticism I didn’t even know it was a religion being practiced by anyone. Isis called me and I answered in the only way I knew how. I created my own ritual without books and hardly any historical knowledge. I just built a ceremony that seemed right to me.

Coming from a previously Catholic background my earliest ritual was heavily influenced by the structure of the Mass. I would light the candles, say my prayers (in a very formal fashion) and then had my own “Communion.” Instead of the Eucharist I substituted a cup of milk to represent the life-giving milk of Isis. As I read about other people’s rituals in offering bread, milk and water to the gods, the Communion part felt a bit out of place, so I dropped it.

This is my current ritual I use:

Ring a bell

Light candles (LED electric ones)

Prayer: All hail to you Netjeru. Receive this light. May it shine upon You as you shine upon me. Praise to you Sekhmet (place a candle before the statue). Praise to you Djehuty (candle). Praise to you Isis (candle). Praise to you Osiris (candle). Praise to you Anubis. Praise to your Horus (candle).

With the LED candles burning, light some incense. I use an electric cigarette lighter which is flameless and lights up the incense beautifully.

Prayer: Receive this incense from me, most pure. 

Instead of putting the incense in the holder I tend to wave the incense stick gently before each statue almost like a wand. I discovered I could create a smoke ring with the incense which is very cool and beautiful with the lit candles. After I get enough scent, I extinguish the incense in the ashes as I don’t like too much incense in the room.

Now bring out your offerings. It varies depending on the time of day I pray. Most of my offerings are based on what I’m willing to eat or drink at that time as I don’t want it to go to waste. Of late I’ve been offering them my breakfast which often means a cup of milk and some cornflakes.

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I take the cup first and wave it once left to right before the Netjeru before raising it up in the middle above the Isis statue before setting it down.

Prayer: Take this milk. Drink and be refreshed.

Now I take the food offering. Often I’ll customize the prayer depending on what food item it is. If I baked it or made the offering I’ll add it to the prayer. Here are some examples.

Offerings:

Cake:

(Formal) Take this cake which I baked for you. May you enjoy its sweetness.

(Informal) Enjoy this cake I made tonight. It tastes great and I thought you’d like it.

Cereal

(Formal) Take this cereal. May it nourish and restore you.

(Informal) Yeah, I know it’s only breakfast cereal, but it’s pretty good. Enjoy.

Fruit:

(Formal) Enjoy this sweet, delicious banana. May it nourish and restore you.

(Informal) Okay, I know a banana is a strange offering, but it’s yummy. Give it a try.

So why the informal offering form? Because the Netjeru sometimes have a sense of weird humor and chuckle with some of my offerings – like breakfast cereal to Sekhmet. Set thinks the banana is hilarious.

Now once I give the offerings and they’re sitting in the shrine, it’s time for the active prayer. You can petition them. If you want to do divination (I use Egyptian style tarot) or heka this is a good time. Sometimes I’ll recite a litany to Isis if I have nothing to say or am not feeling like She’s present that night. Most of my prayers are more like a conversation. I mostly talk with Isis, telling Her about what is bothering me or what I must do to improve a situation.

Now this is the most important part …

You must remain silent after you’ve spoken. I’ve gotten some incredible insights from the Netjeru in that silence, but you must be willing to be quiet and wait for them to talk. Sometimes in the silence you can just enjoy each other’s company and feel Their presence. In my experience, the Netjeru’s arrival is often pretty strong and dramatic. You can be sitting there, sensing nothing and then all of a sudden They are there in the room with you. It’s an amazing experience.

For closing prayer:

(Standing up, I raise my arms, palms facing outward toward Them)

I thank You for Your time, wisdom and love. Help me to grow into a better person and live ever in Ma’at.

Ring the bell and the ritual is over.

I turn off the LED candles and take the food and beverage offerings down to the kitchen to eat.

This sounds like a very long ritual, but I’ve performed this in 5 minutes especially during a very busy day or when the god phone is silent. I try to have a daily ritual even if I’m busy. I notice I benefit more from the pause in my day to pray and communicate with the Netjeru. The insights and wisdom They have given me far exceeds any offerings and prayers I give them during my daily ritual.

Here are some of tips to a successful daily ritual:

  • Keep the ritual simple. A simple ritual is one you’re most likely to use
  • Don’t make it too long. A time-consuming ritual will discourage you from practicing often.
  • Miss a ritual? It’s okay, but make sure it doesn’t become a habit. The quickest way to kill a relationship is to never “call.”
  • Use plates and dishes you can run in the dishwasher. Okay, I know this is very unorthodox, but having easy to clean dishes for your rituals means you’ll do it more often.
  • Don’t get hung up on the little details. Again, very unorthodox, but don’t be afraid to change and modify the ritual to make it your own.
  • Getting stuck in a rut with your ritual? Change it up!
  • Give from the heart. Fancy offerings and elaborate rituals don’t make up for not giving from the heart.

As a new Kemetic I’m just starting to get involved in a community, mostly online. After 10 years in Catholicism I think one of the beauties of Kemeticism is how individual and unique it can be. You don’t have to practice a ritual a certain way just because of your ancestors. It’s like in Ancient Egypt where each city/region had its own patron god/goddess and creation myth. We now are following the same tradition by discovering unique ways to worship and creating a relationship with the Netjeru.

The Broken Scorpion

I recently bought a statue of Serqet, a replica of the goddess’s statue in Tutankhamun’s tomb. The statue already had lost her scorpion, but she was beautiful so I purchased her anyway. When I received the package it wasn’t encased in foam like many statues, but was wrapped like a mummy with newspaper and packing tape. It would have been more fitting to open a statue of Osiris that way!

As I finally freed her from her newspaper wrappings, however, I heard something rattling inside.

No, it wasn’t a scorpion.

One of her arms had broken off at the elbow while the base had broken clean away from the statue at the ankles. I thought about returning the statue, but then I became determined to mend it. I was certain I could fix her. It was time I had to fix my desktop statue of Isis anyway who had lost her crown during a recent drop from her file cabinet perch.

Some people swear by Goop, but I used jeweler’s epoxy which takes awhile to set, but it doesn’t stink up the house.

I mixed the resin (red tube) with the hardener (black tube) and started with the easy project, attaching Isis’s crown.

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I had to hold the crown in place while the glue set (about 5 minutes). During that time I started an impromptu crowning prayer to Isis. The Catholics have a crowning ceremony to the Virgin Mary statue in May so I used this as my way to “crown” Isis.

Prayer:

I crown you, O Isis

My Mother

My Queen

My Goddess

Great is your love

For all your children.

Receive your crown

From your daughter

As a sign of my devotion

And love for You.

I didn’t have a prayer for Serqet as I tried to fix her statue. It was very tricky and I needed all my concentration not to botch it up. I first attached her arm and held the statue and her forearm for at least 10 minutes. As the minutes ticked by and I grew impatient for the glue to dry; I started a meditation. I thought about how countless other statues were broken by time and religious fanaticism. We have the capacity to destroy many beautiful things, but also we have the power to mend what was broken.

As Kemetics we are searching through the pieces left by time. We try to put them back together, but some of the pieces are still missing. Instead of abandoning the broken pieces, we instead start mending, add our own unique blend – a glue so to speak – that wasn’t authentic to the ancients but speaks to us. We bring our culture, our history and our personalities to our worship and our relationship with the gods.

Finally I let go of Serqet’s arm (and it held). I thought about how through the Kemetic faith the gods are finally able to reach out to us. They have arms in which to embrace us and hands to touch our lives again. As I went on to attach the rest of the statue to the base I thought of how they have feet on the Earth again and have a presence in this world through us.

Here is the end result:

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Kemetics – mending what was broken 2,000 years ago.

Experiences with Thoth

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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.

Offerings to the Goddess

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.
Sweets:
Chocolate
Cookies
Chocolate cake or brownies (she loves it more if you make them)
Carrot cake
Candy
Beverages:
Milk
Water
Tea (fresh brewed)
Wine
Other Offerings:
Breakfast cereal
Yogurt
Taffy Apple
Grapes
Crackers and Cheese
Sandwich
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?

Building a Kemetic Shrine to Isis

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.