Priests/priestesses today

How would you see the role(s) of Kemetic priests/priestesses today?

Would would you see as the practical challenges of being a priest/priestess in modern day life?

What would you see as the easier aspects of being a priest or priestess in modern life?

Seeing we have no state temples which the priesthood, my view is that as reconstructionists we are a hybrid of home and temple practice. I am a little uncomfortable in classing myself as a priest as I’m not one, I’m a public citizen honouring the gods I choose. Others of course are free to decide otherwise.

The ritual purification rites that took place in temples I’ve always found to be the biggest hurdle and the levels required, along with strict diet is going to be a problem if you have to lead a mundane life too. Another reason I’m not really OK with being classed as a priest. I get around this via the use of visualisation and lucid dream which has worked for some decades now.

We certainly have an easier time of it as we have one thing they didn’t have - freedom to choose when and where we do our thing.

In the end, I see plenty who try to treat their practices as temple routine and that is fine, it is their path, and so long as they honour the gods I don’t care. Of course much of the early AE temple staff were people from the public on rotation for a few months, its only later that it became a closed system, so its a mixture both home and state if you look at it like that. There is plenty of room to take it from one end to the other and mix it up in a condensed way for our modern lives. Again, so long as the gods are honoured who cares?

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I think I associate having and attending to an open statue(s) are what constitutes as being a modern priest/priestess.

My current take on it is that the basis of priesthood is attending to the gods daily and following some form of ritual purification (not sure how much or little I’d say is a basis), offering food/drink, dressing the deities (optional?) and conversing with the deities. I think purification and offerings (including non food like songs and music) depends on the deity/deities preferences.

Learning about the ‘God’s wife of Amun’, if I separate the spiritual aspects from state politics, the basics seem to echo what Richard Reidy talks about in ‘Eternal Egypt’. Although I’m not sure If agree with him that you need to perform the whole length of the rituals he states (although they are a good basis). I think those are to be worked out with your deities.

Going from what I’ve heard (like you said Kev), it seems that more than one deity can be attended to by the same priest/priestess, but one would be the main deity of the temple. Other things such as a centre of learning may be attached to a temple, but most of us don’t belong to temples today.

I would say that attending to an open statue(s)/image(s) echos what a high priest or priestess would have done.

As you say Kev, it seems thar priests/priestesses could have different roles including a day job or doing mundane things such as cleaning a shrine/temple.

I think the difference between a devotee and a priest/priestess is whether the statues/images are open or not and whether someone performs the daily rituals that are preferred by the specific deities.

That’s my current take on it anyway.

I’d be interested to know what others think!

I suppose we’d have to think about what we consider the role of a priest is. Are going by the ancient standard, where their sole job was caring for the deity in the temple, or are we applying a more modern layer so that a priest is also responsible for pastoral care in our community?

I think it would be hard to moderate clergy in the modern sense. How do we train them, hold them accountable etc? I know the Kemetic Orthodox temple has reverends and other types of priest but they don’t minister to the Kemetic community as a whole.

I don’t necessarily mind people using the terms priest or priestess if they are doing daily devotional practices in the ancient sense. Whether they have earned that title is between them and their gods. They are not, however, my priest and cannot dictate how I live my spiritual life.

In my personal opinion, I think people are too quick to rush to become P/Pess, the same as god spouses. We are all so eager to be acknowledged and to feel special (and I include myself in there) that we jump before we are ready. There’s also no shame whatsoever in being a run-of-the-mill everyday follower of the gods.

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Yes I agree with that. I think it would be difficult to change the ancient notion of a P/Pess to a modern day definition because there isn’t a modern
group/hierarchy determining these things. I prefer there not to be though.

I think that’s a good way to look at it.

My impression is that the gods are happy with everyone that devotes time to them. The more I think about it, I think I agree with @kev that you can include a mix of practices from different AE dynasties whether priestly practices or not… Whatever the gods are calling you/you’re happy to do. I suppose there wouldn’t be a title for that.

I’m a newbie, but I do like a good discussion. :grinning:

I do appreciate the responses.

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Actually that made me think. What impact did a lay person have on their community on return from time spent at a temple? I do know that any skills they obtained e.g. divination was put to use for income, but what about the perceived or actual connection with deity practice? Maybe they wernt present at the most important high level rituals so wouldn’t know those technicalities, but three months (the usual I think) would have been long enough to learn something.

Did they just resume normal life and include what they know in personal practice or do you think they might have served the community in an unofficial way? We may never know this. We do know that there was a term called Rekhet or ‘wise woman’ which again, is vague and does not help determine if that woman learnt something from a temple at one time or was self (or community) taught. So may gaps.

Always a noob and I know I’m always willing to learn something new even if it changes everything. :slight_smile:

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Some interesting questions there Kev!!! I wish I knew more about every day people and their practices. Maybe there’s a project for me there somewhere.

I wonder if there are any good resources out there about the practices of ordinary AEs and part-time P/Press.

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I do have a very large text about private practice at Amarna which I’ve not got around to reading yet. Title is:

Private Religion at Amarna: The Material Evidence by Anna Stevens

Just looked that book up Kev and it is so expensive! Must have stopped being produced!

Having a quick look in my lunch break at the Albany Institute of History and Art…

It appears that anyone that was trained to be a priest was called a priest and there were so many different roles in a temple! The basic requirements for purification was the same though. Considering all the different roles in the temple, I’d say every modern practicing Kemetic is like a P/Pess really.

The gods appear to be pleased with good intentions and if you ‘make an effort’ with your appearance and cleanliness before approaching them? They’ve always showed up for me so far. Having said that, I don’t have ‘open’ images or statues at the moment. I can’t compare how experience with the gods would be different in that sense and whether they would ask a stricter purification ritual beforehand.

I know I keep going back to the ‘opening of the mouth’. Kev, what would you say about your experience with ‘open’ statues or images? I’m pondering that one day, but I’m not sure what the gods would require of me in that situation. I know what the ancients did, but whether they would ask the same of us now is a different thing altogether.

Academia.edu or whatever have it, and so do Google Books. I might have read the bits I was after on there.

I have statues, paintings and jewelry representing the gods - any representation of them was seen to draw their presence. Obviously a statue is a more physical item to deal with and so its easier to create the rapport, even so they are all still valid and in my case the non-statue forms are due to difficulty obtaining the more obscure deities I work with. We just have to adapt to our circumstances the best we can. Nothing is perfect.

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Thanks Kev for the online book suggestions!

I guess I’ll find out for myself re. Images/statues!

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I found this article interesting re. the diets of P/Pess. Looks like they were living it up with the gods :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/food-of-the-gods-is-a-killer/#:~:text=They%20have%20found%20that%20the,back%20home%20to%20their%20families.

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A great find and quite believable and not unexpected tbh :slight_smile: I do recall one statistic, in the late period as the temple of Karnak was in its decline over 80k people services the temple. That suggests a large number of visitors all offering and providing a very rich supply of food that had to go somewhere :slight_smile:

I wonder how the more remote temples fared? Perhaps not as richly as the significant cult centres but even so I doubt they were starved as local officials would likely frequent them.

I reckon mostly vegetarian with a bit of meat and booze for the remote temples? Probably varied depending on the local community.

I don’t feel so bad about accumulating extra ‘lockdown chub’ now. :face_with_hand_over_mouth:
I can use the excuse that I’m following ancient tradition…

I found something else on modern day priesthood. It’s an article by Richard Reidy on his temple’s website:

What does priesthood involve today?

The essential component is service to a specific Netjer. This service should be at the very least once per day, regardless of mood, health, schedule, duties of one sort or another, vacations, or any other of life’s events. If a person wants to own a dog, that person must be willing to walk that dog every day, even two or three times each day, as well as fulfilling all the other responsibilities of good dog ownership. The service I refer to is ritual service. In my book, Eternal Egypt, I give a brief ritual for the priest’s deity (see pages 204-207). It takes only 10 minutes to perform. That’s the absolute minimum required. An individual who has an open, vivified statue needs to care for that embodiment of the Netjer. To neglect such daily service does not invite the god’s blessing.

P.s. I’m not sure which 10minute ritual he is referring to as the page numbers on my kindle don’t match up to what he’s saying. But then he probably wrote this article decades ago.

Agreed. It will certainly scaled right down.

LOL I know the feeling though I’ve been ordered to shed mine rapidly which has been a bit of a challenge but I will get there.

Ouch, reads a harsh that does. If a real noob read that they might feel really bad if they miss a day. I really hope that’s not his intention. Personally, I know life gets in the way, and depending on the personal relationship with said deity some leeway I’m sure should be there. Again, if you are focusing on temple practice then this would obviously be of greater importance vs being a layperson would would have to juggle working life with the priesthood.

Choice and consistency of application.

Yes I thought that. Did freak me out a little as a newbie with a natural tendancy to be scrupulous. I’m glad you picked up on that.

In my short Kemetic experience it’s anxiety over details that tends to be a barrier. The deities seem to be a lot more chilled out (definitely more than I imagined).

Being genuine with good intentions seems to be what they’re after. When they’ve suggested anything to me/prodded me about anything it’s been for my own benefit and without any sense of condemnation or rebuke.

They’re definitely more chilled out than I am!

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@Senneferet I have found some information from http://factsanddetails.com/world/cat56/sub403/entry-6113.html

You spoke about a pastoral role for a modern P/Less. One section of this website talks about lay magicians and their roles.

I don’t know much about the source mind you. Bit mysterious as to where the information has come from but there certainly seems to be a lot of it! Going from what @kev has said about magicians in the past, this seems to correct:

*lay magicians supplied a commoners understanding of Egyptian religion. Through the use of magic and their connection to the gods, lay magicians provided a service to their community, usually consisting of counseling, magical arts, healing, and ceremony. Lay magicians who served within this last and final caste of the Egyptian priesthood belonged to a large temple known simply as “The House of Life”. Laymen would come to “The House of Life” to meet with a magician, priest or priestess to have their dreams interpreted, to supply magical spells and charms, to be healed and to counteract malevolent magic, and to supply incantations of various types. Though the House of Life provided it’s Laymen with many prescriptive cures for common ills, it was largely shrouded in mystery in ancient times. In fact, the library of The House of Life was shrouded in great secrecy, as it contained many sacred rites, books, and secrets of the temple itself which were thought could harm the pharaoh, the priests, and all of Egypt itself. Though the magicians of The House of Life, were seen as another step from the ceremonial duties of the priests, they were by no means less important, and as is evidenced by the presence of many magical wands, papyri text, and other archeological evidence, The House of Life took on a role direly important to the way of life of Ancient Egyptians." +*

The more I read, the more I think there were a lot of different types of P/Pess ranging from full-time to part-time, some directly attending open statues and some not, some working out in the community, some not.

I think in Kemetcism today, all practitioners are encouraged to research, learn and serve the gods in a personal way. Most of society in the UK are literate with access to all sorts of resources and education. More so than the common AE.

This actually reminds me of how work has changed over generations. There used to be designated roles, but now with lack of budgets and better technology, we are expected to have a whole range of skills and take on different aspects of work. One job title now means using a wide range of skills.

Could perhaps argue that Kemeticism has developed in a way where all practitioners are what the ancients would call P/Pesses? Just depends on what form the gods are calling you to? :woman_shrugging:t5:

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Sorry, have been away in Devon and am v. Tired. Will read more thoroughly and give better reply later! :smiley:

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