Episode 6: Heka, Magic and Personal Power

Personal power takes many forms. I’ve traditionally thought of power as “the ability to make things happen by Unseen means”, but I think that’s kind of a mistake, after some time spent reflecting on Heka as “authoritative utterance”.

Heka is magic, of many kinds, but the word carries the connotation not just of sympathetic magic or ceremonial magic, but of the magic inherent in the power of language and of meaning. If that is so, then everyone has an incredible amount of power in their own voices alone – power to hurt or to heal, to create or destroy, with words. Speech is something incredibly powerful that I take for granted all the time. I prattle on and on every day; I teach, so I am constantly speaking saying word after word, trying to convey meaning in a way that will somehow take root in my students’ understanding. When it does, it is magic all unto itself, I think.

It is also traditional magic, of course – the act of taking one thing, and using it to cause an effect on something else. That power comes down to meaning, and to the force with which that meaning is applied. Even that seems to boil down to meaning, and to the power of meaning – which is all tied up in the language we use to convey it.

In my experience, the best heka has been the kind that means something significant to me. I’ve had very little success with magical formulae devised by other people because they seem so arbitrary. It feels as magical as a cookbook. Taking a pinch of this and a dash of that is more useful for an excellent quiche than for affecting actual change in the Universe, to my knowledge. (Disclaimer: I have never made quiche.)  But heka done with my own calculation, blending personal symbolism with traditional meaning, seems to be incredibly effective. I’ve also found that there’s a need, sometimes to keep that meaning closely guarded. I keep certain items and objects – bits and pieces of things that were near sacred items, or that were present during significant moments – for use in hekau. It’s stuff that has almost no concordance with anything traditional – just bits and scraps of my life that I know I can use.

I know there are words for this kind of magic in different traditions but to be frank – it’s just heka to me. I suspect this would be somewhat in line with practical ancient perspective, though I have no proof. It seems pragmatic enough for the ancient people of Kemet to have believed, though – that small works with great meaning would be effective. It’s authoritative utterance after all – authority over our own lives and the authority to take actions to change or affect them as we will, which is something we are all owed.

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