How do you celebrate Festivals and Holidays the Kemetic way?
My style of celebration is best described as “casual”. 😅 What I do will depend on what festival I’m celebrating and how important it is in my personal practice (or the State religion).
For your average holiday, my go-to is making a special offering in Senut to the gods in festival. For instance: we have the solstice festival of She-is-led-back, or Intues, this season. I celebrated with the House of Netjer through the simulcast ritual led via IRC; I offered Hethert a glass of milk and a raspberry chocolate cookie. That’s all! For something more elaborate, like a festival of one of my Parents, I will spend more time in shrine, and will make more elaborate offerings. One festival I offered a bouquet of flowers, a bottle of wine, and a plate of gourmet chocolates. Even though the offerings are more elaborate, it still fits the same format: offerings and shrine time.
Occasionally, when I am able, I will celebrate with other Kemetics. When this happens, the celebrations vary depending on the festival. I’ve participated in overnight vigils for the Mysteries of Wesir, sunrise rituals for Wep Ronpet, paper-boat-making and candle-lighting for Aset Webenut, and more.
Even non-Kemetic holidays can take on a Kemetic spirit. For example: my ancestors would have celebrated Christmas, and I spend the 25th of December celebrating with family who still observe the holiday. I spend the day reflecting on family and my Akhu, and make offerings to my ancestors in honor of their traditions. If I have to go to church, or engage with any non-Kemetic religious practice, I take the opportunity to reflect on my Akhu and meditate on their role in my life.
I’ve learned that celebrations don’t need to be elaborate to be satisfying — especially when celebrating on my own. A little quality time and a special gift for the gods goes a long way.
Ancestor veneration was a regular part of ancient Kemetic religion. Maintaining tombs, remembering the dead, making offerings to their kau – all of this was vital not only for the happiness of the living, but for the dead in the afterlife. Modern Kemetic-based religions often include some form of ancestor devotions. In Kemetic Orthodoxy, having a strong relationship with one’s akhu is strongly recommended. But it can get complicated.
Most of us come to Kemetic Orthodoxy as converts. Very few people have been born into the religion. Therefore our ancestors are usually Christian, or Jewish, or Muslim – one of the “big three” Abrahamic religions of the modern world. I have often questioned whether my many Catholic akhu can appreciate my strange prayers and communication with the dead. Others have even been told directly by their akhu that an akh disapproves of being venerated. Sometimes there’s a culture clash when we introduce them to our practices.
People often have complicated relationships with their ancestors. If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone refuse to honor their akhu because of an abusive or otherwise unsavory relative, I’d have… a lot of nickels. To be clear — there should never be a requirement or obligation to honor ancestors who hurt you deeply in life. The choice to reconcile, in both life and death, is personal.
And then there’s a cultural piece that gets even more complex. Our ancestors may not match the cultural context we’re honoring them in. Or, they may have done things that are problematic or ethically questionable. It’s a concern for many.
Our ancestors, however, are many. We have more ancestors than we can count. The number of generations that span the gap between us and prehistory is astonishing. I may lament an akh‘s bad behavior or problematic history and still connect with the vast crowd of unknown akhu whose actions unwittingly lead to my life. They feel infinite — and in a sense, they are.
My advice for those new to Kemetic religion, or those struggling to connect with their akhu because it’s complicated for them, is to start without names. Thank the ones who loved one another and through that love created part of your life. Even if you never met, they gave you life; surely among that crowd you will find a connection and a place to start.
A prayer I wrote to my gods recently, as I commuted to my internship site. Feel free to adapt for your own use with your own gods and ancestors.
O Father mine,
unlock the doors of my heart and mind
that I may walk fully with others.
O Mother mine,
place your fire in my voice and heart
that I may bear your strength and compassion.
O Perfumed Protector,
grant me your softness and warmth.
O Vault of Heaven,
grant me your infinite patience.
O Crescent Moon,
grant me your sharpness of mind.
O Starry Dead,
grant me the wealth of your history.
I do this work always in Your service,
furnished by Your love.
No god designed the calendar that moves with us,
that breathes with us,
inhaling and exhaling years and milestones.
We make the days sacred by our own design.
We consecrate them with our plans,
anoint them with our tears
and sing hymns with the peals of our laughter.
We nimbly navigate the scaffold of holy days
that frames and braces ordinary time.
In truth, these days hold us up
and strengthen us;
they allow us to be renewed.
They mark the time that circles us,
enfolding us in that which is greater
than we can be.
And still, when the day comes
that we have chosen to set apart
we step beyond the widening spiral of years.
We define our holiest calendar,
the festivals with the greatest light.
The time that winds around us makes us smaller
and the time that we arrange
can make us great.