This is a contribution to the Kemetic Round Table’s discussion on Ritual Purity. For more information on this new project, go here!
As a Kemetic Orthodox priest of purity (a W’ab priest), it would be easy for some to assume that since I work with purifications and purity, I therefore have an objective scale of what is pure and what is not. I want to clearly dispel that notion from the beginning: I’m not an expert in anything at all. The truth is, in my experience, purity is not cut and dry. It isn’t something that can be measured, like weight or height, nor is it binary. Purity is dependent on individual circumstances, and exists on scale of “greater” vs. “lesser”, rather than “yes” vs. “no”.
In my practice, a person is ritually pure if they have undergone ritual purifications. Some purifications are more rigorous than others. There are specific purifications for the priest’s Daily Rite, and there are specific purifications for Senut. I wouldn’t use one for the other; one is not quite clean enough, and the other is overkill. There’s also personal purification rituals – anything I do to feel spiritually, psychologically, or emotionally “cleaner”.
In all of this, I try not to seek absolutes. To use the word pure in an absolute sense carries the baggage of perfection, I find. If I am pure in an absolute sense, I am at my total best mentally and physically. Rarely is that the truth. More often than not I find my way to shrine, tired from a day of work or worn down emotionally from the tides of life, aching in my limbs or back. Sometimes it is too much, and I step back, acknowledging that my presence in shrine would not be complete. Most times, however, I wash away the day’s events with prayers, natron water, and some calming breaths, and I go to shrine to love and serve the gods.
It is a personal continuum – a constant effort to be cleaner, purer – but not a losing battle for perfection.
I made it to shrine Tuesday night, vowed to go nightly, and then last night got hit with a wave of brain-cooties so strong it sent me to bed hours earlier than I’d planned.
Onward, ever onward I suppose. Shrine centers me, but sometimes in that soft, gooey center there is also pain.
Menstrual taboos are a sensitive subject. As a follower of Kemetic Orthodoxy, I do not engage in particular kinds of worship during my menstrual period. Many people hear this and consider it backwards. How can menstrual taboos be woman-positive, when something inherently feminine is considered “impure”?
I have given my opinions about menstrual taboos here a few times already, so I won’t rehash them, but a recent situation drew to light what I believe to be a very woman-positive side-effect of observing menstrual taboos. During Retreat, I had a purity crisis – I found myself unable to work as a priest due to an early cycle. I needed to talk about my cycle and my inability to work gracefully, without hedging or beating around the bush – and I found that I was.
There are more available euphemisms, to be sure – ‘purity issues’ is a favorite, I think – but in general, menstrual taboos have given me the right to talk about menstruation comfortably. It isn’t something awkward; it is a regular fact of life. I report for work as a priest, and when I cannot, I can say that it is due to my cycle. There are some who prefer not to be so overt, and I respect their decisions; but I feel that for me, practicing menstrual taboos has normalized menstruation and ironically, made it a topic that is not taboo.
Today’s W’ab Wednesday thought is on when it is better to step out of or away from a ritual. Sometimes we are not able to be pure. Sometimes, illness or other impurities disrupt our ritual rhythms and we need to step back. There is always a balance. We may want to dive headfirst into our work, but our physical or mental states might make it wiser to choose less formal practices. That is my reflection this week. I hope you find it useful too.
This is a great post about purification from Sarduriur at Shadows of the Sun. Lots of different elements of purification here, all of which are effective. Enjoy!