"Sekhmet the Eye of Ra"/ November 2014

"Sekhmet the Eye of Ra"/ November 2014
"Sekhmet the Eye of Ra"/ November 2014 / Extra fine watercolor, 22 karat gold, lapis lazuli, Austrian crystal

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Honoring Our Gods

Bast the Light-Bringer / Extra fine watercolor, 22 karat gold, Indian star ruby, fire opals & Austrian crystals by master iconographer Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

The work I do as an iconographer may appear at first glance to be that of creating pretty pictures.  People who compliment or discuss my work will often use the words "Egyptian artwork" or "artwork" to describe my icons; and while I am always grateful to have my sacred endeavors acknowledged in the first place, it is always something of a process for me to kindly differentiate between the terms artwork and icon.  In my view, artwork is a decorative image, a painting or picture created primarily for aesthetic considerations, though still carrying deeper personal or expressive associations.  An icon is an image illustrating a religious or spiritual subject, an image that is ritually consecrated to take part in the devotional transmission of faith within a sacred tradition. Icons can most certainly be decorative, and are also created to be beautiful, visually appealing.  But icons serve a different purpose than pictures whose primary function is to be ornamental, or to serve as an individual artist's personal expression of their life experience.

Icons connect the viewer directly with the Sacred, and, in the case of my Kemetic icons, they serve as repositories for the active power of living gods.  The netjeru, the goddesses and gods of ancient Egypt, have always been served through a precise tradition of iconography resident in the cult image, a two or three-dimensional image that has been ritually awakened to contain a portion of the deity's spiritual essence.  Such images have become the focal point of temples through the celebration of the daily rituals of the cult, the body of ritual actions and offerings through which the deity's presence remains active in the material world.  These traditions are thousands of years old, and serve as a vital component of a living religious practice established in very early times.

My icons are not crafted as decorative objects or pretty "Egyptian artwork". They are not mythology illustrations, nor are they Egyptology art.  These panels, created from the finest natural pigments and ornamented with real gold and semi-precious stones, are holy objects made as embodiments of living gods. Their entire purpose is to serve contemporary temple communities in their effort to revive an authentic practice of the Kemetic religion today. This means restoring the ancient rituals and utilizing the traditional cultic texts as much as possible.  And central to such activities is the presence of authentic spiritual tools and sacred images for worship.

The original icons I create do not hang on the walls of a modern art gallery. They are not collectibles for the touristy Egyptian art aficionado.  I am very proud to say that my icons are commissioned by active temples who have established perpetual ritual programs for the netjeru via the celebration of the daily cult.  My icons help religious communities in the current age to revive the traditional rites through which the ancient Egyptians maintained the active presence of the Gods in our world.  These are living gods, these netjeru; as much today as three-thousand years ago.

I am deeply grateful when I have the opportunity to see my icons, or reproductions of my icons, being used as devotional objects within an active spiritual community. Thus I was overjoyed when Matt Whealton of the Temple of Ra San Francisco contacted me with pictures from this year's Pantheacon Convention.  Hosted by the Kemetic Temple of San Jose, Kemetics from a number of temples gathered at Pantheacon to celebrate a traditional Kemetic ritual honoring the netjeret (Goddess) Bastet/ Bast.  I was told by Matt Whealton that prints of two of my Kemetic icons were present during the ritual; my icon of 'Bast the Light-Bringer', and my 'Stela of Ptah Who Hears Prayers'.

HiC Luttmers of the Kemetic Temple of San Jose wrote to me: "...Ptahmassu, we used your Ptah icon to establish a « side chapel » to Ptah where anyone who visited the suite or attended the ritual could sit and write their petitions, pleas and prayers knowing that Ptah would hear them".

Matt Whealton of the Temple of Ra San Francisco writes:

"Ptahmassu's art is special among that being produced in the modern Kemetic arena. He produces the pieces from a true devotional perspective and uses materials and precious ingredients the ancients used in his work. His vision is both individually unique and grounded in the ancient forms both visually and textually. It seems so much of the available devotional Kemetic art and icons 'do not get the glyphs right'. Ptahmassu does. This gives them both emotional and ritual power in my opinion. The piece I own is a version of the Hearing Ear stelae often found in Egyptian contexts. These icons were (and are) attuned to individual devotion, not State Religion, and the choice is an excellent one for modern Kemetic practice. As a devotee for Ptah, I love that I can approach him through this special piece."

I am very grateful to see that the work I do as a sacred artisan of the netjeru is bringing others into contact with the Divine through devotion and offering. These are the gifts of the heart that bring us ever closer to our Gods, Who are always receptive to the outreach of Their devotees in the current era.  Far from being figments of the mythology of a defunct culture, the netjeru of ancient Egypt are living gods, living in the here and now.  All that is required to reach Them is a pure heart filled with honest intention.  It is our desire to find and serve the Gods that calls and awakens Them here in our realm of existence. What better way could there be to do this than by the creation and celebration of beauty.

Photos below taken by Serena Kefira Leclerc & used with kind permission of HiC Luttmers & Matt Whealton

The Great Goddess Bastet receives offerings in a tradition Kemetic ritual

A print of my icon 'Bast the Light-Bringer' graces the festival table

HiC Luttmers of the Kemetic Temple of San Jose & Matt Whealton of the Temple of Ra San Francisco kneel before a print of my icon 'Stela of Ptah Who Hears Prayers'

Friday, February 20, 2015

Autobiography of A Mystic (Part 3)

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, my Root Guru

Root Guru/ The Dalai Lama

It was through the enthusiastic guidance of Olivia Robertson that I began in the early 90's to make a serious study of the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, and in particular the books written by His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama, who quickly became a teacher of special significance to me. For some reason, the culture, iconography, sound and feeling of Tibetan Buddhism struck a very deep chord in my heart, and it was Olivia's idea that perhaps I was tuning in to the memory of a previous incarnation in Tibet...perhaps as a Tibetan monk?

Loreon Vigné and Paul Ramses once again played a role in helping me to seek possible past life associations with Tibet and her rich spiritual traditions, which to me felt very strong, very natural. Paul took me through a past life regression in which he felt he pinpointed a life I had lived in Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, Tibet. Regardless of whether or not there is some truth to this, I was quite determined to study the Dharma or teachings of the Buddha as they had been transplanted in Tibet, for I felt that the Tibetans had preserved a very advanced system of meditation and insight into the true nature of the mind, and that their unique tradition of identifiable reincarnation was a breakthrough in the comprehension of how the human non-physical condition operated.

Throughout the 90's I continued to study the books of the Dalai Lama, attending meditation classes and rituals at a local San Diego Buddhist temple. All the while I maintained a communion with the Goddess Isis through Her work in the Temple and Fellowship of Isis, and practiced the ancient Egyptian religion in accordance with my own studies and inner guidance. My feeling during this decade was that I was being guided through a series of initiations and transformations, during which my mind and consciousness were being expanded beyond the limitations I had imposed on myself during my years of study with The Ammonite Foundation.

I had (and have) no regrets concerning my level of involvement with the Ammonites, however, now that I can look back on this period of my spiritual studies with fresh eyes, I see that religion and spirituality should never be something we feel obligated to, nor should we close our minds to other avenues of enlightenment. The Ammonites tended towards fundamentalism and restriction in their practice of ancient Egyptian spirituality, and fundamentalism, no matter what name you give it or how you dress it up to make it look pretty, is simply another form of stifling the freedom of the human psyche to question, challenge and expand its awareness of itself.

There are always noble sounding excuses given by religious fundamentalists for their doctrine and dogma. It's traditional. It's for our own good. This is God's infallible, inerrant word. This is how it's always been. This is the RIGHT way. In the end, fundamentalism is about mind control and the operation of social and political power, it has absolutely nothing to do with the human Spirit or the quest for Truth. Truth is limitless. It inspires faith of its own accord, without the need for restrictions or absolutism. The human conscience has no need for fundamentalism in the realm of the Soul. The Soul finds its own way home, and it is drawn to its Sources naturally, as a child to its mother.

One of the very great experiences of my life thus far occurred on the days of October 12-14 1999, when I attended by invitation of The Office of Tibet The Path of Liberation Teachings in Pasadena California, being offered by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This was my first encounter with the Dalai Lama, a man whose spiritual vision for global peace and disarmament, whose Buddhist teachings on non-violence and inner transformation had profoundly changed my life. 

Sitting very near to His Holiness, I had the opportunity to observe at close range the expressions and character of Tibet's exiled political and spiritual leader. I knew that he was a man of singular vision and wisdom, unsurpassed training in meditation and Buddhist theology, and a tireless spokesman for human rights on the world stage, but what I had not been prepared for was his innate humility, openness and direct concern for all those with whom he came into contact. From the most senior Lama from Tibet's most prestigious monastery, down to the person seated far away in the nosebleed section of the vast auditorium, the Dalai Lama made a genuine effort to acknowledge everyone he could, and to share with them his warmth and loving-kindness.

Another thing that drew me into the Dalai Lama's magnetic personality was the fact that he was the only religious leader I had ever encountered who actually wanted people to remain true to their own religious convictions and spiritual principles, whether or not they were in accord with his own. The Dalai Lama spoke to us about the importance of people becoming the very best practitioners of their own religious ideals, not converting to Buddhism in order to do that...unless the Buddhist doctrine was naturally in accordance with their desires and principles. The Dalai Lama does not believe in conversion or dogmatic preaching, but in living by example according to the best qualities inherent in a person's religious beliefs.

In June of 2000 I was once again invited by The Office of Tibet of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to participate in a week long teaching intensive being offered by the Dalai Lama, during which His Holiness would be performing, for those who applied and were serious about receiving them, initiations into the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of the White and Green Taras. On Thursday June 29, 2000 I was initiated into the practice of the White and Green Taras, with His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama acting as Root Guru.

Autobiography of A Mystic (Part 2)

Lady Olivia Robertson, Co-Founder of The Fellowship of Isis

The Fellowship of Isis/ The Ammonite Foundation

At this same time Lora and Paul encouraged me to correspond with Lord and Lady Strathloch of the Fellowship of Isis, who were always welcoming of all souls thirsting to commune with the Goddess. Lady Olivia Robertson instantly enchanted me with her wit, sense of humor, but very serious, noble communion with the Goddess Isis and many pantheons of deities from the world entire. She answered my many letters to her with enthusiasm and encouragement, and welcomed my thirst for knowledge of the Ancient Ways of the Great Mother Goddess Isis.

Following my birthday in February of 1985, Lady Olivia asked me to join her on the spirit plain through an attunement rite in which she and other members of FOI performed a blessing for me as an aspiring Isian and member of The Fellowship of Isis. Being very dramatic and a firm believer in sacred Mystery plays, Lady Olivia wrote a brief ritual drama for us to enact in which the God Osiris traveled down into the Netherworld and was sought after by the Goddesses Isis and Nephthys, who then conjoined their powers in order to initiate the resurrection of Osiris from the dead. His coming forth into the daytime of the splendid Afterlife signified my coming forth into the Isian community as a votary, and the emergence of Wisdom, Gnosis being released by the psyche.

At the close of the 1980's Lora and Paul were directed by Lady Olivia Robertson to connect with a group in Cairo, Egypt calling themselves The Ammonite Foundation. Their spiritual leader Sekhmet Montu had become an associate of the Durdin-Robertsons and Fellowship of Isis, and Lady Olivia felt that Lora and Paul could, through the activities of Isis Oasis, do something to introduce The Ammonite Foundation to students in America. The Ammonite Foundation claimed to be the last living branch of the ancient Egyptian religion, which preserved the ancient teachings of the Temple of Ammon-Ra by removing them from Egypt during the reign of Tutankammon. The present leaders of the Foundation upheld that the Ammonites, numbering some 27,000 or so people, were primarily nomads traveling through several Middle Eastern countries, carrying with them the ancient Egyptian teachings of the Temple of Ammon-Ra.

Jonathan Cott (author of the bestselling metaphysical classic The Search For Omm Sety) dedicated an entire chapter to his interview with The Ammonite Foundation spiritual leaders in his 1994 book Isis and Osiris: Exploring the Goddess Myth (Doubleday, New York, New York).

Paul Ramses & Lora Vigné in Cairo with H.E. Ptah-Hotep, H.G. Sekhmet Montu & son Heru

Paul and Lora were enthusiastically welcomed by The Ammonite Foundation spiritual directors, who were apparently so taken with them and their work at Isis Oasis that they invited Lora and Paul to stay with them in Egypt in order to personally receive the Ammonite teachings and be initiated as Priestess and Priest within The Ammonite Foundation. Sekhmet Montu and Ptah-Hotep (the directors of The Ammonite Foundation) charged Lora and Paul with the task of opening an official branch of The Ammonite Foundation through Isis Oasis Sanctuary, where the Ammonite teachings and lessons could be taken by students, who would then have the opportunity to be initiated by Lora and Paul into the Ammonite tradition of the ancient Egyptian religion.

I remember the day Lora called me on the phone saying "You just must write to them and tell them about yourself! You are so unusual, and I'm sure they will want you to study with them". I followed Lora's advice and wrote a very lengthy introduction to myself and my spiritual studies and sent it off to The Ammonite Foundation headquarters in Cairo, and was very surprised to quickly receive an equally lengthy reply from Her Grace Sekhmet Montu, inviting me to become a member of the Foundation and to begin studies directly under herself and her husband, His Excellency Ptah-Hotep.

Thus began my years of study with The Ammonite Foundation, which began in 1989 and continued until I withdrew in 1994. On the positive side, Ptah-Hotep as High Priest of the God Ptah took me very tenderly under his wing, dedicating a great deal of time and resources to developing my comprehension of ancient Egyptian metaphysics, language, ritual forms and theology. His feeling was that I should, at the conclusion of my studies, take vows as a Priest of the God Ptah, with the intention of establishing my own temple and Ammonite school in California. He was carefully grooming me to become a representative of The Ammonite Foundation, but also, on a much more personal note, he was establishing a fatherly bond with me, together with a very deep friendship. I felt fortunate at the time to have a spiritual teacher in Egypt who saw promise in my devotion to the original Egyptian religion and gods, and was helping me in my mission to attain ordination as a priest of the ancient Egyptian faith.

On Tuesday February 18, 1992, on Full Moon day, and in anticipation of my birthday on the 21st, Ptah-Hotep and Sekhmet Montu performed a ceremony for me in Cairo, which I was to attend on the spiritual plain via attunement, in which Ptah-Hotep anointed me into the Priesthood of the Ammonite Temple of Ptah as a novice priest. As my official insignia as a consecrated Priest of Ptah, Ptah-Hotep sent to me his very own solid silver ring in which a cameo of the God Ptah stands in silver against a sky blue enamel background. I still wear this ring to this very day, for to me it is like a wedding ring, embodying the loving commitment I have made to serve Lord Ptah and His family of Gods as a priest of the ancient Egyptian way.

However, my honeymoon with The Ammonite Foundation was very short lived. After my consecration as a novitiate into the Ammonite Priesthood of Ptah, Her Grace Sekhmet Montu informed me that The Ammonite Foundation governing council, called the Sau Council, had requested that after I reached full maturity in my novitiate and studies, that is to say, after I graduated from high school, I was to make my Ammonite pilgrimage to Egypt in order to be academically examined in my studies as a member of The Ammonite Foundation, before I could be formally ordained as a fully fledged Priest. 

Her Grace also laid out precisely what the Ammonite ideal and requirements were concerning the lives of its clergy and representatives. The ideal, as she put it, was for each Ammonite temple to be headed by a married Priest and Priestess, who, as conjugal and spiritual partners, embodied the pairing of God and Goddess as seen within the Egyptian pantheon. I was sent a formal statement from the Sau Council regarding personal purity, sexual "rightness", conduct, dress and standards for behavior, which I was to sign and return to the Sau Council for approval of my novitiate.

It was in the Autumn of 1992, after a very long period of struggle, second guessing and soul-searching, that I decided to come out of the closet as a gay man. For me, this was the most important decision of my life thus far, for I could no longer cope with the internal pressures of hiding who I really was and the kind of life I wished to live. I had seen my own family devastated and damaged by a father who lived a secret life as a closeted but married gay man, and I vowed to myself that I would not make those same mistakes. 

My father had become very mentally unstable, abusive and irrational as a result of so many years of living that secret life...tending a wife, children and traditional Christian church life, while at the same time seeking out clandestine meetings with young men in San Diego's underground gay scene. The last thing I wanted for my future was the shame of keeping the secret of who I really was, which I knew was only a path to mental breakdown and personal dissolution.

It was a very painful decision for me to break off my studies and affiliation with The Ammonite Foundation, however, I saw that I really had no choice in the matter. The Ammonite Foundation's official attitude concerning homosexuality was that it was unclean, unnatural, and a violation of the 'Negative Confession' or 42 Laws of Ma'at, the ancient Egyptian precepts by which a member of The Ammonite Foundation was expected to live. As a novitiate priest with the intention of attaining consecration as an official priest and representative of The Ammonite Foundation, it would be expected that I not only uphold the formal policies of the Foundation, but also the personal lifestyle choices that governed how a priest lived and carried out his duties in the temple.

1992 had also seen a nasty split between The Ammonite Foundation leaders and Lora Vigné and Paul Ramses, whom Sekhmet Montu and Ptah-Hotep felt were far too "New Age" for them, and, in their view, had not been representing the official policies of The Ammonite Foundation correctly. Sekhmet Montu wanted to involve me in an "investigation" she said was being undertaken of the operations of Isis Oasis Sanctuary in relation to The Ammonite Foundation studies being offered there, and the Sau Council wanted me to be an informant of sorts on the activities of Lora and Paul. I had had enough.

I wrote a formal letter of resignation to the Cairo headquarters of The Ammonite Foundation on the grounds of my homosexuality, and unwillingness to cooperate in the "investigation" of my spiritual mentors and teachers in the Isian community of Isis Oasis Sanctuary. I never looked back.

Most people I know who practice "alternative" or non-mainstream spiritual traditions have multiple pantheons and/ or magical systems they work with. It has been my experience that people who especially identify with the term polytheist are drawn to a number of deities, paths and practices from various cultures, and develop special relationships with more than one pantheon simultaneously. I would have to say that I fall into this category as well.

Within the studies and work I have progressed through in the Fellowship of Isis, it has also been a part of my spiritual evolution to be open to the transmissions or guidance of deities, spirits and beings who desire contact, without closing my mind or discriminating based on their cultural or geographic place of origination. Lady Olivia Robertson (together with Lady Lora/ Loreon Vigné) was one of the first teachers who reached out to me who truly lived her life in communion with nearly every pantheon imaginable, believing that all the Goddesses and Gods communed with anyone who would listen...that all had significant messages and could shape the fabric of our inner and outer lives for the better. 

The Fellowship of Isis is a rich tapestry composed of multiple religions, traditions, pantheons and beliefs. It bears no discrimination towards the spiritual calling of any of its members, regardless of which tradition or traditions they embrace as their own. The message of Fellowship of Isis has always been that of equality and inclusion, in the place of closed-minded fundamentalism or dogma. "The Goddess includes!", Lady Olivia always said emphatically. "She does not exclude!"

Seated beside Lady Olivia after she consecrated me as the spiritual head of the Nuhati Faith/ October 2004


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Autobiography of A Mystic (Part 1)

The artistic life is creation...the spiritual life is immortality.  What happens when we combine the two?

Author's preface

In late Fall of 2014 I was asked by the Priesthood of the Temple of Antinous Hollywood to submit an introduction of myself to the online community so that they could become better acquainted with me and my spiritual journey.  Though they had asked for a "simple", "brief" description of who I was and how I had come to my unusual spiritual calling, what I gave them was a novella of sorts, an outpouring of the major events that had shaped my journey into the Sacred from the time I was a child to the near present.  I had begun with the intention of brevity, which was, as anyone who knows me well enough can attest, a futile effort.

Something happened to me as I began to reflect on my very strange childhood, on the eccentric personalities and synchronicities that swept across my path and caused me to take up an unorthodox path.  I realized as I got deeper into this writing that though I had discussed some of these events with people very close to me, I had never spoken about, let alone written down, so many significant episodes that have shaped my life quite profoundly.

In anticipation of my birthday next week, I would like to offer up this autobiographical sketch as a means of sharing my spiritual journey with those who have an interest in my work as an iconographer and path as a Kemetic Reconstructionist/ mystic.

I was initially going to title these posts "Autobiography of a Kemetic", however, that would imply to my readers that the contents would be exclusively Kemetic (Ancient Egyptian), without the flavor of other paths or practices being part of the mix.  Though it is true that I now identify my path as Kemetic or Kemetic Reconstructionism, that has not always been the case.  Kemetic, yes.  I have served the netjeru or goddesses and gods of Ancient Egypt (Kemet) very consciously from the time I was six years old.  But serving Them from a Reconstructionist point of view is something that has evolved slowly and steadily, almost imperceptibly over the past five to six years especially.  As happens when you develop and grow in your relationship with living deities, They guide you, often in very unexpected ways, to perspectives and areas of self-investigation that had hitherto remained in the shadows.

In these regards, I share with you my reflections on the people and events that have gone into the making of the man and the artist you now see before you.  My hope is that this gives further insight into the seeds and nature of my work as a Kemetic iconographer.

Life Begins at 40/ Wonderful Things

I turned 40 last year, and I keep being reminded of that funny little saying "life begins at 40". My experience is that a lot of gay men are age conscious and have a tendency towards holding onto their youth, even long after their youth has let go of them. Aging has never bothered me, but it has made me aware of the truth of that long standing belief that with age comes wisdom...or at least with that length of experience comes insights, knowledge or epiphany. This year has been a pivotal year for me, spiritually, emotionally and metaphysically. I find that the Gods are opening up doors for me that I never knew were there, waiting patiently.

I was born a native of San Diego, California, where my father received his Master's Degree in anthropology and the humanities. He was also an artist, a very talented watercolorist and painter of male and female nudes. His focus in some of his work was the figurative art of the Greeks and Romans, which also was central to his research for his degree and studies in the arts and humanities. His den where he drew, researched and painted was full of books of antique art and ancient Mediterranean civilizations.

It was there in his den that I uncovered, at the age of seven or eight, the massive scholarly volumes on ancient Rome and her art. It was there that I first saw the famous Farnese Antinous...that sensual and divine exploration of the nude male form. I was hooked. Despite my very young age, even then I remember being conscious of my sexuality and my attraction to the Gods of Classical antiquity. Antinous always represented for me the promise of immortality and resurrection, agelessness and continuity of the Soul. But also, he embodied the innocence of a noble mind untainted by time or human experience. He was a representative of a quest for the Highest Nature to which humankind is the heir. Even as a boy, I knew somehow that Antinous was my god, or rather one of them, for I have always been deeply rebellious against the idea of monotheism.

Statue of Antinous. Reelaboration of the 2nd century AD after a Greek original of the Late Classical period.

I was raised in a very traditional Baptist upper middle class family, with a very long history of males who turned out to be Christian missionaries and evangelical preachers. I remember sitting on my grandfather's knees as a young boy and listening to his hopes that I too would join the army of Christ as a disciple of the Gospel, bringing others into the fold. Needless to say, those hopes have not been realized!

However, in another very unexpected way, my grandfather's desires for me to be a missionary have been brought to light, but not within the Christian faith he and my family ardently follow. Some time around 1982-83 I had my spontaneous call to the Goddess Isis and the Egyptian religion. In my father's extensive library of ancient art and civilizations I came across a volume with lavish color photographs of famous Egyptian temples, sculpture and artifacts. Among them were pictures of the magnificent Temple of Isis at Philae, which the ancient Egyptians called Per-Auset.

Here were images of pylons in which the Goddess Isis and Her holy family told the story of Egypt's ancient resurrection myth...the Osirian drama in which the Goddess Isis, Great of Magic, brings to life Her murdered husband Ausir-Osiris so that She may conceive His son, Horus, the Egyptian Heru, the falcon-headed defender of Truth and divine justice. It was Auset, Isis the great Mother Goddess who had the power to restore a murdered god back to life, and it was by Her miraculous magic that the seed of the resurrected god was drawn forth in order to conceive the very child who would grow to manhood in order to renew the balance of justice and divine order in Egypt.

But there were many other gods in Egypt whose images ensnared my heart when I sat for hours with that volume in my father's den. Among these was the God Ptah, craftsman and Divine Architect of creation...Patron of all painters and artisans and Creator of the Gods, and Amun-Ra, the King of the Gods. I became obsessed with these pre-Christian deities and the culture that fostered them, and in my heart I began to say little prayers to them, timidly hoping that these strange gods would hear me, and somehow give me a sign.

My father and mother were fundamentalist evangelical Baptist Christians, so their tolerance for any non-Christian belief was nearly non-existent, so in their eyes their eight-year-old son could not possibly be praying to Egyptian gods...those "false idols" of the Pagan world. Of course, my parents treated my obsession with Egyptian religion, magic, mummification and hieroglyphs as a passing childhood interest...you know, one among those many things that children pick up, enjoy the novelty of for as long as that lasts, and then move on to the next passing fancy. I had had the usual enchantments with cowboys and Indians, dinosaurs, and a very strange fixation with flags, so they assumed that my obsession with ancient Egypt was one of those, and not the metaphysical passion that it really was.

I checked out every book on things Egyptian from my school library, and spent every night reading under the covers about Egyptian gods, temples, mummies and hieroglyphs. Before I went to bed each night I propped one of my Egyptian picture books on the desk next to my bed, and said my prayers to Isis, Osiris, Horus, Ptah and Sekhmet. I asked the Gods to reveal their secrets to me, and then, one night prior to my 9th birthday, I asked those ancient Gods to reopen their temples for me...to send me a path to them in this world.

One Saturday morning my parents and I were taking a walk through the touristy shopping district in historic Old Town San Diego, and as we passed the massive Bohanan's Pottery yard, full of its Mexican ceramics and outdoor fountains, I caught sight of a large sign that had a picture of Michelangelo's David on it, and said Dergance Sculpture Studio. Curious because of the presence of the very recognizable David, I went up to a large window of the studio and peered inside. What I saw stole my breath and made my heart beat faster.

Inside the small but beautifully appointed studio space were bookshelves, tables and display stands filled with gilded replicas of the King Tutankhamun treasures, Egyptian gods and goddesses, and Classical and Renaissance marbles. A large marble reproduction of Michelangelo's David stood proudly in one corner of the studio, and beside it stood various other Greco-Roman sculptures, including a magnificent version of the famous Farnese Antinous, and several sizes of equally famous busts of Antinous. Roman gods peered out from every angle, including the Venus de milo and Botticelli's Birth of Venus. A splendid Pan played His pipes and wagged His erection proudly. I couldn't believe my eyes. Here was an entire shop filled with the gods and treasures I thought of as mine!

Dergance Sculpture Studio was owned by a charming senior couple, Maxine and Robert Dergance, who had traveled extensively throughout Egypt and Europe, collecting historical replicas and museum reproductions, including the extensive line of high quality knock offs of the Tutankhamun treasures produced by the Artisans Guild International company. Though their studio was closed on the day I first peered in the window, gushing to my parents how we just had to get inside, my mother took down the business phone number and called that week to make an appointment with Maxine Dergance. When finally the next weekend we walked into that studio, it was for me like that seminal moment when Egyptologist Howard Carter gazed into the treasure-crammed tomb of Tutankhamun for the first time. I felt I had come home...there in one place where the gods, MY GODS, and the kings who had first worshiped them, were represented in their golden and jewel-toned icons.

Maxine Dergance was a very unusual lady, a fascinating eccentric who talked to me about reincarnation and past lives in ancient Egypt, as I sat down with her at her large working table in Dergance Studio. As she described her travels in Egypt to me, she talked about feelings she had as she visited various temples and monuments, feelings of having been there before, in a different time thousands of years before. I whispered to her that I had had those same feelings and experiences when contemplating pictures of Egyptian locations and objects...that I also prayed to Egyptian gods.

The Priestess of Isis/ Isis Oasis

The Rt. Reverend Lady Loreon Vigné, Arch Priestess of Isis
 It was then that Maxine went over to one of her very crowded studio shelves and took down a striking picture of a beautiful lady sporting an Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra wig and Egyptian costume, holding a Sistrum in one hand, standing before a shrine of different icons of the Goddess Isis. "This is my good friend Lora Vigné", she said as I gawked at this unusual lady wearing heavy Egyptian-style eye liner. "She owns a property called Isis Oasis, and she is a

modern day priestess of the Goddess Isis".

Maxine then told me the strange story of how this vibrant and revolutionary artist- who had been married to the famous avant garde film maker and painter Dion Vigné- had moved to Sonoma County California from San Francisco because the Goddess Isis had spoken to her in dreams, visions and signs. Lora Vigné (who later changed her name to Loreon) was a believer in the Sacred Feminine, in the return of what she was calling Goddess Consciousness. Part of that work was to restore awareness of the ancient Egyptian religion of the Goddess Isis, who Lora believed was the original deity worshiped by the Egyptians in their pre-history.

Isis Oasis Sanctuary was a 10 acre metaphysical retreat center where celebrants came together to honor the Sacred Feminine in the being of the Egyptian Goddess Isis, who was honored at the Oasis in dramatic Mystery plays and reenactments of ancient Egyptian ritual and dance. Lora as High Priestess of Isis had been called through various "coincidences" in her work as an artist to devote her life to the Goddess Isis as the living embodiment of the Sacred Feminine. It was Lora's conviction that the patriarchal religions of mankind had unbalanced society and inflicted harm on the Earth through holy wars and constricting dogma. Lora Vigné's great project was to create a spiritual refuge where the ancient Egyptian ideals of the Temple could be actualized by clergy and devotees of the Goddess Isis today.

The little Meditation Temple at Isis Oasis Sanctuary receives the first rays of the morning sun

Lady Loreon & Paul Ramses created this living temple to the Great Goddess Auset/ Isis

Lady Loreon's own glorious stained glass Egyptian panels grace the Altar of Isis inside the Meditation Temple

"Someone like you must be put in touch with someone like her", Maxine told me. "Lora will want to connect with someone so young who has remembered a spiritual connection with ancient Egypt. Since you pray to Isis, you need to go to Isis Oasis!"

I was around nine and a half years of age when I sent my first letter to Lora Vigné at Isis Oasis, this after Maxine Dergance phoned Lora and had a very animated conversation with her about me. I remember sharing very personal things about myself and my metaphysical beliefs in that letter, enclosing with it pictures my mother had taken of me dressed up as King Tutankhamun for Halloween that year. Most of all, I stressed to Lora that I actually believed in the Goddess Isis as a living being, as a living goddess who heard and answered my prayers.

Through some of the books of Sir. E.A. Wallis Budge I had been teaching myself Egyptian hieroglyphs, and chanting the words of the "Book of the Dead" (which the Egyptians called the Book of Coming Forth By Day, Pert-em-hru) in little rituals I devised for my Egyptian statues in my bedroom. I would put my statue of Isis to bed each night, and then "wake" her up in the morning. Mostly, I followed my intuition and inner guidance, feeling that I was remembering things I had already learned in a previous existence in ancient Egypt. All of this I poured out to Lora in a letter that changed the entire course of my life.

Lora Vigné and her lifetime partner Paul Ramses had started a non-profit religious educational organization called the Isis Society For Inspirational Studies, which was dedicated to the study and promotion of various branches of metaphysical disciplines, including the reconstruction of the ancient Egyptian religion, sacred Mystery dramas, ritual theater, hypnosis and past life regression. Lora and Paul began sending me volumes of research, notes and historical papers as they continued to develop the Isis Society and gather various metaphysical/ spiritualist authors to their cause. During one of many lengthy telephone conversations I had with them, Paul and Lora took me through a meditative past life regression exercise during which they confirmed for me my beliefs in having lived past lives in ancient Egypt. They also told me that it was important for me to take my studies in Egyptian religion, language and history seriously, because they saw that I was destined for the Priesthood of the Goddess Isis, and much more besides.

Lora Vigné and Paul Ramses

In the early 1980's Lora Vigné and Paul Ramses traveled extensively on pilgrimages to awaken and honor the ancient traditions they felt charged to reintroduce to the world through Isis Oasis. It was in Enniscorthy, Ireland that they had their transformative meeting with Lord and Lady Strathloch, the Lord Lawrence and Lady Olivia Durdin-Robertson, co-founders of The Fellowship of Isis, a spiritual gathering consecrated to the living Mysteries of the Goddess Isis, and to spiritual awakening entire. It was there that Lord and Lady Strathloch initiated Lora and Paul into the Fellowship of Isis as Priestess and Priest, and empowered them to return to the States in order to resurrect the ancient Egyptian Temple of Isis.

It was on the lush sacred grounds of Isis Oasis Retreat Center that Lora and Paul erected a splendid recreation (albeit on a much smaller scale and using modern building techniques!) of a traditional Egyptian temple, which was furnished with lavish marble-topped altar and Lora's own hand crafted Egyptian stained glass panels. This was the setting for the solemn ritual dramas and reenactments of Egyptian Isian religion that Lora and Paul felt compelled to bring back to the world. Through the use of vivid music, incense, costume and pageantry, Lora and Paul sought to bring back something of the dignified mystery and magic of ancient Egyptian spirituality...so rich in symbol and sacred flavors...attuned to something primordial in the nature of humankind.

This is the world Lora and Paul introduced to me through their lengthy letters, postcards and telephone conversations. My parents seemed to tolerate my animated relationship with these "New Age religionists", as my mother put it, because they saw what Lora and Paul were doing as more akin to historical reenactment and eccentric Egyptology (with a New Age twist). They never took it seriously or seemed to notice that I had rejected the entire concept of Christianity and monotheism. Somehow it went right over their heads that their pre-pubescent son was an "idolator", magician and ardent devotee of ancient polytheism.

In February of 1985, at the time of my birthday, I was asked by Lora Vigné and Paul Ramses to join them via attunement (over the telephone) in order to be formally consecrated as a Votary of Isis in the Isis Society For Inspirational Studies. This, they told me, would be my path to the Priesthood, which Lora and Paul felt was where the Goddess Isis was leading me. It would be a very long path, fraught with the darkness and light that are part of the fabric woven into the Veil of Isis. The Ancients of various Mystery religions knew that in order to come forth into the light of sacred illumination, that a dark night of the Soul must be braved and transcended. We must grow and develop with our limitations and ego, not ignore or shun them. Darkness is the origin of the Light, thus the Goddess Isis dons the Veil of the Mysteries, which covers the universe and hallows the hearts of votaries with Gnosis.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Kemetic Titan: The Art of Setken (Part One In A Series)

The Australian-born painter Setken, making waves even in the desert/ Photo by the author

Author's preface:  From Monday February 9 through Thursday February 12, 2015 I had the very great pleasure of playing host to Setken during his stay in Wendover, Nevada during the artist's extensive sojourn in the United States.  Setken's goal during his time in the US was to study and gather artistic inspiration from distinguished museums, art galleries and persons of interest who could contribute to his passion for reviving the sacred traditions of Ancient Egypt in the modern era.

It was a privilege for me to have so much intimate access to a fellow painter and Kemetic, who, at his own expense, had traveled to the "middle of nowhere" solely to engage with me on all things artistic and Kemetic.  For this I wish to express my deep gratitude to Setken, an artist of significant vision and importance for me.

On Wednesday February 11, 2015, in his hotel suite at Montego Bay Resort & Casino, Setken very graciously conceded to my request for a recorded interview, during which I had the opportunity to learn, in often highly personal terms, the source of the artist's drive and vision to reinterpret the theological canon of Ancient Egypt for modern servants of the netjeru- Egypt's traditional gods.  The following presentation of Setken's work and ideas (which will be broken into a number of installments) is drawn from our recorded conversations, and from my own observations and impressions of Setken's powerful body of work.

Note that the sections of text presented in red are the words of Setken transcribed directly from our recorded interview.  Words inside parenthesis are my additions added for the sake of clarity.

I strongly encourage interested readers to visit Setken's official artist website at www.setken.com , and to read the artist's own account of his neo-Kemetic works on his ongoing blog http://setkenblog.blogspot.com/.

Kemetic Titan: The Art of Setken

There is a spiritual movement that is growing ever stronger in momentum across the globe, and that movement is Kemeticism (known under a plethora of epithets including Kemetic Reconstructionism), the practice of Ancient Egyptian religious and/ or spiritual traditions.  This practice has at its center the goddesses and gods, netjeru, worshiped by the Ancient Egyptians, which are seen as living expressions of the natural and sacred world.  One might say that there are as many contemporary expressions of this ancient belief system as there are deities in its pantheon.  Online groups and temples abound, and this shows no sign of slowing down.  It is obvious- if one simply peruses the Internet- that the ancient religion of the Egyptians is calling to people from all walks of life, from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, spread across the United States and Europe.

A significant aspect of the Kemetic or Ancient Egyptian expression of the Sacred is its art and iconography, which finds articulation most famously in its massive stone temples and golden tomb treasures.  The ancient Egyptians celebrated their gods most profoundly through their art, which was not decorative, nor an expression of the individual artist's personality, but was, rather, a spiritual mechanism through which the netjeru-gods made direct contact with the material world.  For the Egyptians, the Gods lived within Their creation as opposed to outside it (as one sees in the views of contemporary monotheistic faiths), and it was through "art" that this relationship between the Sacred and the mundane transpired.  The colossal temples, covered in lavish bas-reliefs, and ornamented with monolithic obelisks and royal statues, were meeting places between Kemet (Egypt) and her gods, and were, in fact, large magnets, drawing the powers of the Gods down to the earth in order to perpetuate the ongoing work of creation.

Modern practitioners of Kemeticism are finding a powerful connection with the living gods of Ancient Egypt through these very same art forms.  Though the scale and materials may be altered from those employed in antiquity, there is no mistaking the source of neo-Kemetic art.  The traditional canon of gods and hieroglyphs remains vital, the deity forms as potent and engaging as ever.  A number of artists are emerging as forces to be reckoned with in the reemergence of ancient Egyptian spirituality today, and one of these is the Australian native Setken, a painter in what he calls the "neo-Kemetic" movement.

Setken is surprisingly not of impressive height.  From his pictures I had envisioned him as something of a muscle-bound giant, the kind of man you'd want as your personal security guard.  The muscles are certainly there, but a giant he is not- at least not a giant who overpowers with his physical height.  Setken's power is the force of his personality, which pours forth from his well developed and compact frame.  His stare is magnetic, like something you'd encounter from a rock star, and the rest of his appearance just oozes self-empowered rock star charisma.  With shaven head, aquiline nose, and forceful chin sporting a tastefully manscaped goatee, Setken arrests the viewer's attention and holds it precisely where he wants it.  Confidence is his bedfellow, and one might be forgiven for thinking him a tad bit self-important; however, Setken's self-assurance is generated from the sincerity of his personal values and convictions, which are that human immortality is inevitable, and that one who is bent on attaining it must charge ahead without fear of the unknown.  "The Sacred is dangerous", he once told me during one of our many and lengthy conversations.

I must admit, in case you hadn't noticed, that I am unashamedly a massive fan of Setken and his work as a neo-Kemetic painter.  It was something like love at first sight, because for me Setken's work rages with the thirst for eternal life that dominated the ancient Egyptian world view.  However, Setken does not attempt to copy the temple and tomb repertoire of Ancient Egypt word for word, hieroglyph for hieroglyph.  There is no doubt that Setken's muse is the vast legacy of Kemetic art to have come down to us from Egypt's ancient monuments.  All of his paintings vibrate with the familiar crowns, scepters, deity forms and hieroglyphs that one might expect of artworks paying homage to the traditional Egyptian canon, and yet Setken surprises us in every instance with his unique vision for a Kemet reborn into the modern world.

"Downloading Netjer"/ Acrylic on canvas, 30" x 40"
In "Downloading Netjer", the artist presents us with a vision of himself that is part symbolic self-portrait and part fetish fantasy.  A muscular space age man stares out at the viewer from behind the startling red insect-like eyes of a military gas mask.  The lavender hexagonal background, for me, signals the honeycomb of a million bees who have vacated the composition in order to collect their nectar in outer space.  But it is the artist himself who is the bee collecting, for his body is attached to snaking tubes being fed by the mummiform and kneeling images of netjeru-gods, each enshrined in their own brightly illumined space.  The inference is clear to this viewer:  the artist is a modern man, who, in this day and age, is receiving spiritual transmissions from active deities who still have something vital to transfer to the consciousness of humankind.

This is precisely what excites me, attracts me, and forces me to pay attention to Setken's work.  Setken is not some decorative artist, creating pretty copies of the same old tomb or temple scenes already repeated a million times over on contemporary papyri and tourist trinkets (ho hum...my eyes rolling unavoidably).  He is a visionary artist with a direct connection (via gas mask and vacuum tubes?) to ancient and living gods, to a millenniums-old tradition that is feeding new devotees in the age of the iPad and Twitter.

Is this what Setken is saying to us in "Downloading Netjer"?  Isn't he telling us that the ancient goddesses and gods of Egypt are living right here, right now in our time and space?  Isn't this unusual painting pointing out the fact that gods are immortal, not fixed 3,000 years ago in the temples of old...but using humankind's current technological advances to transmit spiritual awareness to the contemporary body of man?  Setken affirms the truth of this view for himself:

"Maybe the modern computer age, which has come upon us very, very quickly, is teaching us new ways to think about accessing information, such as the concept of downloading, and maybe because we know that we can magically- through the wifi universe- download something onto our computer, maybe we can download things from outside our normal realm of perception that affect, for example, our spiritual well being or spiritual anatomy.  

"To be honest, I cannot remember how "Downloading Netjer" began.  Again, there was the hexagonal background.  I know that I was working on a sketch...where I was really putting the deities into a science fiction context.  I had seen Prometheus and was very influenced by that at the time, by that film.  I had wanted to incorporate my body into a painting somehow, for magical reasons, and also probably because I was moving out of the phase of modelling and entertaining...all that sort of stuff...and I guess was trying to transition to this new area of being an artist.  

"Well, I wasn't going to sit and draw a painting of myself the way (Paul) Cezanne or (Vincent) Van Gogh might paint themselves, and so this was a way to get me into a painting.  

"The gas mask, besides having that fetish element to it- and the fact that I like that just on a visual level- also suggested that we need to move into a different state in order to start to receive this download.  We can't just walk outside and say (snaps fingers): "Hey, let's download something from the netjeru".  There has to be a process, and I was starting to feel this process through the process of using natron (ritual purification salt), through the process of using offerings, through doing senuts (devotional rituals).  

"When I first came across these concepts, I was not comfortable with them.  I thought, you know, this is religious mumbo jumbo, but, you know...try it...see it...and then I realized that it was part of this overall technology that I'm finding is unfolding, that actually works.  I used natron, and I could feel shifting in my energy field.  It did something.  By doing something with an offering, it was opening a dialogue.  By doing the ritual of the senut, it was preparing me for magic further down the track...but it was also opening up that dialogue that I was beginning even more, so of course I wanted to explore that even more, and "Downloading Netjer" was a reflection of that at the time.  

"I think that the concept of downloading and being able to integrate something into our hard drives works quite well for the modern mind and is appealing, so I think that whilst that painting is not one that I consider my greatest, I liked that I was able to incorporate those kind of traditional images of the netjeru at the top inside their shrines, and then underneath them was this very science fiction kind of thing with fetish elements, et cetera...bringing it into a different thing again".

What Setken's work accomplishes with potency is reinforcing the continuity of the netjeru and the transmission of Their wisdom from distant past to present.  These images beg inquiry into the nature of the Sacred Self, the Soul, the spiritual consciousness, and how that consciousness can be fed and expanded by the Gods.  And just who or what are the Gods?  Setken's paintings tell us that the Gods are beings of infinitely expanded consciousness, beings who can and will give us the "download" of Their divine minds.  Far from being mere lifeless statues gathering dust in a museum, Setken gives us dynamic deities Who are actively engaging modern man in the process of becoming divine.

The art of Setken is valuable to modern practitioners of the ancient Egyptian religion because of its perspective that asks us to open up our eyes, both physical and spiritual, in order to receive the download of ancient Gods who may very well be the future of the human race.

Djoser Ab/ Acrylic on canvas, 36" x 48"

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hwt-Her/ Hathor: Touching the Goddess of Love (Part 2)

Detail from the under drawing of "Hwt-Her Mistress of the Sky"

Love, how I'd love to slip down to the pond,
bathe with you close by on the bank.
Just for you I'd wear my new Memphis swimsuit,
made of sheer linen, fit for a queen-
Come see how it looks in the water!

              -An Egyptian love song of the New Kingdom(1)

The New Kingdom (c. 1550-1307 BCE)(2) of ancient Egyptian history provides tantalizing glimpses into the private lives of a people whose elite were apparently fond of lavish drinking parties and dazzling displays of hair and jewelry.  It is the private tombs of the nobility, burrowed into the amber cliffs of the Theban mountains, that give the most intimate insights into the minds of a people who were determined to make their physical lives last forever.  The ancient Egyptians were believers in the reality of literal resurrection, and their afterlife was an extension of all the pleasures that earthly existence has to offer.

In tombs like that of Rekhmire, Nakht and Ramose(3) we become privy to scenes meant exclusively for the Blessed Dead and their gods.  Nubile serving girls- clad in transparent dresses or fully nude- pour out libations and tend to the needs of elegantly attired guests.  Hips are tight, buttocks pert and firm, breasts high and round with painted nipples.  Vizier and Theban mayor Rekhmire was a man of sophisticated tastes, if not erotic and sensual, if we are to trust the masterful paintings that grace the halls and corridors of his high status tomb(4).  

A panoply of lively girls dominates scenes of a drinks party composed solely of women, and these are the elegant, sophisticated and fashionable beauties that surely embodied the ideal of Egypt's finest erotic love poems and songs.  Hair is hidden beneath wigs composed of massive plaits and curls, a signal of eroticism to an ancient Egyptian audience.  One servant girl, whose dusky face is almost entirely hidden by her elaborately braided tresses, is depicted with her tight little bottom facing the viewer, both cheeks visible through her transparent garment(5).  This idea of transparency, of the naked female body peering out from form fitting (or wet) royal linen, was a theme or fantasy of the New Kingdom mind, where a male lover longs to be teased by seeing the body of his beloved visible through her soaking wet dress.  Sheer linen is itself a poetic device for eroticism:

For her no bedtime in mere royal linen,
and girl, beware coarse common cloth-
Then grace her in her sheerest tunic,
touch her with your rarest perfumes,
Ang go.
She is prepared(6).

All of these may seem somewhat gratuitous or debauched, all of this flesh and eroticism on so apparent a display, but the Egyptians were lovers of love and the act of love, which not only bestowed pleasure and progeny, but was a manifestation of youthful eternal life, which was the constant goal of the ancient Egyptian universe.  Lovely ladies with open and naked thighs (as described in New Kingdom tomb paintings) were the vehicles through which an eternal rebirth could transpire.  They embodied the sexual magic of divine becoming, through which the dead man could achieve immortality in the Fields of the Blessed(7).  In such scenes, buxom women wearing flowering lotus blossoms upon their huge wigs, or clutching the same to their bosoms, were the progenitors of the deceased man, whose femininity and eroticism guaranteed eternal life.

Why, that girl's better than any prescription,
more to me than the Pharmacopoeia-
My own secret Hathor Home Remedy?-
Her slipping into my room from the road!
(have her examine me, then watch my energy!)(7)

Hwt-Her, Hathor is used in this humorous love poem from the New Kingdom as a divine provider of sexual potency for a frustrated lover, for it is Her influence that can rescue a man from impotence, or coerce a reticent lover to engage in the act of love.  At all periods of Egyptian history, the bovine Goddess Hwt-Her oversees sexuality, fertility and childbirth, but just as significant becomes the very embodiment of love paired with feminine beauty(8).

In regards to beauty, it seems that this rather erotically disposed goddess used every faculty possessed by woman in order to keep the operation of the divine world running smoothly.  During the disastrously long Contendings of Heru and Seth, where the outcome of a family trial had cosmic significance, the Sun-God Ra is insulted by a disgruntled minor god and withdraws from the proceedings to pout, an act that could spell disaster for any resolution to the violent conflict.  This is no problem for Hwt-Her, though, for She knows just how to brighten up the day of any crestfallen god.  She lifts up Her dress and flashes Her golden vagina at the sullen Sun-God, Who, forgetting why He was angry in the first place, returns to the trial proceedings(9).

In "Hwt-Her Mistress of the Sky" I present the Goddess of Love in Her erotic form that would be easily recognizable to any New Kingdom Egyptian.  The wig of the Goddess is taken from a heavily layered and plaited look representing the height of fashion during the 18th and 19th Dynasties(10).  This is not done for arbitrary reasons, but is strictly symbolic, representing Hwt-Her as the Goddess of erotic and sexual pleasures, a goddess who provides sexual joy through the vehicle of cosmetic beauty.  During the New Kingdom the Egyptians associated a woman's heavy tresses with sexual allure, which in a funerary context would read magically as the power to conceive and reproduce, that is to say, physical immortality.

Sexually symbolic and emblematic of divine cult images is the proliferation of jewelry placed upon the Goddess.  The traditional cuff bracelets and anklets are characteristic of those offered in temples to the cult statues of the Gods as part of the Daily Ritual.  Of course, my two-dimensional icon is not a cult statue, but it is a cult image which may magically stand in for a cult statue.  In fact, it is being insinuated by the placement of the jewelry that this image represents both the Goddess Herself and a statue of the Goddess, a cult statue adorned with the jewels and regalia bestowed to the Goddess during Her morning toilet in the temple.

The Goddess Hwt-Her bedecked in amuletic jewelry celebrating the Daily Ritual of the Divine Cult

Rearing up from the long and braided plaits of the Goddess' wig is the iaret (Greek uraeus), the cobra goddess with flared hood who was known to spit fire and venom at enemies of the Gods and the divine kings of Egypt.  Specifically, the inflamed cobra was a form assumed by the Goddess Wadjet, the Eye of the Sun-God Ra with Whom Hwt-Her was often associated.  This icon is an image that celebrates the solar identity of the Goddess, Who embodies both the creative and destructive power of Ra as Lord of the Sky.

We find the Wedjat Eye, the Eye of Ra staring out at us from one of the bracelets of Hwt-Her, for in this image She is both Eye and Daughter of Ra, though it is Her creative, not destructive power that is being manifest here.  This fact is symbolized by the double papyrus umbel bracelet the Goddess wears on Her other arm, which has the badge of the Sun-God Ra in its center.  Constantly this icon strives to bring the viewer back to the central solar theology in which the Goddess Hwt-Her occupies a prime position.  She is both Daughter and Consort of the Sun-God, the very hand of His cosmic power, and it is She Who uplifts the Sun and charges the heavens with their beauty, light and regularity.  One cannot fail to notice that the disk of the sun is being cradled in the twisted cow horns upon the Goddess' head, and once again we find the rearing cobra standing up as the protectress of cosmic, solar order.

The shoulders and neck of the Goddess are embraced by the falcon wings of Heru, the Goddess' spouse, from Whom She borrows part of Her name.  Hwt-Her means "House (or Mansion) of Heru", and to display such closeness I have depicted the wings of the god protecting...one might say hugging the Goddess.  He is, in fact, bestowing His power, and at the same time receiving the consecration of the Goddess.  As "Mistress of the Sky" and "House of Heru", Hwt-Her is the very embodiment of the celestial vault in which the falcon god makes His home.

Two-dimensional images of the Goddess Hwt-Her commonly depict Her in a very close-fitting sheath dress, and in both private and royal tombs of the New Kingdom this dress is shown as having a specific pattern that in my view must have originated from the nets of brightly glazed faience beads that high status Egyptian women wore over their sheath dresses.  

A faience beaded net and dress from the 4th Dynasty/ Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 This is precisely what I am intending to show in my representation of Hwt-Her's skin-tight sheath dress, which when painted will show as transparent royal linen, calling to mind the poetic fantasy of beholding a woman's naked flesh through wet royal linen.  Because of its transparency, the viewer will be able to see the sumptuous gold cowrie shell girdle, emblematic of the female sex organs, which hugs the Goddess' sensuous thighs closelyMy icon of Hwt-Her is a sacred image of a goddess who epitomizes, and quite unashamedly so, the powerful sexuality and beauty of all women.  (Part 3 to be posted soon).

Close up of detail showing the beaded net covering the form-fitting dress of the Goddess


1) Foster, John L.  Love Songs of the New Kingdom.  Austin, Texas, 1974, pp. 20.

2) Dates are those given by Professor John Baines and Dr. Jaromir Malek in their Atlas of Ancient Egypt.
3) For beautifully illustrated and described essays on these three New Kingdom tombs, see Weeks, Kent R.  Valley of the Kings.  Vercelli, Italy, 2001, pps. 384-389, pps. 390-397, pps. 408-413.  See also the Metropolitan Museum of Art's facsimile of the three musicians from the tomb of the scribe Nakht.  Wilkinson, Charles K.  Egyptian Wall Paintings: The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Collection of Facsimiles.  New York, 1983, pp. 53. 
4)  Ibid., pps. 384-385.
5)  ) Ibid., pp. 385.  See also the Metropolitan Museum of Art's facsimile of this scene.  Wilkinson, Ibid., pp. 96.
6)  Foster, Ibid., pp. 61.
7) Wilkinson, Richard H.  Symbol & Magic in Egyptian Art.  London, 1994, pps. 182-183.
8)Redford, Donald B.  The Oxford Essential Guide to Egyptian Mythology.  New York, 2002, pp. 158.
9)Meekes, Dimitri and Favard-Meeks, Christine.  Daily Life of the Egyptian Gods.  London, 1993, pp. 42.
10) My specific reference for this version of the Hwt-Her wig came from a relief of the Goddess in the tomb of Tausert and Setnakht.  See Weeks, Kent R.  Valley of the Kings.  Pp. 227.