April 13, 2012

G is for graciousness

Posted in Being Kemetic, Pagan Blog Project 2012 at 2:33 pm by

For the Pagan Blog Project:

Ra in the sky is gracious to you, and he conciliates the Two Lords for you. “Night” is gracious to you, the Two Ladies are gracious to you. Graciousness is what has been brought to you, graciousness is what you see, graciousness is what you hear, graciousness is in front of you, graciousness is behind you, graciousness is your portion — a fresh p3t-cake [offering-cake].

— Utterance 44, Pyramid Texts, Faulkner translation

I have my marching orders again: this time, Bast wants me to write about “graciousness.” And as with “desire,” my first reaction was, “…What?” I thought I was mishearing, but it kept coming up. So.

According to Webster’s, to be gracious is to have the qualities of kindness and courtesy, tact and delicacy, mercy and compassion. It can also refer to having charm, a pleasing appropriateness, the tasteful leisure of wealth and good breeding — and a generous spirit that shares those blessings with others. These qualities were highly honored in ancient Kemet and often featured in burial inscriptions listing the accomplishments of the deceased:

I am one who was gracious to all who reached him.
I am one without deficiency who loved excellence and took time
      for every son.
I am one without destructiveness who loved foundation,
      gracious before the one who encountered him.

— Declaration of Virtue by Horemheb (quoted in Karenga, Maat, p. 128)

Graciousness is also a quality that belongs to Bast — or at any rate, to Bast as I experience Her. I don’t get “blood and perfume” Bast, or wrathful Bast, or playful kitten Bast, at least not primarily, although those aspects are part of Her nature. The Bast who comes to me is regal but not distant, giving and forgiving, wise and subtle and calm (and She certainly does appreciate the finer things in life!) And above all, She is kind. So very kind.

The word for “to be gracious” in Kemetic is hotep, which also has many other meanings. As a verb it can mean to pardon or forgive; to be pleased, happy, or satisfied; to be at peace or to be calm; or to rest, go down, or set as the sun does. (Perhaps this is why “my” Bast is also a sunset Bast.) As a noun, it can mean a boon, favor, or gift; pleasure, happiness, or satisfaction; grace, pardon, or forgiveness; or peace, calm, or safety. It can also mean either an offering table or the offerings themselves.The Pyramid Text utterance quoted above (which appears on offering tables from the Third Intermediate and Late Periods), equates graciousness with the p3t-cake, or offering cake, itself associated with the sound Eye of Heru. The offering, divinized, closes the circuit between humans and Gods — it stands for a great wholeness, just as the Eye, restored, is whole.

Sem priest with p3t cake
The Liturgy of Funeral Offerings)

And so graciousness is connected with offerings, and thus with the reversion of offerings: the gift given by the Gods that is returned and returned again, around and around, in and out, like breathing. In graciousness the Two Lords (Heru and Set) come together, the Two Lands come together, the cobra and the vulture bestow their protection, day and night are kindly and at peace.

Graciously we receive, and graciously we give, and graciously we live.

May we learn to be gracious with each other every day.

O Peaceful One who turns to peace, as You are gracious, may I be gracious too.

Dua Bast!

Some sources:
Jan Assman, The Mind of Egypt (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2002). [Google Books preview]
Edward P. Butler, “Horus,” http://henadology.wordpress.com/theology/netjeru/horus/.
R. O. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts (Stilwell, Kansas: Digireads, 2007). [Google Books preview]
Harold M. Hays, “A New Offering Table for Shepenwepet,” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 40 (2003), pp. 47-60. Accessed at: https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/handle/1887/16164.
Maulana Karenga, Maat, the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt: A Study in Classical African Ethics (Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press, 2006). [Google Books preview]
Tamara Siuda, “Kemetic Word of the Day 3: Hotep,” Daily Devotions, May 27, 2003.


  1. Shefyt said,

    April 13, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    (I wonder if this could count for “H” too….)

  2. Josephine said,

    April 13, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Very nice post! It was thought-provoking too…I could show more graciousness in my own life.

  3. Helmsman Of-Inepu said,

    April 13, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    I hadn’t seen all of the meanings for hotep. Interesting!

    Bast gives you some very good suggestions. :D

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