August 13, 2013

The Procession of Nesret in Akhet

Posted in Festivals, GodBling, Netjeru, Stalking Beauty at 2:11 pm by

More shrine pictures — because who doesn’t like shrine pictures? But first, some exposition.

Another entry on my personal calendar is the Procession of Nesret in Akhet. “Nesret” means “female flame” and is a title of the fiery Eye of Ra. Of course I appropriated this festival for Bast. (Is anyone surprised? Anyone? Bueller?) “In Akhet” is to distinguish it from the Procession of Nesret in Peret, which takes place in the second season (Growing), as opposed to this one, which is in the season of Inundation. The particular take I’ve given this festival is that it honors Bast as “the Flame whose coming heralds the Inundation.” (I have strong connections of fire and water and fire on the water for Her, so this speaks deeply to me.) It also connects tangentially to traditional Kemetic new year’s petitions to the Eye of Ra goddesses for protection — or at least lack of destruction — and a good year.

The festival observance includes calling upon the Four Sons of Bast. I had mentioned them very briefly here, and Khenne had asked for more information, which I didn’t feel up to providing at the time. I’m still in the very beginning baby steps of working with them, so I don’t have a whole lot of illumination to share, but here’s what’s relevant at the moment:

The Four Sons of Bast as a group aren’t historically a thing, but Bast does have four sons (at least — She may have others in various regional variations of Her worship, but these are probably the most prominent ones), and four is a highly significant number, associated with completion and perfection. (There’s also a precedent for this concept in the Four Sons of Heru.) The four are Nefertem, Ma’ahes, Khonsu-Heru, and Heru-hekenu. Yes, there are some familiar names there; three of them overlap with the Seven Arrows. In this festival, the Four Sons are called upon to go forth to the four horizons in order to protect and bless the land in the season of flood.

So I wrote this elaborate, all-day extravaganza of a ritual — well, all right, maybe not that much of an extravaganza, since it didn’t actually call for thirty dancing chantresses and a barque covered in gold leaf (sorry, Ibu), and the ritual parts didn’t actually run all day, just at certain times, so there was plenty of free time for relaxing in the presence of the Gods and communing with them. But it still proved too overwhelming for me to pull off this year, so instead I performed an abbreviated version, one that will also serve as the basis of a ritual chat I’m doing for this festival later in the week.

Ideally there would also be an observance for each of the Four Sons during this month — there were already festivals for Ma’ahes and Nefertem in the official calendar, and some basis for creating ones for Khonsu-Heru and Heru-hekenu — but I don’t know how elaborate these will be. Probably, given my current mental weather forecast (scattered with a chance of overwhelm), they’ll be rather simple. We’ll see.

Today is the actual date of the Procession of Nesret in Akhet, but this is my shrine from when I celebrated it on Sunday:

The full shrine, with statues of Bast and Her sons. The bowl in front of the shrine holds water and five floating candles, one of which was lit as each of the gods was called upon.

Close-up of the gods. (Be sure to click to embiggen.) In hindsight, when I commissioned these statues I should have had double crowns put on Heru-hekenu and Ma’ahes, but oh well. Too late now, and it would have added a lot of expense anyway, as Ma’ahes is a recasting of Nefertem without the lotus, and to add the crown would probably have involved creating a whole new model and mold.

An even closer shot of Bast Herself, with incense wafting before Her.
I feel a little conflicted about these statues sometimes. It was a lot of money to have them made — fortuitously supplied at just the right moments (thank You, Mama), so I never had to do without necessities or go into debt, but still, I have some guilt that maybe they’re purely a frivolity, a vanity. And then there are moments like in the middle of this festival, when I look at them standing there together with the flowers and the incense and the candlelight, receiving my prayers and libations, and I think, This is beauty. And it exists because of me — it wasn’t my hands and skill that created these forms, but it was my intent and motivation and desire to have images of my beloved gods that caused them to come into being. Maybe this is like what a patron of the arts in the Renaissance or in antiquity must have felt, a combination of pride and awe and humility. So I can’t really regret them.

And for today, the actual date of the Procession, a gesture less grand, but still beautiful:

Love You, Mama.

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