People often ask me why my icons take so long to craft. We live in a society where instant gratification is taken for granted as a way of life. Everything in our modern consumer culture is governed by it; fast food, instant messaging, texting, dating, and entertainment. We expect everything we want to be delivered to us at the tap of a screen, and when it’s not, we move on to something that will. The sacred work I do as an iconographer is built on a foundation of painstaking craftsmanship using materials and techniques that take time; however, there is also another aspect of my work that requires patience, and that is its cultic requirements. These are ancient ritual standards for purity and empowerment that operate primarily according to a lunar calendar.
Each lunar month has its New (pesedjentiu), First Quarter (denat), Full (tep semdet) and Last Quarter (denat) observances, which are each marked by specific prayers and offering rites that bestow sanctification to the cult image as it progresses. Added to these primary lunar observances are the numerous feast days of the Netjeru of the Temple that occur throughout the year. These too must be punctuated by the appropriate prayers and offerings, which not only please the Gods, but also petition Them for Their acceptance of each cult image as a true cult image fit for divine habitation. These celestial events also govern when each phase of a cult image may begin and end.
Of course, it is not always possible for me to begin or end a particular phase of an icon on the actual lunar day ideal for it; there are technical challenges and setbacks, but in general I strive to align each phase of an icon’s creation with the ritually appropriate time specified by the lunar cycle. Through dreams and divination the Gods make clear Their intentions to the iconographer, and these can include *extra days* or *rites above the moon*, that is to say, ritual actions required by the deity on days or times that are beyond the typical. Each deity has its own unique requirements for establishing right relationship with it, and each cult image is a unique vessel tied to a specific aspect or aspects of a deity’s personality; and it is for these reasons that the time frame required to complete an icon may be extended beyond what is normal.