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The Gods Are Where We Are: Living Polytheism in the 21st Century/ Part 3

NOTE: This feature was originally published on April 13, 2021 by Aparna Sridhar in Soft Power Magazine

You speak a lot about ancestral worship. Why do you think our ancient civilizations worshipped ancestors on par with the deities?

Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa: Firstly, we recognize that our Ancestors have a vested interest in our success as human beings, that They want us to succeed in our endeavors, and that They understand what it means to live a human life fraught with all the difficulties and sufferings mortal life presents. Our immediate blood relations - those with whom we shared the closest familial ties while they were alive - are especially cognizant of the challenges we face on a day to day basis, and are more likely to lend us a compassionate ear once they have passed over into the spiritual world. Among these persons we might also choose to consider not only our blood relatives, but also very close friends who shared with us a deep spiritual connection. This would include peers in our religious communities, fellow devotees, teachers, gurus, satgurus, kulagurus, and āchāryas. We should understand that our karma has brought us into the presence of such persons, and that these ties will be passed down from lifetime to lifetime, meaning that they are also within our family of Ancestors and can be approached through prayer and devotion for the transmission of blessings.

In the Kemetic traditions we recognize the presences of the Akhu, "Shining Ones" or "Effective Spirits", Who embody all those Who have transmigrated the after death states and, because of Their virtuous deeds while alive, have received justification before the Gods and won a direct place in the domain of the Gods. While ones blood relations may be considered one's Akhu, it should be kept in mind that many Kemetics are non-Egyptians whose blood relations and family ancestors might be antagonistic to Kemetic beliefs, might be Christian, agnostic, atheist, or simply not on good terms with one, or for other reasons might not be responsive to the petitions of ancestor cultus. How does one maintain an ancestor practice under such conditions? Also, it is important to many Kemetics (practitioners of the ancient Egyptian religion) - who do not have blood ties to the native country of their faith - to establish spiritual ties with those who do, and the way in which this is achieved is through a sustained ancestor cultus to Egyptians who served the netjeru, that is, by petitioning those ancient Akhu or Blessed Dead with whom they feel a special connection. Kemetics who engage in this kind of Ancestor veneration often find themselves being "adopted" by ancient practitioners of their faith who are not related to them by blood, but become a source of spiritual strength and kinship nonetheless.

Why do our ancient traditions place such emphasis on Ancestor veneration? Because our Ancestors have already passed through the material world and entered the numinous spheres inhabited by the Gods, and it is through Their experiences that we too might gain insight and blessings from the Gods we share with Them. Our thread of connection with our Ancestors - be They Ancestors by blood or spiritual ties - is intimate due to our common humanity, our common emotions, needs, desires, and suffering of mortality. These are experiences our Ancestors understand from direct experience, including the affliction of mortality itself, which the eternal Gods, the devas and netjeru, do not share with us because Their state is numinous and not constricted by physical dissolution.


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