1000 of Every Good Thing: Kemetic Practice & Exploration
A blog about Kemetic practices, myths, deities, and concepts, as well as the realities of worshiping the gods in the modern world.
Setting Up a Shrine: One Kemetic's Method, Part I: Home Shrine
Giving offerings and sacrifice are vital to Kemeticism and religions like it. It is telling that the first prohibition placed on the ancient religions was to outlaw sacrificing and offering to the gods. Kemeticism isn't a religion where you can say you agree to a set of beliefs in your head, and then do nothing. If you're not actually at least offering, if not observing feast days, you're missing out. It's through actions, not thoughts or beliefs alone, that we bring ourselves closer to the gods.
The image of the god can be the most important part of the shrine. It provides a visible, tangible focus to the god, and can be Opened (ritually activated as a vessel for the god, as was done in the temples), though Opening is not necessary for the average home practitioner.
However, that doesn't mean you have to get a resin statue of the god in question, though they look good and are a popular choice. Photos or other 2-dimensional images can also be used to great effect, and, where space is at a premium, can have advantages over the usual resin statue. Worshipers with artistic skill can make sculptures, paintings, or other artwork of the gods. Worshipers can also purchase custom-made sculptures/images from artists.
(I'd like to add that while some practitioners may prefer shrines without images of the gods, and that's perfectly fine, this isn't what I did here, and I personally find the images helpful, as someone who is firmly rooted in the visual and the physical, unable to visualize his way out of a wet paper bag.)
If you wish to Open the Mouth of your god image (that is, to ritually activate the image as a vessel for the god, like you may want to make or purchase a more durable one, like a statue,plaque, or a painting, something more durable than a photograph or printout. The actual Opening of the Mouth is outside the scope of this article, and isn’t something I will write much about since I have no personal experience with Opening images. This is because I don’t have the time or resources to adequately care for one, so that’s all I’ll say on that.
In my case, I decided to use 2-d pictures placed in photo frames, since space is at a premium. Using framed pictures offers another advantage: You can "close" the photo frames when the shrine isn't in use, like closing the kar-shrine/naos by either turning the frame around, or closing the frame. In my case, I use a hinged 3-part photo frame and a single frame to hold the picture of the four gods I focus on. (Hathor, Ra, Djehuty, and the deified spirit of Emperor Julian).
I find that, even though the images have not been Opened, being able to close the shrine adds something to the shrine and its use, probably because it means that not just anybody can look at the images whenever they walk into the room. It's also a way I can adapt an ancient practice (having god images in enclosed shrines) to modern realities. If you don’t feel having an open/closed set-up like this is personally appropriate, by all means, do something different!
Cloths to cover the table aren't essential, but are helpful, especially if you burn incense resin on charcoal, or even stick incense. Errant embers would then burn the cloth and not the table. They can also add beauty to the shrine. I use white since white is a universally favored color in ancient Egyptian culture, a neutral one, not linked to any one god, and which I also find is less likely to distract the eye. If your shrine is to one particular god and you use a cloth, you could use cloth of a color associated with the god, such as red for Sekhmet or Set or green for Osiris, etc.
In my case, I put a white cloth over the larger table, then placed a smaller table (originally a table for dolls, found at a yard sale) and placed the smaller table on the larger one. I covered it with what are actually two white cotton napkins (which were not used for anything else.) I put the three-part folding frame (for the images of Ra, Hathor, and Djehuty) on top of the smaller table and put the single frame (for the image of Julian) in front of the smaller table, standing on top of two hidden Altoids tins (left over from a never-completed mini-shrine project) to raise it above the oil warmer.
Candles are often a good lighting method, as they provide a warm, flickering light. If regular candles can't be used, there are flameless battery-powered tealight and votive candles that can be used. Incense is good for its smell and for its use as an offering to the gods. I prefer resins, like frankincense, but good pure stick incense can also be used.
Symmetry is important in making a beautiful shrine, so try to keep it symmetrical when possible. The god images here are along the central axis, with the candles on each side guiding the eye towards the gods
And there is the "behind the scenes" of this Kemetic's shrine. Up next, Part II, This Kemetic’s Travel Shrine.
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