Since I didn’t have much original content to add to the discussion, I wrote a Platonic dialogue feat. myself and a couple of the akhu I work with. This is ~75% fictional as my entity-phone does not work that well and I can’t really astral consistently.
“Am I a priest?” I ask myself and apparently I do it loud enough to startle the akh who was reading the Pluriverse over my shoulder.
“This is an odd question, kiddo. It’s not like you can become a priest by mistake or unwittingly, right?” he replies, recovering admirably quickly from his surprise.
“I guess? I don’t know? We’re doing a round-table debate thing among kemetics and everybody is like, I didn’t think I was a priest but as it turns out probably I am. I am confused,” I confess.
“Maybe I can help. Let’s pretend is a job interview for a priestly role, maybe it will help you get clarity,” he proposes.
“No offence, but have you ever done a job interview?” I ask.
“I will have y tat I have done loads, especially for priests. I had to replace a whole load of them through my career, and it was a highly selective process,” he replies, trying to look down his imposing nose at me, not an easy feat since he’s noticeably shorter than me.
“Alright, alright, let’s do it then,” I acquiesce.
“Great, so… do you have any experience with doing rituals for cosmic maintenance and re-charging divine power?” he starts.
Easy questions first, eh?
“Yes , well, sure,” I reply, after a moment of hesitation “Last January I have done 8 consecutive days of Ptah Lifts the Eye ritual, I regularly offer Ma’at to the nTrw and I even tried to do morning and evening hymns to Ra for a bit, before it became too much,”
” I can see why it did. Your sleeping schedule is horrendous,” the akh replies.
“Gee, thanks for letting me know,”
“Anytime, kiddo. So, are you familiar with temple hymns and rituals?” he continues blythely, ignoring my sarcasm.
“Sure. I mean, except for some personal piety stuff left from your time period or thereabouts, most of what we have left of religious practices and texts comes from temple ritual because normal folks were illiterate. That used to be secret knowledge, but it’s all over the internet now. People use it on the regular,” I explain with a shrug.
“Some people are still having conniptions over that Over There, but you all think it’s a good thing, right? Open Source, commons and all that,” he points out.
“Yeah, I mean, that is exactly it… I am surprised you caught up on that, though,”
“I read more than economic policy over your shoulder, kiddo. Information is the key to victory, I have learned that the hard way,” the akh points out with a wry smile.
I refrain from commenting, but yeah, everybody who knows him knows how hard he learned that. Oof. Better to let it go.
“Good for you, man,” I say instead, wondering how often he does that and how many questionable fanfics he might have ended up reading. Poor dude. Maybe I should warn him before going on AO3 next time.
“Have you got any experience writing your own prayers and rituals based on temple ones?” he continues, keeping in character.
“I have written plenty of devotional poetry, some hymn-like, and a few rituals. Sometimes there isn’t anything already made and Reidy just doesn’t cut it,” I reply, glad of the change of topic.
“There is nothing wrong with Reidy, kiddo,” he chides.
“Not as such, no, but it’s super long and involved and it’s not like I have all that time to spare, do I? You just said I don’t sleep enough,” I retort.
“It’s still shorter than what we used to do back in the day,” he points out.
“Back in the day people didn’t have two other jobs on top of doing rituals, did they? Being a priest was a full time, well-remunerated job with all the benefits,” I insists and, surprisingly, he backs off.
“Fair enough. Let’s move on, shall we? Do you have experience organising public rituals?”
“A little bit? It’s more fun and more power if you have a group of friends to do a ritual with. We can’t do it all the time, though, people are very busy, but we try,”
“I’ll put that down as a yes,” he summarises.
“And do you study and/or analyse the nature of the nTrw, of Ma’at and of the world and write essays and commentaries about it?” he asks finally.
“Guilty as charged. I do it for fun,”
“Nerd,” he teases.
“Jock,” I tease right back and his reaction leaves me kind of speechless for a moment.
“I love you too, kiddo,” he says with a fond smile.
“And the results are in, I’d say,” he continues, switching back to his usual confident, flippant attitude “You perform many of the functions of a priest already, you know how to read and write and have all those juicy transferable skills to do with budgeting and project management. Back in the day you’d definitely be hired. Not as a high priest straight away, you’re too junior for that, but perhaps as a more junior position, like lector or sem,” he explains smoothly, in what must be the oddest instance of career counselling ever.
“Thanks, I guess?” I venture weakly.
“You don’t seem too happy. Why is that?” he asks, looking puzzled.
“I don’t know. I never imagined myself as a priest, you know? I am just a bookworm who cannot keep a schedule to save zir own life. And I am, like, not sure we should have priests. This is how you end up having organised religion,” I try to explain.
“And we all know you emphatically don’t like that,” he concludes for me, poking me in the ribs with a finger.
“I don’t think it’s the right kind of thing for kemeticism. We can’t become just yet another random church with an elite of people who Do Things and a whole lot of spectators who have no say in how things are organised and which direction our theology is going,” I retort, stepping away. I am not really in the mood for beaing teased. Not about that.
“From the sounds of it, it looks like you’ll have a whole group of people who are all priest-like in some ways. That sounds pretty horizontal, doesn’t it?” he insists with an unconcerned shrug.
“Think about it, you’re all tied up with that leaderfulness and peer-to-peer kingship concept, aren’t you?” he continues and I cannot help but nod in agreement.
I have been banging on that drum for long enough that all the akhu that hang around me must be sick of it.
“Well, I’ll have you know that priestly functions were a big part of being a king, back in the day, so as a sovereign person among sovereign persons, child of Ra, and all that, it stands to reason that you have to priest as well, sometimes,” he explains animatedly, gesticulating widely.
“Priest is not a verb.” That’s all I can object, because he’s not wrong, is he?
If sacred kingship is distributed, then the function of cosmic maintenance is too and that is making Ma’at, sure, but it is also performing the rites to energise the nTrw and be energised in turn. Because all flourishing is mutual.
“It is now,” he retorts with a smug smile, crossing his arms on his chest and cocking an eyebrow at me.
I low-key want to slap the smugness off his face, but even though he’s a whole 4 inches shorter than me and all dressed up in the finest linen and enough jewellry for Madonna, he’s a fighting nut, and I don’t want to get my ass handed out to me, not even in the astral.
“I am not a sore loser,” I tell myself, counting slowly to ten.
“Let’s say you’re right…” I start, casting him a withering glance when he opens his mouth to speak.
“We’re priesting because basically that’s what we’re all primed to do nowadays because of our sources, but actually we could say we’re not priesting, we’re kinging,” I propose.
“That’s not a verb either,” he points out, but I just decide to ignore him and carry on.
“And ultimately it doesn’t matter much because what matters is cosmic maintenance and community building.”
“That’d be fun to do if everybody is a king,” he comments.
“You somehow managed not to have another war with the Hittites for fifty years, didn’t you? Even if you were a massive jerk to their Labarna,” I point out.
The akh blushes almost as red as his hair.
“To be fair he deserved it,” he protests weakly.
“I am not contesting that. He was a premium grade a-hole, but still. If you lot could do it, we can do it,” I declare confidently.
“And how would you go about it?” he challenges.
“Uh, I don’t know. Maybe set up affinity groups to deal with specific projects in a non-hierarchical way? Share resources online, sort of like a library? Make up a calendar of ritual events people can drop into? Uhhhhh… And maybe make up a code of conduct and a declaration of anti-fascist and anti-racist principles for Ma’at, and for the rest leave folks to practice however the heck they like? Something like a kemetic Pluriverse, a world where many worlds can fit?” I blurt out.
“Hey! That’s not half bad for a… What do you call it again? Oh yes, a high-speed-bulshitting session,” he applauds.
Evidently my awful language has rubbed off on him. Yay me.
“It’s a good start,” I concede.
“I am a good mentor, admit it,” he prods, grinning wide.
I cast him another withering look.
“Eh, you’re alright,” I retort but even that cannot burst his self-congratulatory bubble.
“I am glad it helped you,” he continues.
“Is Yaru so boring you’re happy to play sounding board to a random kemetic?” I cannot help but ask.
“Not many random kemetics give us blanket invitations to reside in their head rent free and read their books over their shoulder,” he points out.
“And not many akhu have a chance to help shape what kemeticism will look like in the future. Like I always tell Father, we chose well in picking you,” he adds after a brief, thoughtful pause.
“Uh,” I say, while trying to articulate.
“But if you want to consider yourself in debt, you could get the Kate Raworth book to read next,” he concludes with another wide grin.
“Don’t even try, you scoundrel! You’ve picked the last book already! It is my turn now!” another akh interrupts, dark eyes glinting with fury.
“Then you should have tried to make yourself useful like I do, instead of moping around muttering about the agrarian reform. Such a mentor you are,” my self-appointed mentor retorts, seemingly unconcerned, but he stands and his casual stance shifts into a loose guard.
Did I mention that Akh #2 is a fighting nut as well?
The situation does not bode super well. They’re not armed, yet, but in the astral that can change in the blink of an eye and I don’t want to end up being collateral damage or having to explain to friends and family of the akhu why they went back to Yaru or Asphodel looking like they’d been through a meat grinder.
“You arrogant…” Akh #2 grits out, taking a step forward, but before things can escalate any further I place myself directly between them, keeping them apart by virtue of the fact that neither is mad enough to be willing to harm me to get to the other, yet.
“Look, folks, there is absolutely no need to behave like this. The Pluriverse has lots of bits about the agriculture and debt, as well as economic policy, and the Kate Raworth book will be the same. Now, you can cut this competitive crap and be my mentors together, or I can ban you both from the reading sessions,” I declare.
“You wouldn’t!” they exclaim in unison.
“Do you want to test that hypothesis?” I challenge.
The two do not reply but, reluctantly stand down, muttering under their breath as they return to their seats.
“That’s better,” I say.
Positive reinforcement is supposed to be good, isn’t it?
“Now where were we? Ah, yes, buen vivir as a political praxis,” I comment, restarting the session.
At some point I will have to write the whole priesting discussion down, but that is a problem for future me.
Present me already has zir hands full making sure the reading session doesn’t end in a free-for-all.