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Ancient Egyptian Wisdom ... Daily Practice

Friday, June 26, 2009

Remember the Time: A Tribute to Michael Jackson (8.29.1958 - 6.25.2009)

On Thursday afternoon Michael Jackson, also known as the "King of Pop", died of a heart attack at the age of 50. Jackson spent nearly his entire life in the public eye; first as a member of the "Jackson 5" band with his brothers, and then as the world's most successful solo pop artist. His 1982 album, Thriller, is still the world's best selling album.

Michael Jackson's personal life has always been characterized by more than his share of turmoil. From his relationship with his abusive father, to his continued use of cosmetic surgery to virtually annihilate his African features, to his legal battles fraught with claims of child molestation; Jackson was often embroiled in heated controversy. However, he undeniably stands as one of the greatest influences of both music and popular culture.

Today The Udjat celebrates the life and accomplishments of Michael Jackson through his ground-breaking 1992 song Remember the Time. Jackson took great risk with the song's accompanying video which was set in Ancient Egypt. Directed by popular African American director John Singleton, the video utilizes its title in "double entendre" fashion. The use of an all-African American cast argues that we should all "remember the time" that Africans were the rulers of one of the world's most preeminent formative civilizations. Certainly this image must have been difficult for so many of the proponents of a non-African origin to Ancient Egypt! Perhaps with a few more popular depictions, we might be able to have a genuine public dialog concerning the ancient role of Africans in the ebbing tide of human civilization. Shem em Hetep (Go Forth in Peace)! Enjoy!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Obama: Ancient Egyptian Glyph "Looks Like Me"

During his recent visit to Egypt, President Barack Obama toured the Pyramids and the Tomb of Qar with Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass. Obama is seeking to repair the United States' relationship with Muslims worldwide after decades of policies bolstering the state of Israel and two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In a genuinely unscripted moment in the tomb, Obama astutely noticed the Metu Neter glyph, "hr", which means "face". Most media outlets covered the humorous moment as Obama exclaimed "That looks like me! Look at those ears!" However the outlets have not explored the fact that the Ancient Egyptians chose to represent such a fundamental word with an image of a man with very clear African features.

Just last year when Nfr-Ka Ma'at and I travelled to Egypt, one of our older students noticed the glyph and commented on its appearance. "Why would they make the face so African if they weren't actually reflecting on themselves?" I wonder if Obama would have made his comment if the glyph was clearly a European with protruding ears? Can you imagine what Hawass must have been thinking? You can't tell me he hasn't already pondered this. In response to African American protesters calling for acknowledgement that the Black African heritage of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun in 2007, Hawass stated "Tutankhamun was not [B]lack, and the portrayal of ancient Egyptian civilisation as black has no element of truth to it." To make his comments even more confusing, Hawass continued, "Egyptians are not Arabs and are not Africans despite the fact that Egypt is in Africa." I'm quite sure Hawass was both surprised and disquieted by Obama's impromptu response to seeing his image ... our image ... etched in stone for all to remember.

Take a look at a picture of the glyph for yourself at the far right. Note the image's broad nose, wide lips and even what seems to be rows of tightly curled locks! Who were the Ancient Egyptians? Why do you continue to ask this question? Our ancestors knew we would have been forced into lands, that we would have been forced not to speak our names. They etched our images in stone for eternity. Shem em Hetep (Go Forth in Peace)!


CBS News - http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/06/04/politics/politicalhotsheet/entry5062724.shtml

MSNBC - http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/06/04/1953704.aspx


Independent Online (Quote taken from this article)- http://www.int.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=31&art_id=nw20070925175335472C333850

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Scientific Research or Sacrilege?: Should Ancient Egypt's Mummies be Studied?

The 2,000-year-old mummy of a child from Ancient Egypt's Greco-Roman period was CT scanned in Sydney, Australia this week. The child, named Heru, is one of 3 mummies "owned" by the University of Sydney's Nicholson Museum for nearly 150 years. Archaeologists and museum authorities were anxious to learn more about the child's past. "I'm amazed to actually discover that it is a seven-year-old male, for 140 years we thought it was a girl!" stated Michael Turner the museum's Senior Curator. All 3 of the mummies were given to the museum by one of its founders, Sir Charles Nicholson. Nicholson probably purchased the mummies during his trip to Egypt in 1856.

The story of the mummies in the Nicholson Museum raises several concerns that will probably not be discussed anywhere other than on The Udjat. Who did Charles Nicholson purchase these mummies from? What gave the seller or the purchaser the authority to engage in this transaction? When we acknowledge that most of Egypt's current inhabitants are probably not directly descended from the Ancient Egyptians, this question becomes even more galling. Many modern-day Egyptians even view the ancient religious practices of our Kemetic ancestors as bizarre or inappropriate. For those of you who have travelled to Egypt and purchased ankhs or shenu (misnamed cartouches), ask yourself how many of the Egyptians you purchased these items from wore them themselves?

While many historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists will hail the use of CT scans as the continuation of the new era of research on Ancient Egypt, I must ask: Is the research on these ancient bodies sacrilege? I know ... many of our readers who are versed on the development of the field of Egyptology will rightfully state that mummies were often used for the most vile, disrespectful purposes. Due to West's "fetishistic" beliefs about Ancient Egyptian mummies, mummies were ground into powders for "medicinal" use, burned as an inexpensive fuel for trains, and even used as fertilizer. Mummy bandages were also used for gift wrapping paper. I am aware that X-rays and CT scans of mummies are exclusively used for research into the lives of people who lived thousands of years ago, but my concerns are unabated.

Let's look at this issue from another perspective. Can we all actually say that we would allow archaeologists to exhume the body of a parent, or a prematurely deceased child? Aren't these mummies someone's relatives? I mean, who speaks for deceased Africans? Especially when most people of African decent today are so maligned and down-trodden that we can't even lay claim to our own communities. Would the United States government allow the government of Ghana the ability to exhume the body of George Washington for research? Would the Vatican permit the historically black higher educational institution, Howard University, to study the body of Pope John Paul II if requested? Of course not! Some of you might think that referring to a Pope is inappropriate. Trust me, I cite this hypothetical example not to offend, but to draw an interesting parallel. Just think, the Nsw-Bitiuw (Pharaohs) who led Ancient Egypt were also their nation's chief religious leader. Would the body of a popular leader from the United States be removed from their tomb to be placed on display? Who speaks for ancient Africans?

I also recognize that the underdevelopment of Africa through enslavement, colonialism, and neo-colonialism have created a situation where African descendants know very little about their ancestors. I am a practitioner of Kemetic spirituality. I know that without some of the intrusive studies on ancient Africans conducted by Europeans and others, I would not have had the knowledge to follow the ways of the ancients. However, when I travel to Egypt each year it feels very awkward to enter tombs in the Valley of the Kings or descend into the tombs of ancient kings through a hole cleaved in the side of a pyramid. These were meant to be vessels sealed into eternity.

Does the study, storage, and "ownership" of these mummies make you uncomfortable? Have I gone off the deep end? Had you ever thought of these issues in this manner? What are your thoughts? Post a comment. Vote in our poll. Until next time, shem em hetep (Go Forth in Peace)!

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/06/17/2600929.htm (The quotation used in this post was taken from this article).

Survey Results

Monday, June 15, 2009

Who Owns Ancient Egypt's Magnificent Artifacts?

This past April 454 ancient artifacts were returned to Egypt from the United Kingdom's Myers Museum. The items included ancient bronze coins and pottery which were probably smuggled from Egypt between 1972 and 1988; after the 1970 banning of the trafficking of antiquities by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

A specific listing of the items were announced by Hussein Al-Afuni, the Director of the Egypt's Red Sea antiquities department; they included 12 bronze coins, 4 scarabs, 94 beaded necklaces, 99 fragments of pottery with colored drawings, and 109 funerary figures. While 5,000 artifacts have been returned to Egypt through the UNESCO program since 2002, the trafficking of Ancient Egyptian artifacts continues to be a major concern. In December of 2008, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement returned 79 artifacts to the Ma'adi Museum in Cairo. The artifacts were among 370 items which were stolen from the museum in 2002 and ended up on the private antiquities market. With all of the articles that have been returned to Egypt, there are probably tens of thousands of items in museums, on public display, and in private collections.

As a native New Yorker, I think of all the items in our city alone. The collections of the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET) are among the best in the world. In fact, a large section of the Temple of Dendur was meticulously dismantled block by block and shipped to The MET to be situated in the middle of an indoor moat in their Sackler Wing. While the temple was legally given to The MET, many other antiquities were presented as gifts during foreign/colonial rule or simply smuggled. Consider that the most ubiquitous architectural monument of Ancient Egyptian art, the tekhen (known by the Greek name obelisk), is actually more prevalent outside of Egypt. While there are 29 known tekhenui (plural of tekhen), 20 of them have been shipped to many major cities around the world including London, New York, and Paris.

The Egyptian government's continuing demand for the return of many Kemetic artifacts leads us to one very important question; "Who owns the magnificent artifacts of Ancient Egypt?" Initially this question might seem rudimentary. Ancient Egyptian artifacts must belong to the people of Egypt ... right? Well what if we focused on the fact that the current government of Egypt is primarily comprised of individuals most would consider "Arabic" who entered the country during the Arab and Turkish invasions. Ethnically, these people are probably quite dissimilar to the indigenous Africans who peopled Kemet (Ancient Egypt) during the time of dynastic Egypt. After the decline of the Ancient Egyptian Empire, it was conquered by the Persians, Greeks, Romans and others.

Some of our readers probably think that linking the current Egyptian regime to foreign invasions is unfair. After all, we must acknowledge that while the majority of Egypt's current occupants are not indigenous to the nation, they are certainly not "colonial" rulers. They live in Egypt and view themselves as Egyptian. I recall having conversations with Egyptian friends during my trips about their ethnicity. In the United States, we would certainly call them "Arabs", but they always state that they are not Arabs, they are Egyptians. Their national identity tends to be very different than other nations bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Identity politics and self-determination are complex matters. They make this debate even more challenging.

While most would probably agree that most of Egypt's antiquities should probably remain on Egyptian soil, our question is really about the cultural and ethnic legacy of Ancient Egypt. Are these artifacts the birthright of Egypt's current Arab occupants, the much maligned Nubians, other indigenous Africans, the countries who currently own them, Diasporan Africans, or others? Be sure to watch the video of Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, attached to this post. Regular readers of The Udjat are aware that I am certainly not a fan of Hawass, but he does discuss (overtly and subtlety) some of the major issues in this debate. My personal belief is that these cultural prizes are the particular birthright of indigenous Africans and their relatives in the African Diaspora, but that they are also shared by all of humanity. Do you agree? What do you think? Please weigh in and let's get a dialogue going! Shem em Hetep (Go Forth in Peace)!


Al-Ahram Weekly - http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2009/946/eg3.htm

Bloomberg Online - http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601088&sid=aTp8L4YyrY6I&refer=muse

Survey Results - GlowDay.com

Friday, June 12, 2009

Egyptian President Promises Better Treatment of the Nubians

I must say that I am always amazed when media outlets in the United States fail to cover key international news events. Unfortunately this is routinely the case when Africans are involved. Thankfully this item was covered by the Asian news outlet, Taiwan News.

After touring the current home of the Nubians in Aswan province, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak publicly pledged better treatment of them. You may recall approximately 60,000 Nubians were relocated from their villages as a result of Aswan High Dam project during the 1960's. The dam project created the world's largest man-made reservoir, Lake Nasser, and flooded the Nubian villages and 18 ancient temples. Only the magnificent dual temple of the Pharaoh Ramses II, known as Abu Simbel, remains. Under a UNESCO plan, the monuments were moved to a higher elevation on an artificial hill overlooking the lake.

The Nubians were very skeptical of the Egyptian government's promises concerning their relocation. "The government promised us paradise, but we thought we were leaving the Garden of Eden," states outspoken activist and author Haggag Oddoul. In fact, the settlements were a poorly built ramshackle of 30 camps named for each of the flooded villages situated five miles east of the Nile. Within a short period, many of the one-story cinder block houses cracked or collapsed completely from their inferior construction. To make matters worse, the relocated inhabitants were not able to cultivate date fields or fish as they were accustomed. Their cotton and sugar cane crops were poor replacements.

For several years now the Nubians have been slowly returning to their traditional homeland along the Nile. "The settlements are false Nubia," explains Oddoul. "To restore our character and community, we need to be rerooted. We need to return." Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's pledge comes as the Egyptian government is poised to once again remove the Nubians from their homes. Several media outlets have begun to report a large scale agricultural, commercial, and residential development plan along approximately 300,000 acres. The plan even included large swaths of land set aside for foreign developers, but of course ... no allotment of land for the Nubians.

Who are these Africans who today struggle to maintain their cultural identity? The Nubian people were responsible for the world's oldest monarchy (more on this in future posts), the progenitors of the Dynasties of Ancient Egypt, and also stood as one the world's most powerful nations.

The Nubians have also served as humble caretakers of ancient African culture. As the Ancient Egyptian empire sat in tatters besieged by foreign rulers, the Nubian King Piye wrested control of Kemet to form the 25th dynasty. The Nubian Pharaohs of Kemet did not seek to remake the nation in their own image, but rather to re-establish the order of Kemet by returning it to its ancient ways. This approach is best described by Pharaoh Shabaka's restoration of "Memphite Theology" by ordering the re-writing of a decrepit papyrus on what is now called the Shabaka Stone. Today the Nubians still maintain their culture by retaining their own non-Arabic language. Interestingly, they will not teach their language to outsiders.

The current state of the Nubians is an all too appropriate metaphor for the plight of Africans and African Diasporans. Every year I have visit a Nubian village on the island once known as Elephantine. It is virtually difficult to see these humble, spiritual people as a once powerful nation. Their condition is an example of the under-development of Africa at the hands of foreign powers to numerous to name. Africans worldwide should stand behind them as they return to their homeland. I can't help but think of the words of a great African leader, the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey; "Up, up you mighty race! You can [once again] accomplish what you will!" Shem em Hetep!

Articles on Current Nubian Return to their Homeland:

Taiwan News - Egypt president pledges improved care for Nubians - http://www.etaiwannews.com/etn/news_content.php?id=973431&lang=eng_news

NY Times - Nubians push for a return to their drowned homeland (quotes taken from this article)- http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/23/world/africa/23iht-letter.2.18890692.html?_r=2

Egypt Then and Now - Development plan along Lake Nasser unfair to Egyptian Nubians - http://allaboutegypt.org/2008/12/development-plan-along-lake-nasser-unfair-to-egyptian-nubians/

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Path to Kemet and Our Daily Kemetic Prayer

My path to the spirituality of Ancient Kemet was certainly a long one. I always had an attraction to Ancient Egypt. I was enthralled by the myths, the "gods", and the architecture. I felt that something in my soul was at home whenever I contemplated the ways of our ancient ancestors.

I was raised a faithful Roman Catholic. I was baptised, received Holy Communion, did Penance, and attended Roman Catholic schools from kindergarten straight through high school. I even felt very at home in my parish church, Sacred Heart. It was and still is a loving supportive community. I think I began to become uncomfortable as I learned more about the history of Christianity and its role in the enslavement of African people. I thought, "How could I be part of an institution which had such a difficult history with Africans?" This period of study and introspection came to a culmination one lonely spring break in Ithaca as a read Christianity Before Christ by John G. Jackson. I couldn't put it down. I remember being completely engaged in it as I read the similarities between Jesus Christ and the deities of dozens of earlier religions. As I approached the end of the book, Ithaca was shrouded by an intense thunderstorm. A flash of lightning crackled through my dorm room window as I turned to the final page ... an application for the American Atheist Society! I thought God was sending me a dramatic message: "This book is forbidden!" I'm sure I must have watched one to many dramatic biblical movies like the Ten Commandments.

After thinking further about Christianity Before Christ, I realized that I wasn't an atheist. I'm still not sure if you can be an African and be an atheist. However, I did have grave concerns about the institution of Christianity. I always had a more ancient calling. I was just beginning to be able to recognize it. I later read Metu Neter, Volume 1 by Ra Un Nefer Amen and began studying with the Ausar Auset Society in Brooklyn. Soon I would be initiated into the Shrine of Ptah under Chief Priest Heru Ankh Ra Semahj Se Ptah (better known as Babaa Heru). It was at the Shrine of Ptah that I found a spiritual home. One of the first things I was taught me is to begin my day with a simple prayer; perhaps the earliest recorded prayer from the Maxims of Khensu-Hetep. We usually call it the Amma Su (Give Yourself). I hope you will also use this prayer to remind yourself of the divine being that you are. Tua to Nfr Ka Maat who scanned the prayer with its original Metu Neter glyphs.

Want to share your story about your path to whatever form of spirituality you practice? Please leave a comment. What were your triumphs and challenges? Does your mother continue to pray for your "immortal soul" like mine? Let's all dialougue with each other. I also try to respond to all of your comments as well. Shem em Hetep!

Give yourself to the one divine;
Keep Yourself daily for the divine;
and do it tomorrow just as you did it today.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Statues of Amenhotep III Discovered

Recently the Egyptian government announced the discovery of two large statues of 18th century Nsw-Biti (Pharoah) Amenhotep III. Amenhotep III ruled Kemet nearly 3,400 years ago—during what could be considered the nation's political, economic, and artistic zenith. The statues are described as a large seated carving in black granite and a image of the king in the form of a sphinx (Heru em Ankhet). Amenhotep III was arguably one of the most important rulers of Ancient Egypt.

As the 9th King of the 18th dynasty, Amenhotep III and his wife Queen Tiye, fathered heretic king Ankhenaten and possibly also the Pharaoh Tutankhamen. Many famous statues Amenhotep III are still in existence including the massive dual statues erroneously known as the Colossi of Memnon and several statues found buried in a ceremonial pit at the Temple of Luxor.

I believe the most notable point in this discovery is the undeniable African heritage of Amenhotep III. The Pharaoh's visage very recognizable due to his pronounced African features and pursed lips. Clearly the creators of the "Arabic-looking" Tutankhamun model wouldn't want us to make this connection: Amenhotep III is either the father or grandfather of the boy king. Zahi Hawass are you out there?

Seems to me Amenhotep III is important for many reasons, both historical and contemporary. Perhaps this archaeological find leaves us with at least one fundamental lesson here: the truth is always beneath just a few layers of sand. I don't know about you, but I'm absolutely excited about what we'll find! Shem em Hetep!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Growing Concern about Disney's Princess and the Frog

A few weeks ago I expressed major concern about Disney's upcoming film, The Princess and the Frog. Many in the African American community were excitedly awaiting the November 25th debut of Disney's first African American princess. Unfortunately I felt that the media giant's history of perpetuating the most pernicious racist stereotypes throughout its lengthy history should have made us very suspicious. Well it seems the folks at Disney have just begun to give us a peek at their hand.

Every storybook princess needs a knight in shining armor ... right? Well it seems that Disney's first African American princess will not have an African American prince! Prince Naveen, a "tan" colored, wavy-haired man from the fictional country of Maldonia, will be turned into a frog when a deal with a "voodoo" priestess goes bad. The Prince will be voiced by Brazilian actor Bruno Campos (pictured right). I know what you're thinking ... there are more people of African descent in Brazil than in any country outside of Africa. That is if we exclude India--right Dr. Rashidi? Let's be clear that Naveen is depicted as a person of color, but Disney went great lengths to not depict a man of clear "African" descent. By the way, what is so dangerous about having an African American man as a hero? Whats id so wrong about an African American woman finding a prince who is ethnically similar to her? Excluding Pocahontas, isn't this Disney's normal storyline for their princesses? Why depart from it now?

Disney's disdain for African Americans is beginning to show. I knew it would be just a matter of time before they showed their true colors. I guess the most valuable lesson from The Princess and the Frog will be that one should never look to their oppressors to liberate them. They should never wait for those to despise them to edify them. They should never leave the education of their most precious resource, their children, to those who attempted to annihilate them. Let's be wary of Disney's latest multicultural project. After all, the psychological well-being of our children is at stake. Shem em Hetep!

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