Per Bastemhet

Purification 4

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For an explanation of this series, read the introduction here.

Hail Shadow-swallower, coming from Qernet, I do not murder (men); [to be said] twice.

Shadow-swallower is an epithet for Ammit, the monster who would devour your soul should it weigh more than the feather of Ma’at.

I was going to start this post by saying that this one is obvious: don’t commit murder and you’ll be fine.  But it isn’t actually that simple.  In this modern age, the question of what counts as murder has become complex.

By definition, murder is the unlawful killing of one person by another person.  This shows how what counts as murder is something so arbitrary as civil law.  And I think that you’ll find in almost any country that some laws do not match up with what others would consider moral law.  Some people define murder differently from the way I’ve defined it, and consider assisted suicide, abortion, and non-vegetarianism/veganism and war to be types of murder.  I cannot say whether this is in line with ancient Kemetic thought.

Trying your best to assimilate to Kemetic culture is not always that simple, especially since what may be appropriate for the culture at that time is not necessarily appropriate for the current culture.  For example the penalty for adultery in the Tale of Two Brothers was that when the adulterous wife was found out, she was killed and her body was thrown to the dogs.  The moral law is that adultery was wrong, but how that culture handled it and how the one you’re in right now handles it may be two different things.  Furthermore, adultery is consensual sex between one married person and someone to whom they are not married.  This is also one form of polygamy, which depending on who you’re talking to, is defined as either an acceptable choice to live freely and not by socially imposed standards of “acceptable relationships,” and others who believe it to be a disaster for the family unit which is a worthy goal in and of itself!

Getting back to the purification itself, Rev. Siuda mentions that the repeating of “I do not murder men” may mean that one should not speak ill of the dead so that Ammit will only eat those who deserve it, since speaking ill causes those things to be true (through Heka).  Perhaps this is true, but if one speaks the truth of how the dead did evil things, I hardly think that that will stack more weight onto their already heavy heart.  In any case, may Ammit swallow those who deserve to be swallowed.

I’m not going to use Kemet as a rubric for how modern society should be run, nor do I think that we will always come to our own truths by following the model of their civilization.  Eventually what matters is that we follow the path to our own moral way of living, with some help from the wisdom texts.  But I do acknowledge that much wisdom is to be had from their conception of morality and that modern society could do well to be more in tune with following “right actions,” whether they be made into civil law or not.  In that case, I have my own ideas of what murder is, and I intend to faithfully reject murder, whether through personal actions, or agitating for the community at large to prohibit and punish murderous acts accordingly.

Written by Bastemhet

August 4, 2010 at 5:04 am

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