Ptah-Sokar-Ausir On Full Moon Day
The layering of color in progress on the icon panel of “Ptah-Sokar-Ausir“~ an original Kemetic icon by master iconographer Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa/ Panel 1 of The Sacred West Triptych
Yesterday (January 23, 2016) was Full Moon Day, and the culmination of the first cycle of coloration on the Ptah-Sokar-Ausir icon panel. In cultic terms, the past eight days of painting were linked energetically with the “Filling of the Wedjat Eye”, the aspect of the lunar cycle during which the moon’s expanding light is the sacred activity of the celestial Netjeru (Gods), who each grant a portion of their power to the “healing” or “filling” of the Wedjat Eye- the vital power of the Netjer.
Since icons or cult images (properly known in Kemetic terms as kau, bau or sekhemu) are transfigured through cultic processes into physical repositories for the essence (ba) of the deity, it is imperative that each stage of creation is governed by the strictest ritual standards, which very much include using the sacred lunar cycle as a guide for the different stages of execution. Cult images may be crafted in the human world by the hands of human artisans, but they are in fact a co-creation between human beings and the Gods Themselves. The icons I create are the outcome of an intimate collaboration with the netjer (god) or netjeret (goddess) I am depicting, and as such embody the qualities and powers of the Gods as these are brought through from their sphere of dwelling into ours. It is through the use of the appropriate prayers, offerings, recitation of cultic texts, and physical materials that a man made object created on a two-dimensional plane is transformed into a vessel incorporating multiple planes and multiple powers of creation.
The ancient Egyptians did not have a word for art, though they did have words describing the various activities performed by members of the community of craftsmen. Still, their view of creating images and ours are fundamentally opposed. Image making in ancient Egypt constituted a reflection not of the personal life, tastes or views of the craftsman, but rather a strong conviction that images were the vehicles for an interior sacred life and presence, and, even more importantly, were the point for accessing the spiritual world and maintaining its influence directly in the physical world. “Art” in ancient Egypt was not an exercise in decoration or personal self-expression, but was instead an expression of the need to create concrete links between humankind and the Gods so that order in creation would be safeguarded. Cult images, then, were the highest expression of this necessity for keeping the lines of communication wide open between the divine and human worlds. They were not symbols of the sacred; they were the literal and physical embodiment of the sacred.
Part of my ongoing mission as a Kemetic iconographer is to differentiate the creation of cult images / icons from the creation of contemporary art, which I see as having a very different aim from my own. I do not regard my craft as being that of a contemporary artist, nor do I apply the term “art” to my icons when I can help it. This comes from no disdain or lack of value for art; far from it! Art is and always has been a vital aspect of my daily life; however, iconography, or rather the creation of cult images (as a better description of what I do), sits on the other side of the fence when it comes to the craft of painting pictures. A cult image is not an ornament or a decoration, though it most certainly is conceived to be a thing of outstanding beauty. But the beauty of a cult image does not serve the changing tastes and mandates of contemporary popular culture; it serves no art market, and must ignore completely the trends and desires of the gallery, art dealer, and social media.
What a true icon or cult image does is give the worshiper a true vantage and point of access to that realm of the sacred that otherwise would be invisible. In a Kemetic sense (which, of course, is the only perspective that directs my work), a cult image is a literal body of the netjer (deity), which makes it entirely otherworldly once it has been ritually activated according to the requirements of cult. It is not an object that hangs on a collector’s wall or becomes a gallery curiosity; such would destroy the entire function, and indeed sacred intention, of the cult image. A cult image exists solely for the purpose of linking the temple, shrine, or cultic environment with the god or goddess the image embodies. Without offerings, prayers, and cultic service, the power of a cult image is neutralized, or in the least is lessened to a great degree.
I would like to share pictures of my Ptah-Sokar-Ausir panel as He appeared on Full Moon Day. Using precious genuine garnet pigment, the filling of the netjer’s elaborately beaded and form-fitting “gown” has begun. His lavish wesekh or broad collar was created using genuine lapis lazuli, genuine garnet, genuine red fuchsite, and genuine jadeite pigments. A lavish use of 22 karat gold gleams throughout.