Photo Essay: Union With the Sun
I walk my path with the living Gods in the middle of a desert wasteland. It is a harsh and isolated place, and one in which I am tried and tested, asked to go inward, and face the true mirror of my Ka. What do I see reflected in Netjer’s mirror? I see the bodies of living Gods breathing through Their creation. Not all of creation is hospitable or kind, luxurious or easy to traverse. The Gods give me a path in the middle of a salty plain, then ask me to take off my shoes! They then give me glorious forms to hold in my hands, to bring forth from that terrible place we call the Duat.
Here I am at sunrise on Wep Renpet, the Opening of the Year where everything begins again in Zep Tepi, the First Occasion. I present to the face of Ra the image of His nocturnal body, Ptah-Sokar-Ausir, which He has allowed me to pull out from the darkness. When my body leaves this earth, I will remain in the holy images my fingers have fought to fashion; my Ka will live again, and again, every morning when the sun strikes this mirror of Holies.~ Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa
In the pre-dawn hour of August 2, 2016 we arrive at the lonely and hauntingly beautiful stretch of the Utah desert known as the Bonneville Salt Flats. The air is warm and heavy even at this early time of the morning, when the empty sky glitters above like dark and polished turquoise. In the distance rise the amber pyramid-shaped peaks of mountains, their rich color contrasting sharply with the white sheen of salt fanning out for miles before them.
For Kemetics everywhere this is the holiest day of the year, the sacred time known as Wep Renpet (or Wep Ronpet), the “Opening of the Year” or New Year’s day; the day when time begins again, when creation is renewed and returned to Zep Tepi, that primordial “First Occassion” during which the living Gods unfolded the miracles of creation. This is the time our life begins again, when our world can begin again, and the veil between human and divine appears gossamer thin. We can walk side by side with our Netjeru as They weave the warp and weft of flesh and spirit anew. Our imperfections are cleansed as we greet the first rays of sunlight that strike the earth on this morning of beginnings.
On this morning we follow in the footsteps of all the Ancestors before us; those Ancients who ascended the roofs of the holy sanctuaries to bring the sacred images of the Gods up to the New Year sky to receive the solar radiation. This ceremony, called the khnm-atn or “uniting with the sun”, was performed in every temple in Egypt at dawn on Wep Renpet(1), and embodies the revivifying power of the Netjer, the sustaining force of creation, fusing with the material creation. But this holy rite also signifies the living divine essence resident in awakened or opened cult images, which themselves contain the ba or spiritual essence of the deity represented. There is no more sacred moment in all the year than Wep Renpet morning; at that precise moment of sunrise when the earth welcomes the first rays of sunlight on the first day of the new year.
My newest icon panel (Ptah-Sokar-Ausir Lord of the Secret Shrine) was completed on New Moon day on July 4, 2016, and began its birthing or awakening / opening on July 19th, Full Moon day. Wep Renpet this year coincided with New Moon day (heb pesedjenti), itself one of the most sacrosanct moments of the lunar cycle embodying divine rebirth, marriage, and renewal; thus Wep Renpet this year held the most hallowed and vital energy possible for servants of the Netjeru. For Kemetic iconographers like myself, this day was an opportunity to consecrate new holy images to the service of the living Gods; images that would be imbued with the energy of the new moon on the first day of the new year. Any image thus blessed becomes the repository of a most auspicious power, and one that cannot be depleted as long as the image itself survives.
We brought with us two icon panels, “Ptah-Sokar-Ausir Lord of the Secret Shrine” and “Anpu Lord of the Sacred Land“, both from the Sacred West Triptych, to receive the Union with the Sun, the solar radiation blessing that would empower the icons to serve as a proper repository for the Netjer’s holy ba. A light and warm wind picked up over the salt flats the moment the first portion of the sun’s body emerged on the horizon, and with it the melodious crash of our sacred rattles, accompanied by the hymn for awakening Amun-Ra in His temple. It was an awe inspiring moment for us to see the bright beams of the New Year sun strike the two icon panels, but most especially that of Lord Ptah-Sokar-Ausir, covered in lustrous 22 karat gold, copper, Sterling silver, and semi and semi-precious stones; these glowing with an inner light all their own, heightened by the dazzling, fresh sun.
1 Ragnhild Bjerre Finnestad, “Temples of the Ptolemaic and Roman Period: Ancient Traditions in New Contexts“, in Temples of Ancient Egypt, edited by Byron E. Shafer (New York, 1997) pp. 221-222.