“An important characteristic refering to the mental structure of the Egyptians is their devotion to magic. Both their thinking and their faith are highly influenced by it and daily life is completely embraced by it.”
This quotation taken from Bonnet’s “Lexikon der ägyptischen Religionsgeschichte” describes the meaning of magic in Ancient Egypt quite accurately.
Heka or magic?
Magic in ancient Egypt was a lot less ambiguous than one would assume today. Basically “magic” as a translation of “heka” is a bit confusing. The mysterious notion about this term derives from its occult connotation which is after all a product of the denial of pagan traditions and a change to the secondary religions, which would condemn magical practice as part of daily life or cult as heretical. Even the Ancient Greeks and the Romans were already suspicious about magic. Yet the term “magic” is rooted in the old-iranian “mager”, which again probably comes from the indogermanic “magh” and means nothing more but “ability” or “help”. In this sense magic is nothing else but the ability to enter certain spheres of reality and conduct the forces.
Heka = force of creation
Both in Ancient Egypt as well as in modern Kemeticism heka is an omnipresent Part of daily practise and nothing extraordinary. It is neither good nor evil but a neutral tool which is being used naturally. This might get even more clear considering what heka basically is: the personification and deification of the force of creation. This force is to be regarded in the context of a creation which is understood as an ongoing process rather than a finished work, which all the living beings participate in. So it is completely natural that a human being is able to step over the borders of the directly tangible and make use of the creation force. What is normal and characteristic for the gods is also achievable to man under certain circumstances.
Heka and religion
Heka is perfectly embedded into the Ancient Egyptian religion. Both belong to one another which particularily shows in the burial cult. The dead would be provided a lot of magical actions and items to prepare them for their journey into the underworld. This fact appears to be a clear difference of the Ancient Egyptian religion in comparison with e.g. the Christian religion. The latter may contain a lot of elements which seem “magic” but still magic is considered heretical. This notion of piety is replaced by a rather pragmatic approach to divinity and sanctuarity in the Ancient Egyptian religion, yet without any kind of disrespect to the sphere of the gods. Jan Assmann mentions in one of his books that men raise themselves to the sphere of gods through the rites rather than trying to call the gods “down” to the sphere of men. Man does not submit to divinity he deifies himself – temporalily and repeatedly – as part of the cult. Therefore many Egyptian prayers have the quality of summoning rather than begging. The divine sphere is very close to the human one in Kemeticism and the practice of heka is the active connection between them. So both the gods and humans are servants to the creation and the cosmic order of Ma’at.
Heka and medicine
Heka is a creating and creative force. It does not only manifest by the activity of gods, but also by human action. Heka can be a healing power, because medicine in an Ancient Egyptian sense does not spare magic. Sickness is understood as the effect of evil forces which have to be ruled out or avoided. Many different items and materials have found use for this purpose. Apart from amulets, ointments, herbs and incense the Egyptian medicine is famous for it’s “dirt magic” where even things like urine, blood or excrements have been used. Also summoning and magic spells are an important carrier for heka both in spoken and written form. So it is not surprising that the hieroglyphs as the “holy signs” play a large role in heka, too.
Heka as a deity
Typical for the kemetic religion is the method to make forces, concepts or qualities more tangible by personifying them into deities. In this manner also heka becomes part of a certain kind of personification deities, which also includes Sia (“insight”) or shay (“fate”), but also Ma’at (the cosmic order). The god Heka appears in a triade in Esna together with his father Khnum and the martial crown goddess Menhit. Yet he is also known as the son of Atum. His depiction as a humanshaped deity strangling two snakes, derives from the hieroglyphe of two twisted ropes above a Ka symbol, two lifted arms. This hieroglyphic spelling indicates various things: Firstly the act of embracing something with the omnipresent life force of Ka, but also tieing things together as well as binding and controling negative energies which are symbolized in the image of the snakes and their poison. Snake venom was after all being frequently used in medicine.
Heka in my personal practise
In my personal view everything that surrounds me is heka and I am an active part o fit. So basically it is not possible NOT to participate in heka, in my opinion, because whatever you do, you always work with the immanent power of creation. The only thing that differs is the personal attitude and awareness about it, so you can learn to get more aware of it. Part of this is to train yourself in your perception and gain experiences in using it, find out how it manifests and which qualities it shows. My job as an osteopathic therapist is just as helpful for this process as my interest in many different disciplines such as religion, spirituality, neurology, psychology, sociology and biology.
Apart from this I am adding traditional rites and magic performances. I am trying to stick to traditional rituals or exchange experiences with other heka practicioners. As soon as you participate in heka with increasing awareness it becomes natural to use and conduct it instead of surrendering yourself to it passively.
So heka does not mean to fulfill yourself simple little wishes through sorcery, but to take part in a sphere beyond the daily awareness as a conscious and reflected being. In the same manner as influencing a physical system through osteopathic treatment to harmonize systems and support functions, I interact aware with the living environment that surrounds me.
Additionally heka is an important part of my social life with my fellow kemetics. Many of my friends live far away in the US, Spain, UK… but we help one another where we can and making use of heka for this. Whenever someone asks for support or help the best we can do is send some heka. This has become a regular practice amongst Kemetics and all I can say is it has helped me many times.