Pepi’s Initiation Ritual

After his lesson with the hieroglyph game Pepi decided to join the priesthood. Seti prepared a ritual for his initiation ceremony. The most difficult part of preparing for the ceremony was organising a time that everyone could be there. Pepi, Amon, Cleopatra and Berenike were in the US, Seti in the UK and Menka and I in Australia, but we eventually settled on a time and day that everyone could be there. We fitted out the temple with new accoutrements for the ritual; a red pot to be smashed during the ritual, a statue of Osiris, flaming torches, purification bath. Next we helped Pepi to find suitable robes.

Seti prepared the script for this ritual based on sources that reflect his religious background. Seti’s interest in Egypt had come through his involvement in the Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis1. Like me, he was predisposed to research and, like Cleopatra and myself, to use his time in the world as an expression of his own religious ideas. He tried to get a temple to Set going when he was high priest but there wasn’t enough interest from other priests so it never eventuated. Seti says the construction of this wab initiation ritual was influenced by Paiankh’s wab initiation ritual, though the two rituals are quite different. Any further analysis of the similarities is not possible due to Paiankh’s desire to not have the text of his ritual published.

This ceremony was prepared in advance and everyone had a copy of the script well before the time of the ritual. However there was also some ad libbing. Present were first high priest Seti, high priests Myself, Amon and Berenike (Berenike was also the oracle), wab priest Cleopatra, the new brother Pepi, and a potential initiate, Menka. All but two of the participants had already been through their own initiation, though none of them performed this exact ceremony for their own initiations. Three of those present were Pagans who practiced magic in meatspace, one was an atheist, one was a new age practitioner, and two were agnostic, of which one was the initiate.

The theme of the ritual was Set’s murder of his brother Osiris and the latter’s descent into the Duat – the underworld. This myth is one of the foundational stories of ancient Egyptian religion. It is the story of two brothers in competition for a throne, Set and Osiris. Set murders Osiris and usurps his throne. Osiris is brought back to life, by his wife Isis, but only for long enough to conceive his heir Horus, who later avenges his father and becomes king. Festivals to commemorate Osiris’ story were held for two thousand years2 and he was strongly associated with kingship.

The ritual began on the middle level of the temple of Osiris and featured a journey to meet the god in the underworld and then return, which was represented by a procession of the participants from the middle level of the temple to the bottom level and back again. In order to simulate going from the day time into the darkness of the Duat, and back again, the client environment was set to day time, with a special passage into darkness being constructed on the lower level of the temple which simulated entering darkness. Seti and I officiated, he on account of being the first high priest and me because the initiate was my student. In my meatspace world it was midnight while in Egypt it was blazing sunshine.

We gathered at the temple at the appointed time. Everyone wore plain white attire. We tried to set up a group conference to communicate instructions and so on but the group chat functionality in Second Life was unstable at the best of times and on this particular day we weren’t able to breathe any life into it at all. Consequently we adopted the protocol of saying OOC things in double parentheses in local chat. This was the normal practice in sims that didn’t prohibit OOC chat in local.

I had already been in the world for many hours that day. I had had plenty of time to set up the temple for the ritual and prepare myself. The initiate had been part of the community for some weeks, having been drawn there by an interest in ancient Egyptian culture. He had shown a strong interest in learning about Egypt and had attended a number of our regular priests’ classes. He had also been a very keen student of how to build in Second Life and had quickly picked up building skills. He told me he was an American and was retired.

It was time to start the ritual but Seti had not arrived. We waited for twenty minutes but he still hadn’t come. Everyone had time constraints so we decided to start without him.

Thutmose: are you ready aspirant?
Pepi: yes sir
Thutmose: then follow me
Thutmose: we stand here today before the gods of the two lands to admit a new priest
Thutmose: let us all cleans ourselves before we enter the sacred parts of the temple
Amon washes his feet in the holy waters
Cleopatra: Washing her feet
Amon slashes his face and neck
Thutmose: may the waters of the temple cleanse up and make us fit to enter the gaze of our gods
Amon: *splashes
Thutmose: (repeat please)
Berenike splashes water over herself.
Thutmose: ((oh oh))

At this point visitors to the sim arrived. They were not dressed in Egyptian style and were carrying prohibited weapons that they started to shoot at us. I asked them to leave in IM. They ignored me. They came over to see what was going on and watched us as we continued the ritual. Then they started talking to us in local chat.

Cleopatra: ((sigh))
Berenike: May the waters of the temple cleanse and make us fit to enter the gaze of our gods.
Thutmose: ((sorry dealing with the visitors))
Cleopatra: ((thank you))
Thutmose: aspirant please wait here, Menka you too
Thutmose: initiate please come with me
Pepi: yes sir
Toula: allitoy io
Niko: cool
Toula: xkool
Thutmose: can you guys please leave the temple
Thutmose: there are lots of other places to visit
Lolly: ok
Niko: hui
Yani: amonos
Toula: °°OMG°°
Lolly: chinga tu madre Thutmose
Lolly: jajajaja
Thutmose: normally we'd help you but we are in the middle of something
Toula: so sensitive
Niko: sorry to bother u
Toula: sowie
Yani: Ha ha ha ha - he he he!!! =D
Niko: te dije
Cleopatra: Ok
Rope Arrow shouts: Bunefer has cut Bunefer's climbing rope.

After we asked them to leave in local chat they shot at us for a while but then they left. Their presence had broken our attention and diminished the immersion, but we returned to the ritual.

Thutmose: child of Earth Pepi
Thutmose: do you seek admission to the priesthood?
Pepi: yes
Thutmose: inheritor of a dying world, we call thee to the Living Beauty. Wanderer in the wild darkness, we call thee to the gentle Light! Long hast thou dwelt in the darkness. Quit the night and seek the Day!
Thutmose: please all follow me now
Bunefer: em hotep
Thutmose: em hotep
Thutmose: we are in the middle of a ritual please excuse us
Bunefer: ok

Here another person who no one has seen before, Bunefer, had come into the temple. She approached and we explained what we were doing a ritual and she left. All present next processed down to the bottom level of the temple and stood before the passage into darkness. Moments later Seti arrived.

Thutmose: Pepi please disrobe
Thutmose: Be pure, for pure will, assuaged of purpose and delivered of lust of result, is in every way perfect
Thutmose: ((Menka and Berenike please follow behind him a bit))
Seti is Online
Pepi: homage to thee, O great god, thou Lord of Truth, I have come to thee, my Lord
Pepi: I know thee, I know thy name, I know the names of the Two and Forth Gods who live with thee in this Hall of Maati, who keep ward over those who have done evil.
Pepi: Who feed upon their blood on the day when the lives of men are reckoned up in the presence of Un-Nefer. In truth I have come to thee. I have brought truth to thee. I have destroyed wickedness for thee.
Thutmose: well done
Berenike: em hotep, Lord of Seers.
Seti: em hotep
Thutmose: please cleanse your thoughts as you cleanse your body
Thutmose: join us in the inner sanctum where we shall await our new brother's rebirth
Amon motions the aspirant to his side
Berenike: Hear me, O Gods. I enter with a light heart. Thoth walks beside my ka, and Wadjet has circled my brow.
Seti: meditates quietly waiting for candidates return from the underworld

The candidate undressed to signify his death and then undertook more purifying actions. At this point the initiate entered the passage of darkness which symbolizes the entry into the Duat. Once though this passage he found himself in a small room wherein there was a statue of the god Osiris. I entered with him and then directed him to lie down in a sarcophagus which lay before the statue of Osiris. I instructed him to meditate until I return upon his symbolic death, his judgement by the gods and his rebirth into a new life as a priest. The lid of the sarcophagus was closed and he was left in the sarcophagus alone for a few minutes, after which I returned and opened the sarcophagus and said to him “Child of Earth you shall be born again into the light of the gods of the two lands. As Osiris was raised up by Isis you shall be reborn!” The initiate replied “I shall be reborn”. He was then led out of the room, through the dark passage, whereupon he again undertook purifying actions and then we returned to the other priests.

Thutmose: Akhom bring forth the red pot
Amon hands it to you
Thutmose: Seti please tell us all about the significance of this pot
Seti: this pot represented the negativity within one
Seti: and in us all and Egypt
Seti: its is the enemy in that sense
Seti: red for the colour of the ancient passions of the god Set
Seti: the murderer of the good god
Seti: when we break it - we destroy the power of evil
Thutmose: I shall fetch the reborn man
Seti: yes
Amon smiles
Seti: Brother Pepi
Seti: you see this red pot on the ground before
Seti: you
Seti: it represents the enemy of the gods
Seti: and of Egypt
Seti: walk upon it
Seti: and crush it Akhenaten
Seti: trample down the enemies
Amon: ((in rp of course))
Seti: as it is done every day in every temple of our land
Amon sees the pot break into shards
Seti: now say
Berenike watches the pot shatter, and the dust of it ground into the stone.
Seti: As I break the pot, through the strength of Horus in me, I trample the enemy!
Pepi: As I break the pot, through the strength of Horus in me, I trample the enemy!
Seti: it is done.
Amon smiles broadly.
Seti: looks approvingly on the devoted new priest.
Amon: welcome brother.
Thutmose: now we shall hear the negative confession of the candidate.
Thutmose: You have not sinned against men?
Pepi: I have not sinned against men.
Pepi: I have not oppressed (or wronged) [my] kinsfolk.
Pepi: I have not committed evil in the place of truth.
Pepi: I have not known worthless men.
Pepi: I have not committed acts of abomination.
Pepi: I have not done daily works of supererogation.
Pepi: I have not caused my name to appear for honours.
Pepi: I have not domineered over slaves.
Pepi: I have not thought scorn of the god.
Pepi: I have not defrauded the poor man of his goods.
Pepi: I have not done the things which the gods abominate.
Pepi: I have not caused harm to be done to the slave by his master.
Pepi: 1 have caused no man to suffer.
Pepi: I have allowed no man to go hungry.
Pepi: I have made no man weep.
Pepi: I have slain no man.
Pepi: I have not given the order for any man to be slain.
Pepi: I have not caused pain to the multitude.
Pepi: I have not filched the offerings in the temples.
Pepi: I have not purloined the cakes of the gods.
Pepi: I have not stolen the offerings of the spirits.
Pepi: I have had no dealing with the pederast.
Pepi: I have not defiled myself in the pure places of the god of my city.
Pepi: I have not cheated in measuring of grain.
Pepi: I have not filched land or added thereto.
Pepi: I have not encroached upon the fields of others.
Pepi: I have not added to the weight of the balance.
Pepi: I have not cheated with the pointer of the scales.
Pepi: I have not taken away the milk from the mouths of the babes.
Pepi: I have not driven away the beasts from their pastures.
Pepi: I have not netted the geese of the preserves of the gods.
Pepi: I have not caught fish with bait of their bodies.
Pepi: I have not obstructed water when it should run.
Pepi: I have not cut a cutting in a canal of rating water.
Pepi: I have not extinguished a flame when it ought to burn.
Pepi: I have not abrogated the days of offering the chosen offerings.
Pepi: I have not turned off cattle from the property of the gods.
Pepi: I have not repulsed the god in his manifestations. I am pure. I am  pure. I am pure. I am pure.
Seti: it is good
Amon: it is good
Cleopatra: it is good
Thutmose: Your heart is as light as a feather.
Thutmose: You are uplifted in our hearts - may the kisses of the stars rain hard upon your body.
Thutmose: The highest of the high priests shall now give you your word of power.
Seti: I now bestow upon you your word of power.
Seti: which is ankhw.
Thutmose: Go forth Pepi and keep your sworn promises to the gods.
Thutmose: Better yourself. Serve the gods.
Seti: life multiplied by the infinite.
Seti: go forth and live.
Cleopatra: Welcome Priest Pepi.
Seti: welcome priest.
Amon: Welcome Pepi.
Thutmose: can all leave now :)
Thutmose: thank you all for coming.
Thutmose: let us welcome our new brother.
Cleopatra: Congratulations.
Berenike: A worthy new man.
Menka: Congratulations.
Pepi: thank you.
Amon smiles.
Seti: good work and welcome to our esteemed company
Amon: a fitting addition to the priesthood
Cleopatra: Indeed
Berenike smiles
Pepi: thank you
Thutmose: Pepi has chosen the god Thoth as his guide
Thutmose: and he has chosen to be a scholar and builder in the temple
Cleopatra: Ahhh ... well done
Amon: ah....
Thutmose: so Thoth is a fine choice
Cleopatra: Most fitting
Amon: indeed
Pepi: yes I believe so
Berenike: Yes, Thoth is my mentor, as well.
Berenike: mentor, even.
Cleopatra: smiles
Thutmose: he is the god who speaks most clearly to me as well
Pepi: then I have chosen well
Amon: were it not for Thoth
Amon: Thoth
Thutmose: asks the aspirant how was the ceremony Menka?
Amon: much would be lost of forgotten
Thutmose: indeed
Thutmose: for he taught us writing and magic
Menka: Very interesting
Menka: Thank you for allowing me to be here
Thutmose: and the sacred writing
Thutmose: we hope you will be inspired to join the priesthood
Seti: if you will all excuse me now am called
Seti: away
Seti: so senebty
Thutmose: of course
Menka: It may be
Thutmose: senebty
Menka: senebty
Pepi: senebty
Cleopatra: Senebty great One
Amon: be well Illustrious
Berenike: Senebty, Lord of Seers.
Cleopatra: we should feast
Berenike: Welcome again, Pepi.
Thutmose: thank you all for coming
Pepi: Yes thank you all
Berenike: Yes, a feast is in order... but I must away, as well.
Berenike: My apologies, Wab.
Thutmose: thank you for your attendance oracle
Amon: senebty oracle
Berenike: Senebty all.
Pepi: senebty oracle
Menka: senebty
Cleopatra: Senebty Oracle
Cleopatra: Well done ...
Amon: very well done
Seti is Offline
Pepi: thank you
Thutmose: how was the ceremony Pepi?
Amon: and you my brother
Pepi: very enlightening
Pepi: very thought provoking
Thutmose: I hope so
Thutmose: excellent
Thutmose: that is its purpose
Amon smiles
Cleopatra: smiles
Pepi: it worked well
Cleopatra: Well it is late
Thutmose: thanks for coming
Cleopatra: I must leave also
Menka: Senebty
Thutmose: senetby
Cleopatra: Senebty all
Pepi: I understand, thank you for attending
Pepi: senebty
Cleopatra: congratulations again

Pepi and I were the only ones who remained after the ritual. We only talked about the ritual a wee bit. He remarked that he found the ritual fun to do and interesting, but he clearly had no desire to examine it further than that. Rather he preferred to ask about a problem he had had building an object and so I told him how to get around the problem. After about an hour of this I left and go to bed. For my own part, while I didn’t have the kind of feeling of the sacred that one gets in good meatspace rituals, I enjoyed the ritual. I was disappointed that we had been interrupted, twice, but happy with the way things went overall.

I went into this ritual with the belief that it might be capable of being an effective ritual, that some semblance of the divine might be discernible. I had great confidence in Seti’s ability to construct an efficacious ritual and I thought the setting rich enough to be effective. This enthusiasm was somewhat dampened by the fact that I knew that the initiate thought of it only as a role play, which led me to expect a kind of sheep/goat effect3. For this reason it could not be the same thing for both of us. Our reality tunnels were divergent. However the thing that really blew this ritual for me was the interruptions. The first one was the most disruptive, as a couple of us had to go away from the ritual to deal with the intruders. Their tone and register were completely at variance with that used among the priests during the ritual, and the swap in and out of ritual space necessary to deal with them was dislocating. Even though the second interruption was relatively minor it was a compound of the first and destroyed for me any hope of it being an effective ritual and of invoking the divine.

There were positive outcomes from the ritual. Pepi was brought into the priests’ community and he became an active member. The ritual also helped to generate a sense of community among the high priests. It was seldom that so many of us participated together in activities in the community, apart from the priests’ meetings. For me it was a trigger for research. Where did these red pots come from? What did they mean? What kind of ritual were they used in? What was the significance of breaking them? What period did they arise in? What was the negative confession? Doesn’t it sound familiar? Is this ritual like an ancient priests’ initiation ritual? Did they have initiation rituals? Is Set evil?

While the exact texts of priestly initiation rituals remain unknown to us, we know that in the Ptolemaic period there was a ritual called the induction ritual4. This ritual featured purifications and an anointing to signify entrance into the office of priesthood, the same process followed when assuming non sacerdotal offices5. The negative confessions or declarations of innocence, which are found in the 125th chapter of the Book of Going Forth by Day6 describe the moral ideal to which Egyptians aspired, as well as forming the basis for judgement in law7. While priests were delegated only religious and not legislative functions8 the latter sprung from the former and the ancient Egyptians had no concept of the secular as we understand it. The declarations are often associated with representations of priestly practice, remarkably similar declarations appearing as they do on temple entrances during the Ptolemaic period.

“I have not eaten what is forbidden for a priest, I have cut off no living being’s head, I have killed no one, I have not slept with the wife of another, I have touched no sheep’s wool etc.”9

These statements represent purifying statements meant to be recited upon entering the temple and it is not hard to imagine them, or the declarations of innocence, being recited when entering into the priestly office, and indeed Morgan argues that this may have been the case10. This important chapter of The Book Of Going Forth By Day is used by the deceased to “justify themselves and be vindicated (maa kheru, true of voice and triumphant) in their quest for immortality by a valid claim of a righteous life on Earth”11. Similarly a priest states that he was “presented before the god, being an excellent young man”12, which means he must have been considered to have abided by the moral ideal revealed in the declarations of innocence. This also lends credence to the suggestion that the declarations of innocence may have formed part of priestly initiations.

There is evidence that “presentation in the temple, purification, beholding the deity”13 were steps in the consecration of priests and all these actions are present in Seti’s ritual. Present in Seti’s ritual is also the concept of being reborn, which is historically attested from an initiation into the cult of Isis14. Another feature of Seti’s ritual is the breaking of the red pot. This act, which is of great antiquity, being mentioned in archaic mortuary liturgies from the mastaba tomb period15, has as its purpose the infliction of terror on one’s enemies16. The colour red has a long association with Set, god of confusion and violence, and is well attested from execrations17. Seti was familiar with it from Ritner’s work and decided to include the breaking of the red pots in the ritual to symbolise the destruction of the darkness and chaos that was often conceptualised by the Egyptians as both the destruction of their enemies and of the god Apep, the serpent who was the god of darkness and chaos, who was slain each night by Set.

I believe it was a combination of, the competency of both Paiankh and Seti in constructing a ritual based both on data that had a firm foundation in practices of the ancient Egyptians and on their experiences as contemporary magical practitioners, along with my entering the ritual having prepared myself as I would for a meatspace ritual, that enabled me to have an experience of sacred space in a virtual world in my own initiation ritual. This will be tested later when I relate to you another ritual experience I had in the world, where the ritual, while having some basis in ancient Egyptian religion, was performed by a person with little meatspace experience as a ritualist and whose intention, I believe, was not to produce an effective ritual but instead to enact a role play for the purpose of entertainment. Whatever the cause, the outcome of my initiation ritual ritual was to convince me of the cromulence of ritual in cyberspace and to leave me enthusiastic to experiment further with this medium as a site for ritual.

  1. A Thelemic magickal order based in the United Kingdom. ↩︎
  2. Teeter, E., (2011), Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt, Cambridge University Press, New York, p. 57. ↩︎
  3. Varvoglis, M., (NDP), The Sheep – Goat Effect,, Accessed 09/02/2014. ↩︎
  4. Sauneron, S., (2000), The Priests of Ancient Egypt, Cornell University Press, New York, p. 48. ↩︎
  5. Sauneron, S., (2000), The Priests of Ancient Egypt, Cornell University Press, New York, p. 48. ↩︎
  6. Faulkner, R. (tr), (1994), The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, pp. 115-116. ↩︎
  7. Karenga, M., (2006), Maat: The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt, University of Sankore Press, Los Angeles, pp. 135-174. ↩︎
  8. Sauneron, S., (2000), The Priests of Ancient Egypt, Cornell University Press, New York, p. 32. ↩︎
  9. Morgan, M. (2011), “The Heart of Thelema: Morality, Amorality, and Immorality in Aleister Crowley’s Thelemic Cult”, The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 174-175. ↩︎
  10. Morgan, M. (2011), “The Heart of Thelema: Morality, Amorality, and Immorality in Aleister Crowley’s Thelemic Cult”, The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 174-175. ↩︎
  11. Karenga, M., (2006), Maat: The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt, University of Sankore Press, Los Angeles, p. 138. ↩︎
  12. Sauneron, S., (2000), The Priests of Ancient Egypt, Cornell University Press, New York, p. 48. ↩︎
  13. Sauneron, S., (2000), The Priests of Ancient Egypt, Cornell University Press, New York, p. 48. ↩︎
  14. Sauneron, S., (2000), The Priests of Ancient Egypt, Cornell University Press, New York, pp. 48-49. ↩︎
  15. Ritner, R. K., (2008), The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Chicago, p. 145. ↩︎
  16. Ritner, R. K., (2008), The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Chicago, p. 146. ↩︎
  17. Ritner, R. K., (2008), The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Chicago, pp. 147-148. ↩︎

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