In The Desert Of Seth

By G. B. Marian


From the Kemetic Round Table:

How do you work with heka? How can you utilize heka more in your day to day life? Any tips for people trying to get started in using heka?

The ancient Egyptian word heka means “activation of the ka,” which refers to using one’s spirit (rather than one’s body) to accomplish something. More specifically, heka is tied to the idea of “divine speech,” which could include reciting words of power, performing a powerful symbolic act, or even just singing or dancing. Just as the term “free speech” in the U.S. Constitution includes both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication, so too does heka include virtually any form of dramatic self-expression. The only stipulation I can see is that this self-expression must be used to arouse one’s spirit and direct it toward some particular goal. I don’t think it matters whether the goal of heka is operative (e.g., to heal the sick, ward off demons, divine omens), initiatory (e.g., to reach a higher state of consciousness), or devotional (e.g., to honor a Deity or ancestor). So while many people translate heka to mean “magic” in modern English, I don’t think this really does the term justice. The way I see it, heka is more properly defined as “spiritual action” in general.

The hieroglyphic for heka

You don’t have to practice Goetia or cast the runes to engage in heka, for even singing hymns and preaching church sermons involve “activating the ka” (e.g., feeling “the Holy Spirit”), implementing “divine speech” (e.g., using key terms from the Bible) and accomplishing some kind of goal (e.g., feeling close to Jesus). Some people would argue that these practices also count as forms of magic, but I think using that term in this way is misleading. Past experience has shown me that if I say “magic” when all I really mean is “prayer,” I will only confuse people. Furthermore, conventional religionists aren’t the only ones to insist on making this distinction; there are also many occultists who seem to limit their concept of “magic” to purely operative and/or initiatory spiritual practices (and some of them even regard devotional practices with disdain, if not outright contempt). For this reason, I refer only to operative and initiatory heka as “magic” and I refer to purely devotional heka as “religion.” (This distinction is comparable to that between bhakti and jnana yoga; both qualify as types of yoga, but the former centers on expressing selfless devotion to an ishta deva or personal God while the latter hinges on comprehending the atman or self as God.)

Most of my heka is devotional; my primary objective is to commune with my Lord, to express love for and gratitude to Him, and to request His aid whenever necessary. The only time I really engage in ritualized operative heka is when I execrate the Backward Face. We have two primary methods for doing this in the LV-426 Tradition: our Destruction of the Evil Worm ritual and our “donkey prayer image” procedure. Smashing ceramic pots with images representing Apophis and other evils is another excellent way of doing this. It may seem strange to some other Pagans, but I am a firm believer in apotropaic magic and I take the idea of “spiritual warfare” very seriously. (Yes, many of the Christians who believe in this concept can be a bit frightening in their fanaticism, but apotropaism pre-exists Christianity and is originally a polytheist idea.) In my opinion, there’s no greater purpose for using magic than to make evil run away, screaming in terror.

I also use a non-ritualized variety of operative heka simply by writing on this blog. I actually spend a very long time developing each and every article I post (sometimes taking several months just to finish one), for I’m obsessed with making sure that I express my spirituality as accurately and precisely as possible. I do this because I realize that others will be affected by what I send out into the blogosphere and that I am responsible for however it may affect them. I want to disseminate information, provide inspiration and present tools that can help others in their own spiritual journeys (whether they are meant to walk with Great Seth or not); I don’t want to generate any unnecessary negativity or harm anyone by misrepresenting any facts, discouraging any rational discourse, or spreading any lies. Believe you me, I’ve seen just how much damage can happen when someone chooses their words poorly, so I work hard to ensure that anyone who reads this site will encounter the very best heka I can muster. (I certainly hope I’m doing well in this regard.)

As far as how you can utilize heka more often in your life, my first advice is to brush up on your language, writing and artistic skills. Try taking an art, creative writing, public speaking and/or acting 101 course at a local community college (if you have one close by with affordable rates). If you’re a student, pay closer attention to what your Drama, Speech and/or Literature teachers are trying to teach you. Check out some writing and public speaking tips, and read something like Dele Layiwola’s African Theatre In Performance. Watch a movie that makes you laugh, scream or cry, and think about why it makes you have that reaction. Read up about how the film was made, or watch a documentary about how your favorite musical artist created your favorite album (like on Classic Albums, which is made by Isis Productions!). It’s always good to read up on Egyptology and Kemeticism, but I think one should branch a bit outside of these subjects too. It may not seem like there’s anything for one to learn about heka from art, cinema, drama, music, writing or public speaking, but trust me; these things all have their roots in prehistoric mysticism. (This is why I spend so much of my time and energy writing reviews of my favorite films and music. I’m not just reviewing them because I enjoy them; I’m trying to interpret the heka that I see and hear in them.)

As far as how I can utilize heka more often in my life, I do think that I need to execrate more often. I’m hopeful that participating in Devo’s Poopocalypse 2K15 this year (“Extra, extra! Read all about it!”) will help me get on that horse. We also have two Friday the Thirteenths coming up (one in this month and one in March), so you can be sure I’ll be doing something extra special for them. (It’s a very big deal here in LV-426 whenever we have two Friday the Thirteenths right next to each other, so stay tuned for some good holiday heka in the upcoming weeks.)


3 responses to “Heka

  1. katakhanas February 11, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    I also exercise my heka largely in the service of my devotional practices–it’s the energy used to feed/propitiate the Neteru and other Holy Powers (I group my own ancestors in the latter). I enjoy raising heka through disciplined activities that stress the mind-body connection, which is why I’m a huge advocate of physical disciplines like martial arts and yoga. What I find disconcerting about life in our technologically driven Information Age is that many Pagans I encounter are living almost exclusively in the Air element–disembodied, cyber-oriented, trafficking in *theoria* without the *praxis* to complement it–and are so disconnected from the Earth within themselves/their own corporeality that they run the risk of forfeiting any claims to belonging to an “earth-centered” spirituality. Regardless of the climate where you live any time of year (and I write this as a Chicagoan bracing for a daytime high tomorrow of 10 degrees Fahrenheit), it’s critical to experience the heka flowing through Nature and immerse yourself in it daily. “As within, so without.”

    From a more occult context of “magic(k),” I also make apotropaic workings a high priority in my life–I have to considering my condo building was built above a mass paupers’ grave and the east-west axis of my home’s layout is definitely a high traffic area. I have many Wards in my home that draw on pan-Mediterranean Deities and symbology, from spells (written on papyrus!) addressed to Nebet-Het and Selqet tucked into my door frames to images of Hekate Khthonia, Medusa, and gorgons strategically placed to send any ill-intentioned discarnate entities packing. Aside from those workings, the heka I raise and send in spells on a regular basis have to do with petitioning Sekhmet’s aid in healing other people (only with their advance permission). My Chicago Lyceum of the Fellowship of Isis regularly offers healing ceremonies as part of the public rituals we host. You can definitely feel the heka flowing like very strong electrical currents in our temple space–it’s awe-inspiring and humbling.

    When it comes to the cultivation of heka–as with being a good school teacher, a compelling artist, a charismatic salesperson or an effective Witch–I think it’s more of an innate than an acquired skill. While people can be “taught” how to perform X-Y-Z magical operation or train to be proficient in a system of divination, I believe some folks are just going to have a more acute innate ability/natural talent at serving as a vessel of heka than others. Them’s the breaks, folks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • G. B. Marian February 12, 2015 at 5:49 pm

      I do agree that in many situations where there’s a lot more theory going on than actual practice, the people involved should probably reconsider what they’re doing. In my opinion at least, Pagan religions are supposed to be more about practices than beliefs anyway – you can believe whatever you want as long as you follow the traditional praxis that’s been established by your particular cultus. I have much more to say on this particular issue, but since I tend to get pretty long-winded about it, I’ll save it for another one of my 2,000 word-long posts. (Ha!) However, there are some situations where people just can’t practice very often for whatever reason (e.g., depression, fatigue, lack of privacy, hostile living environment, etc.). I’m hoping to post some more of our techniques that might be helpful to people who find themselves in this position. (It’s in my queue, I just haven’t been able to complete it as of yet.)

      I had a brief encounter last week with a fellow Pagan who was taken aback that I actually take apotropaic work so seriously. While I don’t begrudge her for thinking differently – especially since most Pagans I’ve met seem to think the same way – it always frustrates me a little to encounter people who believe in Deities and ghosts and magic, but who shake their heads at the idea of “evil.” Admittedly, “evil” is an extremely subjective word, but I don’t know what else to call a spirit that wants to torment little children or drive people insane. I’m not saying these entities are anywhere near as powerful as horror movies usually make them out to be (’cause they’re just little schoolyard bullies at the end of the day), but they can still be a problem and sometimes they just need to have their little asses handed to them. (Typhon rules, Apophis drools!)

      I’ll just bet everybody always wants to have their Halloween party at your place. 🙂 It sure sounds like there’s never a dull moment over there. And I agree with your last paragraph in that some people are just going to have a greater knack for heka than others. That’s not a value judgment; I have more of a knack for writing than most everyone else in my family does, but if you ask me to do math without a calculator, I’m helpless.

      Liked by 1 person

      • katakhanas February 13, 2015 at 6:06 pm

        I’m looking forward to reading your posts on helping Pagans maneuver through circumstances where their freedom to worship is compromised! I’ve long believed, especially as a feminist, that the exercising of one’s personal rights is inextricably tied with the ability to perform personal rites!

        Oh yes, not just at Halloween, but my annual Edgar Allan Poe party (which is also always held in October) is renowned for being a very spirit-ed event! However, as I just posted in a blog a few moments ago (about Anubis), this month has been a very haunted one, including last night! Major spirit activity. I’ve got a post in the works about it being the one-year anniversary of when a ghost Dan and I call “Czech Ghost” first became a fixture in our home. Have a boo-ti-ful Valentine’s Day weekend! Ha! 🙂


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