I remember watching a nature documentary once about the rhinoceros. A young rhino slowly and cautiously approached a watering hole. It bobbed its nose up and down nervously toward an older rhino that was bathing in the water as if to say, “Excuse me kind sir, I don’t mean to offend, but may I please share your watering hole?” I don’t remember whether the older one chased the young one away, at the point of a very sharp horn, or if it tolerated the company. A rhino’s life is apparently full of such formalities. Heavens help the one that dares to relieve itself in the wrong place! Rhinos are exceedingly polite, because the alternative is to find themselves on the wrong end of a very long horn.
With the rhinos in mind, I find it interesting that Kemeticism is both full of highly dangerous gods, and formalized rituals that keep interactions with Them calm and safe. One of my divined fathers, Heru-sa-Aset, once sliced off his own mother’s head. (He regretted it afterward.) The other one, Ra, once ordered the destruction of all humankind. (He changed his mind.) Among my beloveds I have the instrument of Ra’s destructive judgement, Sekhmet-Hethert, “The Rager,” Sobek, and that quiet guy, Djehuty, who you should never underestimate because he Knows Stuff. Yikes? I’m glad they’re on my side! It would be wise to keep it that way.
The Names are potentially dangerous. They are not human, and they live in a different world than we do. This can make communication difficult and potentially problematic. Ritual is a formal means of communicating with these beings that is designed to reduce potential confusion and accidental offense. When you meet a stranger in daily life, it is usually better to adopt a more formal and polite tone until you get to know that person. With some people, or those who hold certain positions of authority, you should never fully drop the formality, as with a Judge in a court of law.
The ritual becomes a sort of social contract between the two parties. Gestures, food offerings, specific wording all outline the intent of the petitioner. The Names recognize these forms and generally act within the context given.
Ritual is also soothing. It gives a sense of control and predictability. The words become well-worn and familiar over time. The preparations clear the mind and ready it for a different mode of being. The outside world may be chaotic, but within the shrine, you can enjoy a sense of order.
These are all nice words coming from someone who rarely participates in ritual structures. My Fathers, my Beloveds, their sisters and brothers, and parents, and aunts and uncles and children, etc. are part of my family. They are not strangers to me. The careful formality that comforts others ends up making me feel more lonely and homesick. I do have a working godphone. I back it up with tarot cards when I’m uncertain. If I offend Them, it’s generally not an accident. They also have a working phone in the other direction, and they can see that even at my most annoying, my heart tries to be in the right place. Even at my most “disrespectful” my heart is never without love for Them. It goes the other way too, even at their scariest, they are never without love for me.
I’m glad they’re on my side. I want to keep them that way. When the biggest and scariest thing on the block has your back, it makes everything else seem less worrisome.