Graven Images- Icons and Statues in a Kemetic Shrine

I am taking a while getting my shrine set up. For one thing, I have picked up on the idea that if you decide to replace something in your shrine you have to do something to de-commission the old item. So I’m trying to pick a set of “nice” things that I won’t mind using for a while. If I was inviting someone to my home that I respected and admired, I would make some attempt to pull out nicer plates and silverware. Same thing here- even though I can’t afford solid-gold everything, I want a shrine that I can invite deities to visit without embarrassment.

I’m also planning on making my own icons, rather than buying resin statues. They will be stelae that I will pyrograph, paint, and maybe gold leaf. I’m not limited to a small number of deities, they are made as an act of devotion, and I don’t have to put up with random nonsense hieroglyphics on the bases.

So, that brings me to my topic- Icons.

IDOLS! Worshiping graven images (in the case of my pyrographs, literally “graven”). Oh, how heathen and primitive!

Of course we all know that it’s not the statue or image that someone is worshiping, and people bring up parallels to Roman Catholics and their statues of Mary and the saints. But I didn’t grow up in a Catholic background, and the whole Marian and Hagiography business was looked on rather suspiciously as primitive, atavistic, heathenish things! Oh, we were supposed to get along with them now, but all our grandparents were pretty convinced that those Catholics were really rooting for the other team.

The (Lutheran) church I grew up in had nice stained glass windows, and a larger-than-life-size painting of Jesus Knockin’ on the Door, but I don’t think anybody especially looked at them when they were praying. They were handy during the sermon, because they gave you something to focus on when you’re avoiding eye contact with the Pastor.

So, what’s a better explanation of an Icon to give to someone who isn’t Catholic?

I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and the answer’s been sitting right in front of me… literally!

A Computer! Yes, just imagine what it would look like to someone who has never heard of one, and possibly can’t read:

I sit in front of this thing, staring intently at it. If I’m wearing a ritual headset, I might even talk to it, otherwise I drum rhythms on a board. I seem to make requests, get answers, sometimes laugh. I certainly have an odd relationship with that inanimate hunk of plastic. How delusional.

But the computer is really a communications tool! I’m talking to someone, and this machine is the best (and sometimes safest) way to do it right now. Visiting my friend who is deployed in Iraq would probably take several years income at my current rate of pay, and not be the safest or smartest thing to do, for example. I have friends all over the country and the world that I have never met in person, and this machine is the gateway to do that.

Other parallels-

There are other ways I could connect with my “computer friends”. Most of them I hope to meet in person some day. I could always exchange phone numbers and talk to them. Or write a paper letter, send a card, put a gift in a box and send it. But the computer is a very effective and economical communications tool that’s convenient for us.

Thinking of the difference between the computer and house phone: I could call someone on the phone, but I can’t paste a link to something interesting, attach a file, etc. Or do video. So maybe an icon on a shrine has a higher “bandwidth” and capability than just talking to a deity while I’m doing something else. Fewer distractions as well. The Christian idea of bowing your head and/or closing your eyes is a similar concept.

There are big mainframes and servers used for state purposes and groups of people, and there are personal ones.

Personal taste, budget, and philosophy can go into your selection. I like that craft connection- I was thinking about Ma’at when I was making that image. You might rather have a replica statue of a museum treasure. Mac / Linux / Unix / Windows. Laptop, Desktop, pad, PDA. Running a recycled PC with an elegant lightweight desktop, or the latest-greatest.

It does take some maintenance- Keeping dust off and keeping the icon ritually clean. On the computer, using good passwords, keeping the antivirus stuff up-to-date (at least for you Windows people,) clearing out obsolete files and running updates. Close up that laptop or put that icon in a naos when you’re not using it.

They can come with junk you don’t want. Just like computers sometimes have undesirable “bonus” software installed, statues can come with those nonsense hieroglyphics! And given the importance of the word, that is not a good thing.

Also, thinking back to the de-commissioning process I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, it would be bad for me to just set this computer out at the curb when I replace it! I’d certainly do some “rituals” to remove all my information before I did that!!!

Can you think of anything I’ve missed?