Review: Divine Icons and Sacred Verses of Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa
In times of darkness, what sustains us is the memory of light. This month, I wanted to take a moment to get away from doomscrolling; the oversaturation of the stress of what seems like an increasingly dark world and a little focus on something positive.
Here, let’s raise other queer voices that sing the beauty of the world and remind us of spirituality in everyday life. The divine in the Earth. In our bodies. Think of it as a spiritual tonic meant to uplift and nurture, strengthen and fortify our souls.
Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa is an internationally renowned iconographer, craftsman, spiritual teacher and human rights defender. He is perhaps best known for his stunning art, inspired by ancient Egyptian gods. His pieces are more than “art”. They are devotional portals designed to transport the viewer into a space of divine connection and rapture.
But his visual art is only one aspect of his divine offerings. Enter “Sacred Verses: Entering the Labyrinth of the Gods.” This book was originally written in 2016, but has now been released in both hardcover and paperback, giving readers the opportunity to delve into the rich and sensual landscape of the masterful work of Nofra-Uaa.
Full disclosure: I received a hardback copy of this book from the author as a gift and, having been a fan of his works and being a poet myself, I was eager for the opportunity to immerse myself in the festivities poetic. I was not deceived.
Each poem is an invocation to the ancient gods, but remarkably this book does not force the reader into a specific culture or tradition. Although gods are ubiquitous in this work and the flavor of ancient Egyptian culture and philosophy is present as a notable spice, there is no mention of specific deity names. This gives this work a broad appeal, opening the door for practitioners of many different magical paths to benefit from it.
The themes are universal: birth, life, death, man’s place on earth and in the cosmos, the vast mystery of the cosmos and of the gods. If sometimes more specific cultural symbols can emerge, they do not detract from the universalism of the work. The crocodile and the hippopotamus, for example, are not animals generally considered in the larger neo-pagan sense, but take their rightful places of power in a kemetic philosophy, and thus their presence here (with the occasional reference to the “ba”, an ancient Egyptian term for part of the human soul) serve as gentle reminders of the origin of this particular work and the author’s religious passions.
Nofra-Uaa draws from the natural world and expresses a religious experience not confined by establishments, traditions or dogmas, but rather draws from the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars and the body itself, to describe a religious state devoid of shame or spiritual fascism.
“Religious commitment is the horse we ride through the spheres of influence inhabited by our gods. This religious commitment, not being the institutions of organized religion or inflexible doctrine, but rather the framework provided by traditions which offer a means to directly touch the Holy Powers and to draw from them a personal gnosis.
–Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa, from the introduction
Nofra-Uaa reaffirms the primordial authority of universal connection and the process of moving through death and decay and into the ravishing light. To be immersed in the waves of these sacred verses is to sail through the seas of time and spirit, to face the abyss and return with the wisdom of darkness. It’s a recurring theme, beautifully expressed in the line, “We are all shadows, traveling through the open doors of Earth.” There is an awareness of the process of transforming the mind. This spirituality is a verb, operating where others might just sit and just be. There is an urgency here: to absorb every moment, to be present in every banal second, because here is revealed that the world in which we live – the body in which we live – is the foundation of everything; the secret door to another world that has always been ours, if only we had eyes to see and ears to listen.
It is a book that revels in the spirituality of the physical, acknowledging the ravishing divine presence in all things. The poetry is passionate and rich, offering the reader the opportunity to delve deeply into the sensuality of the world around them, opening a sacred doorway to the numinous. Like all poetry, in my opinion, they are best when read aloud, giving the spoken words the necessary boost to make their magic more widely known. Any magical group that wishes to focus on deepening their ability to collectively shift into altered states of devotional consciousness would benefit greatly from the shared reading of these sacred verses.
In times of darkness, what sustains us is the memory of light. Books and art like these keep that memory alive.
[EDIT: An earlier version erroneously stated that ‘Sacred Verses’ was published in 2016. While written in 2016 it wasn’t published until late December 2021. We apologize for the error.]