Akhu means “shining ones”. (The singular is akh.) Akhu are those who have died but can still remain in contact with the living. It’s often used interchangeably with “ancestors” but you can honor any akh, not just those who were related to you.
How do you work with the akhu (shrines, rites, etc)?
How do you set up an akhu practice?
If you decide that you want to have an akhu practice, I would start by identifying which akhu you want to venerate. These could be people who were related to you, or not. They could be friends, pets, people who have inspired you. You can even just honor “your ancestors” in general, even if you don’t know their names.
Once you know who you want to venerate, it’s helpful to have some kind of shrine. If you have pictures of the people you want to add, that’s a good thing to put on there. In my case, I don’t have pictures of any of my dead, and that’s okay too. Other things you might want on your akhu shrine: things that belonged to the dead, things that they liked, candle(s), maybe flowers. Cool water is like the basic offering for any occasion, but you can also give them other things.
Don’t just get stuck on the physical trappings, though. Spend some time with your akhu, get to know them better, remember them. You can pray or simply talk to them, you can write them letters and leave those on the shrine.
Something that others have pointed out: Since akhu used to be mortals, they have a better understanding of our daily lives than gods do, and people who liked you when they were alive would likely want to help you if they can.
Akhu in my personal practice:
At first, I did not think I would have an akhu practice at all, because the only dead relatives I know are people I didn’t like, and I couldn’t think of anyone else I would want to venerate. But sometimes life takes some unexpected turns.
I did find one dead relative with whom I get along well, and then I had a pet who died, so I made a shrine for the two of them. However, I couldn’t think of much to say or do, so I didn’t really do anything until almost a year later, when I was suddenly presented with many more dead who needed attention.
Since then, my akhu practice has mainly centered on the forgotten dead. I remember and honor those those who have no one else to remember them. I’m not sure why it happened, I just got the call one day, and couldn’t say no. Maybe it’s because I know what it’s like to be alone, to not have any family. I want to take in all the lonely souls.
In practical terms, what I generally do is put out a cup of cool water, light a candle, and invite those who wish to come. A note on safety: Be careful who you let in. I have wards in place, and when inviting people I don’t know, I make the invitation to “those who have no ill intent” or something along those lines, and that has worked fine for me.
I’m not sure what to say about rites; as far as that goes, I’m just making it up as I go along. So far that’s mostly been “try to do a little something extra” (a nicer spread, special flowers, whatever seems appropriate at the time). I usually don’t know what I’m going to be doing until I start preparing, and then it somehow falls into place. I know that’s not very helpful, but I don’t have it figured out either, I just try to go with what feels right and maybe I’ll figure it out along the way.
The Kemetic Round Table (KRT) is a blogging project aimed at providing practical, useful information for modern Kemetic religious practitioners. For all the entries relating to this particular topic, take a peek here.