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Category: Pagan Blog Project 2012

PBP Fridays: I is for Isfet

PBP Fridays: I is for Isfet

Isfet is a concept found in ancient Egypt (and in modern Kemetic practices), and it has no direct perfect translation to English. It is the opposite of ma’at, which is rightness and truth, harmony and balance; so isfet can be called wrongness and falseness, disharmony and imbalance. Isfet could be called evil, or chaos, but neither is quite right. It is subtler than “evil,” I think, and is perhaps the closest thing that Kemetics have to “sin.” If one makes a mistake that hurts another person, it is not isfet; to deliberately choose to go against ma’at and bring about harm is isfet.

One of ancient Egypt’s creation myths – the one featuring Nit (Neith) as the Creatrix – states that isfet, in the form of Ap-p the Uncreated (Apophis), came into being while Nit was creating the world. While She spoke life into existence, a drop of spittle fell from Her mouth; it was part of the power of creation, yet without purpose or form. It has attempted to undo creation ever since, a sign that sometimes things happen which even the gods don’t intend.

Isfet itself is a term that refers to the doings of the Uncreated and how they are expressed in the world. Isfet is the concept; gereg is lying (speaking isfet), and binet is akin to oppressing or harming (performing or acting on isfet).

As a Kemetic, I strive to bring ma’at to the world through my words, actions, and heart; likewise, I strive to minimize and extinguish isfet from my person and my life. Much like any standard of purity, it is a constant effort to promote ma’at; however, since isfet is never accidental and always deliberate, I find it much more cleanly-cut to measure against my own standards. For example, I may be having a terrible day and be struggling to be as strong in ma’at as I would like, but I can at least work to curb my tongue and not strike out at others in frustration and pain, and therefore I can avoid creating isfet in that moment.

In Egyptian mythology, fighting the Uncreated is the work of many gods, the strongest of which is Set; but other gods have given humans heka (magic) in order to battle and defeat isfet in our mortal lives. We are not unarmed; we can always strive to lessen the power of the wrongness that crops up in the world. Each day is a new opportunity to rise above isfet and protect each other from harm.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: I is for Immanence

PBP Fridays: I is for Immanence

I believe in immanence.

Immanence, or in-dwelling, indicates that the Divine resides within, not (solely) without. I have the spark of divinity within my body, heart, mind; so does every other person alive, dead, or yet to be born. For myself, I also believe that every bodiless spirit and every inanimate object is also part of the Divine. We’re all ingredients in the great gumbo of God. :) I am different from my chair* and from my grandmother who has passed on, but I am no more or less sacred than either, no more or less part of the universe and so the Universal Soul.

(*Why yes, I am frequently guilty of anthropomorphizing objects; you should listen to how I talk to my car. However, that’s one of those personal quirks that has only positive ramifications and no negative side-effects, so I happily and freely continue. I break fewer things this way, that’s for sure.)

This belief– this connectedness, this kinship– is one of the many reasons I practice compassion and study zen. The more gently, kindly, courteously I can treat the world – including myself – the better the world is, in however small a way. The more I can see from another’s view and understand them, the less I judge and the more acceptance I bring to the world. The more connected to the Universe that I feel, the less personally I take negative words, actions, and events.

To put it slightly more practically: Shit happens, and it ain’t about me. It may be about something I said, or did, but my actions or words are not the sole constituents of the person who is me. And when I remember that and reflect that as a two-way philosophy, well, I can engage with people with much more compassion than if I feel like someone did something just to hurt me– or if I feel my mistake was somehow aimed like an arrow at someone else’s heart.

The connection between compassion and immanence may not be obvious, or even sensical, but it’s a necessary bridge in my own eyes. Everything, and everyone, is part of the Divine; everything, and everyone, deserves to be treated with as much compassion and gentleness as I can muster.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: H is for Heka, Egyptian Magic

PBP Fridays: H is for Heka, Egyptian Magic

The Kemetic (ancient Egyptian) word heka is most frequently translated to be “magic,” but it’s not quite the kind of magic that most of us in the Western world are familiar with. Heka is word-magic, the power inherent in the written or spoken word, the power of authoritative utterance. It most literally translates to “activating the ka,” which is the part of one’s being or spirit that comprises one’s current personality and psyche; the power of heka is tied to the soul and the innate power of who we are. Unlike a lot of modern magical methods, heka does not require casting circle, creating sacred space, raising or channeling energy, or invoking any entities into your personal space. Heka is language at its most powerful, and as language, prayers can be heka just as easily as “spells” can be heka.

Ancient Egyptians and many modern Kemetics place special emphasis on how they speak and what they say (or write). Heka is in every word that passes our lips and hands, not just the words we intend to be magical or prayerful. As I write this entry, I commit heka. As I pray to my gods and sing Them songs, I engage with heka. As I write my little charms in Kalash on the whiteboards at work, I inscribe heka. As I hold a conversation about silly things or deep things with my friends, coworkers, and myself, I create heka.

One of the things I love about the power of heka is that its strength and effectiveness is solidly backed by science. The power of what we say and how we say it has been extensively studied from almost every point of view, from hard psychology to self-help authors to New Age affirmation gurus to modern magicians. There’s a huge difference in how our bodies and brain chemicals and intangible minds react to “I won’t smoke anymore” vs. “I want to quit smoking” vs. “I am quitting smoking” (or “I quit smoking”).

Heka is the understanding that what you say matters. Ancient Egyptians often offered teaching wisdoms to this point: speak only in surety, do not speak out of anger, holding your tongue is to be the bigger person. The value in speaking with care and deliberation has not lessened as the ages have worn on; as a point of self-control, as part of compassionate interaction, heka has a crucial role to play in how we communicate with others and express ourselves.

Not to mention the power of intentional heka used in prayer and magic! To focus all the power of language into short forms of prayer or ritual or spellwork, written or spoken, is an amazing thing. It’s like poetry, like music, able to distill the immensity of the human experience – or at least one facet of it – down to a singular, streaming flow of words. One can bring to bear all the power of linguistic aesthetics and magical potential, calling on positive phrases and avoiding negative ones, choosing particular words for their beauty and their acute meanings. To craft heka as prayer or spell, written or spoken, is to forge a blade and hone it to a glistening, unwavering edge. With intentional heka, one etches oneself upon the slate of the universe, for good or ill, in the name of willful change or gratitude or whatever one sees fit. We can change the world – the big one outside and the smaller ones inside ourselves – with the shapes of our tongues and teeth and ink-bearing hands.

Heka can come in many forms and trappings, including those we more commonly associate with ritual – light the candle, light the incense, say the words of purification, wash, say the words of prayer or of spellwork, and even add raised energy to the mix. Ancient Egyptians so believed in the power of heka that many of their spells and rituals involved taking on a particular god’s name – and thus, all powers and relationships S/He had – in order to accomplish a goal. At its heart, heka is the power of the language we choose and use. Our words have power, and we are responsible for how that power is dispensed through our vocabulary.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: G is for being a GLBTQ Pagan

PBP Fridays: G is for being a GLBTQ Pagan

Disclaimer: Herein lies statements of subjective experience, opinions, and selfhood. The generalizations I make are from my personal experience; I am fully aware that your mileage may vary and that no experience or group of people is without flaw. :) This post is not the post I thought it would be, but I think it’s worth sharing anyways, howevermuch I waffled about posting it at all.

It Does Get Better; hell, sometimes, it starts good and goes from there.

I’m queer. I get mistaken for the opposite sex fairly often in person and online, I identify as genderfunky (genderqueer/genderfluid), and I’m pansexual. I have dated males, females, and a genderqueer person who shared my first name. I see gender as an immense, fluctuating, color-wheel-esque spectrum, not a line from girl to boy, and certainly not a binary of yes/no either/or. On any given day, I may be more masculine or more feminine, depending on the onlooker’s gender paradigm and my own shifting nature. Essentially, though, I am always checking the “Other” box when asked to describe myself, and I am very open and “out” about my non-normativity in daily life, including my corporate dayjob in Texas. (Kid you not: I walk into my nine-story office building every day in blue-jeans and a flannel, sporting a mohawk and a scorpion talisman, surrounded by suits and skirts. No one says a word.)

Given my identity and given the gender binary and heteronormativity of many mainstream types of paganism, what’s a queer cat to do?

Well, when I got into Wicca-flavored paganism, I was a teenager and did not identify as genderfunky yet. I identified as a strong young person who wanted to be proud of everything it was, including its sex and gender, and tell you what, Wicca supported me there. Wicca made pure and powerful both genders, both sexes, finding things for men and women to rejoice in and treasure, both in themselves and in those of the opposite sex. People who were not stereotypically girly or boyish still found deities they could jive with and a subculture that was beginning to explore the potential range of gender expressions.

By the time I claimed the label genderfunky, I was away from any particular brand of paganism and following only the goddess Sekhmet. My companions within sight of my winding path were of all sorts, but many or most of them were some kind of queer or queer-supportive, as well as being some kind of pagan. Now, I find myself at home in Kemetic Orthodoxy, where queerness is welcomed with open arms and even our gods show that it’s not all male/female all the time.

I know there are a slew of potential queer pagan issues out there, particularly in traditions/styles/groups that have a strong duality or sex-based roles. I myself just… don’t really run into them. My path is either eclectic and solitary, where I make my own rules and rituals and magic, or I’m participating in a group that doesn’t even bat an eye when I fall outside the typical gender pronouns. This is one of those cases where my matter-of-fact attitude about my honest self-expression feels like an immovable object: I just don’t have any problems with being queer in a pagan world. I am Queer Rock, hear me roll.

Amidst all the uncertainties and challenges surrounding life as queer, it’s kind of nice not to have to fret about how my gender, sexuality, and spirituality mesh. I know plenty of queer pagans have trouble getting all the ducks in a row, and I am nothing but grateful that I’ve somehow avoided most of the jagged rocks. Now, granted, there are plenty of issues with being queer in the secular world, but that’s politics, and I hate talking politics. I’d rather enjoy the fact that the path I walk feels custom-made for the soles of my feet and leave it at that.

To my fellow queer pagans who may feel there is not enough queerness in paganism: roll up your sleeves and dive in. If you can’t find old-school queer deities to suit you, see if there are any new-school ones willing to say hi – or look at those old deities in a new light. Tired of binary rituals for Sabbats and Esbats? Write new ones. Magic and paganism are very personal paths, and there’s nothing really stopping you from customizing it to fit you (short of inflexible rules of a particular tradition). If the Universe gave birth to the full range of human gender identity and sexuality, then we can certainly expand our spirituality to include this variety and diversity.

Being queer, in any crowd, is rarely easy. I’m immensely thankful that, of all the cats I could hang with, pagans are more accepting of my kind of folks than most. Props to all the wonderfully tolerant and supportive people out there, pagan or otherwise, queer or otherwise. You rock.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: G is for Genderqueer and GLBTQ Netjeru

PBP Fridays: G is for Genderqueer and GLBTQ Netjeru

As a genderfunky and pansexual individual myself, I have a special interest in mythological figures who are also queer in some fashion. To my pleasant surprise, we have several Egyptian gods, or Netjeru, Who have some queerness in Them. This post is meant to be a brief introductions to the ones I know.

Firstly, we have Nit, the Creatrix. Of the handful of primary creator deities in ancient Egypt, Nit was the only one said to be female, but all creator deities are to some extent genderfluid and/or genderless, being gods that have reproduced asexually through various means (masturbation, spit, intentional thought) to create the rest of the gods. Nit Herself, despite being hailed as a goddess, bears the epithet “The Mother and Father of All Things” and has been addressed as “Male Who made female; Female Who made male” at the temples of Esna. She is the God Who bore women and the Goddess Who bore men, and so within Herself contains all sexes, all genders. Nit is said to have created childbirth, and, when referred to as a creatrix, Her name is written with the hieroglyph of an ejaculating phallus. She has been referred to as the deity of the Nun (pronounced noon), the great primordial waters of creation, or as the Nun personified. Another snippet from the Esna inscription reads:

Wide water Who created eternity; water Who made everlastingness;
Who rose in Nun while earth was in darkness.
Living Ancestor, Who had Her origins in Nun, before the creation of Geb and the raising of Nut.
Genetrix, Cobra Who was at the beginning, Mother of time primordial, She Who created Her own birth…

(Geb is the god of the earth; Nut is the goddess of the sky.) For more about Nit, you can read the research I’ve compiled thus far.

Nit has also been identified with/as Nebt-het (Nephthys), Lady of Death. In ancient texts, Nebt-het has been described as being “an imitation woman with no vagina” because of Her barrenness, and She has no children with Her husband, Set, Lord of the Red Desert, which is a striking difference from most Kemetic triads of mother-father-child. Some modern Egyptologists have interpreted Nebt-het as being a lesbian; more to the point, She is sekhyt, a Kemetic word often translated as “eunuch” but more accurately indicates any person who doesn’t fit within the traditional gender roles of male or female, any person who is infertile, and/or a sexless/unsexed person.

That leads us to Nebt-het’s husband and consort, Set, God of Chaos. Set is a highly sexual god; He’s been lured off after Aset (Isis) in guise of a beautiful maiden before, and He’s also tried to seduce Heru-sa-Aset (Horus the Younger), both during the Contendings of Horus and Set, which is the tale of Who would become king after Wesir’s (Osiris’) death. Heru-sa-Aset, in turn, tricked Set into consuming some of His semen on lettuce, also as a part of the Contendings myth. Some Egyptologists suggest Set is strictly homosexual, but He would also be more suited to the term sekhyt, as He’s often considered sterile due to His association with the barren desert, over which He rules. Heru-sa-Aset may or may not be considered bisexual or sekhyt, depending on the source; He does go on to father the four Sons of Heru, showing that He is indeed fertile, but His actions with Set may suggest a bisexual inclination (or just an attempt to gain a political upper hand).

In addition, Hapi, god of the Nile, was a male deity associated with the fertility and life-giving powers of the Nile river; as a result, He was shown as a round-bellied man with full breasts. The breasts may have been symbolic, or He may have been considered a fully hermaphroditic deity, though He did still have a wife.

Fertility was a big deal in ancient Egypt and was the primary requisite for a person receiving the full privileges of womanhood or manhood, but even in the biggest myths, genderbending and alternate sexualities were represented; there’ve also been inscriptions in tombs indicating homosexual relations between men. (I don’t know of any between women; if you do, please share!) Set and Nebt-het, both important deities in Kemet, were sekhyt Netjeru, and all creator deities, especially Nit, held within Them both male and female qualities. If I’ve missed any queer Egyptian gods, please feel free to chime in, or add your opinions/experience with the gods mentioned here!

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: F is for Feral

PBP Fridays: F is for Feral

Feral is a big word. It means the long-term guest-cat living in our household, who has slowly learned what it means to not hiss and flee from any still object that’s even remotely animal- or person-shaped. It means all the cats and dogs living in urban and suburban areas without human caretakers. It means all the human-brought domesticized animals that got out into the countryside and went native– often ousting truly native species and wrecking ecosystem balance in the process.

Feral means non-human sometimes, or maybe just non-thinking. Instinctive, perhaps even intuitive. Feral is a word that evokes a sense of dangerousness, of unpredictability, of wildness. Feral can bite the hand that feeds and lick it tenderly not a minute later. Feral evades capture. Feral cannot be reached with logic, and only sometimes can it be tempered with the reliable structure that logic can build. One rehabilitates a feral animal in part by providing a secure, unchanging rhythm and structure until it learns it does not need to fear or aggress. Our half-feral girl has come from living on a closet shelf to sleeping on my stomach at night because she learned I don’t react when she hisses; I do not take advantage of her fear or vulnerability, and so I am not a threat. A non-threat may be lived with peaceably; a non-threat may even be trusted.

For me, the word feral overlaps with the word pagan. Both of them speak to less civilization and more nature, more blood and marrow and greenery and sickness and danger and risk. I do not romanticize old days with nonexistant roads, poor or no education, more primitive medicine and surgery, and frequently terrible human rights. But I do see the disconnect from wildness that exists in my urban, civilized, well-educated, sanitized world now. It can be very hard to be feral in healthy ways when everything around you is automated machinery and political maneuvering. It can be very hard to be nature-based pagan when everything around you is plastic and steel and pavement and glass.

I am in some ways feral, a human animal who has not lost its ties to instinct and flesh. I am sometimes-tame, domesticated enough to live in the world we have constructed, civil enough to wish for joy and abundance and love for all people, intelligent enough to understand compassion and justice and social contracts. But beneath this veneer of well-cultured humanity is still an animal seeking to survive the chaos of life in whatever way it can, and I react to trauma like my half-feral cat has reacted to her own, despite all my efforts at cultivating zen within myself.

I seek feralness in others. Most of the heart-deep friends I have understand the nature of the human animal and share it with me, bound to visceral experience and strong instinct and the sense of striving to live, even within our blessedly privileged and safe lives. Most of the gods I follow have feral natures– the keening kite, the roiling black sea, the sunning lion, the hunting lioness, the stinging scorpion, the roaming stallion. The poetry I write drips with imagery for all the senses, and the novels and short stories I craft feature creatures or monsters or shapeshifters of some sort far more often than humans. The media I consume – music, movies, books – revolve around the highlights of feral entities, the struggle to resolve feral nature with compassionate morals, glimpses of things that are not purely human. The martial art I study seeks to train the instinct to react appropriately, knowing the body can move so much more quickly than the mind in a hot situation, knowing the body is its own kind of animal.

I have said before that I love Celtic paganism and my Kemetic path in very different ways. Kemeticism is the sun upon my skin, the wind and light through clean branches, the warmth of the working day when words are said clearly and things are built strongly. But in Celticism are my roots, deep within the loamy soil, untouched by sight and light, coiling and winding, drinking deep of the world and its marrow, full of blood and spit and sweat and hairs. When I engage with Celtic gods and Celtic paganism, I do so as a feral human animal; when I act as a Kemetic, I do so from the higher faculties that I possess, logic and structure and order and reason. This does present unique challenges, such as finding it difficult to intellectually study Celtic history and mythos as I have Kemeticism, such as finding it difficult to interact with my human ancestors within a non-feral Kemetic framework. The dynamic between feral and not-feral feels like the twisting spiral of my very DNA, the centerpoint around which all of my work – physical, spiritual, and creative – revolves.

Much like I need both animal nature and human intelligence to call myself a human animal, I need both Celtic and Kemetic nourishment for my spirit to truly thrive.

This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.

PBP Fridays: F is for the Five Pillars of Kemetic Orthodoxy

PBP Fridays: F is for the Five Pillars of Kemetic Orthodoxy

The following are strictly my thoughts and my personal understanding; if you want the official and formal introduction to Kemetic Orthodoxy, please click here for that information. :)

There are five pillars, five touchstone concepts that form the basis of Kemetic Orthodoxy as an organized religion, five key things that make Kemetic Orthodoxy what it is. To the ancient Egyptians, four was the number of completion, and we see it everywhere – the four directions, the four winds, duality x duality; five is four plus one, “perfection plus something to oversee it.”

The Four Pillars are Netjer (divinity and all the gods), Akhu (the blessed dead, our ancestors), the Nisut (the pharaoh and the concept of kingship), and Community (the people of the faith). Ma’at, the concept of rightness and balance, is the fifth force that unites the four pillars.

I’m going to review the terms/concepts above, then move on to my personal reflections about each.

Netjer

(Netjer = Divinity or God-as-a-Whole; Netjeru = a particular god.) Monolatry is a concept similar to soft polytheism; it states that all gods are simultaneously separate individuals and also part of a greater whole. This can lead to some mind-bendy exercises in chasing down perceptions of divinity, as gods can be aspected (the same god playing a different role, such as Sekhmet and Hethert (Hathor)) or syncretized (a third god being born of the characteristics of two or three other gods, akin to them yet its own self, such as Hethert-Nut) or simply complex (such as the idea of god X showing up “in His/Her name of God Y”). And that’s not even getting into newer Netjeru absorbing the characteristics and cults of older ones, like Hethert absorbing Bat, an older cow goddess. Popular deities like Hethert and Aset (Isis) absorbed dozens of smaller goddesses’ attributes and worshippers over the ages that They were worshipped.

Kemetic Orthodoxy is a soft reconstructionist religion. The founder of the faith is a degreed Egyptologist, and several of our members are Egyptologists by degree or by intensive self-study, while the bulk of the rest of us are armchair scholars with at least a few well-accredited books on our shelves. As such, members are strongly encouraged to do as much research as they want in order to gain an accurate, rich perspective on how ancient Egyptians lived, performed rites, and worshipped the Netjeru that we now do. With the same fervor, members are also encouraged to do more than just read about it, but to practice it, to pray, to reach out to Netjer and see what happens. UPG (unverified personal gnosis, aka subjective personal experience) is respected and supported as true for the individual who experienced it. Ultimately, Kemetic Orthodoxy professes that we cannot know with 100% certainty, so we do our best research and we respect everyone’s experiences as personally valid.

My Thoughts

I know I’ve said this before in this journal, but it bears repeating here – I became monolatrous long before I knew it was a thing and well before I knew Kemetic Orthodoxy existed. It’s a worldview that suits me incredibly well, much better than hard polytheism – it has space for flexibility, encourages UPG, and supports polyvalent logic, without being so nebulous as to prevent a grounded sense of comprehension. Since I came to it as a personal paradigm conclusion, without any labels or outside influences, I am nothing but happy (and surprised) that Kemetic Orthodoxy shares the same basic idea. I also love the combination of spiritual experience and factual research, both of which are treated as valid.

Akhu

Kemetic Orthodoxy practices and encourages ancestor veneration. We believe that, after death, the soul of the departed goes on a long journey through the Duat, the Unseen world, that culminates in the Weighing of the Heart, where that person’s heart – the seat of their personhood, emotions, and memory – is weighed against the feather of Ma’at, the goddess of balance and justice. It’s been said that Ma’at has a heavy feather, for we suspect that few are truly “bad” enough to outweigh it and be uncreated (consumed forever) by Ammit, the Devourer. Once a person passes the Weighing, they become an akh, plural akhu, the blessed dead. They go on to Wesir’s (Osiris) kingdom in the Duat, a land for the dead that is not so dissimilar from the land of the living; people work, live, love, and serve Wesir as their god-king. (This is very simplified and abbreviated; forgive me. There’s plenty to read on the subject of the Egyptian afterlife for those so inclined.)

A note about the biology of the soul, according to Kemetic thought: The human soul has several components, the two most frequently mentioned being the ba (plural bau) and ka (plural kau). The ba is the eternal, everlasting part, and for those of us who believe in reincarnation, that’s the part that moves on past this life and begins the next. The ka is the personality of who you are in this life, and it’s the ka that becomes an akh. In a nutshell, this means that a person who has passed can both reincarnate and be a recognizable ancestor-ghost with whom their living relatives can communicate and to whom we can make offerings. (An extra note: If you believe in reincarnation, this means that you can interact with your own former kau as akhu. That’s really cool to me. :D)

My Thoughts

I don’t have a lot of ties to my blood family; I am much more inclined to small, one-on-one relationships than being part of a clan. The idea of venerating my ancestors is not an instinctual one for me, mostly because I don’t have a lot of emotional attachment to kin; however, I can get behind the idea of honoring those who came before and who produced the people who produced me. I’m fully aware of the changing of the times, and being an oddball even according to liberal modern people, I’m wary of thinking my ancestors “get” me, which can be a stumbling block in relating to my akhu. Nonetheless, I’m trying to ease myself into a better, hopefully more interactive relationship with my akhu; I do have a small shrine to them, and I keep a small glass of water filled and a small vase with a few green things/found flowers in it. I think fondly of my mom’s mom and my dad’s dad, both passed, and hope that all my akhu, “known and unknown,” think fondly of me.

Nisut

This is the biggest sticking point for most people when they regard Kemetic Orthodoxy as an organized reconstructionist religion. We have a Nisut – we have a pharaoh, a king. The founder of Kemetic Orthodoxy, Rev. Tamara Siuda (to whom I usually refer as Hemet on this journal), is both our teacher and our leader. She has represented the spiritual nation of Kemetic Orthodoxy more than once at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and members of Kemetic Orthodoxy view her as anything between a hard-working Egyptologist to a historical and spiritual teacher to the embodiment of the Kingly Ka, which bestows the divine right to rule on a human king.

The Nisut performs multiple functions. From antiquity, the pharaoh was seen as the chief priest, and all other priests performed rituals and offerings on his/her behalf, hence the phrase hetep-di-nisut, “an offering which the king gives,” to be said before presenting offerings in the temple. The Nisut also performs multiple daily rituals to Netjer on behalf of the spiritual nation and undertakes all the mundane and less-mundane duties of keeping an organized religion, well, organized and running. Kemetic Orthodoxy has had thousands of members over twenty or so years and has hundreds of active ones at this moment, which is not an easy herd of cats to wrangle.

My Thoughts

I don’t so much care if the gods themselves chose Hemet to lead Their new nation of devotees, even though that’s what a lot of people want to talk about – the divine right to rule, the presence of the kingly ka (spirit). What matters to me is that she’s an earnest person, a knowledgeable Egyptologist and linguist, and has the interpersonal skills to handle a bunch of enthusiastic and diverse people trying to resurrect a really old religion. And, from what I’ve seen, she does. I’ve admired the compassion, eloquence, patience, and overwhelming sovereignty she expresses – sovereignty not in the kingly sense, but in the live-and-let-live sense. She is who she is, and she allows others to be who they are – there’s no pressure to conform or change, nor does she allow herself to be swayed easily. She’s got a lot of strong supporters and plenty of naysayers, and she handles both kinds of attention with grace and humility. Insofar as a leader goes, Hemet’s quite alright in my book.

Community

The Kemetic Orthodoxy community (or House of Netjer) is comprised of Remetj (friends of the faith), Shemsu (sworn-in followers), and the priesthood (which is separated between w’abu, purity priests, and priests who have legal clergy status). There are smaller nuances within these groupings, but this is meant to be a loose overview. All official material and the people themselves emphasize that no title or rank is “better” than the other, merely different. Priests of Kemetic Orthodoxy do not have a better or closer relationship to their gods, nor are they more special to their gods; they perform different duties and have more responsibilities than most non-priests. A Remetj is no less a member of the House than a Shemsu. We are all the people, and without us, Kemetic Orthodoxy could not stand stable on its four pillars.

As a part of the community, people are encouraged to interact. Ancient Egyptians were social people, and no person was an island unto themselves. The modern community is spread across all states in the US and many countries throughout the world; we have a physical temple in Joliet, IL, but we meet wherever there is more than one of us. Members and priests hold large and small gatherings, some religious, some purely for fellowship, many centered around museum exhibits and Kemetic holidays. Every year, the temple hosts a big Wep Ronpet (new year) retreat in early August, and there are many other activities and events held at the temple, as well. To supplement this in-person fellowship, there are weekly fellowship and ritual/teaching chats held online, as well as a thriving forum membership.

My Thoughts

For a solitary person, I am really, really attached to this community. I’ve found fabulous people and an incredible atmosphere of support, curiosity, and shared fascination for obscure, complex gods. Troublesome guests on the forums have been treated civilly (in umpteen years, only 5 people have ever been banned – that’s pretty impressive to me), and I hear newcomers to fellowship or spiritual events in-person are welcomed with open arms, no reservations, no hesitation. The House is comprised of a bunch of awesome people, and if they hadn’t been this awesome, I might’ve stuck to my loner ways – it takes a lot to make me delurk and actually connect with an online community with such a strong offline base. But I’ve made friends, made connections, and I treasure that. I can call these folks my spiritual family and mean it, and I look forward to meeting more of them in person and attending more events.

Ma’at

Ma’at is the force of balance and rightness in the universe. Embodied in a goddess named after the concept, ma’at is neither good nor evil, only objectively fair and just. Imbalance is re-balanced; wrongness is righted; disparities are corrected. Ma’at is not a personal force out to do nice things for you as an individual; ma’at keeps the universe working as intended. Ma’at is a force of creation, where its opposite, isfet, is a force of uncreation. Westerners easily understand isfet as evil, or even chaos; where ma’at seeks to harmonize the function of the world, isfet seeks to return it to a state of nothingness.

There’s more subtlety to these concepts than “good” and “evil” – ma’at, in correcting an imbalance, may seem negative to an individual; fire ecology is a good example of this. In Nevada and parts of northern California, pine forests have been protected from wild fires by humans and allowed to overgrow; the trees are far too dense and numerous. Fire ecology, if allowed to happen naturally, would periodically burn sections of these trees down and enrich the soil for the next generation; however, since humans keep it from happening, a wildfire in such dense forests spreads too quickly, taking out huge amounts of trees and clearing the land. Fire ecology is ma’at, though humans see it as a negative thing and seek to prevent it from working as its nature demands. As a result, the forests are imbalanced and at higher risk for devastation.

My Thoughts

In my head, I correlate ma’at with the Tao in a lot of ways, although the Tao is more about flow than justice. Since I was a kid, I’ve noticed that things in life tend to have a sort of middling point, a balance, a fulcrum to which they generally return, and as an adult, I can recognize ma’at’s effects there. Given my study of the Tao and my practice in following it, studying ma’at and walking within the concept is not a hard stretch – it casts new lights on things I’ve been looking at for a while. Ma’at doesn’t seem like an artificial construct, a fabricated form of ethics to suit a society or religion; it feels more like an observation on how the world works even when we’re not watching, and I rather like that.

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