This post is part of the Kemetic Round Table, a loose organization of various Kemetic bloggers. Our aim is to answer some of the most common beginner questions with our diverse opinions and different levels of experience, providing a wealth of good options for the Kemetic novice to explore.
The full topic of this post is fourfold:
- Do I need a main deity to practice Kemeticism?
- If so, how do I get a main deity?
- Am I obligated to learn everything I can about my main deity?
- Am I able to say no to a deity that shows up at my shrine?
Short answers: No. By developing a relationship naturally. “Obligated” is a bad word. And yes.
But I’m pretty sure you want the long answers, too, right? So here we go.
1) Do I need a main deity?
Quite honestly, this is something only you can answer. In terms of the community and the path, no, you don’t need a primary god. But in terms of your personal, spiritual needs, perhaps you do. If you crave that special one-on-one, if you really want a patron/matron relationship with one deity above the others, then by all means, seek it! If you prefer having several relationships that are equal in weight, then do that! I know Kemetics who have strong relationships with several Netjeru, yet have one particularly special and powerful one; I know other Kemetics who have more casual and equal relationships. And yes, you can have really strong relationships with multiple Netjeru at once. The way you develop your relationships with your god(s) is up to you, your own nature and desires, and the god(s) in question. Some deities may, in fact, prefer to be the focus of your worship. Others may push you to keep other Netjeru in your life in order to balance out Their influence.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to find the right balance that satisfies your needs and the requests of your god(s). There is no singular correct way to do it.
2) How do I get a main deity?
As above, this can drastically vary, depending on how you interface with god(s) and which god(s) you’re interacting with. You may approach a deity and receive instantly clear instructions on how to worship Them, but please realize that’s not exactly common. More often, you wind up with a primary god in the same way you wind up with a best friend: you interact with deities you’re drawn to, and those relationships grow naturally until you realize that one Netjeru in particular has become the focus of your spirituality, your worship, and your life. You can formalize that relationship if you’d like, and maybe some deities will even request a ritualized commitment from you; but, again, that’s between you and your god(s).
While there are a ton of ways to go about developing a relationship with a primary god, I will always recommend keeping yourself free of expectations. Just as you wouldn’t go on a first date and plan your children with a person you’ve just met, don’t prepare to call a Netjeru your primary god on your first hello in shrine. You have time; you can let that relationship deepen and grow naturally, instead of rushing or forcing it.
3) Am I obligated to learn everything I can about my main deity?
I don’t like the word “obligation.” I would say it is strongly encouraged and recommended to learn as much as you can, or at least as much as you want, about your god. It can be extremely beneficial and helpful to do some reading on your god’s historical and even modern interpretations. In much the same way as you wouldn’t marry someone you knew nothing about, it’s generally a good idea to learn as much as you can – through experience and research both, in a ratio that suits you – about the deity that you focus on. Don’t forsake the interaction and one-on-one time in favor for always thinking and never doing, but, as a Kemetic, we tend to be revivalists and reconstructionists; digging through ancient history is part and parcel of most of our practices.
I wouldn’t call it a requirement, but it’s pretty common and pretty all-around encouraged. Plus, you’d be amazed at the lightbulbs that come on when you read something that really clicks with you.
4) Can I say no to a deity that approaches me? How?
Yes, you absolutely can. And it can be as simple as politely saying, “Thank You for Your interest in me, but I am not willing/available to work with You at this time.” Sort of how you’d turn down a job recruiter if you’re already happily employed, in fact.
However, I would caution against a quick decision on your part. You always have the right to say “no thank You” to a deity, but before you do, consider why that deity has shown up—and figure out why you’re not interested. If it’s a simple case of being too busy already, or being perfectly happy and content with your current god(s), that’s one thing; but if you have a strong knee-jerk reaction of “AUGH NO” to a deity, try to explore why that is.
There are an awful lot of deities out there with damaged reputations; Kemetic gods in particular have been waylaid by Greek influences and considerably warped, and many otherwise-valuable sources don’t always tell you which myths are from purely Kemetic time periods or from Greco-Egyptian eras. When I was about knee-deep in Kemeticism, still wading deeper but not fully swimming yet, I read that Geb, the god of the earth, had violently seized the throne from His father, Shu, the god of air, and had taken His mother as His own queen. I was instantly nonplussed, and Geb became one of the few Netjeru I wanted nothing to do with. It was only a few months later that I discovered that the myth I had read was Greek-influenced, equating Geb with Zeus and Kronos; pre-Greek Kemetic myths didn’t have that story at all.
Set is another deity frequently poorly-represented by many modern beliefs and Greek sources, and there are others Who have been made overly saccharine, too, by more recent sources and trends. Bast is not a kitten; Aset (Isis) is not a sweet, all-loving, harm-none mother goddess. If you’re reluctant to work with a deity because of what you (think you) know about Them, please do a bit more research—talk to Kemetics who know Them and find some good pre-Greek-influence resources. They might be stepping into your life just when you need Them, even if you don’t realize it at first. Some of the gods we need the most are also the ones we wouldn’t consciously choose.
All that said, though, Kemeticism is voluntary, and, as far as I’m concerned, you can still turn a deity away if you genuinely don’t want to or cannot work with Them. Free will is deeply important in your practice, just as much so as an open mind and a willingness to experience and learn.
What’s the bottom line?
You don’t need a primary god to be a Kemetic, but if you want one, I recommend going about it in an organic, let-it-happen-naturally sort of way. Whether or not you work with a primary god, the Netjeru in your life will let you know how They prefer to be honored, and you can find a solution that fulfills your wants and needs as well as Theirs. It’s a great idea to research your god, but don’t let that take the place of one-on-one interaction and experience; establish a balance. You don’t have to work with any deity Who shows up, but it’s worth giving Them the benefit of the doubt and taking a bit of time to research Them and explore your feelings about Them before saying no.
The best rule of thumb is that everything is subjective, there is no One Right Way, and you can learn by trial and error. :)
If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other takes on what to do during the fallow times by my fellow Round Table bloggers!