This post is part of the Kemetic Round Table, which aims to answer some of the most common questions and provide a wealth of diverse options for the Kemetic novice to explore.
How did you get started in Kemeticism? Tips? Stories?
Tips? Nah. Stories, on the other hand… oh, yes.
Let’s get the non-Kemetic background out of the way: I was raised nominally Christian. My dad is a Roman Catholic, my mom was loosely a Baptist. We didn’t do church, except for once in a while with my dad’s parents. I didn’t grok Jesus but talked to God a little, and when in my zealous ignorance I offended a non-Christian friend as a teenager, I took it upon myself to learn more about non-Christian religions. I studied Wicca, then began practicing Wicca, along with non-denominational energywork and totemism and Otherworld journeying. My mom was in the know and vetted the books I bought. At eighteen, I swore myself into the Goddess’s service and came out to my parents about being pagan (and being queer, because I am an honest sonuva). Over time, my flavor of paganism changed from Wicca to eclectic nature-lovin’ to monolatry (the Divine is both Many and One) to almost-agnostic.
And then, after years of not having any specific god other than brief glimpses of Brigid and Lugh… I met Sekhmet.
To be exact, I called on Her. It was 2005, and I was a social and emotional doormat, and I knew I needed to grow a spine—so I petitioned a lioness goddess with enough Fire to light one under my ass. I had done some cursory digging on potential deity fits, and since I identified so strongly with the lion, a feline god was particularly appealing. So it was Sekhmet I prayed to, and Sekhmet I invoked, and Sekhmet Who answered with Her fierce, no-nonsense strength.
Years passed as I danced around Her flames, orbiting Her intensity like a reckless moon, glittering with the light She threw across me. As our relationship gradually, in fits and starts, deepened and strengthened, She demanded more traditional worship of me. I, the eclectic, the soil-palmed shapeshifter, could not reconcile my spontaneity with the formality and gilded perfection of ancient Egyptian ceremonialism. So we compromised: She would forgive my forms of ritual and worship, and I would at least research, study, and understand ancient Egyptian religion and mythology.
I had been alone in my devotion to my Red Lady, but I did know two other Egyptian pagans. (I didn’t know the word Kemetic back then.) One was a fellow devotee of Sekhmet, and one was a Jackal-child; the latter was a member of Kemetic Orthodoxy, an Egyptologist-led Kemetic temple that seemed to espouse soft reconstructionism. I balked at the idea of socializing with an entire temple in order to learn, bared my teeth at their insistence on “real” information (like name and birth date) in order to join a beginner’s course. I was a lurker who self-taught at my own pace, and the idea of being visible to more than a couple of people at a time unnerved me deeply.
But I promised Her, didn’t I? And the beginner course was no-obligation. So I swallowed my instincts and stepped into the light, flinching all the while. I clung to Sekhmet like a child to the hem of its mother’s dress, and She tolerated my inanity; She had never coddled me. In all our years together, She had defended me fiercely on the rare occasion I needed defending, and She had interceded on my behalf when I bartered a favor for Her to do so, but not once did She give me the impression that She would put up with my bullshit, my whining, and most especially, my rampant insecurity. I had come to love Her with a blinding devotion that I still can’t explain, and I could not forget that She was only in my life at my request, not Her own insistence.
Stepping into Kemetic Orthodoxy was an eye-opener. My nervousness at being visible soon faded to manageable levels, and I felt welcomed by a warm, engaged, smart community. Diversity was welcomed, not just tolerated. People were encouraged to both learn about the Netjeru from historical sources and to experience Them personally, subjectively. The tenets of Kemeticism matched up flawlessly with my own values, and with the worldview I had created and adopted for myself at Sekhmet’s urging years earlier, when we both tired of how many externally-imposed ideas I was trying to make work in my own paradigm.
During the beginner course, all students are encouraged to open themselves to Netjer and not focus on any particular gods. Hah! I did my best, and along the way, I began interacting with a couple of new-to-me deities, including Serqet (Who I prayed to) and Ma’ahes (Who insisted on my attention). I also met Nebt-het, Set, the Jackals (Wepwawet and Yinepu/Anubis), and Twtw. I acquired a hoard of historical books and read some of them, and I practiced integrating pieces of Kemetic ritual, heka, and prayers. Sekhmet was quiet, giving me the space to explore and interact with other Netjeru without being so close that I couldn’t see anyone past Her.
After the beginner course ended, I became a Remetj, a friend of the faith. And I signed up for the Rite of Parent Divination, a geomantic rite of passage that would reveal the Parent(s) of my soul and the Beloved(s) Who watched over me in this lifetime. (Note: This is a modern rite specific to Kemetic Orthodoxy, and it is not required of any Kemetic, nor does it limit which deities a person can interact with or worship.) I was exhilarated, nerve-wracked, and convinced that Sekhmet would not show up in the divination… while simultaneously not-so-secretly wondering if She would appear as my Mother. I swore to Her that, no matter Her place in or outside of that divination, She would not lose Her importance in my life and practice.
She was not there. I was divined a child of Nebt-het and Hethert-Nut, beloved of Ma’ahes and Serqet. I was overjoyed and stunned. And it took me months and months to come to grips with Sekhmet’s absence in my divination, against all odds of logic, my own promise, and the simple fact that the divination is not the be-all end-all of anything. Even as I struggled between intellect and emotion, I created a relationship with my akhu, the blessed dead who are my ancestors, and grew closer to the four Netjeru Who were in my divination.
A little over a year after my divination, I had settled in: with my gods, with my akhu, and with my community. I had proven to myself that I could participate with and bring value to the people I came to admire and enjoy, and that I could devote myself to many gods without enormous conflict. And so I felt I was ready to take Shemsu vows and become a “follower” of Kemetic Orthodoxy, swearing myself to my Netjeru and my community. I received a Kemetic name when I took those vows in February of this year, alongside my sister.
And now? Now, I am committed to my gods and Their people, to upholding ma’at in my life and self, and to maintaining this blog and my physical shrine as devotional works. I am at peace in my religion, with my spirituality; it is a dynamic, living, growing, evolving peace, and I am glad to walk this path.
If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other how-we-got-Kemetic stories by my fellow Round Table bloggers!