On Wednesday, February 6, 2013, I took vows to become a Shemsu of Kemetic Orthodoxy, along with my sister and a son of Ra-Heruakhety.
A Shemsu, or “follower,” is a sworn devotee of Kemetic Orthodoxy; in antiquity, the term was used to describe “a member of the Kemetic court, sworn to serve the nation as a ‘follower of the royal household,'” as per Kemet.org. The Shemsu vows are pretty simple, once boiled down: to honor the gods of Kemet firstly (not exclusively, mind) and to explore the meanings of one’s Shemsu name. (There are also expectations of good character, primarily around a charge to uphold ma’at in one’s life, and to participate in the Kemetic Orthodoxy community, but those are more general and not explicitly part of the vows.)
The Kemetic name is bestowed upon each new Shemsu by their Parent deity/ies; Hemet, leader of Kemetic Orthodoxy, divines the Shemsu name and its meaning. A new Shemsu receives their name and takes their vows at the same time during a communal naming ceremony, which is a public celebration of the Shemsu’s devotion, as well as an initiatory experience.
My Shemsu name is Itenumuti, which means “Mystery of My Two Mothers,” itnw being ‘mystery’ and mwt being ‘mother.’ My nickname is Tenu, which is what I’ll be going by from here on out.
Much like when I was divined a child of Nebt-het and Hethert-Nut, those closest to me grokked the appropriateness of my name before I did. It took me a few hours of pondering, and a lot of conversation with my sister and my (non-Kemetic but still brilliant) partner, before I felt the first shivery bolt of understanding.
The mystery of my Mothers is one of unconditional love, deep and raw compassion, strong and steadfast protection, and comfort during grief and vulnerability. These are some of the qualities They embody and emanate; these are some of the qualities I am most engaged in practicing myself. Of course I am named after Their mystery which I strive to understand and integrate into my own life and self.
But there was another insight, a deeper reverberation of that understanding. My name can also imply that I am the Mystery myself, too. That I am, perhaps, not only a student of my Mothers’ wisdoms, but also a piece of Their essence. And perhaps, when people quest to understand those mysteries— in the same way that I now quest to understand the secrets and meanings of my Shemsu name— perhaps I can engage with those truth-seekers, those veil-lifters, and offer them what insight and experience I have. And perhaps that will heighten and deepen their own understanding, and the hard-won qualities of compassion and joy will be less mysterious, less distant, to them.
For me, knowing only these two potential interpretations of my name, I am deeply honored and content.
Dua Nebt-het! Dua Hethert-Nut!
PS~ It’s common practice to investigate alternate meanings and puns to one’s name as part of exploring the layers and “secrets” of the name. Not only does itnw mean “mystery” (or riddle or obscurity), it can also mean sun disks, crack in the wall, ashes, one who is complained about, and… fluffy. (That’s right, I am my Mothers’ fluffy. *laugh*) I’m also extremely pleased that the “sun disks” definition can relate to Sekhmet and Ma’ahes both being the sun as an Eye of Ra.
PPS~ Meanings for my nickname, Tenu (tnw) include boundary mark, number / to count, distinction / refinement / honor, to be difficult, senility, to grow up, and to lift up / to promote. Quite a few of these are personally significant: boundary mark relating to Sphinx who guards sacred spaces, to grow up relating to maturing in my spirituality, and to lift up relating to Hethert-Nut lifting Ra upon Her head into the sky. (Of course, I can also be difficult and often feel like I’m a wee bit senile, so it’s not just the wonderful meanings like “an honor” that ring true! ;D)