I read a Patheos article by P.S.V. Lupus on this very subject and thought it an excellent one to discuss from a Kemetic viewpoint. My takeaway of that post is the contemplation of how many pagans define themselves without any mention of deities—typically as “earth-based” or “nature-worshipping”—and how important it can be that we don’t try to shuffle our gods under the rug when non-pagan company comes over. This quote in particular sums it up nicely:
… a major goal for modern Paganism should be the active attempt to return the existence of the gods as real, volitional, and individual beings to the wider human consciousness. By this, I mean the gods should be understood as beings with whom one can choose to interact and cultivate relationships. … Perhaps then the goal of bringing back the gods will not be hidden away as a source of potential conflict, but rather celebrated as a good and wonderful thing, something praiseworthy and deeply important.
I have been a culture-nonspecific neopagan who described paganism using the terms “earth-based spirituality” and referred to the gods as “the Divine.” Now, I am specifically Kemetic, albeit with additional Celtic history and inclinations, and my way of seeing divine beings and divinity has changed, along with the terminology I use to describe Them.
But even so, as a Kemetic, Netjer is the One and the Many, and Its Names are Netjeru, the gods. If I choose to say “the Divine,” I mean Netjer; if I choose to say “Universal Soul,” I mean Netjer. But if you don’t know me, those three terms can evoke drastically different ideas in your head—assuming you know the word Netjer at all. One is loosely theistic, another is animistic or non-theistic, and the other is distinctly Kemetic.
And Kemetic gods are gods and goddesses, yes, but They are also Names of Netjer—and that means that the gods are a human way of naming, and thus identifying and attempting to understand, portions of this great unknowable divinity that is Netjer. I do indeed consider the Netjeru as individuals with Their own characteristics and initiative… but the Many are also the One. Netjer is comprised of Netjeru, and Netjeru blur the lines between each other, taking on one another’s roles and duties fluidly. (Just look at Nebt-het, Nit, and Nut for an example.)
I am a pagan, and I am a polytheist, and I am a Kemetic. I could drop all association with any form of deity and still consider myself pagan, as I did briefly when I was younger. But now?
Now I live with the presence of Netjer and Its Names. Virtually no day passes without my thoughts going to Netjer; virtually no day passes without brushing up against the essence and color of one of my gods. I see Them in the world and its people; I rest against the sense of Their company when I am vulnerable or when I am delighted or any emotion between. I would, quite frankly, not be the person I currently am without the experience of Netjer and, very specifically, the individual Netjeru Who are in my life.
So yes, I must say I do agree with those who believe that paganism should not lose sight and sound of its gods. One can have a perfectly fulfilling, valid spirituality without any hint of theism, and I would not say that person is not a pagan, but there is a powerful difference between a pagan sans gods and a pagan with Them. Neither better nor worse, mind, simply a wholly distinct experience, and that should not be hidden away under the blanket definition of paganism which so frequently stays silent about its gods.
For myself, I will be bringing back Kemet’s gods by living in Their presence and shining all the more for Their richness. My spirituality may not touch anyone outside of myself, and I neither need nor expect it to—but by gladdening my life with my faith, I bring my best self into the world and, hopefully, make it just a little bit better.
Last year’s first B post was on birthdays.