29 June 2016

Kemetic

It's occurred to me that I've actually never posted about this on here, and with today being Aset Luminous, a festival for the Mistress of Magic, it's definitely as good a time.

Like many I've had an intense fascination with ancient Egyptian art, architecture, culture, and religion since a young age. Being a spirit worker and shamanic witch, it was probably inevitable that the fascination would bleed through into my religious life as well. As it is in most cases when it comes to deities, while I negotiate with and am tasked to assist different divine powers as a part of my work (and on some occasions am sent to them directly by my spirits to be trained for a number of weeks or months at a time), those with whom I develop the powerful, lasting, and intense partnerships/apprenticeships that can be referred to as "patronage" are few. Regarding Kemetic (ancient Egyptian) gods or Netjer, I have worked with Ra and Yinepu on and off for about four years, but Set, the implacable Netjer of storms, the desert, fearsome protection, and disorder, was a patron from the first encounter. I could go on and on about what he means to me and how utterly captivated I am by his history, his cold and focused fury, his power in keeping the world safe from evil, his ability to do the uncomfortable and blunt deeds even other Netjer cannot or will not do, and his eventual demonization, but that could be an essay of its own. Set is an incredible, harsh, disciplined, and indeed deeply caring being. He is a dangerous shadow, but he tests us and trains us to be ready to face the demons within and without. He is not "nice", but he is loving. Patient, clever, proud. Confusing when you're in his storm as we all are, clear when you find the storm's eye.

As I've been studying Hermetic philosophy, history, and magic for about a year and a half independently (and as of last month, formally as a student!), my love and passion for Kemetic deities and spirituality has only deepened. I treat them as two separate streams emerging from very different historical and cultural circumstances of course, but studying Hermetic writings lead to reading more ancient Egyptian sources as well and vice versa, so it just happened that I began to immerse myself more in both at roughly the same time. Hermes, the Hellenized Thoth, and Djehuty share various traits in common certainly, but they also have numerous qualities and histories that set them apart. That said, Kemetic deities are well known for their fluidity. There are so many aspected deity relationships, as well as syncretizations between the gods of different places in Egypt, assimilations of minor cult gods into larger ones who take over their characteristics, and so on. The ancients certainly never considered their gods to be static and unchanging, and the word "Netjer" reflects that in its meaning of "divine power". In terms of direct personal spiritual experience, gods don't always like to keep things neat and tidy. I've worked with Hermes and Djehuty separately many times, but sometimes they've both come at the same time individually, or aspected, or yes, even syncretized. I don't know what that means (if there's one thing Hekate has taught me over the past seven months of being in her course with Jason Miller, it's that it's very okay to just not know or indeed ever know certain mysteries about the gods). I'm not really sure what it implies exactly either. But all those experiences have only enriched my practice and I am content.

Kemetic religion and spirituality is not something I've ever really written about on here even though it is a big part of my practice for the simple reason that my direct experience with it has been dominated by Set for some time, and he has preferred to work in silence and shadow. Around November of last year Djehuty encouraged me to look into established Kemetic polytheistic communities, with my dreams and divination readings all pointing to that I would find a place among them. Considering that I normally prefer to keep a lot of distance between myself and the majority of modern pagan communities, that came as a bit of surprise. I ended up taking the beginner's class at Kemetic Orthodoxy, a modern revivalist religion led by Tamara Siuda (Mambo Chita Tann in Haitan Vodou), a professional Egyptologist, and found the community to be incredibly cordial, warm, accepting, and knowledgeable. I've learned a lot from members of the House of Netjer there and have made some good friends, online and off through it. I've spoken in detail with both current and former members, parsed through novel-length discussions in order to separate the misconceptions and mudslinging from the truth, and finally settled in as an affiliate of the group. The reverends and priests were truly kind and patient with me and my many doubts and hesitations, to say in the least. Ms. Siuda herself is a truly compassionate and generous person as well.

Last month I underwent a rite of passage referred to as the Rite of Parent Divination, a modern ritual created to discover an individual's "parent" deities in addition to their "beloveds". An individual can have one to two parents (any gender distribution works) and zero to six beloveds. What these terms mean for different people will naturally vary, and different explanations have come through during saq (ritual possession by a deity by a trained priest). Overarching themes include seeing the parents as the vowed guardians of an individual's ba or eternal soul, with the beloveds being deities who take a special interest in teaching and guiding the individual's spirit in this particular incarnation. The divination isn't meant to discourage people from worshiping and/or working with deities that do not show up in the results, or indeed gods from any pantheon or culture. It simply identifies those who have chosen to come forward and embrace the individual through this initiation and beyond, whether they remain with the community or not. The process takes a full day to complete and involves altars being built for the deities and ancestors of the person by Rev. Siuda, complete with fresh offerings and supplies. The divination itself is done through a geomantic oracle using cowrie shells; those interested in learning a little about the process can read this post [here].

All the results have to be confirmed multiple times using the oracle, and if there is even one negative response the whole divination begins anew. I was very nervous and excited; I spent the week leading up to it trying to steel myself and open myself up to the possibility of whomever might come through out of the hundreds of gods possible. Imagine my absolute shock when I ended up with two "fathers", Set and Djehuty, in that order. My beloveds are Heru-wer (Horus the Elder) and Aset-Serqet. The next day I received my initiated name in the Kemetic language, Sitjenenitui; Sitjen for short. Using a few dictionaries I've actually managed to write it out in hieroglyphs. :)


Whether I eventually leave the community or not is irrelevant when it comes to my relationship with these divine names; I will always treasure and honour them. As for now I am content with what I have found there and am looking forward to the future. To make things easier on myself, I'll use the more Kemetic spellings of names when I want to refer to my practice with ancient Egyptian spirituality and religion, and Greek ones when referring to later Hermetic writings where certain powers are present. Thelema is entirely its own thing with its own spellings, haha; there won't be any doubts about that.

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