Coming to Kemet.

How did you get started in Kemeticism? Tips? Stories?

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I am sitting at my computer desk, writing in my LiveJournal when something deep in my gut starts to hum, like all the A-keys on a piano going off at once. I ignore it. Laying in bed later, I grow restless. A voice just beyond my hearing is whispering in my ear. Frustration builds; I cannot hear what She is saying. The Goddess calls me, nameless. I see Her in the clouds, the stars, the moon. I walk Her beaches, feel Her breath against my face — but I do not know Her. Months pass; I clothe her in various names, but they do not fit. Each time She shrugs them off. All I know is Her fierce presence. I feel Her strength wrapping around me with each call. I am frightened and excited that Her power has reached out to me.

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I’ve written about finding my way to Kemetic Orthodoxy before. It’s easy for me to re-tell that story, since it is one full of joy and the loud, infectious satisfaction of finding a resonant spiritual practice. It’s been told before, and it will not change. The step-by-step details bear no repeating. Instead, I am writing down my experiences from before I knew how to write about them. Some of the details are really hazy to me at this point — I am writing about events 8 years in the past now, and my memory is not that good. I hope that in writing these down, someone can read them and find common ground.

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The Goddess who calls is no quieter, and I am no closer to finding Her. In the absence of a goddess, a god has begun stealing my M&Ms, I begin to fear. I grow closer to Yinepu each day, and each time I eat a handful of candy I acknowledge His presence. Some days I don’t walk by the bowl of pastel chocolates without grabbing a few in His honor. He follows me in all that I do: racing alongside my car in traffic, bounding through the auditorium as I see musicals at the community theater. I question my own sanity. My boyfriend (my summer fling before college) encourages me, and gives me a tiny glass bottle to keep perfumes on my altar.

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The most important thing I’ve learned about being new to a religion is that it’s much like being in a new romantic relationship. There’s a breathless courtship, in which the new devotee rushes to learn as much as she can about this new practice. She builds an altar, prays to the gods, makes offerings — it is all new, all exciting, all an uncharted territory to be explored. In relationships, this is sometimes called “new relationship energy” or NRE. It is what happens when the NRE fades that is important in both relationships and religions. In a relationship, when the NRE fades it can take all the attraction — and thus the stability of the relationship — with it. When “new religious energy” fades, it can leave the devotee feeling abandoned by the gods, or like her practices are suddenly failing. If you are new to a practice and you suddenly find yourself feeling in a rut, it may be that your own NRE is wearing off. Variety helps, as does routine. Find your own rhythm of devotion.

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I kneel before a shrine cobbled out of hand-me-down trinkets and an old folding tray table. The myrrh cone incense I picked up specially for this first Senut rite won’t stay lit and when it does, it makes me cough. My libation jar– a shot glass from the dollar store– won’t pour without spilling. I stagger through the Senut ritual until I reach the section set aside for quiet reflection and personal prayers. I close my eyes, and the gods are there immediately. Later, at a shrine with better tools and finer incense, I will wonder whether They were in my imagination as I struggle to find any connection with the gods.

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May 2007: Statues of my Parents arrive, shrine is reorganized.
One of my earliest shrines, post Rite of Parent Divination.

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Late at night, I scour pagan forums for opinions on Kemetic Orthodoxy. Everyone is polarized. Half my research says I’m making a terrible mistake; the other half says I have nothing to lose, and everything to learn. I trust myself to know whether to run. With adolescent resolve and more than a little anxiety, I download the application for the House of Netjer beginners’ course. Eight months later, I find myself sitting in the Truth and the Mother temple, declaring myself a Shemsu after cowry shells revealed my gods. My heart nestles firmly in the bed of this community, this faith; I never look back.

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Coming to a faith does not always feel immediately like coming home. Sometimes you back into a faith in the night, and it startles you and you yelp. Sometimes the gods sneak in through your cat door while you’re busy in the shower, and when you come out to eat your breakfast they yell “SURPRISE!” and leave you stunned. Sometimes you come in spite of criticism from your peers, from your family, or even from your self-conscious inner monologue. Does it matter? No. Come with anxiety, come with joy, come knowingly or not. The gods don’t care and neither should anyone else.

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This has been a part of the Kemetic Roundtable.

Previous posts about my journey to Kemetic Orthodoxy:
Episode 1: Why Kemetic Orthodoxy?
Episode 9: How I Got Involved in Kemetic Orthodoxy.
Finding the Way Home

Kemetic Roundtable – Patron Deities (or, “Are You My Mummy?”)

The concept of a “patron” deity, or a main deity, or a “Parent” deity comes up a lot in Kemetic practices. Heck, it comes up often in any pagan/polytheist practice. Look at any online meeting place for polytheists, and you’ll find a number of people introducing themselves not only by their path, but also by the deities they primarily honor. It’s a way of categorizing ourselves, and a way of finding like-minded individuals. Is it necessary to have a primary deity? I don’t think so. Is it something that will most likely happen, one way or another? Probably.

I think it would be helpful to draw some distinctions in terminology, here. In Kemetic Orthdoxy, a “Parent deity” specifically refers to part of the outcome of the Rite of Parent Divination, which is a rite of passage into the Kemetic Orthodox faith, in which the deities who are responsible for an individual are revealed by divination. The Parent deity (or deities, up to two) tends to act as a patron deity for the person, though not always. People who have had the rite done refer to themselves as children of whichever god or goddess. It is specific to Kemetic Orthodoxy, and is only necessary if you’re going to make that your primary practice.

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A patron, or main deity, is a more general term for the god one seeks the most interaction with — the most offerings made, the most prayers said, the most devotion given. Anyone can have a main deity, or a patron deity. Anyone can forge a close relationship with a god. For that matter, anyone can call that deity their “Parent” deity – it is only within Kemetic Orthodoxy that the term “Parent” carries a ritual meaning as well as denoting a relationship.

Terminology aside, I think most people will find themselves with a main deity or deities. It may not be that there is one singular god who is completely in charge, but given the number of gods in the Kemetic pantheon it is highly unlikely They will all get equal treatment. There are a LOT of gods in Kemet with a LOT of different personalities. Simple logistics and interpersonal preferences dictate a need for selecting appropriate deities for oneself. Sometimes this is as simple as self-selection: finding the deity whose domain or personality suits you best and approaching Them. Sometimes, deities come knocking and tell us, in Their own way, that we belong to Them. Finding one’s main deity is an intensely personal process, I believe. Nobody can tell you how to decide which gods to honor. If you’re just starting out, and you want to honor Yinepu, I believe you should. You might find that as you get to know Him, other deities step in and draw your attention away from Him. You might find that you form a deep, personal relationship with Him. You may find that He directs you away, to other deities.

It’s a journey, and it’s one with many steps and turns and twists. You may start with one deity as your patron, and then find others entering your practices. You may undergo the RPD expecting one Parent, and be surprised by a second Parent and several Beloveds. You may begin your practices honoring several deities, and find yourself gradually focusing on one. I started my practices honoring Yinepu and wound up with Wepwawet; I denied that I would ever worship Sekhmet because I wasn’t “cool enough”.  My advice to beginners? Be bold enough to approach the gods; be open enough to hear Their reply; be humble enough to remember that the god you want might not be the one for you; be proud enough to acknowledge when They are calling you.

Wednesday Thoughts

When I had my RPD, someone made the remark that I was lucky because I had all my life to get to know my gods and to live with them. I was divined at age 18; at the time I felt adult and worldly, but in retrospect I am now amazed at how much I have grown since then. I have been able to shape myself from am adolescent to an adult with my gods as a part of my life, where so many other learn to live with the Divine after they ha well already grown.

My response at the time was to think that even I didn’t feel like I had enough time. And truly – even my whole adult life does not feel like enough. I still wish I had known Them sooner. They are so vast that I could never hold on to Them in Their entirety – but maybe I could if I just had a little more time (a fallacy, I know).

Just some pondery thoughts on a rainy Wednesday.

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