Kemetic Orthodoxy

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Kemetic Orthodoxy is a branch of Kemeticism, a reconstruction of Egyptian polytheism, founded in 1988 by Tamara Siuda.

Kemetic Orthodoxy does not follow a single scripture, but rather a fluid understanding of balance, justice and truth. Worship often takes place in a shrine, which exist in both public and personal forms.

Five basic tenets guide the faith of members: Belief in upholding ma'at, Belief in Netjer (the supreme being), Akhu (Ancestor) Veneration, Participation in and Respect for the Community, and Acknowledgment of Siuda as the Nisut. Members of the faith are known as Shemsu.

The main temple is in Joliet, Illinois, with a variety of state shrines maintained by priests throughout the world.

Main beliefs[edit]

The Ankh is a Kemetic symbol of eternal life in both antiquity and modern times.

Kemetic Orthodoxy claims to be based on the religious practices of Ancient Egypt. However, it is not only a reconstructionist religion, but an ever-evolving religion that combines ancient and modern practices to create a new, living religion.[1] It has five principal tenets, often described as four main tenets held together by a fundamental belief in upholding ma'at.

These tenets are not considered dogma. Although these form the basis of what most members of Kemetic Orthodoxy believe, what each individual member believes may vary. The religion does not require that all members practice in exactly the same way, and different views are looked upon as merely different ways of understanding God, or Netjer.

Belief in upholding ma'at[edit]

Ma'at is believed to be the force that keeps the world balanced. Ma'at is considered both a Name of Netjer (manifestation of God) and an abstract concept of balance, justice and truth. Members of Kemetic Orthodoxy believe that this standard must be upheld in all daily life, and most strive to act accordingly. This includes not being deliberately harmful to any person as well as being kind to one's self, among other things. There is no codified list of rules and laws that one must follow to uphold ma'at.

Belief in Netjer (the supreme being)[edit]

One belief central to Kemetic Orthodoxy is the belief in Netjer, the supreme deity of Kemetic Orthodoxy, and its "Names", the commonly recognized gods of ancient Egypt. These Gods and Goddesses, commonly called Names of Netjer, manifest in various forms and have various names, e.g. Anubis, Isis, etc. Followers of Kemetic Orthodoxy usually communicate with Netjer through these various Names. Without belief in these gods one would have little reason to consider oneself Kemetic Orthodox.[1]

Akhu (Ancestor) veneration[edit]

Akhu (or ancestor) veneration is a very important aspect of Kemetic Orthodoxy. One's Akhu are one's ancestors. They are believed to have already experienced human life, and therefore it is thought that they can give valuable advice and support regarding things related to daily human life. Members believe that by honoring one's Akhu, one ensures that they remain happy and satisfied in the Duat.

Ways that members honor their Akhu vary, ranging from keeping household ancestor shrines to simply writing memorial letters on a website designed for such a purpose, similar to the practice of writing letters to the dead found in ancient Egypt.[2] Note that this practice is different from that known as Ancestor Worship.

Akhu generally fall into three categories: Family, National, and Associational. Family Akhu are simply that, those Akhu who were members of your family, such as parents, siblings, children, etc. These Akhu often have the closest connections with the member of Kemetic Orthodoxy. National Akhu are those who are associated with all members of Kemetic Orthodoxy. In ancient times, Imhotep was an example of a National Akhu. Associational Akhu are the other Akhu associated with an individual. They may be through actual contact by the Akhu, through a common interest, or any other reason for the bond to be formed.

Participation in and respect for the community[edit]

As part of reconstructing Egyptian religious practices, members of Kemetic Orthodoxy strive to support a thriving religious community, both on and off-line. Every person in the community is required to respect all other members, regardless of their commitment to Kemetic Orthodoxy. This is not to say that all members must actively dedicate all their work and time to help the Kemetic Orthodox community; rather, all members should respect members of all levels, and should make an effort to encourage community between all.[3]

Family is another important aspect of this principle. The Kemetic Orthodox emphasizes the importance of family in the personal lives of adherents. Family was an important aspect of ancient Egyptian life, and as such, the faith does not seek to separate individuals from their families. It encourages increased relationships and understanding of an individual with their family members. This concept ties heavily in with the principle of Akhu veneration.[4]

The Double Crown is a symbol of kingship, and thus the Nisut. The two parts of the crown symbolize the two halves (upper and lower) of Ancient Egypt.

Acknowledgment of Siuda as the Nisut[edit]

The acknowledgment of Siuda as spiritual teacher is also central to Kemetic Orthodoxy. Her teachings and leadership comprise part of the foundation of Kemetic Orthodoxy. Religiously, Siuda daily performs rituals to enforce ma'at and dispel isfet (the opposite of ma'at), regularly prays for the members of the faith, and advises her students in religious matters.[5]

Officially, Kemetic Orthodoxy recognizes Siuda as the Nisut-Bity. This person in antiquity was not only the political ruler of Kemet, but also the direct religious contact between the people and Netjer. Adherents of Kemetic Orthodoxy believe that Siuda fills only this religious aspect of this title and position[6] How much this title affects one’s personal worship varies from person to person. Members of the faith do not believe Siuda to be divine; rather, they believe that through coronation rituals performed in Egypt in 1996,[7] that she is host to a piece of the soul of Horus, known as the Kingly Ka, a belief dating back to ancient times.[8]

Worship[edit]

Worship within Kemetic Orthodoxy takes many forms. There are official, state rituals performed by the priesthood and Nisut of Kemetic Orthdoxy; there is Senut, the daily rite performed by members of the temple; and there are other, more personalized forms of worship that are left to the individual practitioner.[9]

Group worship[edit]

There are several different kinds of group rituals present in Kemetic Orthodoxy. These may be held entirely in person, or may be simulcast via Internet Relay Chat. Rituals held in this fashion are celebrated fully in person at the Truth and the Mother Shrine, while a priest describes what is happening to participants gathered in the chat room. During certain points, the individuals participating via simulcast may be asked to perform a ritual action at home, and will be asked to notify the priest transcribing the event when they have done so.[10]

Siuda notes, however, that "Kemetic Orthodoxy is a religion on the internet, not an internet religion".[11] This is reflected in the existence of off-line gatherings and rituals. Members of Kemetic Orthodoxy gather at Tawy House in August for the Kemetic New Year, Wep Ronpet. As the largest gathering, it is the best example of an event held by the Kemetic Orthodox off-line. It includes rituals, fellowship, lectures and workshops.[12]

An example of a form of group worship for the Kemetic Orthodox religion, as noted by Krogh & Pillifant (2004) is that of Saq. Saq is an ancient form of ritual possession in which a specialized priest is believed to become entirely possessed by a deity. Through this venue, the deity speaks with members of Kemetic Orthodoxy and accepts offerings.[13] Saqu (the plural form of Saq) may be held entirely in person, or may be simulcast via the internet, where on-line participants send messages to the attending priest, who reads them out loud to the deity in possession. It is described as being "one of the most immediate and profound experiences of Kemetic Orthodoxy".[14]

Personal/Individual worship[edit]

Individuals worship in many different ways. From specific rituals to spur of the moment prayers, worship is an on-going process. The following are some examples of personal worship and rituals.

Personal shrines[edit]

A personal shrine to Netjer and Akhu.

Most members of Kemetic Orthodoxy, as part of their devotional practices, set up household shrines to the deities they worship. The basic necessities of such a shrine include an incense burner or diffuser, a lamp or candle, and a place to put offerings.[15] Shrines may contain representations of certain deities, or they may have a more general focus. They often contain objects which have been offered to a deity or deities. The individual uses this shrine to perform various rituals including the Senut daily rite.[15] Individuals may honor deities to whom they are particularly called, as well as deities in festival, deities associated with the time of year, or even deities of whom they have a special request.

In addition to these personal deity-centered shrines, members of Kemetic Orthodoxy are encouraged to set up shrines to their ancestors or Akhu, as part of venerating their ancestors. These shrines often contain mementos of individuals close to the member who have died, and are the central focus for ancestor veneration in the member's home.[10]

Senut ritual[edit]

Senut, meaning "shrine", is a rite that was established by Siuda for members of Kemetic Orthodoxy as a means of formal worship in a framework where formal temples and shrines for every region were lacking. Many educated ancient Egyptians would have served, at least for a short period of time, as priests in the temples, and would have had some temple training as reference for his or her personal practices.[16] As members of Kemetic Orthodoxy are almost all (if not all) literate, it was a safe assumption that all members would be in a similar position as the educated ancient Egyptian of having some formal training available. Thus the Senut ritual was composed of various temple rites, as a "fully functional ritual for individual use yet containing all of the necessary elements of all Kemetic ritual, whether practiced by one or a thousand." [17]

Other personal worship[edit]

Aside from the Senut ritual, there are few other personal ritual forms of worship that exist within Kemetic Orthodoxy. Members often develop their own informal practices, which vary from person to person. Informal prayer and worship are encouraged as a necessary part of the faith.

Even though individual worship is a very important aspect of one's belief, often the experiences are shared with other members of the religion. This shared experience helps to strengthen the bonds between members and Netjer. Many individuals use the creation of art as a tool in worship. These paintings, drawings, sculpture, jewelry, poetry, music, dance, and storytelling are often shared with other members.

History[edit]

Kemetic Orthodoxy grew out of the personal teachings of Siuda. The temple began in 1988, when she experienced a series of visions during her initiation as a Wiccan priestess.[18] She started a small study and worship group at that time, which gradually got more attention. In 1993, the group was federally recognized as a religious entity and changed its name from the House of Bast to the House of Netjer. The temple was granted tax-exempt status in 1999.[7]

In 2003 the House of Netjer purchased a building to be the permanent home of the Temple in Joliet, Illinois. The building contains the main state shrine for followers of Kemetic Orthodoxy (The Truth and the Mother Shrine). It also includes the offices of some members of the priesthood, and the living quarters and office of Siuda.[19]

Adherents[edit]

In 1999 the following membership statistics were reported:[citation needed]

Sex - female - 53%, male - 47%,

Age - 25-34 - 34%, 35-44 - 30%, with the remaining ranging from 16 to over 70
Locality - USA - 90%, other countries (including all continents except Africa and Antarctica) - 10%

Previous religious affiliation - Christianity (various forms) - 56%, Agnostic or Atheist - 10%, Wiccan/Neopagan/etc. - 5%, other world religions - 29%

In recent years, an increasing number of converts have been from outside the US.[citation needed]

A small number of youth who grew up in the faith have become members in their own right, although estimates are that such members make up less than 5% of Kemetic Orthodoxy's total membership.[citation needed]

Community[edit]

The House of Netjer community is a worldwide community with members in multiple countries. Because of the difficulty of maintaining contact with people from around the world, the members are divided into geographical regions. Some regions have frequent "meet-ups" where members gather for socialization, fellowship, and/or worship.[10] These events may include planned activities or open-schedules. Some gatherings invite non-members to meet the membership.

Gatherings also take place in on-line chats, of various formats. Like off-line events, on-line events vary widely in their format. The most common formats are fellowship events, with little or no structure, and educational events, where one or more member leads a group discussion on a topic of interest.

Membership[edit]

Membership within the faith can be broken into two groups, Remetj and Shemsu

Remetj, literally royal subjects,[14] are the friends of the faith. These include a number of different individuals. Some of these are those who have learned about the religion through the free online group introductory course [20] and decided to not become full members at this time, for whatever reasons, but wish to remain affiliated with Kemetic Orthodoxy. It also includes those who plan on becoming members in the future, but have not done so yet and individuals who have grown up in the faith. Some Remetj are individuals who were full members and have decided for various reasons to no longer be full members.

Shemsu, literally followers,[14] are individuals who have decided to become full members of the House of Netjer temple. This involves previously being a Remetj (to gain an understanding of what the membership believes) and partaking in a ritual to become a full member. This ritual consists of two parts.

The first is a geomantic divination that is performed on the convert's behalf by Siuda in order to determine the convert's "Parent" and "Beloved" gods. This rite is called the Ritual Parent Divination, or RPD. The Kemetic Orthodox belief is that the one or two Parent god(s) are the god(s) who create the ba, or eternal soul, of the candidate; the Beloved gods, who can appear in any number of one or more who have taken a personal interest in helping the individual through their life. Rarely, an individual may be divined as having no Beloveds at the time of divination. This information may be relayed in a face-to-face meeting between Siuda and the Remetj, or via telephone and internet.[21]

The second half of this rite of passage is a community gathering of Remetj and Shemsu, known as Shemsu naming. During this gathering, those individuals who wish to become Shemsu and have undergone the Rite of Parent Divination are announced to those gathered. This announcement repeats the results of the Rite of Parent Divination and gives each individual a religious name. This religious name is believed to be created by an individual’s Parent god(s), and often has many meanings. After everyone has been announced, all Shemsu, new and old, are charged with a set of vows, from which the following excerpt is taken:

...charge (you) to learn the secrets of (your) Shemsu Names, and to keep them well, in service to (your) Parent(s) and your brothers and sisters in the faith, as full Shemsu of Kemetic Orthodoxy and the House of Netjer, and citizens of the nation of Kemet that lives in our kau.

-Tamara Siuda, various Naming Ceremonies

Shemsu namings occur both annually in person during the faith's yearly major retreat, held in August, and simulcast on the internet at various intervals throughout the year.

A subset of Shemsu are those who have undergone the initiation rite known as the Weshem-ib or "testing of the heart". In this process, members take special vows to not only place Kemetic Orthodoxy before other religious practices, but to work to serve the religion and its members. This is above and beyond the regular oaths taken by Shemsu. A Shemsu who has completed the Weshem-ib is called a Shemsu-Ankh, or "Sworn Shemsu/Shemsu Who Takes a Vow". All priests in the Kemetic Orthodoxy faith must undertake this rite.[14]

Priesthood[edit]

The priesthood of Kemetic Orthodoxy is composed of both lay (or non-ordained) and ordained priests. The Kemetic Orthodoxy religion uses the term priest for both males and females. A priest's primary responsibility is to the members, not to the Names of Netjer. This can be a shock to those people from other faith backgrounds where priests, monks, and holy persons may have responsibilities even to the exclusion of the followers of the faith.

A W'ab priest, literally purity priest, is a lay priest of the Kemetic Orthodox faith. They are Shemsu-Ankh members who have undertaken additional training and oaths of service to the members of the faith. As a W'ab priest, the member's main responsibility is overseeing and helping in issues of purity (both on a group and individual level).

A W'ab priest is also responsible for maintaining an official shrine and performing daily state rituals there. Some of these shrines are available to members, especially for specific rituals and/or celebrations.

An Imakhu (plural Imakhiu), literally revered one, is the only type of priest in the modern Kemetic Faith who is an ordained priest. As such, they are given legal credentials and the title of "Reverend" when working with persons outside the Kemetic faith. All Imakhu serve as W'ab priests as well. The responsibilities of Imakhiu are similar to those of clergy in other faiths.[14]

An Imakhu who has performed exceptional service may receive the title of Kai-Imakhu, the prefix "Kai" meaning "exalted". Kai-Imakhu, in addition to their regular duties as an Imakhu, are also responsible overseeing the other Imakhu.[14]

Imakhu are responsible for assisting the Nisut in maintaining and supporting the faithful: providing counseling (if they have been so trained), performing weddings, supporting and instructing Remetj, Shemsu, and Beginners, and acting as the Nisut's official representatives when and where necessary, are some of the more common duties. They also are responsible for overseeing all of the administrative requirements of running the House of Netjer temple, up to and including finances, correspondence, managing time and resources, reporting to membership and Siuda, teaching, maintaining and updating the Kemetic Orthodox internet presence, scheduling appointments and trips for Siuda, personal security, and many other jobs.

The Tawy House Retreat Center[edit]

The Tawy House Retreat Center offers opportunities for small groups of interested persons to attend retreats from 1 to 10 days in a variety of religious and study opportunities. Some of these include religious intensive weekends, the week long celebrations of Wep Ronpet or Kemetic New Year's Day (early August), fellowship events, and more.[19]

The Truth and the Mother, the main shrine of Kemetic Orthodoxy

The Truth and the Mother Shrine is the main state shrine of the followers of the Kemetic Orthodox Religion. Included and associated with this shrine are a variety of individual and group deity shrines, the Akhu shrine, the Nisut shrine, and more. These shrines often rotate through the year based on current festivals and the needs of the membership. The Truth and the Mother Shrine is also linked to various priest shrines around the world.[19]

The Imhotep Kemetic Orthodox Seminary is, like all seminaries, a school devoted to the theological study of a particular religion, in this case, the Kemetic Orthodox religion. It offers introductory and intermediate classes in the Middle Egyptian language, as well as a course in Kemetic protective magic, known as Sau. These courses are optional for all members of the faith. Other courses may be offered on an irregular basis as well.[22]

The Udjat Foundation is non-profit organization dedicated specifically to children’s causes. The foundation acts primarily as a fund-raising group for other organizations.[23]

Kemetic Orthodoxy and other religions[edit]

Kemetic Orthodoxy does not have any official relationship with any other religions. A number of religious leaders have met with various leaders of the Kemetic Orthodox religion, both formally and informally, since its inception in 1988. Kemetic Orthodoxy was represented at the Parliament of World Religions in Cape Town, South Africa in 1999 and in Barcelona, Spain in 2004.

Three modern Kemetic groups that have a historical link to Kemetic Orthodoxy are Akhet Hwt-Hrw, Per Ankh and Per Heh. Each of these groups were started by individuals who were at one time students of Siuda, some of whom have claimed the title of Nisut for themselves amongst their followers.[citation needed]

Religious Pluralism[edit]

As Kemetic Orthodoxy does not teach that it is the only religious path that one can or should follow, some members practice more than one religious belief. Members are asked to keep other beliefs and practices separate from their Kemetic beliefs and practices. If a member has gone through the Weshem-ib or "testing of the heart" ritual, they are asked to place their Kemetic practices and beliefs first, and other religious thoughts second. No member has to participate in this rite.[3]

Proselytism[edit]

The Kemetic Orthodox religion does not ask its members to seek converts.[3] In fact, this action is discouraged by the leadership. It is felt that the Names call members when they are ready to be called, and thus all that is needed is the ability to be found.

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "What is Kemetic Orthodoxy?: Introduction". The House of Netjer. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  2. ^ "Virtual Abdju". The House of Netjer. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c "What is Kemetic Orthodoxy?: Becoming Kemetic Orthodox". The House of Netjer. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  4. ^ "What is Kemetic Orthodoxy?: Family Life". The House of Netjer. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  5. ^ "What is Kemetic Orthodoxy?: The Nisut (AUS): Our Link to Netjer". The House of Netjer. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  6. ^ Krogh 2004, p.171.
  7. ^ a b Krogh 2004, p.168.
  8. ^ Monet, Jefferson. "The Royal Cults of the Kings of Ancient Egypt". www.touregypt.net. Retrieved 7 July 2009. 
  9. ^ "What is Kemetic Orthodoxy?: How is Kemetic Orthodoxy Practiced?". The House of Netjer. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c Dawson 2004, p.214.
  11. ^ Kemet This Week, The Official Podcast of the House of Netjer: Episode Two.
  12. ^ "Festival Events Blog". The House of Netjer. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  13. ^ Krogh 2004, p.170.
  14. ^ a b c d e f "Kemetic Terms Used by the Kemetic Orthodox". The House of Netjer. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  15. ^ a b Krogh 2004, p.173.
  16. ^ Siuda 2005, pp.15-16.
  17. ^ Siuda 2005, p.17.
  18. ^ Dawson 2004, p.209.
  19. ^ a b c Tawy House Website.
  20. ^ "Application Guidelines and Information". The House of Netjer. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  21. ^ Dawson 2004, p.212.
  22. ^ Imhotep Kemetic Orthodox Seminary
  23. ^ The Udjat Foundation

Offline References[edit]

  • Dawson, Lorne & Cowan, Douglas. Religion Online: Finding Faith on the Internet. Routledge, 2004. ISBN 0-415-97021-0
  • Krogh, Marilyn. & Pillifant, Brooke Ashley. "Kemetic Orthodoxy: Ancient Egyptian Religion on the Internet: A Research Note." Sociology of Religion 65.2(2004): 167-175.
  • Siuda, Tamara L. The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook. Azrael, 2005. ISBN 1-894981-04-9

External links[edit]