"I am Kemetic.
Kemeticism is a reconstructionist religion. Using Egyptological research and filling the gaps with modern ingenuity or sources from other African Traditional Religions are how many reconstruct this faith.
Some temples within Kemeticism have a King or Nisut Bity (m) or Nisut Bityt (f) and this person within that temple is believed to hold the Kingly Ka or emanation of Heru the Living. The Nisut is the link between Netjer (God) as a whole and Humanity as a whole. Only a few Nisuts were worshipped during ancient times, and this is not encouraged today. Others believe their First Priest Heri Tep Hem Netjer or the highest priest present at any given ritual holds the Kingly Ka for the duration of that ritual and thus a Nisut is not needed. Still others believe that we are in the diaspora, and thus the Kingly Ka is our own personal conduct in the larger community.
Hem Netjer (m) and Hemet Netjer (f) are priests in the faith. Each are trained in their own temples and are ordained ministers. Wab (m) and Wabet (f) ensure everything is pure in ritual and are the lowest rank of priests.
Shemsu Netjer (m) and Shemsut Netjer (f) are followers of the Egyptian deities.
"They [the ancient Egyptians] held on to both truths, the unity of god and the differientiated plurality of gods" (Assmann 12). Assmann's quote, ironically, is an excellent description of monolatry. Netjer as a unified force can be emphasized along with differientiated manifestations of this force (Monolatry-Pluriform Monotheism) or a more polytheistic approach can be emphasized (Cosmotheism).
Monolatry is described as one force with many distinct faces. The distinct forces are the Ancient Egyptian Gods and Goddesses--Wesir (Osiris), Ra, Aset (who is not Isis), Hethert (Hathor), Heru (Horus), Sekhmet, Bast, Sobek, Djehuty (Thoth), Nebet Het (Nephthys), and many others. Many roles and epithets of deities also overlap. Also deities can be syncretized such as Amun-Ra or Sobek-Ra; syncretic deities are the totality of the two Netjer such as Sobek and Ra to make a third entity Sobek-Ra.
Cosmotheism is a word coined by Jan Assmann to describe the relationship between the Gods and the cosmos. He describes this relationship as cosmic, cultic and mythic manifestations. He says that Netjer has a cosmic manifestation. The cosmic or natural manifestation is how the Netjer effects either nature or the larger cosmos. "Nut was not so much the sky as what the sky did, giving birth to the heavenly bodies and hiding them within herself, not so much the goddess of the sky as mother goddess and goddess of the dead" (Assmann 81). Hethert (Hathor) was also a sky goddess, but she "embodied its heavenly splendor" as a goddess of beauty and love rather than it's function (Assmann 81). In the same token Yinepu (Anubis) was the jackal headed god of emblamers, mummies and mortuary cults. His role in the cosmos was the transition between life and death. Also each name is more a description of a deity such as a title or a function, moreso than his or her "true name". An example of this could be Aset's name is written with the throne hieroglyph and as one of Her functions, She embodied the authority of the king.
The Netjer are forces of the cosmos--various parts of the seen and unseen realms. They have manifestations in the physical realm, some in their sacred animals; Sekhmet's attributes are like a cat after all, and I'm not just talking about Her head! Others, like Aset and Hethert, can be expressed in something beautiful. Their energies can be expressed in various forms and in various ways. Each manifestation describes a particular aspect of that Netjer's nature. Aset is not just a goddess of the throne, for instance, though that is a part of Her nature, but not the entirety of it. Likewise, Wesir is not just a god of the dead, he is also a god of agriculture. His nature does not stop there. That is just the beginning of Who He Is.
All the deities work to uphold ma'at with their respective roles, talents and governance.
The transliterated terms used by Egyptologists to define this concept are righteousness, truth and order, but the best descriptions I have seen of ma'at are honor, appropriate action and integrity. Ma'at is a Netjer and a concept of the order of the cosmos. Ma'at holds creation together and came into being at the creation of the world. Ma'at is a static, dynamic force of the universe which serves as a balancing effect between action and result. Ma'at effects both the individual and the community as a whole.
"I live on ma'at, I feed on ma'at,
Ma'at's Feather (an ostrich feather) sits on a scale in the Hall of Judgment in the realm of the dead. A person's heart is weighed against the feather. The heart or ib represents a person's thoughts, actions and deeds. This weighing would make every person personally responsible and accountable for everything he or she did.
This is not just for humans. The gods too are subject to ma'at. They are offered figurines of the goddess Ma'at so They are infused with Her essence and uphold Her rules to preserve the appropriate authority of the sanctity of creation.
According to Assmann, the cultic manifestation of Egyptian religion is the cult statue in the temple and the "indwelling" of Netjer in the statue. The altar was the connection between the realm of the Gods and the realm of humanity; the statue was the focal point of this mergeance of the mundane with the supernatural.
Another aspect of the cultic manifestation is that each city had their own deities, own festivals and their own unique way of doing things. The deities worshipped in one Nome may not be the deities worshipped in another. And deities could be local or state gods which would show if the deities were patrons of a particular place or the state as a political entity. And sometimes these identifications could overlap, meaning that a state deity could also be a local deity in a particular town. Plurality of deity and uniformity of ritual were integral to ancient Egyptian religion.
"I adore your majesty with choice expressions and prayers that magnify your prestige, in (all) your great names and in all the holy forms of manifestation in which you revealed yourself in the first moment (of the world)" (Sauneron 81).
According to Assmann, there is a mythic manifestation of the religion of ancient Egypt. This is sacred tradition or "what is said about the gods" (Assmann 8). The myth of the beginning of the world is integral to Kemetic religion both ancient and modern.
The Gods and all of creation were formed during the First Time called Zep Tepi. A creator god differentiates him or herself from Nun which begins creation of gods, humans and the world. Depending upon the Nome or city, each creator deity was different.
Zep Tepi was re-enacted symbolically in ritual and in nature. Each morning the images of the deities were awakened, infused with their own divine essence and given offerings; this ritual process was analogous to the sun rising. "But, as is well known, the re-enactment of the creation is manifest above all in the fact that the sun-god emerges every morning from the primeval ocean Nun and by his daily journey ensures order in the cosmos" (Morenz 167). Everything beyond creation is chaos. Ra fights Isfet (GR Apophis) every night to maintain the divine order of creation. Zep Tepi is cyclic and always in motion just as is the rising and setting of the sun.
Personal piety existed in ancient Egypt. There were shrines in people's homes devoted to state and/or more localized deities. Just as people do today, the ancient Egyptians put "God" in their names.
The deity festival one was born under was calculated astrologically in ancient Egypt. The deities when prayed to were referred to as "Mother" or "Father" depending on the gender of the deity. Netjer was considered the Mother and Father of the Kemetic people. Someone's Parent was the Netjer he or she served as a priest. This could change based on an appointment by the king. Many names reflected the favor of a deity such as a Queen of the nineteenth dynasty, Merytamun, "Beloved of Amun" or a first dynasty Queen Merytnit "Beloved of Nit".
During the New Kingdom, religion became more personalized. Jan Assmann says that not only did Netjer have the will to create and the ethical authority to be in ma'at, but also was the creator of the individual, the uniqueness of each human being (Assmann 197). There are to recordings of Hatshepsut's elevation to Kingship, in which She calls Amun, O my Father and she promises to follow His will (Assmann 193). One became a child of a god or goddess by "placing the god in his heart". This was a reciprocal relationship and only given to those devoted to that particular deity (Assmann 221).
Here is another example that also supports the individuality of a person being divinely made.
'Understanding said of him (ie God), "He is like that which he creates."'(Clark 70).
Bau (singular ba) means "displays of power". "It designates as much the visible manifestation of a hidden power as the hidden power behind its visible manifestations" (Assmann 239). Names, symbols, manifestations and emanations of deities were said to be their bau. The sun is a ba of Ra, the sun god, for instance, or the cult statue is the ba of the deity the statue represents. This hidden power is in people as well and connects people to divinity.
Connecting to Netjer is very important to Modern Kemetics as well. Today, this personalized view of deity--as seen in the New Kingdom and beyond--is continued, albeit in a slightly different form.
Each person is believed to have a Spiritual Parent or Parents with which one has a close relationship. These are the specific deities whom you most resonate with and whose personality you most emulate. Some people are drawn to their Parents through instinct or resonance and others discover Them through divination. Your Parent can also be Netjer you are called to serve as a Priest, rather than being called through resonance. An Aset kid can be an Aset Priest or an Aset Kid can be a Sekhmet Priest, for example.
Please don't be afraid to make relationships with other Netjer that aren't your Parents. Remember, Netjer is your Parent. You are a child of God. Netjer will come to you in whatever form you need at that time. Some deities will come for a time and then leave, others will stay.
The akhu or shining ones are the ancestors. They are revered on akhu shrines, just as they were in ancient Egypt. Deceased relatives or anyone close to someone who has died is placed on an akhu shrine. Akh is singular for akhu.
"An offering the King gives:
A thousand of bread,
A thousand of beer,...
A thousand of all pure things,
for the owner of this tomb" (Leprohon 289).
Akhu can become Gods or what are called deified ancestors. The best well known is Imhotep, an architect and scholar who became the god of healing, medicine and the son of Sekhmet and Ptah in Mennefer (Memphis). Other examples are Queen Ahmes-Nefertari and Nisut Thutmose the Third. Most of these are Kings, Queens or other people who had lived exemplary lives.
Many Kemetics today do a Daily Rite to honor the Netjer and the Akhu. Priests do a modern adaptation of the ancient rituals done in the temples while keeping the core components of the ceremonies.
Jan Assmann. Search for God in Ancient Egypt. 2001.
R. T. Rundle Clark. Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt. 1959.
Erik Hornung. Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt. 1996.
Seigfried Morenz. Egyptian Religion. 1973.
Ronald J. Leprohon. "Offering Formulas and Lists" ed. Donald Redford. Ancient Gods Speak. 2002.
Barbara Lesko. The Great Goddesses of Egypt. 1999.
Miriam Lichtheim. Ancient Egyptian Literature: New Kingdom, Vol 2. 1974.
Serge Sauneron. The Priests of Ancient Egypt. 2000.
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