Behind the Broom: What the Books Don't Tell You
Witchcraft Philosophies, Action, Leadership, Humor, Outrage, Awkward Mishaps, Lovable Lessons, and a search for Grace with a clumsy Witch.
Embracing the Source: Queen Mother Imakhu Discusses Returning to Art as Ministry
“Peace and Blessings!”
If you’ve had a phone consultation with the Queen Mother Imakhu, you’re sure to recognize the trademark greeting, along with the joyful cackle. This time, I wasn't following my usual "Call The Queen Mother!" routine which usually involves bringing her a dream for interpretation or seeking guidance in untangling a leadership knot. This time, I was seeking to make her the subject of a blog post, hoping to speak about the nuts and bolts of Priestesshood.
Instead, she had news.
“I’ve always looked for the Source,” she said on our phone call. “You know that song your crew sings a lot? ‘Way to the Well?’ I love that song. I first heard it with you all but I thought it sounded familiar. You know what? It’s an old African folksong! I knew I knew it from somewhere!” She began to sing it in its original language, the spirited tune suddenly coming even more alive than even in our most jovial rites. The song, literally, set the tune for her announcement. Queen Mother is making a major change to her Khametic Temple, AKERU Ministries. The Water Temple which has held ritual, led community classes, and in recent years emerged in the annual Tribute to the Ancestors is going back to Queen Mother’s own Source—a home for the Arts.
If you’ve not met Queen Mother Imakhu, it’s helpful to know that she holds many titles in her Khametic Priestesshood, but a primary yet unofficial title might be “Source Seeker.” Some of her Source research has included African origins of Faeries, the link between Khamet (frequently known as Ancient Egypt) and the Runes, or the Source origins of Vestal Flame Goddesses, such as the Celtic Brigid, having roots in northern Africa. Her Circle work never stops. Whether it’s offering song at a Sabbat altar or leading a drum core, you would be hard-pressed to find a harder-working Priestess in the Tri-State area—maybe anywhere.
But most often, Queen Mother Imakhu can be found sitting back in a corner, away from the center of attention, lending an ear to a soul in need. She refers to herself a street minister and her congregation is the world, whether the people be from the members of her Temple or the gang members on her street corner. Her Priestesshood is rooted in the Khametic tradition, both as a traditional minister and as the beloved Renegade Wise Woman. For those who may be unfamiliar, the Khametic tradition (as described in Queen Mother’s own words) is the oldest known African spiritual practice. Khamet ,also called Kamet or Kamit, means The Black Land. This title is believed to have referred to the original inhabitants of Ancient Egypt, as well as the dark silt that enriched the soil after the flooding of the Hapi (the Nile river).
“It was prophesied that Khamet would fall, but would rise again in Ament (the west). African Americans have resurrected the traditions as part of our daily lives. We call it ‘Living the Culture.’ It’s an African perspective and lifestyle based on the 42 Laws of Maat. The 42 are designed and recited to create societal harmony, personal accountability and growth. A daily mirror, really. I have grown as a person because of the 42 Maat laws.”
Her journey started when she was a child. She was raised Christian and from the ages of 14-24 practiced Born-Again Christianity. Her story is punctuated with her trademark laughter.
“I was scared into being saved (laughs)! There was someone in the neighborhood preaching fire and brimstone. I was a young and impressionable teenager, but the problem was that I asked a lot of questions. I was finding so many inconsistencies in what I was being told, especially after the Strong Exhaustive Concordance was introduced back in the late 70’s. That opened the door into doing deeper research. I found that the concordance as it was originally written in the Hebrew and Greek did not sync up with what we were being told through the King James translation. That propelled me to seek out truth and eventually to find the origins of the Bible.”
“I left the Christian church when I was 24 for (the contradictions) and also because I found that people were so afraid of stepping outside the lines. I was in an abusive marriage. People were afraid to help me because my ex-husband was the right-hand man to someone who is a very well-known minister now. I found that discouraging. I wanted to be part of a community that lived truth. I left the Christian Church and that’s how I floated into Wicca.”
In Wicca, Queen Mother Imakhu found comfort in the rituals and fellowship of a shared sisterhood. Still, though, she felt something was amiss. The Circles were almost exclusively white and did not include elements that spoke to Queen Mother Imakhu’s heritage. The search for Source would continue.
“Wicca was cool!” she said. “Wicca was cool to me except that I couldn’t relate to any of the Goddesses. But the Wiccan Rede completely vibed with me and helped open me to Maat. But there, I realized I truly needed an African approach. I often found myself in Circles where I was the only person like me. It was difficult for the other Sisters to understand what I was looking for and what I was really lacking.”
The search led her through Buddhism and also to a metaphysical church/seminary in Allentown, PA where she became a licensed ordained healing minister, and further led her to becoming an ordained minister with a west coast spiritual organization. But it was the book Jambalaya by Luisah Teish that truly opened the doors to what Queen Mother was looking to find. The African woman’s spirituality she innately knew existed was found in its pages. From there, the Queen Mother began practicing Yoruba. The Khametic teachings first appeared to her through the show “Like it is.” There, she learned from guest Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan about the connections between Ancient Egypt and Ancient Khamet and how it was populated by people, as Queen Mother says, looked like herself.
“That made the teachings about Ancient Egypt I learned in the metaphysical Church finally come alive. I couldn’t vibe with a very Euro-Centric approach and the later depictions of the people in Ancient Egypt. But that spoke to me. It has been a homecoming. Everything that I learned, everything that I endured, prepared me for coming home to Khamet.”
Little by little, the teachings and practices made themselves known to the Queen Mother. Eventually she became a High Priestess and teacher in the tradition, eventually receiving the title of Queen Mother. Such a beautiful title might tempt groups or individuals to co-opt it but it is not, however, a title for self-assumption. It is an appointed title given to a person of renown and respect by the African or African-American community, in both Khametic traditions as well as Black activist communities. One cannot call themselves—or call someone else—a Queen Mother anymore than someone can call themselves or someone else a Catholic Priest or a Jewish Rabbi without that person being accepted as such by their respective cultural or faith community.
“It didn’t originate in the UK, okay?” she explained, laughing. The title originated in Khamet but was eventually used widely across Africa. It was a political role as well as a social one. The Queen Mother appointed the person to sit on the throne, herself being the Source of power for the region. “The King was put there because the Queen Mother put him there! She was revered for her wisdom. (Today) it’s an appointed title, not one to just take it up. The Queen Mothers of today take an active role in their communities. There is wisdom expected of you and you must care enough to be involved. As an activist, that spoke to me. It’s not a Dowager title, it’s not one to just dress up and wear at ceremonies. No. It’s about the day-to-day work, rolling up your sleeves like our older mothers and grandmothers did. There was work to do and they had no issue with just getting in there and doing what needs to be done. That’s the Queen Mother. It’s a title of respect, but it also means work.“
The transition to Priestess and Queen Mother was not a welcome one for her, initially. She saw herself as an artist, through and through, and one happily attending Khametic services as a congregant.
“I fought being a Priestess! I fought being a minister! I fought leading a Temple! I wasn’t one of the people who asked to be a Priestess. I wasn’t trying to lead anybody. I said, ‘I’m an artist!’ But it gets to a point where you come to accept that you have a calling in your life that you stop running and things start to sync up in better ways because you’re doing what you’re put here for. This is not saying I wasn’t put here to be an artist because I use art to teach our culture. But it was a fight. Even after I became initiated as a Queen Mother, I refused to be called Queen Mother! I went on a campaign to just put ‘Imakhu’ out there! It didn’t work(laughs).”
Eventually, she embraced her path. Her ministry, and the AKERU Temple, started at her kitchen table.
“People would come over and I would feed them. We would talk about spirituality. It grew from there…It’s been a reluctant journey. It’s been a humbling journey. And it’s been an empowering journey at the same time because I have grown throughout all of this. I have come to see and have learned the lessons of good leadership, built better trust, helped empower the people who have come to me. It has made me that much more keen to the design.”
“What I’ve also learned is that it’s not about you,” she says of finally accepting the Priestess role. “Once you become awakened, then you realize that you can’t go through this world alone. You have an obligation in regards to how you act and what you do in the world and how that will impact others. With that, reverberations come back to you. Part of that is realizing that if you’re here to be a minister, then you can’t be selfish by running away! (laughs).”
The Temple bloomed and Queen Mother became a prominent fixture in the Khametic community. AKERU Temple emerged as a prominent force in the annual Tribute to the Ancestors, which is considered a vital pilgrimage to culturally-conscious East Coast Black Americans, including AKERU Temple members. The rite takes place at Coney Island each June, specifically to honor those thrown overboard or who elected to jump into the ocean in the Maafa--the Black Holocaust, commonly known as The Middle Passage.The day involves art, dance, drumming and spoken word. Then, as the sun is setting, participants line up on boardwalk and process onto the beach, giving offerings of fruit and of flowers. Queen Mother Imakhu has, over the years in temple water ceremonies, offered AKERU Temple members Ankh Water Blessings—an ancestral blessing Rite of renewal. This past year, Queen Mother Imakhu brought AKERU's Water Blessing ritual to Ancestor Day. As her temple members lined up to receive, they found themselves joined by numerous attendees. (Photo to left by Lisa DuBois)
"It is AKERU's philosophy to share so we may heal as a community," she said.
(Photo above by Patrice C. Queen) In many ways, Queen Mother had returned to the Source she had been looking for, all of her life. Yet even within it, Queen Mother Imakhu had more questions. One thing she noticed about the mainstream Khametic path was a frequent, formalized structure, particularly in regards to a woman’s role, something she calls a “Khametic Stepford Wife.” She realized she was running into many of the same problems she’d encountered in Born-Again Christianity.
“There’s a whole idea that there’s a certain way one has to speak, to sit, to dress. There are many who believe that if you’re a Khametic woman you’re not supposed to speak too loudly. To me, it’s very sexist. Don’t get me wrong. I love wearing long dresses and long skirts! But I don’t want to be told that’s what I have to wear. I don’t want to be told I can’t wear black. Black is my power color! There’s this pressure to wear a certain color on a certain day of the week. If it’s helpful to put you in touch with the energy of the day, but it binds you if you’re not listening to Spirit. Blue might be designated for one day—blue is nurturing and puts you in touch with the moon and so forth—but maybe on that day, I feel like wearing purple! Or red! Maybe I need the energy of those colors to get me to a better place!”
The mainstream community considered Queen Mother Imakhu’s approach to Khametic practices rebellious, but she continually taught that her so-called renegade philosophy was much less about breaking the rules and far more about returning to Source. Through her historical research, she reveals that the women of Ancient Khamet would have also been considered renegades within contemporary incarnations of their faith.
“They were very independent in thought. They owned property. They were able to divorce their husbands. It was matrilineal! So what do you mean I have to be this quiet little woman when in fact Khametic traditions came out of Matriarchy?! What is popular now is patriarchal appropriation of the women’s tradition! I find that interesting that the ones who defined how a woman should be are men. “
“I teach from the matriarchal standpoint, but that doesn’t mean I want to get rid of all the men because listen…I love the Brothers, okay? (laughs). But the idea is that the Khametic Tradition is based on a balanced society: Men and women working side-by-side and together. We have to get back to a place of respecting women because over the last couple of centuries, women have truly been kicked to the curb. We have had to fight for respect. We have a lot of music today that encourages men to denigrate women, women are denigrating themselves. A lot of youngsters don’t even know any better! This is what they’ve grown up in and they don’t know that they’re worthy of higher respect. As far as I’m concerned, it’s my job to instill something else: to remind our Brothers that we came from practices of mutual respect, to remind the Sisters who have become embittered toward men that we need each other in this society, but to respect themselves and the Brothers. We will not move forward in general as a society until we deal with balance overall.”
This education has been the primary focus of Queenmother Imakhu’s AKERU Temple , and a part of the fundamental structure of her individual classes.The mission has been about peace-making and self-empowerment through education about the water path, teaching the arts as mode of spiritual and cultural expression, as well as teaching respect for and protection of water. In a part of the country with plentiful Churches, AKERU has been unique in offering African-centered spirituality. Even predominantly Black Churches are often still influenced by European-influenced doctrine and culture. AKERU has provided a spiritual alternative for African-Americans to embrace not only faith, but cultural legacy.Still, Queen Mother Imakhu led a Temple of a different beat—one that encouraged its members to find, and be, their true Selves.
“I didn’t get my handle ‘Renegade Wise Woman’ for nothing! I like coloring outside the lines and I don’t do what I call ‘Khametic Stepford Wives.’ That’s not me. Don't get me wrong - I'm a stickler for teaching and living by protocol and ethics. They truly define Khametic people. Our ethical code can never be compromised. You can tell a Khamite by character, traditions, and point of view. Being very clearly African-Centered has piqued the interest of a lot of people. But I also let people know they can be spiritual and be uniquely themselves, which relieves a lot of personal pressure.There's already enough societal pressure in general that folks contend with. Individual confidence is necessary. Gotta love your uniqueness - it is your gift to the world." (Black spirituality) is a voice that is crying out to be heard. We, as spiritual leaders, should be keenly aware of the needs of our community. I have people who are artists coming to me all the time and that made me pay attention to the fact that this is an Artists’ Water Temple. Quite frankly, I privately refer to us as the Khametic Afrohemian Temple!”
Her own energy as an artist seems to draw spiritual-seeking artists to her. Long before she began AKERU Ministries, Queen Mother Imakhu had a full career as an artist and stage performer. She is particularly well-known as a storyteller and singer as well as a teacher of the arts. Several years ago, she posed as the Queen of Cups in the deck I produced--Tarot of the Boroughs. On our call, she announced that the Temple is changing. It is no longer taking solo students. Queen Mother is coloring outside the lines once again, making bold strokes in a new territory for AKERU Ministries—Art as Ministry and Ministry as Art. She is not abandoning Priestesshood, nor the Khametic faith. But her approach has changed. A series of painful events led Queen Mother Imakhu to announce the changing course of the AKERU Temple.
“I’ve had painful, but vital truth thrust in my face. My mentors on this path were not the good people I believed them to be at all. Sexual deviants, liars, deceivers portraying themselves to be master teachers and leaders. Façade. Image. Not truly dedicated to the path. When faced with reality, I had to shed all of their energetic ties and walk in my own truth as a High Priestess Artist with integrity. I now mentor artists seeking professional and spiritual guidance. For us, our work is our ministry. AKERU Temple is unique in providing practical business guidance, along with liturgy and artistic outlet. I’m not aware of any Khametic temples dedicated to honing sacred artists on a wide scale. This is necessary for our community and for my own peace. As stated in our ancient writings, ‘Be consistent in Maat in all you do.’ “
Queen Mother stresses that this has been a difficult turn in her journey. Yet, one she feels is necessary. Much of her work has involved sharing information so that solo practitioners who are far from a Khametic or even predominantly African-American community can find the information they need if this suits their calling. Part of her work is also in helping people discern true teachers from charlatans.
“There are advantages and dangers to the internet. So many people are clamoring to the Internet right now for spiritual connection because they are by themselves. Unfortunately, there are people who are disingenuous. What’s the saying, ‘In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king?’ The unfortunate thing is, you don’t know if that person has a runny eye, or just got punched in it, or what. There are a lot of people with punched-in, runny eyes out there trying to be Priests and Priestesses on the internet!”
Her book Understanding Khametic Magick is available online. It contains not only the information Queen Mother said she sought at the beginning of her journey, but it also red-flag guidelines for solo practitioners looking for teachers.
It’s not been an easy year for the Pagan community. Queen Mother’s experience in uncovering painful truths about her community’s leadership is far from unique in recent events. When I asked her what she felt the general Pagan community needed—inside or out of the Khametic world, she answered, “Truth. Truth, maturity, and humility. It is important for leaders to continue to grow and open themselves to new people and new experiences. I find that the leaders who avoid fellowship with others or make you wade through ten-deep to get to them usually have something to hide. That’s what I’ve found.
“(A leader’s) morality has to be kept in check. We’re not perfect people, but we need to be ethical. We’re supposed to be teaching ethics. If you’re not teaching ethics, that’s a problem. If you’re teaching ethics and you’re not living them, that’s a problem, too. There are a lot of people in our community who have been abused because of blurred lines and ethics and people bending rules to very conveniently support their predilections. The ethical question is to me, above everything.”
It may be sad for some to see this change in the Temple, particularly those who have loved the independent counsel Queen Mother has provided. However, she is very clear that the Temple is not going anywhere, but returning to the Source that led Queen mother Imakhu to the Khametic path in the first place: the world of art, artists, and artist-activists. Queen Mother is still available for Khametic workshops and special events and continues to lead Khametic yoga. Her books, c.d.s and other materials are available online for distant or solo practitioners. However, the Temple will focus more on the professional development of artists practicing Khametic faith as opposed to regular classes.
“Het Hru (Hathor) has been back in my face. She governs beauty, art, music, sacred rains of renewal. Amniotic fluid of rebirth. The sweet river water, wine, sensuality. Het Hru is Higher Love. Awakened consciousness. She is the mind and heart. She is divine flow. Divine Mother, I yield. I embrace you. Het Hru is me”
Please login first in order for you to submit comments