Going Forth by Day: Hermopolis Begins in the Heart

Alchemical and spiritual journey together with Thoth-Djehuty – exploring Kemeticism, Hermeticism, spiritual alchemy, and following the path of devotion.

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First steps in Kemetic Religion

"Come, let me cause you to know them,
namely, the four principles of life…
to bind with them -
Set your heart upon god!
Adhere to the law!
Make revenge!
Go in ma'at!"

Be small of wrath!
Be thoughtful!
Be a good man!.."

"Conversations in the House of Life" ("The Demotic Book of Thoth" - 388-390)

 

If you feel called to Kemetic religion and wonder what should be your first step, my answer always is “Just make that step”. Come before the Netjeru to walk on the path of Ma’at and prepare a place in your heart where your honored Gods will reside, making your body and soul into their temples; guiding your boat on the waters of life.

If you have attraction to certain Netjer, by whatever reason, try talking to that one.
Even if you just consider the deity to be handsome. This also is a valid reason :)
If you are attracted to the pantheon as a whole, address them all, as one divine family… and ask if someone wants to take a larger role in your life, to “step in”.

Once you let them in (as living gods- they may reside in your heart), even if you don’t think about them often, they think of you :)

It’s not required to think about the Gods every single minute of your life, but it makes one happy when you know that deities are loving, caring, helpful and ready to hear your prayers, your praises, and the sharing of your concerns and worries with them. They are like your family and friends; think about your prayer/shrine time as about divine phone call or skype chat with a close friend who is not physically present, but always ready to answer your call and listen.

If you are drawn to several Netjeru already, then start doing more for them and learn more about them.
 
You do not have to have one central Netjer to work with. There is more likely to be several. In Ancient Egypt it was not common to choose only one Netjer to serve/“work with”. People had personal devotions, and may be had their favorites between Netjeru; but more common case was that there was a group, or “family” of the Netjeru who were closer to that particular person.

Frequently it was defined by the place they lived in and other circumstances. We know accounts of ancient Egyptians who had Netjeru appearing to them in dreams, and this causing their focus of devotion to significantly change. There are recorded stories of people who were called for intense devotion by Mut, Aset/Isis and Djehuty after the Netjeru making clear appearance in a dream. But most of the people simply followed their hearts, natural attraction, tradition of family and home town.

Choosing one “primary” Netjer doesn’t mean that you can’t have “many”. Historical example again: even the high priest of one temple could also have priestly ranks and offices in other temples, dedicated to other Netjeru. So, Egyptian priests could bear titles “high priest of NN, and priest of NN, and NN, and having a shift in the temple of NN”, and it totally worked.

And who would be your “main” Deity, if you don’t have anyone in particular in mind right now?

The answer may come naturally – as the Netjer come and “knock at your door”.
Maybe you will just read a myth and something inside you will scream suddenly “Oh yes, I love this Deity so much! I want them to be my “first”.

And even if the choice happens this way… first of all, think why you want to have that main Netjer to focus on. Contemplate their qualities and behaviors, why does this Netjer call to you?

Then, take into consideration that intense devotional relationship with any deity brings inevitable changes. They will understand you better and the bigger the part of your life you dedicate to them, the more influence in your life they will have. Deities do not always look at devotees as “tools”, but more often as a “helpful resource” they can rely on to achieve their goals. And it may happen pretty often, the mutual influence of adoration and help. You may find that the deity’s core values become yours. You start thinking more like them. You start doing things that would please them especially. You may start doing things, motivated by thinking “If I were my deity, what would I do?” (This is hardly a polytheist phenomenon- else WWJD? bracelets would not be as popular as they are with the Christian community.)

Each faithful devotee (and not just priests) is a natural “expansion” of the deity’s power and activity in this world. If they desire to reach a particular goal, they will rely on your help. It’s not like signing up for slavery and surrendering free will. Rather, think about “choosing” the main Netjer as choosing the CEO of the company you’re signing up with for long term employment. :) Look at their “corporate style”. Look what their company does in the world, what other employees (the devotees of said deity) usually do, what are their benefits and struggles. Don’t ignore the dark parts of the myths and the devotees UPG and experiences. Think about “what you’re getting into” and what you really want.

You may like one particular Netjer for their appearance and place in the universe/world balance and myths, but you may be also drawn to another in terms of “work” and what you’re capable of keeping up with in an employer/employee relationship. They are all together in one pantheon, one big family – so don’t be afraid of being “unable to maintain so many Gods”. This is polytheism and this is what it’s good for: these ARE many Gods. You already DO have them all. You may work closely with several, you may make special priestly/devotional oaths just to one, but they are ALL here for you, and all the divine family cares about members of the religion and shares their blessings.

Now, let me share some advice about the beginning of religious practice.

The real start of religious practice in general is prayer. (Later come the offerings.) You can pray without offerings, as devotion of the heart and mouth is the best offering anyway.

If you can’t afford a statue of a Netjer, but you need their image to focus during prayers, make a prayer card or use a picture of them or even your smartphone background image. You can also use symbols and items that can represent the particular Netjer if you need (such as images of their sacred animals), or generic Kemetic images as Ankhs and Horus-Eyes and scarabs, or just items of personal significance that may represent the Netjer especially for you. This can be a gem, a piece of jewelry, a ruler, a pen, a piece of papyrus, a plush toy. Anything that makes you think of Netjer may serve your connection with Them. Rituals, statues, sistra and incense burners, libation vessels and natron are all simply external tools, helping you in the religion—but nothing is as important as the foundation stone- the first step- prayer.

There is one important thing to know, too: you are not obliged to make offerings and prayers every day.

In Ancient Egypt, daily rituals were what priests were doing, and the vast majority of people were doing things for the Netjeru, based on their personal devotional needs; also participating in festivals. Unless you are under special vow, or are a member of a temple with special requirement, or are doing priestly duties, you are fine by not doing the rituals daily.

Netjeru live on Ma’at from our actions more than on things we lay as offerings. :-)

Living as a good person and keeping the Gods in your heart is already enough, - and if you feel that you want to do more, then do what you can. Don’t try to push yourself into too much, too quickly. Start simply with your problems too (because we all have them). If you want to overcome bad habits (like being lazy, or not doing the dishes and laundry in the proper time) and bring more Ma’at into your life (because it grows in contact with itself, ever expanding), ask the Netjeru for help in self-improvement. :-)

Compare the ability to do the rituals daily (or most days) with something athletes do. When you start your training in any sport, you don’t do the same amount of things an Olympic athlete does. Make small steps.

If you really want your own Egyptian-style name, you are free to choose one yourself or wait for hints of the Netjeru. I would suggest researching your own name—Susan, for example, is already a Kemetic name. It means “blossom”. If you’re lucky enough to have been gifted with such a name at birth, then you should consider continuing to use it.

No one can tell you who of the Netjeru you should definitely worship and whom not to. You can choose yourself, but keep the respect to the whole pantheon.

Respect of the Netjeru is a foundation for balanced Kemetic religious life (even if misunderstandings between Gods and devotees happen).

Your relationship with the Netjeru is personal, before all. If you are doing things differently than the supposed majority of devotees around you, this doesn’t mean you are necessarily doing anything wrong. There are different paths in each deity’s arsenal, you may be on one—or at the crossroads of several.
 
Kemetic polytheism is not “hard”, because deities can merge, overlap, be syncretized and come in the form of one-other and “in the name of” one other. Our Cosmogonic myths differ, depending on location and time. They can appear to interfere, and you are not obliged to believe one specific version. The cosmogonies are mythical interpretations of events that can be theorized by science as well. You can associate “big bang” with creative actions of Atum or Ptah or Set as “Announcer”- the voice that spoke the first word, Djehuty- as the cosmic radiation “roar” of the event, for example.

There are no theological dogmas or “creeds” to follow. A non-theistic approach also can work, but interacting with Gods as individuals seems to be far more enriching for most devotees and is probably a good place to start until you feel out how the Netjeru interact with you.

Remember that the myths are not literal, and Book of the Dead, Pyramid Texts, Coffin Texts, Amduat etc. are not Sacred Scripture. You don’t have to memorize the Book of the Dead and things like this! But knowledge of mythology is useful, as it deepens your knowledge and understanding of the Gods.

Henadology website is a good place to check out information about specific Netjer before further research.

Libraries are your friends, too. There are lots of books about Ancient Egypt out there to be read, and many excellent academic resources are available online for free. To successfully study Egyptian religion, don’t be afraid of reading serious Egyptology stuff: you will be able to find real gems of knowledge and learn about deities in more detail than are compiled in wikipedia or on general neo-pagan websites.

Always look for the Sources. If you are interested in certain myth, it’s worth looking further: which papyrus does it come from? Which temple did it originate from? Which city did it sprout from? Which tomb was it located in?

You may be surprised in your discoveries, that Egyptian stories about the Netjeru did not come as Holy Scripture and these scrolls did not fall from the sky intact. Sometimes, the myths are restored from papyri fragments and tomb and temple inscriptions by careful scholars, who connect the references and bits of the same complete story as a jigsaw puzzle.

Books by Richard Wilkinson, Dmitri Meeks, Geraldine Pinch and Emily Teeter are pretty good to learn about mythology and how the religion was practiced by Ancient Egyptians.
If you are interested in the Book of the Dead, look for modern translation (such as Raymond Faulkner's); try to avoid vintage Egyptology and Budge in particular. They are massively outdated. Budge is only good if you are doing a research into the history of Egyptology and want to see how the opinions of scholars changed with time and how translations of same texts were done by different authors.
If you are interested in a reconstructionist approach to kemeticism, the book of Richard Reidy "Eternal Egypt" is a must-have.

Don’t be too quick to promise anything to the Gods until you really and 100% sure that you mean it. Better plan an escape route before you scream “Oh Netjer N., you are so awesome and I want to serve you”. Plan the escape routes and define the terms of service before signing important contracts :)

Try not to fear “hell” if something goes wrong. You probably would have to be a really very, very bad person to get your heart eaten by Ammit :) (Remember Ammit is frequently shown in other ancient media as silly, sleepy and playful and she was used as a guardian image for things needing protection. She was not to be feared by the general populace as evidenced by some amusing coffin decoration with her bouncing along sniffing and barking.)

Maintaining ma’at is generally just being a decent person, with some nuances about keeping Balance in the world around you and in the daily life as well.

If my prayers even start to wander in the “I’m not worthy of you”, “Am I a bad devotee?” direction, I force myself to stop talking, because that’s not part of my beliefs anymore. When once I talked with Djehuty, and started to say “Oh, I think I’m not worthy of thy love”, he responded “No, there’s no human who isn’t worthy of the love of the Netjeru”, and he told me to write it down. No one deserves eternal suffering! But all people deserve love.

(Yes, maybe the Gods don’t love everyone *equally*, and they can make favorites :) but everyone is valued, and those who make mistakes, even many mistakes, they deserve love and forgiveness.)

So, "May all souls know the Peace of Djehuty", as our daily hermetic rite says.
 

* Read more about living & practicing Kemetic religion: 
"The Way of God: Walking with the Netjeru"
"Growing in Devotion"

* suggested further reading about personal relationships with Gods

["Perceived relationships with the Gods"] (Daven)
["In the Likeness of God"] (Lykeia of Apollon)
["Relationships with the Deities"] (Daven)
["Simple beginnings"] (rev.Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa)
["Loving Netjer"] (rev.Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa)


* Image: Edwin Long "Alethe Attendant of the Sacred Ibis in the Temple of Isis at Memphis", 1888

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Born in USSR and living in St. Petersburg, Russia; my spiritual journey started when I was a young teen. After more than 20 years of being practicing Russian Orthodox and later, Roman Catholic, I followed my heart always calling me to honor the Gods of Ancient Egypt. My devotion belongs to Thoth-Hermes-Djehuty, Thrice Greatest, Lord of Khemenu (Hermopolis), and I try to serve him as a priestess (hmt-Ntr). My path is independent, solitary and not hardcore reconstructionist, and I don’t belong to organized Kemetic temples.I studied biology in University, but after graduation, for many years have been working in telecommunications and computer networking. Now I work in international trade; but this is what I do “for a living”, as I’m poet and writer before all. I write poetry and prose since early childhood (of course, my writings are mostly in Russian) and I have some published books, science-fiction novels and poetry. I follow hermetic philosophy and viewpoints, and my interests, besides Ancient Egypt, include medieval history and art, Spiritual Alchemy, traveling around the world, translating books from English and studying more foreign languages (including Egyptian hieroglyphics). I am also president of the St. Petersburg chapter of the International Alchemy Guild.  

Comments

  • helmsman of inepu
    helmsman of inepu Wednesday, 05 October 2016

    Well done! I'm glad to see someone else suggesting using an image on a cell phone or laptop if you can't afford or find a statue. Excellent points on an 'exit strategy' and 'being worthy' too.

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