Pagan Paths

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

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“I want it all”: Entering the Joy of Priesthood

* To: A.K., E.H., P.N-U, M.M. – hmw-Ntr & my friends


If you’re not Kemetic but feeling “the call” of this religion, it can be said that any aspiring Kemetic is called for two simple and important tasks:
- Maintain Maat and oppose Isfet (help keep the Universe running by maintaining the Balance and All-Things-Proper – even on a small level of your simple things and daily life)—this is not simply our duty; this is also the duty the Netjeru undertake in far grander scale.

- Commune with the Netjeru – and from simple honor, veneration and worship, driven by love and attraction to their perfection and beauty, achieve the blessed afterlife (that may come in many various forms – there are a lot of things to do in the Duat besides watching your crops in the Aaru/Hetep fields grow!) Choices for eternity are indeed very important.


The religion that brings happiness and balance into one’s life is always a result of a choice.
You choose the God/s you want to follow; They choose you.
Sometimes your choice may come first; you approach the God/s and later They respond, and your relationship begins growing.
Sometimes they surround you by omens and signs and give you gentle waves or even push you (just enough not to subvert your free will) to show you the way they think would be better for you, if you follow Them.
Even if you were raised in a religion from the childhood, one day there comes a moment of choice you make yourself, because religion is your personal responsibility, and freedom of religion is one of greatest gifts of truly democratic society.
One can hardly be happy if forced into religion that doesn’t suit them well; sometimes I think that it’s even worse than an arranged marriage.

Sometimes it can be a surprise for your average modern person that worship of the ancient Gods of Egypt is still possible in XXIst century and even better is being actively practiced by living people. For the dedicated student, finding that the paths are hardly overgrown or disused, even in their native environs, is akin to discovering treasure. These are not discoveries made lightly-- modern Kemetic religion (particularly the folk tradition) doesn’t actively “recruit” new members. These worshippers would not hand you leaflets trying to gain your soul and promote their path of “salvation”.

Kemeticism is not about “salvation” in the sense it might be to a Christian, although universal salvation is a theme in our myths. But you, the worshipper, are not a sinner in need of a savior from the start because you (or this world) have been somehow formed uncleanly. This world, born in supreme joy, is intended to be a good place for all life and for the Gods who marvel at what they have wrought. Your blood, Kemetic, is the sacred tears of the sun himself—you kindle in your veins the divine light of Ra. The words in your mind, the thoughts of your heart, are the creation of Djehuty. You are holy, clean, perfect as you have been formed and delightful in your variations. Rapture/Doomsday/Armageddon is not menacing on the horizon, something to be feared or threaten non-believers with. The End of All Things is embodied benignly in our god Set, under his true name ‘Wicked Day’, and is a sacred event of overthrowing the greatest evil of all - describing the point at which his lance impacts with the ap/ep and the universe is reset. You may experience the coming of the Wicked Day many times in your life, when great struggle is on you, and more often if you are a devotee of Set—as to be in his hand is to be where he is, on the front line, confronting evil, making it vulnerable that it might be destroyed.

If you’re not Kemetic but feeling “the call” of this religion, it can be said that any aspiring Kemetic is called for two simple and important tasks:
- Maintain Maat and oppose Isfet (help keep the Universe running by maintaining the Balance and All-Things-Proper – even on a small level of your simple things and daily life)—this is not simply our duty; this is also the duty the Netjeru undertake in far grander scale.

- Commune with the Netjeru – and from simple honor, veneration and worship, driven by love and attraction to their perfection and beauty, achieve the blessed afterlife (that may come in many various forms – there are a lot of things to do in the Duat besides watching your crops in the Aaru/Hetep fields grow!) Choices for eternity are indeed very important.

If you begin these activities and you study, your path will come into focus before you. This is not a faith for the lazy. While pleasure is valued, work is as well and both are to be enjoyed in equal measure to the scale of the abilities of the devotee. Just as there were ancient rules to protect slaves from harsh masters, the Gods –in their infinite justice- will not ask more than you are willing to give. We are the “noble flock” (that’s the term from papyrus Westcar, coming from the sage Djedi), the herd, the tears, the servants of the Netjeru and make no mistake we are treasured in the old sense of the word. We are valuable to our Masters, to the Netjer-Netjeru. Just as a Master and a slave/servant/(or worker/employee on a contract, to use a more modern term) among humans could become companions, friends, comrades - this can to occur between a deeply devoted worshipper and one of the Netjeru.

To put this all in context of my personal experiences: Everyone may be on a quest for a religion that suits them well; for me, religion of Egypt “clicked” very early. It seems that I always longed to learn from the Ancient Egyptian their deep love of the Gods and how they wanted to spend eternity with Them. I felt this attraction from the early childhood, but spent a long time actively trying to fit myself into the society-approved, “safe and time-tested” box of monotheistic Christianity, and this caused many questions and struggles.

The monotheistic “dark shades” put on my eyes were trying to prevent me from seeing fully & embracing the beauty of this religion, because polytheism is a forbidden fruit. I’d been looking at the heritage of Egyptians and their religion in the museums, and it was real and tangible. It was a life filled with devotion and community/union with the Netjeru. These people were happy calling upon their bird and animal-headed deities in ridiculously fascinating headdresses and costumes. They looked at them with eyes full of love and spoke words of affection that still strike deep.

The monotheists were not allowed to have all that alongside a strangely jealous and often disproportionately punitive central god.

Friends and preachers, who tried to “keep” me, asked the question why loving Jesus (and The Trinity and the Saints, to some degree) was not enough for me. I had no definite answer why it was not enough, only a hunger for more than what could be given by Christ alone: leaving the circle of dogma-defined Christianity for me was a big step for freedom, because it was my choice made not only by rational mind, but by soul (all five of them) and by my heart which was filled with love so overpowering that it was flowing over the edges.

I saw genuine love in every statue of kneeling Egyptian worshipper. I saw genuine devotion in every stela where people depicted themselves standing in adoration before their beloved Netjeru. I saw passionate determination and wishes to be with these Gods forever “and for eternity everlasting” in every papyrus showing the blessed rivers and meadows of Aaru.
And when I saw the scenes of weighting the heart, these were not frightening, (with often lazy Ammit napping in attendance, unconcerned) in turn, I’ve caught myself in the thought that I want to be there as well, to pass the judgment in the hall of Maati, and to join this eternity where Netjeru and their followers are together and continue the Great Work of battling the World Entropy every night and day.

It was natural for me to care about “being a good person” and doing the good things in life; but it is love to the Netjer-and Netjeru – that led me from the domain of worldwide-recognized religions to the new land where the ancient temples are being restored in our hearts.

It was my choice, but I’m also sure that the choice was mutual and that the Netjeru, (Djehuty first, of course wanted me here) wanted and waited until I will be ready to come to Them not because of simple curiosity, not because of fear, not asking for boons and benefits (the Netjeru are not spiritual vending machines that you stick prayer coins in and receive holy snacks from to tide you over until your next craving).

I came because I felt called and because I felt it’s the only road I wanted to follow in the world, ever: I felt the determination like having been an arrow drawn tight across a bow to let fly in the air.

And “I wanted it all”. My love became an ever-burning torch very quickly. Even assured in the Netjeru’s love and blessings, I did not feel that occasional prayers and offerings were enough for me. Bringing their images, traveling around Egypt and visiting sacred places, intense study of AE language, culture, history and different aspect of religion were also wonderful and still not enough.

I wanted it all.


When you enter the Egyptian temple turned into museum/tourist site nowadays, you hear the words of guides that some of the temple areas were restricted for the common folk; you pass from one hall to another and keep being reminded that in ancient times these halls and shrines were only for the king and the priests. You sometimes think that you are lucky to see all these magnificent reliefs and hieroglyphic carvings in the sanctuaries, because back in AE times, unless you were a member of royalty or priesthood, you would not be allowed to enter.

You think about the rituals they were doing "to keep the universe running" and the world they were living in: the world where you observe the movements of the stars and still feel the need to pray every night that the Moon will be restored again in its full shining glory at 15th day of the month. This was serious business, honoring the cycle so it would continue, and not something that laity would necessarily be concerned with. It was the act of a servant in service to the Master who designed the cycle—an attempt to ease his burden.

This was the feeling of a call nudging me always about the Egyptian temples. I wanted to enter them not only as a tourist. I wanted to enter them being more than simply a devotee allowed to outer courts on festival. It was my dream to enter the holy of holies and stand before the open doors of naos “to see the face of God” with full right – not because this area is open in XXIst century for any visitors who paid for the entrance ticket, but because the Netjeru will know me and see that I can come in.

This was one of my greatest desires in life, and this was a gift and a blessing to pray about.

And these dreams were very daring. At a certain point of my path, I felt that I simply don’t want anything else; no other human occupation on Earth could be more attractive for me. But I spent some time in discernment, of course – before making my dreams and prayers into the “theurgic binding” and a solemn vow – to be made not before members/council of some human organization, but before God. It had to be for Him, before all – and so, between me and him.

I’ve been reading many posts online about modern priesthood, and quickly figured that I didn't like the discouraging posts where people were generally saying, "The priesthood did not work for me, and I realized it's okay not to be a priest, I enjoy being laity, hoorray, so why do YOU bother then?"

Well, some people DO bother, they may have real priestly calling, and life of laity is not enough for them! Every time I saw someone's posts, "It's good to be laity, you don't have to bother, just serve the deity in the fashion you like and don't bother about priestly things", I immediately responded in my heart; "No, for me it is NOT enough, I want the service to its fullest." Even if in modern times the line between Kemetic lay devotees and priests is blurry, still there is some difference between distant ends of spectrum. Some people do have the call to priesthood specifically—not for some sort of imaginary dominion it grants over others, but rather for an increased proximity and devotion to their God.

(And my advice to those who may feel the priestly call: don’t let the others discourage you! Step into the Netjer’s boat and feel safe on Their waters. It’s worth it.)

This is how I've been discerning my path. I've been also reading Egyptian priests’ biographical inscriptions to see which lives they were living, what they actually were doing for their Gods, and I sought for the source of inspiration and examples to follow (Such as PetOsiris and his family: high priests of Thoth living between the Persian and Greek times in Egypt and dedicating their life and service to Djehuty by restoring his temples and the city of Khemenu/Hermopolis).


So in the beginning of 2015, during the pilgrimage to Egypt, I did the dedication to become a Hmt-Ntr for Djehuty, and the optional vows of celibacy as well. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.

I don’t have enough words to describe everything I felt and experienced, and all my thoughts, and all words of love and devotion that were whispered that night;
The dedication was made when I was in the temple of Dakka, in the middle of the night, after seeing the moonrise over Lake Nasser.

Earlier, when we were approaching Dakka (by the ship, sailing Lake Nasser) I knew that I wanted to visit the temple that night, and I worried that it will be locked and only opened by the guards on the morning. There was not even a prayer for what I wanted, just some words I said in my mind, "Djehuty, if you really love me, let the temple be open tonight"; and it was only between me and him, and no one else could have heard that I asked for it.

Later that evening, we asked the ship crew to bring us to the temple at night with one of their boats. When we came there, I thought for sure that the temple would be locked. I did not dare to come closer, and we were standing still, watching the magnificent waters of Lake Nasser ripple in the growing dark. I turned to the temple to whisper some words of prayer, and my friend called to me, “Look, the Moon is rising”.

I turned to the Lake again and saw the beautiful, huge half-disk of the Moon, warm-colored, slightly orange, rising above the waters of the dark lake and spreading its glory in the heart of Nut. We watched it climb into the sky and then my friend asked "Can’t we go to the temple?"
I answered, "It must be closed", but my friend said "Let's try to go in".

We passed through the pylon gate, and found the temple door to be open. Then there was another door and third one before the holy of holies chamber with the naos-- all of these doors were not locked when they should have been; and when I saw that the door to the holy of holies was open too, I screamed with so much delight ( and maybe not much piety =). Then my friend, and the guard who followed me, slowly stepped back, and I stayed in the chamber alone, all light vanished with them and there was a complete darkness.
I stood there embracing the naos, and after saying my prayers and dedications, and all the words of love flowing from my heart, I bowed down and then my head was inside, - and in this moment, in the darkness and in the breath of the quiet wind, I felt the most real presence of Djehuty there. He was there, near me, in this distant Nubian temple so deeply dear to his heart...



I felt that he had been waiting for me - so I stood in the holy of holies of his temple, before the naos, in complete darkness, it was like heaven on earth. The love of Djehuty was like the rain, like the soft breeze of northern wind, I felt his warming and loving embrace and his grace literally all around. This was the sign of his love I’d asked for – and with it, he had my heart, which he won for eternity; I brought him my love and my life as a whole, asking him to become “the one who enters the sanctuary to see face of the Lord”; the lifetime contract for the Great Work; the blessing of service, the joy of priesthood.

I once worded my devotion to Djehuty as, "I'll follow you, wherever you go". This is love, and I don't have better words. I don't have enough words to describe how awesome Djehuty is. I saw the sparks of his splendor with mortal eyes. I can't count his blessings. He never left any of my prayers unheard and he gave me everything I even asked for.
He gave me signs I didn't dare to ask for, and he gave me signs when I asked for them. He led me through the darkness. He led me through harsh ordeals.



You have been for me a craftsman,
You have diminished my trouble,
You have taken control of my:
You have been for me a farmer,
I being like a field,
I being dry,
You have been for me [water]
They have given me to you,
I being worthy,
You opened me in your image:
To cause it to live:
You have separated for me my tongue, […]
You have lessened hatred of me,
You have brought love of me,
You have caused that my praise come quickly. […]
You have given flame /moisture of your mouth
Reveal to me sustenance
The beneficent power of your body has flowed over me.
For the benefaction
You have acted for me,
I being a living image eternally.
I will stand as a statue,
I will be for you a divine monument,
I being an image of the foremost (or "before") his:
I will have power over your papyrus roll
I will worship your teaching,
I being protected by your beautiful name…
//
(* quoted from : “The Demotic book of Thoth” [transl.by Jasnow/Zaurich) – “the Initiate's hymn”)


* Paintings by Stefan Bakałowicz: "Egyptian priest reading the papyrus scroll"; "Prayer to Khonsu" and
Ludwig Deutsch "Egyptian Priest Entering a Temple"

 

P.S. A reminder that there is a Djehuty and Set devotional book currently in the making. Please consider submitting something for the anthology!

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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.  

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