In a Kemetic climate, you’ll see the word “syncretism” bandied around quite a bit in posts and thoughts. This is because we tend to find that our gods have been joined or merged with others, perhaps even been usurped by other gods in the pantheon. As far as I know, you don’t see this as much in other ancient religions as you would in Kemetism (although Wiki says otherwise; maybe as an outsider, I’m less likely to see this practice), but it runs rampant in Kemetic practices. You always know when you’ve stumbled upon a syncretized divinity when you see two names attached to one another by a hyphen. Some of the more common syncretized gods that you’ll find are Re-Horakty, Atum-Re, and Amun-Re. These are the most common, but by no means are they the only syncretized deities in the pantheon. Hetharu and Sekhmet, my two patrons, are considered a syncretized being, although they’ve only ever come to me as separate entities. In fact, Sekhmet has been merged with quite a few deities in the pantheon and not just my other patroness: there is Mut and Bast and Wedjat. And later on, Hetharu’s cult was usurped by the ascendency of Aset’s cult. So, when I say that this syncretism stuff is rampant in the Kemetic pantheon, I’m really not joking.
The thing is… it’s so confusing.
I’ve always seen my two deities as separate entities and this isn’t just because I am a hard polytheist. It is also because when they appear to me and when I work with them, they are two separate beings. One is kind and sweet and a home-body. She is willing to put her hand upon my shoulder and give me a little hug if she thinks I need one. She is gold and stars to me. This is Hetharu. This is how I see and feel her. And the other… she is forceful and full of intentions that are beyond my ken. She can be more businesslike and wants me to be active and do things. She worries for my health, both emotional and mental as well as physical, and she asks that I stand up for myself and my beliefs. She is more likely to be upright. She is red and blood to me. This is Sekhmet. This is how I see and feel her. While the two of them have similar aspects: they have tempers, they like to see justice done, and they will do the bidding of their father or husband (Re) if he so desires. But, they are still separate entities to me.
Sometimes, I think that the reason I have such a hard time with this concept is because I’m not smart enough or because of my hard polytheistic background. In either case, it doesn’t really matter. I end up coming across a merger of deities and end up wondering how in the world that works for them. And how, to be honest, it works for other Kemetics out there.
As a current example, Kiya said to me today: “Near where I used to live, there is a bit of road that is the Yankee Division Highway, Route 95, Route 128, and Route 3. Some of those are different words for the same thing. Some are not. Such is syncretism.” In trying to wrap my head around this joining of gods, I can see where she is coming from with this example. I see the same thing around here. There is the Old Boston Road that turns into Stony Hill Road, but also ends up becoming Old Boston Road again a little ways away, but also, Stony Hill Road, too, can become Main Street, which can become Worcestor Street. These are all names for the same arena of roads, but they are different. (They’re also all based in various cities since this long ass road spans the length of three cities and one village.) Each one has a distinctive personality that is similar, but not the same, as the one previous. As you drive down this long road, you can watch it change from suburbia hell to inner-city apartment dwellings to a business district and back to a suburb before becoming a highway of sorts and then, yet another aspect of suburbia in the mix.
So, with that road as a forefront, I suppose I can begin to wrap my head around the Kemetic merger that we see so often. If each section of road is a particular god, we can see that they are alike and yet, they are different. They like the same types of followers or the same types of offerings, but they also have distinctive personalities that do not blend so well: Sekhmet as a fierce protectress and willing to battle until the end of time for ma’at whereas Hetharu is joy-filled and amusing, loving to live in the lap of luxury. But, too, if you annoy her enough, she’ll run off and make you sorry just as much as her sister-self, Sekhmet, can.
And here’s where I begin to work syncretisim into my own practice: sister-self.
“I see them as sister-selves: a divine twin thing, I guess. They both have similar aspects in that they can get amazingly upset and that they both love similar things (gold, me, for instance). But, they’re also, you know, solid separate entities.” (Directly quoted from myself in conversation with Devo.) I’ve hinted at this before in a few different ways, either in private conversation or somewhere in this blog. (I’d look and link, but I’m lazy today.) To me, when I work on the syncretism that could happen between my two ladies, though it hasn’t happened yet, I think of them as “sister-selves.”
They are related deeply and connected with one another in ways that I cannot understand, very much like twins. They like the same things and maybe they even dress alike and speak alike. But, just as each person has different aspects of personality or physical character, so do the sister-selves that I work with. Their finger prints are different. One may love salads and teas and baking, while the other is more like a tomboy. Their preference for medallions or pieces of jewelry vary: one likes it simple while the other prefers stones and the glitter of gold. But, always, we come back to the fact that they look the same, speak the same, and have similar enough looks to pass as each other.
And yet, they are not one another, at all.