So, since I put myself out there, I’ve gotten a few people asking me how to go about this religion thing. I get questions about general religions (how do you know…) as well as questions specific to Kemetism (where do I start…). I’m actually, always, startled when I get asked this question and then go stupid for twenty minutes. But since I am one of the few vocal Kemetics out there, it makes complete sense as to why I get asked. What makes less sense is that I don’t have a starter going yet. So, based on my own experiences with this, I’ve gone ahead and done the cray-cray: Kemetism 101.
Where do I begin?
I’m going to sound like an old record here… or like a CD with scratches all over it for those of you too young to remember records skipping, but the biggest and most powerful bit of advice here is research. Now, this particular bit of advice can be used in any context when you’re first entering a religion. The reason I’m touting about it now and being such a pain in the ass about this is because this (where do I begin?) is pretty much the first question someone is going to ask themselves when they discover a new religious path that they want to follow. And how are you supposed to learn anything if you don’t do the basic legwork of researching the religion in question? While I can’t comment much on Norse or Celtic based religions, I can, of course, tell you about my journey and path into research when I first became entranced with the idea of Kemetism.
Part of the point in this research shtick, too, is to make sure that Kemetism (or Celtic polytheism, druidry, Asatru, Hellenismos, et al) is really what you are sure about practicing. I might sound like a preach-y preacher here, but up and changing your religious practice every couple of months because it doesn’t feel right has got to get old and tiring after a while. And, you know, quite possibly expensive if you feel the need to buy stuff relating to X religion all the time only to change your mind months later. I’m not saying that adding aspects to your [set, solidified] practice is wrong. And I’m not saying that people who delve into other areas of study to further their current practice is wrong, either. What I am saying is that you can’t look at this as a form of “play acting” or as a form of “this will do.” You have to be sure. You aren’t just looking for interesting things to fill up your time; you are creating a RELIGION for yourself. That takes a lot of hard work. That takes a lot of guts. That takes time and time and time. Ask anyone who has been doing this for a while and we’ll all tell you that this isn’t easy, that this isn’t simple, and that this is a years’ long process you will be starting out on.
Just by looking up the mythologies associated with the ancient form of the religion you are interested in, you can get a pretty good idea about whether or not you want to delve any deeper. I knew from the get-go that ancient Egypt was where my religious practices were going to lie. This is because, since high school, I had been obsessed with learning about it in some form or another. I had books upon books about the 18th Dynasty filling up my historical library. I loved everything about it, so I knew that ancient Egypt was going to be a big figurehead when I started out. But, not everyone is as obsessed with history as I can get. (Yes. I am obsessed with history. I used it all the time in various conversations and to prove points people don’t realize can be made.) So, by looking into the mythologies, you can get a feel for the gods you are looking to worship and you can decide if they are beings that you feel comfortable working with.
And that is very important, by the way. You shouldn’t choose gods because everyone else is doing it. You shouldn’t choose gods because you think it’s the cool thing to do. You shouldn’t choose gods because you have an ancestor or three who worshiped them. You should do it because you are comfortable giving your time, energy, loyalty, love, hatred, sadness, pain, happiness, and any other combination thereof to these gods. (Yes, it is possible to go through a point where you absolutely hate what it is the gods want you to do and you take it out on them. I know I’ve been there and I’ve done that and hey, look at that. I’m still a Kemetic.) This path isn’t about what your friends are doing or what you think may be a good idea. This path is about you.
I’ve looked at the myths and this is for real; where do I go from here?
Guess what? It’s time for more research. I really wasn’t joking when I said I was going to be repeating myself quite a bit here.
Now, when I first started out, I had no idea that Kemetism was an actual religion. I started out with the idea that because of my general obsession with ancient Egypt to that point, I wanted to use it in some context. Let’s also remember that I was coming into this with a Wiccan context as opposed to a recon context. In looking up Wicca and whatnot, I stumbled onto the Wiki page about Kemetism. And this opened my eyes to whole new avenues of what to do. There were temples. And this said, loudly, to me that I wasn’t the only person in the history of ever that wanted to have a religion that was a construct, a revival, or a reconstruction of what had come before. I’ll tell you, the moment I discovered that I was near ecstatic and pretty damn awed, too. I believe there may have been dancing involved. I do, in fact, know that I was so very excited and I had no one to share it with. This is part of the reason why I have a blog now, but that’s a story for another day.
(Now, someone reading this in passing may wonder why I didn’t know anything about this prior, I’m going to admit here that at the time of discovering this, I lived in a small town of a very Christian background. I had been told about Wicca from a police officer friend of mine who didn’t like the male-oriented religion of his southern roots. And apart from this, I had been raised in a family with heavy Catholic roots and went to a Methodist church as a kid. So, aside from the Internet, I had very little access to books or people who would have like-minded viewpoints up to this point.)
So, from there, I had whole avenues to explore. There were temples to look into, Wicca-basis to look into, and a solitary approach to look into. In doing basic Google searches for Kemetism, I found forums of like-minded individuals, more specifically The Cauldron, AKA TC, which had a plethora of information on this stuff. So, at the beginning, you could say that while I had a general feel and idea about what I wanted to do – work with a religious frame work that had to do with my obsession with ancient Egypt and its gods – I didn’t know quite what to do from there. Did I want to join a temple? Did I just want to e-stalk forums? Did I want to go my own way? So many possibilities, but I wouldn’t have known about them if I hadn’t done one measly Google search to get me going. And that is why doing the research is very important.
What do I decide now?
As I said, there are a lot of different types of Kemetism out there, which means that there are literally hundreds of different ideas and beliefs out there that relate to ancient Egypt in a current religious frameset. It comes down to what works for you and what won’t work for you. And again, I hate to say it but I’m just going to keep repeating myself until I’m blue in the face anyway, it’s time you did some more research.
When I first discovered that there were actual temples out there, I immediately felt that I should head in that direction. The main reason for this is because I knew that this was going to be a long process, but I am inherently lazy. (There’s part of the reason why it’s taken me three years to hammer out a calendar for myself.) In working with a temple of some kind, I would have a community to rely upon, ideals already set in place, and other aspects that I cannot enumerate on because I do not associate nor work with temples. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the reason I fell out of this belief is because I looked up each temple.
Now, some of them, I could reject out of hand – there’s one about the Aten (Akhenaten’s supreme god that I already knew a lot of since, you know, obsessed with the 18th Dynasty here). That didn’t fit what I wanted. If I wanted monotheism, I would continue with my exploration of the Abrahamic faiths. Since none of those were interesting to me, I didn’t think that even a slight change to the program – an ancient Egyptian deity in place of YHWH or God or Elohim – was really up my alley. I believe another temple that I stumbled on had to do with black supremacy in regards to the ancient Egyptian religion. As a white woman, this didn’t seem like it would work for me. But, there were other temples to look into as well: KO, Church of the Eternal Source, and the Akhet Hwt-Hrw.
After looking into all of them, there were various reasons why I rejected them. However, this may not be the case with others who are looking into this path as a serious religion. You may see something on the House of Netjer website that fits for you. You may see something at Akhet Hwt-Hrw that you find interesting. (I tried to find the link to this website so that people could look into this after reading this post or while reading this post, however the website listed on the Wiki Kemetism page is shown as “being suspended.” You can also do Google searches for Kerry Wisner and the books out should, at least, pop up.) In every possibility, there were things to look into and research. That’s something that is entirely based on what you, as a neophyte, is specifically looking for.
What if I want to do a solitary practice?
As someone who is solitary and who knows a lot of solitaries out there, I’m going to tell you that this is pretty damn difficult path you are choosing. I’m not saying it’s impossible because myself and others have managed it and are proof that it does work, but if you are really serious that nothing related to any Kemetic temples out there holds you, then it’s time to get ready to get your hands and mind dirty. I tend to feel that a solitary practitioner is getting ready to not just walk the path of our religious lives, but to also go running around in mud puddles while we’re at it. It is a very dirty path and there is a lot of hard work involved.
Now, I’m not one to feel the need to go against older and wiser, so I’m going to link you to this resource page from TC. I’m also going to link you to Devo’s book list since a lot of the books for Kemetism she has listed are excellent reading material and they can really help you flesh out your practice for yourself. One of the books that I recommend to everyone who is even slightly interested in Kemetism is Eternal Egypt by Richard Reidy. This book is an excellent way to try and practice rituals in this day and age, as well as to judge whether or not some of these more ornate trappings are what you want to do.
As for trappings like holidays and gods and specific beliefs and whatnot, this is something that each person is going to have to come at individually. I can’t tell you how to worship a god; I can’t tell you how to hold a festival; I can’t tell you what offerings are more appropriate; I can’t tell you any of that because one of the main things you are going to have to sit down and think about is how far you are willing to take this in regards to your individual desires.
Another thing I will sit back and talk to you, slightly, about with all of this solitary stuff is that one of the earliest questions you will have to ask yourself about your solitary path is whether you want to be a revivalist, a reconstructionist, a Wiccan, or your own whatever-you-may-want-to-call it. I’m not talking about titles about your practice, either. This is when you have to sit down, talk honest with yourself about what you are hoping to achieve with this creation, and work from there. Do you want it to have a slight basis on the past? Do you like what you see in Wicca and want to form it with your ancient Egyptian ideals and gods? Do you want to have a more firm grasp on your religion from a historical basis? These are all things that you have to ask yourself when you do this work because if you don’t know the answers to these questions, then you’re going to stall out.
Part of the reason I decided that solitary recon was something that interested me was because I met a lot of fellow Kemetics on TC (linked above) via their forum. And in seeing how rich and full their practices were, without a temple background and just with having done the research knowing they wanted a basis in history, was enough to get me into realizing that that was something that I wanted, as well. It should have been obvious; considering I refer to myself as “obsessed” with history, but it really is one of those questions that you have to ask yourself and debate over. I’ll let you in on a little secret: while I was working from a recon slant from early on, it wasn’t until this last year that I realized I preferred to be considered more recon than revival or eclectic. So, while this is an important question, it’s not the be-all, end-all to your practice or crafting of a religion.
And yes, you can still work on what your religion will ultimately be while you debate this with yourself. As I said, it was only as I was already in the middle of working on a religion for myself from a historical context that I realized, oh, yeah, I’m a recon. (Just because I’m one of the more vocal Kemetics out there does not mean that I am the smartest at all times!)
This is all very overwhelming.
Yes, it is. I really wasn’t joking when I talked about how much hard work this is going to be just to define, craft, and decide on what practice works well for you. The thing is that a lot of people come into this with the idea that it’s something to do, but in crafting a religion, there’s a lot more than holidays and worshiping gods. There is a daily basis that people forget or don’t take into account when it comes to this whole religion-crafting thing. I completely understand the whole overwhelming part, though. I have spent many an hour wanting to rip my hair out because I want to iron out some belief or concretely claim X in my liturgical side. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent trying to research the most basic nuggets of information so that the festivals that I do celebrate have even the slightest historical basis.
There’s a lot to take in.
So, when it comes to deciding that you want to go down Kemetism (Druidry, Asatru, Hellenismos, et al), don’t take it lightly. You’re in for the long haul and that haul? It sure as hell ain’t light. Once you make the decision that Kemetism (or other religions) are the ones for you, then where you head from here is entirely up to you. I can only take you so far; the rest is up to you.