In 2012, I had a lot of time on my hands because I was unemployed for the entirety of the year. So, I actually did the pagan blog project that year and got all the way up to W before I had to stop. During that blogging project, I actually discussed the topic this KRT entry is about, nisut. Even though I wrote that entry only a year and a half ago, I re-read what I had written there. It’s always a good idea to review past opinions on certain topics as well as past beliefs that may have changed over time. If we forget what our religious path is like, then we’re going to end up making an ass out of ourselves in one way or another. And as this blog clearly shows, I’ve grown a lot. Some of my opinions have changed and some of them have not. I always have the option – and occasionally do – go back through my older entries in an effort to see the growth I’ve done both in terms of how I practice, where I practice, with whom I have relationships with, and how I feel regarding certain topics. For the most part, aside from becoming more mature, adding a ton of new netjeru, and utilizing more historical information than in previous years, most of my opinions regarding the core tenets of my personal faith have remained the same and the nisut question is no exception.
For those not in the know…
In ancient Egypt, the term nisut-bity[t] translated as “[s]he of sedge and bee.” The two symbols, a sedge and a bee, together, symbolized ancient Egypt itself, which is where the terminology stems from. The sedge plant is a plant commonly found in the marshlands of Upper Egypt and it was from this plant that Upper Egypt was represented. The bee and the practice of bee-keeping was a characteristic of Lower Egypt (the part of the Nile that branches into five distinct branches). The flowering plants caused by the irrigated land were a fertile feeding source for the hives of bees. And it was from this bee that we Upper Egypt is represented. These two separate symbols together, unified in the manner shown, is how ancient Egypt was represented and where we get the terminology “of sedge and bee.” (The modern-day term, pharaoh, actually comes from the Greek word, pharaō, which is a translation of the ancient Egyptian word, pr-aa. This ancient Egyptian word is translated as “great house.”)
We don’t really have a modern context for the nisut-bity. What I mean, outside of religious traditions, there is no way to show anyone in a modern metaphor specifically what the pharaoh and his power would have been like. We can attempt to bring a modern context by associating the pharaoh with more modern rulers, like kings and queens, but even that is pretty far removed from what the pharaoh was and how he acted in ancient Egypt. The pharaoh wasn’t just a man (or woman) on high who ruled the land, but he was the spiritual ruler as well. In a way, we could give modern interpretations to a pharaoh akin to how Henry VIII ruled England after he took power away from the Catholic Church: he was both the spiritual and the temporal ruler over all of England. But even with all of that, I still feel that the nisut-bity fails easy translation even with a generally well-known “modern” metaphor available. Not only was the pharaoh the ruler of all things religious and mundane, but [s]he was what kept the world in line with ma’at (balance); [s]he was the alpha and the omega; and [s]he was the beginning, middle and end. Everything began and ended because of the pharaoh, or at least in the name of the pharaoh.
In the modern world, there are supposed to be checks and balances preventing any single person from having so much power, so, for all intents and purposes, there is no full way for a modern human being to fully understand (even with all the boring reading available) just what it must have been like to live under the yoke of such a person. I’ve mentioned a time or two how difficult it can be to properly translate ancient Egyptian words when we need to. I think the same can be said regarding positions of power, not just with the nisut-bity but also with the varying stages of the priesthood. And I think in many instances, it isn’t the translation, specifically, that fails but an attempt to modernize the concept enough for it to be understandable to people who don’t live like that any longer. Modern humans haven’t lived like the ancient Egyptians in a long time and it’s near-on impossible, in my opinion, to fully recognize, understand, and interpret just what things must have been like, especially when it comes to the ruling caste.
One can always try, of course, and we have a modern interpretation available to us in Kemetic Orthodoxy.
Tamara Suida is the nisut-bityt to Kemetic Orthodoxy. As found here, her function is a spiritual and cultural role. She provides a spiritual and physical bridge between those of the Kemetic Orthodox faith and the netjeru. According to KO’s Wiki page, she conducts daily rituals to prevent isfet from gaining a foothold, as well as acts as adviser, teacher, leader, and the modern manifestation of the kingly ka. This doesn’t mean that the members of the faith believe Tamara to be divine, as was the case in ancient Egypt, but merely that she fulfills the role of housing the kingly ka.
However, it was because of the nisut business that I turned away from Kemetic Orthodoxy all of those years ago. I absolutely wanted to join. I thought, here’s what I’m looking for! Part of that reaction stemmed from laziness and an unwillingness to take my historical readings and put them into practice. It also made sense that there should be an organized temple or three out there for people to turn to. Just as with many, I looked at ancient Egypt and saw that in order to recreate it, there had to be a hierarchy. I thought of it in that way and didn’t consider what it would be like to recreate something on my own. But it was because of the hierarchy that KO provides that I turned away from it. Even though, all those years ago, I was interested in it, the knowledge that they had a nisut bothered me.
For starters, they didn’t have an about page like they do nowadays when I first found their website. So, all those years ago when I was researching Kemeticism and excitedly clicked on KO’s website, I had no idea what the hell the nisut business was about. So, I took to research and realized that they had a king, so to speak. Of course, there wasn’t a lot of information available to non-members and at that point, I didn’t know any. I couldn’t ask them, “What’s this hullabaloo about a pharaoh? How is it even possible that they have one? The religion is dead and we’re just recreating it.” But when I saw that word, nisut, and found it in my books, I turned away. I was nonplussed. In all honesty, all those years ago, I thought that the organization was being run by some cult leader who claimed they were some reincarnated pharaoh from back in the day. I’ve since learned this is not the case and have quite a few friends who are both current and previous members of the organization. But when you’re just starting out and you find that bit out, it can be a bit of a turn off.
So I turned away from Kemetic Orthodoxy.
I turned away from the nisut business.
Years later, I reassessed myself and figured out that I still didn’t want anyone to be my nisut-bity[t]. I had been raised within a religious tradition where there always was someone between me and God. I found myself as a youth unable to build a personal relationship with that religion and that deity. And I think, though I can never be sure, that it was this lack of a personal relationship with deity that led me astray and looking for other options. Now, I have a personal relationship with the various netjeru that make up my personal pantheon. The relationships vary in their intensity and their length and their personality and their activity, but they are all mine. And I wouldn’t want anyone else to come between me and those relationships. I wouldn’t want to have to turn to anyone for interpretation, for mediation, or for anything else. All of those years ago, I looked at the idea of a temple to overcome my fear of striking out on my own and moving down the path to where I am today. Now, I look back and smile at the fact that I never seriously looked in that direction because, now, I just can’t imagine how that may have ended up for me.
How my relationships would have ended up.
How my religion would have ended up.
In all honesty, I think it is all best summed up as that Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken. I’ve always loved that poem and I’ve always felt that it very much best described my religious path better than anything else. Never more so than right this moment as I, yet again, contemplate what could have been versus what is.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.