Kemetic Reconstructionism ("Kemet" is the ancient word for Egypt) is a form of reconstructionist Neopagan religion that seeks to recreate ancient Egyptian religion as accurately as possible, based primarily on the latest research of Egyptologists.
Cultural and linguistic adaptions are made to ancient beliefs and rituals in order to preserve their meaning for modern followers, but eclecticism and adaptation is generally rejected in favor of authenticity.
Followers are referred to as Kemetic Reconstructionists or Kemetics.
Organization and Priesthood
There are many Kemetic organizations, but also a good number of Kemetic reconstructionists who are not part of any specific organization. Membership in an organization is not compulsory to worship the ancient Egyptian gods.
The largest Kemetic organization is the House of Netjer or Kemetic Orthodoxy, founded in the late 1980s by Tamara L. Siuda. It gained official recognition in the U.S. as a religion in 1994. Siuda underwent her coronation as Nisut-Bity (Pharaoh) in 1996 through ceremonies performed in Egypt, and is now known formally within her faith as "Her Holiness, Sekhenet-Ma'at-Ra setep-en-Ra Hekatawy I, Nisut-Bity of the Kemetic Orthodox faith." (See below for more on the role of Pharoah.) In 2000 Siuda earned a master's degree in Egyptology. The House of Netjer is headquarted at the Tawy House temple in Joliet, Illinois, and followers of the faith around the world correspond via the internet.
Several Kemetic temples and organizations maintain Egyptian-style priesthoods, with a hierarchy of part-time and full-time priests in addition to a chief priest embodied in the pharaoh or ruler. These organizations include the Kemetic Orthodox House of Netjer, Per-Ankh, the Church of the Eternal Source, the Akhet Hwt-Hrw and the Nuhati-am-Nutjeru, among other lesser-known groups.
Some Kemetics maintain, in keeping with the reconstructionist ideal, that the existence of a living Pharaoh (a Hebrew word; the Egyptian term is Nisut) is still required. This idea is rooted in an ancient belief that a "land without kingship" was a land that had lost its connection to Ma'at, and that the Pharaoh was a priest-king, the servant of both the gods and the people of Egypt. The largest Kemetic group, the House of Netjer, recognizes its founder, Egyptologist Rev. Tamara Siuda, as Nisut.
Other Kemetic organizations reject this idea, citing the abuse of power that could occur with a modern Pharoah. Instead, they recognize the Egyptian idea of kingship as a symbolic meeting of men and their gods and fulfill it by means of councils such as were convened in ancient Egypt during times of civil war or times of unrest when the line of normal kingly succession was not clear.
Kemetic Reconstructionists honor the ancient Egyptian gods, whom they call by their original Egyptian names rather than the more familiar Greek forms. These gods include:
- Hathor (Egyptian name: Het-heru, Het-hert, or Hwt-hru)
- Horus (Hor or Heru)
- Isis (Aset, Iset, Ast, or Auset)
- Osiris (Ausar, Asar, or Wesir)
How these gods are viewed depends on the individual belief. Polytheism is the most common form, in both ancient and modern forms of the religion. From this perspective, all the gods are understood as individual beings and are worshiped as individuals.
Many Kemetic Reconstructionists, including members of the large House of Netjer, define their form of polytheism as monolatry, a term coined by Egyptologists. This means that the many individual deities are regarded as parts of an ultimately unknowable self-created Oneness, known in ancient texts as Netjer, "being of divine power," or as Atum, "the complete one/the one who is not."
The ancient Egyptians had a variety of different myths to describe Earth's creation, which are meaningful to modern Kemetics despite their own (usually) scientific view of creation.
Views of Kermetics about the afterlife can vary significantly. Some Kemetic Reconstructionists accept the ancient Egyptian view of the afterlife, while others believe in reincarnation or hold other views. The ancient Egyptians saw the afterlife as a journey through several "tests," the climax of which is the Weighing of the Heart, in which the heart is weighed against an ostrich feather (Feather of Ma'at).
If the heart is too heavy with sin, it is fed to the monster-goddess Ammit and the person is destroyed forever. Those who pass this test become Akhu, or Blessed Ancestors. They reside in Duat, the land of Osiris, and can be communicated with by humans on Earth. If a person flees judgement or gets lost on the way, he or she may become a Muet, or angry dead person, terrorizing living descendants.
Kemetic ethics are based in the Egyptian concept of Ma'at, which is truth, justice, order, and "that which is right." In addition, Kemetics look to ancient Egyptian law texts such as the Declaration of Innocence (also called the "Negative Confessions"), which contain a list of 42 sins a deceased person claims not to have done, and the Wisdom Texts, which are pieces of advice written by Ancient Egyptians.
The Declaration of Innocence includes such sins as murder, muddying the rivers of the Nile river, adultery, theft, eavesdropping, and sexual perversion. This last sin is often translated in older texts as committing homosexuality, but Kemetic Reconstructionists consider this a mistranslation and are open to homosexual members. A common theory is that the prohibition refers to child prostitution.
The most common form of religious ritual in Kermetic Reconstructionism is informal offerings and prayers at a personal shrine. A person may also adapt various community priestly rituals from ancient Egypt to be done by one person.
The Egyptians believed that for a person to survive death indefinitely, he or she must be remembered. The person's name and/or image must be remembered past death, which is the reason mummification was used. Mummification is not practiced by modern Kermetics, since photographs and other records are sufficient to preserve a deceased person's memory. Many Kermetics have an Akhu shrine, dedicated to the "blessed dead," for this purpose.
There are several Kermetic festivals every month, and in some months there is almost a festival for every day. As in ancient Egypt, worshipers can choose which to celebrate, based usually on location, temple affiliation, and personal devotion to a particular deity. But a few major holidays are celebrated by most Kermetics regardless of their temple affiliation (most temples have official calendars) or independent status:
- Wep Ronpet, the Kemetic New Year
- Feast of Opet
- Feast of the Beautiful Valley
- Solstice Celebrations and Equinox Celebrations (sacred to Hathor, Eye of Ra)
- Feast of the Beautiful Reunion
- Full and New Moon Celebrations (sacred to various moon gods depending on the season)
- the birthdays and festival days of various gods and goddesses
The Ritual of the Senut or the Daily Rite is a Kemetic Orthodox ritual written in the early 1990s by Rev. Tamara Siuda, based upon a basic daily ritual practiced in the formal temples of antiquity and is partially translated into modern languages from those ancient rituals to that effect. The Senut, from an ancient word meaning "shrine," is given freely to all Kemetic Orthodox and is intended to be performed once daily whenever possible. Other Kemetic temples, such as Per-Ankh, often refer to their forms of this ritual as the "Daily Rite."
There are no formal rites of passage for solitary Kemetics, but the Kemetic Orthodox faith has developed specific rites of passage adapted from the spirit and tradition of ancient rites. Some of these have caused controversy among other Kemetic religionists, while others that have been adopted by them. These include Rootnaming, in which a child born to Kemetic parents is given an additional name indicating the god of his/her month of birth (e.g. Setneb for the month of Set), and the Rite of Parent Divination, a divination ritual performed for adult converts or children at puberty.