Divine Family (Part 1: Initiation)

Instructions for Initiating the Kemetic Orthodoxy Rite of Parent Divination:

  • Graduate from the Kemetic Orthodoxy beginner course
  • Be a Remetj in good standing with the House of Netjer community and practice the rite of Senut on a regular basis for at least six consecutive months 
  • Any time after those six months, you may fill out the application for RPD
  • Set the application answers on / in your Senut shrine for at least four full consecutive days. On the fifth day (or later), send your application answers to Hemet (AUS), then wait for her to get back to you about scheduling an appointment date and time. 

Day 1: Beginnings

I worry that the paper is too close to the candle flames. What if those small pin-pricks of fire burn all of my hand-written feelings to ash? I fidget with the placement – a slight adjustment here, a slight adjustment there – until the pages are safely secured away from the candles. The names of the Gods I mentioned in my answers to the application questionnaire stare back at me as I begin the rite of Senut, and I wonder for the thousandth time if any of Them will really show up for me when the official divination takes place. Have I misunderstood Whom I’ve felt close to all of this time? Have I missed something important? Is it okay to have specific expectations; is it okay to not have specific expectations? What about Names like Anat, Who bridge the gap between ancient Levantine and Egyptian religion (Who has yet to appear in any RPD as Parent or Beloved, but could)?

I begin the fourfold libation, and invoke my ancestors. I speak aloud the names of the more recently deceased, and then I call out to those whose names I do not know, my ancient ancestors. I suddenly remember a specific ancestor spirit, an Akhu from ancient Alexandria, that I met once via a wonderfully talented medium friend of mine. History feels like a weighted blanket wrapped around my shoulders, heavy in a comforting way. I feel the presence of my people, my human family (biological and chosen), supporting me and sending me their love, surrounding me with a warm embrace. I think about the regular practices I partake in that keep me grounded in and connected to my Jewish ancestry and identity. I take several deep breaths. 

I call upon Wepwawet to open the way for Those Who wish to claim me: may They come forward in the coming days, make Themselves known. 

I call upon my teachers, both spiritual and secular. May any and all who have been teachers to me throughout my life be honored, and may I always be open to new growth and continued learning.

Finally, I invoke Ma’at, Who is a Mother to us all. May I continue to fight for justice and equity for all peoples. May we all work together towards building a better world for everyone. 

As I continue the ritual by saying more prayers and giving offerings, I find that the nerves that I had been feeling have dissipated, not unlike the incense smoke that wafts away from my shrine. I find that my fingertips are tingling and my body feels full of an electric tension. It has begun. I have set into motion something significant and beautiful, and there is no going back now. 

Day 2: Dreams

I wake in the early morning with the lingering after-images of a dream still vivid in my mind. The name “Mut” seems to echo through me, as the sunrise starts to peak through my window. Aset-Mut (?) …Hethert-Mut (?) …Sekhmet-Mut (?) …I cycle through all of the potential syncs/aspects/forms/goddesses, trying to figure out Who was in my dream. I remember the colors red and gold, and a white flame so hot it was almost cold, like ice.

I made a digital painting of Mut not long ago, as an attempt to try and capture Her regal, queenly energy. As I yawn, still exhausted, I can’t help but wonder if my dream was connected to that artwork somehow. Why did I feel compelled to draw Her, anyway? She is a goddess I learned about more recently, in comparison to some of the Names I have known for much longer.

How easily we are prone to thinking anything might be a sign during periods of spiritual anticipation!

The truth is that I have been dreaming about the Netjeru almost every night it seems, for the last month, ever since I realized I might be ready for the RPD. Different Names here and there, never anything too specific, just a general sense of “We are here, We are with you, We are watching.” And yet, at the same time, it feels as if They have all stepped back and away, too. Now, all I can see is an ancient, ornate stone door. I know that it leads to something new and wonderful, but it can’t be opened from the inside – from my side. Eventually, Someone(s) will walk through it from the outside, and join me.

But not yet. 

Day 3: Anxieties

Today is difficult. 8 hours straight of work meetings make me feel drained, and during the madness, I feel constantly behind schedule…I barely find the time to perform Senut, squeezing it (and the proper purification) in during a mere fifteen minute break. I see my handwritten RPD application answers on the shrine, beckoning me to spend more time in quiet meditation, but I barely make it through the required prayers and offerings before I must return to my frenzied work day. 

I feel suddenly anxious: the mundane, secular world seems at odds with my spiritual world in a way that feels more intense than normal. A part of me, I realize, expected this period of four days between putting my RPD application questionnaire answers on my shrine and sending it in to Hemet, to feel more removed from the “typical day to day” life I lead. As if being in such a liminal, spiritually transitional space would suddenly make everything else about my life fade to the background.

How wrong I was! Work, aspects of having a social life, and various mundane challenges (bills to pay, chores to do, errands to run) apparently do not seem to care if a person has recently decided to undergo an impactful and deeply meaningful spiritual life transition. It’s true, I could have asked off work for these four days, but I did not realize ahead of time how much I would feel bothered by this clash between the secular and the spiritual.  

Before my anxieties can get truly out of control, however, a vivid memory comes to mind: living in Japan several years ago, I remember the way that various Shinto shrines could be found hidden amongst the bustling, busy streets of Tokyo (a seemingly vast, endless urban landscape, filled with trains, neon lights, and colorful modern buildings). You’d turn a corner, and suddenly you’d see someone standing quietly at a small shrine, as if totally removed from time – a small island of spiritual peace in the midst of a seemingly never-ending mundane “big city” setting. In Japan, the spiritual and the secular do not clash, they swirl about one another in harmony, more akin to dancers than combatants. Every day does not need to include some kind of elaborate ritual in order for the spiritual to be present; sometimes, just having faith, or uttering a short prayer before a meal, or thinking fondly of Gods, ancestors, and other spirits, and/or just spending a few minutes in a sacred space can be enough to ground and center a person, to remind them that their religion is integrated into their daily life, not separate from it.

With these memories and thoughts in mind, suddenly my fifteen-minute Senut does not seem like a failure, but rather, a few precious moments of peace during an otherwise hectic day. 

I realize: once I know my Divine Family, They will always be present with me (in fact, They already have been, I just don’t know exactly Who They are yet). No matter what any given day might be like, I will have Them with me. The thought is immensely comforting. 

 Day 4: Oracles

Today, I prepare for an upcoming festival: I have signed up to be a diviner for the Djehuty Oracles, a 24-hour divination festival in honor of Djehuty and His spirits. My chosen forms of divination will be Tarot and Bibliomancy (specifically, my personal system of Lord of the Rings Bibliomancy, using my beloved childhood copy of the trilogy). I am excited to offer my services to the KO community in honor of Djehuty! But I am a little nervous too – I always feel nervous before doing divination for folks, as I desperately hope that my readings and interpretations are helpful, and that folks are able to resonate with them. I have been told in the past that I am talented at divination, but I can’t help but feel some nerves every time. 

Djehuty has always been a God I have felt close to. Probably the God I am closest to within a Kemetic context (Apollo is the other God I have been closest to over the years since I became a polytheist, but I do not interact with Him from a Graeco-Egyptian context, more from an Orphic Hellenic one). I met Djehuty in 2010, when I was a university student, not long after learning about Paganism/Kemeticism, and I immediately felt a strong connection with Him. I bought a statue of Him and it sat on my desk and always watched over me while I would study, read, and complete course assignments. After I graduated, I brought Him with me on my travels, and He sits on my shrine now and is there every time I perform Senut (I removed Him back when I was doing the KO beginner course, to remain open to all of Netjer during that time, but He has since made His way back). Djehuty is dear to me, but now I can’t help but wonder if He will show up in my RPD (which would not surprise me at all!) or if it will become clear that He was a different sort of Guide, leading me to where I needed to go, to Who I needed to meet. 

I think an important part of this RPD process, is accepting that closeness with Gods, spirits, and ancestors can matter regardless of the duration or context of that closeness. Sometimes, we need to be guided at a specific time in our lives, and that can always feel significant to us, and we can always be grateful for it, even if our relationship with that Guide eventually grows less strong over time. Sometimes, we need a constant Presence, an eternal Guide, Someone Who is always with us. Sometimes, we meet a God or spirit or ancestor for the first time, and though the relationship feels new, it can immediately feel significant, too. The strength of a new relationship does not invalidate the strength of an old one, and vice versa. All of these types of relationships are not meant to compete with one another, but support one another.

The ANE concept of a “divine family” (in antiquity) did not invalidate the fact that the ancients were polytheists, and had beliefs in and relationships with a myriad of Deities, in a myriad of contexts. In fact, I am reminded of the “Three Circles of Family Religion” concept discussed in the article Family and Household Religion in Ancient Israel and the Levant by Ruediger Schmitt and Rainer Albertz:

  • The inner circle i.e. the “domestic cult” (rituals performed within a dwelling house) 
  • The medium circle i.e. “local cult” (rituals performed within the neighborhood or outside the home but still near to the dwelling home)
  • The outer circle i.e. “regional / state cult” (rituals performed within the sphere of the public / regional or state sanctuaries; “Here, family religion came into contact with the sphere of regional or state religion.”)

These circles speak to the ways Deities might be honored in different contexts – a “domestic cult” God is no less or more important than a “regional or state cult” God (if They, or Their worship, were to differ, for example). In a related sense, for those of us who follow Kemetic Orthodoxy, we have various types of cult, too – our hearth / home cult (our own Senut practices and household worship) and our “state” or group cult (the rituals we do together, as a community, or that are done for us, by our priests and Nisut). Beyond even that, those who take Shemsu vows (post-RPD) have both their Divine Family of Gods (which we create our own household “temples” for, so to speak) and the Gods we interact with in many other contexts (as well as our Gods outside of Kemeticism, if we have any!). 

All this is to say: I can feel close with Djehuty, feel especially equipped to honor Him by giving oracles during His festival, and have that be significant and important, while still potentially finding out He is actually not in my Kemetic Divine Family (in the context of the RPD).

I am at peace with this. 

4 thoughts on “Divine Family (Part 1: Initiation)

    1. Thank you, Ewe! I’m glad what I wrote resonates; it’s always nice to hear that others experienced similar feelings before their own RPDs (so I’m not alone in what I feel). I can’t wait to find out my lineup! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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