Neo-Paganism: Kemetism

Kemetic Shrine

Neo-Paganism, also known as Contemporary Paganism and Modern Paganism, is a collective term for new religious movements influenced by or claiming to be derived from the various historical pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe, North Africa and the Near East. Adherents rely on pre-Christian, folkloric and ethnographic sources to a variety of degrees; many follow a spirituality which they accept as being entirely modern, while others attempt to reconstruct or revive indigenous, ethnic religions as found in historical and folkloric sources as accurately as possible. Nep-Paganism in the United States is largely a phenomenon of a white college educated demographic with over 90% being whites and 65% having a college degree.

The 2014 Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscapes Survey included a subset of the New Age Spiritual Movement called “Pagan or Wiccan,” reflecting that ¾ of individuals identifying as New Age also identified as Pagan or Wiccan and placing Wiccans and Pagans at 0.3% of the total U.S. population or approximately 956,000 people of just over 1,275,000 individuals in the New Age movement. This is a dramatic increase from the 1990’s when only 200,000 individuals identified themselves as part of a New Age religion. Roughly 10 million Wiccan-related books were sold in 2000, up from 4.5 million in 1990. A division within modern Paganism rests on differing attitudes to the source material surrounding pre-Christian belief systems. “We might say that Reconstructionist Pagans romanticize the past, while Eclectic Pagans idealize the future. In the first case, there is a deeply felt need to connect with the past as a source of spiritual strength and wisdom; in the second case, there is the idealistic hope that a spirituality of nature can be gleaned from ancient sources and shared with all humanity,” according to Religious studies scholar Michael Strmiska.

Some of the more common Neo-Pagan religions are Wicca, the Goddess movement, Heathenism, Neo-Druidism, Eco-Paganism, and Syncretism. Today I am going to focus on the small, but growing religion of Kemetism. Kemetism also sometimes referred to as Neterism or Egyptian Neopaganism, is the contemporary revival of Ancient Egyptian religion and related expressions of religion in classical and late antiquity, emerging during the 1970s. A Kemetic is one who follows Kemetism. There are several main groups, each of which take a different approach to their beliefs, ranging from eclectic to reconstructionistic. Kemetic Orthodoxy is a modern religious sect based on Kemeticism, which is a reconstruction of Egyptian polytheism. It claims to derive a spiritual lineage from the Ancient Egyptian religion. It was founded in 1988 by Tamara Siuda, who remains its current Nisut or Pharaoh. Siuda’s leadership proved to be extremely successful, and in 1994, Kemetic Orthodoxy had attracted a sufficient number of new adherents to be officially recognized as a religious group by the federal government.

At the heart of the religion is a belief in ma’at: the guiding force of the universe and the principle of divine balance. Kemetics also believe in a supreme being, known as Netjer, and his many incarnations. Ancestor veneration, or Akhu veneration, is a very important aspect of Kemetic Orthodoxy. Adherents believe that their Akhu are their ancestors. As Akhu are believed to have already experienced human life, it is thought that they can give valuable advice and support regarding things related to daily human life. Kemetic Orthodoxy grew out of the personal teachings of Siuda. The temple began in 1988, when she claimed to have experienced a series of visions during her initiation as a Wiccan priestess. She started a small study and worship group at that time, which gradually grew in membership. In 1993, the group was federally recognized as a religious entity and changed its name from the House of Bast to the House of Netjer. The temple was granted tax-exempt status in 1999.

Kemetic Orthodoxy has a strong internet presence with rituals performed online via a chat room. They make the important distinction that they are a religion on the internet and not a internet religion. Members of Kemetic Orthodoxy gather at Tawy House (in Joliet, Illinois) in August for the Kemetic New Year, Wep Ronpet. As the largest gathering, it is the best example of an event held by the Kemetic Orthodox off-line. It includes rituals, fellowship, lectures and workshops. Personal worship is also observed in the form of personal deity-centered shrines in their homes as well as Senut ritual. The Senut ritual is composed of various rites, and is a fully functional ritual for individual use yet containing all of the necessary elements of all Kemetic ritual, whether practiced by one or a thousand.

If you’re interested you can find out more here: http://www.kemet.org/about

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