Modern Egyptian Influenced Religions

by Frank Griggs
Thetford Academy Challenge Course
May 18, 1997


Table of Contents

Click the section name or number to go to the location

Glossary- Read first!

List of Interviewees

Section 1- Introduction

Section 2- General Beliefs

Section 3- Poll Questions

Section 4- Insightful Quotations and Personal Practices

Appendix- Deity Names and Descriptions

Bibliography



Glossary

This glossary provides several definitions for words that have vague or subjective meanings. Please read it through entirely before continuing with the paper. It will allow you to understand the words of the interviewees more clearly by dispelling any preconceived notions about these words. All words contained in the glossary will be included only using one of the meanings listed below.

Book of Shadows- A personal journal kept by some Pagans that records their rituals, dreams, or anything else they deem necessary.

deity- a. A god or goddess of the Egyptian pantheon.b. One of the many forms of Neter.

Kemet- Ancient Egypt. This word is used by those who practice Kemetic traditions.

Ma’at- The Goddess of Justice in the Egyptian pantheon and the symbolic name of Justice. To be "in Ma’at" is similar to living a life of balance.

magick- The process of exerting natural change upon the physical world through the power of the will.

Neter (Netjer)-
a. A god or goddess of the Egyptian pantheon.
b. The one divine power that appears in a variety of forms.
Both of these words are phonetic renderings of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Pagan-
n. A member of an alternative religion.
adj. Of or relating to an alternative religion.

religion- A personal belief system or spiritual practice.

ritual- A ceremony performed to honor or worship Neter.

Tamera- Ancient Egypt. This word is used by those who practice Tameran traditions.
When the Tameran traditions were started, the definition used by most practitioners was that "Tameran" traditions represented religious practices that merged Wicca with the ancient Egyptian pantheon.

Wicca- A nature religion of Celtic origin. It can be practiced in groups called "covens", or solitarily.

worship- To communicate with Neter. This can either include quiet meditation, supplication through offerings, or religious ceremonies.

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Interviewees

When you see a quotation, there will be a number in parentheses beside it. Match the number with the corresponding name on this list.

1. Terre, a 34 year old Egyptian Wiccan from Maine. Terre has been practicing Egyptian Wicca for three years.

2. Tamara, the 27 year old Chief Priest and Per’a (spiritual leader) of the House of Netjer, a Kemetic Orthodox church in Illinois. Tamara founded the House of Netjer and has been practicing the Kemetic Orthodox religion for fifteen years. She has been an ordained priest for eight of them.

3. Connie, a 31 year old Pagan from California. Connie has been Pagan for twelve years, and has drawn upon Egyptian traditions for six months.

4. Denice, a 26 year old practitioner of Goddess Studies who lives in Florida. Denice has practiced her religion regularly for two years.

5. Julie, a 35 year old practitioner of a tradition based on Ancient Egyptian Mystery Religion who lives in Maine. She has been practicing her religion for fifteen years.

6. Xina, a 34 year old Shemsu (devotee) of the Kemetic Orthodox religion who lives in Iowa. Xina has practiced her religion for thirteen years and has served two goddesses of the Egyptian pantheon.

7. Bella, a 28 year ordained priestess of the House of the Open Eye, a Kemetic temple. Bella lives in California and has practiced her Kemetic religion for three years but has followed various Pagan traditions for over fifteen.

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Introduction

With the fall of the ancient Egyptian civilization, it could be assumed that the religious rites of the Egyptians were lost. The invading peoples, from a northern region of Mesopotamia, forced their religion upon the Egyptians. Despite the conquest of the land itself, many of the traditions and a great deal of the mythology from this region of the world have remained intact.

When the Egyptian civilization fell, virtually all knowledge of the hieroglyphic language was lost. This preserved all the ancient records and documents for nothing new was being written in Egyptian hieroglyphs. When Egyptologists discovered the Rosetta Stone, the language was rediscovered and decoded. Since only ancient texts were written in hieroglyphs, they were easily recovered by scientists.

In the present, many people use this remaining knowledge to revive the traditions of the ancient Egyptians. Solitary Pagans often worship the Egyptian pantheon rather than the traditional Wiccan pantheon of a supreme Goddess and God. There are other solitary Pagans who recognize the Egyptian deities along with those of other traditions. In contrast, there are also several highly organized groups that take all their rites from original Egyptian scriptures.

This document is composed almost entirely of interviews that I have conducted with members of various modern Egyptian-influenced religions. All people interviewed live within the continental United States, though a few have visited Egypt to learn more of the history behind their religion.

All words that appear in red are the names of specific names of gods or goddesses and all quotations appear in green text.

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General Beliefs

Modern religions influenced by ancient Egyptian traditions vary greatly. Some, often referred to as Tameran traditions, are similar to Wicca in that practitioners design or select their own rituals and honor their deities in whatever way suits them.

The Kemetic Orthodox religion is very different, and difficult to compare to the Tameran traditions for it follows very strict protocol. All rituals are taken directly from ancient Egyptian texts. Members of a Kemetic Orthodox church meet in a building regularly, similar to the practice of Christians on their Sabbath. The Kemetic Orthodox religion is not a Pagan religion, as they represent the actual ancient Egyptian faith rather than a modern interpretation. All members of the Kemetic Orthodox religion consider Neter to be one divine force that appears to mortals in a variety of forms.

(2) Netjer is a Kemetic word which cannot really be directly translated into English; the closest you can come is "power" or "divine energy."

Practitioners of the Tameran traditions generally choose, or are chosen by, certain deities, which are often considered to be separate entities. The Tameran traditions are also considered to be Pagan by their practitioners, as many of the rites are largely eclectic and individualized.

(1) They are each separate deities that represent different aspects of existence, and in order to truly know these aspects of existence one needs to commune with the specific deity.

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Poll Questions

I asked a set of questions to each person I interviewed. Below are several of the responses I received. The quotations used below are the most well-spoken and relevant in my opinion. Any writing inside quotations that is in black, unitalicized text, is a personal note of mine. They are in no particular order.

Question 1: What is Neter (Netjer) to you?

General Response: The answers to this question are too widely varied to make a generalization regarding each person’s beliefs.

(1) Netjer is a relatively new word to me. I had not used a word to mean the one energy that all things come from. But an energy existed for me and above and beyond any worshipping that I do.
(2) Netjer *is* God/Deity/Creator. It is inherently and totally One. However, in the Kemetic Orthodox faith, which comes from the ancient texts directly, we know that Netjer cannot be completely understood in its totality--It is beyond comprehension.
(3) I think the Netjer are [sic] the One divine power manifesting in a myriad of forms. And those forms definitely have distinct personalities to me, which make it easier for me to interact with and relate to the Divine, because it's like being able to talk to a person, even though I know that Spirit is beyond that kind of form.
(4) I do not have any opinion about the Netjer. I have never dealt with them or even heard of them. I worship ISIS as the Greatest of all Goddesses, because she is the creator of all. I do also worship other Goddesses. There are 100's of Goddesses. I 'm sure I haven't even heard of them all. I try to give as many as I can the recognition they deserve, but ISIS is, of course, my main priority.
(5) I am hoping by Netjer you mean Neter (other gods) which is how I spell it. They are other Egyptian gods of the underworld which you, the deceased, must pass by during the 12 hours of the night along with other gods and serpents.
(6) Netjer, literally translated means "forces". The Netjer Netjeru is the ONE, the absolute central One of which different Netjers are aspects of. Very similar 'aspects' or faces.
(7) The Netjer are my family, I don’t view them as remote standoffish omniscient gods who command me but as family members who love and care, who are warm and accessible. To me They appear as different, separate gods, not interchangeable but not wholly independent of one another.

 

Question 2: Did you choose to worship the Egyptian deities for a specific reason?

General Response: Some said that they were chosen by their deity. Others said that the Egyptian pantheon felt the most comfortable to them. Of course there were variations on these two themes.

(6) I was drawn to the religion since the age of nine. I still remember hearing in Sunday school about how evil and bad the Egyptians were and I would be so angry at that!
(4) I did a lot of studying before I chose to work with the Egyptian Goddesses. I was sure that the catholic religion was not for me, although that was how I was raised. I always had the Goddess inside me, but I did not know who she was, or how to worship her.
(2) When Netjer comes knocking, who are you to say no? I was drawn out of another religion to Kemet, and I was not about to refuse. I was involved in the initiation sequence to the Third Degree of Gardnerian Wicca... and instead of a Celtic goddess coming to pick me up in my vision quest, I was visited by a number of the Names of Netjer, in succession (never at the same time), Who basically informed me that Netjer had a better plan. I never went back.
(7) Choose? I had no choice in the matter, I was happy on my generic Pagan path when Aset came and " kicked my butt" into gear. This is not a path (in my opinion) that's easy to choose, it's not something I would wish on everybody or think is appropriate for everybody.
(5) My Egyptian guardian deity is Anubis. I believe he picked me. I have a natural affinity for animals and knowledge.

 

Question 3: How do you worship/commune with your deity(s)?

General Response: Most of the interviewees employed meditation in their contact with their respective deities. However, the purposes of the meditation were often different and worship took place in a variety of places.

(4) I worship with the use of candles, incense, and pleasant invocations. I ask for the honor of the presence of the Goddess I am invoking, and take it from there.
(6) Within the Shrine, and also, in meditation or just opening up and talking to Netjer when its important to do so. I don’t feel that that is ever wrong. We don’t have the new age arrogance that "thou are God/dess" or that we tell Netjer to do our bidding, such as is the case in some magickal traditions.
(5) I usually worship through meditation by contacting and journeying with a particular deity to gain inspiration and knowledge. I am currently finishing my sacred space to do actual Egyptian rituals with my group/husband and/or others that would be interested.
(2) Through the rites and the prayers of our faith; additionally, Netjer sometimes makes Itself known or felt in dreams, visions and meditation.

 

Question 4: Since adopting your religion, has your life changed, and how?

General Response: Though some people said that they have always felt the presence of the Egyptian deities inside of them, they did not fully realize or admit it until later in life. Every interviewee has had their life changed by their religion, almost unanimously for the better.

(5) I think my life has been enriched on the physical and spiritual level. It has help me to improve as a human being, understand myself and has helped my marriage and friendships considerably for the good.
(3) I feel more of a presence of the Goddess (in general) in my life, and Aset, and more recently Sekhmet, specifically. Getting to know the other Netjer is wonderful - it's like having a Divine family that I know will help guide and care for me, and I can reach out to whenever I need to, and need to keep the relationships going like with family, too.
(7) In every way! Seriously, nothing in my life is the same except for my cat. As I learned my path and worked on my self-awareness I found my life goals changing. I came to know what really mattered in my life, what it takes for me to be happy. It's odd, looking back I see myself as a bit unfocused compared to how I am now. My religion is a welcome anchor in my life, a pivot point if you will.
(1) I feel I'm finally working towards a spiritual goal, rather than just research. Its unfolding. I can't say on the physical side it is really better, but on the spiritual side I am moving forward quickly.
(4) I was sure that the catholic religion was not for me, although that was how I was raised. I always had the Goddess inside me, but I did not know who she was, or how to worship her. I saw her and silently spoke to her. I knew she had no connection with Jesus, or the catholic version of God, so I studied several religions until I read about ISIS. I just knew she was the one. I am very happy with the choice I made. I know I will be happy with this choice always.

 

Question 5: How do you feel about the use of drugs and/or alcohol in ritual?

General Response: No one I interviewed uses drugs in their rituals. However, they do have varied opinions of it. Alcohol plays a small symbolic role for some of them.

(3) I don't do drugs, and rarely drink. If I use alcohol, namely wine, in a ritual, it is usually used at the end to celebrate, or as an offering.
(6) This is a touchy issue. I think that in some magickal and Shamanic traditions, this was a definite part of ritual. I’m not disagreeing with it on the whole. But being a dedicant of Sekhmet, I want ALL of my wits about me if she decides to show up, I may not have that if I ingest something pharmaceutical. As far as alcohol goes, I think that offering my particular Netjer (Sekhmet) red beer is something that is pleasing to Her. And so She would always receive a first taste of that regardless. For myself I don’t care for alcohol but will have a sip or two to be polite.
(5) None of us use drugs and do not believe in it. I have no objection to having a glass of wine within the ritual but, there are many people who cannot use alcohol because they have abused it. My group uses grape juice in our rituals and greeting people at our door and leave social drinking to later if so inclined. I think alcohol and drugs cloud the brain and obstruct you in attaining your higher consciousness.
(1) One should not use either to gain the *high* one gets naturally by worshipping deities. However, in many of my rites the Goddess will charge a single glass of wine as the blood life of herself and her children. I will drink a chalice of wine with her.
(7) Personally I feel they would get in the way of any serious energy work, divination or communication. The strength of the Netjer's energy during ritual can be intense and overwhelming, adding drugs makes it a volatile situation.
(2) Any mind- or body-altering substance is strictly forbidden in Kemetic Orthodox rituals as absolute purity (wab'u) must be maintained at all times. Alcoholic beverages (wine or beer) are sometimes offered to the Netjer and a token drink or libation may be taken by the celebrants of the ceremony, but drunkenness is not a part of our rites.
(4) I am completely opposed to combining the use of drugs or alcohol with worship. I believe that all who practice this way are simply looking for an excuse to rationalize their drug or alcohol use.

 

Question 6: Have you ever been accused of being a Satanist? If so, how did you deal with the situation?

General Response: A few of the interviewees have been accused of being a Satanist. They take varied approaches in their response to such accusations.

(5) I was once asked at work whether or not I had put a hex on my boss (by my boss) because he was having a bad day. I told him what goes around comes back three-fold. He never mentioned the subject again.
(2) I have never been accused of being a Satanist. There is nothing within this religion which corresponds to anything Satanic. Quite the contrary; Kemetic religion had tremendous influence on Christianity, providing it with a heaven, a creation story and a number of other items.
(7) I've been an "out Pagan" for the past 14 years and growing up had to deal a lot with that accusation. I could never fathom why I was being accused of worshipping someone I didn’t believe in or had never met. Today I just correct the people who say that by telling them I'm Kemetic, not Christian.
(1) Not yet. I hope to be able to respond coolly and clearly if this ever arises.

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Insightful Quotations & Personal Practices

Included in this section are quotations that offer an interesting point of view, a unique experience, or just something fun. There are also some personal practices of interviewees which may aid in the understanding of exactly "how it all works".

(3) Sometimes I will call upon several different deities from different traditions that seem to fit together. Like Pele and Kali and Sekhmet, for example. I did a ritual with Isis, Persephone, and Innana in it for the Spring Equinox once, because they had all journeyed either to the underworld or to resurrect someone from the dead and returned to the living.
(6) Walking and talking and being in Ma'at, which is not only a concept of Truth and Balance but also is known as a Goddess, is probably the highest ideal that we can have. If you lie, you are not in Ma'at. If you harm you are not in Ma'at…and so on.
(2) My religion affects my lifestyle in very positive and life-affirming ways. I have in fact never even gotten a second look about my faith; I officiated at the wedding of a Jew and a devout Roman Catholic and both sides of the family asked what denomination I was, I responded "Kemetic Orthodox," and they smiled and walked on. About the only time I get a hard time is during Passover when my Jewish friends joke about how they should drown me in the sea!
(5) I initially practiced Egyptian magic, but have incorporated that into Wiccan rituals when I work with others in a group, mostly because everyone is so different. We have an eclectic group. I practice Egyptian Wicca, another practices Celtic Wicca, another Arthurian, the other native American/Druid and two others who have not found what they have an affinity with yet. Using the Wiccan ritual gives us a common ground to build on. We are sure to incorporate deities from everyone's path in our rituals which I feel makes it very well-rounded and whole.
(2) The rituals of the Kemetic Orthodox religion are taken directly from the ancient sources and are therefore carried out according to that fairly strict canon. Personal prayers can be done in any form, and some ancient prayers are supplied for those who wish to keep "in canon" at home as well as in temple. Ritual for us is not something "to do" or "not to do"; it is the way of approaching Netjer, not a hobby or something to do for fun.
(6) Magick is something that is a part of your life and intermingled. Westerners think of Magick as some sort of either ordering around of a deity or entities in order to affect a desired result. A lot of times that means elevating your status as it were to be equal to the Gods (Netjers) or bluff them into thinking you are bigger and badder than they are! That, in our opinion, is completely uncalled for, and simply human egotistical arrogance.
(7) for me it's as simple as pausing before the shrine, lighting the incense for offerings, letting my cat (who cant be kept out of the shrine <G>) make her own offerings, making ritualistic hand gestures, and saying a prayer or singing a song. Please keep in mind that ritual is personalized to the practitioner and the Netjer being served.
(1) I do primarily worship female deities. I do honor Osiris and Horus, but they are definitely not equal. When I call the God down he is as the Goddesses helpmate. I realize this is my own human prejudice, and can see as some point in my life using the males equally. This will parallel many things in my own personal life.
(4) I first began to accumulate knowledge by simply reading and studying other people’s research. Then I became a member of a circle. I can say that more than 1/2 of the information in my Books of Shadows came from the circle I was part of.

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Egyptian Deities

Below are very short descriptions of some of the best known Egyptian deities (including all mentioned within this paper). The names in parentheses have been given to these deities by modern practitioners. Because their historical validity is debatable and not all people I interviewed accept the use of these names, I will refer to deities by their more well known Greek names. The descriptions below are based entirely on traditional Egyptian mythology drawn from a variety of sources.

Anubis (Anpu) - God of passage. Anubis is represented by a jackal, or a human with a jackal’s head. He serves as a guide for the souls of the dead and protects them on their journey to the underworld.

Bast (Bastet) - Goddess of cats. She appears both as a full cat and as a woman with a cat’s head. Since cats were sacred animals to the ancient Egyptians, that in itself justified her popularity.

Hathor (Het Heret) - Goddess of inspiration and sexuality. Hathor comes in the form of a cow or a woman with cow’s horns. She is the patron goddess of many art forms.

Horus (Heru) - God of self and revenge. He is shown in hieroglyphs as a man with the head of a hawk. Being the son of Isis and Osiris, Horus grows to manhood in the Egyptian myths. He avenges his father’s death by reclaiming the throne of heaven from Set, his uncle.

Isis (Aset) - Supreme Goddess and wife to Osiris. Isis is a many-faceted goddess. She is a mother goddess but also shows strong ruling strength. She is a goddess of healing, which is represented in the myth of Osiris’ death. Isis gathers the pieces of her husband and restores him to life after he is tricked by his brother, Set.

Ma’at - Goddess of Justice. Ma’at is considered to be a goddess as well as a principle that was taken into account by everyone in ancient Egypt.

Nephthys (Nebet Het) - Goddess of mystery. She has perhaps been given this title due to the relatively little amount of information that exists about her. She is loosely associated with dreams and is tied to death through her images on sarcophagi.

Osiris (Asar) - God of agriculture and the underworld. With the cycle of the seasons, the form of Osiris changes. In the Spring and Summer, Osiris is the driving force that makes the crops grow. In the fall and winter, he dies and becomes Lord of the Underworld. He judges the souls of the dead whose hearts are weighed against the feather of truth. Depending on the outcome of the balance, the soul either proceeds to sanctuary or is turned over to Amit, the eater of hearts.

Ra - Sun god, god of creation. He was depicted as a hawk. The mythology regarding Ra is varied. According to one story, he was ruler of the gods until Isis learned his secret name. With the knowledge of his name, she had power over him and assumed leadership of heaven.

Thoth (Tehuti) - God of wisdom and knowledge. He is represented by the ibis. Thoth is considered to be omniscient. He is the judge of the gods. While Ma’at is justice itself, Thoth is the one who decides the outcomes of disputes such as that of Horus and Set in the fight for the throne heaven.

Sekhmet - Goddess of destruction, feminine strength and healing. These are seemingly contradictory aspects of one goddess. However, since Sekhmet has the power to destroy, she also has the power to heal what has been destroyed. She is depicted as a woman with the head of a lion and serves as a protector of all humans, especially women.

Set - God of jealousy and deceit. Represented by a strange animal that looks similar to a dog and a donkey, Set serves an absolutely necessary purpose in the Egyptian pantheon. He keeps the balance of power by showing forces that are generally viewed as negative with today’s moral standards. He betrayed his own brother, Osiris, out of jealousy and greed for power.

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Bibliography

 

Budge, E.A. Wallis. Egyptian Magic. New York: Dover Publications, 1971.
Frankfort, Henri. Ancient Egyptian Religion. New York: Harper and Row, 1948.
Reed, Ellen Cannon. Invocation of the Gods. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1992.
The House of Netjer. "What is Kemetic Orthodoxy?". http://users.aol.com/hetnetjer/private/hetntr.html (27 March, 1997)
The Temple of Awakening. "Gods of Tamera". http://www.sover.net/~tmplawak/ (27 March, 1997).
Watterson, Barbara. The Gods of Ancient Egypt. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1984.
Wilson, John. The Culture of Ancient Egypt. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1956.

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