Shemsu of the Kemetic Orthodox House of Netjer
Kemetic Orthodox since June 18, 2014.
I had my RPD on April 2nd, 2015. I was named and took my vows as a Shemsu on April 29th. I am a child of Serqet and Hethert-Nut, beloved of Mut and Nehebkau. Please click the links above to learn more.
I've been in and out of religious involvement for the past few years, but I formally rededicated myself to Shemsuhood in February 2021 as a way of attempting to bring my life back into balance and focus on what was truly important to me. Making this carrd is part of that: a snapshot of how I experience my personal gods, as a vehicle for connecting with others and sharing those experiences together.
She Who Causes Breathing After Disaster
Serqet first came to me as spiders.
In the time since the Beginner's Class, I had been approaching various Names that struck my fancy, and I felt like I had a pretty good idea of who I was interested in, but maybe not such a good idea of who might be interested in me. So one day, in Senut, I asked: if there are any Names present who I have not yet noticed, please come forward and make yourselves known more obviously. I'm not always the best at picking up on subtle signs.
Well, they were about to get unsubtle.
Spiders in the shower, every time I went to purify for Senut. Then a spider in the offering bowl inside my shrine cabinet, in a room that rarely ever gets spiders. Message received, I thought; I was already interested in Nit and knew that she could have spider associations. I gave her an offering and thanked her for her presence. The response was lukewarm silence. The next day, there was a spider in my offering bowl. Again.
So, I did some searching, looking for Netjeru associated with spiders by modern devotees. And that's how I found Serqet: a Name I'd had no interest in and had never even considered approaching. I gave her an offering, and asked if she could maybe stop sending spiders, since I am moderately arachnophobic. The next day, there were no spiders, but an absolute miasma of fruit flies had somehow colonized our kitchen overnight, drawn by a rotting potato in a bag on the table. As if to say, "Don't be fuckin' rude. Also, pay attention."
So I did. And a few months later, when I was bedridden in a spotless hotel room recovering from major surgery, a small spider gently crawled across the comforter, as if to say, "I'm still here. I've got you." It came as no surprise when, 9 months later, She was divined as the first of my Mothers.
Serqet is a Name with ties to poisons of all kinds: scorpions and snakes, and, in the modern day, addiction, mental illness, and trauma. As I have suffered from C-PTSD for many years, despite only finally getting it diagnosed in 2020, I am still discovering just how deep my connection to her runs. For me, She is srqt-m-xt-iAdt, the One Who Allows Breathing After Disaster, the one who finds me alone and bleeding in the rubble and opens my throat so that I may take my next, gasping, desperate breaths, and survive.
She is the scorpion and the cobra, Lady of Biting, Great of Venom. Like the mother scorpion, She carries Her children on Her back, protecting them until they are able to form their own hardened exoskeletons and effective stingers. She is the mother of Nehebkau, the most powerful and dangerous serpent of the Duat. She is the poison that burns and the antidote that cures, the searing heat of the desert and the water that quenches it, the thunder that rolls and the roof that protects. She is vengeance itself, and enemies ought to watch their step, lest their feet be stung.
She is loving, but not gentle. Her harshness is like the desert wind, blowing sand and grit across the landscape, carrying the faintest aroma of incense, of citrus and myrrh. But it does not hurt when it brushes its cool hands, narrow-fingered and calloused, against your face, and tells you that you are home.
The Great One, the Celestial Cow
If you ever want to meet Hethert-Nut, here is the best way I know: on a clear night, make your way out into the wilderness, far from city lights and highways, somewhere dark and quiet. Bring someone with you, if you like, for companionship. Not for entertainment, but to share in the experience. Stretch out across the hood of your car, or on a blanket on the ground, or however is convenient for you. Look up into the deep, inky darkness scattered with stars--and keep looking, until the ephemera of daily life on Earth begins to fall away. Until you begin to realize how infinitesimally small you are, compared to the massive, unending universe; until you feel alive with the joy of the cosmos, of knowing there are infinite worlds out there, infinite souls, infinite mysteries. Exploding stars, some millions of years ago, created the molecules that are your body; you are coalesced stardust in the shape of a person, dust that has woken up and come to this moment, dust with an awareness that it is dust and must ultimately return to dust, return to the cosmos, return to the sky from which it fell long, long ago. You are nothing and you are everything.
Congratulations. Now you've met Hethert-Nut.
The most important thing I can tell you about Hethert-Nut is that you matter to Her. All the life in the universe, from newly hatched tadpoles in the stream to trees that have weathered hundreds of years, from the aquatic bacteria that manage the nutrient cycles of your local watershed to every single human being on this Earth, matters to Her. We who are simply shapes formed of stardust, moving through the ongoing explosion that is our universe, through the cycles begun by our ancestors and continued by our descendants; we are of no importance at all and yet we matter a great deal. Hethert-Nut knows this, for Hethert-Nut was there in the Beginning. She cherishes every life, every spark, all that has awoken, that is alive and flourishing. And when our bodies can no longer bear the burden of life, She takes us up into herself and keeps us safe, as stars that will one day explode and shower other planets with dust, to be formed into shapes and imbued with new life.
Hethert-Nut is the joy of the cosmos, the joy of creation. She is a syncretism of Hethert, the Mistress of Joy, Numerous of Names, with Nut, the Sky, the Mother of Stars. She is also Mehet-Weret, the Great Flood, who brought the Sun into the world in the time before Creation. She is the sky and all that lies beyond, both the unknowable and the simply unknown. She is the mother of the moon, the sun, and the stars, and She holds them all in Her watery embrace.
Above photo by Matias Alonso Revelli.
The Great Young Lioness, Lady of Isheru
Mut was the unexpected presence in my RPD. In the months leading up to it, I had been dealing with a stalking situation, and I had prayed at shrine for the Netjeru to visit upon my stalkers the same fear they had made me feel for so long. I heard in response the roar of a lioness, and felt something building within me like the tensing of muscles, a great cat preparing to spring. And then it was gone, like the presence had dashed away, leaving the shrine and going forth into the world to see to it that my stalkers knew the fear of the Netjeru.
I thought it was Sekhmet. I considered, perhaps, Sekhmet-Mut, but this was more because syncretisms fascinated me than for any Mut-related reasons; I didn't have much interest in Her. But after the RPD revealed Mut as my first Beloved, I now strongly believe that this was my introduction to Mut's presence in my life. Without knowing anything of this experience, Hemet told me that while divining Mut, she had seen "the lioness and not the woman, if that makes sense." It made sense.
Mut is one of the great protective Netjeru in my life, along with Serqet. She is the Great Eye, the Fiery One, who brings down enemies and roars of blood and flame. Yet the second form in which She revealed Herself to me was as Lady of Isheru (the Isheru being the crescent-shaped lake at Her precinct at Karnak, mythologically associated with the cooling and pacification of the raging Eye of Ra). In this way, for me, Mut represents balance: the rage and destruction of an infuriated mother lioness, but also the patience and wisdom of the Lady of Isheru, who quenches the flame and takes Her place upon the throne as Ruler of All That Exists.
Mut is Queen Regnant, the female Creator who has ruled from the beginning and will rule when we're all gone. She brings lessons about leadership, about what it means to be Queen, and to rule. Many experience her Queenly aspects as stern and no-nonsense; I do not. With me She is kind and patient. She is not here to rule over me, but to teach me how to rule: how to lead others as part of my professional vocation, how to be beholden to them and earn their respect. When to embrace anger and when to release it; when to enforce justice and when to have mercy; when to feed the flames and when to quench them; when to lead and when to follow; when to roar like a lion and when to purr like a cat: these are the lessons of Mut.
Above photo by Marius Coetzee of ORYX Photography.
He Who Grants Souls, Crownings, Kau, and Beginnings.
Nehebkau is a mysterious serpent deity known primarily from funerary texts and depictions on a variety of magic wands and small statuettes. My interest in Him was, initially, largely academic: He was an intriguing figure about Whom little information exists, and so I took it upon myself to research Him for the Netjer Files project that had begun in the temple in late 2014/early 2015.
I had no idea that such a rare deity, never before seen in the RPD, would become my second Beloved. Nor that I would find in this "serpent-demon of the underworld" the gentle coils of a quiet but ever-present companion, a contemplative watcher who would carefully connect me to resources and opportunities to grow into the person I needed to be, to fulfill my highest potential and find purpose and fulfillment. Always subtly and matter-of-factly, as though it were his job.
Which, well, it is.
Nehebkau is the ruler of the Ka, the spark of life, the vital essence of a person. The Ka is the part of the soul that must be fed and nourished by a Ka priest after a person is gone, in order to maintain them as one of the Akhu, the blessed dead. It is the part of a person that makes them a person at all. If the Ba is the personality, our conscious self through which our thoughts and feelings flow as we go about our day-to-day lives, then the Ka is the deepest parts of us, the hidden and enduring self that is untouched by time or circumstance, the self to which our Ba attempts to be true.
I detail my understanding of these concepts (the parts of the soul, according to Kemetic thought) so that you can fully understand what I mean when I say that Nehebkau is the lord of the Ka and "the Ka of every God." Though He may be known primarily from funerary texts, I do not believe His primary purpose to be funerary in nature. I believe He is the god who leads us to our purpose, who places us on the path that will lead us toward fulfilling our potential, toward becoming who we are meant to be. He is also a powerful intercessor on our behalf, carrying our names to the ears of those who can assist us on our journey.
All that you are, Nehebkau knows. All that you can be, Nehebkau sees. Who you become is up to you, but Nehebkau is a powerful benefactor in that process of becoming. He is quiet and subtle, but always there, watchful and patient as He marks the steps you have taken upon your path, and the steps you have yet to go.
Because He is sometimes the son of Serqet, I often call Him my brother. I am still the only person who has ever had Him divined as part of the RPD, and my love for Him runs deep, but in truth, He is a god who is connected to everyone. He serves us all as Assigner of Good Things, ensuring that so long as we listen to the whispers of our Ka, we end up exactly where we are supposed to be.
Above photo by Jasmine Vink.