I have been involved in ancient Egyptian religion for a very long time. I fell in love with everything about that culture in my ancient history class in the 7th grade. That love has never waned. Along with the culture and history, I have studied the hieroglyphs on and off for about 25 years. I am by no means a master of any of the above.
However, there is one thing drives me into absolute fits. Those that make these faux pas clearly indicate those who grasp the concept of the religion, and those that just sort of use it as an overlay to what they think they already know about the subject.
The Ancient Kemetic / Egyptian word for God is Netjer Ntr). The plural of that is Netjeru (Ntrw). When people use the words, “The Netjer” or “The Netjers”, I feel myself start to grind my teeth. The Ancient Egyptians believed in the One and the Many, the Many in the One. Isis and Ra and Osiris and the Aten all were a part of a concept of an unfathomable, unknowable ‘ONE’ and was referred to as Netjer. It is sort of like the ancient Hindu concept of Brahman. Each of Them in and of Themselves is indeed Netjer – and each of Them also feeds into that Whole. They are both individual and separate.
Are we good so far? Hmmm? Yes? Good.
When someone talks about going into Deity’s presence – or a specific Deity or God’s presence, they do not say, “I went into the sanctuary of the Netjer.” That’s grammatically and theologically incorrect, You would instead say, “I went into Netjer’s presence.” God is God, no matter what Face He or She is wearing, or whether They are clothed in a kilt or a kalisari…or nothing at all! We determine the difference by saying Name of Netjer or referring to Them in plural as The Names, the Netjeru (plural) – which is all inclusive, whether or not you are speaking about the range of Names from 2 all the way up to the 4,000+ Names of Netjer that are known. I am quite sure there are several that have been missed somewhere along the way.
Gender issues with Netjer can get a little trickier. A Female Name of Netjer are sometimes referred to as Netjert or Netjeret. The plural for more than one would again revert back to the word Netjeru or Names of Netjer. Bast is, according to many scholars, and with veru good reason, not really ever called “Bastet. ” This has also been credited back to a translation error in early Egyptology (What a surprise!) The Extra “t” is in fact a female determinative and that extra “t” in that particular Name of Netjer is used to underscore that this Goddess, which was in her earliest form represented by a leonine figure, rather than a domestic-sized cat, Who was in fact a Goddess and not a God. So, whether it’s comfortable or not, techncally, it is simple just “Bast” (Pronounced ‘BAH-st’). That’s it. Nothing more. Believe me, as a Goddess, She does NOT need anything more than that! If you do put any more on te mame and insist on using the word “Bastet’, it really does tend to conjure up images of Josie and the Pussycats or Bast and the Bastets. And no, they will not be opening up in Las Vegas for the Wayne Newton show at the Luxor Hotel.
So….here we have a quick recap:
It’s “Netjer” , NOT “The Netjer”
“Netjeru” NOT “The Netjers”
“Bast” NOT “Bastet”
Anyone who writes Egyptian fiction absolutely classify themselves into who actually understands Kemetic culture by using correct terminology in a correct fashion and those who just play at (unconvincingly) it on the Internet or in books. If you don’t believe me, please take a look at the works of legendary author of all things Ancient Egyptian, Pauline Gedge. You will NEVER see her making any of these mistakes. Her understanding of language, culture and history is impeccable. The lady does her research and puts just about everyone else to shame in that area , with the exception of Elizabeth Peters who is in actuality Egyptologist, Barbara Mertz. So, if you want to sound credible and characters believable as having come from ancient Egypt, you need to consider these things very carefully.
Not to do so just looks like someone who has donned a virtual costume and wig that they’ve put on and started ‘walking like an Egyptian’. The audience can more than likely see through such a thin disguise.