What suggestions do you have regarding bridging divides between different Kemetic factions and encouraging cooperation toward common goals?
There is something that I think every single Kemetic wants. It is something that is a bit of a pipe dream. Some of us have been told that maybe we shouldn’t set our sights so high or the unrealistic nature of actually attaining this thing. It would mean that maybe, just maybe, that Kemetics are serious about becoming their own culture once again. Certainly there are those within more Afrocentrically leaning Kemetic community who have suggested this thing long before I have. For that I applaud them, and perhaps since Kemetic belief is an African Traditional Religion or ATR, we can look to them for inspiration and guidance.
We want our own language. If we had this, if we truly want true reconstructionism, using the various texts, whether we used Faulkner, Hoch or even Budge we could all collectively create or recreate that. All of us already know how much we love the aesthetic of ancient Kemet – the art, the music, the architecture, and on and on. Part of those that aestheitc is language. We are already using just a smattering of the language now.
Many of us know how we felt hearing it spoken in bits and pieces in movies like ‘The Mummy’, ‘The Mummy Returns’, ‘Stargate’, brought to us courtesy of the work of anthropologist, Dr. Stuart Tyson Smith, and even that horrible Charlton Heston film, ‘The Awakening. I will confess, a few years ago, I was actually trying to write a script for a film about the transition period between AMunhotep III and Akhenaten and how much a manipulative and megalomaniac bitch Nefertiti was. I was writing it in English and then wanted to translate the whole thing into ancient Kemetic. Of course, the cost of providing materials and language coaches for the actors alone, would have been astronomical. And of course it would have to have incredible sets, costumes, driving the cost of making the film into the tens of millions, but it would have been made in what I would like to think of as our language. What better way to spend a very large film budget? The intensive use of a (albeit, popular) dead language alone would have all but insured that it got into the Toronto Film Festival and Cannes. Hell, I still might try to do a campaign on Indiegogo or Kickstarter for it. The script is pretty well written as it is.
In my temple, the House of Netjer, those of us in the priesthood would regularly get asked by beginners and established members alike for the Daily Rites in Kemetic. The request was always refused on the basis that it was felt that to recite a religious rite to your deity in a language that you were just parroting it by rote and probably had no comprehension of what was being said. Further, such an exercise would be just an elaborate going through the motions. To speak from your heart, it was further rationalized, you needed a language that you were born into.
That is a pretty good argument against it. However, I would offer up the prime example of the traditional Latin mas and how passionately some Catholics feel about hearing and participating in a mass that is in Latin – which, btw is a mostly dead language. I am still old enough to remember when it was taken away from some congregations. There was much upset about this and those for whom the Latin Mass was substituted for one in English, it was traumatic. Some drove long distances just to get to a church that still recited the Catholic mass in Latin. The reason for this, I think is that there was and is something comforting about that source language for worshipers. Certainly much of the Jewish rites are done in Hebrew.
ALthough I can see the point of knowing what the hell it is that you are saying and not just reciting by rote, I do agree there is something to saying rites in their original language. Language, it’s sound, tone and vibration does affect the brain, and in religious rites it can help the adorer or worshiper to make that shift from the mundane world into a more reverent and contemplative one. It was always a dream of mine to have that long before I was Kemetic Orthodox to be able to pray in Kemetic if I want. I still have that dream. I believe that if we had a developed language that went beyond, “Em hotep,” as a greeting, “Dewa nefer“, for “Good morning,” or even “Dua Netjer en ekh / etj”, which means “Thank you,” or more specifically, “Thank God for you.” We already have copies of the short form of “grace” that is said before a meal that is in Kemetic. Wny not more than just these very small snippets? If we, as a community, worked to create this, it would no longer be incoherent gibberish. For those within the community who were determined to use it, it would be invaluable, it would be special and it would be all of ours once again. We would know what we were saying, and if children were raised speaking it, just think of what change we could effect in bringing about true reconstruction of Kemetic religion and culture! Why is this idea any different from anyone trying to learn the fictional languages of Elvish or Klingon?
What is most ironic about this entire train of thought is that it was not a fellow Kemetic, a book or movie or anything connected to ancient Kemet that got me seriously thinking about pushing for it. It was this guy, Benny Lewis, creator of the Fluent in 3 Months language system, the man has been billed as “The Irish Polyglot”. Lewis’ work was introduced to me via one of my former history professors when he linked Benny’s site on his Facebook page. It was this that ultimately got me to really considering this as a possibility. Benny Lewis has gone around the world and learned tons of languages. His secret, as he says on his website, is to start speaking your language of choice from day one. He is also currently even trying to revive a dead language (Hungarian).
That REALLY got me to thinking about this!
It is my personal belief that this effort would serve to potentially unite Kemetics across the board. I believe we can do this collectively and it would help all to maybe at last get beyond the petty backbiting and social media headgames that seem to erupt. I myself am no expert, but I do know that many do study ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and the like. My point is that none of us individually know as much as all of us do collectively. This is the collective effort we need in order to bring together not just the temples, but the people who love the ancient Netjeru as we do. Things like skin colour, philosphy, location, etc. – none of that will even matter. Even if we did end up with different dialects via the different groups, we will have brought something back from extinction and by our attempts we are honouring our Gods, our akhu, the culture they gave us and we love so much, and ourselves.
I want to hear more from others about their ideas about this topic. Maybe it truly is an unrealistic hope. But who among us has not dreamed about hearing the beautiful lilt of spoken Kemetic? Who wouldn’t want to see it happen in our lifetime? It is my firm belief that though the Kemetic community is relatively small in comparison to other faiths, perhaps even smaller than those fluent in Klingon or Elvish, the fact is collectively, we want this. We want it because it’s time.
I say let’s collectively bring about the dream. I say, ‘Let’s do it’.
The Pronunciation of Ancient Egyptian Notes
5 responses to “Every Large Thing is Accomplished by Many ‘Little’ People and ‘That One Large Thing’ That Can Unite Us”
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I think common language could be a unifying influence, but it would be subject to the same sorts of fractious problems we have seen since it became possible to speak of a Kemetic community. We would all have to agree on how words were pronounced at the very least, and we already know there are a ton of people who will reject certain translations just because they don’t want the translator to be correct despite her many years of tested and proven expertise. That doesn’t mean that making a truly common language is not something to pursue, but I don’t think it gets at the core reasons for the community being fractured.
I think modern Western people tend to look at this little people/big people dichotomy in the most unhelpful way, viewing it through all the bitter and insecure filters that we all collect over the years where big = asshole and little = victim of assholes, which tends to lead to the little learning be assholes right back to the big assholes. We can sometimes accept the authority of gods because gods are spooky and cool and love us, but respecting human elders seems to be where we fall down hard. (And respecting elders does not mean slavish adoration and accepting everything they say uncritically. Respect is respect. Everyone wants it, everyone should know how to give it. It’s separate from how much credence you give what another person says. I can respect the most fluffy of pagans while acknowledging to myself that I could never be happy worshiping with them on a regular basis.)
Communities need both “little” and “big.” With only one, the community is unbalanced and less effective (either too “little” with no guidance, or too “big” with no life). They both have vital things to contribute to the whole and they both benefit each other. The “big” people convey wisdom and guide by experience and tradition (which is itself an excellent teacher). The “little” people bring curiosity that forces the “big” to keep rethinking what they teach, enthusiasm, fresh eyes, and the joy of discovery that is often lost in the rote of decades of practice. Both teach and challenge each other, but not if either is coming from a place of fear or insecurity or jealousy. When that’s the case we get what we have now, this strange sort of competition of various kinds of people putting each other down or undermining each other more often than anything else. So then no one is getting the benefits from the other and everyone is unhappy because we actually need those benefits.
Basically, we all, each and every one of us, have to grow up. Until we stop being afraid that someone has more or better cookies than we do, I don’t know that there is going to be an improvement no matter what tactics we use. Emotional maturity is the only cure for the endless wailing of “ur doin it rong.” Less focus on consensus and more on tolerance and appreciating our differences, less and ego-protectiveness and more listening to each other to actually learn who everyone is and understand their perspectives better. We are not threats to each other, and I am certain that every one of us, no matter how “big” has plenty to learn from everyone else.
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. And you do have a bit of a point about factionalization. I don’t feel, however, that it would be much different than the different dialects that were spoken in the various nomes and geographical locations in antiquity. Certainly the language changed several times – and Sahidic Coptic is pretty much Greekified Kemetic. I would view it similarly to the various dialects of Arabic, or French. Egyptian Arabic sounds nothing like Saudi or Syrian dialects. The Egyptian dialect still has many loan words from antiquity, which I have always thought made it far more special in its way. Also, European French and Québécoise are different in many ways – and so is the approach to the language in others learning how to say it.French speakers in France tend to forget that their own European dialect evolved and Québécoise still has a great deal more in common with Archaic, 17th Century French than the modern European version does. In my view, those are all little issues, and you are right, it does not get to the core factionalization of the Kemetic community.
I like your observation about Western people and would add that the pettiness, the bitterness and the constant competition and jealousy is far more prevalent in the U.S. than in Europe, Central America, Africa or anywhere else. I am not sure why that is, other than perhaps the left over idea of breaking away from large religious organizations or theocracies. I do have memory of the largest Kemetic group when it just started out. By the time I joined we were less than a dozen people in an AOL chat room once a week. In a few short years’ time, it had grown and grown to the point where it was getting overwhelming. After having been a part of the larger structure in the priesthood, and later stepping down to go to school, I have to say that everyone has something to contribute. We are all shemsu. As we used to say often in the House, “It’s about God, Stupid.” To everyone at the “top”, especially within the priesthood, it was made abundantly clear that we were little more than Roadies for God. That means, we lump Their luggage, Their, stuff and make sure THEIR SHOW goes off with as few hitches as possible. The moment anyone forgets this *fact* is when they are disconnected from what its about – what it has always been about since antiquity. It’s about Netjer. We get to come to the party, but it is still Their party.
The realization of that, in my opinion, is what separates the grownups from the attention-seeking brats. We all do have plenty to teach each other. As I a fond of saying, none of us individually knows anywhere near as much as all of us do collectively. It is that collectivism that I am going for. If Arnold Vosloo, Rachel Weisz, Dwayne Johnson, James Spader and Patricia Valesquez could all learn a phoneticized Kemetic, and do it well enough to deliver their lines convincingly, there is no reason why it cannot be done more for more practical purposes for we who are Kemetic. We don’t need to decide if we want Middle Egyptian, though that would be the easiest, or Sahidic Coptic, or something that the Afrocentrists are currently using. Like the aforementioned Arabic and French dialects, there are basics that can still be conveyed. We lose nothing by trying and this would not be a for-profit in terms of monetary or even pubic relations exposure. It is something to focus on other than worrying about who is big, who is little, who is important enough, degreed enough, or the right colour or ethnicity. This is about the fact that all of us love the Ancient Kemetic culture and we could, if things keep going as they are with the fundamentalist factions in the region, see the utter destruction of the artifacts and monuments. I for one do not ever want to see that happen. We cannot sit idly by. The more we immerse ourselves in what it is that we love with our whole hearts, the greater our chances at success will be. We who have a vested interest will be less likely, I am thinking, to worry about what separates us and more about the things we have in common and what it is we are all trying to accomplish.
I have been lurking for the past few years through the various Kemetic blogs and forums, and your concerns over the division over a unified Kemetic Orthodoxy has confirmed my feelings towards my own place within the grace of the Neteru.
I believe the division within the kemetic orthoxy is ultimately a result of within the cultures we come from in which, at its backbone, feelings towards a higher power is enforced through an organized religion which deems itself separate from the material and socio-cultural world. Unfortunately, as far as any revivalist/reconsctructionist neo/post-pagan belief system goes, we have an innate desire to form an insulated community of fellow believers to affirm, establish and re-enforce our beliefs in the face of a world which is anti-polytheistic, christian, or atheist. However, unlike Christianity which began to evolve from a circle of beliefs not bound to a union to their god based on geographic/cultural/economic inspiration and disavowes these elements in human nature, those who follow the neteru (or any polytheistic belief structure) are attempting to recreate a belief structure based on spiritual beliefs which have always been bound or inspired by the geographic/socio-cultural/economic realities. Unfortunately for us, the return of the gods from previously Christianized regions have returned to the minds of whomever they have touched in a world which is indeed different from the 1000+++++ years which the various gods had realized their continued active presence could no longer possibly be maintained without human rationality losing sight of their offering.
In essence this has forced many of us wishing for that sense of community among similarly believing individuals to adopt an organized religious mindset not very much different from Christianity in function. It doesn’t help that the clues the neteru left for us are incomplete, badly damaged and in a language which has died mellenias ago.Add to this what has survived in writing are mostly prayers, as much of how the neteru were worshiped I would assume was orally transmitted and innately known by the culture (why write how to pray if everyone knows how).
However where there is organized religion, their is a power structure to justify it, and such power unfortunately attracts those who seek it. Not that everyone who is a believer of the Neteru seeks power, but since their is no wider cultural structure which aids in defining who is or isn’t correct in their perspective (or if their should be a multifaceted perspective), what real system is their to prevent politicization outside of the the concept of Ma’at.
Unfortunately I believe we wold need much more than simply a shared language to unite all Kemetists. Countries with similar languages enact civil wars, Latin America as its name is defined by whether a country speaks Spanish or Portuguese, and countries of those respective languages are not united political entities. Even the middle-east, with a shared language (either as native or religious toung and yes I know which countries speak Arab, Persian, and Urdu), a shared mono-theistic religion, and a common “enemy” (referring to Israel) and still these countries are politically and often times religiously divided. My point is that there are infinite amounts of factors which divide people, outside of a unified belief structure.
Even, if we found a location where we started anew, separate from the woes and demands of the modern world, and created a culture from which we raised our children and descendants to live for all eternity and their would still be quarrels. Ancient Egypt had plenty of quarrels and obviously the Unification of the two kingdoms must have had caused misery for many of the denizens of Egypt through war, even though it did serve the interest of the neteru. However, isolation in this world is likely not what the neteru have in mind for their role.
However, it is atleast my belief that the neteru have an interest in bringing growth and “goodness” to this world, and for those that they wish to commune with they will, and for those who they believe they can work through, they will influence towards their goals. The interesting about the neteru I find is that they do not seek to destroy all that man has done, but simply refine and transform it into something more in accord with Ma’at. Unfortunately some eggs may need to be broken, and thenNeteru may see that their perceived presence among non-perceivers/worshipers as detrimental to their cause.
However, whether your part of an orthodoxy, or a private worshiper, we are all working in the interest of the neteru. They need people to utter dissatisfaction with the system us humans developed, as well as those who are satisfied within their structure and even those who simply acknowledge the neteru play a part in their plan. the neteru have only made themselves apparent to us for a little over s century I feel, and we have come a long way from the seeds they had planted. However we are still in the growing phases and are still in the cultivation stages. I believe the “death” of philosophy and the moderatsasion of psychology has given us the soil necessary to re-approach the neteru anew in a more cohesive sight than never before in modern history.
My proposed “unification was not in any way, shape or form about putting every Kemetic practiioner under a Kemetic Orthodoxy framework. My post was a hope for civility among the various factions within the various Kemetic Communities and individual practioners. For me, this shared civility that is not about one-upsmanship, that is not about the modern pseudo politics and would-be empire building.
Further, I think that my practices have very little to do with Christianity or any other sort of monotheistic construct. If that is your assumption, then you have not been following my blog too terribly closely. I may be Kemetic Orthodox, and I may be very much a part of a larger temple, but that does not mean that I have given up what I know to be my own individual quest for the Netjeru.
As for the linguistic translations. I can tell you from both direct experience and those around me within the field, that the language is not as dead as you think. There are, as we speak, new breakthroughs that have come to light and once those are presented, it is going to change absolutely everything we thought we knew – that is on both the scholarly and the spiritual side. Of course, I have not seen the research, but I do know the researcher, and their work is impeccable – again, on both sides. My post was hoping that maybe, with the combined effort it might help instill civility and cooperation through the various arenas within Kemetic belief. Perhaps it will stop the incessant need of those on different sides of the equation to quit treating each other with disrespect rather than the mutual acknowledgement that it is all about our connection to Netjer, and very little else outside of that, including how we express that matters too terribly much. Maybe it is a futile hope.
Comparing the divisions in Central America, the Middle East and such is a disingenuous argument. In the case of Central America, South America and Mexico, a culture that for over 500 years had a caste system headed by Spanish Elites, Mestizos, Melattos and all of them were over the Indios. This caste system was set firmly in place. In the Middle East and India, Pakistan, Persia and the like – same deal .There is lots of caste and class cosciousness that is going on to this day. In ancient Kemet there was also undeniably a caste and class system as well. However, it was not unheard of for a commoner to rise to the throne (Tiye). In the US – we supposedly are less caste and class driven, but I will debate that at a later time. Comparing the modern reconstructionist and other types of Kemetic individuals and groups is not entirely effective. Most American Kemetic practitioners take for granted that unlike the ancient akhu, they can read, write, and have far more opportunities than in antiquity. They also are quite loath of the very idea that there might be a hierarchical structure within some specific formal temple atmospheres. That might not be for them. That’s fine. My response is, “So What?”
The absolute bottom line for me is to serve the Netjeru – and it does not necessarily mean I have to be a priest/ess of any sort. Been there done that, I am not sure that I was ever more effective there. My other motivation is to see that Ma’at is served. If I can do that by giving people a potential focus – however futile -then why not? What does it harm to try? Do we collapse in a heap and mourn the long, lost passing of ancient Kemet, or do we take the gifts that we still have – the rites, the wisdom literature, the knowledge and try to cobble something together that is still pertienent to our modern day lives?
I say the latter. And I am sticking to that.