how has your practice changed since you started out? How did you find your place within the Kemetic sphere? Are there things you do now that you didn’t then? Things you weren’t expecting? What have you learned through trial and error that newbs may find helpful or useful?
In a lot of ways, this KRT topic is a culmination of a lot of past KRT posts and then some. I’ve talked a little bit about how I got into Kemeticism, and I’ve also mentioned that my practice is not what I expected it to be. Truth be told, I don’t think anyone really knows what to expect when they first enter into the Kemetic arena, and it’s very hard to really know which way is up once you’ve started to drink the Kool-Aid and eat the candy that the gods hand out. In many ways, religion is very confusing and stressful- especially if you’re going it alone or trying to piece together a practice from historical texts and dry Egyptological papers.
When I first started out in Kemeticism, I’d say that I was a lot… fluffier than I am now. I don’t necessarily mean fluffy in the sense of willfully ignorant, but I was a lot less discerning in my commentary on my practice, and my posts were all over the board and disjointed. I sometimes go back and look through my old LJ, and I hardly recognize the posts- and odds are you wouldn’t recognize them either. You’d probably look at them and think that I was completely making things up or that I was way too exuberant about everything and anything. Like many newcomers, I saw the gods in everything around me, I waxed on and on about what to offer them and what I spoke with them about and what I thought they might look like or be thinking and I often found myself thinking that nearly anything and everything could be from them. I also had a bad habit of posting 948346 times per day and I had virtually no filter on anything that I posted. I also had no real basis for some of my early discussion about groups within the Kemetic community, and I was a lot less open in a lot of ways when I first started out.
However, during my bout of therapy a few years back, it was suggested that I take my writing more seriously, and with that, my practice began to shift. When I first came into Kemeticism, I practiced largely for myself. But as I progressed in my path, my role and views on everything shifted, and my blog became less about me and more about everyone else. As I mellowed with experience I began to push against more difficult topics and my practice became more rooted in history and text books while simultaneously abandoning history all together. My practice became something of a dichotomy, and in a lot of ways, my practice formed into a sort of “test kitchen” for the rest of the community.
By taking on this role, I found myself trying to learn more about other people and other experiences. My older, more rigid views about what was ‘proper’ and what wasn’t fell away to the wayside because I could no longer push a platform of community-wide respect as well as ‘live and let live’ while drawing arbitrary lines in the sand with other practitioners. My practice became less about gods and more about people, and I’d probably say that in many ways, my practice no longer looks like anything like what it originally did. Honestly, the only consistency between then and now is probably Set. He is still here and I don’t imagine he’s going anywhere anytime soon.
My shrine setups have shifted from larger, more artsy shrines to something more simple (read:boring) and streamlined. My rituals became more polished and structured before disappearing almost entirely (the only consistent rites I do now are execrations). I focus less on various things for the gods such as statues, stones and doodads, and I focus more on actions and words for the gods instead. I became less physical in the trappings of my practice and more metaphorical and abstract in the way that I approach Kemeticism. I might even go so far as to suggest that my practice exists more in my walks to work and my blogging activities than in my actual shrine box.
There are days when I miss the practice I used to have. When I first came into Kemeticism, I was in love with the idea of doing rituals and honoring the gods daily. I wanted to be a priest back then, and I was trying to find any means possible to help scratch the itch that was gnawing at the inside of my head. Even now, I find myself pining over the practice that I thought I wanted- the one where I perform long, thought out rituals. The one where I still sit in front of my shrine every night and talk to the gods. The one where I was a little less jaded and a little more hopeful and excited about everything.
The truth is, I think there is a lot of opportunity when you’re first starting out. Your whole potential practice is in front of you, and you can technically “choose” to go wherever you want with your practice (I place choose in quotations because gods are meddlesome and sometimes they won’t let you go where you want). There is a lot of power in that, and I think it can be important to sit down and think about not only where you want your practice to go, but also where your strong suits lie when it comes to a practice focus. I’m not sure how many people actually work towards honing in on a particular area when it comes to their religious practice, but I’ve noticed that a lot of people have niche interests or projects that seem to place them into certain foci or categories in Kemeticism. And for anyone starting out, I would recommend thinking on that a little bit. Figure out where you’d like to go, and then test the waters to see if its actually for you.
I also think it’s important not to latch too tightly onto the idea of whatever you think will be super cool. I will always be at least somewhat in love with the idea of doing rituals every day. I will always be at least somewhat in love with the idea of being a priest that places their gods above all. I will always be at least a little in love with the idea of what I thought I wanted to be when I started off with Kemeticism. But age and experience has taught me that the idea of is not always what Becomes, and focusing too heavily on what you wish you had vs. what is actually in front of you can be detrimental in a lot of ways. While you think about where your practice could grow, it’s equally as important not to get too dead set on a particular “end goal” for your practice, because it might not be where you actually end up.
And in terms of an end goal, I think it’s important to remember that there is no such thing as an end goal with religion. I think for a while I thought there would be a time when I felt truly established in my practice. I’d know what was what and I’d feel comfortable with what I do and how I serve the gods and community. But the truth is, there is no such thing as comfortable or established. Every time I reach a plateau, the gods move the goal posts and I fall backwards again. Religion is a never ending cycle of growth and learning, and if you’re waiting for a time when you think you’re “good enough”, you’ll probably be disappointed, because I don’t know anyone who is 110% secure in what they do, believe or practice. Everyone, to some extent, is stuck in a never-ending Kermit-flail. Balance is not static, and so our practices will never be entirely static, either. If you begin to feel super relaxed and comfortable in your practice, I’d suggest taking a second look at what you’re doing to ensure that you’re not sliding into stagnation.
When it comes to stagnation, the other thing that I think is important for newcomers to realize is that we all hit points of stagnation. All of us. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. Fallow periods are normal and can be very healthy depending on the circumstances. Just because you’re stagnating or falling off the wagon doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It’s a normal part of life in general, and that includes religion. Whenever this happens, it’s best to just get back up on the horse and keep trying.
Another thing I would recommend to newcomers is to not be afraid to try whatever you feel drawn to. I think it’s scary for a lot of us to move into uncharted territory, but sometimes wandering off into no-man’s land is the most rewarding adventure of all. Much like in my mention of finding a focus above, you never know where different paths will lead, and while you may not recognize the scenery- sometimes that’s where the best things lie in wait for you. To cite my own path, while I didn’t end up where I thought I was going to end up, or even where I thought I wanted to end up, there have been many things I would have missed if I hadn’t of gone the route that I have. It hasn’t been all sunshine and daisies, and there will always be things that I ponder, miss, or regret not being able to do, but at the same time I don’t think I would have ever imagined the stuff I have been able to do because I was open to moving off of the map. Keeping an open mind about where your practice can go can lead you to some really cool stuff. It’s just really important to make sure that you don’t inadvertently close any doors of opportunity along the way.
And in that same vein, I think the most important thing I can recommend to anyone who is new to the community is to think critically about your practice, and to think for yourself. I’ve always pushed for people to figure out the ‘why’ behind what they do, because I still think it’s the most important aspect of creating a religious practice. Don’t necessarily buy into what everyone says is necessarily “correct” or “the only way to do XYZ thing” because there is always more than one way to approach everything in life- religion included. Over the past 5 years of being in the Kemetic community, I can tell you that there have been huge shifts in what people deem “proper”, “suitable” and “good enough” which highlights that a lot of what is considered acceptable is really all about perspective. Keep a discerning eye on what you feel is best and don’t be afraid to use your own judgement when dealing with gods, religious practices and community interactions in general. Figure out what works best for yourself and let everyone else do the same for themselves.
To read other responses to this topic, check out the KRT Master List