Tag Archives: linguistics

Revisiting “Working With”

One of the first posts I had ever written on this blog discussed my thoughts about using the phrase “I work with XYZ deity”. Since then, I have seen many many posts across the entire Internet about the many supposed problems and short comings of using this phrase. Because my horizons have expanded a little since 2012, I thought it might be worthwhile to revisit this topic and freshen it up a bit.

The biggest reasons that I often see people use for why you should never say “I work with my god” is because people are assuming a few things about the relationship:

  1. that you view your deity like a tool that is to be used and then discarded
  2. that you view yourself on the same level as the deity (sometimes labeled as hubris)
  3. that you have no respect for your god

Now I have to admit that I’ve never entirely understood most of these “arguments” against the “I work with XYZ deity” phrase. I feel that many of these arguments have excessive baggage tied to them that shouldn’t necessarily be there. This becomes obvious when you compare the different uses and applications of the phrase “I work with” in a non-religious context. If you’re reading this and you’ve ever held down a job, you’ll likely know what I mean.

Ever run into a coworker outside of the workplace, and tell someone “Oh yeah, that’s XYZ person, I work with them”?

And when you said that, were you being disrespectful to them? Did you consider them a tool or item in that moment? Did you have any baggage or implications at all in that statement beyond “we perform tasks for the same company”?

I would put my money that most of us don’t have any ulterior motive when we are referring to people we work with in our day job. And when the statement is made, usually no one jumps to the conclusions that you were being disrespectful to your coworker.

And why is that? Why is it that we can say “I work with that person, they’re in accounting” and everyone is alright, but if you say “I work with that deity, they have taught me a lot”, it’s somehow suddenly bad?


I know some people would retort “well the gods are above us, so you shouldn’t say that” (see number 2 above), but I really don’t see how them being “above” us negates the use of “I work with them”. To bring back the workplace comparison- in my office there are many people who outrank me. They either have seniority over me, or their position is higher on the food chain than my own. In all of these cases, I would still use “work with” to describe the relationship. I work with my supervisor to complete tasks. I work with our CEO to help determine changes within the company.

And when I say that I’m working with these people, I certainly don’t mean it disrespectfully. Quite the opposite, actually, since my supervisor has more of a direct connection to my livelihood and existence than my gods do. If I started being disrespectful to those who outrank me in the workplace, I’d find myself out of a job, and probably out on the streets. Performing tasks with another person in order to get work done shouldn’t be inherently disrespectful. If it’s not disrespectful when I say it in regards to the person who controls my paycheck, why is it disrespectful when I say it in regards to my deities?

I’m honestly still not entirely sure how working with someone equates that someone to being a tool. I work with a lot of people every day of my life. I work with people I care for and would consider a friend. I work with people I don’t particularly like. I work with people of all stripes, and I don’t view any of them as tools. I view them as people who also happen to work. People who work with me in order to complete their job and get their paycheck. No one (at least in my workplace) is considering anyone else an item, disposable or otherwise. I’m not sure why this seems to translate differently when it is a deity instead of a human being, especially since we happen to work with many people day in and day out who aren’t considered tools that are used and then discarded.

Even though my ideas regarding “working with” gods were not nearly as fleshed out back in 2012, my sentiments behind the phrase still haven’t changed a lot. I may have shifted my ideas about using the term worship in the past 3 years (I no longer equate worship with being a door mat, but it still is not accurate for my relationship with the gods, and so I don’t use it personally), but I still stand behind my original statement that using the phrase “I work with XYZ deity” is perfectly fine. And truth be told, the phrase “I work with this deity” is more accurate in describing my relationship with the gods than stating that I worship or venerate them. Most of my interactions with the gods are centered around doing work. Whether that work is over here or Over There- it’s all work related, and we rarely talk to one another unless there is work to be done.

At the end of the day, no one can dictate to another what their relationship with the gods is like. No one has the authority or right to try and tell other people what their relationships with the divine “should” be like, or how those relationships “should” be labeled. When its all said and done, you and the gods are the only ones who have any room or right to determine what terminology best suits your relationship. And if your gods are okay with the terminology you’re using, then everyone else can shove off in regards to their opinion of the matter.

Mortal-deity relationships can take many many forms, and we should strive to let our terminology reflect the forms that these differing relationships can take. Imagine the diversity we could bring into our community if we quit worrying so much about how people describe their relationship with the gods, and instead focus on what the actual content of the relationship is. The sooner we quit dictating what we feel other people’s relationships “should” be, the sooner we can begin to explore all of the forms these relationships can take, and the better off we’ll be.

Do you ever feel apprehensive about the use of the phrase “I work with XYZ deity”? If so, why? What terminology do you use to describe your relationship with the gods?



Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Kemeticism, Rambles


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KRT: Terminology & Language

via Wikimedia Commons

Terminology and language: how necessary is it? Is there a right or wrong way to use terminology and language in your practice?

When I think about terminology and language and how it applies to Kemetic practices, I feel like it can be applied in three ways:

  • The names of various NTR: Egyptian vs. Hellenized names
  • Egyptian words and terms in your practice (ma’at, isfet, sa, etc.)
  • Terminology as it applies to the community at large (priest, remetj, ritualist, etc.)

Because there are so many ways that terminology can influence your practice, I will be going through each of these points one by one below.

What You Call The Gods

I’ve seen many discussions about whether we should refer to NTR by their Egyptian-ish name, or by their Hellenized name. Some people believe that you shouldn’t use the Hellenized version, because it’s less effective or less “accurate”. However, the Hellenized names are not really all that far off for a lot of our deities: Horus-Heru, Wpwt-Ophois, Anup-Anubis, etc. And even if they are a bit off of the Egyptian names, I personally don’t think that using the Hellenized names is instantly going to land you in trouble. Not to mention that there is still a lot of debate about how some of the Egyptian names sound or should be pronounced and spelled for various NTRW. In addition to that, the ancients wouldn’t have necessarily called the gods by their “names” (such as Bast or Wadjet), but by their epithets. So really, there is nothing historically binding us to using Egyptian-based names.

At the end of the day, I think it’s most important to go off of what works best for you and your gods. If your deities have a preference, then listen to that. Otherwise, utilize what makes the most sense for you. I refer to Set by three or four different names (Set, Setekh, Big Red, Titit). And I refer to Osiris by his Hellenized name always (or I just call him “O”). So long as it works for you and your practice, that is what is most important.

What About All of This Lingo and Jargon?

Kemeticism has a lot of jargon. Because the religion is pretty much entirely foreign to modern Westerners (both in symbolism and in language), we pretty much have to learn a whole new set of words and lingo in order to communicate and discuss. But is it necessary?

The short answer, in my opinion, is yes and no.

I think that there are some terms that you really should have some working knowledge of. Generally speaking, these would be terms that are important to the practice and understanding of Kemeticism. Words such as ma’at, isfet, zep tepi, or Duat. This is because if you don’t know key components to the religion, it makes it very challenging to practice the religion effectively.

There are other words and symbols that you could probably live without knowing, though. Things like akhet, djed, sekhem, or tyet. However, I do believe that having a working knowledge of many Egyptian symbols and words can be very helpful. Understanding these things has added a lot of depth and layers to my practice. And it helps me to communicate with the gods more effectively because we’re speaking in similar terms and symbols. It makes it much simpler to try and pick apart various wingdings that the gods throw at me. It will also make it easier to discuss various aspects of the religion with other practitioners because, just like with the gods, you’re pulling from similar symbols and terminology.

However, I think that you can get by without an extensive knowledge of these words.

Community Terminology

I have written a bit about terminology and the community. In my post, I had mentioned that I felt that terminology for members of the community was important, and I still believe this to be true. A lot of people have questioned if having a variety of terms to describe your place in the community is absolutely necessary, and I still believe that even if it’s not 110% necessary, that it is very very helpful to have.

I personally believe that terminology that helps to define roles and places within the community is important because it allows people to find their place. Many Kemetics walk into our community thinking they can only be a priest or a layperson, and so many get discouraged because they feel they are inept at what they do, or because they feel that performing state rites every day is the Pinnacle of what a “Good Kemetic” should be. However, I think that having more terms and more labels can help people to feel more included within the community as well as boosting their confidence about their practice.

It’s kind of the same as realizing that there is a label for your “mental quirks” or gender identity or your sexual orientation. Labels can help people to understand themselves better as well as empower them to do more and be more. So I personally think that community terminology is important, even if it is underrated. However, unlike the types of terminology listed above, it will take a while for Kemetics to come up with terms that we all agree upon and share amongst different sections of the community.

At the end of the day, terminology and language is what you make it. Even though this is how I personally view this stuff, there are likely others who disagree or view it differently, and that’s okay. Figuring out how to juggle all of the various terms in Kemeticism can seem daunting at first, but try not to get discouraged. Remember that we all started somewhere.

To read other responses to this topic, check out the KRT Master List


Posted by on October 8, 2014 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism


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Terminology and Why We Need to Reevaluate It

English Dictionaries by John Keogh, via Flickr

Words. We use them all the time. We read them all the time. They fall from our mouths and help to craft the world that we live in. In Kemetic circles, a common phrase is that “words have power” or “words mean things”. Our primary form of creating change in our world is through the use of heka, which can translate into “authoritative utterance”.

Words are very important.

So, too, are titles and labels.

However, despite the growth that both the Kemetic and Pagan/polytheist communities have undergone in recent years, I feel like our terminology hasn’t kept up. A lot of people seem to struggle with what it is they exactly are or what it is they are technically doing. Because Kemeticism is my main focus, I will be restricting my discussion on terminology to the Kemetic circle. However, I do hope that this post can be a jumping point for other circles to have discussions themselves!

In most Kemetic structures, there are not many labels for people to use. You’ve got priests (Hem(et) Netjer) and laity (sometimes called Shemsu). That’s it. If you want to take it a step further, you’ve got people who use magix, people who use heka (Hekau) and people who do protective magix/heka (called Sau). Our entire community is often rendered into less than five terms:

  • Priest
  • Not-priest
  • Magic user of some variety

Surely there is more than that to our community. Let’s break down some of the problems with the terms above:

Priest is a word I see thrown around all over the place. Priesthood means different things in different traditions, and in modern Kemeticism (of a more recon slant), being a priest means being a Hem(et) NTR, or a God Servant/Slave. In antiquity, a priest was there to serve the gods and temple, not the people (for more information, see here), and that is still largely the case even today. This term usually is only applied in the modern sense to people who have an Open Icon in their shrine at home, and for those who have the time and capacity to provide daily state rites to these Open Icons. This term becomes problematic because priest is a rather loaded term in our modern culture, and in antiquity, rituals were not performed by only one person, but a whole group of people. Does the term Hem(et) NTR even serve us in this day and age (literally and figuratively)? Especially when most of us will never be privy to all of the rites and methods used at a state level?

And then what about those of us who do daily rites, but don’t have an Open Icon in our shrines? Do those people count as priests? Or are they laity?

Laity has become a hot button issue in recent months, and for good reason. There isn’t a whole lot written specifically for people who are considered part of a religion’s laity. In antiquity, laity helped to serve the gods by providing the supplies that allowed the priests to do their jobs every day (to learn more see here). However, in the modern context, being a lay person usually means that you are an average person that subscribes to the faith and nothing more. In Christian terms, you would be part of the congregation as opposed to the person at the front of the room. In Kemetic terms, laity is often referred to as being an onion hoer. These were the poor folks who didn’t have the time or capacity to do a whole lot of religious stuff day in and day out. The requirements to be a layperson are pretty much non-existent by most standards, and in the Kemetic faith, the only real requirement as a layperson is to try and live in ma’at.

However, there is a large grey area between these two groups. Most people would probably look at me and assume I am a priest. However, I am not. I can’t remember the last time I did a formalized rite (hint: it’s been months), I don’t do daily service for the gods, and my icons are not Open. So with our basic terms above, I would be a layperson. However, I certainly do perform religious duties and devotional acts every single day.

So what on earth would I be?

And in this simple example, the problem with our definitions becomes ever apparent. We’ve managed to ignore and wipe out large segments of our own community because they technically don’t have a designated place within our paradigm. We don’t acknowledge the full variety of what it can mean to be Kemetic, and when we do that, we make people believe that you can really only be two things: a priest or a layperson, and that is a crying shame.

It is because of this that I feel like we should work on creating new terms that reflect how Kemeticism has shifted over the ages. We are no longer a State run, King-driven type of religion. We no longer have temples with full time staff to run them. We don’t have the capacity to be full time Hem(et) NTR. We don’t have the capacity to meet each other in real life (generally speaking). Things have changed. If the way Kemeticism existed in antiquity fell under a Horian style, we are officially in Setian Kemeticism: we are in diaspora and have lost our resources in the process. I see no point in holding onto a few handful of terms that don’t suit us.

While I don’t entirely have a list of terms to throw out for everyone to consider (I wish I did, I’ve been mulling on this for months), I decided that I could at least show some groups or areas that we need terms for. If we can at least identify that such things exist within our community, we can become more aware of them, and possibly the terminology for those groups will come in time. I’ve tried to keep them organized in some capacity or another, and if I missed a group, please let me know.

Rites, rituals and shrine status:

  • Someone who has an Open Icon and performs daily rites for the gods
  • Someone who performs daily rites for the gods (State rite vs non-State rite?)
  • Someone who performs rites sometimes.
  • Someone who doesn’t perform rites, but performs regular devotional acts to the gods.
  • Someone who only participates in holidays, or performs rites occasionally.
  • Someone who participates heavily in community, but doesn’t necessarily perform a lot of shrine work.

Practice focus:

  • Akhu and ancestors.
  • Death rites or the dead in general (not necessarily related to the dead by blood).
  • Heka or magix.
  • Lesser Unseen spirits such as netjeri.
  • Living in ma’at
  • Gods and deities, NTR

God-phone status and ability to travel between planes:

  • People who are involved in working in the Unseen/Duat.
  • People are work with spirits both here and in the Duat/Unseen
  • People who are able to mediate between the living and the gods or other spirits (for example: a medium).
  • People who can perform healing on non-physical bodies and the like.

Community activities:

  • Researchers and data collectors.
  • Scribes: people who write that data down in a format or location that others can access and use.
  • Story tellers and people who create new ways of seeing the religion
  • People who work on facilitating group activities within the community. Community organizers.
  • Divination services and oracular services for the community

As you can see, there is a lot more to our community and our religion than simply being a priest or not a priest (or a priest that performs magic and a priest that doesn’t perform magic). Our community is wide and diverse, and there are lots of areas where we need people to jump in and help out, and that there are a lot of places where we have absolutely no terms or labels for what these people do.

One of the biggest hurdles to overcoming this problem is trying to ascertain how much of the practices from antiquity we need to keep and how much of these practices need to go. It’s obvious we’ll never have a large, full time set of priests working in temples. It’s possible that we’ll never have large temples ever again as well. And we might not ever have a steady flow of money coming in from temple patrons that allow the priests to do their jobs. The role of priest has to change to accommodate how things have changed in the past few centuries. The role of the layperson has also shifted, and our structure in the modern community needs to reflect this.

To get the ball rolling, I’d love to hear back from the community (regardless of your path) as to what you feel a modern priest is, and what it should be. What is the role of the priest? Do they serve only the gods, or do they serve the community and laypeople as well? What is the role of the lay person? Should they support the priesthood? How would we organize such things? What types of terms do we use to illustrate the grey area that exists between priest and lay person?

Additionally, how would you label some of the roles listed above? Do you feel that we need to create new terminology for our modern religious practices?

While I know that this post is not filled with solutions and lists of terms, I hope that this helps to get the ball rolling!

Relevant Links:


Posted by on February 27, 2014 in Kemeticism, Rambles


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