August 1, 2023

Year 31 Letter - This Website is now an Archive

As of July 31, 2023, I am no longer acting as the Nisut of Kemetic Orthodoxy. I sent an official letter privately to our temple membership explaining this change, but there is no reason why it cannot also be shared publicly, and I will do so here. From August 1, 2023 this website will enter archives mode so that Oracles and other things can continue to be read; no new posts will be made here. Its ultimate destiny now lies with the House of Netjer Kemetic Orthodox Temple Board and their decisions around what will become of our historical internet presence(s) as we shift into a new phase of existence together.

My Year 31 letter is long and follows.
Blessings of the Opening of the Year to all the children of the Netjeru everywhere.

In Kemet/ancient Egypt, which Kemetic Orthodoxy has always looked to as the culture that created the worship of the Netjeru we love, the world was a very structured place. Kemetic government was organized into a series of top-down hierarchies that continued in some form through the millennia. This grew from early Nile Valley cultures with hereditary chiefs to city-states with local or regional kingships, until a time when two of those chiefs rose up to gather - or conquer, depending on your perspective - all the rest of the city-states into a pair of kingdoms. The Two Lands in turn persisted briefly until the two kingdoms merged into a single kingdom under a Double Crown, the pharaonic Kemet of dynastic history.

More than three millennia and more than 30 dynastic groups of Egyptians, Libyans, Assyrians, Persians, Kushites, Greeks, Romans, and others came and went, with their leaders on the throne of the Two Lands as anything from benevolent caretakers to horrific tyrants. Good men and bad men and a handful of women (also good and bad) led the Two Lands until it ceased to be its own country.

Pharaohs were, like other human leaders, loved and hated. Some were good people, genuinely interested in the growth of the society, who did their best to keep their promises to the Netjeru and people. Some were expansionists, and through trade and warfare and colonization of neighboring countries they built prosperous and powerful cities and client states into a multicultural empire. Some were more interested in philosophy than in kingship. Some kings were selfish and small minded; others made great sacrifices to protect their people and land. We cannot make any single general statement about the nearly 200 people who served Kemet as kings. They can only be judged by their own people, by history, and, one presumes, at the final judgment when they had to stand before Wesir to make an account of how they carried out their time as Hem(et), being the word for both majesty (as in “your majesty”) as well as the word for a slave.

After 30 years, if a king was blessed or successful enough to have made it that long, a special national festival was held. This royal jubilee, the Heb-Sed or “Sed festival” where Sed is the name of a jackal deity Who may or may not be Wepwawet, included public and private events to celebrate a ruler’s reign and rejuvenate and re-establish that ruler’s kingship for another 30 years. Privately there was a secret ritual where the king went before the Netjeru alone, to be tested for fitness to rule and to judge whether or not they could (or should) renew the kingship for another 30 years.

If you think about the House of Netjer calendar, you’ll note this past year was Regnal Year 30. While in theory my 30th year does not begin until 2026 (I was coronated November 6, 1996 in Egypt, at the site where the Heb-Sed was held in antiquity), I took the role of Hemet-Nisut or “priest of the king” from September 3, 1993, when I was ordained as a priest of the Netjeru. In antiquity a Hemet-Nisut served during times when there was no king (between reigns or during a time of breakdown, etc.). The priest of the king performed any ritual acts required of a Nisut as a royal proxy. In 1993, I had not felt it was important or necessary to become an actual Nisut, given that Kemet ceased to exist in a legal sense more than 1500 years ago, and I was not born in Egypt or born into a hereditary kingship, since those also no longer exist.

I felt strongly that in a postmodern world where many democratic nations have been founded on the principle of freedom from monarchy/kings or any sort of top-down authoritarian model, attempting to reintroduce kingship might not only insult the memory of the ancient kings but that it was not necessary for us as different people in a very different world.

It took the Netjeru three years to convince me it was valuable for the office of Nisut to return, let alone to convince me to go to Egypt, and submit to the ceremonies and commit to the obligations and sacrifices to make it happen. In 1996, I fully answered the request They had already hinted at back in 1989, when They first requested my service. At the end of that year, I went to Egypt as Tamara and I returned as Hekatawy, and none of our lives have been the same.

For these three decades I have done everything in my power to do what the Netjeru have asked me to do, to the best of my ability. Because of my commitment and work we have grown from a group of less than a dozen people meeting weekly into a perpetually internet-connected global organization with more than 600 active members living in more than 30 different countries. We have welcomed thousands to worshipping the Netjeru through our free beginners’ course. We’ve initiated a little more than a thousand people to Shemsuhood, several hundred to the Shemsu-Ankh mysteries, and a little less than a hundred people have been ordained as priests to the Netjeru over this time. Not all these people have remained with us; some have gone on to other practices or founded their own organizations. But the impact and spread of what we have done together stretches much further than ourselves, or just the small group of people I was teaching back when the Netjeru asked me to become Nisut. Kemetic Orthodoxy has been and continues to be the largest religious movement for the Netjeru of Kemet over at least the last decade and a half, and I expect it will continue to provide a home and an example for devotees of the Netjeru everywhere for many decades to come.

As we enter Year 31, I congratulate all of you for your part in that work. I never wanted to do this by myself and could not have done so without the deep commitments, love, and support of so very many people over these three decades. I thank you for everything you have done for me, for the Netjeru, and most importantly, for each other, because the most important thing the Netjeru asked me to do was to create a community to come together in unity (there’s that Year 30 theme again!) to do Ma’at in the world and keep the Netjeru and Their Creations in close connection.

They wanted me to create an organization with the heart and soul to outlive me, and while I can’t say we always did everything perfectly (how could we, given that we started this work so young, with so few resources, and little if any training?), I believe that what we did together we did for a higher purpose, and that overall, we succeeded in bringing the community to the Netjeru and the Netjeru to the community. We should be proud of all this work, and excited for the work that remains to be done, to do better and be better and continue to answer the call as we enter Year 31.

This letter is heavy on reminiscence. After 30 years I suppose you have plenty of things to reminisce about, and it might read a little like a goodbye letter as well. Please know that this is not a goodbye at all, but it does serve my formal notice that after much deep thought, divination, and conversations with the Netjeru, I will be continuing into Year 31 with you - but not as Hekatawy. This therefore serves as my official announcement that I have opted not to renew my kingship at Year 31, I will hold no 30-year Heb-Sed, and that I have returned to civilian status as of the end of Year 30 (IV Shomu 30). If you will continue to have me, I will be honored to continue to work with you and Kemetic Orthodoxy all of the days I draw breath - but as Tamara and not as the king.

There are many reasons why I believe that this abdication is the correct decision. I will be happy to discuss them with anyone, as I know it is a big decision, at least as big of a decision as the one that sent me to Egypt to become Nisut in the first place. I can summarize many of them with the acknowledgment of the thing that caused me to hesitate in the first place. We live in a time and a world where the concept of kingship is deeply distorted from its original intentions in the cultures that created it. This distortion has become a distraction from our real work. It creates power imbalances between people that cause things to be more difficult than necessary. Furthermore, it centers too much responsibility and authority in a single point of success or failure. In a community that stretches across the globe we need to make sure that the manner in which we structure our community is never dependent on a single person or even a small group of people, for many healthy reasons.

I became Nisut because the Netjeru required certain things to be accomplished, and They made the case to me that without the assistance of the kingly ka, I would not be able to succeed at them. Those things have been accomplished, and that cycle has been completed successfully. Now? the next cycle is ours to create, together. This change is daunting, and yet it fills me with a sense of satisfaction for what we’ve done as well as excitement for what we can do, now that the organization can move more fully into the world we live in without trying to justify something that simply cannot be understood in our time the way that it should be understood, even by our own people. Our love for the Netjeru should always lead us, and I don’t believe we need a king to do that. Even from antiquity, there are ritual ways to proxy the role where it could possibly still be necessary, and our entire priesthood can assume this role - they already do each time they perform their daily state shrine rituals.

It is time for the seeds we’ve planted to grow, and at this time, and with the full backing and blessing of the Netjeru according to multiple conversations and divinations I’ve had (know that this was neither a rash or sudden decision), I am stepping fully out of the way of the light they need to grow into their bright destiny.

Given my involvement with the temple and its structure as Nisut over such a long time, this change means we will need to have community-wide conversations about what we want to do next and how we want to do it. Zep Tepi, after the end of a successful 30-year reign, is a great time to discuss all that. I expect we’ll be planning both online conversations in static modes (forums, etc.) and also live meetings where we can sit and dream and plan and co-create our next 30 years together.

I hope that you will forgive me for what feels like the suddenness of this announcement - but today is the best day of all days for it to be made, since it is the first day of the rest of our lives together and the first day after the end of the 30 year cycle. I hope you will allow me to continue to journey with you into what I believe could be our best three decades yet. This power now lies fully in your hands. I could not pass it along to anyone more worthy.

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