In rough times or happy times, wealth grows because it is spread.
– from the Sayings of Ankhsheshonqy
In the year of Zep-Tepi, it is time to remember a beginning – and make another one Become. Bear with me as I tell a fairly long tale of where we’ve been, where we are – and where we can go together, into the future.
Twenty years ago, I purchased a PowerBook 140 laptop. It was being resold, for a discounted price plus a donation to a cancer charity in the name of a man who had owned it a few weeks before he died. That bit is not necessary to this story, but both the Blessed Dead and charity were part of my first foray into the Internet. With my blazing fast 2600-baud(!) modem, I was able to connect to a local BBS, and my spiritual teaching, which I’d started in 1989, added a virtual component to its physical ones.
(It’s strange to think a good number of people reading this don’t even know what a BBS is, or weren’t even born yet the day I took my PowerBook home. If you don’t think you’re old, never tell history through the lens of consumer electronics…)
I spent my first month on Chicago BBSes with existing and new students, experimenting with virtual religion. Basically, we attempted to simulcast various religious ceremonies using text-based chartrooms. In the fall I started as a host for a new computer “network” called America Online, and by the end of 1991 I was co-host of a weekly AOL chat called “Virtual Magick.”
At VM, a number of people in what has come to be called alternative religion got together and talked about the use of technology for Spirit. During this time, I met Craig Schaefer, a fellow technophile who also lived in the area, and he signed on to help me grow the temple I’d named the House of Bast in a virtual way.
Some time in 1992 or 1993, when AOL expanded into the WWW, we made our first website. It was a text-heavy papyrus-colored blob, which we renamed “The House of Netjer” after the first two weeks, because people kept thinking we worshipped only Bast.
The rest of our history speaks for itself through the websites. At first there was just one, kemet.org. (Kemet Electronics has probably never forgiven us.) Then, we wanted a site for the House of Netjer, and netjer.org was born. When we decided to teach classes that weren’t beginners’ lessons, kemetschool.org and the Imhotep Seminary were created.
Not long after that, when we started charitable work for kids in the US and elsewhere, we added udjat.org to our repertoire, and after we purchased land for a temple, tawyhouse.org joined the grouping. Offline, the temple became a state-recognized church and 501c3 in 1994, and was federally recognized in 1999 as the Kemetic Orthodox Faith and the House of Netjer Kemetic Orthodox Temple.
Internet word of mouth and social media expanded us further – we had Livejournal, Myspace, Twitter, and Facebook to contend with over the years, as well as websites created for us (and against us, every once in a while). I went from a few students who met at my house weekly and the Internet nightly to dozens, most of whom were not local.
The dozens became hundreds, as beginners’ courses produced new members twice or three times a year. Because my dream was for a church that used the Internet, and not an Internet church, I arranged offline gatherings and actual, flesh-and-blood worship. We acquired members all over the world. We trained priests, who opened their own shrines. I wrote one book, then another, and started writing on the website, and the Internet. Our websites got so big and busy that we had to acquire a system to manage them, and webstaff to administrate them. For someone who’d honestly never expected more than to share the love of our gods with a few people, I was amazed.
The response to my getting on the Internet was astonishing and positive. The gods pressed me to get more involved, and I went to Egypt in 1996 to do what They asked. After those ceremonies, I went from being a teacher of Their faith to a Nisut of Their faith, charged with doing my best to make sure anyone who wanted to re-connect with Their faith could find a way. And things just kept getting bigger. Kemetic Orthodoxy filled an entire chapter in a book about religion online, and we were interviewed by all kinds of people and researchers and faith groups interested in becoming more recognized, and in using the Internet to further their message. In 2000, again at the gods’ request, I resigned my media job to be employed by Kemetic Orthodoxy as full-time clergy and administrator.
A decade later, today in 2011, the Kemetic Orthodox Faith has more than 500 active members from all 50 United States and 28 other countries. They come from all ages and walks of life. We host offline fellowship, gatherings, and ceremonies regularly at various locations, and provide simulcasts and other services via Internet to those who are too far away to visit whenever they like.
Twenty years into my dream is a good time to take stock. The children of members who attended our first gatherings are now college graduates. The first generation of children born Kemetic Orthodox is almost ready to graduate from high school. What we have accomplished has been so successful that some people actually believe “Kemetic Orthodoxy,” a phrase I coined in 1991 when I wrote that previously-mentioned website, is the name of the ancient Egyptian religion, or of all forms of worship of those gods today. (Note: neither is true, nor have we claimed it to be true). It has been an amazing 20 years, and I am honored and humbled to have been a part of it.
But while the House of Netjer, and the Kemetic Orthodox Faith, belong to me, the gods don’t. More importantly, they never did. There are plenty of people who worship our gods in their own way, and plenty of alternatives to learn about or practice their worship. Over 20 years, as the Internet has grown and spread, and as we have used it to connect the various children of the gods and goddesses and further Their faith, more people are coming to know Them, and worship Them, even without being part of our temple. The wealth of Ma’at is spreading. This cannot be anything but good.
The teaching I envisioned so many years ago has changed, too. I can’t do it in the personal, face-to-face way I once did, nor are there enough hours in a day (or year!) to spend with every single one of these people. It’s simply no longer possible. We’ve gone from being a Kemetic group to a Kemetic nation, and even a couple dozen priests aren’t enough to address everything that needs to be addressed, or to bring us all together.
So, it’s time to grow things further, and spread the wealth some more.
One of the comments I have heard over the years from a number of Kemetic (but not Kemetic Orthodox) priests and priestesses and devotees I respect, is that they regret that there doesn’t seem to be a large place that they can all get together and share with others, like we are blessed to have here with Kemetic Orthodoxy. I have also, due to my responsibilities to my own people, not been able to dedicate much time to contributing to that larger Kemetic community. My nation has become insular in certain ways, separated from the larger community, and not always in good ways.
It’s time to change that. This child of mine, Kemetic Orthodoxy, has grown into a beautiful adult, and now I am going to be a good parent and step back and give it room to grow into its own. I am not going anywhere – don’t worry! – but I am changing the way I go about things, both within the Kemetic Orthodox Faith and in the larger Kemetic community. It’s time for me to take the gods’ charge literally, and be a Nisut for Them, not just this church I founded. It’s time to throw that door between gods and men open a bit further, and invite others to open their doors, too.
My first step in this sharing of wealth is a gift to the entire Kemetic community: all people all over the world who honor the gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt in any way. You can read more about it, and take part if you choose, by visiting the website:
I hope that this is a first step of many toward a more diversified faith community and a greater sharing of love, worship, knowledge, and fellowship between the various organizations, new and old, and individuals who love our gods and goddesses everywhere. Please consider joining me in supporting this Kemetic Interfaith Network. I am proud to call you KIN.
There’ll be more news, here on my blog and also on the KIN site, as we begin. For now, I offer this gift, and hope that you enjoy it as much as I did creating it for you.