I had a lot of trouble getting started on this one because my faith, in practice, is less “veering off the beaten path” than it is “accidentally comes across the beaten path in passing once in a blue moon”. My introduction to kemeticism, or at least to kemetic gods, was ugly, messy, and traumatic; the kind of thing you don’t talk about publicly unless you want to take the risk of being dogpiled for saying that the gods hurt you and that they were wrong to do so. Besides which, before I had ever even summoned the nerve to defy God and google the words “Egyptian pagan”, I experienced Set making it viscerally clear he wanted a romantic and sexual relationship with me. Being a 14 year old Christian at the time, I was terrified and mortified and assumed I would never be able to talk to anybody about what was happening to me. Imagine how much more incredulous I was when Heru indicated a few years later that he wanted that kind of relationship with me as well! (I had never even heard of healthy polyamory at that point!) To this day, the leader of the Kemetic Orthodoxy takes the official position that the existence of kemetic godspouses is impossible, and people like me are just too dumb to realize that the NTRW could never love us in that way. Considering how large swaths of the larger pagan community are obsessed with respectability politics, sometimes godspouses are treated as a punching bag for “normal” pagans to distance themselves from the social stigma of being a werido who worships Ra and believes in magic, to prove to themselves and others that they’re “one of the good ones”.
I don’t blame people who think that the idea of being in a serious romantic relationship with a god is weird or far-fetched, but it is it really significantly weirder than believing the gods do anything else that we believe they do? It’s not as though the idea that gods and spirits would want to have sex with, or fall in love with, mortal humans is completely unheard of in historical sources (including in some Egyptian sources that talked about goddesses having sex with Pharoahs and other royal family members). Why would gods from pre-Christian societies adhere to our modern Puritanical views of sex and romance being dirty, degrading, or a “base animal instinct” that is incompatible with genuine, serious religious faith and devotion? Why would the NTRW, with only one established online temple with a nisut and no priesthood infrastructure to support the ancient policy of only and exclusively interacting with the richest and most powerful members of their society, refuse to adapt their methods in order to gain offerings and worship? With the comparatively few historical records we have about any of the daily lives of the common people, are we really supposed to believe that it’s impossible the gods ever did anything in addition to the stuff we have that’s historically verifiable in the first place? At the end of the day, if you think that the idea is stupid you’re not going to be talked out of it; but neither are you going to convince me, or any other godspouse, that these relationships are a figment of our imagination. I wouldn’t have stopped being a devout Christian and put myself in a position where I was even further alienated from my family and culture as a minor if what I was experiencing wasn’t, to me, as real as anything else going on in my life, and if continuing to try to force myself to deny what had become my new reality, my new normal, wasn’t tearing me apart psychologically.
Besides all that, I’ve always been a person for whom gods of various pantheons appear and express interest in a relationship or in working together with some regularity. I never thought this was unusual at all until I started talking to other pagans and realized that, while eclectics do exist and it’s not exactly taboo, it looks like most people generally stick to one or two pantheons at a time. I’m not sure if it’s significant or not, but it certainly makes a lot of aspects of kemeticism somewhat unusual when I have the ability to go to an entirely different pantheon’s god for work that I need to do, but don’t want to do under the supervision of the NTRW for one reason or another. I spend a not-insignificant amount of time in the astral networking with entities I’m interested in working with (or whom I may need to pay off for a favor at some point) from all over the place. My UPG regarding this is that the NTRW find it useful to have somebody they can send off to talk to a god, or anybody really, who resides in a part of the astral that they would have more trouble getting to (safely and quietly, anyways) than them: “Oh hey Smarmy, didn’t you say you were going to go talk to Loki soon? When you do, be sure to get the message to Freya that she’s invited to Sekhmet’s festival next week!” (A fake example, but you get the gist.)
Even my actual practice of kemeticism seems always one or two steps removed from the “traditional” most of the time, although I usually try to start with the most traditional version of stuff that I can realistically pull off. My ancestor veneration is a great example: I built the practice with the ritual tools for the transfiguration, glorification, and propitiation of the Akhu in the Duat, and modified them to a practice that does the same thing for my ancestors, biological and ideological, who have not necessarily passed through the Hall of Judgement to reach the Duat: the Outlaw Dead. I recently found from browsing the online Anarchist Library that what I was trying to achieve with the Outlaw Dead is already a sort of tradition, referred to as spiritual anarchism. Between that and my magical workings being based far more heavily on chaos magic principles than in heka or anything kemetic really, I always stick out like a sore thumb among the NTRW and their assistants in the Duat. They value tradition and authority and always seem a little distrustful of my preference of handling a lot of my business with “foreigners”. ‘Why not just keep it within the family? We’ve got everything you could possibly need right here in kemeticism!’ seems to be the most usual reaction -from the spirits I’ve spoken to in the Duat, at least. However, compared to their reactions to me truthfully expressing my philosophical and political views on hierarchy, authority, and state power (all bad), my penchant for travelling outside the Duat on the regular is just a slight quirk as far as they’re concerned.
Being a godspouse and talking about the phenomenon I refer to as “divine abuse” (when a human experiences a god abusing them in some way) are the most controversial “off the beaten path” thing I do here on Earth, but my anarchist methodology is the thing the gods seem to actually consider the weirdest, and sometimes most isfetic, thing about my path. My philosophical and moral objections to the idea that the divine right to rule ever existed, as well as to the idea that authority and hierarchy are holy concepts and the only possible way to organize a healthy society (or that societies that have them can even be referred to as “healthy” at all), defines everything from the formulation and use of my heka outside of rituals, to the sorts of rituals I’m willing to write and perform for the NTRW, to the spirit work projects I’ve been given, to my approach to my relationship with various NTRW and the pantheon as a whole. It’s not always a problem according to the NTRW; similarly to how they’ll give me particular tasks because I like to visit and work with gods from all over, they seem to take the position that there are some situations in which my anarchic ways and philosophy make me useful to them, and they’re willing to tolerate the annoying parts of working with me because it gives them one more tool at their disposal in the long run.
For the most part though, it doesn’t seem like anything I’ve listed genuinely upsets any of the NTRW -or if it does, they don’t let on. It’s human beings that make being weird in any way so unnecessarily difficult and isolating, and honestly, I’d be lying if I said it never gets to me. Having been rejected by the religious community that meant everything to me as a child, both by being part of various demographics the local churches hated and by being the sort of child for whom “because God/the Bible said so” never really cut it as an answer, was obviously very painful. Like most pagans, I hoped to find a supportive community to talk about experiences with and to share fellowship; and like many pagans, I found that being candid publicly about anything unusual or controversial within pagan spaces, is just plain not worth the backlash you get nine times out of ten. After hanging out in online and meatspace pagan spaces for roughly five or six years at this point, I’ve come to the conclusion that the general pagan public is somewhat obsessed with respectability politics. Constantly, people whose practices and religious philosophies most closely resemble Christianity (or culturally Christian atheism) with their strict following of religious dogma; aversion to the idea of humans doing magic, having real agency in their spiritual lives, or gods taking active roles in our lives as anything but distant, wrathful deities ready to smite at the smallest whiff of disrespect; black-and-white morality, with humans as inherently dirty and so flawed the gods are always justified in hurting us in any way; their gods as invariably right and moral even when they are doing monstrous things (these same people who invariably are be furious when compared to Christians, despite having the exact same attitude toward their religions as the pastors who used to tell everyone God required them to torment me and mine and believe that dinosaur fossils are a trick from the Devil in order to get to Heaven); they relish in making a sport of finding some teenager on WitchTok saying something stupid and making them that day’s example of Bad Stupid Pagans Who Are Not Serious And Good Pagans Like Us. We, as a community, are so insecure from the mainstream considering us evil, crazy, or weirdos, that we effectively hold our own witch hunts of a sort: we find pagans who believe in weirder shit than we do (by our standards) or who aren’t academic or loyal enough to history and good taste (by our standards), and we scapegoat them in hopes of that somehow gaining us respect and acknowledgement from the mainstream that, in reality, looks down on all of us regardless.
But the most contentious thing I believe is that divine abuse exists. A related, but more benign concept can be described as having a divine antagonist; the theory that at times, deities antagonize humans because the human is dealing with a warped version of their ideals or aspects in their own personality or psyche, and the antagonism represents a genuine chance to develop past your shortcomings. I think it’s highly likely that many situations where a person is experiencing a god pushing them around and ignoring their boundaries is some version of this phenomenon. It’s very likely that in many situations where a human thinks a deity is out to get them, it’s actually a projection from trauma or a thousand other things that can harm one’s discernment -but that’s not my call to make about anyone else’s spirituality, nor anyone else’s to make about mine. I worry that my talking about this publicly may make people paranoid it could happen to them, therefore increasing the chances of their anxiety manifesting something nasty; but I have to say how I think things really are, and I think that although the gods are good and great and worthy of worship, they sometimes make mistakes, and they sometimes put their own interests over even those of the humans who love them the most. I think it’s stupid to tell people that such-and-such god “isn’t for beginners” and you absolutely must be a practicing witch for some amount of time or read a certain amount of scholarly books in order to safely worship a deity who was once worshipped by entire societies, including children; but I don’t think we’re doing any spirit workers or mystics any favors when we say that it is categorically impossible that a god is choosing to abuse their power over a human, and that the human would be better off by trying to remove that deity from their life altogether.
The vitriol and mass shaming you generally run into if you publicly say that our gods did something wrong honestly never fails to shock me, no matter how many times I see it. People say you’re crazy, or that you just “expect deities to be hugboxes” and that you’re clearly just misunderstanding “tough lessons” as abuse. All I can say to that is, in my years in pagan circles, I’ve ran into far more people with stories like this than some people would have you believe; most people who I’ve talked to about it have confirmed they avoid telling people about it because of how they’ve learned to fear how other people will react. And who can blame them, when people often react to this topic by insisting that the only possible reason a god could do something harmful to a person is if they’re a bad person who deserves what’s happening to them, either for disrespecting the gods or for being an abusive douchebag in general? If you really feel that your gods must be 100% perfect, incapable of making mistakes or being wrong to be worth worshipping, that all the myths that portray gods doing bad things must only and exclusively be interpreted as metaphors, that working with all deities is 100% safe and no bad things can ever happen to good people as a result of it, well…I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong by believing that, but you don’t get to insist that everyone who doesn’t is a bad or fake polytheist -much less a bad person.
I’m a revivalist rather than reconstructionist because I fundamentally believe that radical changes to our traditional religious organization and philosophy from antiquity are necessary to a long-lasting, healthy revived kemetic polytheist tradition. Being a pantheon so focused on tradition and loyalty to the past, I believe that we ought to do things as traditionally as possible as far as rituals and offerings; however, it’s no better for me to deny my convictions or experiences with how magic, the astral, and the spirits and gods in it work, in order to conform to what is “traditional” or “normal” by modern standards in kemeticism, than it was for me to do the same for Christianity. I struggle with my insecurities and with the deep wound from childhood onward caused by being consistently rejected by my peers and religious community, but I am overall content with my decisions and my path, no matter what anybody might say. Finally, I’ll leave you with a chunk from a piece of anarchist theory that I feel captures the perspective I practice kemeticism from, as a follower of the “evil” god of the desert and wilderness:
“The extent to which global heating will cause the expansion of hot deserts is unknown but that they will do so — and drastically — is a pretty safe bet. The interaction of soil, climate and civil power will continue to be a dominant factor determining both history and the opening up of territory for freer lives. That agricultural systems will fail as the arid worlds spread means that, once again, civilisations will have to retreat from much of their previously conquered lands. In some places this will be total, in others a matter of degrees.
In my mother tongue deserts are uninhabitable, abandoned, deserted ; but by whom? Not by the coyotes or the cactus wrens. Not by the harvester ants or the rattlesnakes. Not by the namib quicksteps, the meercats, the acacias, the tahrs, the sandgrouse and the red kangaroos. Deserts and arid environments generally are often biologically diverse, though by their nature, the life is sparser than in other biomes. While some desert areas are lifeless, in most communities of animals, birds, insects, bacteria and plants run, fly, crawl, spread and grow in lives unordered, undomesticated by civilisation. Wildness is in us and all around us. The battle to contain and control it is the constant labour of civilisation. When that battle is lost and the fields are deserted, wildness persists. Behind the dust, meanwhile, under the vulture-haunted sky, the desert waits — mesas, butte, canyon, reef, sink, escarpment, pinnacle, maze, dry lake, sand dune and Barren Mountain.”