Language and context are important things in Kemetic Orthodoxy. Words, in our belief, are extremely powerful and must be used responsibly. Since the earliest times, utterances (sometimes incorrectly called "spells")
Images of people doing things are also equally important, and it's no wonder that the hieroglyphic language is so artistic -- a combination of powerful images and powerful words.
Because so many terms in the Kemetic language don't correlate to terms in English (or any other) language, in many cases Kemetic Orthodoxy chooses NOT to translate them. A very good example of this is "ma'at", which in English means an amalgam of "truth", "virtue", "correctness", "what is right", and so many other things that we feel using anything other than the Kemetic term "ma'at" when referring to It may be misleading.
With that in mind, we've provided a primer on commonly-used terms within our faith. If you've studied Kemetic at all, you'll recognize a good deal of them. Memorizing these won't be necessary, as you'll see them referred to on such a frequent basis that you'll soon become accustomed to their use and meaning.
Kemetic language is "gender specific", a trait you may recognize from other languages such as French. Nouns referring to women (and any adjectives affecting the noun) frequently end in "-t", a sound that designates the feminine. In later stages of Kemetic, notably Late Egyptian, Demotic and Coptic, the "feminine t" may be written, but may not be pronounced. There is a tricky bit, too - not all words that end in "t" are automatically feminine.
A good example is to look at the term for "lord". When in reference to a man it is "neb." When in reference to a woman, the term is "nebt" (or "nebet"), "Female Lord," or in English, "Lady."
Just as English language uses "-s" to designate the plural, Kemetic uses a "-w" (pronounced "oo," as in "moot"). For example, the plural of "netjer" (god) is "netjeru" (gods). Not all words that end in "u" are automatically plural; you will need to look at context. Some plurals are "collective nouns" -- a noun for one thing that comprises many parts. A collective noun in English is the word "team." A team is one thing, yet is made up of many parts.
Key to Pronunciation
"w" and "u" sound like "oo" in "soon"
"a" is a "o" or "ah," as in "mop" or "father" (NEVER a short "a" as in "cast.")
"kh" is a "ch" as in "loch"
"s" is "s" as in "snake, " sometimes "z" as in "zebra"
"tj" is a "ch" as in "cheer"
"o" is a long "oh" as in "total"
"e" is an "e" as in "bet"
"dj" is a "dg" as in "dodge"
' (an apostrophe) signifies a glottal stop (similar to the sound made when saying "ma" and "otter" together quickly)
1) What does "Kemet" mean?
"Kemet" (keh-MET) is the term ancient Egyptians used as the official name of their country. (Sometimes they also called it Ta-mery, or "beloved land.") Kemet translates as "Black peoples Land", By using the term Kemet instead of Egypt, we refer to the country by the name its own people called it (Egypt is an English form of the Greek name for this land, Aegyptos, itself derived from Coptic hi(t)-ka(u)-ptah, "the house/temple of the ka of Ptah").
2) What does "Netjer" mean?
"Netjer" (net-CHUR, net-JAIR) is the Kemetic term for God [Divine]. It is normally used in reference to the Self-Created One -- the source of godhead from which the Names (the Many gods and goddesses) spring forth. You may see Netjer referred to as both Netjer and God in Kemetic Orthodoxy. "God," unless the context is clearly stated to be about another religion, is to be understood to be the same as "Netjer."
Phonetically, Netjer is spelled "nTr" (the capitalized "T" standing for a "tj" sound -- in a fully realized transliteration font, this would be lowercased and underlined). Because not everyone is aware that the "t" with a line under it, or capitalized T in the Manual De Codage system of hieroglyphic transliteration, stands for the "tj" sound and not just a "t" sound, you may see other spellings for Netjer including "neter," "ntr" and even "necher." The Kemetic Orthodox preferred spelling, as provided for us by Nisut (AUS), is Netjer.
When referring to various aspects of Netjer, the "ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses," we call Them "Names", implying that, while a Name is a distinct personality and an individualized god Being, It is also still an aspect of the One Godhead of the Self-Created (e.g., "I worship Ra; He is a Name of Netjer."). Less frequently we may also use "Netjeru" ("Gods"), the plural of Netjer, or "Netjert" ("Goddess"), the feminine of Netjer (e.g., "I am a daughter of the Netjert Aset, but I am beloved of the Netjeru Heru-sa-Aset and Wesir.")
3) What does "ma'at" mean?
"Ma'at" (mah-'-ot with the ' signifying a glottal stop) doesn't translate adequately into English. The best definition is an amalgam of words, ranging from "truth" to "harmony" to "stability", and the best correlation to Ma'at we can think of outside Kemet is the Taoist understanding of Tao, "The Way". Ma'at is what is right -- what is correct. When your life is in Ma'at, you can feel it.
Ma'at is also a goddess, usually pictured with a white ostrich feather in a band on Her head. She is perhaps one of the most abstract and all-pervasive subjects in Kemetic Orthodoxy, and an intricate part of the concept of Netjer.
4) What is monolatry?
If you looked in your dictionary for the term monolatry and didn't find it, there's a good reason for that. The term has only existed for half a century, having been coined by Erich Winter and Siegfried Morenz in reference to Near Eastern conceptions of God, and applied to ancient Egypt by Erik Hornung, Jan Assmann, and other Egyptologists and students of religion.
Monolatry is the belief that god (as the One) can manifest Itself into other aspects and manifestations (the Many) with Their own personalities and interactions between one another, without ever losing sight of the fact that They all spring forth from the initial One. To abbreviate it to four words: "One godhead, many gods and goddesses." The best example of this is to imagine the Nile and the branches it divides into as it nears the Delta region -- many streams, each having their own name and location, but only one river. Monolatry is a form of polytheism, "many gods," but it also permits for a singular Godhead, so Kemetic religion as a monolatry is a modified or irregular polytheism. Sometimes monolatry is referred to as "henotheism," but as henotheism does not permit a singular Godhead behind many gods, it is not an entirely accurate definition.
5) What does "em hotep" mean?
"Em hotep" (EM ho-TEP) actually has several meanings, but when used as a salutation or parting phrase, it means "In peace". An extended version -- "ii-wy em hotep" -- means "Welcome in peace!" and was one of the most popular greetings in Kemet. "Em hotep" is not to be confused with "Imhotep," "(he)comes in peace," the name of a famous Kemetic ancestor.
6) What does "ankh udja seneb" mean?
Originally, "ankh udja seneb" (ahnkh ood-JAH zen-EB) was a benediction attached to the end of a mention of the royal person or the royal house (similar to "Long live the King!" or the "peace and blessings be upon him!" attached to the name of Mohammed in Islam), and means "Life, prosperity, and health". In the New Kingdom, it became popular as a parting benediction at the end of letters. It is used today in both ways -- in reference to our Nisut, Her Holiness Hekatawy I (ankh udja seneb), and as a farewell phrase ("Well, I'm outta here. Ankh udja seneb!").
When used in connection with the Nisut, this phrase is frequently abbreviated to AUS.
"Shemsu" (SHEM-soo) is both the plural and singular term for "followers," and today refers to devotees of Kemetic Orthodoxy. Anyone who has been divined for a Parent Name and has fully converted to the faith and received a Kemetic name is a Shemsu. When referring to a female follower, the spelling is "Shemset". In antiquity, a Shemsu was in particular a member of the Kemetic court, sworn to serve the nation as a "follower of the royal household."
"Shemsu-Ankh" (SHEM-soo AHNKH) is a Shemsu who has taken special additional vows via an initiation ritual called the Weshem-ib ("testing of the heart" ) Ordeal, to serve, honor and protect Netjer, Her Holiness and the people of Kemetic Orthodoxy. The lay and legal priesthood of Kemetic Orthodoxy are chosen from the body of Shemsu-Ankh.
"Remetj" (rem-ETJ) is a person associated with Kemetic Orthodoxy who has completed the beginners' period and may or may not have been divined for his or her Parent Name, but is interested in practicing other religions or wishes to remain just as a friend or observer, rather than a full convert, to the faith. Remetj is a Kemetic word meaning "royal subjects." Shemsu and Remetj are both welcome and equally respected in Kemetic Orthodoxy.
"Imakhu" (Yih-MAHK-oo) is a title meaning "Revered One"; it is used in Kemetic Orthodoxy in reference to a legally ordained priest or "minister" in the modern sense of the word. Because the majority of the population does not know Kemetic, however, most of our Imakhu also use the title "Reverend" or the abbreviated "Rev."
"Kai-Imakhu" (Kai-Yih-MAHK-oo), "Exalted Reverend" or "Above the Reverends," is an administrative title for a senior Imakhu, charged with not only the welfare of Kemetic Orthodoxy's Shemsu and Remetj, but other Imakhu as well.
"Hem" is another word with several meanings -- from ruler to wife to slave to servant. When used in the format "Hem-(Name of Netjer)", however, it is a title for a priest of that Name (and in this definition means "Servant of (Name of Netjer)"). The feminine spelling is "Hemt." Example: "Kai-Imakhu Stephanie Cass is Hemt-Bast (Servant of Bast)."
"Nisut" (nee-SOOT) is a short form of the term "Nisut-bity," Kemetic for "The One in Authority, Bee-king," or "(S)he of the Sedge and the Bee". The sedge plant (a marsh plant) and the bee are the heraldic totems of Upper and Lower Kemet, respectively, and therefore the Nisut is the person who is the land's highest (and, symbolically, only) priest and ruler -- someone you may know better as Pharaoh (an inaccurate Hebrew term derived from the Kemetic name for the Nisut's palace, Per-a'a or "Great House."). Kemetic Orthodoxy's current Nisut is Her Holiness Hekatawy I (Tamara L. Siuda) (AUS), Who established the modern faith of Kemetic Orthodoxy and founded the House of Netjer Kemetic Orthodox Temple.
"Per-a'a" (pair-AH-'-AH with the ' signifying a glottal stop) is the Kemetic pronunciation of "Pharaoh." Because of the fairly late appearance of this term, Kemetic Orthodoxy prefers the use of the term "Nisut" over "Per-a'a". Other terms for respect for the Nisut (AUS) are "Hemet" (Majesty), and "Heret" (the Female Heru/Horus).
"henu" (HEN-oo) or "honor gesture" is a Kemetic Orthodox reference to gestures of praise accompanying worship. Two simple examples of henu are the prayer gesture (hands out in front of you, palms up, open, and slightly cupped) and praise or "ka" gesture (arms up and bent at 90 degree angles with palms out).
"ka" (kah) is another word with multiple meanings; its most common meanings are "soul" or "vital energy". The ka is the part of us that composes our personality, our self. We feed our ka in life by living in ma'at and receiving praise for others, and rely on our descendants to feed it with offerings when our khat (physical body) dies. The living Heru is believed to have multiple kas, and some Names are considered the ka of other Names (Hatshepsut's throne name was Ma'at-ka-Ra or "Ma'at is Ra's ka").
"ba" (bah) can also be interpreted as "soul", and there has been confusion as to how the ba differs from the ka. If the ka is the part of us that remains behind after death to aid our descendants and receive aid from them in turn, the ba is the part that continues on after death to either create another ka and reincarnate, or to live in the realm of the Netjeru. The ba represents our eternal, undying essence, unlike the ka, which repersents only the personality of a particular incarnation. Unlike the ka, however, the ba -- being eternal -- does not die if it is not fed. The only time a ba is destroyed is when it is fed to Am-mit. Some Names are considered the ba of other Names (Wesir, for example, is sometimes referred to as the ba of Ra).
"heka" (heh-KAH) is probably best translated as "authoritative speech". As previously mentioned, words are powerful in Kemetic culture and religion; heka is the use of words with intent and meaning and the basis of our liturgies, invocations, and prayers. Kher-heb and Heri-sesheta priests are typically the speakers and writers of official liturgical heka.
"nekhtet" (nekh-TET) or "VICTORY!" The perfect Kemetic word for situations where you feel you have overcome something, or you wish to extend praise to another person or situation that deserves praise; equivalent to the English custom of shouting "Hooray!" Some Kemetic Orthodox liturgies and prayers include the repeating (or shouting) of "Nekhtet!" in a litany.
"senebty" (sen-eb-TEE or zeneb-TEE) is another parting phrase you will see often when you talk to Shemsu or Remetj. It means "may you be healthy" and is an alternative to "farewell" or "goodbye".
"saq" (sahk) or "appearance" is the full possession of a trained priest by the ka of a Name (their Parent) during a state ritual. To say "a priest is in saq" is to say that (s)he is currently possessed by Netjer. Saq is one of the most immediate and profound ritual experiences of Kemetic Orthodoxy.