Kemetic Terms

ankh udja seneb

Originally, ankh udja seneb (ONK oo-DJAH zen-EB) was a benediction attached to the end of a mention of the royal person or royal house (similar to the English monarchial “Long live the King!” or the “peace and blessings be upon him!” said by Muslims after saying the name of the Prophet Mohammad). Ankh, udja, seneb means “Life, prosperity, and health.” During the New Kingdom, it was popularized as a blessing appended to the end of written correspondence. In Kemetic Orthodoxy, we use it in both ways – in reference to our Nisut (ankh udja seneb), and as a farewell phrase (“I’m outta here. Ankh udja seneb!”). When used in connection with the Nisut, the phrase is frequently abbreviated to AUS.


(bah) (plural bau, pronounced BAH-oo) can be interpreted loosely as “soul”, and there has been confusion as to how the ba differs from the ka. If the ka is the part of a human that remains after death to aid our descendants and receive aid from them in turn (note: after justification, a ka is referred to as an Akh), the ba is the part that continues on after death to either create another ka and reincarnate, or to live eternally in the realm of the Netjeru. The ba represents an individual human’s eternal, undying essence, unlike the ka, which represents the personality or conscience of only one particular incarnation. Unlike the ka, the ba – being eternal – does not die if it is not fed. The only way a ba can die or be destroyed is if it is fed to Ammit. Some deities are considered the ba of other deities (Wesir, for example, is sometimes referred to as the ba of Ra, and the main god of the city of Mendes is called Banebdjedet or “ba of the Lord of Djedet” (Djedet, or Busiris, being a Delta city of Wesir) ).

em hotep

“Em hotep” (EM ho-TEP) has several meanings, but when used as a salutation or parting phrase, it means “in peace”. An extended variation – “ii-wy em hotep” – means “Welcome in peace!” and was one of the most popular greetings in ancient times. “Em hotep” should not be confused with Imhotep, “(he) comes in peace,” the personal name of a beloved national Akh/Kemetic ancestor.


(HECK-ah) is best translated as “authoritative speech” or “speaking with intent.” Words are powerful in Kemetic culture and religion; heka is a special use of words with intent and meaning, and forms the basis of our liturgies, invocations, and prayers. Kher-heb and Heri-sesheta priests are typically the speakers and writers of our official liturgical heka.


Hem is another word with several meanings – from ruler to wife/partner to slave to servant. When used in the format “Hem(et)-(Name of Netjer)”, it is a title for a priest of that deity (and in this definition means “Servant of (Name of Netjer)”). The nonmasculine (i.e., feminine and third gender) spelling of Hem is “Hemet.” Used alone without a deity’s name attached, Hem(et) is an honorific for a Nisut and means both “slave” and something like “your Majesty” depending on context.


(HEN-oo) or “honor gesture” is a Kemetic Orthodox reference to physical gestures of praise or honor accompanying worship. Two examples of the most commonly used henu gestures are the Dua or prayer gesture (hands out in front of you, palms up, open, and slightly cupped) and the Ka or Khai gesture “praise gesture” (arms up and bent at 90 degree angles with palms out).


(kah) (plural kau, pronounced “KA-oo”) is another word with multiple meanings; its most common ones are “soul” or “vital energy”. The ka is the part of an individual human comprising the personality or conscious self. We feed our kau in life through living in ma’at and receiving praise and care from ourselves and others. Once we have died and our kau are judged worthy of afterlife, kau become Akhu. The Akhu rely on their descendants to continue to feed them with offerings and loving remembrance. While most humans possess only a single ka, a Nisut has two after coronation (their human ka as well as one of the many kau of the god Heru), and some Netjeru are considered to be kau of other deities (Hatshepsut’s throne name was Ma’at-ka-Ra or “Ma’at is Ra’s ka”). Ra is said to have 72 kau.


“Kemet” (keh-MET) is the term ancient Egyptians used as the official name of their country, though they also called it Ta-mery, “beloved land.” Kemet translates as “Black Land”, in reference to the fertile banks and fields surrounding the Nile. In contrast, “deshret” is the term for the “Red Land” or desert (the English word ultimately derived from deshret) that surrounds the fertile “kemet”. In using the term Kemet instead of Egypt, we refer to this country by the name its own people called it (Egypt is an English form of the Greek name for this land, Aegyptos, itself from Coptic hi(t)-ka(u)-ptah, “house/temple of the ka of Ptah”).


“Ma’at” (muh-‘OTT) with the ’ signifying a glottal stop) doesn’t translate adequately into English. Its best definition is a combination of words, ranging from “truth” to “harmony” to “stability.” The closest correlation to Ma’at we can think of outside Kemetic thought is the Daoist understanding of Dao or “The Way.” Ma’at is what is right or correct. When your life is in Ma’at, you can feel it, and it generates more Ma’at as it persists.

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.


If you looked in your dictionary for the term monolatry and didn’t find it, there’s a good reason. The term has only existed less than a century, having been coined by Erich Winter and Siegfried Morenz in reference to Near Eastern conceptions of deity, and is applied to ancient Egypt by Erik Hornung, Jan Assmann, and other Egyptologists and religious scholars. Monolatry is a belief that deity or godhead (the One) manifests Itself into numerous aspects and manifestations (the Many) with Their own personalities and interactions, without ever losing sight of the fact that They all spring forth from an initial One. To summarize this in five words: “One divine category, many deities.” Another metaphor is the idea of colors: “color” is a singular category, but it contains the individual colors red, blue, yellow, etc. Monolatry is a form of polytheism, “many gods,” but it also permits for a singular divineness, so Kemetic religion as a monolatry, is a modified or special form of polytheism. Sometimes monolatry is referred to as “henotheism,” where one acknowledges the existence of many gods but only tends to worship Them one at a time. Some contemporary neopagans and polytheists also use the term “soft polytheism” to describe this one-Many continuum.


(nekh-TET) or “VICTORY!” This is the perfect Kemetic word for situations where you feel you have overcome something, or wish to extend praise to another person or situation; equivalent to the English custom of shouting “Hooray!” Some Kemetic Orthodox liturgies and prayers include the repeating (or shouting) of “Nekhtet!” in a litany.


“Netjer” (net-CHUR, net-JAIR) (plural Netjeru (net-CHUR-oo); feminine singular Netjeret (net-CHUR-ett)) is the Kemetic term for deity. It is used both in reference to the Self-Created One – the source of deity from which the Netjeru (the Many deities) spring forth, and for those individual manifestations. Phonetically, Netjer is transliterated “nTr” (the capitalized “T” standing for a “tj” sound – in a 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 a “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, provided for us by Nisut (AUS), is Netjer. Further explanation can be found here. When referring to various Netjeru/aspects of Netjer, or the “ancient Egyptian deities,” some of our members choose to call Them “Names” after ancient liturgical examples, implying that, while a Name is a distinct personality and an individual Being, It is also an aspect (or Name) of the Self-Created One (e.g., “I worship Ra; He is a Name of Netjer.”).


(nee-SOOT) is the short form of the term “Nisut-bity,” Kemetic for “One in Authority, Bee-king,” or “(S)he of the Sedge and the Bee.” The sedge (a marsh plant) and bee are the heraldic symbols of Upper and Lower Kemet, respectively, and therefore a 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 Alexandros (Rev. Dr. Tamara L. Siuda) (AUS), Who established the Kemetic Orthodox Religion in 1989 and founded the House of Netjer Kemetic Orthodox Temple in 1993. Other terms for respect for our current Nisut (AUS) include “Hemet” (Majesty), and “Heret” (the Female Heru/Horus).


(pair-AH-’-AH with the ’ signifying a glottal stop) is the Kemetic pronunciation of “Pharaoh.” Due to the fairly late appearance of this term, Kemetic Orthodoxy prefers the term “Nisut” over “Per-a’a”.


(rem-ETJ) is a member of Kemetic Orthodoxy who has completed a beginners’ class and may or may not have been divined for Parent Netjer(u), but is interested in practicing other religions or wishes to remain just as a friend or observer, rather than a full convert, to the Religion. Remetj is a Kemetic word meaning “royal subjects.” Shemsu and Remetj are both welcome and equally respected in Kemetic Orthodoxy.


(pronounced sock) “appearance” is a full bodily possession of a trained priest by the ka of a deity (i.e., their Parent Netjer) during a state ritual. The word can also be used as a verb; to say “a priest is in saq” is to say they are currently possessed by Netjer. Saq is one of the most immediate and profound ritual experiences of Kemetic Orthodoxy.


(sen-eb-TEE or zeneb-TEE) is another parting phrase you will see when you talk to Shemsu or Remetj which was also used extensively in antiquity. It means “may you be healthy/well” and is an alternative to “farewell” or “goodbye.”


(SHEM-soo) is both the plural and singular term for “followers,” and today refers to Kemetic Orthodox devotees. Anyone who fully converts to the religion after the Rite of Parent Divination and receives a Kemetic name from our Nisut (AUS) is a Shemsu. When referring to a non-male follower, the spelling can be rendered “Shemset” (singular) or Shemsut (plural). In antiquity, a Shemsu was a member of the royal court, sworn to serve a Nisut as a “follower of the royal household”; in modern times, Kemetic Orthodox Shemsu take vows to serve their personal Netjeru as well as the Kemetic Orthodox community.


(SHEM-soo AHNKH) is a Shemsu who has taken additional vows via a special initiatory rite of passage called Weshem-ib (“testing of the heart”). Within this ritual, a Shemsu takes specific vows (one of the meanings of “ankh” is “sworn vow”) to serve, honor and protect the Netjeru, the Nisut and also the people of Kemetic Orthodoxy. Candidates for the Kemetic Orthodox priesthood are currently selected from the body of Shemsu-Ankh.