1. Why the IInd?
A. Actually, the name is filled with some odd synchronicities. A while back, Akana and I were joking about the perception that some people had that we were a single entity. They pretty much assumed that if one of us voiced opinion-X, the other would automatically feel the same way. Now while we do share a lot of the same ideas and experiences, we are different people and are bound to think differently about things, if only in the details. So as a joke we created a new Yahoo identity which combined our names: Sannifer.
Imagine our surprise when we discovered that there had actually been a Sennefer! He was a nobleman during the 18th Dynasty, the Mayor of Thebes and a close companion of the Pharoah, whose tomb was uncovered in the Valley of the Nobles. When I first saw the interior of the tomb, I was litterally struck dumb. It's unlike any other known mortuary monument that's come to light. Beautiful, stylized grape-vines decorate the inside, giving it it's name 'Tomb of the Vines'. Sennefer, who is depicted as a handsome young man with a genuine beard (as opposed to the traditional false beard that was popular at the time), is shown in scenes of domestic tranquility, offering sacrifices to the Gods, reclining in the arms of his wife, and undergoing the funerary rites which will restore his vitality, carefully administered by his beloved, without whom he could not conceive of existence in the world to come. Throughout, the spiritual and sensual are mingled, and instead of the generally somber, hieratic feel that one usually gets from Tombs - epitomized by the Judgement Scene where the heart is weighed on the Scales of Ma'at - this one felt completely different. It was almost as if one were looking at a representation of the Dionysian mysteries comparable to the Pompeii Frescoes. Of course the skeptic in me rebelled at the idea. The earliest documented presence of Dionysos in Greece was during the Ptolemaic period (or so I thought), which was considerably later than Sennefer's intombment. And yet, the feeling was undeniable. The more I studied the tomb and the scant references to Sennefer that we possess, the deeper the connection seemed. Each title or incident from Sennefer's life (and death) seemed to attest to a Dionysian presence, until I couldn't deny it any longer. The God that Sennefer worshipped, by whatever name he knew him by, was my God. This realization helped me break free from a rigid culturally-specific focus, and allowed me to explore my life-long interest in Egypt. So, in honor of him I have adopted the name of Sennefer II.
2. How can you worship Dionysos and still consider yourself a Kemetic?
A. This notion that you can only practice one religion at a time is really a modern concept which came into existence with the Jews and Christians who were trying to separate themselves from their neighbors and the mainstream culture in which they found themselves. For the ancients, religion was primarily about what one did and the relationship one had towards the divine - not necessarily a group of prepackaged dogmas which one had to adhere to to the exclusion of all else. Religion, as such, was a very fluid thing in antiquity, with new understandings and new Gods coming into being or falling out of the picture all the time. You have mysteries for Bendis at Athens, Isis' temple on the Capitol in Rome, and the worship of Mithras and Cybele flourishing throughout the Empire. Even in Egypt you find this openness to strange Gods: the worship of Syrian Gods such as Anat, Astarte, and Ba'al have been attested from an early time, and even the highly popular Bes was introduced from Punt. As I've shown in my article "A Strange God in Strange Lands", Dionysos was very much at home in the Two Lands. In fact, Herodotus believed that he was originally an Egyptian divinity. (2.49)
Although Dionysos has a unique place in my heart, and is foremost in my worship and my conception of myself - he is not the only God that I worship. There is also Asar, Aset, Heru, Nebt-Het, Set, Thoth, Anpu, Ra, Sekhmet, and the many lesser divinities of the Kemetic pantheon. The worship that I offer them is very much in the Kemetic style. I strive to live according to Ma'at in my thoughts and deeds. I honor the Akhu. I study the wise precepts of men such as Ptah-hotep, Ani, Amenemope, and Nefer-Rohu. My conception of the soul and the afterlife finds a deep resonance with what I've found in the Pyramid texts and the Books of the Dead. I read everything I can find on Kemetic history, philosophy, religion, and art. My thoughts and fantasies are saturated with Kemetic ideas, symbols, and imagery. I feel a connection to the Black Land deep in my bones, deep in my ka. In every way that matters, I am Kemetic.
But I am also a Dionysian, and that will never change. If He doesn't have a problem with my interest in Kemeticism, and the Neteru don't have a problem with Him - that's all that really matters to me.
3. So how does Crowley fit in there?
A. Well, I'm also a Thelemite. *g* That is to say, I accept the Law of Thelema; believe that each of us has a unique destiny, our True Will, to which we must aspire and allow nothing to hinder our fulfillment of; that there is something divine within each of us, and that when we are fulfilling our True Wills, that divinity is elevated; that each of the sparks of divinity seek unity with each other, which is Love, the governing force within the universe. I believe that Crowley was a Prophet whose mission was to remind our modern, secular world of what the great religious teachers and Mystery Priests had so often articulated in the past, and that the religion of Thelema, with its philosophies, disciplines, rituals, and magick, is eminently suited to helping one discover and attain their True Will.
4. Then why do a site devoted solely to Kemetic Reconstructionism?
A. Because Kemeticism is my religion, just as Thelema and Dionysianism are. It's teachings are beautiful, its rituals powerful, its insights profound. I am who I am because of my interest in Kemeticism, and I want to honor that strand in my personal DNA, just I have done with my Dionysianism previously, and will probably do with Thelema in the future. I am also relatively new to the religion - at least formally and in comparison to the years I've spent honoring Dionysos - and I want to have a place to showcase the new insights I glean from studying this path, the new rituals and poetry that I'm inspired to create, to have a chronicle of this part of my personal journey.
5. Will you be persuing membership with any of the Houses/Temples?
A. Not with Per Ankh. Their policy states quite explicitly that one cannot be a member and practice another religion or even have contact with other Kemetic groups outside of them. And hey, that's fine. It's their group: they get to dictate the rules. But I won't give up something as important as my God just to participate with them, nor will I turn my back on the insight I've gained from studying Thelema. House of Netjer is a different story, as their members are pretty much free to persue whatever other interests they have, at least until they reach the level of shemsu-ankh - which is entirely understandable. I'd be a little disconcerted by a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church who also led services for the local Wiccan Coven. But I do have some reservations about the group, and need to test the waters before I dive in head first. I don't really have any problems with the other groups, except perhaps for their relative inactivity compared to HoN - and some minor theological quibbles. But at this point, I'm willing to learn from everybody, and participate in whatever activities they offer. The way I see it, the more people out there working to revive the ancient religion of Kemet, the better.
6. What do you think is the biggest difference between the Kemetic and Hellenic Recon communities?
A. Well, it's really like comparing apples and oranges. Without being too harsh towards my former religion - I've worked past a lot of the lingering resentment and anger I once had concerning it - Kemeticism is light-years ahead of the Hellenes. There is only a minimal Hellenic presence off-line, and most Hellenic groups are stuck in the petty infighting, theological haggling, and dreaming about a time when there'll be enough members to hold the big, lavish public festivals again that they were doing five years ago. Few of them are willing to put in the hard work necessary to get results, and those that do are frequently attacked by their co-religionists. Kemeticism, on the other hand, has several major Temples and Houses, each with numerous members. They all offer courses, priesthood training, and a complex liturgy. Several of them offer workshops and festivals in the real world, and House of Netjer even owns land and operates a temple and seminary. That's a big difference - and it's something I'd like to see more of from the Hellenes, even if I no longer consider myself one.