Lately I have been getting the distinct sense that my Akhu – my beloved ancestors – would like me to honor them by retaining or reverting back to some of my childhood Jewish traditions. I admit that, ever since becoming Kemetic (which puts a lot of stake in honoring one’s ancestors), I’ve felt a bit disconnected from my Akhu. Part of the issue is that I really just don’t know most of the people who have died in my family (as they’ve all died before my time, so far), so many of my Akhu are literally “unknown names” to me (well, I might know some of their names, but I never knew them in person)…one thing that is certain, however, is that nearly 100% of them were Jewish. I know this for a fact, I did research on my ancestry in middle school (it was a long time ago, but I remember). My ancestors were basically Russian, Latvian, and Polish Jews (I had a few British ones in there too, actually), lucky enough to eventually escape Europe before the Holocaust began taking place in full. I’m actually incredibly lucky to be alive – whether by simple good fortune or good timing or because they themselves made conscious choices based on the signs around them, my ancestors survived a time period during which millions of other Jewish family lines did not survive.
And I have not been doing a very good job of honoring that.
Since joining the Kemetic Orthodoxy’s beginner’s course in January, I have adapted quite nicely to nearly all that they’ve had to teach me – except one thing: I’ve been struggling with Akhu veneration. Though my teachers said it might take time, I feel an emptiness when I address my Akhu during Senut (my daily ritual). I sometimes even try to leave extra libations for them on Fridays.
But it occurs to me: maybe that’s not the right way to go about honoring them in my case.
It was yesterday that I recalled something one of my teachers told me during the start of the KO beginner’s course: “Some people find that their Akhu prefer to be honored in the religious traditions that they knew well in life, not necessarily in a Kemetic way.” The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me: of course my Akhu would not care much for a Kemetic hymn/ritual in their honor, that’s not something they would be at all familiar with.
My Akhu would, however, recognize the Mourner’s Kaddish, the Hebrew prayer said in remembrance of those who have passed on. They would recognize and appreciate some Kosher red wine, a common Jewish ritual drink. They would recognize, not necessarily some incense and a water libation on Fridays, but the lightning of two candles, in honor of, not them, but the Jewish Sabbath.
And so I debated: would bringing back some Jewish traditions into my life help forge a deeper connection with my Akhu? If yes, how could I go about it respectfully, while still honoring Netjer and Kemeticism? Could it be possible to incorporate aspects of both into my spiritual life?
I already study Kabbalah, and use much of Kabbalistic magic in my own heka. I don’t do a lot of magic, I’m too grounded of a person (I wouldn’t even call myself a “witch”, not really). Not that magic is bad, in fact, I wish I felt called to do more of it! But when I do perform heka, or magic, I use Hebrew sigils – the system of Gematria. Sometimes I wonder why I fell into that habit…I’ve used Kabbalistic magic for as long as I can remember doing anything related to magic. Three, four years ago? When I first researched Paganism – even before that…definitely before I found Kemeticism. So something about it must have stuck with me…maybe it was the whisper of Judaism from my youth, calling me home.
And in many ways, Judaism is my home. It was for 16 years or so. And then I went through a huge change, an undoable change.
I realized that I’m a polytheist.
You don’t just…revoke that realization, not in my book. I felt the God Anpu in 2010 (my first experience with a Kemetic God). I felt the Kami of Japan, knew they were around me all the time; I have felt them every time that I have lived there, and especially at the top of Mt. Fuji, where the Old Man Himself resides. I have met wonderful, amazing, lovely people who are not making up their experiences. I know they experience Persephone, Hecate, Loki, Kali, and a slew of other Deities from around the world/from many ancient cultures. I have met tolerant, humble Christians, who believe and know so strongly in their hearts that Jesus and their God exist. I know people who are discovering new Gods as we speak! How can I deny these people? How can I deny myself? I have spoken with the Egyptian Gods – I speak with Them regularly! – as well as Woden. For me, denying that the world is full of Gods is like denying that the sky is blue. I just know it’s true. I have experienced it, and it’s been proven for me. And unlike others, who may have realized it and said, “I see it, but I can’t do it,” I have been asked to “do it” also. Netjer wants my service. And I want to give it.
But how does one who has given service to other Gods, and wants to continue to do so, approach Adonai and Judaism again after 8 long years of growth and change? It’s not like simply approaching just any God from a different Pantheon – such as when I was dealing with Woden (from the Norse Pantheon). No, it’s different…it’s different because Adonai Himself is His own Pantheon: He has asked that only those willing to put Him first and above all Others come forward to honor Him. I can’t do that. I don’t think I ever even really did that as a child, but I knew much less then about the rest of the world and what to label feelings and inspirations and ideas. For good or for bad, I am a changed woman. How can Adonai and I reconcile our differences now, when He does not want me to come back if I’m not willing to come on His terms, and I don’t want to go back unless it’s on my terms?
All I want is to honor my Akhu. And I admit, I sometimes miss Judaism. Maybe it’s because I miss my family. In fact, I know it’s because I miss my family, and my family traditions.
Can a polytheist be culturally Jewish? Can one be Jewish without Adonai? Can one be Kemetic while still embracing Jewish traditions?
I did a Tarot reading last night asking for guidance in the above matters. I basically put the above questions out to all the Gods – “Guide me in this.” I highly suspect the God that answered me was Adonai Himself. The card I pulled that indicated it might be Him was a card from my Saqqara deck called “The Lord of Defeat.” The God I had essentially walked away from. But His advice for me was not all loss and sorrow. There was a reconciliation in there that I did not expect: essentially, I was told, “have confidence in a self-imposed system.” Rest from the battle, from the debate of polytheism vs. monotheism, Kemetic vs. Jewish, and simply do whatever feels right.
It’s true: religion should not be a battle. It should be a comfort, and a fulfillment. Too many people forget that, I think.
My Akhu deserve better. They deserve to know that I loved them, and their traditions, and that I loved my childhood and never walked away from Judaism out of bitterness or anger (like some have from other childhood faith experiences, usually for their own betterment and happiness). I am lucky in that regard. Something very important to the Jewish culture is heritage. While I don’t subscribe to the more conservative belief that Jews must marry Jews (obviously I will not be doing such), I do think it’s important that we remember our roots. If we, as Jews, ever choose to walk other paths, we ought to at least remember our past. We should remember our culture, our traditions, our history, our people, and our stories. Mythology is mythology – one can learn as much from the Old Testament or the Talmud as from the Kemetic myths.
For me, Judaism is as much an ethnicity as it is a religion. I was raised with “Jewish values” – perhaps they are no different from anyone else’s values, but that’s what my Mother used to call them. And the truth is, I would not be the spiritual person I am today if it weren’t for my family’s beliefs and spiritual openness. My Akhu were very much a part of that openness, as well. From the stories I’ve heard, it sounds like they were, anyway.
So maybe it’s time to return to halacha – to Jewish “law/tradition,” and honor my ancestors the way they would probably like most to be honored. In the face of whatever criticism might come my way (from other Jews; from other Pagans; from those who would argue that an Abrahamic faith and a Pagan one can never be merged in any way), I feel this is the best way to go about it. And perhaps a bit of my own changed soul will be able to make peace with the past.
They shall build houses and dwell in them,
They shall plant vineyards and enjoy their fruits,
and like the days of a tree
shall be the days of my people.”