Empathy for the House of Netjer

Last night, I saw a series of blog posts from members of the House of Netjer (HoN) noting that they are currently in financial difficulties and asking for community support.  The posts serve as a reminder to anyone who forgets that religious organizations are as reliant on financial assistant as individuals, and that tangible resources are necessary for an organism to survive and thrive.

This post is not a call to donate to HoN, although that community needs some support.  It is, instead, a statement of the empathy I feel for its members, for those who believe wholeheartedly in the community and its work, for those who follow its teachings, for those who do senut, and who celebrate festivals according to the Kemetic Orthodox calendar.  For those who believe, and support others in that belief.  For the onion hoers, and the priests.  For those who are hem(t)-netjer.

For those who Trust.  I empathize most with you.

I am Kemetic.  I hold fast to the idea that community must be developed and nurtured and perpetuated.  I hold to the concept of ma’at and that it must be developed and nurtured and perpetuated, lest isfet infest and unmake.  And, I hold to the idea that in ma’at there is community, and in community there is ma’at and that I have a responsibility to Speak in order to continue and improve.

I am not always good at subtle; the first of the Names that came to me was Sekhmet and she is very good at ma’at at any cost.  I am becoming better at this, although parts of me still long for subtlety, to work things out one-on-one, and to address those I believe have forgotten ma’at in private rather than in public.

But the time for that has passed.  It is time for me to Speak Up, to say publicly what I tried to say privately:

The recent actions of the Nisut tell me that the HoN no longer has a head.

To be the God-King, especially in diaspora where no larger civil structures are in place, is not to be a titular head, or a leader in Name only.  In a community where Words Mean Things, where language is heka and heka is language, calling oneself the Nisut implies certain actions…and those actions are not occurring.  Worse yet, to my mind, there has been no owning up to this as far as I can see, save for some throwaway comments at a recent Pagan Event about it being assumed that her attendance at the World Conference of Religions some years ago was related to Kemeticism, followed by a laugh.

Well, yes.

When one is the self-professed leader of a Kemetic organization, when one claims to have been crowned by the gods and given the kingly ka, it is expected that one wear that mantle seriously.  To represent oneself as a leader in another faith while retaining the title of Nisut; to hold a discussion about Kemetic beliefs in a conference suite reserved for a Sosyete; to run from the role one claims to hold to another is shameful.

You, Tamara Siuda, should be ashamed of yourself.

How dare you call yourself their Nisut and not nourish them?  How dare you not open the granaries, and how dare you reduce the community you built – and now seemingly ignore – to the point of begging assistance from the pagan community at large?

For the sake of those who were once your people (and are now something else entirely), I hope your abdication comes soon.

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31 responses to “Empathy for the House of Netjer

  1. Do me a favor? Kindly untag my post from yours, and keep your sniping to yourself.

    It’s fine if you don’t like Kemetic Orthodoxy. It’s fine that you don’t want to be part of it, or support it, and it’s even fine that you don’t like the idea of a primus inter pares and/or Tamara personally. I’m not asking you to *like* Tamara, Kemetic Orthodoxy, or any of us Kemetic Orthodox. But deliberately misrepresenting what our Nisut (as in the office and the role) is within Kemetic Orthodoxy, and what Tamara herself does (hint: she’s not a “God,” even if the Kingly Ka is holy and the office of Nisut is itself sacred), is beyond rude and unnecessarily antagonistic, to say the least, and we could all do without the needless and baseless attempts at character assassination.

    In your case, you can best empathize with us and support us — if you really do care, which, judging by this diatribe you’ve published, I severely doubt — by not insulting our denomination, and by not infantalizing us and condescending to us (through personalized attacks on our denomination’s head and the way we “keep house”) on account of some *emergency repair costs* to a physical building maintained by *a nonprofit religious organization — “nonprofit” in legalese meaning that the organization doesn’t generate its own capital, and that the people who manage it don’t profit from it, and so cannot distribute any surplus capital to the organization’s shareholders (or equivalents) as dividends.

    Thanks.

    • Tag removed, as you requested.

      I understand how a non-profit works, but I appreciate your explanation. It will, no doubt, be very useful to those who don’t.

      I care about the Kemetic community as a whole and, for what it is worth, my issue is not with HoN, or its practices, or its people. I do, however, have a problem with anyone who claims one Name – and all of its attendant trappings – and then acts in a fashion that appears to be the antithesis of that Name.

      I’m also aware that there are probably loads of things that the members of HoN know that I do not, being that I am not a member. What I have to go by is *direct* observation of behavior, and my own beliefs require that I mention it.

      The topic is uncomfortable, and I recognize that by bringing it up I have likely offended a great number of people. For the latter, I can only take responsibility for my own actions, and recognize where I need to do better in the future.

      • Thank you for at least honoring my request to remove the link to my post. I’ll start by saying that.

        It’s pretty obvious by the following that you *don’t* understand how nonprofit religious organizations work, though:

        <>

        Nonprofits survive on charitable donations. End of. Tamara doesn’t make money as the Nisut. It’s **not** a for-profit organization. There’s no surplus she brings in as Nisut to be distributed, no “granary” she can just bust open to magically fix every financial problem that affects the Temple’s operation, and its members. There are no membership fees to keep the Temple afloat. It stays afloat solely on the donations of members and helpful sponsors outside the Temple. The Secret Cow program, to help out members in need, anonymously? The members fund that with their donations, for other members. There’s no “tax” that comes out of us to make these and other programs happen; we have to donate of our own volition. Moreover, a lot of members, particularly Shemsu and above, have donated their individual talents, on their own time and on their own dime, to help make the Temple what it is today. The only thing that has a defined monetary cost is the Rite of Parent Divination, and that money goes straight to offerings for that rite, *offerings for the Gods.* It doesn’t go to Tamara’s personal bank account. She doesn’t make money from any of this.

        A lot of our pocketbooks have been hurting, for a long time. Hence some of us asking for outside help from assorted “Pagans” and polytheists who are *inclined* to help, which you’re obviously not, so there’s no need for you to participate in any way, or say anything. Especially considering that it’s obvious you don’t know what our Temple is actually about, and don’t understand what our Nisut does — it costs nothing to find out, you just have to take the Beginner’s Course and become a Remetj, and you can see it all — this is definitely an instance of “not thinking / knowing before speaking.”

        What you’ve written is not “offensive” because it’s “uncomfortable.” It’s insulting because you are trashing someone’s reputation needlessly with flurries of melodramatic “HOW DARE YOU” rhetoric, and it’s insulting because you are impugning the intelligences of Kemetic Orthodox members for being the least bit associated with Tamara. And you’re doing this at a time when people are simply politely asking for volunteers to help keep their Temple running this month, in the wake of some emergency expenses that piled up and accrued interest because donations have been low for some months. It’s a bad economic climate, for everyone except the richest of the rich (which Tamara is absolutely not), and it’s not something Tamara uniquely and magically incurred because “she’s a bad Nisut.” Such a statement is ignorant to the nth degree. Though you didn’t think it through before hitting the “publish” button, your statement also conveys some incredibly awful implications about others who suffer the all-to-common misfortune of being poor and finding themselves hurting for financial assistance. Bad things don’t only happen to bad people who do bad things.

        Moreover, Tamara is also a Mambo outside of Kemetic Orthodoxy, and she’s been a Mambo *for years.* She’s not “running” from anything. Like a lot of us, she engages in more than one religious tradition separately. Like most things in life, there’s a time and a place for the duties she performs. She has a lot of responsibilities, and none of them are particularly glorious. If anything, it’s a series of largely thankless jobs that makes her a lightning rod for a lot of pointless hate and ridicule. But, thankfully, this sort of meanness doesn’t stop her from doing what she does, and she’s a damn sight better at managing these sorts of responsibilities than most of us. Above all, she is very much there for all of us in the Temple, even as the membership grows. She gives us a lot of help and advice for free, that most people would charge for, and is exceedingly patient. She’s helped me out of a couple research binds before, and has taken the time out of her day to counsel me on some religious dilemmas I’ve had in the past.

        I’ve been with the Temple for four years now, and I wasn’t always as sure of it (or Tamara) as I am now. You should probably try getting to know the Temple and how it works, and try getting to know Tamara as a human being, before saying this kind of shit off the cuff.

        Finally: “Just saying” isn’t ma’at. If you haven’t read Maulana Karenga’s treatise on ma’at and “ma’atian ethics,” you really ought to. If you have, methinks you really ought to read it again.

      • You’re welcome.

        I’ll say it again: I do know how non-profits work. I work part-time for one. Fund-raising for operational costs is a constant, ongoing thing – the money coming in must match the money going out. The planning and fund-raising for the next year starts as soon as the calendar turns to the current one. While one of the things I was driving at with my “open the granaries” statement was directly-related to financial assistance, it was not the only thing. Planning for the fallow times, the times of famine, can mitigate some of the “holy shit, the boiler blew” panic, and it is something I’d expect a community leader of any stripe to be able to do, or to get help doing. This, after all, is why they are leaders.

        Ma’at is served by speaking out when injustice is perceived, and also by pointing out the flaws in the argument. I think we’re both on the side of ma’at at the moment.

        As I said in my response to Devo, the request for donation posts were a catalyst for this post, but not the root cause. The root cause is what appears to be contradictory behavior. If you, and other members of HoN, do not see it that way, well, you are closer to the source than I.

      • In response to the first paragraph. If Tamara doesn’t make any money from the temple, Why is she receiving a salary as listed in the financials from the HoN’s website?

        I appreciate the transparency in releasing this information to the public, but I’m scratching my head as to why she would be the only one to receive any monetary compensation when the HoN is not run by just her. There is staff and I would hope being a good sized organization there would be a financial branch when it comes to the finances.

        If there was one within the organization and they volunteered, good for them. If there was outside help, that would be a consulting fees not listed, unless, once again, the services were offered for free. If there isn’t anyone working on that end, there’s a small problem that would be amplified later on that could lead to long-term problems and the temple having to shut down.

        Non-profit only means they don’t turn a profit, which means “all money is used” before deadlines. Non-profits can cycle through as much money as they want.

      • Okay, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of what “making money” means in this context. Tamara is not by any means “getting rich” off of her ‘salary.’ Her ‘salary’ is also taxed — which, if you bothered to go to the IRS website and look at their “tax topics” page, they cover how clergy ‘salaries’ work, and how clergy ‘salary’ taxation works — and the bylaws of the Temple state that if funds are lacking the Temple does not have to dip into its coffers to pay Tamara for her job as Nisut. Tamara’s “income” is taxed. The Temple’s income is not taxed.

        Tamara is the only full-time clergy and “employee” of the Temple. The other priests in the Temple are not. The bylaws do provide for other people to be compensated, should the board vote for that to happen. It has not yet done so, and probably won’t in the foreseeable future, because nobody other than Tamara is full-time.

        Also, volunteers are called “volunteers” for a reason. There is no monetary compensation for that. They are not employees. Tamara is the only actual “employee” the Temple has.

        I hope that clears the matter up for you.

      • I didn’t say Ms Siuda was getting rich, I was saying she is getting paid, and yes her income is taxed because income is taxed.

        If someone makes a dollar, that’s a dollar they wouldn’t have before, therefore making money. Yeah, it’s not making ANYONE “rich”, but it’s making money.

        Thanks for the clarification as to why Tamara is the only salaried clergy member, it cleared up much of my confusion.

      • Addendum: Apparently the section of your piece I cited was omitted from my last response. For clarity’s sake, this is the section I was responding to in particular.

        “You, Tamara Siuda, should be ashamed of yourself.

        How dare you call yourself their Nisut and not nourish them? How dare you not open the granaries, and how dare you reduce the community you built – and now seemingly ignore – to the point of begging assistance from the pagan community at large?”

  2. I’m honestly confused by this post? What exactly has Tamara done that is so bad? Holding positions and titles in two different religions isn’t necessarily or inherently bad, and if the gods themselves are okay with how she is juggling both of these roles… then who are we to say that she’s doing it wrong?

    In terms of money, that’s not really tamara’s issue inasmuch as it’s the nature of the current world we live in. There are many groups that are in and almost constant need of money because members can’t afford to help, or don’t want to put their money where their mouth is. That’s not really a reflection on Tamara.

    Given that both the lack of resources and the jugging of two titles at once is not a new thing, I’m genuinely confused as to why you decided to need to speak now (as opposed to earlier, or at all). And I’m equally confused as to what this post is supposed to do or accomplish? I’ll be the first to say that KO has some issues, but running an org is very hard, and I give Tamara credit for doing what no one else has successfully done. I think it’s really easy to tear her down when we ourselves have not managed to accomplish what she has.

    So yeah, I guess I’m just confused?

    • Fair points, as always, and I’ll try to address them.

      My need to speak out on this topic stems from my attendance at Paganicon this year, and the request for donation posts were just a catalyst. The sessions I went to – including one on Pagan Leadership and Community Building – started a train of thought that was bolstered by observation of Siuda at that conference. Her actions lead me to believe she was there in one role and not the other, and the token attempt that was made to address the other appeared as just that: a token attempt.

      In addition, the above plays into my problem with holding leadership roles in multiple traditions, especially ones like Nisut and Mambo. I cannot speak to Siuda’s agreement with her gods; what I can speak to is my observation of her actions. If it is difficult to juggle competing leadership roles at a weekend conference, imagine how much more difficult it must be in daily life, especially with graduate school thrown into the mix. I have a difficult time imagining anyone being able to balance the workload, especially with the emphasis on community building in the trads she chose, and what I saw leads me to believe that it is KO that is suffering as a result.

      Again, though, I am not an HoN member and can only go by what I see from the outside.

      I have spent a couple of years puzzled by the role of Nisut and I do not understand it as a member of HoN would. If, however, one is simply a spiritual leader, why a coronation in Egypt? Why the title of Nisut? Why a throne? And, if the title of Nisut and what it entails is no longer accurate given other activities, why continue to keep it?

      Everything I mentioned in my post was initially asked in private, and I can only imagine that my attempt wasn’t successful…which is why I felt that is was in ma’at to do a blog post. However, if the members of the House are satisfied and happy and their needs are met, then I am manufacturing an issue where none exists, and it is my own perception that is the problem.

      If that is the case, all I can do is recognize it and attempt to do better in the future.

      • re: paganicon — but… she *was* there in one role and not the other? she was specifically requested as a guest of honor *as a mambo.* i’m a member of the house of netjer, and i went to paganicon to see her in full knowledge of this. you don’t speak for me.

      • I actually wasn’t trying to speak for anyone but myself, but good to have that clarified. Thanks.

        I also wasn’t aware that attending an event as a leader of one community meant that a tie to another community would be moved to the side. That’s also good to know.

      • I second what Ubenet said. Tamara was invited to Paganicon by Llewellyn, the publishers of her book “Hatian Vodou.” She was invited there as Mambo Chita Tann to represent Vodou, and by extension to promote her book and Llewellyn. Her “token attempt” to represent KO was her taking the time from what she was expected to do at Paganicon to give local House members some time to have community. She didn’t need to do that, yet she did. How is that running away from or ignoring her role as Nisuit?

        Of course, you’d know that if you took two minutes to actually ask the woman (or any of the other KO folks who were there) about this. But no. Instead, you somehow you decided that it was better to serve ma’at by wallowing in ignorance and resentment, and then write this horrible, trite, condescending, misinformed piece of garbage. That you so easily judge an organization you so clearly have absolutely no clue about is disgusting. Just. Stop.

      • I did, actually, ask about this before I posted, as I noted in some of the comments below.

        I’ll say it one more time: I am not judging the HoN. I am judging the observable actions of one person. The fact that so many people are reading this as an attack on HoN is telling me that I was unclear about my own point-of-view, and that I need to do better moving forward.

      • “I actually wasn’t trying to speak for anyone but myself”

        that’s good to know. why, then, did you say “For the sake of those who were once your people” in your original post? that implies at the very least multiple individuals, and i took it to mean the people of the house of netjer, of which you clearly state you are not one. am i misunderstanding?

        “I also wasn’t aware that attending an event as a leader of one community meant that a tie to another community would be moved to the side. That’s also good to know.”

        why would this not be the case? if i’m hired to teach a genetics class, it would be absurd for me to insist on there being equal time for me to teach about chemistry.

      • I said “for the sake of those who were once your people” because it appears to me that the care a religious leader should be taking for the community isn’t present, and I care about the Kemetic community as a whole. Also, while I am not KO, I am Kemetic, and she is the “public voice” whether I want her to be or not.

        If you are hired to teach a genetics class, the fact that you also can teach chemistry doesn’t go away, nor will you ignore it if someone asks, I reckon.

      • “If you are hired to teach a genetics class, the fact that you also can teach chemistry doesn’t go away, nor will you ignore it if someone asks, I reckon.”

        well, no — and Rev. Siuda didn’t stop being the Nisut while she was being a Mambo, and she did do kemetic programming on her own time, and spoke about it when asked, so i really don’t understand what your problem is, here.

      • I have two problems here, actually:

        1. Kemeticism and Haitian Vodou are not the same thing and to hold an instruction session/Q&A on KO in a space reserved for practitioners of a different religion strikes me as disrespectful, especially when there were other places this talk could have occurred.

        2. Aside from that 2 hour session, I saw nothing to lead me to believe that her role as Mambo hasn’t superseded her role as Nisut.

        I’m also curious about the dual-trad-leadership position because it is pretty “well-known” that holding leadership positions in KO and another trad is, or was, frowned upon.

      • Okay, let me try this again, even if you don’t respond, for the sake of clarity:

        well, no — and Rev. Siuda didn’t stop being the Nisut while she was being a Mambo, and she did do kemetic programming on her own time, and spoke about it when asked, so i really don’t understand what your problem is, here.

        From my own point of view, holding Kemetic programming in the fashion she did is problematic because it tacitly links Vodou and Kemeticism together. Even if KO and Haitian Vodou have similarities, Kemeticism and Vodou are not the same thing. I know that, you know that, but someone new to both traditions might not.

        In addition, the way she addressed Kemeticism in the final keynote bothered me – the language she used implied that it was silly for anyone at the World Conference of Religions to think of her as Nisut when she was clearly attending from a Vodou perspective.

        For me, as a Kemetic unaffiliated with HoN, Siuda’s actions are a problem because she is a public face of Kemeticism in general, and people are watching to see how she acts. I did not see her treat Kemeticism with the amount of respect that I would expect from someone in her position, and when I asked about it, I received no response. That last bit is upsetting, because for all that I may not agree with the way she leads, I have no doubt that she is a brilliant scholar and I was interested in hearing her take on things.

        I also distinctly remember a directive that indicated that anyone intending to attain a leadership role in KO needed to know that they could not also hold a similar role in another tradition. Now, that was some years ago (2012, maybe?), and the position on that has probably changed, but it is one of those things that non-HoN members “know” about HoN. When I paired what I “knew” with what I observed, I came up with an issue.

        There have been a number of people commenting here to say that I shouldn’t judge, or criticize, when I am not part of the organization and do not know Siuda. Well, in my mind, and in my practice, criticism is required, lest we become stagnant, and just as I don’t have to know a politician personally to criticize their politics, I do not have to know a religious leader personally to criticize how they lead.

  3. Vodou is not a religion, it is a spiritual practice. Similar to any spirit working.

    If you are not in the House of Netjer, you can’t really make assumptions about what is provided and to whom. Much too complicated a matter.

    If you are not part of the structure of the priesthood, volunteers, or fundraising staff you should not comment on the support or finances of said organization.

    If ‘shaming’ someone is part of Ma’at…..yeah

    Also, as Mambo Chita Tann is under contract not only for her book, appearances, and con trips she has no control over ANY con going on.

    • This probably shows my ignorance, but I’ve never heard Vodou or any of the ATRs/ADRs referred to as anything but religions. Would you be willing to share your source on this? I’m always interested in learning more.

      My statements are not about the workings of HoN, but on the observed actions of their leader. While a ‘con attendee has no control over the ‘con itself, they still have control over their own actions.

      Shaming in a blog post came only after the questions were asked privately in an attempt to resolve my own thoughts on the matter. When no response was received, I posted here. And, ma’at is served in many ways and not all of them are pretty.

      • “This probably shows my ignorance, but I’ve never heard Vodou or any of the ATRs/ADRs referred to as anything but religions. Would you be willing to share your source on this? I’m always interested in learning more.”

        Perhaps this is a difference between Haitian vodou and the other diasporic traditions, but vodou isn’t a religion. Many people outside of vodou think of it as a religion, but many people outside of vodou have a lot of thoughts about it that aren’t accurate. The lwa are not deities. They are spirits that are served and that serve us in return. They are not worshipped. And, in point of fact, if you ask almost any Haitian what religion they are, they will answer that they are Catholic.

        I’m not really going to try to engage in debate with you about your points. I don’t feel that that is in any way constructive or effective. I disagree with you because of my personal experiences with Mambo T and the HoN. But since the words of members of HoN explaining, very reasonably, why they feel you are incorrect in your judgments hasn’t dissuaded you, why should I expect any difference? I will say, however, that I have been an initiate of Haitian vodou for the last 19 years, and can say that it is a spiritual practice, it is a way of life, but it isn’t really a religion. It’s just that the framework of “religion” is the easiest for non-vodouissaints to understand.

  4. veggiewolf said: “The root cause is what appears to be contradictory behavior. If you, and other members of HoN, do not see it that way, well, you are closer to the source than I.”

    Exactly.

    I don’t know whom you “asked in private” but I can tell you that your perceptions are incorrect. The real shame is that you felt the need to publically call out someone you obviously know so little about. As one of the beginners instructors I am quite happy to answer any questions you may have. Please feel free to contact me, and I hope you will find it within ma’at to apologize.

    • Apologizing for bringing the topic up, and writing about it, would not be in ma’at in this instance. Ma’at does not always equate to “nice”.

      However, your response, along with those from other HoN members, indicates to me that the KO community does not see the same issue I do, and that’s fine. It’d be a mighty boring world to live in if we all agreed on everything.

  5. I would like to add my two-cents in on this comment: even though we all don’t have to agree, attempting to tell others we don’t have the right to reply is problematic for community, and that is what I am seeing in this chain in defense of Tamara Siuda. We just need to get to know her, we just need to learn about KO and that will clear everything up.

    No it won’t.

    I’m pretty sure from my own experience if I wanted to learn about KO I could reach out, but I don’t want to learn about it because it’s not my DOGMA.

    Dogma, in it’s definition (taken from Merriam-Webster) is:

    : a belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted

    : a belief or set of beliefs that is taught by a religious organization

    I would like to call attention to one of the tenets of KO is the ACCEPTANCE of Tamara Siuda as GOD-KING. If she is not claiming God-Kingship she is not claiming the responsibility of the KIngly Ka, therefore “the sun doesn’t rise”. Where is the questioning? If you are going to claim Nisut, then CLAIM it.

    Why is it one minute she’s a God-KIng and the next she’s the “Spiritual Leader”? It changes year to year and sometimes month to month since this sparring match started. In my own experience, EVERYONE who I’ve met in KO told me from the get-go about their God-King. It wasn’t, “Hey fellow Kemetic, let’s share information, because community, high-five, yeah!” It was “We have a God-King as our leader, and she’s so cool.”

    We do know this is how abusive cults start, right? The whole no-questioning, because FAITH in PERSON not in the ROLE. How about faith in self and principles, and the role being fulfilled.”YAY! The sun is rising”. Guess what, all of us Kemetics make the sun rise each day in what we do. It’s not super-special secret power, it just IS.

    I won’t challenge Tamara Siuda’s character, because I don’t know her. I will challenge how she attempts to represent the Kemetic community and the choices she makes for said representation.

    I find problems with how Ms. Siuda treated her role as NISUT (GOD-KING) at Paganicon in greater detail in my own response to the representation of Kemeticism at Paganicon: https://withinthewateryheavens.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/response-from-paganicon-in-regards-to-community/

    and guess what, this is MY community as much as it is any other Kemetics I suggest we all start looking at our community and make decisions where we want to be rather than whose part of the cool kids club.

    Veggiewolf, as a Kemetic concerned for the community health, I stand with you.

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