Rev. Dr. Tamara L. Siuda
Kemetic Orthodoxy is more than a religion. It is a community and a way of life, forged and united under the leadership of a remarkable person. Her birth name is Tamara L. Siuda, and from 1996-2023, she was also Her Holiness Sekhenet-Ma'at-Ra, Hekatawy Alexandros, and Rev. Dr. Tamara, among other names, and the Nisut-Bity of our religion and community.
Nisut-Bity (Nisut-bityt in the feminine), sometimes translated as "sovereign," and literally "(S)he of the Sedge and Bee," is the title of a person sometimes called Pharaoh. Today as in antiquity, a Nisut acts as the spiritual and cultural leader of the people of Kemet. Upon coronation, a Nisut is charged with carrying out the will of Netjer (God(s), the divine creative force manifesting in many unique, independent Names as the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt or Kemet). A Nisut acts as a physical and spiritual bridge between humans and Netjer/the Netjeru. As our Nisut-bityt from 1996 to 2023, Rev. Dr. Tamara was recognized by the Kemetic Orthodox as the current incarnation of the kingly ka, the spirit of Heru co-resident in its spiritual leaders. At coronation, and in addition to the kingly ka, Rev. Dr. Tamara received names charging her with spiritual responsibility for, and setting the course of her mission within, the Kemetic Orthodox Religion.
That coronation took place in October and November 1996 in Egypt, at the traditional places such rituals have always been conducted, using ancient ritual forms. Rev. Dr. Tamara's coronation was not the beginning, but a further step in a lifelong journey of dedication to serving our Netjeru and Their people. Her involvement with ancient Egyptian religion began in 1988, while she was earning an undergraduate degree at Mundelein College, one of the United States' last all-women's secondary institutions. Rev. Dr. Tamara entered graduate study a decade later at the University of Chicago, and received a Master's degree in Egyptology in August 2000. She continued on to a second master's degree, this one in Coptic Studies, from Macquarie University in Australia in April 2008, and completed a Ph.D. in Religion at Claremont Graduate University in 2019. Rev. Dr. Tamara's dissertation studied the connections between Coptic Orthodox martyrology and the ancestor (or Akhu) veneration of pharaonic antiquity in Egypt.
In becoming Nisut, Rev. Dr. Tamara accepted the Netjeru's challenge: to revive Kemet's long-forgotten ways and bring them to a new generation. She dedicated three decades of her life to help bring the love and wisdom of ma'at to a modern world sorely in need of it. The Kemetic Orthodox Religion continues this work today, in more than 30 countries and multiple languages, online and offline. Rev. Dr. Tamara encourages us to do more than practice the religion of the Netjeru. She presses us to be active in local causes, serve in charitable work, and put the principles of Ma'at into action. Her emphasis on service and faith with action is embodied in her own work, from actively supporting interreligious service projects and other charitable and humanitarian causes. Rev. Dr. Tamara is a member of the Institute for Signifying Scriptures, an interdisciplinary organization constructing and advancing a new mode of critical inquiry into social-discursive formation. She has contributed in many ways, from presenting scholarly papers, writing books, and offering volunteer assistance, to working with spiritual leaders in polytheist and Indigenous traditions around the world, from the Haudenosaunee (Onondaga) and Métis peoples she belongs to on her mother's side, to the Haitians she has come to know and join with as an initiate of their Vodou tradition, as well as others in Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
More than anything else, Rev. Dr. Tamara teaches a simple message that transcends religious boundaries. Every human being has a vital role to play, no matter who they are or what they are capable of, and we each have a responsibility for each other and all the other peoples and beings in Creation. "I was taught that the Netjeru don't make junk," she says. "If you accept that, once you believe you are a hand-crafted, deliberate formation of Their will, loved and cherished from the moment of your making, then you can understand why you are important. Once you believe that everyone else is a divine creation as well - then you understand why they are important, and why you must help them in any way you can."
This stance is the foundation of the challenge Rev. Dr. Tamara sets for those who would accept her as a teacher, and for the Kemetic Orthodox Religion she founded. We embrace our nature as children of the Divine, and in doing so, spread ma'at throughout the world. Kemetic Orthodoxy, she stresses, is not an easy religion to embrace, nor does it provide simple answers. "Following our religion, or any religion, requires commitment, along with a willingness to work towards goals, rather than expect them to come with no effort. The Netjeru do answer our prayers, but They also expect us to help answer them, if it's in our power. They want each and every one of us to take the power They give us for ourselves and our world into our hands, to work with Them to change the world, rather than simply wander through life doing what we're told, or without being involved on all levels of the journey."
Kemet Today Archives