Biography of Rev. Tamara Siuda (Hekatawy)
Seals of Her Holiness Hekatawy
Alexandros, Nisut-bityt of the
Kemetic Orthodox Religion
Kemetic Orthodoxy is more than a religion: it is a community, a culture, and a way of life, forged and united under the leadership of one remarkable woman. Her birth name is Tamara L. Siuda, and she is also Her Holiness Sekhenet-Ma'at-Ra, Hekatawy Alexandros, and Rev. Tamara, among other names. Sometimes, we also refer to Rev. Tamara as Hemet (an ancient Egyptian word used to refer to a Nisut, translated either as "majesty" or "sacred incarnation").
Nisut-Bity (Nisut-bityt in the feminine), sometimes translated as "sovereign," literally "(S)he of the Sedge and Bee," is the title of a person sometimes called Pharaoh: today as in antiquity, the spiritual and cultural leader of the Kemetic nation. Upon coronation, a Nisut is charged with carrying out the will of Netjer (God(s), or the divine creative force that manifests in many unique, independent Names as the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt (Kemet)). A Nisut acts as a physical and spiritual bridge between humans and Netjer/the Netjeru. As Nisut-bityt (often shortened to "Nisut"), Rev. Tamara is recognized by the Kemetic Orthodox as the current incarnation of the kingly ka, the invested spirit of Heru co-resident in its spiritual leaders. Upon coronation as Nisut, Rev. 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 are conducted, using the ancient ritual forms. Rev. Tamara's coronation was not the beginning, but a further step in a lifelong journey of dedication to serving our deities and Their people. Her involvement with ancient Egyptian religion began in 1988, while she was earning an undergraduate degree from Mundelein College, one of the United States' last all-women's secondary institutions. Rev. Tamara entered graduate study a decade later at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, and received a Master's degree in Egyptology from the University in August 2000. She continued on to get a second master's degree, this one in Coptic Studies, from Macquarie University in Australia in April 2008, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the department of religion at Claremont Graduate University. Her dissertation researches links between Coptic Orthodox martyrology and the ancestor (or Akhu) veneration of pharaonic antiquity in Egypt.
In becoming Nisut, Rev. Tamara accepted the Netjeru's challenge: to revive Kemet's long-forgotten ways and bring them to a new generation, helping to return the love and wisdom of ma'at to a modern world sorely in need of it. Several decades later, the Kemetic Orthodox Religion continues its work in the world, in more than 30 countries and in multiple languages, online and offline. She encourages the Kemetic Orthodox to do more than practice the religion of the Netjeru, as well. She encourages 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 as well, from actively supporting the Parliament of World Religions, the United Religions Initiative, and interreligious service projects. Rev. Tamara is a member of the Institute for Signifying Scriptures, an organization constructing and advancing a new mode of critical inquiry into social-discursive formation. She has contributed to the world 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, and others in Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
More than anything else, Rev. Tamara teaches a simple message that transcends religious boundaries: every human being has a vital role to play in the world, 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 gods 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 can 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. Tamara sets for those who would accept her as a teacher, and for the Kemetic Orthodox Religion she founded: to embrace one's nature as a child of the Divine, and in doing so, to 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 prayers, but They also expect us to help answer them, if that's in our power. They want each and every one of us to take the power They have given 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."
These are potent words from this scholar, teacher, and spiritual leader, as she carries her nation of a religion and its people forward into a new century and a new world.