Frequently Asked Questions
The word Wo’se (pronounced ‘Wo-say”) comes from Waset, the name of a capital city in Ancient Egypt (referred to herein as Kemet). Our version of the name comes from the classic book, The Destruction of Black Civilization written by the great scholar, Dr. Chancellor Williams, who called it ”the most important single city in the entire “history of the Black people.” By choosing it, we have attempted to resurrect the name of this great city and many of its ancient traditions.
Yes, but not in the conventional western tradition (i.e. a superman sitting on a throne). The matter is stated very succinctly in one of the sacred texts of our Community, “there is indeed a great force in the world, a force spiritual and able to shape the physical universe, but that force is not something cut off, not something separate from ourselves. It is an energy in us, strongest in our working, breathing, thinking together as one people; weakest when we are scattered, confused, broken into individual, unconnected fragments.”
The foregoing statement of African wisdom, drawn from Ayi Kwei Armah’s 2000 Season, echoes and reflects the perceptions we have always held towards the Most High. For African people, the Most High has never been an abstract idea separated from our reality. One of our spirituals captures it best, ”My God is real, for I can feel God in my soul.”
At Wo’se we have embraced the name Amen-Ra, which comes to us from the ancestors of Kemet’s 18th Dynasty, around 3500 after the founding of Kemet (A.F.K.), approximately 1500 (B.C.). Just as other spiritual traditions have affixed names to the “One Who Is Self-Produced” that reflect their particular vision (Allah, Jehovah, Yaweh, Olódùmarè, etc.), the same is true of the Kemetic experience. The most important names that have come to us from the Kemetic traditions include Atum, Ra, Amen, Ptah and Amen-Ra. Amen means “hidden” or ‘unknowable” and it refers to that aspect of the Divine that we know as consciousness. Ra refers to that aspect which provides and sustains the life force and is symbolized-realized via the power and functions of the sun. Additionally, Amen-Ra reflects the spirit of harmony and unity, as it is the result of the merging of two traditions and, further, reflects what we know to be of critical importance in the essence of the Divine.
Our spiritual system is monotheistic, as has always been the case for Ancient Kemet. We have always celebrated the Most High, but also recognize that the Divine is made visible through various manifestations. These manifestations are referred to as Neters. Our religious system simply ascribed a name to the neters; for example, Shu as light and air or Nut as sky. The neters have both a mythological and a cosmological significance.
Maat is the foundational principle upon which Creation and humanity rest. Maat is truth, justice, righteousness, harmony, balance, right order, reciprocity and harmony. The teachings of Our Way inform us that Maat is the inner vision and convictions of the heart of the Creator, the vital source of all that exists: “When I came into being, being itself came into being. I formed it from the desire in my heart; I laid the foundation through Maat.”
- Maat is Truth: it is that which comes as it will and shows you how to live correctly as a being of self-knowledge and self-mastery.
- Maat is Justice: it’s the principle of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, and doing all you can to make the law throughout every land.
- Maat is Righteousness: it’s your GOD-given capacity for consciousness and action moving in the infinite direction of its greatest fulfillment as a facilitator and protector of Truth and Justice.
- Maat is Harmony: it’s the on-going growth and becoming of your total being in response to the continuing and increasing impact of the infinite dimensions of Truth upon your heart, mind and spirit.
- Maat is Balance: it’s the capacity and power to stay the good course and when a world of opposites and opposition seems set to conspire to dismember Maat itself, and you along with it.
- Maat is Right Order: it’s when respect or Maat – Truth, Justice, Righteousness, Harmony, Balance- lives within the heart of everyone. It’s when every heart and mind holds reverent respect for the well being and Fulfillment of every other being and holds that same respect for the needs of nature and the cosmos.
- Maat is Reciprocity: it’s when we give in equal measure to what we receive.
Our spiritual practice is based on committed work, study, fellowship, prayer and meditation grounded in the fundamental principle of Maat.
- WORK – Members of our community commit themselves to sharing their time, talent and financial resources to advance the work of the Community. Volunteering time to help Ile Omode become a better school for our children, helping on community clean-up days, organizing events and activities, serving as members of commission/committees are just a few examples of how we can work to support Wo’se.
- STUDY – Our ancestors believed that effective living is based on Self-Knowledge shaped by wisdom and experience. We encourage members to study the teachings of Kemet as well as other aspects of African culture ro nurture their own development as practitioners of The Way. Weekly classes on a range of topics are offered on an ongoing basis by our ministerial staff. We encourage people to ask questions, to share materials and other resources so we may learn and grow together. Nature walks, field trips to museums and cultural events are other opportunities to study. We encourage individual study as well as group participation as a way to fulfill this requirement for membership.
- FELLOWSHIP – African people place great value on living and working in the context of a healthy community. We strive to connect our lives co each other through regular opportunities to share ourselves in settings which help us to get to know each other better, discuss our victories and challenges and co engage in healing and nurturing community rituals. A primary opportunity for fellowship is during the weekly worship celebrations. We congregate every Sunday for this purpose. Our service includes devotional periods, meditation, prayer, libation, historical tributes, and sermons.
One of the most revered practices of African cultural and spiritual life is paying respect to ancestors who have lived exemplary lives in the form of libation ceremonies. ln this practice, we honor ancestors whose physical lives reflected their great desire and determination to pursue righteous living and to make a significant contribution to their communities. In remembering and venerating these ancestors through the pouring of libations and other appropriate rituals, they live forever to inspire, inform, protect and look kindly upon us.
In addition, other rituals help our community to connect to our family and community life. These include weddings, naming ceremonies, initiation rites of passage, funerals and house blessings. These practices serve to renew, deepen, strengthen and celebrate our individual and collective participation in a life of Maat, the Sacred African Way. Other social activities like the annual Kusangala (outings in the park with food and fun activities), annual Jazz and Arts Festival, guest speakers, bowling sessions, skate parties and other activities provide a chance to fellowship as well.
- PRAYER & MEDITATION – Two of the most important activities in our path to self-knowledge and enlightenment are prayer and meditation. Time is set-aside in weekly service for these important aspects of worship. Prayer is our “talking to the Most High” as we seek to give divinely-inspired, divinely-informed, deeply-felt voice co che needs, concerns and aspirations of the individual and Community. Medication is the ritual of pausing to “listen to the Creator.” Through class instruction and community practice, we encourage our members to cultivate a daily prayer and meditation practice as well as to participate in these activities collectively.
The Sacred African Way recognizes death as one of the major stages of transformation which affords the individual and community significant opportunity to celebrate and grow in understanding the essential unity between divinity and humanity. Other stages of transformation are Birth, Youth Rites of Passage, Adulthood, Marriage, Parenthood and Eldership. Ancestorship is the state involved at the time of death.
In the Kemetic language the word for death is mena, a nautical term meaning a return to one’s port of origin. Death is an event that compels family and community to come together to commend the spiritual worthiness of the deceased to the Most High. It involves the expression of words and rituals to celebrate the manifestation of Maat in and through his or her life; to facilitate the deceased’s birth into the realm of blessed ancestors; to implore the Most High to let it be.
Those who are granted entry to this realm are honored and embraced as spirits of inspiration, guidance and protection through libations and other rituals of unity and love. They are afforded this respect until there are none left among the living who remember their names and legacies. Then the waves of their beings become one with Amen Ra.
But those who fail to gain the generous favor of the Most High have their souls assigned to the most dreaded destiny of the African Spiritual world – that is to be forgotten. Found unworthy of libations and of no value to family or community in the ongoing quest for spiritual perfection. These souls are sent to the undifferentiated matter, to be reincarnated in a time, place and manner known only to Amen-Ra.
The Sacred African Way does not observe a messiah or savior. Our Kemetic ancestors declared, “Man, Woman, Know Thyself’ – and demonstrated that the road to salvation is only through self-knowledge. In our theology we move towards closer union with the Most High, through repeated self-transformations as we evolve to more perfect aspects of our specific divinity.
Kemetic theology teaches that each person is responsible for his or her transformation or coming into being, and each soul is responsible for its birth. Our birth is not accidental by the time and moment is pregnant with purpose and responsibility. We are charged to “show a devotion to purpose”; in other words to find our life’s vocation.
Our goal is therefore to become “One coming from One” in our pursuit towards the divine. Our most sacred work, the Book of Coming Forth by Day and Breaking the Bounds of Night is literally a call for us to give birth to our highest self every day. Thus it is our desire to declare, NUK RA HERU NEB, “I am God every day.”
How people express their religious belief and spiritual practice is based on their cultural orientation. John Henrik Clarke, a preeminent intellectual and activist, taught us that “religion is the deification of a people’s culture.” In other words, religion is always grounded in rituals, ceremonies and traditions of a people’s history. In the context of an American society, which has devalued and attacked the humanity of our people, we believe that it is critical to assert our Africanity in all aspects of our lives, especially in our beliefs about the nature and reality of the Divinity that lives in every human being. Nai’m Akbar, a prominent African psychologist and educator reminds us of a central truth – “if a people cannot find the answers to the ultimate questions of life through their own culture and heritage, they will always be a second-class people coming through the side and back doors of other people’s definitions.”
Africa has a very rich and ancient history. There is no record of rime in human history where Africans were not present. At the root of establishing civilization, Africans are found. We believe that civilization was based on the highest spiritual ideals. Our Faith Statement says it best – “The Way is the life and history of our people, our African People.” Our way is not a random path. Our way begins with coherent understanding. It is a Way that aims at preserving knowledge of who we are. It is with this conviction that we study the rich heritage of our African people.
Africans around the world have come through an experience that, by all logic and reason, should have wiped them from the face of this earth. Yet we are still here respecting and acknowledging the words of our ancestors, exercising that power of the Most High working in us and through us to create a better way for our people – a way that will benefit all people. Yes, African culture is the key. If we want to move forward we must look to our past experiences, aimed at the destruction of a people, to find the lessons and reconstruct our lives as a community.
Each week in our worship service we extend an invitation of membership to anyone wishing to join our community of The Way. All Africans are welcome into our Community. After accepting the call to join, the probationary member must attend a 6-week orientation class, and then complete a one-year initiation, at the conclusion of which they are inducted as full members in our Community.
The one-year initiation requires completing two additional courses offered through our New Life Seminary. At the same time the initiate is expected to participate fully in the work, study and fellowship of our Community.
What are the rights and responsibilities of members?
Membership in the Wo’se Community shall be governed by the principle of Maat through the practice of reciprocity. Members have the right to participate and have equal voice in Community meetings. Members are expected to adhere to the Sacred African Way, consistently tithe time, talent, and money, and continue to study.
No. African traditions are unique in their complete inclusion of both men and women as necessary to creation. Our creation stories always speak to the duality within creation. As such, we do not limit the pathway of any person in our community based on gender.
- AMEN-RA-HETEP (_-men-R_-h_-TEP) actually has several meanings, but when used as a salutation or parting phrase, it means “God’s peace.” An alternative greasing that can be used is Amen-Ra-Hotep.
- ANKH UDJA SENEB (ahnkh ood-JAH sen-EB) is a common phrase at Wo’se Community, means ”life, prosperity, and health.” It is used most frequently in our greetings with each other. It is used as a parting benediction at the end of letters, and used as a farewell phrase (“Well, I’m outta here. Ankh udja seneb!”).
- KEMET (k_h-m_t) is the term ancient Egyptians used as the official name of their country (sometimes they also called it Ta-mery, or “beloved land”). Kemet translates as “Black Land,” in reference to the fertile banks and fields surrounding The Nile (black from the soil). African scholars such as Diop, O’Benga and others translate it to refer to the complexion of the people.
- MAAT (m_h-_t) is a difficult concept to translate because its use in Kemet was so pervasive. However, it is generally translated as “truth, justice, righteousness, harmony, balance, right order, and reciprocity.”
- SEPTEPI (s_p-t_p_) means the “First Time.” In Kemetic theology it is The timeless moment of Creation: when the Self-Created One rose from the Nun, or waters of potentiality, and life as we know it began. All life is, in Kemetic philosophy, an echo of that First Time and ever seeks to duplicate its perfection.
- KHETEM (k_-t_m) means to “seal up”, and is used to close our meditation.
- NETER (n_-t_r) represents an aspect, or characteristic of the Most High. Examples of neters commonly celebrated at Wo’se include Tehuti (logos or intelligence) Maat (truth, justice, and righteousness), Tefnut (moisture), Geb (earth), and the first family, which corresponds to the first trinity: Asar, Aset, and Heru. These neters played a role in Creation, and our daily creation (or transformation). For example, our creation story says that Amen-Ra began creation on a foundation of Maat and under the influence of Tehuti.
- ASE (_-sh_;y) is a Yoruba (Nigerian) term which means “so be it.” It is the life force which runs through all things, living and inanimate. Ashe is the power to make things happen. le is an affirmation which is used in greetings and prayers, as well as a concept about spiritual growth. le is often echoed during the pouring of libation or after closing a prayer.