In the heart of the Bible Belt, churches can be more numerous than gas stations or even Wal-Mart.
But these churches typically cater to Baptists and, less frequently, other branches of Christianity.
Elizabeth Garrett, a sophomore anthropology major from Banks, doesn’t head out every Sunday morning for church. Her altar is in her home, and her religion is shown through her daily actions.
“I wouldn’t call it a religion so much,” Garrett clarifies. “But more like a spiritual path.”
Practicing a form of Paganism known as Kemeticism, Garrett worships, or honors, ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses.
“I’ve always felt connected to Egypt,” Garrett said. “Even when I was practicing Christianity, I just never felt right in that religion. So I branched out and did my research and found my niche, which was Kemeticism.
“Everybody thinks it’s super serious, but the ancient Egyptians were really full of puns and jokes,” Garrett said — “I guess mainly because the gods are not seen as perfect beings. They’re seen with imperfections, unlike the Christian God, which is seen as being perfect. It’s more relatable.”
Garrett also likes the fact that honoring her gods and goddesses can be integrated into her daily life and actions.
“I deal with Bast, and how I worship her is by feeding stray cats and keeping water out,” she said of the Egyptian goddess of cats. “I’m honoring her while taking care of them.”
Honoring the gods also involves the setup of her altar. It consists of statues of Anubis, the god of embalming and the afterlife, and Bast, as well as gemstones, two goblets, an offering dish and candles, and an incense burner.
Food and drink offerings can be made here.
“It’s like, ‘so-and-so god, this chocolate is for you,’ ” said Garrett, explaining the process. “You leave it out for a little bit, however long you feel is good, and then you eat it. They look down on wasted food and drink.”
She said that rituals can also involve cleansing of self and prayer.
Garrett also enjoys the changes she has seen within herself in the over two years that she began practicing Kemeticism.
“I actually feel like I’ve been happier, more fulfilled, on this path,” she said. “It’s calming.”
Garrett says that Kemeticism is different from the more well-known type of paganism, Wicca. Wicca deals more closely with nature, she says, and employs such rules as the threefold law, which is similar to the belief in karma.
Though both are forms of paganism, it is not like comparing Catholicism to the beliefs of Baptists, says Garrett. They are much more varied.
Members of Kemeticism are also fewer in number.
Garrett says that she has met only one other individual who shared her beliefs in person. It was a passing meeting at a mall, and it was over just as quickly.
“I’ve never met anyone else,” she said.
She is involved in online communities dedicated to the practice, though, citing Tumblr as having a “really friendly community.”
“I connect with other Kemetics, and that’s where I get a lot of help and information when I’m stuck,” she said.
Garrett is usually not too open when discussing Kemeticism.
“If I’m comfortable with a person, I will tell them,” she said. “But other than that, I just let the person default believe that I’m a Christian.
“I don’t let on that I’m ‘different’ because of how closed-minded they are, but if they are open-minded I will say, ‘Hey, I’m a pagan!’”
When she does discuss it with someone, she says that she mostly gets interested reactions and not many negative ones.
“They are genuinely interested in my religion, and they’re not, ‘Oh my God, you’re the devil!’ or anything,” she said.
The only negative response she made note of was a woman who thought Garrett’s forearm tattoos were related to Satanism.
Garrett’s life also revolves around her 3-year-old daughter. For now, her daughter goes to the nursery at church to play with the other children, but she is also aware of Garrett’s altar and the statues on it.
“I’m letting her explore her own religion,” Garrett said. “Find her own path. She’s getting different tastes of religions right now.”
As for herself, Garrett hopes to continue honoring her gods and raising awareness of the religion.
She said that she would like to see people realize that there are other religions that are just as peaceful, “especially in the Bible Belt.”
She also wants to work on her offerings, which involve rituals that can last up to an hour, depending on the individual.
“With being a full-time student and a full-time mom, I don’t have a lot of time to do a proper offering to my gods.”