About Me

   Posted by: Keith Payne   in

 Who is Shemsu Sesen?

Shemsu with Ramesses II's feetTo begin with, Shemsu Sesen is my pen name for Em Hotep.  My daytime name is Keith Payne, and I am a writer, educator, and volunteer.

As a writer I have written about everything from Appalachian culture to (obviously) Egyptology.  My background is in sociology, although I have worked in information technology, corrections, and social work.

My greatest passion is teaching, whether that is teaching a life skills class inside a prison, or teaching fourth graders about mummies.  Writing is my primary outlet for teaching, and the mission of Em Hotep is to make Egyptology accessible to “curious laypersons and budding scholars.”

Egypt has been a source of fascination and wonder for me for as long as I can remember.  One of my earliest memories is of sneaking out of bed on a late Saturday night to watch Boris Karloff as The Mummy on Chiller Theatre, my faithful German Shepherd pup, Duchess, curled up with me.

This progressed from sugar cube pyramids for science fair projects to plodding through all of the E. A. Wallis Budge books in my high school library.  My first Public Library card exposed me to the likes of Cyril Aldred, James H. Breasted, and a tattered paperback called X-Raying the Pharaohs by James Harris and Kent Weeks.

In what I like to call my speculative period I discovered the works of Gerald Massey and Alvin Boyd Kuhn.  Having come from a fairly religious upbringing, from which I was recently divorced due to irreconcilable differences, the concept of the Judeo-Christian religions being a reworking of ancient Egyptian religions appealed to both my love of all things Egyptian and my rebellion against the religion of my youth.  I took it—hook, line, and sinker.

Shemsu in front of the SphinxThis culminated in my spending a summer semester in Egypt as an undergrad during my senior year, but by this time my interest in an Egyptocentric interpretation of Western history was beginning to wane.  During that summer I fell in love with Egypt simply for her own sake, and that was the beginning of me becoming a genuine student of her history.

During graduate school (Ohio University, 98-99) I focused more on the sociology of religion and belief and less on its connections to Egypt.  After graduate school I became career focused and Egyptology became more of a background interest.

This continued until I decided back in 2009 to scan some of my photos from Egypt and post them to a photo blog.  One thing led to another, and before you know it I was sitting in the back of a limo interviewing Zahi Hawass for Heritage Key!

Since then I have had the opportunity to interview David O’Connor and Josef Wegner, and have had the unbelievably good fortune to strike up a friendship with Jean-Pierre Houdin, whose work with Khufu’s Pyramid and the Giza Plateau promises to be the story in Egyptology in the coming years.

All in all, not a bad first year!

Shemsu's beautiful wife Sekhmet

Shemsu’s beautiful wife, Sekhmet

I reside in the Derby City—Louisville, Kentucky—with my beautiful wife Anne, who is a student of Music Therapy at University of Louisville, a Yoga fanatic, gifted vocalist, and whose superhero identity is Sekhmet, a belly dancer in the Shimmering Hips troupe.  We share our humble home with a charming Chihuahua and a little black cat that hasn’t aged in twenty years.

Shemsu in front of Khufu's sarcophagus

My pen name, Shemsu Sesen, is ancient Egyptian for “Follower of the Lotus” and refers to the Lotus Sutra, which is central to the beliefs and practices of Nichiren Buddhism.  I answer to Keith or Shemsu, whichever you prefer!

Nam myoho renge kyo!

Copyright by Keith Payne, 2010.  All rights reserved.