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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Egypt

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_goddesseye.jpgIn the early days of Egyptology scholars took the attitude that a transcendent experience was only expected after death in ancient Egypt.  This fit well with the predominant Judeo-Christian background of virtually all of them, as well as the desire to demonstrate their new profession could be as scientific as any others.  But the record is plain as day that mystery schools flourished in at least the Late period, influencing other mystery cults all around the Mediterranean.  Contemporary Egyptologist Jan Assman even goes so far as to assert that ancient Egyptians could not have developed their own mysticism because that it would not have been based on lived real-life experience.  Really?! 

I do love Assman’s writing, but as an unabashed mystic myself I am all too aware that close encounters with another kind of reality, one we often call “god” or “the divine”, happen all the time.  It seems far more likely that Egyptians encountered this numinous, liminal reality enough times that they began to form, first mythologies, then theologies, around it. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_Pached1.jpgWhat I find so intriguing about Egyptian myth is how it is used to shape one’s personal narrative.  By experiencing the mysteries of Osiris, for example, one can prepare for inevitable mortality.  But at the same time the initiate uncovers layers of his own psyche, depths of meaning about the here and now. 

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Holli Emore
    Holli Emore says #
    Isidora, I love Naydler! I also heartily recommend Rosemary Clark's books. She worked for the Oriental Institute at University of
  • Isidora Forrest
    Isidora Forrest says #
    Hi, Holli...couldn't agree more. I rather like Jeremy Nadler's take on it in Temple of the Cosmos.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_isis-3.gifOnce upon a time in Egypt, back when the Nile was free to flood and recede, the harvest season (Shemu) was at its height about now. Planting would have happened in our late fall (Peret); the inundation would come again in mid- or late-summer (Akhet). Renenutet and Aset (Isis) were two of the goddesses who were honored during this season that most of us know as the vernal equinox.

Temple Osireion likes to celebrate this end of the season of Peret, the coming of spring, the flush of new life symbolized by eggs. Many ancients observed this week as the time that Aset gave birth to Horus. In fact, during our ceremony when we wave participants with a fan, it is in remembrance that Aset turned herself into a bird to stir Osiris back to life long enough for her to conceive.

Sham el Nessim is a very old Egyptian national holiday, but even in modern Egypt thousands of families, regardless of their religion, go to parks and the countryside to picnic, decorate eggs, take long walks, and, as the ancients said, “Sham el Nessim,” “sniff the breeze.” At our gathering, we decorate eggs with ancient Egyptian symbols like the ankh and eye of Horus. Everyone takes a sprig of spring onion after the ritual, breaks it open a little and smells it; this is to keep away the evil eye for the year to come - it’s especially important if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. And we also share lettuce and fish, more potent symbols of the land when it is rich, ripe and fertile.  

Sniff the breeze this week as the sun moves a bit higher in the sky. Although snow has fallen on much of the country, most of us are seeing beneath it the first bulbs and green shoots of spring. The air is indeed fresh with the scent of hope, new possibilities in the season ahead.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_herculaneum-isis-temple.jpgBlest is the happy man
Who knows the Mysteries the gods ordain (Euripides)

It is a mystery – that we can be One and also separate, and likewise the gods.

It is a mystery – that we can have a solitary experience which then links us inextricably with others who have shared that same experience, or one like it.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Finding Isis: An Anniversary Post

Three years ago, I had a powerful encounter with Isis on Christmas day. I told the story of when I finally heard my Patron call me in issue 83 of Sagewoman magazine (2012: Sanctuary), and I am happy to be able to share this tale here with you know as I celebrate three years in service to Isis.

Finding Isis: Sheltered by Her Wings

 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

No wonder the magi watched the skies.  This is the time of year when all the heavenly bodies seem to dazzle with chilly brilliance in their indigo field of space. 

Maldevian Starry Sky Here in the woodlands part of the country, the sky seems to open downward with the falling leaves.  Not only does the dark come sooner, faster, longer, but small twinkling lights peep from beneath the highest branches of the woods behind my home. 

What wonders must have shown themselves in ancient times, centuries before anyone dreamed that a satellite camera might show the earth covered by an Indra’s net of human-made lights.  Tonight from the orbiting space station, astronauts can see a grand conjunction of the Earth, Jupiter and Venus.  The sun has just completed another annual analemma, a sort of ourobouran eternal dance through the sky. 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Most of us grew up listening to song lyrics that proclaimed a lack of satisfaction. Here in mid-life I find myself increasingly satisfied, peaceful and content, or hetep – a fitting mood for today’s annual holiday of Thanksgiving.

The word hetep was also used in the classic “offering formula,” a standardized epithet placed on stelae commemorating the dead, on tomb walls and numerous other inscriptions. The formula started with the phrase hetep-di-nesu, “a gift the king gives.” Since the king was the priest for all of Egypt, any offering was thought of as offered by the king, even if it was just you ordering up a monument for your mom and dad.

Here’s what hetep-di-nesu looks like:b2ap3_thumbnail_htpdi.gif

And here’s a whole offering formula for a guy named Ky:

b2ap3_thumbnail_offeringforumulaglyph.gifb2ap3_thumbnail_offeringformulatranscribe.gif
Translated, it means, a gift which the king gives to Osiris, lord of Djedu, lord of Abydos, he gives an offering of bread, beer, cattle, fowl, alabaster and linen and every good thing on which a god lives, for the spirit of the revered one, Ky.

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Bee Medicine – The Splendors of Honey

 

In a time when bees are threatened by the use of nicotine based pesticides and fungicides we need to learn all we can to protect them. For thousands of years humanity has relied on bees and their honey for food, medicine, and to pollinate crops. Before you buy any plant be sure to ask if it has been pre-treated with bee killing pesticides, and never spray poisons on your own garden!

 

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Hopman, You rock! This multicultural list of remedies and whatnot is fascinating. My wife also loves ginger ale, and I hadn't
  • Ellen Evert Hopman
    Ellen Evert Hopman says #
    Thank you Jamie. There is actually a lot more to say on this subject and I am currently working on yet another book! You don't nee

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_IsisCU.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_Nbt-HtLamentationCU.jpgCome to your house, Osiris!
Long, long have I not seen you
My heart mourns you.
Shall I not see you, Good King?
Come to your beloved
Gods and men look for you, weep for you together
While I can see I call to you . . .

In ancient Egypt, each person hoped to make the pilgrimage to Abydos at least once in their lifetime to attend the Osirian mysteries, observed in early November, near the end of the season of Akhet, the annual flooding of the Nile.

As the waters began to recede, they left behind rich black silt, leaving the land fertile for another year’s crops. Until the late 19th century, no one knew why the Ninle so dramatically flooded most of the country, or where all the excess water came from, and yet, the Nile, with its accompanying cycle of flooding, sowing, harvest and dry season, was the most powerful force in Egypt. With a reliable food source and a way to travel through the country, ancient Egypt became the richest and most powerful country in that part of the world.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Set1Crop.jpgThe ancients carried a memory of the great ones who came before them, the children of Ra named Osiris, Isis, Nephthys and Set (the Egyptians called them Asar, Aset, Nebt-Het and Sety). Firstborn and king Osiris, with his sister wife Isis, ruled the land with care, teaching the people to weave linen, make papyrus, brew beer and wine, and beautify (embalm) their dead.

But the most important lesson, the mystery of life, death and rebirth, came through the story of Osiris, which Temple Osireion presents annually as a ritual drama. It is a timeless story, with echoes in other mysteries throughout the classical world - Demeter and Persephone, Attis, Dionysus and Jesus.

b2ap3_thumbnail_AnubisEntry2.jpgThe festival opened with a procession in the streets led by a priest wearing the mask of Anubis (Anpu).  The soon-inebriated crowd re-enacted the murder of Osiris by his brother Set.  Inside the temple, priests conducted the sacred rituals in private.  Two priestesses played the parts of Isis and her sister Nephthys, each reciting a solemn lamentation.  The first day, the priests placed seeds in a coffin-like container with water and soil.  On the third day of the festival the priests opened the container to reveal that the buried seeds, like Osiris, had germinated and come to life.

Every one of us experiences pain, loss, grief, at some time in our lives. To experience that loss through the medium of a drama enables us to gain new insight about what we have gone through. By reliving the mysteries of Osiris we may, like Isis, find the power inside to conceive new life. We may, like Osiris, discover our own eternal, immortal nature, and rise to new life.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

My heart is with me, it shall not be carried off.
I am the ruler of my heart.
I live in maat.
I am Horus, pure of heart.
My heart, my mother, my heart, my mother,
. . . my existence on earth.

Ab-a ma-a, an un tjetet-f
Nuk neb abu
Ank-a em maat
Nuk Heru, ami-ab
Ab-a en mut-a sep sen
. . . una tep ta

(adapted from The Papyrus of Ani, trans. Wallis Budge)

b2ap3_thumbnail_PapyrusofAni.JPG
Last night I dreamed that someone handed me a premature baby. The roughly two-pound creature was disturbing to see, though I felt great love for it. I held it against my body to keep it warm. Then it began to speak aloud to me, expressing its concerns about me and encouraging me not to fear death, but to think, rather, about life and eternal things. One time I set it down for a moment, and it told me, I will die if you let me grow cold. When I woke, I could not shake the feeling of the baby’s presence, and then it came to me that the premature infant was my inner self. I don’t know how I know this, but I do.

For the ancient Egyptian, the heart was the center of life in the body, intrinsic to personal identity, essential to ankh, or eternal life. The writer of The Papyrus of Ani calls out to his heart to stand in witness to his integrity and worth. The heart knows its own better than any other entity, be it ba, ka or neter (deity).

Ab-a en mut-a! My heart, my mother! When all other layers of defense and separation to protect us from the world fall away, there is only our heart, the mother of our existence. Stripped of all else, we cry out to our heart as to a mother to shield us, to assure we are able to walk safely through the world.

b2ap3_thumbnail_red-tailed-hawk-i.jpgWhen we learn to let our heart lead, then we are strong like the shining golden hawk-god who soars above the earth on wings of maat, with the vision of Ra’s burning eye. Then we may say, Nuk Heru, ami-ab, I am Horus, pure of heart.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_mummy-boxes.jpg
Most of us who find spiritual roots and sources in ancient Egypt are sorely aggrieved by the damage being done to ancient sites, relics and museums during this time of political turmoil.  Osireion joined groups around the country (world?) a few weeks ago to magically cool the region down.  We drew a map of Egypt on papyrus and embellished it with hieroglyphs for peace and other related ideas.  We poured over it cool rose-scented water and it now resides in a block of ice in my freezer.

But so much damage has already been done.  Recently, I dared to think that perhaps some good did come, after all, out of the 19th and early 20th centuries pillaging of Egyptian artifacts for European and American museums and private collections.  And yet, now those collections may be the safest place for this priceless cultural heritage.  So many people who invested heavily in -name-inscribed sarcophagi, stelae, and tombs, were forgotten for hundreds of years until Egyptology descended in a frenzy of Egyptophilia.  Now every good amateur Egyptologist knows the names of Khaemwaset or Tuya or even Tutankhamen (a king most didn't believe existed until Howard Carter's discovery).  Perhaps this is how their magic is working itself out in our time.

Meanwhile, I'm relieved that things are actually quieter in modern Egypt for the moment. The focus has turned to Syria, another cradle of our spiritual traditions.  May Maat soon return balance to the good people of every land, and may Set thwart the isfet, the chaos, being sown by those whose minds are clouded by anger and fear.

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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    So Mote It Be.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_unasbc2_20130906-021346_1.pngThe oldest religious texts in the world, the Pyramid Texts, are found in the Old Kingdom Pyramid of Unas; they are dated to perhaps 2400 BCE, though they surely were in use for long before that.  The sophisticated cosmology and deeply-layered poetry must have been in development and then use for many generations before it was recorded in the tomb of the 5th Dynasty king.

Though I have read two different English translations several times, I still feel that I've wandered into a magical cave when I read PT passages.  Ritual voices seem to whisper all around me.  I can almost smell the incense, smell the roasted bull and guttering oil lamps and floral garlands that are being laid on the sarcophagus before it is sealed for eternity. 

The Book of Going Forth By Day (Book of the Dead) and Coffin Texts gained great popularity in later centuries, but the Pyramid Texts were solely for the use of the king upon his or her death (yes, there were at least two other female rulers, in addition to Hatshepsut).  In new Egyptian spirituality, we identify with the ruler's journey of transformation, taking on the role of the pharaoh as s/he becomes first an Osiris, then Ra, then an imperishable star.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Many Pagans -- whether we call ourselves Kemetic or not -- have a spiritual and emotional attachment to Egypt.  And we've watched with sorrow the events of the past week, often not even sure which "side" to support. 

I suspect that Ma'at supports the people:  the women, and children, and old people simply trying to live in the midst of violence and chaos.  I suspect that Ma'at supports the fathers, trying to do the best they can for their children, to bring in a crop, to grow old.  I suspect that Ma'at supports the land. 

A friend of mine suggested a ritual, which may be all that we can do from afar, but which is something we can do.  I'm going to perform it this weekend and, should you feel so inclined and should your Goddesses and Gods approve, I invite you to join me.

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All summer long it has rained in South Carolina, a state plagued with drought since I moved here in 1986. When it’s sunny, the humidity is smothering. At the beginning of August, Osireion held a public ceremony to mark Wep Renpet, the opening of the year and flooding of the Nile. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_WepRenpet2013.jpg

In the beautiful woodland park beside the river where we hold such occasions, a local news station joined us as part of a story about minority religions (at the anniversary of the Sikh gurdwara shootings in 2012). A number of non-Osireion friends joined us, despite the heat and humidity; we sang, danced (not too much in the heat) and visited an altar with a large bowl filled with rosewater. Someone had the inspiration this year to add some ice to the water, making it a delicious sensual experience. 

Some of the rain has eased up, though we continue to have a Gulf weather systema1sx2_Thumbnail1_Group1.jpg stalled over the Southeast. The nearby river is high, swollen and full of mud, though ours is red mud, while the life-giving silt of Kem was black. Even though here in my state the growing season has passed its peak, this is a time of new beginnings for many of us.

The respite, vacations, festivals and laziness of summer now lead to fall semesters, the end-of-year holidays, and many projects taken up with new or renewed zeal. It’s easy to relate to the time of flooding in ancient Egypt because we are also enriched and enlivened. Even the name of the season, Akhet, reminds us of fresh starts since it is also the word for the horizon where the rising sun appears.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

The warm scent of sandalwood has filled this room and is working its way out through the rest of my house, dispersed from essential I have warming on an electric incense burner. After working in the yard for a while, amidst the tang of cut grass and a brewing summer storm, I walk back into a dreamy sandalwood sanctuary. The very smell turns my thoughts to the sacredness of life, the peacefulness of meditation.

b2ap3_thumbnail_offerings_20130627-001859_1.jpgOur ancient Egyptian friends put a great deal of their effort and money into perfumed oils and incenses. In the temple, the image of a god was wakened, washed, dressed and anointed with fragrant oil or ointment each morning. Ointments and oils were regular offering items, scented with selections from the profusion of flowers and plants that grew along the Nile, or valuable imports like frankincense and sandalwood. 

And speaking of flowers, it was customary to greet guests for dinner at your house by placing around their neck a garland of fresh flowers. A touching element of undisturbed tombs found in modern times is the now-dried fresh flowers which were the last thing left on the casket, much like our custom today at a cemetery burial ceremony.

Cinnamon, cassia, myrtle, balsam, myrrh, honey, sweet flag, juniper, sage, cypress, iris, rose and, of course, lotus were all ingredients prized for their scent. Still more natural ingredients were used medicinally, including acacia, camomile, basil, dill, celery, cumin, fenugreek, lily, mandrake, pine and rue. Servants circulated at dinner parties with cones of goosefat mixed with perfume for guests to put on their heads. During the course of the evening the fat melted down through those heavy wigs, releasing the scent into the banquet hall.

b2ap3_thumbnail_egyptian-perfume-cone.jpg

The psychological effects of association with a particular smell are by now well known. Take advantage of that powerful tool by using your favorite scent whenever you meditate or do other work at your altar. True essential oils are a nice break from the smoke of burned incense, particularly if you are allergy-prone or have a respiratory illness like asthma. Just a drop in a much larger quantity of almond oil will allow you to breathe in the benefits of that plant.

And if you really want to treat yourself, Sacred Luxuries: Fragrance, Aromatherapy & Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt, by Lise Manniche, is a deliciously aromatic read, plus a gorgeous coffee-table book.

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I am the incomprehensible silence
and the idea often brought to mind.
I am the voice sounding throughout the world
and the word appearing everywhere.
I am the sounding of my name,
For I am knowledge and ignorance.
I am shame and bravery.
I am without shame; I am full of shame.
I am power and I am trepidation.
I am conflict and peace.
Listen to me,
For I am the scandalous and magnificent one.

Excerpted from Thunder, Perfect Mind, trans. by George W. MacRae

b2ap3_thumbnail_isnefertari.jpgIn the silence of the night the waters were troubled.  We did not know that far to the south, in the headwaters of the great river, rains swelled the flow, sending the fertile black earth our way.  What we did know was that the star of Sopdet, whom we know as Aset (Isis), had disappeared from the sky for weeks now.  Each evening the priests watched for it to reappear at the horizon, the signal that Aset was weeping, mourning the loss of her husband Asar (Osiris).  After dark there is no way to see if a crocodile lies in wait or a hyena quietly stalks you coming home late.  Except in the cities, the silence here is vast, incomprehensible.  Against that quiet, the change in the water showed itself in little lappings higher up the bank, a swath of new green advancing up the shores on both sides.

The priests told us that Aset’s tears were flowing, rousing Hapy from his sleep among the rocks of the headwaters.  I do not understand these things.  Like the Lady, I had suffered loss, the death of my husband at the hands of an evildoer.  My grief was unabatable; like hers, my tears seemed a limitless flood.  Then I found myself carrying my own Heru, pregnant with my own shining Horus boy, and hope soothed my tears.  By the time of planting, I could hardly stoop to the water’s edge with my jar, and as the first harvest came in, my son saw the light of Ra.

The mother is so many things – fearful, yet brave, cunning, but also confused, wandering in search of Asar’s body.  I am not pharaoh in his House of a Million Years, nor am I a priest who can explain these things.  But I see that she is like me, or maybe I am like her.  Maybe we are the same, though she is eternal.  When I am cowed by shame or ignorance, I remember that she found her power, found a way to her heart’s desire.  When the waters rise each season of Akhet, I remember that even while she wept, Aset brought new life to the world.  I smile when I walk back to refill my jar, knowing it is her lovely tears, her life I’m bringing back home with me.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Very nice.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_NutCosmicDream.jpgMut-i Nut, herak-a. My mother Nut, hail to you. You who hold a thousand starry souls in your lapis body, whose arms and legs are the pillars of the sky, who separates the earthly realm from the chaos of darkness. Mut-i Nut, you gave birth to the great ones in the barque of the Ennead, Asar, Aset, Nebt-Het, and mischievous Set. Mut-i Nut, you receive the blessed dead, the shining ones.

This weekend Temple Osireion will open our doors for our annual ceremony called Lights of Nut (pronounced “noot” like "boot"). During my recent weeks in Manhattan it was difficult to see Nut between the tall buildings of that great city. But walking at night, I was comforted to feel her dark presence embracing me from above, embracing all of us, in fact. The night of the winter solstice, walking back from supper in a nearby bistro, we looked up to Nut in time to see the beginning of a light snowfall.

Among the numerous Egyptian deities, Nut is an unobtrusive but pervasive presence. Rather than an active principle, she is a way, a path. If you follow the sun, you will nightly be swallowed by Nut and pass through her body to rebirth at dawn. She is the path of the duat, the solitary journey, the living house of our earthly akhet.

As we enter the temple space this weekend we will sing a lovely refrain (by Abbi Spinner McBride): O dark mother, lead me inward, down to the cave of my heart. Mut-i Nut, dua em hotep.

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