Saturday, July 30, 2011

Prayer to Isis on Her Epagomenal Day

Inetch hri-k, Aset nebet heh, Isis, Hent neteru, Neteret em aysh rennu, tcheser hekau. Homage to thee, Isis, Eternal Goddess, Queen of the Gods, Goddess of many names, who is holy of magic. We greet the on this day of your birth. May You bless us with your divine Light as the Moon strengthens from New.

Inetch hri-k, Aset Nebet ayat, Mut neteru, Nebet Re-a-nefer, Isis-Nebuut, Nebet Sekhet, Nebet Besidet, Hent Neteru. Homage to thee, Great Lady Isis, Mother of the Gods, Lady of Re-a-nefer; Isis-Nebuut, Lady of Sekhet, Lady of Besidet, you are Queen among the Gods!

You are the Netrit (divine One), Uayti (only One), greatest of the Neteru, Rayet (female Re), Heruet (female Horus), Iakhut (the Eye of Re), Imeset Re-Heru (the Crown of Re-Horus). In your form of Sepdet, you are the opener of the Year, and the Lady of the New Year. You are the maker of sunrise, Lady of Heaven, and the light-giver of heaven. You are the Lady of the North Wind, Queen of the South and the North, and Nebet Ta-aha (Lady of the solid earth). You are the giver of all good things: life, green crops, bread, beer, abundance, joy, and love. You are the Creatrix of the Nile Flood that renews the Black Land for the coming year, renewing its fertility as you raise your Lord Asar to new life! Beautiful Goddess of the words of power, we ask that you renew our lives within us in this New Year, and teach us to find joy, abundance, and all good things at your hands.

As Sepdet, the light-giver at this Season, you are known as Khut, and as Earth Goddess in your power, your name is Wasert, and as the Great Goddess of the Underworld, your name is Thenenet. As Sati, you cause the Nile to rise on the Night of the Drop, when your tears fall upon the upper cataracts and your cries of mourning move Hapi to open the gates of the Nile. As Anqet, you bring the fertility back to the Black Lands along with the Flood, and as Ankhet and Sekhet, you bring new life to the fields of wheat and barely. At harvest time, you are Renenet, golden goddess of plenty. At the temple of Tchefau, you rule as Tchefet, who offers food to the Gods. And as Great Lady of the Underworld, Amenti, you serve to judge the dead as one of the Two Ma’ati who stand beside Asar Khentimentiu. You surround us in all your power, Nebet Aset, giving life and rebirth to all who come to you. We honor you on this, your day, Hent Aset, ankh djet.

Wallis Budge, E. A. (1904; 1969). The Gods of the Egyptians: Studies in Egyptian Mythology, in two volumes [Dover Reprint]. New York, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Prayer to Set on his Epagomenal Day

Hail to you Set, Lord of the South, Lord of the Desert—the Red Lands of Khemet. You tore from the side of your Mother, Nut, in fire and lightning, and descended upon Earth in a rush of heat and wind. You struck the desert with your double strength, and sent forth darkness, storms, thunder, and lightning upon the Two Lands. Oh, Set, Lord of Iron, turn not your storms upon us, turn aside your thunder to strike in the heart of the desert!

Red one, who holds in charge all the beasts of night and of the deep waters, to whom look hippopotami, crocodiles, serpents, and the ass, braying its coarse prayers to you, may you hunt the enemies of Khemet and save us from your wrath. Oh, Smai, leader of the 72 smaiu who hunt through the desert lands, and whose thundering keeps us huddled in our homes at night for safety, turn not your wrath upon us.

This is actually Reret, not Isis.
Guide us through the night, oh Set, strengthen us for the journey to the stars of Meskhenti, the four stars Great Thigh in the northern sky that never sets. May Reret, the hippopotamus Goddess who holds you bound among the imperishable stars aid us in passing you to the Children of Horus when we rise to become akhu in Orion! Hold up the ladder, oh Set, that we may climb to the imperishable stars and become reborn! Sail upon the night boat of Re, Akhemu-seku, and defend us from the evil minions of Apep!

We know you as both Nubti and as Sutekh, in your temples of Sept-Meret-Et (Oxyrhyncus) and Wennu (Hermopolis) and in Het-uayret (Avaris) in the Delta, where the Hyksos ruled for a time. We thank you for the gift of intoxication that you brought us through the magic of beer and wine, but ask you to hold us back from brawling as is your wont when drunk. Go to your wife, the Lady of the House, and sleep off your drunken rage, oh Set; let Nebet-hes soothe you until you wake refreshed. We honor you in your day, oh Set, ankh djet.

Set is a difficult God for us to understand, with our modern Western minds filtered through Judeo/Christian/Islamic dualistic thinking. The Victorian Egyptologists, mired in this mind-set, equated Set with the Devil and as a God of Evil, which is not how he functioned among the Heliopolitan Ennead. Set was a force of wildness, violence, and chaos, as opposed to Osiris, who represented civilization, peace, and order, and as twins with such different faces presented to the people of Egypt, a certain level of fear did surround Set as a God. For the Egyptians, the true God of Evil was Apep, the serpent god in the Dwt who sought to destroy Re each night, leaving the world in darkness and chaos. Later associations of Set with Apep in Egypt reflected Greek ideas brought in with Alexander and contact with the Middle East; Set was originally placed in the boat of Re each night to defend against Apep, after Horus defeated him and united the Two Lands.

But we need to look deeper at Set to see what he represented to the ancient Egyptians. I believe that the Epagomenal Gods, two sets of twins and a mediator, Heru-ur, represented memories and symbols from the Age of Gemini, which ran from around 6000 BCE to about 4000 BCE. During this period, the Nile valley was stabilizing, after the wild floods of the Age of Cancer, and the Western desert (Sahara) was drying out. In the Age of Cancer, many of the folk who became Nile valley farmers in the Age of Gemini hunted and gathered in the waddis of the desert, and herded lyre-horned cattle. 

When you consider that Osiris is said to have taught Egypt the elements of civilization, including agriculture, the parallels between Osiris and Set become clear. Set represented the old hunter-gatherer ways of roaming the desert, seeking food wherever it might be found around the water holes and deeper rivers, while Osiris became the Green God of growing grains and agriculture. There would be a natural tension between the two, which was probably reflected in multiple incursions of one group upon the other's territory, symbolically remembered in the wars of Heru-Ur against Set's minions. The first uniting of the Two Lands actually came between Heru-Ur and Set; only later was the former shifted to Horus, son of Osiris and Isis and made into a drama of vengeance.

Set represented the sterility of the desert, and all things wild and red. Red-haired or red-faced people were said to be under the influence of Set, which may be where his association with drunkenness first occurs. As one becomes drunk, one's face flushes red, and often one becomes belligerent—possessed by Set! When I think of Set in this aspect, I am reminded of the character of Bluto in the Popeye cartoons: a big bruiser whose temper is inflamed with drink, causing him to easily lose control and get in trouble.

Set's association with dangerous creatures of the night, such as serpents, and with those of the deep waters, such as hippopotami and crocodiles, reflected the ambiguity with which the Egyptians viewed him. Since these dangerous creatures existed, and often interacted lethally with those who lived along the Nile, they must be associated with a Neter to fit within the Egyptian concepts of Divinity. Set's strength, cunning, and dangerous behaviors made him the natural ruler of all such creatures. 

His association with the ass (a type of donkey) is more problematic. Part of it relates to the reddish coat most asses have, and to their decidedly unmusical bray. Donkeys are notoriously sexual, and Set has this aspect in his mythology as well. The Egyptians would offer a donkey to Set in the month of Choiak, the time of the Winter Solstice. Offerings were also made to Set in at the Full Moon in the month of Pachons, and on the first day of the month of Mesore, according to Wallis Budge. These were intended to avert Set's association with darkness and the taking of light from the Sun and Moon; Set was strongly associated with the waning of the Moon, while Osiris with its waxing to Full.

Set's association with the northern polar constellations, specifically the four stars of the bowl of the Big Dipper, seen as the Thigh of an ox on the Zodiac of Denderah, was a natural idea for the residents of Upper Egypt. That area was the place from which darkness, mist, rain, and cold descended upon the Two Lands as the strength of the Sun waned each year, but Set was also restrained there by a hippopotamus Goddess, Reret, who kept him fettered. Her temple at Het-Khayat celebrated her ability to restrain the cold and darkness of Winter, and to clear the way for the birth of Horus, Lord of the Two Lands, son of Isis and Osiris, who is the Spring sun, according to Wallis Budge. She is conflated with Isis in later times. 

Set was one of the helpers of the soul in seeking immortality, and was accompanied by the four sons of Horus—Mestha, Haypi, Duamutef, and Qebhsennuf—who were said to live behind the Thigh in the northern sky. Note that one of the shafts from the King's chamber of the Great Pyramid targeted a star in the Thigh as part of its function as a resurrection machine.

Set was associated with iron, and the description of his birth—tearing his way from the side of Nut rather than being born in the more normal way—sounds strongly to me of the memory of a descent of a meteorite, from which one could mine meteoric iron. This metal was known to be precious to the ancient Egyptians, having fallen from the iron plate of the sky and the ancestral stars. Set was also associated with storms, thunder, lightning, and hot, dry winds coming off the desert, and the dessication due to the Sun in the late Summer leading up to the Nile floods. If a largish meteor had landed somewhere in the western desert before the advent of hieroglyphic writing, it could well have brought a period of storms and darkness remembered as Set's birth. The ancients who were not literate used the symbols and images we know as myth as containers for memories passed down by word of mouth—the stronger the imagery, the more likely it was to persist. 

In some of the pyramid texts, Set is said to help Horus set up an iron ladder to the heavens, viewed as a great iron plate, up which Osiris (the individual) must climb to be reborn among the stars. In this sense, Set is the twin of Heru-Ur, not Osiris, as his strength stands the deceased in good stead. In line 192 of the text of Pepi I, the deceased prays to these two Gods, "Homage to thee, O divine Ladder! Homage to thee, O Ladder of Set! Stand thou upright, O divine Ladder! Stand thou upright, O Ladder of Set! Stand thou upright, O Ladder of Horus, whereby Osiris came forth into heaven" (Budge, 1969, ii 241-242). Similarly, in line 493 of the text of Unas, the deceased prays, "Unas cometh forth upon the Ladder which his father Re hath made for him, and Horus and Set take the hand of Unas, and they lead him into the Dwat" (Budge, 1969, ii 242). 

Heru-ur was god of the sky by day, while Set was god of the sky by night; both assisted the deceased in his or her afterlife journey in the Dwt; their hostility balanced by Thoth as Ap-Rehu, the judge of the two opposing gods, and alleviator of strife. Set was also associated with enemies, and those who were bound as captives, although Isis released him after he was captured by her son, Horus, because she understood the necessity of balance provided by Set. 

Western duality loses sight of this essential understanding and must see Set as "evil," when he was simply an explanation for those events that seemed opposed to the desirable order of life: storms, earthquakes, eclipses, the dark of the Moon, and the darkness of night. While these things are feared, the Egyptians realized they were not evil in themselves, simply events that happened and required a response to restore order. Set could give one strength, and assist one in navigating the Dwt and the dark if one propitiated him carefully; or he could be an obstinate foe and source of violence if one did not approach him with respect!

Let us move away from the concepts of evil versus good, Devil versus God that take us into hatred of Set through lack of understanding. Let us restore this God of chaotic nature to his rightful place as one of the Epagomenal Gods, children of Nut.

Wallis Budge, E. A. (1904; 1969). The Gods of the Egyptians: Studies in Egyptian Mythology, in two volumes [Reprinted by Dover]. New York, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Prayer to Heru-Ur on his Epagomenal Day

Hail to you Heru-Ur, Horus the Elder, Lord of the Two Eyes of Heaven, Lord of the Face of the Sun, as your twin, Set, is the Face of the Night. You, who are Heru-ur Nesu, Lord of the South in your seat of Maykhenut, and Heru-ur Bati, Lord of the North in your seat of Sekhemt, hold the Uatchti, the two Eyes are the Sun and Moon.

Watch over us with your bright eyes through the hours of the day and night, as you sail with Re in the Wia nehehe, The Boat of a Million Years. You are the winged Sun disk surrounded with the two uraei, which are Nekhebet and Uatchit, which stands guard over all temples. Protect us with the Winged Disk when you are Heru-Khenti-in-Maati, Blind Horus with no eyes to see our peril.

Your shrine of Pa-Ayit preserves the shoulder of Osiris in Sekemt, guarded by the two trees, Nebes and Shent. You walk the Two Lands in the form of a Lion, protecting us from evil. At Ombos, you are Neb Nubti, Lord of Two Golds, where your consort Ta-sent-neferet bears the young Sun, Pa-neb-taui, son of the Lord of the Two Lands.

From Giza, you stand as Heru-Khuti, Horus of the Two Horizons, in the form of the Great Sphinx, watching your travels with Re from Bahkau, the Mountain of Sunrise, to Manu, the Mountain of Sunset. You are Heru-khuti-Tem, Lord of the Two Lands of Iunu, and as Heru Behutet, the protector who prevails in the power of the Sun at midday.

At Edfu, you are Lord of the Forge, where your mesniu [smiths] run the mesnet [foundry] to make the iron weapons you need to defeat the forces of chaos. You who chase Re’s enemies riding the Winged Disk, protect us from evil and harm during the day, and protect Re from the forces of Apep as he travels through the Dwt to be reborn.

As you rise from Bahkau as Heru-khuti-khepera, to shine forth at midday as Heru-Khuti, and to end the day as Heru-Khuti-Atem, who sets in the West by Mount Manu, watch over us. May your left eye, the Moon, watch over us at night. Defy the forces of Apep as Heru-Behutet, when you pass through the hours of the Night. We greet you on your day of birth, Horus the Elder, ankh djet.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Prayer to Osiris on His Epagomenal Day

Hail to you Osiris, Asar Neter A’a, in your day of birth won from A’ah by the Lord of Time, Tehuti, Who serves at your side. Great Sah, Sky God rising with the Dawn Who presages the rising of your sister/wife, Aset Sepdet. Your bright belt points the way to Sepdet, Her blue-white heart, and the coming of Aakhet, the Inundation that renews the Black Land of Khemet. Great is your care for us, oh Osiris, who came down to teach us the arts of civilization, law, and justice, who taught the first farmers to plant the wheat and the barley along the banks of the Nile. We greet you, whose office preserved Ma’at in the land with the benison of your sister/wife, Aset of the Throne!

Oh Green Lord, whose face shines forth in the wheat and the barley as they arise from the renewed soil, after the Inundation brings Per-t, the Season of Growth. In your temple of Abydos, your priests prepare the renewed soil to plant the first seeds that will show you risen once more in your vigor. Bless the Two Lands, and all who live upon the Earth with your seed and growing crops! Serapis, Bull of His Mother, may your seed be potent for us!

Asar Khentimentiu, Sokar-Asar, Lord of the Hall of the Two Ma’ati who waits for us at the end of our days, grant that we may live each day in Ma’at, that we may be true of voice and justified each day, and come before you with a clean heart. Asar-Re, Lord of the West, help us to attain rebirth in the Field of Reeds, in the Field of Flowers. Help us to raise the Djed pillar so we may climb to the Unchanging Stars and become an akh [star] among the akhu of Sah: an Orion in your own light. May we live in your peace, under your order, and with your guiding hand. 

Welcome Asar, ankh djet!

So what do the Egyptian terms mean in this prayer?
Asar Neter A'a—The Great God Osiris

A'ah—Name of the Moon God, from whom Tehuti (Thoth) wins the Epagomenal days for Nut's children to be born.

Sah—The Egyptian name for the constellation Orion, and for Osiris as Orion. Those who become one with the stars (akhu) of Orion through Osiris after death become sahu, the plural for Orions.

 Aset Sepdet—Isis of Sirius, called Sothis by the Greeks.

Aakhet—The first season of the Egyptian New Year, during which the Nile floods, also called the Season of Inundation. This four month season is sacred to Sekhmet, the Lady in Red.

The Black Land of Khemet—Egypt, known as Khemet, was also called the Two Lands, the Black and the Red. The Black Land lies along the Nile, and is fertilized and renewed each year by the Inundation. It was traditionally ruled over by Osiris. The Red Land is the surrounding desert lands, traditionally ruled over by Osiris' brother and rival, Set.

Ma'at—Goddess of Justice, Order, Balance, and Truth. Preserving Ma'at was a principal occupation of all good Egyptians.

Aset of the ThroneAset is the Egyptian name of Isis, and means "throne." In the Old Kingdom, especially, the pharaoh gained his right of rule through the female lines, as the ownership of land was vested in the women. This is part of the reason why the pharaohs often married their sisters, because right to the throne came through their agency, not his.

Per-t—The second season of the Egyptian Year, after the Inundation had receded. It began when the priests of Osiris at Abydos saw wheat and barley sprout in a sarcophagus shaped bed they filled each year with the renewed black soil of the Nile. Once these seeds sprouted from the "body of Osiris," the pharaoh would perform the ritual of opening the land to new planting by plowing a sacred ritual furrow. Osiris is shown with a green face and skin typically to indicate his function as a "Green Man," or fertility god associated with the growth of the grain.

Serapis—Another form of Osiris symbolized in the cult of the Apis bulls, whose fertility renewed the land each year. Serapis is called "the Bull of His Mother" as fertilizing Isis as the Land of Egypt, Aset-Ta

Asar Khentimentiu—Osiris of the Lands of the West, e.g., the Dwt or Otherworld. This is the land where the Sun (Re) went each evening to be reborn, and where the souls of the dead must pass to be reborn as described in the "Book of Coming Forth By Day," commonly known as the Book of the Dead.

Sokar-Asar—This is another name for Osiris as God of the Dead.

Lord of the Hall of the Two Ma'ati—This is the Hall of Judgment, where the heart of the deceased is weighed against the feather of Ma'at to see whether the individual has lived in Ma'at throughout his or her life. The two Ma'ati are Isis and Nephthys, who stand beside Osiris' throne during the judgment.

Asar-Re—This is the conflation of Osiris and Re, the Sun God, at midnight, e.g., Re in the Hall of Judgment before His daily rebirth.

Field of Reeds, Field of Flowers—Some of the blessed lands that the justified dead were said to inhabit after the Judgment. Different texts give different names.

Djed Pillar—Pillar representing Osiris' backbone set up each year to celebrate his resurrection, and to act as a ladder to the stars around the north pole in the sky, where individuals were said to be reborn.

Akh—Star, plural Akhu. Those who ascend to the stars around the north pole in the sky are said to become new stars in Orion (Sah), or sahu—Orions—as they are reborn as Osiris. One more of the different perspectives on what happens to us after death!

Asar, ankh djet—Osiris, living forever, part of the traditional funerary text used to indicate the individual had achieved eternal life.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Epagomenal Days and the Egyptian New Year

The Children of Nut
By Michael A. Starsheen
When Ra commanded Shu to separate his grandchildren, Nut and Geb, to create space where all things might live, Nut was heavily pregnant and about to bear her children, a new set of Gods.  Ra, still angry with his grandchildren laughed, and swore that Nut would not bear her children on any day in the calendar year.  Now, at that time, the calendar year contained 12 months of 30 days each for a total of 360 exactly, and Thoth, the God in charge of Time, was deeply disturbed by Ra’s pronouncement.

After much thought, Thoth went to his good friend, A’ah (pronounced Ay’ah), the eldest God of the Moon and timekeeper for the calendar.  He challenged A’ah to a game of draughts such that if he won, A’ah would have to give him an extra day for each round. The game became so intense that A’ah began to melt, and by the end, he became a part of Thoth.  Thoth was now the God of the Moon, marking time, and as such, may be shown with a crescent moon and full moon on his head.
So there were now 5 days not in the calendar!  Thoth brought his magic to Nut, and began acting as her midwife to help her bear her glorious children.  The first was her son, Osiris, who was born in the city of Per-Asar (Busiris).  (Note: In Egyptian, the word “per” means house or home, and “Asar” is the name of Osiris”.  “Busiris” is the Greekification of the city’s name.)  On the second, she bore Heru-ur (Horus the Elder), who was born in the city of Sekhemt.  On the third, Set tore through her left side, being impatient to be born, and came forth into the city of Per-Matchet (Oxyrhyncus).  Set’s name is sometimes given as Seth (choose your own favorite pronunciation.)
On the fourth day, Isis was born in the city of Ta-en-tarert (Dendera), where Nut exclaimed “Ahs (behold)! I have become thy mother”, which is the origin of the name Aset, or Isis.  She was also identified her with the Goddess Nubt, (Gold), who was born in Per-Nubt, and Aset was given at birth to her brother Osiris.  This is probably part of the confusion between Isis and Hathor, as Dendera is Hathor’s principal worship center.  (Wallis Budge gives this birthplace, and I’m a bit suspicious that it is a later confusion of Isis with Hathor.) 
An earlier potential birthplace of Isis is the city Hebes-ka, in the Nome of Theb-Ka, where Isis is the principal Nome God.  Now the Nome Gods are the earliest, original Gods of Egypt, coming out of the predynastic times.  In their earliest forms, each village or town had their own Gods, whose worship flourished or faded occurring to the fate of the community at large.  As the communities were consolidated into the forty-two (or forty-four) Nomes of Upper and Lower Egypt, each became associated with one particular God or group of Gods.  (See The Sirius Connection, by Murry Hope.)  From these beginnings as local Gods, certain of the Gods became consolidated into families of Gods at certain worship centers, such as Annu.
On the fifth day, Nut’s last daughter, Isis’ dark twin, Nebet-hes (Nephthys) was born at Dendera with her sister Isis.  She was given in marriage to her brother Set.  While Isis is the bright side of the Moon, Nephthys is not so much the dark side of the Moon as the side that is never seen.  She is Isis’ essential counterpart, and spends much of her time with Isis.  She doesn’t appear to have a personal worship center.
So now Ra’s great-grandchildren were born, and they delighted him. For many years, at this time, Ra ruled the Earth, and watched over the people who had inhabited the Earth after Shu provided them space to live.   As his great-grandchildren grew to maturity, Ra eventually withdrew to the heavens, and turned over the rulership of Earth to Osiris.  This began the movement from hunting to agriculture, for Osiris traveled about the Earth teaching the arts of civilization to the people, while Isis held down the throne back in Egypt.
Myth and the Mysterious Five Extra Days

To the modern, Western, scientific, left-brained mind, the word “myth” conjures up something that is “untrue”, a lie.  When we look back on our ancestors, the standard teaching is that their myths were simplistic ways of looking at natural phenomena and making up stories to explain them because ancient people were simply “not smart enough” to figure out what was really going on.
This arrogant modern mindset vigorously ignores the vast amount of data to the contrary of their point of view and, since it is taught in most every textbook, perpetuates itself in each new generation of scientists so that no one is willing to come to the data with an open mind.  For the most part, it takes scientists from different disciplines to take a fresh look at the data to begin seeing what has been missed by the mainstream scientists, and they are roundly trashed by the mainstream as amateurs.  While it is true that not all their speculations are accurate, they at least force people to think in different patterns, and possibly make new connections.
I bring this up as a life-long student of myth, and as a profound intuitive.  We of the post-Renaissance, post-Gutenberg world do not understand what it was like to live in a primarily preliterate world.  In that world, symbol was everything.  When you go into old medieval churches, everything you see around you has multiple levels of meaning that any worshiper would have been aware of just by seeing the symbolic scene. 
Take a simple picture of a mermaid combing her hair in a mirror.  To the medieval Christian, the mirror represents vanity, and the mermaid a sinner delighting in her vanity.  That’s the surface image.  But underneath, this image would call forth related stories from the Old and New Testaments on the subject of vanity and, from there, to sermons on the sin of vanity, and the need to resist it on the road to salvation.  In other words, a simple picture keys open a range of responses in the observer’s mind that lead to the ultimate truth—avoid the sin of vanity, if you with to achieve salvation.  And, unlike our modern reading public, our medieval person viewing the picture would have had no difficulty holding all these layers of thought in mind at once, as a trained memory was a necessity in times before the written word was widely accessible.
Now let’s take another look at myth.  All myths contain intensely coded symbols and images that have deeper meanings that must be decoded by specialists (mostly trained priests).  In the case of the Epagomenal Days upon which Nut may give birth to the five Neters, there is the principal symbol of Thoth playing draughts with the Moon, A’ah.  Through this game he gains 5 days not in the calendar.
So what is the first level of this myth?  Well, the obvious image is that before Thoth’s game, the calendar was only 360 days long, and this was not long enough to encompass the new Gods.  To modern scientists and archaeologists, this is a sign that our ancestors were simply too stupid to know how to count.  (This in the face of worldwide evidence of extremely accurate astronomical observations and calculations, calendar keeping, and other mathematical work.  Worldwide cultures all have this same myth of a sudden need to add 5 days to the calendar. )
The second level hides the reason why Ra forced Thoth to add five days to the calendar.  Through the symbolism, it is clear that the reason involved some relationship between the Sun, Moon, and Earth, with possibly a celestial force.  In the book Cataclysm by D.S. Allan and J. B. Delair (originally published in England as When the Earth Nearly Died), they present archaeological evidence for a major catastrophe that affected the entire solar system, destroying Mars, barely missing Earth, and eventually crashing into the Sun.  This appears to have occurred at the end of the last Ice Age, and is preserved in myths from around the Globe.  Evidence ranges from caves high on mountainsides that are filled to the brim with animal bone flood debris to the specialized megalithic structures from around the world that preserve evidence of the time of the disaster.  A key element of all the myths was the sudden need to add 5 days to the calendar, which are generally seen as unlucky.
Other books that examine this aspect of myth and time:
Uriel’s Machine by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas, which looks closely at Europe’s megalithic “time machines” that were built to preserve specific points in time for reference against a future catastrophe.  It reconstructs the Biblical story of Ezekiel as a journey to the North to see one of these machines, an annalemma, which details the rising points of the Sun throughout the year, and which can be reconstructed at any desired latitude for preservation of the knowledge of the Sun’s motion.
Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock, which looks at myths from around the world, and tracks down the outlines of the global flood and catastrophe that occurred at the end of the Ice Age.  Although the book focuses a bit too much on the sinking and possible position of Atlantis, it is still an extremely useful reference.
Hamlet’s Mill by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, which looks at ancient myth as a cipher for preserving complex astronomical and other information through symbol and story.  This knowledge process and chain of custody of the keys to unlock it was eventually broken and suppressed by the advent of the Greco-Roman worldview, and the development of our modern, Western modality of thought and analysis.
The third level ties the births to the precessional age of Gemini, as the children are paired off into sets of twins: Osiris-Isis, Set Nephthys, or Osiris-Set, Isis-Nephthys, with Heru-ur left over.  He immediately leaves Earth to travel with Ra on the Solar Boat.  Ra sets Osiris to rule over the Nile Valley, and Osiris leaves Isis in charge while he goes forth teaching mankind agriculture and the arts of civilization.
Ultimately, the myth ties into a world-wide stream of consciousness that remembers a time when the Earth’s yearly cycle was an even 360-day cycle, and that something sudden and extreme occurred to add 5 days “not in the calendar” that had to be accounted for.  And in all of these cultures, there were either special Gods born in association with these days, or they were considered purely unlucky.  In most of the associated cultures (Hindu, Chinese, Maya, Egyptian, British, etc.), there is a tradition of astronomical observations and calendar development of high order, so it is very unlikely that they would simply have missed 5 days in their calculations!
Dating the Epagomenal Days (Sirius Rising)
In ancient Egypt, the priest/astronomers who studied the skies for signs that connected the Duat above to the Two Lands below noticed a connection between the Star of Isis, Sirius, and the Rising of the Nile Flood.  They principally observed helical culminations, which in layman’s terms are known as the point of rising just before dawn.
Which came first?  The observation that Sirius rises just before the Sun on the day or days before the first floodwaters arrive from the mysterious source of the Nile?  Or that those waters begin to rise just as Sirius rises?  This is a true mystery, lost in the depths of time.  Sirius is the only star whose sidereal orbit is the same as the earth’s yearly orbit; i.e., it returns to the exact same position in the sky every single year at the same time over long periods of time.
The arrow marks the point on the horizon where Sirius appears in the dawn glow.
The belt stars of Orion, which became associated with Osiris, point to the place on the horizon at which Sirius rises.  This gave the priests observing the skies a marker for where to look for the helical culmination of Sirius.  They also knew that Sirius would disappear from the skies for 70 days, after its last known sighting in the western sky at night as it passed behind the Sun.  (This is the source of the 70 days in which the body sits in the natron salts as it is embalmed—the 70 hidden days that Isis searches for the body of Osiris.)
The only thing that has changed about the rising of Sirius is the timing, due to precession.  As the Earth turns on its axis, it acts a bit like a top, describing a long circle about its axis of spin.  This causes the pole star to appear to shift through the skies from Vega, the star of Ma’at, up through Polaris, our current pole star, and back to Vega.
This affects the rest of the sky as well, shifting constellations up and down against the horizon.  12,000+ years ago, the constellations of Orion and Canis Major, where Sirius is located were far south of their current position, when Vega was the pole star.  At that time, Sirius rose before the Sun in early July.  By the Middle Kingdom, from which we have our early records, and into the Late Kingdom, when we have most of our historical records, Sirius rose in mid- to late-July, about the 191h, which coincided with the annual flood.  At this time, the pole star would have likely been in or passing out o f the constellation of Draco.  (Note that one of the shafts of the King’s chamber of the Great Pyramid is focused on one of the stars in Draco, which was probably the pole star at the time, although this was the Old Kingdom.)
By our modern day, Sirius has shifted sufficiently far north that it rises on August 1st, which coincides with our Western festival of Lughnassadh.  So those who want to celebrate the Isian festival of Opet, which is described in Panthea, see for a copy of the ritual.
Back to the Epagomenal Days, then:
God or Goddess
Ancient Date
Modern Date
July 14th
July 27th
July 15th
July 28th
July 16th
July 29th
July 17th
July 30th
July 18th
July 31st
Sirius Rising
July 19th
Aug 1st 
The Egyptians added an unassigned 6th day every four years to adjust for leap years and keep the civil calendar on track.
The Aswan High Dam
All we can celebrate today is the energy and wonder of the Epagomenal Days and the traditions of the annual Flood, which are described at length in my essay, The Egyptian Gods—Hapi.  Thanks to the construction of the Aswan High Dam by the Egyptians and the Soviet Union in the 1960’s, the Nile no longer floods annually.  According to Marc Reisner, author of Cadillac Desert, this has been described as “the worst ecological disaster committed in one place by mankind.  The spring floods are gone; the nutrient-rich silts no longer come; the Nile sardine fishery in the Mediterranean is going extinct; bilharzias, or schistosomiasis, a gruesome disease borne by a snail that thrives in slack waters in Africa, is rampant; the reservoir is silting up quite rapidly due to erosion from primitive agriculture upriver; irrigation canals, meanwhile, are being scoured by the silt-free water released by the dam; and the salts have arrived.  With their copious supply of year-round irrigation water, the Egyptian farmers have been irrigating madly, and the water table, increasingly poisoned by salts, is rising dangerously.  …. The Egyptians now have no choice other than to install drainage, which they can ill afford—partly because schistosomiasis has become a national epidemic costing them some $600 million a year.”  Egypt had avoided the fate of so many other desert civilizations that poisoned themselves to death with irrigation salts, but is now on the same fast track to death and oblivion.
The building of the Aswan High Dam and its attendant reservoir, Lake Nasser, caused a worldwide controversy in that it would have inundated the archaeological site of the temples of Abu Simbel.  These were the Sun Temple, constructed during the reign of Ramses II, celebrating his alleged victory at Kadesh over the Hittites, and the Hathor temple, constructed by Queen Nefertari.  If there were other sites in the valley, they are inaccessible and most likely destroyed by the waters, Nile silt, and salts now.
These temples were taken apart between 1963 and 1968, moved 60 meters higher up the hillside, and settled onto an artificial mountain.  The international community came together to save these temples in horror at the thought that the Egyptian people, and their Soviet backers, would simply flood such a precious part of their heritage.  And, yet, ecologically, they’ve lost even more.
The Sun temple of Ramses II was dedicated to the Sun gods, Amon-Ra, Ra-Herakhte, Ptah, and Ramses II, himself.  You may have seen pictures of the façade of the temple, which has four giant-size statutes of Ramses II, seated on thrones facing eastwards.  They are each 21 meters high, and his wife, mother, and children are settled about his feet.  On the wall above the entrance is a statue representing Ra-Herakhte, God of the Sun on the Horizon, with two worshipping statues of Ramses II carved into the wall on either side.  (This façade is topped by 22 baboons, apparently worshipping the sun with their hands raised up.) The baboon is sacred to Thoth.)
The temple runs for some 56 meters into the mountain, having 3 consecutive halls, plus 8 side chambers. It is noted for its floors rising considerably the deeper you get. The first hall contains 8 statues of the pharaoh as Osiris.  The arrangement and shape of the temple allows the morning Sun to cast its rays all the way into the innermost sanctuary twice a year, on February 22 and October 22.  (I wonder if they managed to preserve this alignment when they moved the temple to its new location?)
These are not common solar alignments, and are not associated with equinoxes, solstices or other obvious points.  They might have been points when the Sun changed astrological signs back in the time of Ramses II, but are not now, and so are again obscure.  Maybe they are birthdays of his favorite sons.  Who knows?  With the discovery of his sons’ tomb in the Valley of the Kings by Kent Weeks,, it’s entirely possible.  Ramses II was predeceased by over 40 of his children, many of whom are buried in KV51.
Nefertari’s Hathor temple façade contains 6 standing colossi representing Ramses II and his queen, Nefertari, which are 10 ½ meters high.  That they are equal in size shows Ramses’ love and respect for his queen—most pharaoh’s depict their queens as lesser in size, despite the older Egyptian custom of receiving the land-right to rule through the female line.  The interior of the temple is fairly crude, runs only 20 meters into the rock, and contains only a small statue of Hathor, as though it were unfinished and left off in a hurry.
(This is the reason that Isis is the throne Goddess, who provides the source for Osiris’, and later Horus’, right to rule Egypt.  In ancient times, women owned land, and men gained the right to rule it through their access to a woman’s land right.  This became the reason why various pharaohs began marrying their sisters, mothers, and cousins—they would then gain access to their female relations’ land rights.  In later Egyptian times, this was honored more in the breach than in the actual observation but, by that time, the custom of marrying in the immediate family, was ingrained.)
All of this environmental and archaeological damage was a casualty of human greed, and the search for control over the natural world.  We in the West did as much damage to ourselves, although with less shouting about it.  And at some point, we will all have to address the ruination of Mother Earth.  This may be a job for the Druid Clan of Dana and Noble Order of Tara.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hathor and Nut, Egyptian Sky Goddesses

One of the things that I've noticed studying Egyptian mythology and hieroglyphics is that as we progress toward later regimes, such as the New Kingdom, etc., the more frequently Gods and Goddesses get conflated with one another. By that, I mean that one of them subsumes the attributes and behaviors of another, until one is left with a "Goddess of Everything" but focus of nothing. I find that it helps (me, at least) to go back to the ancient hieroglyphic names and associations, to try and understand the Goddesses as they originally evolved.

This is the case for Hathor and Nut, both considered sky goddesses by the Egyptians. In later times, Hathor subsumes much of Nut's imagery and function, as well as adding features from other Goddesses from elsewhere (such as the conflation of Hathor and the Greek Aphrodite, based on Hathor being the most similar figure the Greeks could find to the Goddesses they knew). Both Goddesses are extremely ancient in the history of Egypt, but they originally served quite distinct functions.

First, let's look at Nut. She is the image of the starry night sky, spread over the Two Lands, represented by her brother/husband Geb. Their father, Shu, holds them apart, creating the space (Air) within which life can manifest. All of this results from Atum-Re's direction in the process of creating the world in which everyone lives, and is part of the mythic creation cycle of Iunu, the center of Re's and the Ennead's cults.

Nut also plays an even earlier part in creation myth as part of Tehuti's Ogdoad, a group of paired male/female beings who shape the "ether" to create the universe. Nut is the companion of Nu, the primeval waters, and is essentially "Shakti" to his "Shiva" in this mythic cycle. That's why her hieroglyph includes three jagged lines, the symbol for water. Her determinative symbol is a water pot, which some equate to the feminine womb, from which the Sun God emerges each morning.

In either case, Nut represents the vastness of space, in which all of creation can manifest. I see her function in the Ogdoad as starless, black, and empty night, corresponding to the infinitely deep, dark waters of her partner, Nu. Both serve as the ground against which the other three pairs in the Ogdoad generate the Egg of Creation, which Tehuti calls into existence through the great Word (Heka aa).

Once the Egg has born fruit through the raising of the mound within the midst of Nu's waters, Atum-Re can manifest and begin generating the next cycle of creation. I believe that when he draws Nut into companionship with Geb as his grandchildren, this is when she gets her stars to distinguish her from the consort of Nu. Geb, as the Earth floating in space, still resided on the waters of Nu, and within the embrace of Nut; the concept of infinity is not lost. But the stars represent the disembodied souls of potential life on Earth; remember that the Egyptians believed that when we die, we travel back into Nut's starry void if our hearts are true.

So, Nut's principal resonance, if you will, is with infinite, deep space. She defines the boundaries of life on Earth, which exists within the thin atmosphere provided by Shu. We come from her, and we return to her, embodying the esoteric principle of incarnation and life cycles.

Hathor, on the other hand, has a much more specific association with the sky. This is clear from her hieroglyphic name, Hwt hr, meaning "house of Horus." Hathor is described as a daughter of Re, and is part of a triple Goddess form with Bast and Sekhmet, which I've described elsewhere. Horus becomes conflated with Re as the Sun God as Ruler, embodying the principle of "as above, so below" through the pharaohs. ("Pharaoh" is actually "Per aa," or "Great House," meaning the chief house of the God on Earth.)

The Lion Gates of Morning
So what is the House of Horus in the sky? Well, it's not the entire sky, but rather the specific path that the Sun Boat travels across the heavens each day. At dawn, Hathor gives birth (rebirth) to Re between the gates of the East—the point at which the Sun rises to travel Hathor's path each day. This point or gate is symbolized as two hills with the Sun rising between them, or often two lions back to back, with the Sun rising between them, the latter representing Hathor's connection with Sekhmet and Bast.

At the latitude of Egypt, close to the equator, the movement of the Sun's rising point on the Eastern horizon is minimal (i.e., has a small analemma), so visualizing it as a fixed point makes some sense. It is toward this point that the Sphinx faces, a syncretic lion/man who may have originally represented the union of Hathor with Sekhmet and Bast. Also, because the Egyptians saw this rising point as a signal of Re's daily rebirth from his journey through the Dwt, this makes sense of their concept of the eastern bank of the Nile being the land of the living.

As the Sun Boat progresses through the House of Horus over the course of the day, Re ages, from Khepera-Re in the morning, to Re-Heru at mid-day, to the enfeebled, old Atum-Re at evening. Again, the setting point of the Sun on the western horizon is significant, and Hathor plays a key role in the Sun's journey here. Hathor of the Western Horizon is named "Hwt hr Khentimentiu," Hathor of the doors to the otherworld. Like the morning point, these doors/gates open to take in the corpse of the old Sun God as he dies, with his blood staining the western sky red; once he has passed through, he becomes Amun-Re, the Hidden God.

This is why the west bank of the Nile was considered the appropriate land of the dead, as it coincided with Re's daily death and descent into the otherworld. 

Once again, in the Book of the Pylons, Hathor and Bast serve Re's journey through the Dwt each night, when he must contend with the forces of chaos (Apep) that want to prevent the next day's dawning. Re comes to the Hall of the Double Ma'ati for judgment, just as people were believed to come after death, and the day's events and quality are evaluated before Osiris. This is where Tehuti records the history of the Day's events in the eternal record, which covers everything that Re has seen during the course of the day. Clearly, when an individual dies and comes to the Hall of Judgment, Tehuti is ready with the scroll recording all that Re has seen, and thus knows the truth of the individual's behavior as he/she speaks before Osiris.

This is where I think that things may differ from the typical story Egyptologists believe applied to the human dead. Just as Re is judged in the Hall of Ma'at to fortify the order of nature in the world, each individual must also come to this point of judgment. But the idea that a false confession causes the soul to be destroyed forever (eaten by the chimeric being, Iammit) clashes with the idea that Re is reborn at this point to continue into the new day.

I believe that the version of the Prt-m-hru (Book of Coming Forth by Day) that deals with this underworld journey and judgment of the dead individual parallels Re's journey, and that having one's heart eaten by Iammit signifies being cast back into incarnation to try again to "get it right." The Egyptians envisioned the Dwt for the justified dead to be so much like all of the things they loved during life that I cannot accept they did not see the connection with reincarnation for those who didn't "get it right the first time." Perhaps I should refer to this as the "Law of Conservation of Souls."

Those who stand before Osiris whose hearts balance in the scales against the feather of Ma'at are said to be "true of voice, justified." They travel onward to become reborn as stars in the body of Nut; in other words to be resorbed into the infinite Ground of Being from which they originally came. Whether they choose to be reborn in Earthly incarnation at that point is anyone's guess, but as Nut becomes reborn as the granddaughter of Re to serve as the Sky above the Earth, I suspect there was a mechanism whereby a justified soul could return to incarnation for new lessons.

Obviously, I can't prove any of this, as it depends on a very alternative reading of the Book of the Dead, The Book of the Pylons, and the Book of Gates, among others; however, given the way in which the Egyptians envisioned the organizing force of Ma'at, and the replication of everything at each level of being, it makes an attractive amount of sense, at least to me.

So Hathor becomes the Great Cow Goddess who suckles the newborn pharaoh on Earth as the incarnation of Re-Hru, signified by the Horus name of the pharaoh. Hathor gives birth to the reincarnated Re at the gates of the East and takes him into Khentimentiu in the West at evening, while Re-Hru moves in an orderly fashion through his house (Hwt-Hr) in the sky—the infinite body of Nut.

The different myths of the Egyptians are not meant to be taken as separate, unrelated sequences, but as a rich, overlapping tapestry unfolding in many different layers of meaning. It is definitely not the way that Western linear, logical, rational mental processes prefer, but accords well with the concept of Ma'at that lies at the heart of all Egyptian religion and philosophy. We just have to let their magic words (hekau, hieroglyphs) tell us how they conceived of their world, rather than trying to filter it through our own concepts.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Answering the Call of Isis—musings on Priesthood

I decided I'd blathered enough on the Facebook page about my opinions about priesthood, and I thought I would share with you my own process of becoming a priest. I've never really shared the whole journey, except with a few friends, but perhaps it will help you to see where I'm coming from.

First off, you need to remember that I am trained as a scientist, to experiment, test, and measure things. But I'm also highly intuitive, and often see answers as patterns or images, and then must work backward to create the linear, logical structure others expect. And I've always been psychic to a high degree—at the time I got into science, it looked like the only vehicle around that could explain the experiences I was having. It didn't, and left me in the position of either denying real experiences or being considered technically insane. <shrug> It gets weird out here on the far end of the normal curve, anyway.

When I was in college in the late 1970s, some bare-bones beginnings of Goddess spirituality were becoming more readily available. I had taught myself to erect and interpret astrological charts largely because of the knee-jerk prejudice my physics teachers expressed against the subject. I've always felt that prejudice without data on which to make such a decision is worthless, especially for a scientist.

I also began to read the Tarot cards, out of curiosity. At that time, in Birmingham, Alabama, the only decks available were the Rider-Waite and the Thoth decks. I was uncomfortable with the overt Christianity and patriarchy of the Rider-Waite, and use of the Thoth deck seemed to attract negative energies to me, which I had no idea how to deal with, since no one had ever shown me how to set a circle before. I used to do readings with the Thoth deck with a sword across my lap, so I could deal with anything I didn't like wandering through!

By the early 80s, I had met some Wiccans with whom I began a bit of study, which felt *right* to me at the time. I had become very disenchanted with traditional Christianity through the manifest hypocrisy of most of those I knew in the Church, and with its unfriendliness to women (this was back when most denominations still would not ordain women, remember.) If I had continued at that stage, I probably would have ended up a Wiccan, and maybe have found the Fellowship of Isis at some point.

But it didn't happen. I met and became friends with a person, and married them because my mother was pushing me so hard to get married. (She had always suspected there was something "wrong" with me, and so forced me as hard as she could to match up with her idea of "feminine behavior." Yes, at that time in my life, I was still outwardly female.) In any case, my spouse—a true scientist and mathematician—found the mystical "woo woo" stuff too frightening to contemplate, and he made a condition of our continuing relationship that I give it up. Stupid me! I agreed.

But the Goddess clearly intended to reach me, however long it took. I suffered several catastrophic health problems through the first 10 years of my marriage, and increasing abuse from my husband as well as from my mother. Emotional abuse doesn't leave visible scars, but it can most certainly kill you. By 1992, I had reached bottom, disabled, mostly left alone by my husband, and convinced I was worthless to anyone and had no reason to live. I decided to commit suicide.

I was laying on a couch in the back part of our house, and when I went to get up, our two cats came in and *SAT* on me with the full power of Bast backing them up. Sure, they only weighed 10-12 pounds in objective reality, but I literally could not lift them off of me. They stayed while I broke down and cried out my pain and despair. Bast meant for me to live, and intervened in an unambiguous way. Magic does indeed happen, but most of us don't notice it because we're too conditioned to believe "it's just my imagination."

So I began studying books on Celtic Magic (thanks D. J. Conway!) and resuming my study of mythology, which had always fascinated me. I found Scott Cunningham's Wicca for the Solitary Practitioner, and began to learn and practice the system he described, as well as to meditate in nature around my home, as I was still very crippled and could not walk very far. (We built a pool, and I spent a lot of time floating in the water gazing up at the heavens, and meditating deeply. I learned some interesting techniques doing so, such as how to dissolve into the elements. See my book, Universal Alchemy.) I still had no teachers, or at least anyone on the physical plane to work with. I was taking the information I could gather, and then experimenting to see what worked for me.

The Goddess brought an old friend of mine from college back into our lives—he swears he never sent our company a resume and has no idea how we got it. He had left me in a very bad emotional state after college; the Goddess intended him to heal the hurt he'd inflicted. He was also a Wiccan, and gave me someone to at least exchange ideas with. As he was also a good computer scientist, my husband respected his intelligence, and when he would see us deep in a discussion of the esoterics of the Tarot, he began to get a clue that there might be something to this "woo woo" stuff of mine.

Vision of Isis
One evening while waiting for Jeff and Marty to get home for dinner, I went out to meditate on the New Moon, something I did fairly regularly at that time. The new Crescent was just visible above the trees to the west of our house, in close conjunction with Venus. I put myself into a deep meditative trance state, and allowed the worship in my heart to link me with the Moon. I saw silvery light begin to flow downward from the Crescent, and to become the hair and face of a beautiful Goddess. She and I regarded each other in total silence, and I could feel myself being weighed and measured. When She was done, she sent me fully back into my body and told me to go finish up the dinner I was cooking. Many years later, I tried to draw the vision I'd seen, which isn't exactly what I saw, but what She guided me to create.

I became friends with a massage therapist in the area, and began to study massage therapy in Pensacola, Florida, looking for something that I could do to help myself and heal others. Through Cathy, I met Lady Lilit (Deborah Nix-Merwin) of the Lyceum of Isis of Philae. I began attending their Full Moon Eve events, and realized I'd finally found a teacher and an organization in which I could believe—and one that had the purpose of letting me be *myself* with the Goddess, whatever that ended up manifesting as.

I began working with the Lyceum of Isis of Philae, and found the Full Moon Eve rituals profoundly affecting. As happens around me, though, magic also manifests somewhat randomly, and we had several "events" that convinced Lady Lillit and me that I should look to enter the priesthood of the FOI. One example involved a ritual we had done to release our anger at those who've hurt us; Lady Lillit had found a "reversing candle" (black on the outside, red on the inside), and we gave our anger to the flames under the supervision of Athena. The specific point was to let go of the anger, not direct it at anyone or anything, but our intensity was so powerful that even though the candle was placed in sand in a cauldron, and set on an asbestos pad on the carpet in the temple, our anger was so strong it set the carpet to smoldering. Most of the group had left the temple for the feast as I came out of my trance state, and noticed the smell of smoke. Fortunately, Lady Lillit and I were able to put it out before it got out of hand.

I continued my studies on my own, as well as with Lady Lillit, focusing primarily on Celtic and Norse mythology, which is my ancestral background in this lifetime. But as I continued working with the Goddess whose form I saw in the Moon, I came to realize She was Isis. My first thought at that point was, "Oh, no! Not the Egyptians! They're too weird." I'd tried to read some of their mythology years before, but it had been too complex for me—at 7 years old, I wasn't quite ready to tackle it. <grin>

I conducted a Full Moon Eclipse ritual in which I focused on Isis as "the Bereaved" searching for Her beloved Osiris. Throughout the darkness of the Eclipse, I felt Isis' grief and agony at the loss of Her beloved, and as the eclipse lifted, the shift to joy as She found him within the Persea Tree. This confirmed to me that I had been called to the priesthood by Isis, at least, the first of the three Goddesses who would call me to their service during my initiation year.

Nut, Mistress of the Spheres
Because I was an amateur astronomer and competent astrologer, I often meditated in the pool at night, staring into the stars overhead to see what messages might lie there. I've had a lengthy attachment to Vega, the bright blue star in Lyra in the summer sky, since I was very young. I remembered watching the star several nights when I was 10 or so, and feeling its light shine through and within me, and a sense of journeying there. Now, at 34, I saw the silvery form of a goddess form with Vega as her eye, and I met the Goddess Nut. Much later, I found out that Vega was considered the Star of Ma'at to the ancient Egyptians, pulling me further along the path. So I knew my second Goddess called me to Her service, for the wisdom of the starry sky.

I met other Gods and Goddesses along this initiatory journey, encountering some lightly, and some at a very profound level. In one of my daytime meditations, I watched the clouds swirl overhead to form a face, and I found myself in the regard of Odin, who made his call clear to me to be one of his Valkyries, or sacred Warriors. This didn't fit with the "script" of the FOI ordination, but who am I to argue with Odin? I've learned to just do what they tell me to do; they're bigger than I am. <grin>

The Celtic Brighid came to me at a Brighantia rite, when we shared the creations of our past year and planted the seeds of what we were to create in the next. Because I was still disabled and unable to work, I tried taking art classes at the local community college. This was a huge step for me, because I'd avoided my artwork since a junior high teacher had told me to "go back to the sciences because you'll never be an artist." Learning the skills I needed to convey some of what I was seeing when I journeyed to the other planes was important to me—I may never be a great artist, but at least I regained my lost artistic voice!

I met the Celtic Goddess Arianrhod when I did a spiral dance (in the pool) into her Castle in the polar stars. She is the one who gave me the name, "Starsheen," as my magical name in this incarnation. To me, it is not the reflected light of the stars (starshine), but the sheen of light lying over the deep waters of creation, light dissolved in the watery depths. All of this I got in a blast of imagery, and I returned to the physical plane.

Cosmic Web Diagram
with Gods and Goddesses
to Whom I Dedicated Myself

I was ordained just before Sahmain 1994 by Lady Lilit. The three Goddesses to whom I dedicated my service in the Ordination Rite were Isis (for healing), Nut (for wisdom), and Bast (for creativity). To each of them, I gave a significant gift: special massage oil for Isis, a painting of the Tarot card of the Star for Nut, and a painting of the Cosmic Web diagram to Bast.

The Star painting is highly significant for me, as it represents the flow of stellar wisdom from Eternity through the Gods and Goddesses into the hands of the Priest/ess. It is another of my visions from working with Nut, where I felt the light of Vega flow down and into me, filling me entirely, and bringing me a profound sense of peace. That vision is also captured in my temple logo, two upturned hands filling up with starlight.

By using Shamanic practices and deep meditational states, I open myself to this deep received wisdom—along with ecstasy and joy! Because of my background and learning, I don't work in any one tradition, but combine elements of all of them pragmatically—do they work? Use them. I've learned techniques of self-hypnosis to induce trance states at will, and in the process learned a lot about the psychology of ritual and sacred space.

All of the different schemas we use for creating a ritual are intended to occupy our conscious minds, so that our intuitive, unconscious selves can activate and allow us to get out of our own way. Whether you literally believe in the Gods as separate entities or as aspects of a larger Divinity that shines through them in large enough bits that we can still understand them, we hear them from what Jung called the "collective unconscious." As cultures have risen and transformed themselves, they have invested considerable energy in these archetypal symbols we call Gods, and we can only hear them clearly when we let the overly developed rational side of our nature be quiet for a time. Some people need a lot of ritual structure to get to that state, while others need much less. This is why the Fellowship of Isis emphasizes that priesthood training is never a "one size fits all" proposition!

Me Invested as Hera
The Lyceum of Isis of Philae hosted a performance of Lady Olivia's "Psyche and Eros" from Dea along with the group from Pensacola. We held it on the beach among the shining white dunes; I was Hera in the drama. Lady Lilit emphasized the need for us to research the symbology of the drama, and to spend time connecting with the Deities we were to represent, so I set up an altar to Hera in my room, and began to work heavily with Her. My room in the house was getting a bit crowded, with every level space covered by one altar or another!

Hera assumed a very special place in my life, in that She ultimately saved me. My marriage had become a horrendous place, my husband was treating me as furniture for the most part—someone who is there whom you use, but with whom you do not engage meaningfully. In his continuing fear of my spiritual studies, he drew us into a sexual world of BDSM, and I participated in an attempt to "hold the marriage together" as I felt I was supposed to.

While Hera is known as the Goddess of Fidelity, I discovered She had another major aspect as the Goddess of battered and abused women. We had one BDSM weekend party where many guests had come from other parts of the country to play. I spent the entire party cooking snacks, cleaning up after guests, washing towels from use at the pool, and otherwise running my tail off to be a good hostess. But when I found myself in the kitchen consoling a young woman who was crying on my shoulder because my husband was showing more attention to his fourth girlfriend than to her, I felt Hera sit up and say, "This is nonsense." Later, another couple spent a few minutes in my room counseling me to get out of the marriage because of what they had seen of my husband's behavior, and by the end of the weekend, all of our guests were apologizing to me for my husband's behavior at the party.

Afterward, he asked me if I wanted to have sex before I could tell him that I was leaving! How like Zeus and Hera! I moved out and divorced him, and tried to get on with my life. I continued studying with Lady Lilit toward becoming a hierophant because my experiences with the mystery dramas reached me at a deep level. I wanted to study them and understand how the symbols and energies manifested and were used to produce the mental space in which the participants come in direct contact with Deity and receive a "mystery"—a gift, communication, vision, or other insight from the Gods that comes through gnosis, the process of direct knowledge. The more carefully you study and prepare for one of these mystery dramas, the more profound your experience is liable to be; however, you should never enter into one of them lightly or frivolously!

The Awakening of Osiris
The first mystery drama I attempted to conduct as part of my hierophancy training came off reasonably well. It was the "Awakening of Osiris" from Dea. The morning of the ritual, I woke up with a powerful insight placing Osiris and the other deities mourning him within the spheres of the Tree of Life, according to his naming of them at the end of the ritual. By that time, between Budge's Gods of the Egyptians and Hieroglyphic Dictionary, I was becoming fairly competent at writing hieroglyphs. I had always been able to tell whether a given piece of text was gibberish or not, even before I started studying to learn them.

I was also working with a hypnotherapist about traumatic memories  I was discovering, and had been having past-life flashes from Egypt and elsewhere/elsewhen that confirmed for me that the priesthood was indeed my path in this lifetime. Whether these lives are actual, real, historical people or not is unimportant to me; they have arisen to teach me and give me deeper insights into the past when I've needed them. The knowledge I've gained through them has been accurate and useful, and has survived my own rigorous testing. (I'm a scientist, remember?) So when I wake up the morning of a ritual with a deep insight like this one, I attempt to recreate it for the rest of the participants.

What I didn't know was that one of the participants, whom I thought was a priest, was simply someone who hung out with the local group around the fringes. When the gentleman who had agreed to be Osiris for the ritual failed to show up, the man agreed to take his place. He was unprepared for the ritual, and apparently took it very lightly, which I also didn't know. Did I mention this was my first time attempting to lead a group rite on my own?

In any case, when we reached the section where the Gods were mourning the dead Osiris, this guy thought he'd make a joke of it and sit up. He found that he was unable to do so—this is what I mean by the ritual overriding one's conscious mind and taking you into a space where your subconscious is running the game! He left as soon as the ritual was over, and I didn't see him again for over a year. By that time he was haggard and distressed, as Osiris had been plaguing his dreams that whole time. Essentially, he didn't really believe in anything we did; his philosophy of life didn't permit this type of thing to have a basis in reality. He knew that Osiris was trying to get him to open up to the possibilities of greater spiritual growth, but he was fighting it tooth-and-toenails. I'm not sure what happened to him ultimately; he avoided me a lot because of the ritual at my home. However, his experience reinforced for me the need for careful and considerate preparation for these dramas of Lady Olivia's, and I began to focus my hierophancy on building up a database of the symbolism and mythologies used in them.

I also created a web site for my Temple/Lyceum of Isis of the Stars in 1995. With Lady Olivia's permission, I posted a page with the FOI Manifesto and a link to a form people could print and send to the castle to join. Apparently it was a hit, as Lady Olivia later told me that a huge number of people had joined through my site. Funny thing was, I almost never actually met any of them! I also took on two students for the priesthood, with whom I worked via Internet, and eventually ordained when they and I felt they were ready. At least one, Rev. Dawn Chuley, is still around and doing healing work through her Iseum.

I attended the FOI Goddess Convention in Chicago in 1995, where I conducted the Evening Rite with a priestess/friend of Lady Lilit's. I had signed up to give a talk on the legends of the constellations, but when one of the audience asked me a question about the astrological signs and the Aquarian Age, I stepped off into an impromptu discussion of the Great Year of the Precessional Cycle, and how the symbolism of the signs in Western culture tended to be reflected in the symbolism of the religious cultures here on Earth. This was the first time I had met Lady Olivia, with whom I had corresponded for years discussing esoterica, and she indicated that my extensive knowledge and ability to extemporize impressed her. The Rev. Deena Butta's group also conducted "Time Magic" from Sophia, in which I played one of the Companions. Weirdly, I had already done Time Magic with Lady Lilit's lyceum a few months before, in which I was Atropos. The double dose of mystery profoundly affected me for many years afterward.

I moved to California in 1996 and tried to go back to work in computers because of my fear of the fragility of living on Long-Term Disability Insurance. I had been completely disabled as of 1992, and in one review told I would never be able to work again. Still, I forced myself to do so, although I found that with my newfound spiritualism, I could no longer work as a government contractor, especially for one as unethical as I'd found myself in. I went to work for an Internet startup instead, and began writing pamphlets for classes I'd created. These are long out of print and need serious revision anyway, but included Tarot for Self-Enrichment, Ritual 101, The Egyptian Nine-Fold Soul, and others. I taught classes and seminars at various pagan festivals around the West, including Pantheacon (CA), Dragonfest (CO), and the FOI Convocation (CA).

In 1998, I had to go on Social Security Disability because my Internet job did not offer long-term disability insurance, and I was no longer able to work. My last trip to Dragonfest, which is held at a remote site about 9,000 feet up in the Rockies nearly killed me; I developed a severe case of altitude sickness on top of the disabilities I'd been fighting to remain employed. I fell on my face and realized I had to move to somewhere I could afford to live, and eventually, that was my home here, now in Dunsmuir, CA.

Also in 1998, Lady Olivia created the Archpriesthood Union, and for some unknown reason, made me one of the Archpriestesses. I had no idea what it was about when I received my certificate; only later did I get information that disturbed me a great deal. Essentially, one of the other archpriestesses told me that I'd only been named to the group "for my past services, and that I had no purpose in the group's future." I couldn't understand why this person was treating me in this manner, as I did not even know her—but I could see the provenance of so many of the other well-known archpriests and priestesses, and I did not feel that I fit into that exalted company. I was more comfortable being a solitary hermit working my way through the mystery dramas!

So I went to the West Coast FOI Convocation, and for two years I argued with Lady Olivia for naming me to the Archpriesthood. I've never understood the nastiness of some of the politics within the group, as it has always contradicted what our Founders set out in the Fellowship of Isis Handbook, College of Isis Manual, and so many of their other writings, and I was deeply hurt by the attacks. I didn't feel worthy of the appointment, nor did I want such an angry target on my back, so I kept badgering Olivia to take it back. Finally, in exasperation, she told me at Isis Oasis that as to my appointment, "It wasn't *me*, it was ISIS who chose you." Well, that pretty much settled the issue; I had dedicated myself to Isis service, and if She wanted me to do this job, I would do my best.

One element of my spiritual growth has caused many people to be less comfortable with me, and that was my transition from female to male, which I completed legally in 2008. I had never felt comfortable in the roles I was offered as a woman in Western society; it's pretty hard to fit in when you don't fit any of the usual behavior patterns. I'm firmly a feminist because I have seen in my own life how hard the patriarchal structure tries to strangle and suppress our abilities. But recognizing myself as transgendered was a much deeper and more painful struggle that I generally kept out of sight of the FOI.

However, one ritual during my initiation year prefigured the change unambiguously. Lady Lilit had created a space for myself and another candidate to go through the Descent of Inanna. At each of the gates into the Underworld, we lost an item of our black clothing until we confronted ourselves in a mirror naked, as Inanna was forced to confront herself in the underworld. We were given the ritual instruction to stare into our own eyes to see the Goddess within, but when I did this, I very clearly saw myself as a man. At that point, I didn't even know such a thing as transgender was possible, much less from female to male, but as I learned and worked with my therapists over the next 15 years or so, I realized that this was what I was, and I chose to transition. Being a priest now instead of a priestess really changes nothing at all—I'm still the same person inside. The difference is that I am more comfortable in my own skin now, and under less pressure from society to conform to a role I simply can't do. I'm extremely honest and open about my situation, in hopes, again, that I can help others who are similarly wounded in spirit.

In the intervening years, I have continued to study the dramas and grow spiritually. I became an Archdruid in 2006 in the Druid Clan of Dana, and a Knight Commander in the Order of Tara in 2007. I studied with the spiral of alchemy, and with the spiral of the Adepti, and broadened my understanding of the mystery dramas and their methodology. I have participated or conducted, either in groups, attunement, or singly, all but one of the rites in Dea, all of the rites in Sophia, some of the rites in Urania, several of the rites in Panthea, a couple of the rites in Melusina, and all of the rites in Maya. And others; I pretty much stopped keeping specific track quite a while ago.

On this journey, I have gained many insights and had many visions at the behest of the Gods. They have made it clear to me that my role as Archpriest is to spread my knowledge to others, to give them the benefit of my long journeys into the Otherworld, and to be a bastion of courage and strength within the group. That last may sound strange coming from someone who is physically disabled and suffers from depression and PTSD—I didn't say that I had an easy life getting here, now did I? But I've survived, grown, and am now offering back those things the Gods have taught me.

I've also begun working on a doctoral degree in Psychology, partly to better understand how the rituals create the mental space for mystery to manifest, partly to get a better sense of "best practices" to use when people come to me for counseling or training, and partly to deal with my own issues. I thought back at my ordination that Isis had asked for my services as a healer to others, only to find she wanted me to heal myself, first. Weird how that works, sometimes. I feel that by learning how to manage chronic pain and other conditions using meditation and spiritual growth work, I will ultimately be able to turn my struggles into help for others. But we shall see.

I've written and published two books as an Archpriest: Mythic Voices, which retells the stories of the Greek Gods and Goddesses from their own points of view, and Universal Alchemy, which describes the techniques I've used for attuning with the elements, landscapes, and the Sun, Moon, and stars. I've also published a couple of workbooks for FOI members who want to study the dramas in Dea and in Maya/Panthea, consisting of lists of questions for students to discover the symbolism involved in each rite. At one point, I gained permission from Lady Olivia to create a concordance for the mystery dramas, which I would ultimately like to do, but it got overtaken by events and politics for the time being.

Would members of the FOI want a series of books that gave answers and descriptions of they symbolism in the mystery dramas? Would you want a collection that related mysteries discovered through participation in them, expanding on the texts written by Lady Olivia? I have always felt that was what the Goddesses had called me to do, especially as a hierophant, but I have a lot of other work on my plate to accomplish if this isn't something the FOI wants.

I will be 55 this Halloween—yes, I really was born on Halloween—and close to 60 before I get my doctorate. I'm primarily a hermit; I'm not into leading a large group of people, or in mass training of people for the priesthood. I have never sought to put myself forward as an expert on anything; I'm dealing with enough of my own issues to occupy a great portion of the rest of my life. But, as Lady Olivia so clearly told me, I am here at Isis' behest and bidding, to serve the Fellowship as you need me to do so.

No one's spiritual crisis is pretty, and the growing process never ends just because you've been through ordination or whatever. Once you've let the Goddess and Gods into your life, as with any mother, She will push you to grow to your best capacity. Our degrees and titles only mark areas of service we've agreed to accept, a bargain that we make with the Goddess to serve her needs her on Earth. None of them make you any more important than you were before, nor do they establish you in a hierarchy over others. They simply represent your intent to serve the Goddess in the manner associated with the title. All of us are equal peers, with different talents, strengths, and weaknesses. No one ever needs to feel pressure to "become" anything in the FOI; your bargain with the Gods is always known to you in your heart. If you are not called to Her service in the priesthood, so be it. She still needs poets and painters and dancers, and people who provide food for the sacred feasts. There are no limits to what we can do, except what we place upon ourselves.

May you go forth on your own journey with the blessings of the Goddess and the Gods, and all the beings of light and life shining upon you and magnified through you. Remember that you are each Her children, endowed with abilities and beauty that is unique and powerful in your own right! Let us work to keep the FOI a place of sharing of wonders with one another, as our Founders intended.