It is afternoon when we gather once more in the Captain’s lounge. Jean takes up the story of Isis and Osiris at the point where the casket holding the body of Osiris has become embedded in a tamarisk tree on the shores of the land of Byblos. The King, coming upon this wonder, takes the tamarisk to serve as a pillar in his new palace.
Isis, mourning profoundly, wanders in search of her lost beloved, crying out: they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where to find him.
Osiris is encased in a tree. Jean points out the symbolic richness of this, the tree upon which Jesus was crucified, the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha received enlightenment. In Egypt trees were rare, highly valued, often brought from Lebanon (Byblos) for crafting coffins.
The greening of the tree, the sweetness of Osiris, draw Isis to Byblos. In her mourning rags, dishevelled, her hair roughly shorn, she appears as a beggar at the palace, coming to the side door, seeking work. Isis herself exudes an incredible smell…to some it was atar of roses, to others jasmine, to each it was their favourite smell. The Queen of Byblos and her servants notice the delicious odour of sanctity about Isis. They love her smell. The most primitive and accurate of our senses leads them to trust Isis. They say please come, be with us, and they give this old haggard woman their son, the royal child, to nurse.
“So Isis finds something human to love in the palace to replace Osiris for a while,” Jean says. “Thus both the archetypal and the human loves are served. This is a very feminine mystery. It is not to serve just one or the other, God or human. Rather it is both love of the eternal and of the human at the same time, of both Osiris and the small child.
So much has been made about the biology of love that we have forgotten that there is a huge mystery in love, that one loves the human and the divine in the other at the same time, especially in the feminine mystery. You see it in men: oh you are a goddess to me. They put the woman on a pedestal for about a year, and then…but with women it is sustained, often for too long. There’s something about trying to see the other as both human and godly.”
The story also teaches us that “the high being never enters through the front door with degrees and titles, but through the side or the back door…the high being sidles in.”
Isis becomes the much-loved nurse to the child. Loving this king’s child so much, she decides to give him the gift of immortality. At night when the palace is asleep, she thrusts the infant prince into the fire where through some divine alchemy his mortal parts will be destroyed and he will become divine. Then Isis turns herself into a swallow and flies around the pillar where Osiris is encased, trying to lure him back into life, trying to lure the essence of Osiris into the child who is being made immortal. The child becomes the surrogate for her beloved.
In our relationships, we desire also to lure the spirit of the archetypal beloved into the unprepared body-minds of our beloved in existential space and time. We experience a double loss in our attempts to do this. We damage terribly the flesh and blood beloved and damage also the eternal beloved who seems to remain inaccessible because our attempts have been inappropriate.
But one night Isis is caught out in her attempts to burn the child. The Queen runs in, snatches her child from the fire. Isis then reveals herself in her glory, her fullness, tall and beautiful. She claims the trunk of the tamarisk so that she may remove the coffin that contains the body of Osiris.
Isis takes the body of Osiris back to Egypt. There she animates him, raises his phallus, flies over him as a bird and impregnates herself with the Child Horus.
Jean points to the symbolism of this reverse annunciation, for Mary was impregnated by the spirit in the form of a dove.
This union of Osiris’ body with Isis’ spiritual essence, a union of the essences of their spiritual bodies, teaches us that the spirit of our higher essence can engender a great one, create new possibilities in our lives. Horus is the divine child born of the spiritual and the magic side of the self. For both Jesus and Horus, children of sacred birth, the task will be to raise the consciousness of the entire community.
Following the afternoon’s teaching, I am drawn once more to the Moon Goddess’ tiny jewellery store. I have been looking at a silver bracelet that holds an image of Isis, her wings outstretched, deep carmine red, and blue of night skies. Its price is high, would take all the spending money I have, including what I was saving for Christmas gifts for my family. The Egyptian storekeeper, aware of my dilemma, offers to adjust the price to allow for Christmas gifts. I walk away smiling, my wrist encircled by Isis. l see the throne on her head, her symbolic name. I know that this will carry the memory of her response to my prayer on her Island of Philae, and the gift of truth under the full moon of Thoth.
Much later, after my return home to Canada, examining the bracelet with greater care, I will see clearly that it is a feather, not a throne, on the head of Isis. I will learn that my bracelet shows the winged Isis in her role as Ma’at, goddess of truth.