Ra is rising on another day in Egypt. Already we are on the bus, on our way to Abydos on the West Bank of the Nile. This, one of the holiest sites of ancient Egypt, the centre of Osiris worship, is the place where the myth tells us the head of Osiris is buried.
Abydos became for ancient Egypt a pilgrimage destination, a desirable place to be
buried and the home of a theatre festival where for more than two thousand years the passion play of the life and death of Osiris was enacted by priests.
We walk from the bus across a barren rock-strewn landscape, moving towards the temple of Osiris, the place of his resurrection. It is a ruin. We are looking down upon a stone structure, its rough- hewn blocks formed into pillars and arches precariously balanced, some scattered on the ground around what remains of the temple. Water has pooled near what would have been the entrance. A makeshift wooden bridge leads downwards, but we do not attempt to go nearer. It is hard to summon up a sense of wonder amid this tumble of grey stones. A deconstruction site.
Abydos Temple Ruins
Yet when Peg Rubin leads us in a reading of the Hymn to Osiris, her voice summons the ancient magic….
When you look up, know I am there –
sun and moon pouring my love around you.
Though apart, I am part of you.
I am the sojourner destined to walk a thousand years
until I arrive at myself.
Now Peg invites us to reflect upon what within us calls out for resurrection. Standing here amidst the ruins I sense my need of a resurrection of joy, the joy of knowing I am free to love. I invite a resurrection of wonder and gratitude that I am here in this ancient land where miracles still occur.
I sense a call to be a bearer of joy.
I hear Peg say that Love make hearts lighter. I remember that for the ancient Egyptians the weighing of the heart at death was the test of goodness. My heart is moving towards a lightness that might even have got me through that test.
Near the ruin is a newer temple dedicated to Osiris, built by the Pharaoh Seti 1, completed by his son, Ramses 11. Inside there are sanctuaries dedicated to Osiris, to Isis, to Horus. Wall carvings, still bearing rich colours, blood reds, soft sky blues, ochre, tell the same story we’ve been listening to on the Moon Goddess.
In one scene, Isis receives the pillar that holds the body of Osiris. A tall man is tipping it towards her as her arms reach out to receive it. The whole scene is surrounded by carefully carved and painted hieroglyphs. I am a child in a magic cavern with fairy tales painted on all its walls. A child who can read only pictures.
From Abydos, we travel on to the Temple of Hathor in Dendara. We walk along a dusty road, enter a wide sunlit forecourt leading up to a majestic temple built on the ruins of a far older one by the Romans just before the time of Christ.
At once I sense a different energy in this open space. A lightness comes into my heart. My attention is drawn to a beautiful stone face, resting on the ground, amid a tumble of stones. I recall the face that had so entranced me in the Cairo Museum. This carving holds the same settled peace and wisdom, a direct gaze, almost on the edge of smiling. I realize I am gazing back at an image of Hathor who is known as the goddess of love and joy.
Temple of Hathor at Dendera
As I walk closer, I see that the temple is enormous, looming above us perhaps eighty feet into the clear sky. Its great pillars each bear a likeness of Hathor, the
same face I’ve just seen in the tumbled stone.
Our group gathers on the wide stone pathway at the entrance to the temple.
Jean invites the men in our group to come into the centre. “This is a very very very feminine temple, and it is a temple in which Herself is very much present.”
“We are living into a time moving from a patriarchy all over the world, not to a matriarchy, but to true and deep partnership between men and women. And that’s very hard, after thousands of years of it having been otherwise.”
“These men have been willing and courageous enough to travel in a cauldron of women. And these are the men who are emerging.”