Remembering the Gifts of Egypt
When I pull open the large door to Garrison’s Meditation room, I see brilliant sunlight making its multi-coloured way through the stained glass windows, caressing the dark wood choir stalls on either side of the long room that was once a Monastic Chapel, echoing with psalmody. The sun spreads light over the toffee-coloured floor. Already our group has formed a circle at the front of the room, under the beatific smile of a golden Buddha, who sits at ease on the altar. I join the circle.
“Egypt was an experience of utter felicity,” Jean begins. “We entered sacred sites: tombs, temples, pyramids, reactivating spiritual energies that may have lain dormant for millennia. We know what we did there together: the rituals, the songs, the dances, the prayers, the promises we made to embrace a joyous fullness of life, a life of deep partnership with the masculine and feminine energies within and outside of us. We entered a sacred partnership with the Beloved for the healing and wholing of the planet.
“How do we strengthen this new story? How do we keep it alive in outrageous conditions? For the first time in human history, we have to think like a planet.
“That is the work for the rest of our lives. But for now, think about what happened for you personally in Egypt. What newness opened within you? What was birthed within you through your encounter with the spiritual energies of Egypt? What sacred places touched you most? I’m going to play Bruch’s first Violin Concerto. I need you to dance the answers to these questions.”
The sound system erupts with Bruch’s wondrous music and we dance, a dancing that takes us back to Egypt, deep inside our hearts and souls. I am again under the night sky at Abu Simbel, watching a shooting star; I am sitting on a rock wall on the Island of Philae as the earth rolls under the sun at the edge of the waters of the Nile; I am inside the tomb of the Pharaoh Queen Tausret, feeling immense tenderness embrace me as I gaze at the wall painting of an ibex. I see once more the glint of light in the eyes of Isis, in the wall painting; I am standing again before the statue of Sekhmet at Karnak, only now she is smiling, pleased I have finally let go of my fears, sent sorrow packing. My dancing is wilder, freer, more joyous, as though all the gifts of Egypt are reweaving themselves into my heart and soul.
As the music ends, Jean invites us to form groups to share what has returned to us during the dance. Suzanne, Rosemary, Kathleen, Ellyn and I gather chairs to form a circle.
Ellyn begins: “It was Hatshepsut who convened the Feasts of Light at Hathor’s temple at Dendera. That place held special meaning for me when we visited it. My name, Ellyn, means light.”
“Dendera,” I say now, remembering. “That’s where you were blowing the motes of light in the air towards Suzanne and me. You were filled with joy that night. ”
“I recognized a deep, energetic connection to Hathor. While we were visiting the Temple of Isis on the island of Philae before dawn, I focused my photography on the round face of Hathor on each pillar’s capital.” I watch Ellyn as she shares this, noticing that her face bears an uncanny resemblance to the carvings of the face of Hathor.
“At the Temple of Horus in Edfu, there were many images of her in the birthing room,” Ellyn continues.
“The power spot for me at Edfu was the birthing room,” Suzanne adds. “A guard took me aside to show me an image of Isis breast-feeding Horus.”
“Kathleen,” I ask, “which face of the goddess do you identify with most?”
“Isis, I suppose. But also Sekhmet whom I encountered years ago on another trip with Jean. We were in France in the Louvre Museum. When I touched the statue of Sekhmet, I felt energy travelling from her hand and the ankh she held, up my own hand and arm. Why do you ask?”
“I think of you as Nephthys, the goddess of the in-between, of the dream time and of the other worlds, in touch with them, drawing them into our time,” I say. “And I know now that Ellyn relates most to Hathor, and Suzanne, I am guessing, to Isis. What about you, Rosemary?”
“For me, it’s also Isis,” Rosemary says.
“I see you especially as Isis in her role as Ma’at,” I say. “There were times on the trip when you spoke a truth I needed to hear.”
“Which face of the sacred feminine do you relate with?” Suzanne asks me.
“It surprises me to say this now, but it was the fierce Sekhmet who taught me what I most needed to learn,” I tell my friends. “There were times on the journey when I felt caught up in old grief, feelings I thought I’d long ago outgrown. Those were the times when I seemed to hear the voice of Sekhmet saying, Send sorrow packing! When we were in the tiny shrine in Karnak, I stood before the statue of Sekhmet, looked up at her fierce, tender, lion’s face, and prayed for strength to be my godded self. I asked for a fire within me that would become love given freely. And I knew at once that the gift demanded a price . . .” I stop here, wondering if I can share more.
“What was the price?” Kathleen asks, as calmly as if she were asking the price of a cup of coffee.
“I knew I had to give up my—” I pause, seeking the words—“my allurement to tragedy.”
I can see puzzled expressions on the faces of my friends. I smile to soften the words, “I’ve always believed more readily in darkness than in light, expected the worst in relationships, doubted love without constant reassurances . . .”
“So what does it mean to give that up?” Ellyn asks.
The answer that leaps to my mind is so clear that I am surprised as I answer. “Trust. Trust in love and joy. Trust that I am loved, that I can be a giver of love and joy to others.”
“That sounds like Hathor,” Ellyn says. “And it’s giving me an idea. What if we celebrated a ritual of gratitude tonight, for all that we’ve received from Egypt?”
This and the previous “Sophia in Egypt” posts are excerpts from Called to Egypt on the Back of the Wind by Anne Kathleen McLaughlin, Borealis Press, Ottawa, Canada, 2013. To order online go to http://borealispress.com