Category Archives: Isis and Osiris

Sophia by Another Name

On  September 8th, Christians honour the Birth of Mary, nine months after the Feast of her Immaculate Conception. Those of us who grew up with Mary as the focus of our prayers and filial love may by now have grown into a more complex understanding of this woman who carried for us the face of the Feminine Divine.

Over recent weeks, we have been exploring the presence of Sophia in our lives, especially as she reveals herself in the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Scriptures. Has Wisdom-Sophia  become entangled for you in a good and holy way with Mary of Nazareth?

This is deep mystery, as well as a reflection of our human need to name what we experience. I believe there is a presence of sacred feminine energy that holds us in an embrace of love, cares profoundly and personally for each one of us and is willing to respond when we call to her.

Three years ago, on September 8th, I was sitting at my computer to compose reflections on Sophia. An email arrived from Barbara Bizou, a spiritual teacher living in New York City whom I had met at Jean Houston’s July 2012 Manhattan Mystery School. During that session, Barbara, whose Spiritual Tradition is Jewish, spoke with me of Brigid’s fire and the waters of rebirth. Together we engaged in a powerful ritual of reconciliation of our two traditions.

In that September 2015 email, Barbara recalled being in Paris fourteen years earlier at the time of the 9/11 attacks:

In this time of existential uncertainty, it’s often difficult to trust that the Divine has placed us exactly where we are meant to be. On September 10, 2001, I arrived in Paris for a holiday with one of my dearest friends. I awoke on 9/11 with a sense of foreboding and anxiety, which was unusual in one of my most favorite cities in the world. Sharing this with my friend Elynor Johnson, who felt a similar sense of uneasiness, we decided to distract ourselves by window-shopping. But after twenty minutes of aimless gazing, we realized we needed to ground our energy. What called us was the chapel Notre-Dame de la Medaille dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. For me, this has always been a Temple to the Divine Feminine. As we sat and prayed and meditated, the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

Reading her words, I was touched to know that a chapel, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, is for Barbara “a Temple to the Divine Feminine”.  I smiled, knowing I was reading this on Mary’s birthday.

Other writers have sought to untangle the Mystery of Mary. Here is Carol P. Christ, in The Laughter of Aphrodite:

…the Virgin Mary inherits many of the aspects of the Virgin Goddesses and functions as Goddess to many of her worshippers. Throughout the Near East, Europe and Latin America, churches to the Virgin Mary were built as places holy to the Goddess. Though she is not prominent in the New Testament, the myths and imagery surrounding her grew as the Goddesses were finally suppressed in Christian Culture. To the Greeks, she is Panaghia, which means simply, “the All Holy”….


Jean Markale writes in his Women of the Celts:

Within the patriarchal framework (goddesses) were often obscured, tarnished and deformed, and submerged into the depth of the unconscious. But they do still exist, if only in dormant state, and sometimes rise triumphantly to rock the supposedly immovable foundations of masculine society. The triumph of Yahweh and Christ was believed sanctified forever, but from behind them reappears the disturbing and desirable figure of the Virgin Mary with her unexpected names: Our Lady of the Water, Our Lady of the Nettles, Our Lady of the Briars, Our Lady of the Mounds, Our Lady of the Pines…. Our Lady of the Night. (p. 86)

Those titles that Markale recalls, water, briars, pines, are the sacred things of earth.

Star of the Sea. Guidance in the deep places within. Mystical Rose. There is a litany of sacred names given to Mary. As children many of us learned these names by heart.

While visiting Egypt, I was astonished and delighted to learn that millennia before Mary of Nazareth. the goddess Isis was honoured with many of these same titles. Over time as Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire, the sacred names were transferred to Mary.

We may choose to name this loving presence as we wish. She will not be bound by a name. Given the mystery that surrounds her presence, we may choose to call her Our Lady of the Night, and simply be at peace in her mystery. Her loving presence in our lives is what matters.

The sacred feminine presence needs us as her partners in the great tasks of our time, calling us to co-create with her, to experience directly the power for good that she works within us when we open ourselves to her.

In the voice of the Sealwoman in Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ story: “Sealskin, Soulskin”, she reminds us:

I am always with you. Only touch what I have touched… and I will breathe into your lungs a wind for the singing of your songs.



Awakening to the Easter Mystery

Through the cold, quiet nighttime of the grave underground,
The earth concentrated on him with complete longing
Until his sleep could recall the dark from beyond
To enfold memory lost in the requiem of mind.
The moon stirs a wave of brightening in the stone.
He rises clothed in the young colours of dawn.
John O’Donohue “Resurrection”

The Easter Mystery of life-death-life is at the heart of the universe, at the heart of life on our planet, in the deep heart of our own lives. From its birth out of the womb of a dying star, through its daily cycle of day/dusk/ night/dawn, its yearly cycle of summer/autumn/ winter/spring, the earth teaches us to live within the paschal mystery. Ancient peoples understood this mystery. Through their careful observations they constructed buildings such as the mound in Newgrange Ireland where a tiny lintel receives the first rays of dawn only on the winter solstice.

The ancients wove their understanding of life/death/life into their mythologies: the Egyptian story of Osiris, whose severed body was put together piece by piece by his wife Isis, then reawakened; the Sumerians tell of the great queen Inanna who descended to the underworld to visit her sister Erishkigal. There she was stripped of all her royal robes and insignia, and murdered by her sister who then hung her lifeless body on a hook. Three days later, Inanna was restored to life, all her honour returned to her.

The people of Jesus’ time would have known these and other great myths of the ancient Near East. What was so stunningly different in the Jesus story was that the mystery of life-death-life was incarnated in a historical person. The Resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of the Christian faith. As Paul wrote, “If Christ be not risen then our faith is in vain”.

In our lifetime, the explosion of new science shows us the life/death/mystery at the heart of the universe. Like exploding stars, our lives are continuously being rebirthed into a deeper more joyous existence. By allowing the death within ourselves of old habits, old mindsets and narrow ideas of who or what we may be, we open ourselves to the possibility of new life being birthed within us. As Jesus told his friends, “You will do what I do. You will do even greater things”.

“Resurrection is about being pulsed into new patterns appropriate to our new time and place,” Jean Houston writes in Godseed. For this to happen, we need to open in our deep core to “the Heart of existence and the Love that knows no limits. It is to allow for the Glory of Love to have its way with us, to encounter and surrender to That which is forever seeking us, and from this to conceive the Godseed.”

“The need for resurrection has increased in our time,” Jean continues. “We are living at the very edge of history, at a time when the whole planet is heading toward a global passion play, a planetary crucifixion.” Yet “the longing with which we yearn for God is the same longing with which God yearns for us…. the strength of that mutual longing can give us the evolutionary passion to roll away the stone, the stumbling blocks that keep us sealed away and dead to the renewal of life.” (Godseed pp.129-130)

The yearly miracle of Spring awakens within us the confidence and joy that this same rebirth is ours to accept and to live. We know our call to green our lives, our times, our planet:



The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age (Dylan Thomas)

Where in my life do I most experience the need for a rebirth?
What old habits and beliefs would I have to let die in order for this new life to be born?
How does knowing that the longing with which (I) yearn for God is the same longing with which God yearns for (me) make my life more joyful?
What would a resurrected life look like, feel like, for me? for those with whom my life is woven? for our planet?


Sophia in Egypt: Twenty-One

Following our reflections on Seth and Horus, we move into the final ritual, the recrowning of Isis, the ritual I experienced alone in my community’s prayer room two months earlier. Now I enter into it, companioned by the group with whom I have shared a mythic journey.

Yet, in the final moments, standing before the presence of the Sacred Feminine, I feel alone, wrapped in mystery. At the moment of the gifting in September I had asked for something to be taken away, the great emptiness that had made me a beggar of love.

Today, I open myself to receive something from this presence. There is a moment of utter stillness. Then I see an inner image, a ball of swirling fire, a glass globe of rose and white light, and it is within me, in my own deep centre. I am being filled with love.

There is no time to reflect on this wonder, to take it in with gratitude.

The morning session is over. Lunch awaits us in the dining room, and afterwards we are to visit the great Temple of Karnak.

An hour later, we are gathered in the lobby, ready to leave the ship to board the bus. I am suddenly overtaken by a grief so intense that, to my shame, tears are pouring down my cheeks. I quickly turn away, but not quite soon enough to escape Jean’s glance. I pretend interest in one of the paintings on the wall.

As if that encounter with love in the ritual only an hour before had never happened, I am empty.

This grief is human, a keen awareness of an ending, prefatory to further endings, knowing this magic cannot return, knowing I shall never again be here in the presence of the teacher from whom I have received the reweaving of my life. The remembered words of Tolkien’s Gimli, leaving Galadriel of the Golden Woods, rise within me: I would not have come had I known the danger of light and joy. Now I have taken my worst wound in this parting.

The intense heat of the mid-day sun devours us like some fiery Sobek as we enter the massive courtyard before the Temple of Karnak. An oddly-shaped stone just ahead of my sandaled foot catches my eye. I pick it up, turn it over in my palm, see a lumpy heart shape with an open wound across the top.

We move quickly inside the towering walls, eager to find some protective shade. Our guide Samai gathers us beneath a huge leafy tree to speak about this temple. He tells us it is constructed so that the sun appears to travel through the day along the line of its one hundred and thirty-four columns, moving from Karnak to Luxor and across the Nile to Deir-el-Bahari. As I listen to Samai, the inner grief weighs down my heart. I become aware of Jean’s presence, a little distance behind where I am standing.

Awhile later, wandering alone in the temple precincts, I notice the grief has dissolved, that it left me there, under the leafy tree. With a lightened heart, once again open to receive beauty, I pause beside a small lake encircled by a low stone wall. It is the place where priests were purified in ancient times in preparation for ritual. The water is so clear that a tall palm tree gazes down at itself, perfectly reflected. A huge stone scarab, seven times my size, sits atop a circular plinth three metres above me. It was here at the Karnak Temple that the scarab was declared a symbol of eternal life.


Scarab at Karnak: symbol of Eternal Life

Soaring above the temple walls like a great tower of Rapunzel, stands the only remaining obelisk of Hatshepsut, the woman pharaoh whose successors tried to obliterate all memory of her.



Behind Karnak’s main temple complex and through five gateways stands a small Sekhmet shrine that still holds the original statue of the beautiful, fierce, serene, lion-headed goddess. Those who seek her at her Karnak shrine invariably have powerful experiences orchestrated by a statue created as a vessel for the divine presence of Sekhmet. Skilled craftsmanship and sacred rites opened the statue to the goddess’ spiritual attributes. Three thousand years later, the power of Sekhmet captured in basalt endures.

Nikki Scully, musician, energy healer and leader of shamanic pilgrimages to Egypt, speaks of Sekhmet’s call to our time: When we embrace this power, something happens to us at a cellular level. It’s as though the energy enters into our field and then into our very cells. A person who is receiving this feels as though every molecule and cell is suddenly coming out of an ancient atrophy and malaise, and awakening, becoming alert.
I believe this awakening is a part of the conscious evolutionary process we’re engaged in, bringing forth the aspects of the power of the Divine Feminine that are required in order to achieve the balance we’re seeking at this time.

(Next: Encounter with Sekhmet)

(excerpt from Called to Egypt on the Back of the Wind Anne Kathleen McLaughlin, Borealis Press, Ottawa, Canada, 2013

Sophia in Egypt: Twenty



Note to the reader: If you wonder how Sophia, the Wisdom presence of the Holy in the Hebrew Scriptures, relates to the ancient Egyptian story of Isis and Osiris, or how she is part of this 21st century  journey to Egypt, this segment may begin to offer enlightenment. Isis, Hathor, Ma’at and Sehkmet are aspects of the Sophia, the Sacred Feminine presence who is making herself known in our time.


After last night’s visit to the Luxor Temple, I fell asleep with columns of hieroglyphs on yellow sandstone moving across my eyelids. Then a clear image of Hathor appeared, goddess of love and joy. I awaken to this new day thinking of the light of Ra, the gift of love that shines equally on all.


Hathor: Goddess of Love and Joy

After breakfast, some of us gather on the upper deck of the Moon Goddess where Marjorie and Paul, a married couple in our group, lead us in Chi-Gong movements. Afterwards, I sit cooling my feet in the pool, looking over at the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank.

In the peace of the moment, remembered words of Jesus rise up within me:

John was a lamp, alight and shining,and for a time you were content to rest in his light.

There is a hint of something here. This light, in which I am just learning to rest, is only for a time. But I don’t follow the thought where it might lead. I cling instead to this present moment, wanting it to last, not looking beyond this day, our final one on the Moon Goddess.

At ten o’clock in the Captain’s Lounge, we re-enter the story, find ourselves in the midst of the eighty-year battle waged by Horus against Seth, the principle of entrapment and limitation. Jean Houston invites us to see how we need to activate the inner muscular Horus within us to stand up to recalcitrance, both within and outside of us, and do battle. People who are entrapped by, limited to the status quo, are living out of their reptilian brains. If we remain working with them, we can only become assistant dinosaurs. To advance the world, the individuated wilful Horus must emerge.

Within ourselves the opposites, the Seth principle of limitation and the Horus principle of abundance, are often at war. We enact a ritual battle between the Seth and the Horus within us, partnering with another to give voice to each aspect of the self. Denise, the woman from Ireland, offers to play Seth to my Horus. I tell her of wanting to travel the earth, working with women to help them find their deep spirit.

“Do you think you can be like Jean Houston?” she mocks. Our role play, as fierce on my side as on hers, leads us into a deep sharing about the need we have both felt for inner guidance, the longing of a woman who feels herself unmothered.

In their epic battle, Seth and Horus shape-shift, become hippos and bears and lions, enduring terrible wounds. Such battles arise, in our time, Jean believes, in cultures that lack guiding principles. Yeats describes it in “The Second Coming”:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

the ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity….

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

That rough beast is Seth, Jean suggests.

As in the Iliad, the gods take sides in this great battle. Ma’at, the principle of truth, withdraws, goes underground and lives with Osiris. She chooses to leave the battle to go into the higher order of the unconscious. We, too, when we cannot make sense of things, retreat into the unconscious, taking Ma’at with us.

After the battle, when Isis realizes that she cannot kill Seth, Horus seizes her crown, tearing it from head. Later, he repents and recrowns his mother, giving her the cow-headed crown of the goddess Hathor.

Seth tries to seduce Horus. Jean comments that even after we think we’ve won the battle, we keep meeting our same old issues, again and again, but at increasingly complex levels. We are seduced by our own Seth, given these struggles to strengthen us. Each time we find ourselves in these same old patterns, we might think of them as trenches in the brain, something we need to over-ride. Dealing with these as fractals of the eternal return, old ditches we must cross, helps us to get on with the new story.

The ancient story concludes with Isis tricking the ferryman into taking her to the council of the gods on Elephantine Island. Disguising herself as a beautiful woman, Isis persuades Seth to acknowledge his crime and make restitution. The gods order him to create a barge that will carry the high spirit of Osiris into the depth world.

Rather than what traps us in time, our Seth principle of appropriate limitation becomes the vehicle to carry us into eternity.

The story became a transformational ritual in Egypt, a ritual of the soul. In it, the four principles of movement, fertility (Isis), inspiration (Osiris), limitation (Seth), and growth (Horus) are engaged in the big turn-around and fall becomes resurrection. What is destroyed is transmuted into a deepened quality, rising like the djed pillar in us as compassion, as empathy.

The transformational journey of the soul is the basis of the Mystery Rituals. In a Hellenized version, the Mysteries of Isis and Osiris were celebrated throughout the Graeco-Roman world. Many themes of the Isis/Osiris/Seth/ Horus story reappear in Christianity: the woman, impregnated by a father in the spiritual world; the threat that the newborn child will be destroyed; the tree as vehicle of death. Isis is the virgin/mother /crone who was worshipped in Greece and Rome for centuries. Some ancient black madonnas are actually Isis with Horus in her lap. Many qualities of Isis are subsumed into Mary.

Jesus was like Osiris, living out the Egyptian mystery of the dying/rising God, taking on the full ancient archetypal myth of the Mystery Religions while existing in space and time. No wonder, Jean concludes, he became Jesus Christ Superstar!

After the story, we take time to reflect more deeply on its meaning for our lives.

What vulnerable quality within us can be transformed from a negative Sethian glitch to a deeper potential, as the barge of Seth became transformative for Osiris?

I sit in silence with this question, wondering how my longing for a particular love can be transformed into a love that overflows from within me to others. It is for me the fractal of the eternal return, the question that continues to arise in my life, always from a deeper place, ever more complex.

( excerpt from Called to Egypt on the Back fo the Wind Anne Kathleen McLaughlin Borealis Press, Ottawa, 2013 )


Sophia in Egypt: Eighteen

Sailing to Luxor

In silence, we are given the grace of loving deeply, wholly and well.     (Jean Houston)

During the night following our visit to the Valley of the Kings, my sleep is shadowed by old fears. I am visited by the ghosts of my lifelong struggles with loving, with letting go, my fear that love will measure me, find me wanting, or in the Egyptian way, weigh me, find my heart too heavy, abandon me.

In one of the dark hours, I feel invited into prayer. An image of Russian nested dolls comes to me. I open the first, who looks like Jean, and find inside a second, an image of the Sacred Feminine, the Holy One. In the clarity that comes between sleep and full wakefulness, I hear an invitation, “Simply enjoy being close to this person. Enjoy the gift of this time.”

Hours later, I waken fully to clarity and joy, the power of these old demons vanquished by morning’s light.

We are to spend this day on the ship, a morning of teaching in the Captain’s Lounge, an afternoon free to rest, to enjoy the scenery as the Moon Goddess takes us back up the Nile, then down again to Luxor.

Today, Jean speaks to us of magic in its many forms. “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” the tale that unfolds in Disney’s Fantasia with Mickey Mouse multiplying brooms to carry buckets of water, is based on the true story of a Greek who studied magic with an Egyptian master.

Magic, Jean tells us, happens for many who travel to Egypt, returning home to find healing and wholeness have come to friends, to difficult situations, while they were away. Things happen in Egypt because it is believed that everything here is invested with life – even stones! As we come to understand the holographic universe, we know everything is a containment of the whole.

While Jean speaks of magic, there is some glitch occurring in the sound system in the lounge. Suddenly coloured lights above her chair begin to blink off and on.
“The ancients learned how to expect the unexpected,” Jean says.
I realize that we are learning the same thing here.

A quiet joy is blinking off and on within me as I sit here, fully aware of being on a ship on the Nile, listening to a teacher whose words have illumined my life for several years now.
Kairos time, Jean is saying now, is a Greek expression that refers to the moment when, in weaving, two sets of weft thread are open so the warp thread, carried by the shuttle cock, can pass through. Kairos time is sacred and urgent. It allows clock time to be suspended and you have the option to change the story.

Now we are back in the story of Isis and Osiris. Their child, Horus, has been born, hidden by Isis in the papyrus swamps. Ruthless Seth at last succeeds in finding the child and releases a scorpion to sting him to death. In her agonized grief, Isis stops time to allow Horus to be healed.

Kairos time offers radical choice. If we don’t take the opportunity, we are like Parsifal who failed to ask the question in the Grail Castle and must wander for years in misery before the second chance is offered.

Like Parsifal, like Jesus, Horus is the widow’s son. His father Osiris is in the Underworld and from there begins to teach his son though dreams. Osiris trains Horus in wisdom and prepares him to defeat Seth in battle.

The Egyptians understood dreams better than any ancient peoples. What we dream comes in more directly than what is obscured by daily life, so that in our dream we can be “tricked out of” our ordinary mindsets.

Inevitably, the time comes when we are called beyond our linear lives. We need training in the depths. We, like Horus, are available to be trained by the partner in the archetypal realm when we are ready to take on our task in the great world.

Today when the sacred stewardship of the planet is so urgent, when an enormous rise of Seth energy is seen in the destruction of the planet, in the economic collapse that destroys the dreams of so many people, we need the training that comes from the ones who, like Isis, sidle in through our doors. From them, we learn how to use the gifts we have been given, for we are born into this time for our task.

For the Ancient Egyptians, training was far more than intellectual development. They were aware that there were other parts of the self, which they called other “bodies”. They described five bodies, with other persona, other ways of being. Egyptian priests learned how to access these other persona, developing a level of consciousness that allowed them to distinguish each of the five while remaining aware of wholeness.

To accomplish our great work, we too need to contact and be gifted with qualities of the five bodies: the Aufu – the physical body; the Ka –the double or what we hold in our mind as our body image; the Haidit – the shadow body entered in dream and trance states; the Khu – the magical body, which in ancient times was thought of as magical-spiritual; and the Sahu – the most subtle, etheric spiritual body.

In a process, beginning with the physical body or Aufu, Jean leads us into awareness of the five bodies within. When we come to the visualization of our magical-spiritual self or Khu body, I am surprised to see an inner image of an old and beloved teacher. For several years the figure of Yoda from Star Wars would appear in my prayer and offer guidance.




Now he is here, but will not engage in the conversations I want to have about my struggles with loving. He is wholly silent. I sense, I know, he is calling me into a newness, sending a shaft of light that releases my love to flow easily through my life and my work. Love set free.The experience is brief. Powerful.

Sophia in Egypt: Seventeen

We are gathered in the Captain’s lounge on the Moon Goddess, re-entering the story of Isis and Osiris. Isis, who has flown over the reanimated phallus of her Beloved, is now, through Tantric magic, pregnant with Horus. Jean invites us to consider that Isis, during her long labours to develop the civilization of Egypt beside her husband Osiris, has remained childless, her womb fallow until the ripeness of time arrives.

“What in you is fallow, and needs to be called forth into actuality?” Jean asks us. “Each of us comes in already seeded with our creative potential, which we may bring into time. If we do not bring it into actuality, we are left with unspecified yearnings. We deny the validity of what we are.”

Isis hides the chest that contains her husband’s body in a secret cave, but Seth, still full of hatred, ever watchful, finds the chest. He butchers the body of Osiris, scatters its fourteen pieces across Egypt.

Psychologically, we are like the body of Osiris when we lack focus and passion in our lives, allowing ourselves to become scattered, called away in too many directions, with too many distractions. The scattered pieces of the self are the aspects that do not live. We need to gather up these bits and fuse them into one integrated body/mind form, create an energy frequency, a potentiated life.

Nepthys, lady of dreams, of psychic knowing, of shadow, joins her sister Isis in the search for her husband’s body. Together they create a boat of papyrus and set out to seek the scattered pieces of Osiris.

This myth, Jean tells us, is a massive story on the psychological, mythical and spiritual levels. The regathering of the self.

Isis uses a mixture of water, incense and grain to mummify each piece of the body of her Beloved that they find.

“Set up a garden of your lost selves,” Jean suggests, “so you can see the greening power as each new aspect of the self sprouts with life and vitality. You will attend to both the garden and the self.”

Isis and Nepthys regather all the missing parts of Osiris but one. His phallus has been devoured by a fish. Isis creates one for him made of gold. Alchemically we, too, supply what is lost in the self.

Seth finds Isis, and imprisons her in his spinning mill. But this gives her time and space to reflect, to gestate the new child. In our own lives, it is important for new ideas to have gestation time, spinning time, to help them reach fullness before we give birth to them.

“Do you attend to emails first thing in the morning?”Jean asks. “This is your most creative time. You might want to look at how you use it.”

In a time of gestation, it might look like not much is happening. New things are spinning out of darkness in the inner world.
“What was Mary thinking while she waited for the birth of Jesus ? or Maya as she waited for the Buddha to be born? The unborn child is affected by the thoughts the mother has during pregnancy.”


Margaret Mead’s mother and grandmother played music, read Shakespeare, to the mother’s belly before Margaret’s birth.
“When you are in a prenatal state, preparing to give birth to a higher self, feed yourself on poetry, music, literature.”

Our genes are dynamic little explorers on a great journey along the Nile seeking new experiences, new patterns, cross-generating new things.
“You are not stuck,” Jean tells us. “Your choice of using the wandering genes and cross-fertilizing culture makes so much possible!”

Consciously altering and evolving the patterns that limit us is the task. A major growth spurt can happen at any age at all. Self-transcendence is built into the essence of our genes. Dynamic evolution is conscious orchestration of potential. We are in a crystalizing moment. Untapped reservoirs of creativity can be called upon, potentials now desperately needed by individuals and cultures as a whole.

“What capacities, skills, potentials do you need to be better human being? Which of your own latent possibilities do you need to gestate?”

Dinner that night in the ship’s dining room flows with laughter and wine. I look around the table where I am sitting, see the smiling faces of my friends: Suzanne, Rosemary, Ellyn, Kathleen.

After dinner, I am on my way upstairs to my room when I see Jean bent over a computer in the lobby, checking her emails. Without thinking, and utterly without fear, I walk up behind her, kiss her lightly on the top of her head, say “Good night”, and continue on. Perhaps it is the wine that has released my fear of showing love, but I do not think so. Love touched me that morning in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings, and broke open my own sealed tomb.

(from Called to Egypt on the Back of the Wind by Anne Kathleen McLaughlin Borealis Press, Ottawa, Canada 2013 )

Sophia in Egypt: Fifteen

In the Valley of the Kings

Now it is late evening. In my room on the Moon Goddess, I write about our visit to Abydos, sacred to Osiris, about Hathor’s temple at Dendera. I write of resurrection and greening, of partnership and the sacred marriage within the self, of joy and rebirth. As I write, tiredness drains the feelings of joy, like wine spilling from an overturned goblet.

I pray that tomorrow will bring some fresh magic when we visit the Valley of the Kings.

Four o’clock. The wake-up call sounds. There is just time to shower and dress, to gather in the ship’s lobby for coffee, before we board the feluccas to cross the Nile. The waning moon is still bright, lighting our way as she descends from her midnight perch. On the far shore, the bus waits to take us to a gorge once hidden among rocky ravines, now accessible by roads.


Some thirteen thousand visitors are expected today in the Valley of the Kings, Samai tells us. Yesterday there were seventeen thousand. Though we reach the entrance just before the gates open at six a.m., two other buses are there ahead of us, their passengers already climbing out.


the Valley of the Kings


Beyond the entrance, we walk a dusty roadway under the looming mountains, still in the grip of darkness. Small signs on posts identify tombs that have been found here and excavated over the past century and a half. I had expected something like a street of tombs in tidy rows; instead I see a muddle of up and down, wide spaces between some, others close together. Choices may have been based on where an entrance could be made, a deep passage dug, hiddenness valued over order or relative closeness to another tomb.

A small opening in the side of the stone hill leads into the tomb of Ramses IX. Inside, we walk along a raised floor made of wooden planks, holding guide ropes on either side. I think of the fictional Amelia Peabody, that intrepid nineteenth century explorer of tombs and pyramids, who gloried in the dust and danger and bat droppings … ours is a more sanitized, less dramatic, journey inwards. The walls of the entrance way are inscribed, floor to ceiling, with a plethora of hieroglyphs, a whole book it appears. What story accompanies this pharaoh on his way to eternity?


interior of  a tomb in the Valley of the Kings


The hallway opens into a room dominated by a great sarcophagus made of granite. I wonder how long the pharaoh’s body rested here before being unceremoniously taken away, hurled by the tomb robbers of Gurnah into a jumbled heap with the mummies of many other luminous pharaohs. In 1881 the hidden bodies were found by the Deputy Director of the Cairo Museum, after intense questioning of one of the descendants of millennia of tomb robbers. A week later, two hundred men arrived to carefully pack up the mummies and carry them to the Nile where a ship was waiting to take them to the Cairo Museum. Where, I realize suddenly, we saw them on our second night in Egypt.


After the briefest of visits, really just a circular walk in and out again, we move towards another tomb entrance. A marker near the open doorway identifies the tomb as belonging to Tausert, a little-known Pharaoh Queen, a descendant of the great Ramses 11. This tomb is spacious, welcoming, and as we move into the deeper room where the sarcophagus, long emptied of its occupant, rests, I have a sense of beauty, of colour in the wall paintings.
Jean gathers us into a circle around the empty coffin, invites us to send forth from this place a blessing of peace. Standing here in the tomb’s heart, our voices lift in song, chanting the single word Shan-ti.

Suddenly we are in darkness. Our song, a living thing, resonates, moves in waves around the tomb. As we send this blessing into the universe, the darkness feels choreographed, part of the planning for this ritual. I wonder who found the switch, turned off the inner lights.

We move out from the tomb’s centre to a larger open space, where we pause to experience the quiet. I am standing close to the left wall, beside a luminous painting, a woman’s body, blue-winged, with the head of an ibex, like the deer who greeted me in my roadway the night before I left for Egypt. The wingspread reminds me of my Isis bracelet.


wall painting of ibex with outspread wings in the tomb of Tausert

Suddenly I sense, I know, here in this ancient place, the presence of a great overarching, protective, loving, being. A Sacred One. I know this with my entire self, and the knowing fills me with surprise and joy. I taste the Holy and I am crying.


Slowly, returning to awareness of the group, I realize that on the far side of the room, there is a rustling, a whispering. Cinder, one of our Mystery School companions who has in recent years been losing her eyesight, calls out, “I can see clearly”. Jean invites us to sing the Pachelbel Canon. Our voices rise together, in several harmonic parts, as though we’d been rehearsing for weeks. I open my throat and a rich sound pours out. “Al-le-lu-ia”. Something wonderful is happening here. I don’t begin to understand it, nor do I feel, for once, any need to understand.


We emerge from the tomb. The large group of Japanese tourists who had been waiting to enter has vanished. Samai is looking rather shaken. He tells us that our singing made the tomb tremble and the Japanese ran off in terror.
Jean appears unsurprised by this. “These tombs were built for resonance. They were meant to be sung in.”

Asked about the sudden darkness, Samia is puzzled. No one had turned off the lights.

(to be continued)

(taken from Called to Egypt on the Back of the Wind, Anne Kathleen McLaughlin, Borealis Press Publishers, Ottawa, Canada 2013 )