Category Archives: Isis and Osiris

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 )

Sophia in Egypt: Thirteen

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.”

Sophia in Egypt: Twelve

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.

Sophia in Egypt: Eleven



Before we leave the Temple at Edfu, my friend Ellyn draws me aside, excited to show me the birthing chamber. We stand together silently looking at the room where legend says Isis bore her son Horus. This is where royal women came to birth their children. Buried deep under the rubble of my joy, a memory stirs of Isis and my own birthing, the ritual in the prayer room in September, but I cannot summon it from the darkness.

When we are back on the ship, Ellyn is eager to see the full moon from the upper deck. I go with her, climbing the flight of steps that takes us up under the night sky. We choose reclining deck chairs, lying back with our gaze fixed on the moon. Always before I have thought of the moon as feminine, but tonight I think of Thoth, the Egyptian god of Truth, and as I sit below his gaze, Truth pierces me. I know now that this truth is a response to my prayer to Isis to show me how to make of my love a gift, not a burden. I remember something I read on a poster. “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable”. I stay for a while under the gaze of the moon, reflecting upon all this.

Some of our friends are gathered here, sitting at the edge of the shallow pool, bare feet resting in the warm water. Ellyn and I go to join them, letting the water soothe our feet. Suzanne is here, Denise, the woman from Ireland, and Valarie whom I had met at the Social Artistry session in Oregon. The women are speaking about the different energies they felt in the temples of Isis and Horus. I listen, surprised, realize it is true that on the island dedicated to Isis, I felt a gentle peace that drew me to prayer, whereas in the temple of Horus, itself massive, with its many carvings of fierce battle, the energy was masculine. I have until now not been aware of such things.

Valarie suggests that we should have a ritual at some point during our journey to honour the men who have been brave enough to join this venture. This reminds me of a book I’ve recently read. I tell them about the Canadian man who wrote The Savage Breast. He travelled throughout Europe, seeking ancient sites of goddess worship and wrote a compelling book about his struggles to understand the feminine within himself. He found that many of these temples held birthing rooms.

It is by now long past midnight on this day that began for us before sunrise. Yet, none of us feels fatigue. When at last I do return to my room, I fall into a deep sleep.

I waken to a day of sailing, as we head towards Luxor. After breakfast, I make arrangements to use one of the ship’s laptops, hoping to send my first emails to friends and family. As I sit in the lobby, my efforts to engage the internet, to make connection, prove fruitless. Bent over the task, I become aware that Denise has come to sit beside me. There is at once a connection between us more vital, less complicated than the one I am trying to make with the internet.

“Last night on the upper deck, under the moon,” Denise says, “we were like a group of women in ancient Ireland sitting around the well.”

I agree that the talk was rich and deep, and at once I find I am sharing with Denise the pain and confusion that I had held silent within me the night before.

“Why don’t you speak with Jean about this?” Denise asks.

I recite my litany of reasons, my fear of weighing her down, placing my concerns on her, blowing her away”…

Denise gives me a look that must be the Irish equivalent of you’ve got to be kidding. “Jean looks pretty grounded to me. I think she can handle it.”

The sweet sanity of this dissolves the dark fear still lurking within me. After Denise leaves, I try again to connect with the internet, hear a question above me.

“Sending email?” I look up, see that Jean is here.

“Will you sit down for a moment?” I ask. When she does, I say, “When I asked you about projection yesterday, did you think it was a hypothetical question?”

Jean smiles. “Well, I thought perhaps you were referring to some poor priest.”

“Been there. Done that,” I say, relieved at the lightness in my heart. For an instant, the memory of a powerful love from my own springtime sweeps though me, a love that has endured to warm these autumn days, a love in which I trust.

We speak awhile about love, about how the God in us draws the God in another. “Surely this has happened to you in your work?” Jean says.

“Yes, it has,” I say, remembering, regretting now that I had not understood better at the time what was happening, been more compassionate. “But what you said yesterday, about not frightening people away. How can you love without being a burden to them? ”

Suddenly the response matters very much. I am again on the brink, the cliff’s edge, where I have stood so many times with other people in my life, awaiting the dark response: “I’m sorry. I cannot be your friend… we really don’t have enough in common….I am sorry, but no.”

I have gone back so far in memory to such long-forgotten miseries that I cannot hear what Jean is saying. I tune in to one word, “Impossible”. It is the word I have been expecting. I look at her, unsurprised.

“It’s impossible to blow me away. I’ve been around too long, experienced too much for that to happen with me.”

After Jean leaves, I give up the effort to connect on the internet. I have had two human encounters worth more than a thousand emails. I feel a burden lift from my heart. The sun rises and I can see clearly.

I tasted god like soup dripping from a ladle.
I felt his grace like three lyres humming…
I am made lively as onions and olives.
I walk at peace between lilies and stones.

Normandi Ellis in Awakening Osiris

“Sophia in Egypt” is excerpted from my novel, Called to Egypt on the Back of the Wind (Borealis Press, Ottawa, Canada 2013)     http://borealispress.comancient-egypt-history3-imagech004885_lr004248

Sophia in Egypt: Ten

As we have been listening to the story of Isis and Osiris, the Moon Goddess has been carrying us down the Nile to Edfu, a journey of sixty-five miles. We don warmer layers. Tonight we are to make a private visit to the temple dedicated to Horus. Edfu is one of Egypt’s newer temples, built during the time of the Ptolemies after the conquest by Alexander the Great. It has been restored to magnificence, one of the greatest achievements of the Minister of Antiquities, Dr. Hawass.

As we approach the temple we see it shimmering gold, majestic against the black night, lit from below with what might be a hundred torches. In another story, in another time, it would have been a fairytale castle. The ascending light illumines great carved figures stretching up along its outer walls. They call out their names, through the symbols they wear as crowns: Osiris, Seth, Horus… but I still cannot be certain who they are in the darkness of night, in my unknowing.


The Temple at Edfu

Inside, a statue of the falcon-headed god Horus, wearing a pharaoh’s crown, stands on a small pedestal, at our eye level, welcoming us to his temple.


the falcon-headed god Horus


We wander through, find in one of the chambers the Sky Goddess Nut painted across the ceiling, her arms reaching along one side, her legs with a ballerina’s pointed toes, stretching to the other side. This is the first sight that would have greeted the dead king upon his awakening to eternal life. Nut would be there hovering above him, stars shining across her body. The Mother Goddess who births Ra at dawn and swallows him at dusk. The Mother Goddess who brings joy with sunrise, darkness with evening.


Samai shows us the Graeco-Roman bas-relief carvings, created by cutting around the figures, releasing them from stone. This requires great skill as it is far more difficult than cutting the figures into the stone. In one carving the king is wearing a transparent overskirt. Stone on stone with the delicacy of silk.

Some of the reliefs show parts of the story of Isis and Osiris, the great battles between Seth and Horus. Others show the annual festival of the first fruits at the time of the new moon which celebrated the sacred marriage of Horus and Hathor. The rejoicing lasted for fourteen days, until the waning of the full moon, when the statue of Hathor was returned to Dendera.

In the inner sanctuary we see the boat that was carried here by the king and the priests for the Celebration of the Royal Marriage. Made of wood, with poles on either side for ease in carrying, the boat is small, very like the conveyances used to carry statues of Mary in procession. On the front of the boat, a stone figurehead leans forward, wearing a carved pectoral, its once glorious colours faded to a small patch of blue.

“You are all here but your ancestors were here,” Jean Houston begins. “So we bring together the context of our ancestral lives. All of these things on the wall are the ancestral lives as they are coded not just to priests and priestesses, and kings and queens, but in the very gods, the great creative principles themselves…. Christ is certainly a descendent of Osiris. Buddha is a descendent of Thoth and so it goes, Athena of Neith, Mary of Hathor and of Isis. They’re all here and they’re here with us now.

“Look at your right hand and consider that to contain the world of the fathers, the males of the ancestry. Look at your left hand. Consider that to be the world of the mothers, and the grandmothers and the great grandmothers, going all the way back to those ancestors. Somehow between the worlds of the fathers on the right and the worlds of the mothers on the left, they got to meet each other, through the centuries, through the generations, yes, even through the millennia.
“Somehow they found each other to ultimately result in this unique pattern in space and time called you.

“We celebrate the coming together as we celebrate the coming together of Hathor and Horus, the coming together of your ancestral mothers and your ancestral fathers. But we do it with consciousness now.”

“We’ll meet them with their joyous meeting, their divine hieros gamos, their sacred marriage, their great conjunction.”

“Feel the merriment of the men and women finding each other, so that you may be. Feel the marriage celebrations, feel the birth of the babies, feel the dying and the reborning.

“ You are sending the message back to that world of the fathers on the right, and the world of the mothers on the left, and you are saying, Remember. Remember me. I come forth from you.”

For me, images of ancient Ireland replace those of Egypt, forefathers and foremothers going about the tasks of their daily lives, fisher folk, farmers, shepherds in that green land of soft mists, their faces bearing contours of my remembered aunts and uncles. I see Celtic versions of myself, a young woman in love, a storyteller, a wise older woman, a herbalist…

Jean invites us to look ahead to the future descendants of our bodies or our minds, receiving a blessing from them, accepting their gratitude for what we did for their lives. I think of my work, the deepening call to weave the new spirituality using the finest threads, the most brilliantly coloured, from the old in the pattern.

“So you are the term between, holding past and future, holding the ancestors. Then take the hand of the one in the future. Take the hand of the one in the past, and bring them here in the front of your heart and as with the knot of Isis, put those hands together. And world and time have been connected again, and in you.

“And from this moment forth, should you choose, you will have all of these great ones, small ones, low ones, mad ones, crazy ones, genius ones, children galore, all who have created you, together in you. And the wisdom and the essence of sheer livingness are contained in you now.

“We go out from here with a festival… a Sufi Islamic dance, to be done very slowly and very carefully. Right hand to right hand, and we’re going to sing. Our hands joined, we do a greeting dance, spinning in pairs in this small space, then joining hands in one great circle as we sing: All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you.”

After the ritual, there is more time to wander through the great temple, to take photos of the beautiful carvings. Gleaming golden in the soft lighting, carved in bas-relief, Hathor, goddess of love and joy, stands looking away from me as I take a photo.

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