Category Archives: Maiden/Mother/Crone Threefold Aspect of the Sacred Feminine

brigid of kildare: four

After these weeks of reflecting upon Brigid, we decide to pay her a visit. We book seats on an Aer Lingus Flight to Shannon Airport. Outside the airport, we find a bus, its destination clearly written above the front window: Church of St. Brigid.

The bus stops before a stone church that appears centuries old.  Inside, as our eyes adjust to darkness, we pull shawls/sweaters/light coats more closely around us to protect against the chill, the seeping dampness left over from winter’s rain. The scent is a not unpleasant mix of wax, flowers, dusty hymnals, wispy remnants of incense.

Light comes from the red sanctuary lamp. In a side aisle, a single candle bows in a soft breeze from a high, partially open, window. Drawn by the candle, we find ourselves before a statue of Saint Brigid, eyes looking away, hands joined around a book, as though in prayer.

Clearly she is not expecting us.

But then, slowly, she lowers her gaze, looks steadily at us and…. WINKS!

Behind her, a door opens onto a sunlit landscape of such verdancy that we are drawn towards it even as we see her gesturing that we follow her. We are outside now, breathing in the fragrance of wet, newly-turned earth, pungent with spring life. Brigid draws us onward towards a pool of water that holds a drowned, cloud-drifted sky, invites us to sit on the springy young grass that surrounds the pool.

When we are settled, she speaks: “There’s something I need to tell you….” 

We look at her, surprised by this turn of events, eager to listen, to learn.

“First of all, you took the wrong bus.  When I drew you here to Ireland, I thought you’d know where to look for me, but when you climbed into that bus, I had to get there ahead of you. Believe me, it was no easy task to stand so still, trying my best to look holy, otherworldly, until you arrived. But now you’re here, I have much to say to you.

“You’ve heard stories about me, of my life in the Christian Monastery of Kildare where I served as abbess to both men and women. I embodied in that role the qualities of compassion and generosity, of kindness, of fierceness in my focus, as I kept the sacred fire alight, the healing water of the holy well flowing. These stories you understand for they are part of your heritage.

“Yet there is so much more for you to know, wisdom that goes back to the countless millennia before Christianity, before the Hebrew Scriptures, before men decided that God was a powerhouse running the universe, yet wholly separate from what “he” had created.

“I will speak of Ireland, but you must understand that this wisdom was found in many different parts of the planet, in the myths and stories of numberless, now mostly forgotten, aboriginal peoples, in the days when the Holy was understood to be a woman whose body was the earth that births and holds us, nourishes and comforts us, receiving us back into her body when we die. Fragments of this wisdom have endured, to come to us in stories, in myths, in rituals.

“In those ancient days, wave after wave of people came to Ireland, each bringing their own understanding of that sacred being, our mother. Over the millennia, she was called by many different names: Anu, which relates to Danu, the goddess for whom the great river Danube is named; or Aine, the wheel of the seasons, the circle of life; and later Brigit, a name that derives from an Indo-European word brig, meaning the High, the Exalted One.

“In ancient Ireland, Brigid was honoured as embodying all three aspects of the goddess: maiden, mother and crone.

The poets, who themselves held positions of honour almost equal to that of the king, worshipped the goddess Brigid, taking her as patron. She was said to have two sisters, each named Brigid, one the patron of healers, the other patron of smith-craft.

“In this, you can see that Brigid was a goddess of many aspects, perhaps herself the many-faceted One, the Sacred Holy Mother of far more ancient times.

  “I can see by your expressions that some of you are wondering why I feel it so important to tell you all of this, you who live in a time so different, so removed from the ancient days of Ireland.

“I have seen in your hearts some of the darkness and suffering you carry, your grief for the ravaging of the planet, the earth that you know as your mother. I have felt your pain over the desertification of the rain forest, the lungs of your planet, the pollution of its waters, its rivers, lakes, oceans, its very life blood, the poisoning of the air…

 “I want you to know, to rediscover the wisdom of the ancient ones who saw Brigid/Aine/Anu as the life within the Earth herself. The hills, her breasts, called the Paps of Anu; the nipples of high mountains sprouting water like breast milk; wells that spring from rocks on the sides of mountains and hills or gushing forth from under the earth, or deep inside caves, offering healing.

“Open your eyes, dear ones, so that you may see the Earth as co–creating with you in love. See yourself as a partner in this great work, and know yourself held in love by the Earth whom you honour as mother.

 “As you watch spring returning to your land, remember these things, remember me, and know you are not alone.

“I hear your bus returning. You need not tell the driver what we’ve been speaking about. But do come back again, for I have so much more to tell you!”

 We board the bus, bemused, intrigued, making for our hotel. We know this is only the first of many conversations with Brigid.

Who is Brigid?

In Ireland for the festivities surrounding Brigid’s Feast in 2018. I was staying with Dolores Whelan, organizer of the Festival, who had invited me to take part as a storyteller. My first event was at a Theatre Arts venue with a group of school children. As fifty little boys in school uniforms filed in to take their seats, I smiled to myself thinking “Fifty little Harry Potters…”  I had brought them a Scots Celtic tale of courage, “The Young Tamlin”.

However, the man who welcomed the boys and their teachers told them I would be speaking of Brigid! To gain time, I asked them, “What is your favourite story of Brigid?”  Eager hands shot into the air, one boy looking ready to burst if I did not let him speak. With glee he proclaimed “She popped her eye out!”

Ouch. Well.  Yes. Not wishing to disillusion him, I said carefully, “Well she didn’t wish to marry, so she made herself ugly, but I do believe the eye was later healed….”

So there it is. Brigid’s story has been magnified into legends wondrous and terrible, the seeds of truth growing into a gigantic beanstalk much as Jack’s few beans did in the fairy tale.

third image of Brigid

Legend says that Brigid’s mother gave birth to her on the doorstep of their home, one foot within, one foot outside the door. This would seem to be a prophecy for a life that would become a threshold, bridging pagan and Christian, woman and man, rich and poor….Goddess and Saint. For the story of Brigid, founder of the Christian Monastery of Kildare, is interwoven with the ancient Irish goddess who shares her name. As goddess, Brigid is known as maiden, mother and crone. And the Feast of Saint Brigid, February 1st, coincides with the ancient Celtic Festival of Imbolc, the beginning of spring. It is Brigid who “breathes life into the mouth of dead winter”.

Now I recall my first encounter with Brigid’s story.

It was still dead winter on that February day, more than twenty-five years ago, the air a raw biting cold, as I set out to explore Edinburgh. The National Gallery of Scotland lured me within, down a narrow staircase to an explosion of beauty, wildly out of proportion to the size of its modest rooms, its small wall space. I hold vague memories of standing in awe before landscapes, clusters of children in a garden, beautiful women, solemn men whose painted faces gazed back at me.

But one image remains etched in rich detail in my mind. I stopped, breathless, before John Duncan’s 1913 painting called, “St. Bride”. Two angels in gloriously patterned robes, whose miniature tapestries held scenes from Celtic mythology, were carrying a white-robed maiden, her hands joined in prayer. One angel supported her back with his hands, as her golden hair fell in great waves towards the sea. The other angel held her ankles while her knees rested on his shoulders. The angels’ wings were a symphony of colour from scarlet to rose to pale pink, shaded with greens, golds, midnight blues. The angels’ toes just brushed the surface of the sea where a seal swam ahead of them.

st-bride-john-duncan

St. Bride by John Duncan

I had no idea what I was seeing.

That evening, in the home of the priest friend with whom I was staying, I learned the story of Brigid. Legend tells that she was carried by angels across the seas from Ireland to Bethlehem in Judea, to be present at the birth of Jesus, and that she became his foster mother. Other tales add that Brigid served Mary as mid-wife, and that when Herod was seeking the Child to destroy him, Brigid distracted the soldiers by running through the streets, allowing Mary and Joseph to escape with Jesus.

As I am sure you recognize we are back in the realm of story. But as I hope you realize, it is the story that matters, that lures us, inspires us, teaches us what we need to understand about the life of Brigid. Brigid was born in Ireland in 457 AD and founded a double monastery in Kildare sometime before her death in 524 AD. A wealth of stories about her were carried in oral tradition until Cogitosus, a monk of Kildare, wrote his “Life of Brigid” around 650 AD. At the time of his writing, Cogitosus noted that in the Kildare monastery, the nuns still guarded Brigid’s sacred fire.

According to Cogitosus, Brigid was the daughter of Dubhthach, a pagan noble of Leinster, while her mother, Brocseach, was a Christian. Baptized at an early age, Brigid was fostered by a Druid.

The stories of Brigid reveal her spirit of compassion for the poor: one day when she was a child, after she had milked the cows, she gave away the milk to some poor persons who were passing. She feared her mother’s reproof, but when she arrived home, her milk pail was found to be even fuller that that of the other maidens.

The adult Brigid approached a rich landowner (some stories say it was the King of Leinster) asking for land where she might grow food for the poor. The landowner agreed to give her as much land as she could cover with her cloak. Brigid lay down her cloak and it expanded until it covered many, many acres.

Another story tells of Brigid’s father preparing for her marriage to a nobleman while Brigid herself wanted to become a nun. Through the intervention of the Christian King of Leinster, Brigid’s desire was granted. With seven other young women Brigid was consecrated to Christ.

Here is the story I love best: during the Ceremony for Consecration of a Virgin to Christ, the very old Bishop Mel of Ardagh mistakenly read for Brigid the words for Consecration of a Bishop. When his mistake was pointed out to him by co-presider Bishop MacCaille of Longford, Mel insisted that the Consecration would stand, as it must have been the work of the Holy Spirit. Brigid would be the only woman to hold the episcopal office in Ireland.

During my time in Ireland in 2018, I travelled to Kildare, to the new Retreat Centre Solas Bhride. Outside the Centre in an open field stands a towering statue of Brigid, robed as a Bishop holding a crozier in her left hand. I stood still before the image, my heart seeking her guidance for my journey.

20180129 Bhrigid statue at Solas Bhride

Did I really expect a response? Yet, I was suddenly aware of her right hand raised, two fingers joined in what I recognized as a Bishop’s blessing, gesturing towards her right. Deep within, I heard her words clearly: “Keep on your journey. Go on with your work. Don’t look back.”

 

Cosmic Brigid Encore

February 6, 2019

Yesterday, I wakened from a dream:  My niece Kate is teaching a literature class where I am one of her high school students. We have just completed a reading of some story or novel. Kate announces that we will now move on to something new, no time to lose, curriculum to cover… But I feel a sense of loss so keen I have to speak up. “Why don’t we spend more time with what we’ve already read? Take it deeper? Go down, down, down. That’s where the treasures are.”

The dream ended there. I awoke, already planning to dismiss it as readily as Scrooge dismissed Marley’s visit as “a bit of underdone beef…”

Then I “got it”… Kate? My beloved niece, whose name reminded me of Kate Fitzpatrick and her astonishingly layered and profound “Cosmic Brigid”.

No, we won’t move on to something new. We need more time with “Cosmic Brigid.” So here it is as an encore. Like Scrooge’s three spirits in their three visits, we shall, over the next weeks, “take it deeper”… “go down, down, down…where the treasures are.”

Let’s begin with Kate’s introduction where she tells us of the twin interests that led her to explore Brigid’s deeper meaning:

“I am interested in tracking the changing role of Brigid over many centuries,” Kate writes,”and coupled with my interest in the cosmic shifts that are happening in our world today I asked: How is Brigid relevant today? and Can we call her a Cosmic Goddess?

third image of Brigid

An old Celtic blessing for a woman in childbirth called “The Moon of Four Quarters”repeats the number four in some of its lines.

Four corners of the bed

Four angels at her head

Mathew Mark Luke and John

God bless the bed that she lies on

New moon, New moon God bless me

God bless this house and family.

                                    (Michael Dames, Mythic Ireland, London: Thames and Hudson, 1992)

Kate cites this as an early example of how people of past centuries saw Brigid in her cosmic aspect. She writes:

Brigid has always held the role of being a cosmic Goddess. There are many areas of life that she governs. Her symbolism is vast and covers all elements – the power of transformation of the Fire, the healing qualities of Water and holy wells, and in the blessings of the Earth in the ritual prayers for crops for the year to come. The inspiration of her creativity given to poets and crafts people is the intuitive faculty associated with the element Air.

Fire, Water, Earth, Air: the elements of life honoured by indigenous peoples from ancient times. These cosmic elements associated with Brigid, both as goddess and saint, we have explored in past years in our reflections. But Kate invites us to go further. In her decades of facilitating spiritual journeys for healing and transformation using the myths of the Celtic Goddesses, Kate has worked to bring these ancient ones to life in the context of the present day. Here Kate’s writing becomes lyrical, passionate:

Let the myths live on. Let the myths change, transform and become a new thing as we work with them at profound depths. Become the myth. Listen with your heart and allow it to weave magic within you. Allow Brigid to be with you and to assist you in your own life. It is not theoretical knowledge but wisdom we are speaking of. It is the teaching of ages that we want to call in from the cosmic dimensions to help give meaning to our lives today. Let the women sing out the stories that the Goddesses will hear and they too will be changed in the process.

There is fire in her words. They lure us to respond: “Yes. Yes, that is what I also desire.” In my heart they resonate deeply and become woven with the truth I am coming to know: The Sacred Feminine Presence, by whatever name we call her, is an embodied presence, not some ideal or intellectual concept. Brigid, like Isis, like Sophia, like Mary, wants to be invited to enter our lives. She will not become us, nor will we ever become her. Yet we can offer her a place to live and grow, to reach out from within us in wisdom and love to other people, other living beings, to our planet in this time of its wounding, perhaps even its dying.

Kate asks: Can we allow the myths to change? Give permission for the music to evolve? And help Brigid to become an even bigger version of who she is? Archetype of the Divine Feminine in her full power, equality and wisdom. She is a guide to us such that we too can reach for the stars and have a model to find the map forward in this new age of Feminine wisdom returning. There is a higher light coming in to support us in these changing times. A living myth of cosmic dimensions is living through and beyond us. Will we lean into it to assist us in these challenging times?  

How do we respond?

Kate Fitzpatrick is the author of Macha’s Twins, A Spiritual Journey with the Celtic Horse Goddess. She is currently writing a book about her experiences of shamanic work with the evolving roles of Brigid saint and Goddess.

Her email is katefitzpatrick2@gmail.com

 

Brigid: Cailleach and Midwife to a New World Part Two

  We continue this week with Dolores Whelan’s article on Brigid:

As we consider the qualities embodied by Brigid as reflected in the stories of her life as abbess of Kildare Ireland, it is obvious that these qualities are similar to those present in her incarnation as pre-Christian goddess.

Brigid is considered a threshold person, one who can straddle both sides and remain detached. This quality, which is central in her life, is highlighted in the stories of her birth, which attest that she was born on the threshold of the house, neither within nor without; that her father was a noble man, her mother a slave; and that he was a pagan, her mother a Christian. From her origins, she has this ability to stand in the void and remain centred within it, while holding the creative tension between two opposite perspectives. Many stories from her life portray her as a person capable of resolving conflicts in a healthy manner. Being centred and aligned within herself, she is detached and can grasp the energies of both sides clearly, thereby facilitating a resolution. She has the ability to stand still and remain focused, in spite of the uncertainty present in the outer world.

 the ability to stand still and remain focused

As a child and a young woman Brigid constantly challenged the accepted norms of her society, especially those expressed by her father when they opposed to her own values. This reflects Brigid as a person who lives her life from a place of deep inner knowing and inner authority. She also refused to marry any of the suitors that her father arranged for her, because she had chosen a different life path and destiny. She would not compromise her soul journey!

absolute faith in the abundance of the universe

Brigid’s generosity is legendary and is related in numerous stories of her giving away food and clothes to people who came to her monastery or whom she met along the way. This generosity was, it seems, based on her absolute faith in the abundance of the universe to provide all that was needed in each moment. Each time she gave away the butter or meat needed for the next meal it miraculously reappeared in time for that meal!

Brigid’s capacity to bring forth new life, to nourish, to create plenty in the crops or an abundance of the milk from cows, and to manifest or create ex nihilo is a reflection of the true abundance and with the prosperity of the society, living in relationship with the land , created by her. Her life and work thrived because of her deep trust and an absence of fear.

ability to be aligned heaven to earth

It is said that from the moment Brigid learned to know God her mind remained ever focused on God. She remained connected to God and the heavens while living on the earthly plane. Her power of manifestation was a result of this ability to be aligned heaven to earth. The strong connection between her inner and outer worlds allowed her to focus her energy onto a particular intention and ensure its manifestation.

The story how Brigid got the land for her monastery in Kildare is a wonderful example of her ability to manifest what is needed. She states clearly what she needs and asks the local lord for land. First he refused but she is not deterred by this. She pursues her request in a different way by asking, “Give me what land my mantle will cover.”

 a woman who can hold her intention clearly

He says yes! When she placed the mantle on the ground it grew until it covered enough land for the monastery .This reflects a woman who can hold her intention clearly, even when on the surface it seems that her request will not be met!! These inspiring stories of Brigid relate to her active life in the world, where she embodies and live true spiritual power! But what and where is the source of this power?

To fully understand the power and the qualities that Brigid embodied, as reflected in the many stories about her life, we need to begin with an exploration of the role of Brigid as Cailleach, the aspect of the Divine Feminine, that rules during the season of Samhain (winter) at the beginning of the Celtic year. This I believe is the wellspring from which Brigid’s power manifests in the world emerges.

the embodiment of tough mother love

What then is the energy associated with the hag, crone, or cailleach aspect of the divine feminine? The cailleach is the embodiment of the tough mother-love that challenges its children to stop acting in destructive ways. It is the energy that refuses to indulge in inappropriate personal or societal dreams. It is the energy that will bring death to those dreams and fantasies that are not aligned with our highest good.

the cailleach energy….will hold us safely

Yet, this cailleach energy also will support the emergence and manifestation in the world of the highest and deepest within us. It will hold us safely as we embrace the darkness within ourselves and our society. It is an energy that insists that we stand still, open our hearts, and feel our own pain and the pain of the earth. This is the energy that teaches us how to stay with the process when things are difficult. This energy will not allow us to run away!

20180129 Bhrigid Well Kildare.jpg

Her way of being is a slow, inwardly focused way, with minimum outward activity: a way that values times of active waiting that pays attention and allows life to unfold.

embracing the energy of surrender

An essential part of the journey that all the great heroes and heroines in world mythologies undertake includes facing and embracing the energy of surrender, darkness, and death. The hero or heroine learns the next step required in their outer world journey only by submitting to and being initiated into the dark world of the cailleach.

Through this initiation the mature masculine power can emerge and lead each one to find their true path. When this happens the action that follows will be in the service of the true feminine and bring forth wisdom and compassion creating new life, vitality, and sustainability.

However because western society is currently dominated by the young masculine energy, present in both men and women, characterised by its “can do” attitude, there is an urgent need for each of us to make this heroic journey with the cailleach, so that we will become agents for the transformation of our society.

Brigid: Cailleach and Midwife to a New World

This is the first of a three part article on Brigid and her importance to us at this crucial time, written by Dolores Whelan and used with her permission. 

dolores-img

Dolores Whelan

Reflecting on the turmoil present in the world today it is clear to all, but those steeped in denial, that all is not well. It seems that something ails us humans; something that causes us to live in ways that disrespect our mother, the living earth, and all our relatives. We ask what is it in us humans that creates such a restless world where there is little sense of belonging, nurture or home and which causes so many of the species with which we share this planet to suffer?

The exclusion of the Feminine energy in our naming and understanding of the Divine is reflected in a corresponding absence and valuing of feminine energy in all aspects of life in western society. The devaluing and exclusion of the feminine energy over the past centuries has created a distorted story about life which has resulted in a world whose shape and vibration create disharmony.

So how do we find our way back to a more harmonious way of life? If we know what is missing and what ails us, it may be possible for us to make the journey back towards wholeness and health.

In times of great danger and challenges, cultures often seek the wisdom for the journey ahead in the stories and myths that sustained them in an earlier time. However as Poet Nuala Ni Dhomhnail suggests this requires an understanding that “actual myths and stories themselves soar way above any uses to which they may have been put to already and can and must be retranslated by each generation in terms of their own need and thus liberated into a new consciousness.” (1)

 

Midhir1

 

At the present time there is a wonderful re-emergence of aspects of ancient spiritual traditions by people all over the world. The reconnection and embodiment of these ancient spiritual traditions, myths and stories has the potential to release the spiritual power needed for us to become agents of transformation within our society.

At this time many people are becoming aware of the wisdom of the feminine. As this happens, the absence of genuine feminine energy present in most institutions, both religious and secular, throughout western culture, becomes obvious. To include the presence of the divine feminine energy in creating a world whose shape is more wholesome requires a fundamental reclaiming of the essential role of the feminine in all aspects of life. In order to create change within the physical world and in our society it is necessary to change the dreams and stories held within the imagination of a society.

My own journey over the past 25 years has been primarily within the Celtic spiritual tradition. This tradition has emerged over many millennia and continues to evolve. It includes the wisdom of the megalithic, the pre-Christian Celtic and the Christian Celtic traditions as they met and engaged with each other through the ages. I believe the rekindling of the flames of this tradition, which have lain dormant for many centuries, “like coals under the smooring awaiting a new kindling” holds a key to the recovery of the wisdom needed to create a more sane society.

“God is good and he has a great mother!” a statement sometimes heard in Ireland, reflects an important truth at the heart of the Celtic spiritual tradition, one that honours the presence of the divine feminine and understands that even God emerges out of the feminine energy of being-ness. The Divine Feminine is present at the heart of this spiritual tradition and plays a central role in both Celtic spirituality and Celtic culture. There are many goddesses within Celtic mythology; however Brigid, as both goddess and saint, occupies a central place as representative of the Divine Feminine within Celtic tradition. 20180129 Bhrigid statue at Solas Bhride

statue of Brigid at Solas Bhride, Kildare

Reconnecting with and re-membering the spirit and archetypal energy of Brigid, in both her Goddess and saint manifestations, is an essential task of this renaissance. Brigid, although normally associated with the maiden and mother aspects of feminine energy, is also expressed in the cailleach form, as indicated in the prayer “Molamid Brid an mhaighean; Molamid Brid an mhathair; Molamid Brid an cailleach” (Praise to Brigid, the maiden, the mother, and the crone).

 

maiden_mother_crone_jpg_320_320_0_9223372036854775000_0_1_0

the maiden, the mother, the crone

 

These three different, but related manifestations, the maiden, the mother, and the cailleach, or crone, together create a divine feminine trinity. Each aspect of this trinity occupies a different role within the life, death, and rebirth continuum. The Feminine energy is both the harbinger and the birther of new life and is the destroyer of life that has been spent. It is experienced at the thresholds of life and death and rebirth.
In the past 20 years there has been a new awakening of the importance of Brigid and her place within our lives and our world. Her Feastday at Imbolc in now celebrated in many places in Ireland and all over the world. There is an understanding perhaps it is time for us individually and collectively to recover the qualities that Brigid embodied in her lifetime, marking her as a woman of true spiritual power.

 

1   Amergin  Jan  de Fouw   Amergin   Wolfhound Press  Dublin 2000  ( afterword )  no page number

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.

goddess-hathor

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 http://borealispress.com )