Category Archives: Thoth, Moon God, Egyptian God Of Truth

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.

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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

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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