Category Archives: Valley of the Kings

Sophia in Egypt: Sixteen

The sky above the Valley of the Kings is now a clear paint box blue, but the looming mountains wear skirts of deep darkness, waiting for the sun to climb high enough to undress them.

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the Valley of the Kings Egypt

 

For the rest of the tour of the Valley of the Kings, I feel an inner glow. As we move towards our bus for the journey to Deir El Bahari, a woman from our group whom I do not know well looks at me, touches my face, says, “You look so beautiful and so peaceful. I don’t know what happened in there but it shows.”

Nestled in the arms of the great rock walls not far from the Valley of the Kings, facing towards the east, is the magnificent temple of Deir El-Bahari. Twelve hundred years after Imhotep designed the Step Pyramid, Queen Hatshepsut, drawn more to the arts than to warfare, had the architect Senmut design a funerary monument for her father, Tutmose I, and herself. She chose a valley which had already been consecrated to the goddess Hathor. The design was an entirely new concept, making creative use of the great rocks spreading out like a fan behind the temple. Senmut built a series of great terraces that lead by means of ramps towards the sanctuary. Here in this temple, Hatshepsut restored the great rituals that honour the goddess Hathor.

With the sun now high in the sky, its rays hot on any exposed skin, we look towards an Everest-like flight of stone steps. We mount the stairs, pausing for photos as we ascend, finally reaching the entrance way to the temple.

Inside there are many structures, leading off open courtyards, so that the sky forms the roof and tall palms offer shading. The large temple’s inner walls are meticulously carved with hieroglyphs. A series of bas reliefs tells the story of Queen Hatshepsut’s birth and childhood, another tells of an expedition she led to the mysterious country of Punt, thought to be somewhere in the midst of Africa, for the carvings show giraffes and monkeys. High above on the inner side of a stone archway, I see a beautifully preserved painting in ochres and reds and blues of the winged presence of Isis, her arms outstretched, allowing the fullest wingspan.

We wander under overarching palms, exploring other buildings, some very ancient. A few of us discover the only tomb known to have been built for a priestess. We go inside the tiny building, pose for photos with our hands raised above the altar. Behind the main room, a narrow passageway circles around and back again, its walls covered with bas relief carvings. I stand for a long while before a carving of two kneeling figures, a man and a woman, facing each other, their open palms lifted towards each other as though in blessing. There is energy in this exchange, light and love being passed from one to the other.

Later, when I look at my photo of the carving, I see a narrow glistening chain of golden light passing across the two figures.

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On our journey back to the ship, we stop for lunch at an outdoor restaurant, its roof a vibrant red flowered cloth that receives the breeze like a sail. We cross the river in feluccas, return to the Moon Goddess, to an afternoon free for rest, as the ship sails back upriver, rocking us gently in the Nile’s currents.

At five o’clock we gather in the Captain’s lounge, ready to re-enter 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.”

(to be continued)

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.

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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?

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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.

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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     http://borealispress.com )