At the ruined temple of Kom Ombo, our guide Samei tells us that since the changes caused by the building of dams along the Nile, the crocodiles have disappeared forever from its waters. Sobek, the crocodile god, is the one whom the Ancient Egyptians honoured as the “great devourer”. They asked him to swallow the darkness that threatened their lives.
carving at the Temple of Kom Ombo of Sobek, the Crocodile God
We take time to wander around the temple area, to admire its massive carved walls and pillars, representation of the gods and pharaohs. I recognize Hathor by the hieroglyph of sun and two curved lines. I know when two incised figures are in conversation, though what they are saying to each other is inaccessible. I stare at the hieroglyphs, full of wonder and frustration.
The small shriveled mummies of the crocodiles are a source of wonder of another order… one has overhanging teeth.
A large flat rock, about a meter high, bearing the energy of Sobek, sits alone in a clear space. Jean Houston invites us to gather around it, to pray for the release of any darkness, any negativity we hold within us, to ask Sobek to devour it. Jean prays aloud on our behalf for the release of the way we humans treat the earth, for the crimes committed against women and children. We each touch the rock, make our silent, personal requests. I place my hand on the black surface, worn smooth, surprised to feel energy rising into my palm. “Devour the darkness in me that impedes my freedom to love,” I ask Sobek. For the second time that morning, I sense that my prayer is heard.
That afternoon, we gather in the captain’s lounge on the Moon Goddess to hear the great story of Isis and Osiris. We are sailing now, the shores of the Nile sweeping past, clearly visible through the round portholes on either side of the lounge. As a setting for this myth, it is pure magic. Jean begins by reminding us about the power of myth.
In pursuing the Mystery Play of Isis and Osiris, with its themes of love and loss, death and rebirth, revenge and reconciliation, we meet ourselves writ large. And that’s what a myth does. This is what the great journeys of the soul do. We no longer see ourselves as separate and isolated in our sorrows, our regrets, our burdens. Myths are always communal… not simply communal among us, but communal in that you are now part of this great journey that has been told for perhaps six thousand years, perhaps longer. Gradually we will discover as we enter into these profound universal themes, that these ancient stories are our own. Having been Isis and Osiris, we actually come back to our own lives with our energies and our abilities enhanced. That is the genius of the myth.
We watch as an ancient story trunk, jewel-encrusted, opens before us. From it rise the entwined figures of Nut the Sky and Geb the Earth, of Ra, the Sun who is their first born, Ra whose jealously refuses to allow his mother Nut to give birth on any day….Thoth the Moon who wins five days from Ra so that Isis, Osiris, Seth,Nephthys, and Horus may be born. With the lid now open wide, we see flowing from within and around their stories a swath of wisdom that has long been wrapped tightly. Set free, it shimmers and sways, a silken garment painted with butterflies. Every aspect of the story holds hieroglyphs of meanings, layer upon layer upon layer.
The five days out of time in which Nut gives birth remind us of the necessity to make time in our lives for the birthing of the holy within us. Whether we set aside an hour a day, a day a week, a week or a month each year, we must take time for the sacred within us to be born.
Isis and Osiris come in singing. As they travel through Egypt teaching agriculture: the planting of wheat, the crossbreeding of animals and plants; the weaving of cloth; they teach with song and dance, story and music. If we are to be the harbingers of newness for children, for our families and friends, for the new planetary culture being birthed today, we too must come in singing, offering joy and dance and story.
Seth represents in this myth the remnant of the hunter-gatherer society that rejects the new ways of agriculture, refusing to accept newness. He plots the entrapment and death of Osiris, encasing him in a jeweled box, sealed with lead. After this, he and his seventy-two co-conspirators carry the chest to the bank of the Nile, right where we were this morning, and cast it into the river where it joins the sea.
In Seth we see that force on the planet that tries to hold back growth and freedom, to prevent the birth of a planetary culture based on love.
Crushed by the loss of her husband and lover, her partner in co-creation, Isis cuts her hair, puts on robes of mourning, sets out to search for Osiris. In this part of the story, Isis embodies the energies of yearning that are part of the endless longing of the human heart.
Until now, I have been listening to the story’s unfolding as I might listen to a beloved piece of music, swaying to its rhythms, enchanted. Each note, each phrase is more beautiful by its familiarity.
But something alerts me, breaks the spell. I hear Jean say, Our soul is partnered. When one is born into time and space, as we’ve been, the other part of us remains as the beloved in the spiritual realm. The beloved is in the other realm, longing for us….And it is this deepest wounding of the heart, this yearning for the lost unified soul itself that will not leave Isis or ourselves in peace. And it is precisely that wound and sorrow that brings her then, through grace or time or love, into creating a reality in which something happens and the charge returns.
Many of us, throughout our lives, have a series of surrogates, noble and alas, not so noble, fill-ins between the spaces of that yearning. One mistake is that we place on the noble surrogate, the good friend, the spouse, the lover, that person we admire, we place on them that sense of twinning that properly belongs only to the Beloved of the soul.
Projection. The word is like the bite of the crocodile Sobek, sharp and sudden. But Sobek has exceeded his mandate. He has devoured not only my darkness but also my light. Somewhere inside me a vial of precious oil shatters. Lotus oil drains away and only the shards of glass remain.
(To read the entire story from which these “Sophia in Egypt” blogs have been taken, you may wish to order my book Called to Egypt on the Back of the Wind from Borealis Press: http://borealispress.com)