Ritual in the King’s Chamber
In this ancient place of initiation we are about to enact a sacred ritual. We are invited to enter into a time of silence, preparing our hearts to ask for what we most desire. I see two of my friends approach the sarcophagus. Clothed in long loose Egyptian galabeyas, they take their places at either end as Jean tells us that Deidre will play the role of Isis, Valarie that of her sister Nepthys, the two goddesses who regathered the scattered pieces of the body of Osiris. I remember now that we saw statues of Isis and Nepthys beside the container of the coffin of Tutankhamen in the Cairo Museum. Jean invites anyone else who is gifted in ritual to come forward. Ellyn rises to stand with others who gather around the sarcophagus.
inside the King’s Chamber with the Sarcophagus at the centre back
I feel empty, ungifted, unable to offer anything to others. I sit, carved in stone, as a rush of feelings, a NiIe flooding, sweeps over and through me. I am again five years old, watching as my friends are chosen for the Christmas Pageant, feeling bereft, invisible, unchosen by a beloved teacher.
This flood continues within me, unabated. I feel helpless to stem it, to bring any adult reason to the experience. Faintly, from far away, in a far-off time, a far-off country, I hear words from my beloved Bishop friend. “You have your own beauty, your own gifts.” I hear again the tenderness in his voice, the incomprehension. But an even older memory has taken hold, is gripping my heart. A child who feels she is not loved, because others are preferred.
I sit here, gripped by a grief I can neither understand nor overcome. I have forgotten Sekhmet’s warnings, as well as all that this journey has already given me: the joy, the gifts, the desire to be a presence of love for others. This is our final ritual and I am further from wholeness than I was when I arrived. Egypt has pared me down to this, cutting away all my illusions about being a loving person, a spirit-filled being, a light for others.
I look up to see Deidre standing at the end of the sarcophagus, eyes closed, radiant. I look to where the line of those approaching has dwindled to a final few. If don’t go now, I won’t be able to experience the ritual. I stand, walk over, join the line. I have no idea what to ask for.
I take refuge in an old ploy, one from the days of my first fervour, when I fancied myself quite adept at “holy indifference”. To the One listening, waiting, I say, “Give me what you desire me to have.”
But I have grown beyond such denial of my longings. I feel drawn to a deep inner honesty. I need to name what I want most at this moment, and as embarrassing, as trivial, as childish as my desire appears to me, I ask it anyway, in the silence of my heart. “I want to be seen. I want someone to wrap a shawl around my shoulders.”
And somehow, through my naming that wish, another arises within me. I recall the moment when I sat by the window of the Moon Goddess, looking out over the Nile, feeling the pure bliss of being held in love by the Holy, the true Beloved of my life, feeling a gratitude that drew tears of joy.
In the very nick of time, for now it is my turn to be helped into the sarcophagus, I ask silently for both these gifts. I have a vague understanding, an intuition, that if I were to be given the human gift I long for, I would know that the less tangible spiritual love would also be given.
I let myself be lifted, lowered, steered, manoeuvred into the sarcophagus. I am unable to assist Dwayne and Joan in this; my muscles are atrophied, frozen before such a task. I know I must be a lifeless weight to them.
Finally, I am lying in the deep base of the coffin, looking up as Jean holds bronze bells about a foot above my body, passing them along the areas of the chakras. I am like one who has already died, who can no more be touched by any human experience.
The brief ritual ends. I pull myself up into a sitting position. Once again Dwayne and Joan, with visible effort, assist me as I stand, as I climb out of the coffin.
Looking for somewhere where I might be hidden from view, I choose a place at the base of the sarcophagus where I sit leaning my back against its unreceptive granite. I lift up my hands, palms outwards, call on my own Ka energy, my spirit, to bring to life whatever needs to be born. I remember the swirling rose of love outpoured that I had visualized in the “Recrowning of Isis” ritual, just before our visit to Sekhmet.
While I lay in the coffin, the bronze bells that Jean rang above me may have activated that gift. I hope this might be true. But I feel nothing. Nothing at all.