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Out of the deeps rises the mysterious lotus. Stop in for refreshment, heka, and reflections from the sacred waters of ancient Egypt.

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Embodying Isis

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_22573479132_3700a80e9f_k.jpgAlready in Salt Lake City we could see that the sun was moving away towards a darker time of the year, even against the dazzling sunset backdrop of mountain peaks in the distance. I had dreamed since 1993 of attending the Parliament of the World’s Religions, not realizing that I would have taken on a whole new religious identity by the time I got to attend my first one this October. So immersed had I become in that path that I was invited to play the role of Isis in a ceremony honoring many of the traditional goddesses who have been worshiped around the world, from Amaterasu to Kali to Oshun and Brigid. Read more about Goddesses Alive here. For each of us costumed as a goddess, including a fabulous mask by noted artist Lauren Raine, there was no script. Our task was to be the goddess while narrators and music set the ambience for an audience sitting in the round.

In the weeks leading up to this performance I was focused on logistics: my first wig (think Donna Summer); jewelry, robe, choreography. I will not in this lifetime ever again resemble the willowy figure of Egyptian paintings, and I had no intention of wearing a tight, transparent sheath, so I opted for a shimmering loose caftan. Then two days before our flight I fell, twisting and breaking my ankle. Choreography would be limited to arm gestures and it was anyone’s guess whether I would be able to perform sans wheelchair.

But when the lights went down and the music began, those cosmetic concerns dissolved into the background as everyone in the room took a virtual step into a different reality. For an hour we heard the words and stories of the goddesses themselves. We who embodied them had hidden our mundane identities behind Raine’s astonishing masks and writer/producer Aline O’Brien’s moving script, allowing others to temporarily engage with deity in living, moving immediacy.

b2ap3_thumbnail_opet.jpgEmbodiment of the gods has a long and venerable history in Egypt, from the sem priests wearing the masks of Anubis and Horus, to the priests bearing the litter of Amun at the Beautiful Feast of the Valley (who performed divination by letting the god sway the litter one direction or another).  For most people, simply being present for an occasional ceremony is sufficient spirituality, even in our own time. For a few more, a daily devotional practice becomes part of their life. For only a small number does relationship with the divine open us to a kind of merging of our consciousness with that of deity. Some of us seek it, many more are surprised, even frightened, by feeling ourselves overtaken by the neteru. After such an experience, modern psychology is not enough to explain how we are changed. The intellect can suggest rational mechanisms for embodiment or trance possession, but only the soul knows the truth of what has happened, and she guards her secrets in the dark, irrational depths of inner wisdom.

b2ap3_thumbnail_isis_horus_20151031-151854_1.jpgNo, I was not in trance in Salt Lake City, though I have been once in a while. And hearing the voice of one of the narrators (Vivianne Crowley) break into song when she reached the Egyptian words of my narrative definitely put my mind into zep tepi, the timeless time of sacred space.  But during Goddesses Alive I felt a tenderness toward our audience, some of whom looked surprised, some in tears, some bemused, and some apparently inspired. My job as Holli was to allow them to meet Isis, to be the vessel for Isis to touch them with her heka (magic). It was not necessary for me to completely displace my identity in order to serve others in that way because I trusted in the wisdom of audience members’ own psyche to open to what they needed just then. I suppose this is a bit of what is meant by the phrase, “letting go.” Certainly, it was all I could do to get through my piece and get back to my seat in the dark (much gratitude goes to the helpers dressed in black who escorted me, Tiffany and Victoria).

Isis is the Mistress of All Magic, the cunning one who brings together the broken pieces of our selves and our lives, who mends us and breathes into us new life. Such is her magic that even after fearing our hearts dead, we find the urge to create come over us again. To create is to live eternally. Blessed be Aset, and all who embody her. May the coming season of darkness be a warm place to nurture the next steps of our lives.

Photo credit: Thanks to Greg Harder for the photo of Holli as Isis in Goddesses Alive, October 18, 2015.

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Holli Emore is Executive Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, the premiere educational resource for Pagan and other nature-based religions (, founder of Osireion (, editor/writer for Wild Garden: Pagans in the Growing Interfaith Landscape at, and serves on the board of directors for Interfaith Partners of S.C. (  She is co-founder of the original Pagan Round Table,, and author of "Pool of Lotus," available in print, or for Kindle or Nook, at


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