Pagan Paths

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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Living the Ankh Life Part 3

b2ap3_thumbnail_osiris.jpgWe traveled up the Nile to visit some of ancient Egypt’s primary cult centers in the last post.  Since that time, the star Sopdet (Sirius) has begun to show herself at the horizon just before dawn.  This tells us that Isis has been weeping for her murdered husband Osiris, and soon her tears will cause the annual Nile flood.

With the inundation comes the end of Shemu, the dry season.  As the flood waters recede we find ourselves in the season of Akhet.  We can see the fields full of rich black silt left behind by the flooding river; the farmers sow seed now, knowing crops will flourish as they grow in the fertile black ground.

Everyone knows that the land is also Osiris’ body.  This time of year he is called the black Osiris; when the crops begin to grow he will be called the green Osiris.  Tomb paintings of Osiris show him alternately with either black or green skin for this reason.  Later in the fall during the annual Osirian mysteries observances in Abydos, mummy-shaped mud dolls will be planted with grain seeds.  When the seeds sprout a few days later, the priests will uncover the clay mummy and declare that Osiris lives again.  Then in a few months (around early January), the season of Peret is the time of harvest. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_isisnebthtkhpra.jpgAkhet is also the word for horizon in the ancient language.  Wherever the sky meets the land we know there is the promise of change, of new possibilities.  When I think of the akhet, I see Ra emerging from the Duat at dawn after a long night of fighting the darkness.  The eastern horizon seems to open like a door as he emerges.  Isis and Nebt-Het are there flanking his exit, themselves appearing to be the opening of Nut’s womb.  At the end of the day, an aging Ra will approach the western akhet and slip through that door.

The word peret (actually just “prt” - no vowels in the ancient tongue) means going forth, going out, showing oneself.  Certainly, the shoots of new green crops do just this, and in so doing show that the god of the land is good and alive and causes them to grow.  Finally, the word shemu simply means “harvest.” 

As the crops come in and the fields are gleaned, the last of the inundation dries up.  This reminds me that if abundance or success in my life is followed by a period of calm, emptiness, even drought, the flood will always come again, refreshing the land, refreshing me, bringing new life.

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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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