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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_abydos-crop1small.jpgThe crafting of a life is an epic journey, the story of which has been told around the world for as long as we have memory. For the ancient Nile dwellers, survival was exquisitely poised on the banks of that great river, where the mysterious flood arose each year, bringing new fertility to all the land. This is the time of year when the flood used to peak.  But the Egyptians also carried the understanding of how this life is linked to the next one, the deep mysteries of life, death, rebirth and new, transformed life.

The story of those mysteries comes to us from numerous writings preserved in the royal tombs and temples: the Book of Going Forth By Day; the Book of Gates; the Book of Caverns, the Amduat, and several other afterlife texts. Each of them is a variation on the 12-hour journey of the sun through the netherworld, or Duat. Each hour requires passage through a gate, each hour is a stage of personal transformation for the soul. The journey culminates with the re-emergence of the sun - the transformed life - in the brilliant light of dawn. In ancient times, priests of the temple played the role of the gods in the story, as well as reciting and chanting praises and prayers.  We know many of these today through the so-called Book of the Dead.

Traces of the Egyptian mysteries were preserved in the books known as the Hermetica, and the process shows up again in the work of the medieval alchemists. Our ceremony tonight is based on the Book of the Night, found in the Osireion at the Temple of Sety in Abydos. The goddess Nut, with her lapis-blue star-spangled body, spans the ceiling of a transverse chapel of the Osireion. There we see the sun in its solar boat beginning the journey through her body.

The afterlife books are filled with layer upon layer of myth and meaning, hundreds and hundreds of years of allegory and symbolism. Sometimes the dying and reborn god is Ra, and sometimes Osiris; the goddess may appear as Hathor or as Sekhmet. Sometimes the goddess Maat is the divine woman wearing a feather on her head, and sometimes maat is the abstract principle of truth, justice, balance, right living. But the central figure is the soul of the dead, whom we will here call Ani, navigating through the dark in the solar boat. Whether a pharaoh or one of us, that soul begins the afterlife journey at the death of its physical body, is rebirthed in the Duat, and emerges as Horus, the powerful shining one who soars like a hawk across the daytime sky.

As we embark on another cycle through the dark time of the year, may your journey bring you to the eastern gates, transformed into an akh, a shining one.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

No wonder the magi watched the skies.  This is the time of year when all the heavenly bodies seem to dazzle with chilly brilliance in their indigo field of space. 

Maldevian Starry Sky Here in the woodlands part of the country, the sky seems to open downward with the falling leaves.  Not only does the dark come sooner, faster, longer, but small twinkling lights peep from beneath the highest branches of the woods behind my home. 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_NutCosmicDream.jpgMut-i Nut, herak-a. My mother Nut, hail to you. You who hold a thousand starry souls in your lapis body, whose arms and legs are the pillars of the sky, who separates the earthly realm from the chaos of darkness. Mut-i Nut, you gave birth to the great ones in the barque of the Ennead, Asar, Aset, Nebt-Het, and mischievous Set. Mut-i Nut, you receive the blessed dead, the shining ones.

This weekend Temple Osireion will open our doors for our annual ceremony called Lights of Nut (pronounced “noot” like "boot"). During my recent weeks in Manhattan it was difficult to see Nut between the tall buildings of that great city. But walking at night, I was comforted to feel her dark presence embracing me from above, embracing all of us, in fact. The night of the winter solstice, walking back from supper in a nearby bistro, we looked up to Nut in time to see the beginning of a light snowfall.

Among the numerous Egyptian deities, Nut is an unobtrusive but pervasive presence. Rather than an active principle, she is a way, a path. If you follow the sun, you will nightly be swallowed by Nut and pass through her body to rebirth at dawn. She is the path of the duat, the solitary journey, the living house of our earthly akhet.

As we enter the temple space this weekend we will sing a lovely refrain (by Abbi Spinner McBride): O dark mother, lead me inward, down to the cave of my heart. Mut-i Nut, dua em hotep.

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