I was asked for my personal response on the following well-researched essay: The Symbolic Meaning of the Scene of Geb, Nut and Shu by Joost Kramer
My first response to the text is to question why the author hasn’t tried to determine what is meant by sky and earth. He has assumed that Geb and Nut represent the profane elements and that the separation or upholding of Nut is a cosmological scene, “merely” a creation scene. Even though he queries this, he still does not question what else Geb/earth/underworld and Nut/sky/the stars might represent.
The arching figure of Nut, as he says, ranges from east to west; he identifies the east, her “backside” as he so quaintly puts it, as the origin of birth, the place where the sun rises – the west is the place of the setting sun (where the sun is eaten by Nut – conception was often depicted by ingestion in Egyptian myth) and the entry point to the underworld where the night barge travels, battling Apophis in an eternal fight to resurrect the sun each day. Nut in this sense can be seen as the daytime pathway, or the pathway of conscious awareness.
The fact that Geb is indicated to have Osirian overtones in his title as Lord of the Netherworld is interesting and ties in with my hypothesis above. Geb may be the father of Osiris, but there is a school of thought that all gods are emanations of the gods before them leading back to Atum or to Nun (the primordial watery abyss from which all things came); so I do not see a contradiction in one deity being another and yet being separate. As such I would suggest that Geb represents not only the Underworld and the world of the dead but the deep unconscious, the primordial being within each of us, The Hidden.
The author, in his attempt to explain the separation scene, has concluded it is not a separation scene (although he continues to refer to it as “the separation scene”) but simultaneously has, I think, neglected to consider the symbolism of Shu standing on Geb and supporting Nut. I think the author is correct in seeing a sense of movement in the scene, a cycle of life, the cycle of the day; and naturally within a funerary context it would be easy to conclude that it is merely a representation of the death and resurrection of the corpse concerned.
But what about the meaning for the living. Who is Shu? Interestingly, Shu means “emptiness” or “he who rises up”. I would posit that Shu is us, that we are Shu and only by standing with our feet in the underworld, while supporting the stars (cf Aleister Crowley – Every man and every woman is a star) can we engage ourselves with the cosmic movement of deity, really align ourselves with the daily triumph of Atum over his enemies and the nightly battle with the primordial demons of our inner, hidden selves. Shu is also identified with “air”, an amorphous thing that can only be sensed by the external movement of say the wind, but without which we cannot survive.
Within this scene, I would not see separation, but an absolute necessity of joining; an emergence of the Übermench, the human being that takes an active role in the spiritual cycle: a person who becomes empty and whose spirit is raised up – but just as a living person cannot progress by solely burying their head in the ground of the dead, neither can they progress if they give into the purely conscious, profane world with its beautiful distractions. It would be so easy to spend a life just watching the sun moving across the sky and to watch the twinkling stars without seeking beyond the light reflecting off our own retinas.
Tip No. 1: Don’t try to write a blog post on the Egyptian continuum whilst simultaneously listening to Eddie Izzard doing a gig in French and English. Zut alors, ma tête est fucked.
I have been working with the Spirits of Lucky Hoodoo. The basic system is surprisingly simple, although I would personally say it is demanding in that it requires daily input and is not something you drag out of the cupboard at full moons and high holidays. I am not an expert, so can only speak from my experience which is that the spirits require, and deserve, a continuous relationship.
My path has always pushed towards a life focus, not a cherry on top of the cake approach to spirituality. It is not something I want to put to the side or commercialise. I don’t want it to be a high days and holy days affair; I want a daily, hourly love affair.
I have read David Beth’s book Voudon Gnosis (the first edition twice, the second edition – which is an entirely different book – twice), and done (done? is that the right word? practised… followed… ) two of the rituals in the back of his second edition book.
Firstly I read the rituals through and as happens each time I have read a VG text by David, every fibre in me says, “Yes! That’s right!” Whereas, for example, when I read Ford, I think, “What a prat.”
But when it came to following (!) the rituals I hit against an internal wall.
I read somewhere about how occult groups, when working together, build up and acquaint themselves with a particular continuum. They essentially learn (or create) a language which they use to communicate with, to command and bind themselves to that particular continuum.
I am not part of any group, but I have spent nearly the last ten years working with Egyptian deities. They are Home for me. They are the Dark and the Light. When I go off my path and start losing myself, I know because when I return to Them, I become whole and centred, at peace and focused – the feeling is physical and intense.
So I have spent a couple of weeks rewriting David’s rituals (still in progress); listening to the Neter/Neteru, incorporating my understanding of the Duat and the role of Osiris, Anubis, Maat, Apophis, Seth and aakhu. The fact is it fits! Nothing essential was changed, and it fits. It works perfectly.
Gnosis before Logos. The word must never be made from steel, but must bend to experience, and experience must bend again to further experience, ad infinitum.
One of the main issues regarding my interest in LHP has been that the fundamental objective of the Ancient Egyptian religion was/is to maintain Ma’at and avert chaos. There are complex rituals to empower Osiris in his battle so as to enable the rising of Ra again each morning – this was not a given, not predictable, but a battle on a knife’s edge each night. That dark realm of chaos and serpents which threatened Ra and life itself was something to be feared; even Osiris was not a sure bet to bring back the sun from the Duat, hence the rituals to aid him. So to attempt to work directly with those spirits that moved through the realms of “chaos” went contrary to everything I believed, and yet the compulsion would not cease.
But now I know the Duat slightly better and that there is a thin path there to be trod. The other day I walked up to town and saw everything resplendent around me in full summer glory – lush greens, blue skies, the light glancing off the river – and I saw death in it all, because without death life could not survive. Death is the base and the foundation from which life comes. There is indeed still a nightly battle to draw Ra up into the sky, but life is a battle and never comes without pain, screaming and crying; does that make pre-birth a bad thing, that to manifest birth there has to be pain? I know pain.
Today I wrote to a friend and said, “It may sound like a contradiction, but I have been considering suicide and also feel optimistic.” Although maybe my optimism is more concerned with the direction of my spiritual path than with Life per se. Synchronicities are like petals on a path leading me through it all.
I am aware that I, as a person with bipolar, am a liability and that most if not all magicians would run for the hills before working with me, which is fine. I have heard magicians and sorcerers say either in general or to me specifically: if you are ill it means you are a crap magician (I’m a witch anyway, so suck and swivel); and if you have mental health issues you must never deal with spirits (why? it just makes it harder not impossible, and in some ways I have the edge on someone who is sane and limited by the boundaries of their sanity).
It’s not about being gung-ho, as in my mind that is also a disrespectful attitude to the spirits and Neter you wish to work with, but I refuse absolutely and categorically to be told I should not work my Path as I do.
Who should I listen to? Magicians with a body-fascist tick? Or the spirits themselves who (so far) through answering and granting what I have asked for, give their blessing to the relationship I strive to establish with them?
Blessed are the Neter for their gifts of Heka and Akau. Blessed are the Aakhu. And blessed are the Spirits of Lucky Hoodoo.
p.s. Please refer to my Who am I? page if you have any questions regarding my personal affiliations, just so there are no misunderstandings.
This morning I finally finished Murry Hope’s book on Egyptian Magic. It is too obscure for beginners and doesn’t provide any new information for the more experienced. I disagree with her correspondences and attributes to nearly every deity, and she limited her pantheon to only 9. She is very right-hand path, which is not her fault, but the book needs to be read in those terms, i.e. never, ever, ever ask for anything for yourself, except protection (too Catholic for my tastes).
In the first three-quarters of the book she bangs on quite vocally about aliens and Sirius B as the source of all things Egyptian. Then she suddenly goes quiet, just barely mentioning aliens. It felt like I was being brow-beaten with heavy-handed subliminal advertising and that in response to her later hints at aliens my arms would involuntarily rise to shoulder length in front of me and I would start chanting, “It’s the aliens. It’s the aliens.”
Oh, and did you know she’d written a book on psychic self-defence … because she mentions it on average every 5 pages. It got to the point where I could predict an upcoming mention of her other book. I wish I had worked out a vodka-based scoring system – a shot for each mention.
That’s one thing that does always grate about authors, especially pagan authors (who I guess have less access to the advertising of general publishing houses). Did you know I’d written this? Did you know I’d written that? Oh, you have a question? Well, instead of talking to you like another human being, I refer you to my publication that is coming out later this year, Dear Paying Reader… gah!
I wouldn’t recommend Hope’s book. I read it for completeness’ sake. I looked at her 2 page bibliography and found that I had read every book in it, which made me very smug … apart from The Sirius Mystery … which I was even more smug about not having read. So at least my ego was polished a bit. So often I find myself scrabbling with higher magic and occult books – so many things to learn – that it is nice to read a book and realise that yes, I am learning, and these things I didn’t know x amount of years ago are now as familiar to me as my own hands. Progress is being made, however slow.
This morning I cleansed and rededicated my Egyptian statues in the morning, completing the ritual at midday. It was good to gather them at the end and feel them hot from the sun.
I need alone-time this evening. I may just find a couple of coconut halves to hide in.
I have just re-read Madame Blavatsky’s article entitled Ancient Egyptian Magic. The article contains very little concrete information about Egyptian Magic and focuses instead on ridiculing for the most part archaeologists; she seems to find it amusing that men of science sit amongst the remnants of a civilisation trying to classify things according to scientific principle, when every which way they turn they are faced with ‘magic’. The main impetus of the articles seems rather to prove the philosophical lineage that Theosophy was apparently based on. She rounds off the articles rather abruptly with:
“For the present, enough has been said to show that the Theosophists have the evidence of the whole of antiquity in support of the correctness of their doctrines.”
What a coincidence that I suggested in a comment yesterday that Josephus (that first century Jewish historian) perhaps suggested the Hyksos as being the antecedents of the Jews as a way of underlining their antiquity. Such a longing for the ‘support of correctness’ from the ‘whole of antiquity’ is still prevalent in today’s pagan community where people try sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully, to draw a line of antiquity up to present-day practices.
As individuals we may not need to underline the antiquity of our beliefs and practices, but as a community [sic] to hold our own against the Big Three (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) for example we feel we need to match their history. A sad truth and personally one that I feel falls under the bracket of counting angels dancing on the head of a pin (a waste of time, I’d rather just watch them dance).
This is surely one of the differences about paganism; we are (or should be) unafraid to take the wisdom of history, apply it to practice and consideration, and reshape as appropriate. Change for change’s sake never facilitates progress, but neither does the calcified reliance on ‘our roots’ and on ‘the way things have always been done’. If spirituality is a growing thing, if our relationship with the divine is to develop, surely we must expect change and rejoice in new spiritual traditions arising, IF THEY TRULY ENGENDER SELF-DEVELOPMENT AND DIVINE PROXIMITY (thus excluding cults of personality and such self-indulgent paths focused around ‘wot I beleev’ and that encourage people to part with money to share in the egotistical meanderings of more powerful personalities).
Maybe our roots do stretch back to earlier cultures; after all we recognise the spirit in lightning, rain, the hills, the earth – we worship the female aspect of divinity alongside the male; some are pure polytheists, some monotheists, some animists or even a mixture. There is much to be learned from the past, and not just from pagan religions of antiquity, but we mustn’t allow ourselves to fossilize in seeking justification for all our beliefs and practices in the cultures and religions of long-dead peoples.
I am constantly researching and reading about Ancient Egypt – the culture, land, the people, the religion. But my primary aim in this is in looking to regenerate what I learn to make it applicable to now; perhaps the word ‘reinterpret’ is more accurate. I am not creating a religion (Heaven forefend – the Christian analogy of a plank in my eye, a splinter in yours springs to mind!) but neither am I getting too stuck in the past. The prime focus is me, my spirituality and my self-development which edges me into divine proximity with the ultimate source both within and without. I am aware of the lack of connectivity in that statement; that it essentially sounds like I stand alone conversing on a mountain top with my personal burning bush. That’s not how it is, or how it should be. I am the only one who can walk my path; no one else can move my limbs. Only by walking the path can you meet others along the way, support each other, shout back directions to stragglers and listen to those ahead of you as they shout to you when you fall behind. This is a busy road and I, for one, am not walking it with my eyes shut and my fingers in my ears. I am conscious and connected to my fellow travellers (of whatever religion or spirituality), and it is only natural to want to talk about the origins of our journey (both personal and suprapersonal), just as long as we keep moving forwards and remember where we are actually heading.
© StarofSeshat 2009
Abdur Rahman asked recently about the meaning of my Avatar symbol. I started to write a reply to his comment, but then it ran away with me, so I thought I would answer in a separate post.
The symbol is representative of the Egyptian goddess, Seshat. There are differing opinions over the exact meaning of the symbol, which is made up of two elements: the star form and the over-arching “bow”. The star is unusual in having seven points, whereas the stars painted on walls in Egyptian art are five-pointed. So it is unlikely that it is just a star. Sometimes it is said to represent the papyrus flower, as the papyrus plant was used for making scrolls which are one of the materials used in record keeping and Seshat is goddess of record-keeping and scribal arts. She is often depicted marking off the years on a palm leaf stalk:
Others say it is representative of the hemp leaf, as hemp was used to make rope and ropes were used as measuring cords. Seshat is one of the few goddesses to have never had a temple dedicated specifically to her and yet, she is at the core of each temple as it was her powers of mathematics and geometry that were called upon to measure out the ground plans for every stone building. This was expressed in a ritual “pedj shes” (stretching the cord) which was conducted during the laying of foundations. Apart from her association with scribal arts, it was this aspect that appealed to me in taking her name. In my profession as translator, we are the invisible workers integral to communication and industry and yet we never get the recognition we deserve. We are invisible tongues, shadow speakers clothing other people’s words, just as Seshat was hidden in the foundations of every temple and her skills were used to the glory of the other gods. Some people say that the symbol actually represents the tools of geometry, and that the over-arching bow is not a bow, or horns or feathers (as has been suggested) but that it represents the number 10. I like the idea of that, but don’t quite understand how they came to that conclusion.
Seshat was identified variously as daughter, sister and wife of Thoth, or even as the female aspect of Thoth. In this context she was said to wear a crescent moon (as representative of Thoth). Typically the crescent moon was shown with the tips pointing up, so this is unusual in Egyptian art for the tips to point down. Some suggest that this is just the way that symbols change and morph from their original meanings over time. She was sometimes known as Safekh-Abwy, which means She Who Wears the Two Horns. In some images the horns resemble cobras. There is no evidence to suggest that the interpretation of the arch as a bow is correct. Horns were often associated with the crescent moon, and so there would be no contradiction in seeing the “arch” as representative of both of these.