"Writing is no answer but when you feel deeply there is little else to do." -- James Baker Hall

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Approaching Winter Solstice from a Mystery Tradition

When mystic Earlyne Chaney began to explain her understanding as an initiate of the Egyptian Mysteries, she said, “To the postulant of the Mysteries the ‘dead’ referred to souls entombed in the physical form… To be ‘resurrected from the dead’ meant that the superstructure could be raised to transcend that of the lower personality.” 

We all have Osirian events in our lives and feel this need to understand loss and renewal on both a psychological and a spiritual level. Yet, we are more than the actions of our bodies and minds. We are spirits having a human experience. We are the way that the divine can understand matter and its consciousness by seeing what matters to us and how we act and react to loss and return. Humans are the hands of the divine, the conduits for change. Every change is a loss of something other. Time is an Osirian experience of aging, of summer turning into fall then winter, of dying plants and dried seeds. It’s all a falling away. I can remember standing at the Osirion at Abydos ten days after my mother had passed and tangibly, physically feeling her leave the world and me. I felt her simultaneous regret and exhilaration. Life is a coffin. 

Regardless of the degree of initiation, spiritual celebrations and communion still have a profound psychic effect on the individual. The mysteries always call upon us to turn inward and to face the unknown with strength. There was an outer ceremony for nearly every Egyptian, but there was an inner articulation of the mystery for only a few. That’s not surprising. Religion is probably the most misunderstood concept of all—primarily because religion is a subcategory of a larger concept, which is spirituality and unity with the divine. 

Herodotus recalls a solstice ceremony in which a bull, a symbol of Osiris called “The Good Being," was sacrificed and its carcass stuffed with flour cakes, honey, raisins, figs, incense, myrrh, and other herbs. It roasted over a fire as the priests of Osiris poured oil over it and upon the flames to keep the fire going. Afterward, they ate the ox. The ritually sacred body and fluid of the bull of Osiris has become the bread and wine given for all. Anglicans and Catholics might find a resonance with the Eucharistic sacrifice of Christ. The seed is the container of the mystery. Knowing the God has died, the God is risen, and the God shall come again is the essence of the mystery tradition. 

In death initiations one contacts the sorrowful mysteries, but the joyful mysteries lie beneath them. The sarcophagus in which the body is placed bears upon its coffin lid the image of the sky goddess bending over the dead. Literally, the word sarcophagus means "sacred eating." At the end of the day, the goddess ingests the sun and it travels through her dark body in the same way that the soul of light is swallowed by death and returned to its source. There, in the dark and stillness, one gestates a new life. The tomb is the womb of the goddess—an entrance and exit. In the words of the hierophant Hermes Tresmigestus, the 'There where everything ends, all begins eternally."


  1. The first paragraph describes this voice in my head that has consumed my very existence for a couple years now. I didn't know what it was at first but I'm fully cognizant of who and what it is now. I've read of great battles between Horus and Set and realized these stories are about me. When I despair I am not lost because Isis is always there to pull me out of the hole I have fallen into it.

    This great knowledge has been preserved in the Bible though I tend to treat modern day practitioners of Christianity with disdain:

    Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
    - (Matthew 7:14 KJV)

    " 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'
    – (Luke 15:31-32, NIV)

    I treat the coming celebrations of Christmas, Hanukkah and old pagan celebrations of Saturnalia and Neith's great festival of light with happiness knowing that although the names have changed the spark still remains within humanity to be lit again. The great Light has blessed me and symbolically it re-emerges this time of the year and for that I'm grateful.

    Thanks for this,

  2. Thank you for the timely writing. Losing my Mother five years ago was the beginning of a significant cycle, just now yielding anew. She loved life yet left smiling. In a very personal way I have ‘wandered’ for five years and just recently feel the uplift of something very powerful.

    I am experiencing one of the great mysteries of living.

    "If we can stay with the tension of opposites long enough—sustain it, be true to it—we can sometimes become vessels within which the divine opposites come together and give birth to a new reality." Marie-Louise von Franz