Hands-on with your innards

The [right arm and hand] of this Meryre is that of the western
[ba, as] he emerges [and ascends to the sky.
The left arm and hand] of Pepi is that of the eastern ba, as he
emerges and ascends to the sky. . .
This Meryre’s lower legs are those of the two bas at the fore of
the Marsh of the Limit, as he emerges and ascends to the sky.
This Meryre’s feet are those of the two Maat-boats, as he emerges
and ascends to the sky.

—PT 539, J. P. Allen, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, p.170.

I’m partway through rehearsals for a show at the moment, and have no access to my books while I’m in digs.  So suffer me to depart from my usual style of blog article in favour of something a bit more hands-on and immediate.  I want to share a little exercise I’ve been playing with.  You can try it out for yourself as you read about it, if you like.

This exercise started as a mnemonic to help me remember a set of attributions, but almost as soon as I started working with it I realized that I wasn’t just exercising my artificial memory

Now most people with a passing interest in Ancient Egypt will have come across canopic jars—those four strange containers with animal heads (well, three animal and one human) which stored some bits of offal removed from the deceased prior to mummification.

Those jars were identified with a quartet of gods known as the Sons of Horus.  For the purposes of this exercise you don’t need to know their names; you just need to know that before they were associated with a person’s various internal organs, they seem to have been assigned to particular hands and feet.

(For the association of the Four Sons of Horus with hands and feet, see
Maarten J. Raven. “Egyptian Concepts on the Orientation of the Human
Body”. In: The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. Vol. 91. Egypt Exploration Society, 2005, pp. 37–53, p.42.)

So: four gods, four internal organs, two hands, and two feet.

A god with a human head was first associated with the left hand, and then the liver.

A god with a baboon’s head was first associated with the right hand, and then the lungs.

A god with a jackal’s head was first associated with the left foot, and then the stomach.

A god with a falcon’s head was first associated with the right foot, and then the intestines.

Now for the moment don’t bother with the animal (and human) heads; just link your left hand to your liver, your right hand to your lungs, your left foot to your stomach, and your right foot to your intestines.  Don’t exert any effort trying to link them together; just assume that the links already exist, and live with that assumption for a bit.

Now add, in your imagination, your sword and cup in their positions (left and right hands, respectively).  Meditate on the links between the sword and the liver, and the cup and the lungs.

Helpful hint: at one point in the Coffin Texts, Atum renames Shu, the “air god,” as simply ankh—“life.”  How might the liver bring “life” into a system, and how might the lungs receive “life” from a system?

Once you ‘get it,’ again, don’t spend any effort trying to feel anything going on in you; just assume it’s already happening and live with the assumption.  The sensations will bubble up quite naturally; pay attention to them rather than trying consciously to create them.

Now add to this body-vision, if you know them, the two structures that your left and right feet stand on.  (You’ll have been introduced to them early on in the Quareia course, if you’re taking it.)

Meditate on how your stomach might function in similarly to the structure under your left foot, and how your intestines might function similarly to the structure under your right.  Your stomach works to transform raw material that your intestines eventually receive…

Again, once you ‘get it,’ don’t bust a gut trying to feel the connections; just assume they exist and live with them for a bit.

Once you’ve built up this vision, return to it a few times throughout the day to see whether it feels any different.  Try to feel the connections between your hands, feet, and organs.  Get the vision into you, and see what happens.

If you already do other organ work, you may find that this little visionary exercise opens an additional pathway for them to communicate with you.

If this exercise works well for you, then it may repay you to read a few Ancient Egyptian primary sources about the relationship between the heart and the individual.  Make a list of the things the Ancient Egyptians described their hearts as able to do, then simply assume that your heart can do them, too.  Don’t read modern summaries, find ancient texts.  Miriam Lichtheim’s trilogy of Ancient Egyptian texts is a good place to start.  You’ll be amazed at how much this will help open your moment-to-moment connection with your heart.

This is a good example of how very simple, practical work can give a modern magician or mystic some surprising and potentially useful experiences—experiences that would probably have been boringly obvious for an Egyptian priest. (You will find this particularly true of the work on the heart, if you do it.)

As well as teaching you about some relationships between your extremities and your organs, this exercise—and variants of it—is useful for reducing the cognitive gulf between you and Ancient Egyptian texts.  It immediately roots you in your body in a way that is quite alien for a modern Westerner, but—and especially if you add the heart work—while it is very physically rooted, it also opens your inner senses pretty wide.

Further Reading

Miriam Lichtheim’s Ancient Egyptian Literature


Ancient Egyptian Literature: Volume I: The Old and Middle Kingdoms: Old and the Middle Kingdoms v. 1

Ancient Egyptian Literature: Volume II: The New Kingdom: New Kingdom v. 2

Ancient Egyptian Literature: Late Period v. 3

Author: Michael Sheppard

Michael Sheppard edits the Quareia course. He is also writing a book on Ancient Egyptian magic.

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