Plugging holes in Creation with Sunken Cities

It’s an exciting time in Egyptology for mystics and magicians. Now more than ever, the interested amateur has a good chance of accurately unpicking the gnomic imagery and allusions of the Ancient Egyptian mystics—and thereby successfully visiting their headspace.

Of course, mystics and magicians have been doing inner plane archaeology for centuries. (For details on getting your own astral bullwhip and fedora, see the Quareia course.) But now—wonderfully—the Egyptological scholarly consensus is starting to catch up with our magical spelunkings.

We can happily pat ourselves on the back when an Egyptologist identifies a magical pattern in Ancient Egyptian religious art which we have long known to have been there, despite until-recently-received scholarly wisdom. For instance the south-facing four-directional pattern, its extreme continuity over the millennia, and its definite presence in Egyptian religious art. (Bomhard 2012, pp.117–124: see Further Reading, below.)

But we might also use advances in the field as plaque disclosing tablets, to check the cleanliness of our spiritual teeth.

“Blue stains? You’ve been swallowing some shit, mate!”

Before Egyptologists could interpret mystical Egyptian texts mystically, and know that such an interpretation was merited, their understanding of the Egyptian language had to advance a great deal. This understanding didn’t really reach critical mass until the late twentieth century. But then we had an outpouring of new interpretations of Egyptian religious writings—and a generation of Egyptologists who really took Egyptian religion seriously. Today’s Egyptologists are hyper-aware of its philosophical integrity, complexity, and maturity, and respect it even though they do not share its beliefs—though with some of them, I do wonder…

Yesterday I went to the British Museum to see the Sunken Cities exhibition. (If you can, do yourself a favour and go. Read Plutarch’s Isis and Osiris first, as he details the exact theological phase of the Egyptian religion that the exhibition covers.)

The exhibition shop was selling the seventh monograph of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology, The Decree of Saïs: The Stelae of Thonis-Heracleion and Naukratis, by Anne-Sophie von Bomhard. I flicked through it, wondering if it had anything of use to my researches.

My jaw hit the floor…

Now, my book is developing a huge bulge in its section on Creation. At the moment that piece of the puzzle runs to four chapters and about seventy pages. I may be able to edit it down a bit, but it’s not even half complete. And recently I reached an impasse. Gaps had opened up in my exposition, gaps I couldn’t fill with hard evidence. I was pretty sure I knew what went in the gaps, but I lacked both the concrete examples and mainstream Egyptological support for my interpretations. Both are very important for my book: it has been made absolutely clear to me that the only inner observations I am to include are those made by Ancient Egyptian priests. I’m to curate their work, not to supply my own.

Cut back to the BM, and my slack-jawed amazement at Anne-Sophie von Bomhard’s monograph. Which filled all the gaps in my Creation chapters. Every single one.

The double uraei—creative and destructive eyes—and how they fit into the four-directional pattern? Check.

The directional attributes of Nut with the cross-quarters? Check.

Confusions with whether the Ogdoad go inside or outside of Creation? Check.

And several others…

Von Bomhard’s very recent monograph, published in 2012, has effectively plugged all the leaks in my Creation chapters. The remaining work for the Creation section is tracking down plenty of examples from primary sources, and laying a very clear trail for the reader to navigate their way through the necessary twists and turns.

Further Reading

The Decree of Sais (Ocma Monograph)

Von Bomhard discuses the arrangement of the texts and figures depicted on the Decree of Sais, and the possible symbolism behind them. The bulk of the text is occupied by a careful transliteration and translation of the text, followed by an exhaustive bibliography, an index of words discussed, a synoptic overview of orthographic and figurative variations, and an index of Egyptian words.

Moralia: Vol 5 (Loeb Classical Library)

Contains an English translation of Plutarch’s Isis and Osiris, side-by-side with the original Greek.  Also contains The E at Delphi, The Oracles at Delphi, and Obsolescence of Oracles.

Author: Michael Sheppard

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

6 thoughts on “Plugging holes in Creation with Sunken Cities”

  1. It’s going to be very interesting to read your book but take your time, Quareia is a full time job at the moment.

    1. Thanks Priscilla. The book will take as long as it takes, and it’s to be kept bubbling, no matter which burner it’s on. There are also some odd crossovers with the Quareia lessons that must be leapt on when they turn up. As for Quareia, we have a schedule, and you can expect the next module, and the next paperback, to appear very shortly. It’s all go round here!

  2. I love your blog, Michael! I am also in Quareia – having come from an Egyptian tradition. It’s been probably some of the toughest magical work I have ever done, but I love that it is so thorough and in depth and has helped me merge the Egyptology side with being a magician far better. I am very excited to hear about the next paperback as well!

    I can tell you for a fact that there several within Egyptology’s ranks that *do* believe in the religion and practice. However, to admit to it or have one whiff of it reach their colleagues could cause some very real difficulty for their careers. To admit that they “believe in any of this stuff” is pretty much the professional kiss of death.

    1. Hello Fanny,

      Hey, thanks so much! I have to confess that your Facebook feed has already been very handy a couple of times for my research… Yes, I agree with you, the course is bloody hard work. Strangely enough, some of that carries over even in the copyediting. Certain lessons have really knocked me for six after I’ve edited them.

      Josephine really knows her Egyptology, and I reckon you’ll have found that Quareia fits with your Kemetic background very well. And the further into the course you go, the more Egyptian stuff you’ll find.

      I am glad to hear that there are Egyptologists who take the religion seriously enough to involve themselves with it. Perhaps the “kiss of death” will die out as the old guard die…if you look at the newer translations of religious texts, there is so much more understanding in them than, say, in Faulkner. (I am embarrassingly sympathetic to Budge’s translations, actually, because though you cannot rely on them nowadays, I do feel that he took them seriously as religious and mystical texts, something that seemingly went out of fashion a bit for a while. It’s back in fashion again, now.)

      Out of interest, is there anything that you particularly want covered in the book, or that made a huge impression on you as a practitioner of the religion?

      1. Heya, Michael!
        I’m very glad that I have posted something that was useful for you! I have to say, your knowledge even outshines mine in several areas, so I have learned a great deal from you even outside of Quareia.

        Josephine definitely knows her stuff – and she gets the subtleties that Egyptologists and even other Kemetics don’t. She certainly has Sekhmet spot-on – and it is very nice to have someone who will not dumb down or soften the Red Mistress of Terror. 😉

        One Egyptologist that I know has even built their own temple space on their property. There are others who are in teaching positions that if you dug a little deeper and actually listen to what they say and how they say it – it becomes pretty obvious to others who take the religion seriously – even though Egyptology tries its damndest to beat the soul and spirit out of it as much as possible. Somehow admitting that ancient people knew a thing or two that we don’t is incomprehensible to them!

        There is so much I would love to see- some of it goes without saying! I would love to be able to point Kemetics toward your comprehensive work rather than that of Richard Reidy – who for all that he got right, he either left important things out (the Sekhmet ritual for starters) or cobbled together something that had no precedent in antiquity. There also seems to be a trend as of late, to try to claim that the Egyptians didn’t believe in gods at all, but rather to them it was all just nature in expression. That is, in my view, a complete oversimplification of the reality and what R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz and the Symbolist’s viewpoint would put forth. I would also love for people to have underscored that dumbing down the deities for New Age / Modern consumption is counter-productive.

        I am incredibly excited about the prospect and cannot wait for you to release it!

        1. Cheers, Fanny. It’s really good for me to get a bit of a handle on the Kemetic lay of the land. I am very heartened indeed to hear that there are practitioners inside Egyptology itself. I’m sure that will be very good for Egyptology in the long term.

          Yes, someone else mentioned R. A. Schwaller to me and wanted to know what I thought about him…I had to say that I didn’t really know, despite having read Symbol and the Symbolic! I’ve still got The Temple In Man to read. One thing I did feel, reading Schwaller, was that he didn’t really talk like an Egyptian priest, or like someone who had got into that headspace. And for my money he just doesn’t include enough examples of symbols in Symbol and the Symbolic to build a decent case that he’s revealing real Ancient Egyptian beliefs. It’s more like he has his own philosophy, and he is investigating its points of contact with the ancient stuff.

          Of course “it’s all just nature in expression” is completely correct…given a sufficiently wide definition of nature. Unfortunately, by the time you’ve widened the definition enough to include all the stuff in the universe that isn’t the manifest world, the phrase has become effectively meaningless.

          Re. Richard Reidy, I don’t intend to include rituals as such in the book. I’m just trying to draw together a reasonably coherent account of the Ancient Egyptian mystical and magical approach, backed up with as many primary sources as I can cram between its pages. Hopefully a few ancient bits of learning will get a new lease of life, and at the very least the reader will have a more interesting time the next time they visit an Egyptian museum gallery! I’d point interested readers to the Quareia course if they want rituals, because that’ll teach them how to construct their own. Give a man a fish versus teach a man to fish, and all that…

          If you want an Egyptologist who doesn’t beat the soul and spirit out of mystical texts, I highly recommed you try anything by J P Allen, if you haven’t already come across him. His Genesis In Egypt is a gorgeous piece of work. (It’s out of print and totally unavailable, so you’ll have to use a dodgy PDF copy online, like ) And I really like his translation of the Pyramid Texts. The new wave of linguists working on the Egyptian language do seem to be a lot more receptive to the mystical and philosophical content of Ancient Egyptian texts…maybe because their job is finding hidden treasures in dead languages, rather than physical treasures in the sands.

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