I am El-An, an Initiate in The Ancient Mystery Schools of Egypt.
I am the first in line - on your left.
I have come to tell you about the different Initiations.
In ancient Egypt there were many degrees of Initiation and many Levels of Priesthoods.
Some of the priests were born into families of Priests or Priestesses where it was assumed they would follow the path of the family bloodline. Secrets were told within the families about the mystery teachings and the Rites-Passages of Initiation.
One could also become a Priest or Priestess after a long course of study, fasting, and ritual.
when the Sun aligned with the capstone by exact degree.
These Priests would study for many years to achieve this level of spiritual accomplishment. They would forfeit all personal goals and belongings living a life of semi-solitude and worship of the Great Gods and Goddesses of Egypt. For the most part they were men, but there were High Priestesses.
At the time of the Initiation of the High Priests and Priestesses, a stillness would befall the land. Night would become day as the Sun would be seen directly over the capstone of the Great Pyramid of the Sun God Ra.
Once inside the Great Initiation Pyramid the illusions would begin.
The Initiates would enter a secret Chamber in the Pyramid where anything could happen. It was often a test of their endurance. They were to discern what was real and what was illusion. Not everyone passed the tests even after years of study.
Only the very few would witness the appearance of the Sun God, Ra, who would give them the sacred teachings of creation. When their course of study was complete Ra would give them special rods and powers. Next they would be sent out to Teach, to heal, and to Initiate those who would follow them.
There were times when Ra would be accompanied by a Goddess, Isis or Hathor. It was not unusual to present gifts to the Gods and Goddesses who came to Initiate the Priests and Priestesses.
A list was kept of those who passed the tests and became part of the Great White Brotherhood of the Thoth or Isis Mystery Schools.
The High Priests and Priestesses would Initiate other novices who one day hope to aspire to greatness working with the Gods.
These novices spend forty days and nights in fasting, prayer and study of the Mysteries.
The fasting consisted of abstaining from all pleasures of the table, to eat no living thing, and to drink no wine.
Part of their study was the memorization of long lines of text given by the priests and magicians of our Inner Mystery School Circle and the reciting of certain magic formulae, declarations, incantations, spells, litanies and some funerary liturgy.
The curriculum also included certain riddles and mind puzzles of an esoteric nature, bearing a resemblance in form, but not in content, to those commonly used these days as pastimes in certain intellectual upper classes.
At the Midwinter evening ten aspirants gathered by the altar between the paws of Hu [Sphinx's paws] waiting for their entrance into an antechamber located underneath the colossus' belly.
It was a fresh peaceful evening still reflecting on the pyramids the crimson afterglow of the sun Aton, "to Whom all creation worship".
The candidates talked among themselves about their sacrifices and earnest preparation and fasting prior to the ceremony.
Some stepped at the Thothmes stele at the Sphinx's breast and read some of its lines.
The thrill in anticipation filling their hearts was perceived in their words as they recalled especially the last two weeks of work.
As time passed, all quieted and sat absorbed in their own thoughts and expectations.
To some, the answering of the Sphinx's riddle, as a password to get admittance into the temple, seemed a little bit scary. "Could I actually answer it correctly?"
It was known that some students had failed to give the right answer and with embarrassment were asked to return home.
Even if successfully answering the riddle, it was still that fear of the imminent trials, knowing that some past initiates, not using right judgment, did not survive the experience.
They waited patiently between the paws, in silence, that same silence of secrecy of initiation that Hu [the Sphinx] symbolized.
As the initiates waited outside, a mantra was barely heard coming from inside.
The Thothmes stele slowly and mysteriously moved half way sideways as if supported by invisible hinges.
An entryway with a cleverly hinged bronze door was revealed at which they saw a torchbearer standing.
He was carrying a torch.
The boy looked about 18 years old and reflected a clear determined countenance.
His voice sounded so confident for a boy of his age.
Actually he was a devout student of the art and dedicated to practice it.
He asked the students this question: "Art thou, dwellers of the outer darkness where ignorance dwelleth, praying admittance into our sacred Temple to seek the Light of Initiation?"
The candidates nodded affirmatively responding: "Yes, we are".
Then he said, "The Path to initiation is treacherous and filled with trials and temptation.
Art thou willing to take it?". They again responded affirmatively.
Next he asked them to make a line and escorted the first in.
The interior passageway was dark as night and musty.
He stepped inside the passageway, closed the door and with a soft voice asked the prospective initiate the following question: "What is that animal which in the morning has four legs, two at noon, and three in the evening?"
The postulant gazed at the floor as he tried to find an answer to this strange and puzzling riddle he had never heard before.
That description did not seemed to reflect the pattern of any living animal he has ever known.
After some time of thinking, he murmured an answer to the torchbearer who nodded in affirmation and guided the initiate into a small chamber.
Then he returned to bring the next initiate in.
Seven students were able to answer the riddle: four men and three women. Seven!, the number of the perfect man!
After the stone slab was slowly closed at the Sphinx's breast and also the bronze door, they walked down a spiral staircase into a soundless passage that led them to the antechamber where all gathered, murmuring among themselves the answer in excitement: "It was man!"
Underneath the Sphinx is located the Sphinx's Antechamber, annex to a colonnaded Circular Temple.
The Sphinx is connected to the Great Pyramid through subterranean passageways.
The tunnel passage from the Sphinx to the Temple of Aten [Great Pyramid] is commonly taken by the initiates during various ceremonies.
Other hallways and rooms exist not to be mentioned here.
The Antechamber was illumined by six torches mounted on holders located five feet above the ground, three torches on the East wall and three on the West.
The yellowish lights were mellow and flickering.
The initiates, sitting on chairs located against the walls, had just started a short period of meditation when the torchbearer came in and invited the women to follow him to an annex room furnished with four beds and a desk with papyrus scrolls.
The men were conducted to a separate and similar room.
Both groups were bade to rest and wait.
That night some students had unusual dreams of a prophetic nature anticipating the coming initiation.
The student that referred to me the story, described that... "at about midnight, I saw a floating glowing circle in the middle of the room, the circle slowly turned into a snake with a glittering back and a dark belly that had written a final letter on her tail and a first letter on her head.
Her head was constantly eating her tail without diminishing the size of her body.
As I stared at the symbol, big Egyptian hieroglyphs were appearing on top of the symbolic snake stating:
Then all vanished in the dark!
0 Deg. Initiation Ceremony, Part I: Preparation
Next day the initiates were taken to a lavatory and fountain place for lustration, to bathe and cleanse themselves and to make their sacred ablutions of face and hands.
Afterwards, they were garbed in white linen robes and were given special frugal meals.
This dietary meal, supplemented with special salts and a white powder, will continue to be supplied throughout the various initiations as well as the initiates will be provided with places for study and meditation inside the pyramid.
As a prelude to each initiation, ceremonies of lustration will be performed at the water basin adjoining the temple.
After waiting for hours, the group was escorted by the torchbearer to the Great Pyramid.
Inside the pyramid halls, light was scarce.
The colonnaded halls were beautifully decorated with pictures, scripts and prayers to Amen, the Creator of All That Is.
The tall columns were shaped like palm trees and terminated in capitals in the form of leaves girdled with lapis lazuli and gold and topped with geese bas-relieves.
Marble and alabaster, granite of different colors finished the walls.
The aroma of incense filled the halls. In the holding of their breath, the initiates expressed a sense of fear and anticipation.
The initiate of my story tried to calm down by thinking of all the others who had passed this way before and are now members of the Secret and Sacred Brotherhood.
As the aspirants followed the torchbearer, our initiate in awe admiration. . . "looked at the details of the passages, the incredible magnificence of the shining pillars, the paintings on the walls, the gorgeous capitals with iridescent splendor, etc., that our Fathers, the Great Pharaohs, used to adorn it for eternity.
What a glorious moment only illumined by the dancing light of the torch reflected on the walls and columns!
By contrast, I knew, deep in my own heart shone 'a light surpassing that of sun or moon'."
0 Deg. Initiation Ceremony, Part II: The Dark Light Chamber or Chamber of Chaos [The Pit]
The postulants were guided by a priest donning a half black and half gold Anubis mask, to the Dark Light Chamber or Death Pit, a chamber located in the lower part of the pyramid.
The place represents the Zero Degree, the Underworld ruled by our God Osiris.
Their conductor to this stage reenacted our black jackal-headed God, Master of Mysteries, guide across the threshold to the Underworld, the Unseen symbolized here by a chamber inside of God Geb, the Earth.
In the complete absence of visible light, the test consisted in addressing issues that have not been resolved, to achieve a healing through the mastery of individual aspects of the initiate's personality.
Special experiences of psychic nature were lived there over and over in an iterative process.
Reactive moments of pain and suffering from their past came vivid during their meditation just like being reenacted from the pages of an old forgotten book.
Dreadful aspect of horrors and wanderings in darkness!
Fear, uncertainties, doubts. Every particle of wisdom available was needed to vanquish the apparent power given to fear.
Materializations of mind creations, creeping things, maybe hissing reptiles, were made real by the law of the participant. Illusion's fires!.
With the Eye of Horus, our cosmic El, they thoroughly saw these own distressful experiences to torment them no more! After a heroic act of will during this period of germination, they triumphantly felt cleansed and stronger.
It is said that some in the past, unable to deal with their own fears, had not survived the experience dying in the depth of the chamber built from their own fears.
After this dreadful Zero Degree initiation, the candidates return home to their normal mundane activities, to assimilate the experience and to continued their mystical preparation into the Mysteries before they were ready in that coming Vernal Equinox to take their First Degree Initiation which I will describe next:
First Degree Initiation: WATER
1st Deg. Initiation Ceremony, Part I: The Womb of the Second Birth [Queen's Chamber]
Prior to their First Degree Initiation, the group of candidates were taken to the chamber known as the "Womb of the Second Birth" inside the Great Pyramid for a symbolic entering into the womb for a reborn experience.
This chamber is also known as the Chamber of Balance because here the initiate will demonstrate his ability to balance the polarities of Light and Dark, similarly as was prepared to demonstrate it in the Nile Temple at Kom Ombo, the Temple of Light and Darkness.
Having experienced the Dark Light in the Pit and previously at Kom Ombo, the natural tendency would be to overcompensate by moving into pure light, which produces unbalance, since the initiate lives in a world of both polarities.
Here they will learn to master their emotions through love from the heart, Water being the symbol of the emotional nature.
They were left there for periods of reflection and meditation on these matters that lasted for seven days being administered by priests and acolytes.
In this, like in other initiations, the candidates were assigned for resting fully decorated and furnished chambers out of more than thirty available chambers inside the pyramid.
Early at the seventh day and while a distant gong was heard, the initiated ones were asked by the Hierophant to enter inside a mummy case brought by a group of temple guardians and acolytes.
The coffins bore scriptures and symbols resembling the ones used to preserved the bodies of the departed ones.
The Hierophant or High Priest of the Temple entranced the initiates, one by one, into a magical hypnotic sleep.
When the candidates were laid inside, the lids were closed and they entered into a deep sleep.
The coffins with the candidates inside were tied up to a carrier and with robes lowered down, one at a time, to the Chamber of Rebirth.
1st Deg. Initiation Ceremony, Part II: The Chamber of Rebirth [The Grotto or The Well]
In this chamber the initiates remained in a semi lifeless state for three days. Unaware of the activities of preparations for the ceremonies that followed, they were left in their physical and symbolic dream. To them, it seemed to last just few hours.
At midnight the coffin lids were opened and the dancing lights of the torches stroke their faces as ancient mantras sounded in the chamber.
Then a song that tells about a rebirth to a Light State of Immortality was sang. One by one the initiates were taken from the coffins and to their surprise they found a room packed with people.
"We were greeted and embraced with joy by the Brethren.
This was a moving emotional moment: so far we had felt somehow lonely, left with the sole company at times of the torchbearer.
Tears fell from our eyes as we were greeted even by people we had never seen before.
So many care to be aware of our initiation?", this told me the initiate.
Comments to what has happened so far were said to the great surprise of the candidates. Happy laughter and cheers were filling the room!
The candidates had now completed their First Degree Initiation.
As in the Zero Degree Initiation, the initiates were asked to return home to their normal affairs, to assimilate the experience and to continue their studies before they were themselves ready to take their Second Degree Initiation during Midsummer.
After the preparation time had lapsed, the candidates took the initiation that I will now describe:
Second Degree Initiation: AIR
2nd Deg. Initiation Ceremony, Part I: The Temple of Maat [The Grand Gallery]
The Temple of Maat is also known as the "Hall of Truth in Light" or the "Temple or Hall of Illumination".
These names are symbolic of the fact that "as the initiate ascended, he reached a greater height in his symbolical attainment of mystical Light".
In this degree of initiation the candidate will learn clear perception and understanding that leads to illumination through the right use of their intellect.
The intellectual nature is here represented by Air and the blossoming of beautiful thoughts of the mind.
To receive this degree the candidates were taken again inside the Pyramid of Khufu.
With the help of the torchbearer and some members of the ritual, the candidates were three times blindfolded and, taken by their arms, guided to cross the Second Threshold or the "Place of Crossing the Water of Life".
At this time two distant gongs, symbolic of the Second Degree, were heard.
Our initiate recalled... "went up with the group into what I felt based on the acoustic sound to be a spacious open hall.
The blindfolded ascension was difficult and cumbersome not knowing what the next move was or where to position the foot.
Each initiate ascended the first two symbolical steps and then was taken back to chambers of instruction, meditation and rest and to endure trials to test their development and worthiness.
The next day we went through the same ritual of ascension, to rise only two extra steps and return to the chambers for further instruction and trials.
This ritual went on for seven days, each day ascending two extra new steps."
2nd Deg. Initiation Ceremony, Part II: The Antechamber or Chamber of the Triple Veil
The seventh day they ascended all the fourteen steps arriving at the Great Step at the top of the hall.
Then they entered into the antechamber next to the "Chamber of the Open Tomb" [King's Chamber].
This antechamber is known as the "Chamber of the Triple Veil". Here the three veils were removed, one at a time and the meaning of each veil was given to the initiates.
When they finally could see, they looked in all directions at the room they have arrived at, so lavishly decorated.
While in this chamber they again were greeted by some members of the Brotherhood.
"The bonds established among the seven candidates were of Oneness, as we felt so close to each other we could even feel each other's thoughts!"
They have now completed the Second Degree Initiation. The initiates went now home and after some time of preparation got ready for the next and so much waited culminating ceremony to be held in that coming Autumnal Equinox.
But before I continue with the description of the next ceremony, I will refer a short story of the torchbearer as he told it to me. These are his own words:
"My name is Amen-Hut. I was born in On [Heliopolis], the 'City of the Sun' and the Ben-Ben obelisk, in the year of the Scorpio.
At age 6, I was taken by my parents to the Temple of Aton [Temple of the Sun], where our beloved Pharaohs are being coronated, to be instructed by the priests of On, less wealthy than those of Thebes but thoroughly more versed in ancient wisdom.
I was and still am being trained in Mathematics, Astronomy, the magic sciences of healing and the history and geography of Egypt and adjacent lands.
The mystical path is being shown to me through the reading and explanation of the Ptah arcana.
The secret symbology has been and is being revealed to me in various ways and, due to dedication and sincerity, I have been chosen as member of the ritualistic teams of both the Temple of On and the Khufu Pyramid and as a member of the Brotherhood.
"The day of the initiation, all was rushed in the great hall and the Chamber of Initiation.
The female ritualistic performers with their musical instruments, harp, lute, lyre, sistrums, drums, castanets, harpsichord and cymbals, were already in place, all the soloists and choruses have arrived as well as the priests.
The rehearsal was about to start when the gong player, darting to his gong, slipped on the floor and badly sprained his right wrist with which he so wonderfully played the gong. Confusion filled the place!
We were already way too late for the rehearsal of the ceremony!
The HierophantÕs daughter, who was serving as one of the vestals, rushed out to find a substitute in town.
In the meantime the initiates were waiting unaware of the endless rehearsals we went through that day in that chamber".
Third Degree Initiation - The Chamber of the Open Tomb [King's Chamber]: FIRE
3rd Deg. Initiation Ceremony, Part I: The Meaning of the Sacred Cobras
As a prerequisite for this initiation was again required to enter into the Pit and have similar experiences with the Dark Light as were previously described in the Zero Degree Initiation.
From there the initiates moved to the "Chamber of the Open Tomb".
The "Chamber of the Open Tomb" is also known as the "Hall of Judgment and Resurrection" or the "White Light Chamber".
Here are customarily officiated symbolical ceremonies involving the laws of transition, regeneration, resurrection and reincarnation.
Rivaling the elaborate and superstitious ceremonies of the priesthood of the profane world, the Brothers have prepared special rituals as the one that follows.
These rites have the purpose of impressing the minds of the new members with the purpose of Our Secret Society of Wisdom and to show the mastership of natural laws they may someday acquire.
It was highly rewarded the effort of so many trials suffered in previous initiations in this temple, in the adjacent pyramids and in other similar environments such as: the Temple of the Sun at On; Saqqara, the Temple of sound and vibration; Denderah, the Temple of Isis, temple of love, nurturing and healing; Osirion of Abydos, the Temple of Resurrection; the Temple of Our Goddess Sekhmet, the breaker of resistance; Kom Ombo, the temple of the Dark Light and the Temples of Amen-Ra and Osiris at Karnak near Luxor in Upper Egypt. (These two last ones created by our Pharaoh Seti who also built the Temple Osirion of Abydos.)
It was rewarded because it was now in the White Light Chamber where the final initiation would be demonstrated.
Once completed successfully, the initiate will no longer be subjected to death, illness or the limitations of linear time. He will be a resurrected body mastering judgment, forgiveness, compassion and the illusions of fear and separateness.
A resurrected body into a higher octave of expression. This initiation is also the culmination of twelve years of emotional training called in our school the "Left Eye of Horus".
Each initiation in the series deals with a specific fear related to a specific vortex of energy of the body.
This is the fruiting of so much dedication and training. It represents also the ideas learnt in the previous initiation put into action in this, the Fire Initiation.
For this ritual the chamber was lit with candles and incense was wafting in the air filling it with a rose fragrance. One solitary gong resounded through the halls of the pyramid announcing the beginning of the ritual.
The seven white robed initiates stepped into the chamber following the torchbearer who indicated them to position in line at the North wall by the chairs of the initiates.
Some prayers and declarations to the bygone forefathers were spoken out by a priest at the South as a preliminary initiation to the ritual.
Then two gongs echoing through the confines of the room were followed by a soft entrance music while choruses sang a litany as seven white robed figures filed into the Chamber toward the East, their faces hidden in the shadows of their hoods.
The gong was played again three times to announce the entrance of the hierophant, the successor of Meri-Ra, a priest wearing a sky blue robe spangled with embroidered stars, girdled with a cord of gold.
He also wore a cross upon his breast.
He was followed by a group of priests from the Temple of On.
He stepped to the center of the room from his South East station and from a papyrus scroll read to the aspirants a list of duties and responsibilities to be observed, the prerogatives and benefits of the school and the vows of secrecy to not divulge what they will experience, followed by a series of questions that were promptly answered revealing their preparedness and readiness.
At this point, the hierophant moved near the sarcophagus of symbolical burial, a huge rose quartz granite casket of a single block, and lifting his hands to heavens to where our starry Goddess Nut dwells, pronounced sacred words in Atlantean language that none of the initiates understood.
"The walls of the chamber seemed to vibrate in resonance with the words as responding back to them. A chill cold filled the room, a strange breeze blew the faces of the participants. A deep meaningful silence was present in the room and the East fire grew in size augmenting the suspense and staging the moment."
As in other special occasions, the torchbearer had witnessed similar deeds that through the world had made the Egyptian priests enjoy a reputation of "mysterious power and hidden wisdom". This is the knowledge he was yearning to possess someday.
A reptilian hissing sound filled the room. Behold! Two Egyptian cobras materialized on the floor and started to crawl toward the High Priest, their proud narrow hoods straight up.
He, gazing at the snakes' piercing unblinking eyes, moved his extended right hand in an ascended commanding swing.
The charmed dark asps swayed against each other and started to levitate vertically in a sinuous slithering movement until they formed two counter-sinusoids on an imaginary plane parallel to the East.
They moved in a synchronized motion such that as one half sinusoid of one snake moved to the left, the other opposite half sinusoid of the second snake moved at the same speed in the opposite direction.
The same happened along their entire bodies.
When everyone was staring at the vision, a ray of light shone between the serpents as their faces looked at each other in a hypnotic deadly gaze while their forked tongues flicked out in the typical sweeping motion.
Then they started to spiral around the rod of light, each one taking an opposite rotation.
As the serpentine illusion continued to rotate, the hierophant, turning to the initiates, said: "Behold the Tempter and the Redeemer, their conflicting natures make all manifestations.
And the change of consciousness which they represent leads thee to wisdom".
Some of those present seemed astonished at that unexpected display of occult power!
Slowly the enchanting apparition faded away...
3rd Deg. Initiation Ceremony, Part II: AkhenatonÕs Message
The torchbearer now approached the initiates indicating them to sit.
He took the first in the row to the center of the chamber instructing her to position in front of the sarcophagus.
Then an acolyte carrying a lapis lazuli platter with a small alabaster vessel approached her. The vessel had carved a winged Aton Disk wrapping its wings around the body.
In it was Ben, the mysterious "What Then Is It", a white powder dissolved in water.
As a sacred act of communion, he handed her the vessel to drink. After partaking of the Bread of Life, she was asked to lie in the tomb after which the sarcophagus was closed down by the acolytes.
Normally the initiate is left in the casket for three days. In his entrancement the initiate feels a death of the flesh and experiences all the impressions felt by the departed ones, a symbolical death as the murder of our God Osiris.
He is then resurrected. In this special ceremony results are accelerated through the work of our Brethren as you will see next.
The musicians started to play and the seven mysterious white figures approached the sarcophagus.
Surrounding it, they formed a chain with their hands and started to chant an ancient mantra.
In ecstasy the initiate... "sensed a contact with the Essence of Aton.
After what seemed for me an eternity inside, the symbolic tomb was opened and another initiate went through the same process."
When all had been in and had returned to their places in the North, an etheric soft and almost transparent white dove appeared hovering on the sarcophagus.
No, it was not our sacred symbol of the Ba of the departed but the symbol of the perfect thought.
The dove was as light as the feather of our Goddess Maat, which this dove also represents.
The atmosphere of the Temple was charged with special vibrations due to the significance of the mystical symbols displayed and the beautiful chanting, one of the mysterious white figures stood up and moved to the center of the Chamber by the sarcophagus.
He drew down the cowl to uncover his countenance. A special halo illumined his body as he started to speak.
His figure looked graceful and classical, his refined movements were charged with an elegant authority and his voice sounded young and musical.
He was Our Beloved Pharaoh Akhenaten, "Nefer-kheperu-Ra Ua-en-Ra" ["Beautiful-essence-of-the-Sun, Only-one-of-the-Sun"], Grand Master of the Brotherhood, former High Priest of the Temple.
I hope you have enjoyed your journey with me.
I remain your humble Initiate,
The High Priests came from the highest educated levels of society and the position was often hereditary. Except for at certain instances in history only men could hold it.
Herodotus recorded that: "No woman holds priestly office either in the service of goddess or god; only men are priests in both cases."
There is Old Kingdom evidence to the contrary, when wives of the nobles frequently became chantresses and temple dancers.
In the Third Intermediate Period the title God's Wife of Amen was given a daughter of the royal family and she became at least the equal of the High Priest, at the Karnak Temple.
The God's Wife, had a staff of female acolytes, was a celibate priestess herself and "adopted" another royal lady to succeed her.
Their duties consisted of caring for the god by performing rituals three times a day; at sunrise, at midday and at sunset, the purpose of these being to ensure the god's reawakening to life in the morning and welfare during the day.
He was also the only one allowed to see the image of the god when the doors to the shrine were opened. Other attendants kept out of sight.
The High Priests were required to know and understand the liturgy belonging to all rituals and ceremonies in the temple, and they were expected to know their specializations, and teach these in the temple school, the "House of Life".
That is, physicians could be priests of Sekhmet and a lawyer was most likely serving as a priest of Maat.
The priesthood in general did not serve full-time in the temples.
Probably only the High Priests and other administrative top positions did this, to ensure stability and organizational effectiveness.
Other members of the priesthood lived normal lives in the society, maintaining their occupations and their families, but for three months each year they lived in the temple and performed the duties of a priest.
There they were divided into four groups and took on a specific temple duty for one month.
The High Priest in his turn could delegate duties to priests just below him in rank.
Below them there were ordinary priests, the so called Wae'b priests who were trained to be responsible for the purity of the god's possessions like ritual tools and such.
Other specialized priestly duties was horology, the art of measuring the time, which was important for knowing exactly when sunrise would occur, and for judging when the Nile would overflow and when crops could be planted, and astrology for its mythical connotations and for the architectural and calendrical systems.
These and other topics were taught at the Temple School, the "House of Life".
When doing temple duty the regulations were strict; a priest could not eat fish, which was considered impure, he had to abstain from sexual activities, wear clothes made of pure linen, as things that came from animals were unclean, and shave his head and body daily.
Further he had to purify himself in the Sacred Lake several times each day.
These lakes, which were found at every temple, and which were also used to cleanse the ritual tools etc in, probably had the symbolic connotation of the Primeval Waters.
They were placed inside the temple enclosure, often near the living quarters and where the preparations for offerings were done.
Butchering was never made in front of the god, it was considered ugly for the god's eyes to witness.
While the rituals were taken care of by men, the music and dancing which accompanied the services, were performed by women.
At Karnak there were women of high rank who were called "Chantresses of Amun".
In the 23rd Dynasty these priestesses were of equal rank to the priests and more or less ruled the theocracy, their priesthood centered around Hathor, Isis and many other goddesses and gods.
Besides the priesthood there were other workers both in the temple and on the surrounding estates belonging to it.
There were bakers, cooks, farmers, weavers, gardeners, craftsmen of all kinds. In effect the largest temples took a vast organization to manage.
From at least the New Kingdom on the Egyptian cult temple building was a symbolic model of the universe.
It was built along an east-west axis, following the sunÕs course through the day and surrounded by a brick wall built in alternating concave and convex sections.
These symbolized the Primeval waters out of which Creation had risen.
A processional path led up to the pylon towers, which were a reminiscent of the early, predynastic reed shrine that once had stood at the back of just such a guarded enclosure as the mud brick wall.
The great portal which was set in between the pylons lead into one or several open courtyards in line, thereafter followed one or several covered pillared halls until finally the darkened sanctum where the naos which held the cult statue of the deity was reached.
The floor slanted gradually upwards from the outer courts to the sanctum, symbolizing the Primeval mound which had emerged from the chaotic waters when the world was created.
Often the temple site was chosen where a natural incline could be found.
The roof of the halls symbolized the sky and was decorated with stars and protective deities in the form of flying birds.
The pillars and columns represented palm trees, lotus and papyrus plants and along the walls the reliefs depicted all kind of marsh vegetation.
In fact, in some places the outer courts and halls were flooded with water during the yearly inundation of the Nile, something which must have helped to strengthen the symbolic message in the temple layout.
Approaching the pylon towers which made out the entrance into the Outer Court the processional path lead up to the great portal which was set between them.
Passing through it one reached an outer court. The general worshipper was probably not allowed further into the temple building than this.
Here he was met by priests who received his offerings and forwarded them into the temple. Shrines with statues of other gods beside the one which the temple was built for was often found here and the visitor could honor these, leave offerings and pray by them.
Often yet another pair of pylons had to be passed before the inner court was reached. These courtyards were without roof, this open space in front of the pylons went back to the original reed shrines in predynastic times.
Reliefs on the walls depicted the king in battle or making offerings to the gods. It is uncertain if the common townspeople were allowed entry here, perhaps they were allowed to watch some of the rites on festival days.
Behind the open courts where the sun blazed down, there was usually one or more dusky pillared halls (hypostyle halls).
This was considered the reception area of the god and accessible only to the priesthood. The pillars, arranged in groups, were richly decorated with painted reliefs depicting deities and religious symbols, intended to ensure the same abundance to the surrounding land.
Their capitals were formed as lotuses, papyruses or palms.
Smaller sidedoors, intended for bringing in offerings, lead into the halls. The only windows were narrow and set high up below the ceiling, otherwise the light would come from the priesthood carrying torches.
The floor sloped steadily upwards until the sanctum was reached, helping to induce a feeling of awe and mystery as the deity was approached.
Symbolically this recreated the shape of the Primeval Mound on which the god had appeared on the First Time (Zep Tepi).
This was a small, dark room, where the cult statue was kept in a naos, hidden from view.
A temple could be consecrated to more than one god, but the sanctum of the main deity was always situated along the main axis, and lesser deities were placed on either side.
The naos was the very shrine of the god, often made of wood, with doors that were kept closed and locked at all times except for at the daily rituals, which occurred at morning, midday and evening, and which were performed by the High Priest or someone appointed by him.
In close connection to the sanctum and the naos were other rooms for storage of the god's belongings, jewelry, insignia and ritual tools.
Somewhere on the temple precinct were the purifying lake, a rectangular pool with stairs leading down into the water.
Ritual purity was of the highest importance and the priests were required to purify themselves several times each day.
The so called Wae«b priests who were responsible for this purifying had been trained from the start of their priestly education.
Also ritual tools and everything used at offerings were required to be purified for nothing unclean must come into the god's presence.
One might speculate also about the natural necessity of this, in a climate where heat could be quite bothersome.
Preparations for the Awakening of the God began already before dawn.
The temple workers were busy baking fresh bread, preparing other offerings like meat and vegetables, even flowers, and arrange everything carefully on platters.
The offerings had to satisfy not only the god and make him bring his blessings in return, but also every other god that had a shrine in the temple, and lastly it was consumed by the priesthood and workers themselves.
Libations of water drawn from the well on the temple precinct, emanating from Nun, was also being prepared, for everything that would come near the god had to be purified with the water, natron and burning incense.
When the purification had been performed, the procession carrying the offerings entered the temple and laid down the offerings in front of the not yet opened doors of the naos.
At this point the King or the High Priest entered the dimly lit sanctuary, lighting his way with a candle.
He broke the seal of the bolted double doors to the naos, assuring the god that he came in a state of purity and was not pursued by enemies.
At the same instant as the sun rose above the Western horizon and its rays found their way in through the temple, the god's face was unveiled.
This assured that the god woke up in harmony to the rhythm of the cosmos.
Then there was time for prayers and contemplation.
The food that was served before the god was taken away when the god was thought to have satisfied himself, which he did not in a material sense of the word, but on an esoteric level.
Lastly a libation was poured and some more incense was burned.
After the meal the god's toilet was seen to.
The clothes from the day before was taken away and several purifications were performed with incense and water before fresh ones were put on. Cloths in four different colors; white, green, red and blue were used.
There are text sources stating that the white color protected the god against his enemies, the blue one hid his face, the green cloth gave him bodily health and the red one protected him.
At the end of the ritual the King or High Priest took some ointment on his little finger and touched the god's forehead with it.
Thus revitalized, the god was again locked inside the naos and the King or High Priest backed out of the sanctuary, wiping away his footprints with a broom.
The remaining two rituals at midday and at sunset were simpler; the doors to the naos was not opened and the only ceremony that was performed was the burning of incense and the pouring of libations. And so it went, day after day, except for the Festival Days.
On certain festival days the god was Going Forth, that is to say, carried out of the temple on his bark, still hidden in a shrine or veiled from the eyes of the common people.
The bark was carried on the back of priests and shaded with great ostrich feathers or woven palm fiber.
Incense was burned and all around it the priests walked, keeping the people aside as they went along.
People shook sistrums and displayed great joy for these occasions were the cause of much celebrations.
In front of the bark scrolls with sacred text were carried, out of which sometimes a recital priest read aloud.
Along the processional path there was often both permanent and temporary erected shrines where they would stop and make libations or other offerings.
At these occasions people could have the chance to ask the god a question and if they were lucky the god would answer by nodding or shaking his head. this is believed was done by the priests tipping the bark in the desired direction.
There is also a statue of Anubis with a jointed jaw, which is believed have been maneuvered by threads to make it appear as if the god was actually giving an answer.
The ancient Egyptians were very superstitious and such oracular responses were taken for the truth and the veritable word of the gods.
The priesthood of ancient Egypt has a far reaching and deep history, rooted within the traditions of Ancient Egypt.
Unlike the orthodox priesthoods usually found within Western society, the role of the Egyptian priest or priestess was vastly different within the society as a whole.
Rather than seek the divine and develop a rapport with the gods, the role of the priest was akin to an everyday job.
For, as the pharaoh was seen as a god himself, the priests and priestesses were seen as stand-in's for the pharaoh; as it was the greater job of the priests and priestesses to keep Egyptian society in good order, as is the case with most theoretically based societies.
The mystical attributes of the priests and priestesses take on a secondary role, when one considers the heightened role religion played within Egyptian society.
Not only was religion a way to attain the ethereal and basic needs of the Egyptians, but it also served as a mechanism to order society, to create a hierarchy, and to preserve the culture for future generations.
As such, the role of the priests and priestesses was both functional and mystical on both levels.
A priest or priestess in ancient Egypt was generally chosen by either the king, or attained their post by hereditary means.
In either case, the priests who received their positions hereditarily and through the king were not set apart from mundane life.
In fact, such priests were made to embrace the mundane life to keep Egyptian society functioning properly (and as stated above it was a job of fairly high status).
Though the priesthood had started out simply, with relatively few temples, in the later dynasties the temples expanded into the hundreds.
With such growth, a large bureaucracy was needed to keep the temples in good standing; and thenceforth, the small priesthood's of the Egyptians grew from an estimated hundred priests into the thousands, and with it came a priestly hierarchy.
The daily life of a priest or priestess depended on their sex and also their hierarchical standing within the priesthood.
Priests were often rotated from position to position within the priestly hierarchy and were integrated in and out of mundane society.
This rotation system generally went, that a priest would enter into temple life one month, at three times a year.
This rotation system had a direct connection to the often stringent purity rites of the priests.
Regardless of what status the priest was, there were numerous taboos and tradition's a priest had to or could not partake of.
Of these taboos and traditions, a priest or priestess could not eat fish (a food thought to be ascribed to peasant life), could not wear wool (as nearly all animal products were unclean), were generally circumcised (only common among the male priests), and it was not uncommon for priests to bathe three or four times a day in "sacred" purificatory pools.
It was also not uncommon for the "oracle" tending priests (one of the most sacred positions), to shave off all of their body hair, partially to get rid of lice, but partially for purificatory functions.
These "oracle" priests symbolically gave food to the statues of the gods, clothed the statues of the gods, sealed the temple chamber in the evening, and were known as stolists.
As can be seen from the example of the stolists, the need for purity extended not only upon the mundane level, but also held true within the afterlife as well.
Further, from such purificatory rites the priests were often times known as the "pure ones" regardless of status within the temples.
The hierarchy of priests consisted of a milieu of offices and duties. At the top of the hierarchy of priests was the high-priest, also known as the sem-priest, and as "the First Prophet of the God".
The high-priest was often very wise in years, and old.
Not only did he serve as political advisor to the pharaoh, but he was also a political leader for the temples he belonged to as well.
The high-priest was in charge of over-seeing magical rites and ceremonies as well as advising the pharaoh.
Maintaining a fairly ceremonial position, the high-priest was often times chosen by the pharaoh as an advisor, however, it was not uncommon for a high-priest to have climbed through the ranks to his official status.
Below the high-priest were a number of priests with many specialized duties.
The specialization of these second tier priests ran from "horology" (keeping an accurate count of the hours through the days, extremely important during the time of the sun boat worshippers, but also for agricultural reasons as well), "astrology" (extremely important as well to the mythology of Egypt as well as to the architectural and calendrical systems of Egypt), to healing.
As is obvious by the specialization of the priests, the cycles of the cosmos were extremely important, as they decided when crops would be planted, when the Nile would wax or wane, and further when the temple rites were to begin in the morning.
The result of these Egyptian priests studies can be seen in both the mythological studies of Egypt, as well as within the agricultural practices, which rival even the modern Caesarian Calendar still used within the western world today.
In addition to the political administration, the priests and priestesses took on both magical and economic functions, however set apart from the hierarchy of priests are the lay magicians who supplied a commoners understanding of Egyptian religion.
Through the use of magic and their connection to the gods, lay magicians provided a service to their community, usually consisting of counseling, magical arts, healing, and ceremony. Lay magicians who served within this last and final caste of the Egyptian priesthood belonged to a large temple known simply as "The House of Life".
Laymen would come to "The House of Life" to meet with a magician, priest or priestess to have their dreams interpreted, to supply magical spells and charms, to be healed and to counteract malevolent magic, and to supply incantations of various types.
Though the House of Life provided it's Laymen with many prescriptive cures for common ills, it was largely shrouded in mystery in ancient times.
In fact, the library of The House of Life was shrouded in great secrecy, as it contained many sacred rites, books, and secrets of the temple itself which were thought could harm the pharaoh, the priests, and all of Egypt itself.
Though the magicians of The House of Life, were seen as another step from the ceremonial duties of the priests, they were by no means less important, and as is evidenced by the presence of many magical wands, papyri text, and other archeological evidence, The House of Life took on a role direly important to the way of life of Ancient Egyptians.
One final position within the priesthood highly worthy of mention is that of the Scribes.
The scribes were highly prized by both the pharaoh and the priesthood, so much so that in some of the pharaoh's tombs, the pharaoh himself is depicted as a scribe in pictographs.
The scribes were in charge of writing magical texts, issuing royal decrees, keeping and recording the funerary rites specifically within The Book of The Dead and keeping records vital to the bureaucracy of Ancient Egypt.
The scribes often spent years working on the craft of making hieroglyphics, and deserve mentioning within the priestly caste as it was considered the highest of honors to be a scribe in any Egyptian court or temple.
Finally, worthy of mention, though there is considerable historical evidence telling of the role of priests within the priestly hierarchy, the status of the priestesses was at times equal if not mirror to that of the male priesthood.
The female priestesses held the main function within the temple's of music and dancing.
At Thebes, however, the chief-priestess of Amun bore the title of god's wife; she was the leader of the female music-makers who were regarded as the god1s harem and were identified with the goddess Hathor, who was associated with love and music.
In the Twenty-third Dynasty and afterwards such priestesses were practically rulers of the theocracy, their duties centering around the reverence of Isis, and many other female and male goddesses and gods.
I too have walked through the chambers and studied with others and alone. I remember much about it, but most of all I remember not completing my training and walking away from the rituals and traditions. I understood that the knowledge was to be passed down through the Bloodline and Brotherhoods.
But as with all things in the game, they were destined to become corrupt, losing their true meaning and spiritual importance and eventually become lost to humanity until the teachings were to be awakened in each of us, by teachers in third dimension, spiritual guides (ascended masters), at a time we would be moving into higher frequency consciousness and the program/game/hologram/cycle of time would come to an end.
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