the archetypes of ancient Egypt
a-n (ankh — Nepthys)
On this page you will find some information about the gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt, including Anubis, Bast, Hathor, Horus, Isis, Maat and Nepthys; as well as the meanings behind some of the more well-known symbols and pictograms, including the Ankh, Buckle of Isis and Crook and Flail. I rediscovered my love of and fascination for all things of Ancient Egypt a few years ago, when I took my Seichem Reiki Mastery and at around the same time became a Cartouche Master Teacher. The Cartouche system is based upon the book and cards by Murray Hope called "Way of the Cartouche", and the information in her book along with my experiences with the energies has helped form the basis for this page. I highly recommend her deck and book, and have found them to make very good tools for intuitive readings and personal guidance.
The symbol of the Ankh is the Key to Life and the key to the use of the breath — without breath we would die, and also working with the breath in a specific fashion is an aid to spiritual development. The out-breath additionally produces sound, which is a powerful tool for building, transforming, moving and regenerating energy. The Ankh represents the power of the Gods to unlock the door to immortality, and is thought to be the key to unlocking the mysteries of heaven and earth. It combines the symbolic cross of Osiris and the oval of Isis and also represents the unity of spirit and matter, illustrating that it is necessary to attain balance in all things - male/female, active/passive, positive/negative — in order to become whole. Through attaining true balance and manifesting our spirituality in a material way each day as a matter of course whilst in bodily incarnation, we have access to all knowledge and so can free ourselves from the wheel of rebirth and death. The Ankh was often pictured in the hands of the Gods and Goddesses, sometimes shown being applied to the mouth, signifying the breath of eternal life. When used as a tool of resurrection it is always applied to the back of the head at about the level of the rear 3rd eye chakra. You may also find it applied to the top of the head, signifying the opening of the crown chakra and the linking of one fully with ones Higher Self.
Anubis (also Anpu, Inpu, or Imeut) is the jackal (or dog) — headed God of the Underworld and of Embalming. He is the protector of the dead, overseer of the mummification process and guardian against the forces of the lower astral planes. Son of Nepthys and Set (or possibly Osiris according to some sources) and nephew to Isis he was regarded as one of the Osirian family. Symbolically Nepthys represents that which is invisible and the darkness, whilst Isis represents that which is visible and the light. Anubis sits on the boundaries of both and is equally at home with the known and the unknown and in the world of the living and of the dead. He was the oversoul of the embalming priests of the Temples of Purification and directed the process and ceremony of the ritual for the dead. He then accompanied the souls of the dead into the Hall of Two Truths for the weighing of the heart against the feather of Truth and the determination of the soul's destination. He is there for all beings on the threshold of the afterlife as well as protecting, guiding and supporting us in our dealings with all shadowy aspects of ourselves and others on our life's journey. He is a very strong presence and useful to call upon for protection when walking in the shadows or confronting the dark forces. For me he works with Set and Osiris, has a very dry sense of humour and I find his role to be a little like that of Archangel Michael.
Bast, also known as Bastet, Ubasti or Pasht is believed to be the daughter of Isis and Osiris, and twin sister to Horus. Although best known as the cat goddess because of being shown with the head of a desert sand-cat in pictograms she was given many personas throughout Egyptian history, including possibly Sekhmet (the daughter of Ra) and a lioness-headed goddess known as Tefnut, (the female aspect / anima of Horus as Shu). The cat was sacred to her, and many were kept in the temples and subsequently mummified after death, showing the Egyptians' regard for them as sacred creatures. Bast's main symbol is the sistrum — a rattle that symbolises "shaking things up", balance and harmony. She brings the lesson that growth and progress often necessitates change, which at times may need to be radical. As a representative of the cat people, who had an input into the creation of Earth and the foundation of the programme for her spiritual growth, she has a great deal of power and influence and much underlying wisdom. She embodies many of the qualities of the cat or lion family including strength, agility, fidelity, grace, caution and independence. The cat people still oversee and watch Earth's progress with interest, and have been known to aid us when we have proved we deserve it.
BUCKLE OF ISIS
The Buckle of Isis is symbolised by a ceremonial buckle or knot. It also resembles the Yoni — the female genitalia, and as such reinforces the feminine aspect of fertility. It represents fidelity, fertility and growth through sacrifice on all planes of being — physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Again it is seen that growth and learning comes through experience, which often comes at a price. Physical fertility, and consequently having children, demands some sacrifices, perhaps of time, privacy or of money. Emotional growth may mean sacrificing outdated friendships or relationships. Mental growth may involve leaving the comfort zone of old beliefs or understandings and sacrificing the old to make room for the new. Spiritual growth may require us to make other sacrifices as we learn new things and acquire new philosophies or ideals and move into a new way of Be-ing. The fact that the symbol is very feminine in its nature does not restrict it to use by women - it is as much to do with men's discovery and nurture of their feminine side as it is to women being able to fully accept their femininity, which is becoming increasingly hard to do with today's pressures in society. At heart the lesson of the Buckle of Isis is really about acquiring balance through the harmonising of all our male and female aspects through understanding and acceptance of the benefits and validity of both.
CROOK and FLAIL
The crossed crook and flail were tools of resurrection and also emblems representing the Pharaoh's authority, indicating qualities of leadership, power and discipline over both the Self and others. They were used in all royal ceremonies and were part of the mortuary regalia of the Kings, ensuring their continued welfare in the afterlife. The crook is held in the left (receiving) hand and the flail in the right (giving) hand. Held with crossed wrists they symbolise death; with opposing fists upright they symbolise judgement; and with crossed wrists and crossed sceptres they symbolise resurrection. The crook (or heq) symbolises the act of gathering in, and represents the intuitive lunar aspect of Pharaoh's being; his role as guardian of the people; and his role as shepherd and leader of his "flock" (the people). The flail (or nekhakha) symbolises Pharaoh's solar and authoritative side; the three aspects of his being (the Pharaoh being the earthly representative of all the Neters (gods) who had 3 levels of hierarchy — metaphysical, cosmic and terrestrial); and that of the prudent farmer - provider of sustenance and guardian of all that grows or lives upon the land. The message is that a truly gifted leader needs to combine and balance discipline with wisdom and understanding, and that mercy should always temper justice.
Hathor (or Athyr, Het or Heret) was the daughter of Ra and wife of Horus. She is sometimes known as the cow goddess — the cow being a bringer of nourishment, and may be depicted as a woman with cow's ears and a headdress of curved horns which hold a solar disc. She is also known as a receiver of the dead and a sky goddess and guardian of the night skies, being mistress of the stars and ruler over Sirius. Hathor is said to be patroness of astrology, the arts and of women, and goddess of beauty, love and strength. Her "other-side" is said to be Sekhmet, the lioness-headed goddess and warrior dispenser of justice. There are elements of Bast's energy with Hathor, and to me her energy also feels rather like those of the Ascended Lady Master Pallas Athena. Her tree is the sycamore and her symbol a mirror, or sometimes she is seen with the sistrum or with a beaded collar. The mirror was highly polished on one side and slightly dull on the other — one side being for scrying through focusing the subconscious mind, and the other for holding enemies at bay by reflecting their negativity back at them. Her mirror can show us our true image, our true self and highlight to us our strengths and individual power. It can also be called upon for protection and for deflecting unwanted energies away from us and returning them to the sender. The sistrum is again for "shaking things up" and the collar to help us identify with our inner beauty.
Horus (Hor or Har) was a sky and solar god, son of Osiris and Isis, twin brother to Bast and husband to Hathor. Many people confuse him with his grandfather, Horus the Elder (Heru) who was the son of Nut and Atum. Horus the Younger is known as the God of Joy and of Light, and his symbol is the hawk - master of the skies and protector of kings. All the kings of Ancient Egypt took his name under the guise of being the "living" Horus incarnate, thus he conferred to the leaders the Divine right of kingship and ensured government and protection of the royal "ka" (spirit). Horus also represented healing, courage and strength of conviction, harmony, creativity and family loyalty. He is said to have battled with his uncle Set and in that battle lost his left eye, signifying the moon and the powers of intuition. His wife, Hathor, restored it to him and nursed him back to health, and thus the eye of Horus was seen as a symbol for healing. It was commonly found used on amulets to bring the wearer strength and protection, and also supplying a state of perfection through the act of "making one whole". The eyes of Horus (both the left and the right) were symbols of the Mystery Schools which became an intrinsic part of Egyptian spiritual life and hierarchy.
Isis (Eset, Aset) is the wife of Osiris, mother of Horus the Younger and Bast and sister of Nepthys and Set. Her name means "seat" or throne, and this is often pictured symbolically as a crown upon her head. This represents the throne of kings, and as such she was regarded as being the kings' symbolic mother. Isis is sometimes pictured on coffins or in texts as a bird with outstretched wings in the role of protector of the deceased. Isis also stands for love, magic, medicine and peace and despite her very feminine energy has a strong and fierce side. Isis brings the message that to show ones feminine side does not indicate lack of strength. Often power and strength are seen as "male" aspects, but we need to understand that true strength in fact comes from within. Some of the greatest prophets of ancient times were women and if men wanted to or were destined to become seers then their male side could not be dominant. Isis is also known as the mistress of magic, patron of mothers, the eye of Ra and Lady of Heaven, and her star and home source is said to be Sothis (Sirius). All magical and occult arts fall under her rulership, as does love, compassion, caring and perseverance. She was associated with the Ancient Egyptian mystery schools, and had her own temples and priestesses. The temple and school of Isis was thought to be concerned with understanding what were regarded as the "lesser" mysteries, and was to do with the search for the meaning of life; the search for the Self; and thus the search for the greater Whole. This search represented the first stages of the archetypal spiritual journey. Her mysteries awakened the subconscious mind through meditation and going within, and the keyword of this first stage is "seeking". When setting out on a spiritual path, we need to strive to attain balance and to learn the art of going within in order to seek out and work with our intuition. This sense of and connection with our higher selves and other spiritual sources of guidance supports and directs our understanding. As we acquire knowledge (which is the first step) we need to gain clear understanding of what we have learned (the second step) in order to have true wisdom.
The Goddess Maat has been described as the wife of Thoth, although she should perhaps be more accurately described as being the feminine aspect of Thoth — Thoth having a wife called Seshat. Maat personifies the concepts of truth, justice, balance, order and Divine Law — which is perfect truth and absolute wisdom, and was also called the Goddess of Truth and Universal Order. With these facets she complements Thoth and his attributes very well. The prime task of a pharaoh was to uphold Ma'at (the Divine laws). Without these laws in place it was seen that the structure of creation would crumble, and there would be a return to chaos. To the Egyptian people Maat ruled good behaviour, morality and spiritual ideals. Her symbol is the ostrich feather, which in nature is both black and white and so a symbol of duality. It comes from a bird that can not fly and is hence confined to the Earth's surface, and so also represents the nature of un-ascended man. The ostrich feather she holds and wears is actually pure white, symbolising the triumph of light over darkness, and suggesting the possibility of the release of man from the confines of an earthly existence. Maat appears in the funeral rites, where her white ostrich feather is weighed against the heart of the deceased, in order to see if he has led his life according to Divine laws and so is blameless enough for him to pass into the halls of paradise. Maat's role is to encourage us to pay attention to our every thought, word and deed and to live our lives according to the Spiritual Laws.
Nepthys (also Nebt-het) was the sister of Isis, Set, Osiris and mother to Anubis and wife to Set. She was called Lady of the House, Lady of Heaven and Lady of Life. Nepthys wears the horns and solar disc, or may be shown with the vulture headdress, which symbolises the movement of consciousness from one level to another. She is the guardian of all things hidden or concealed or not yet come into form; of the dream state; and also symbolically represents psychic receptivity. She is the other side of Isis — Isis representing light and generation, Nepthys representing dark and dissolution. Together they form the complete cycle of being and demonstrate how we may bring something into being from nothingness and Nepthys is frequently pictured standing next to or behind Isis, representing man's ever-present dual nature and potential. Nepthys' symbol, which is often shown as a part of her headdress in pictograms, is the bowl or chalice and as such reflects all Holy Grail symbology. The chalice is the container into which the waters of Truth and Light are poured and additionally represents the mankind's search for enlightenment. The Grail cup was that shared by Jesus and the disciples at the last supper when they were initiated into eternal life through the lesson of the resurrection, the supposition of which was very important to Egyptian spirituality. Water is also connected with the emotions and with the act of cleansing, and Nepthys places great emphasis on working to reveal and reconcile our deepest and darkest thoughts and feelings in order to grow and progress.
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