Triumph Over Darkness

From the Papyruses of
Ani & Nebseni

Here begin the praises and glorifying of coming out from and going into the glorious Neterkhert in the beautiful Amenta, of coming forth by day in all the transformations which please him, of playing at senet and of setting in the sekh hall, and coming forth as a living soul.

Every season of the flood I saw god born from the buttocks of a cow. She was mighty in fullness as was the river and likewise, the two of them struggled up toward higher ground. There upon the stony earth, the cow strained against the pain, the sharp hooves of the animal kicking inside her, even as the calf strained against the dark belly of its mothers. They were warriors of a common purpose. I reached in, my hand slick and full of the primeval waters. Then, feeling bone beneath skin, I gently drew the two legs out. With a heave life was born into my hands. And the cow rested licking her calf's steaming head still wet and shining from its mother's body.

The ways of making are indeed wondrous--the child born of its mother, the sun rolling into sky, the song rising from the lips, the world springing from the word of god. The essence of life is brilliant, dazzling. I can not exlain such miracles, yet I embody them daily. Though I can not remember my birth and shall forget my death, I live in the midst of wonder.

I stand, therefore, before myself and god, before Ra and Ptah and Osiris. I am one of those lights I see, an ember of fire climbing the back of heaven and heaven takes me in. I am its child, loved by gods.

I am a man walking the path, separating the nettles from the flowers. I am myself who perceives who I am. I am my heart's witness. I am an animal, the breath and blood of myself responding to tides, constant as sun, mutable as moon. I am baboon driven by instinct. I am a jackal devouring the meat of life, thirsty for the stream of being. I swallow the world, I digest it, I am nourished by it. No possibility is left untasted. I am a falcom, a form of earth that rises. I am one who soars to heaven and brings home a message. I leap up from matter to ride the current of spirit.

I am a lover of truth. I cut away lies, these rags of mortality. I am incense on the altar, seven grain of moly smouldering in flame, seven sparks dancing in the air. Seven heron fly in the light of Osiris. Seven fish leap from the river into the birds' mouths. Seven stars dream in the northern sky nestled in the lap of a bear. There is a serpent writhing through heaven, unbound by the weight of earth. His tongue flicks flames. He licks the finger of gods, but the snake left to earth licks only dark and dust.

"Come," said the lord of life to the lord of death one day. "Let us make a truce. I shall bring forth creatures and deliver then unto death, if you deliver the dead unto life."

"Why should I bequeath my powers to you?" asked death.

"It is simple enough. If you do not, I shall make no creatures at all. Then what good will your strength do you?"

"I see your point. But what good is death in the face of life, or for that matter, what good is life in the face of death?"

In the Luxor Pyramid...

The two gods argued this way and that and the coversation fell upon the ears of truth, "Come now," said truth, for he was the great uniter and wanted also to show his power. "Surely there is a way to settle this matter. You, god of life, shall make two of all your creatures, one visible and the other invisible. Death may take them, but he must keep only one. The body shall be his to do with as he pleases. The spirit he shall return to life."

And so it was done that the world would remain constant in balance. They embraced one another and became one body of god. These are life and death. These are two eyes of Ra, one offering light and one burning up flesh.

On the day I saw Ra born from the buttocks of a cow I was overcome with weeping. How young was the calf, its life spread out before it. How close to death was the old cow, its mother. And I saw two worlds move closer together, the hand of one god passing a soul into the hand of the other. Was the mystery one of joy or sorrow?

Many days passed since the day I fell from the womb. Already I am old and know more men dead now than alive. The calf born that day is many years gone. I gaze into the depths of the Nile. By what shall I gauge eternity? Does the river flow on with the same water? At night I dream the heavens are full of bodies, lights and shadows, the souls of men and women returning.

These are the manifestations of Horus, a thousand thousand souls in his train, an army marching against darkness. These are souls returning to earth, men and women beatified. One spirit veiled in flesh may stand upright, white as tusks. One swirls in ether, total substance of gods. One sails through Egypt propelled by the breath of fire. One counts the wheat grains like the gods' endless hours. One weaves the cloth of dreams that clothe his brothers. One walks by day and watches by night. A thousand forms are the souls of Horus who set up lights in the darkness, who heal the sick, who write the books, who build the temples, who raise the children, who feed the people, who push the plow, who dance under stars, who dream of holy dreams. The words of power were conferred on them in Amentet that they might become the backbone of heaven.

Therefore, with regularity, the spirit returns to its source to bask in the wonders of god, to draw strength from the fire, then go into the world to rage against the serpent of darkness. Therefore, the gods together are one. Therefore, I am the double seal of gods. I am priest of my own becoming, of the holiness of change, of the ways of Osiris and of Ra--a spirit of glory as the hawk, a spirit of strength as the ram. I am a light, a fire, a purpose, a rager against oblivion.

As the forms of light are numerous, so are the forms of darkness. The shapes of good and evil are hidden. I discern the fruit from the poison. In the house of death there waits a being of darkness whose eyebrows swim on his forehead like fishes. There is one of light whose two arms are the scales. One goddess recounts a man's history on the night of reckoning. The tongue of another burns rotten meat in its fire. There is the knife that would sunder what a man brings together. There is the knife that would cut away filth. There are clothes of light and skins of darkness. There are two snakes asleep in dark waters. One rises up with the head of man speaking. One rises up with two heads--one full of honor, the other full of deceit. The first snake is evil, easy enough to recognize. The second snake is the good son Horus, avenger of his father, soldier of truth. To those who tell lies, he confronts them with lies. To those who speak truths, Horus speaks truth. He is the passageway into the forms both golden and terrible.

May I know the truth when I see it. May I stand on the lotus, a son of god, and rise like perfume unto the god's nostrils. May my fingernails turn into thorns to drive back the snake. May my arms become spears to thwart crocodiles. May the light of my soul detect shadows of evil. May I listen to the voice of the messenger. May I walk the road envisioned by Ra's eyes. May my spirit gather my selves and fly back to its source. May I join the great march of beings who live and die in the circle of light.

I shall not fall under flashing knives. I shall not burn up in the cauldron. I know the names of the scorpions and they are these: anger, bitterness and doubt. And I know the names of the serpents: ego, concern for the self of the body; relinquishment of destiny, the attribution of suffering to god; false pity that stifles another man's becoming; mediocre virtues and the denial of passion; sentimentality wherein passion is artifice; satisfaction wherein he fails to attain the great; common thought wherein a man seeks not to push himself beyond the limits of his own imagination.

I am he who walks around heaven breathing the hot flame of the mouth of he who circles the edges of heaven making himself invisible, commanding the spirits of his peopel. I am radiant earth. I am a warrior of light. I burn musk and moly on the altar. I come forth from green fields. I roll gold into life like a beetle. I soar like a hawk. I squawk like a goose. I snatch green snakes with my teeth. I am the flowing branch of almond on the obsidian altar. I am the two eyes of god creating. I live in the forehead of god dreaming. I am an old man welcomed into heaven. I am the flow and nature of things. I am forever--god's life on earth. The gifts of gods are mine: health and power and eternity.

I have seen the face of evil--one with sharp teeth like a ravaging dog that feasts upon corpses, that swallows hearts, that vomits and shoots filth from under its tail. I have seen his face, but he has not seen himself. His name is eater of millions, envy, jealousy, greed, and lust. He is the robber of hours, the passion out of control that devours life without tasting it, without being nourished by it. Then he is born seven times into a place where nothing grows.

I have seen the face of evil--one with a hundred coils in its tail that would claim for itself whatever it touched: the perfume of hibiscus, the heart of a lover, the light of its days, the thoughts and passions of others. It would clutch these things, squeeze them and suck out their vitality. Then the snake would rise up with a shake of its tail and name itself god, knower of all, possessed of all wisdom. "I alone," it cries, "know the truth and I shall keep it." He is the serpent that separates men from gods.

I have seen the face of evil--a face full of burns and scars, torture inflicted upon the self. He would scald his own chest and blame it on others. He would slash his own wrists and blame it on the gods. He is the blamer, the finder of fault. He is the author of all the ills that befalls him, unrepentant and unconscious. Blind is he even to the motion of his own hand that rises up and plucks out his eyes.

Who then shall guard us from these terrors? We ourselves and the beating heart of Osiris and the bones of his back that make us rise up in truth. We shall walk with him around the edge of the Lake of Fire. We shall possess the loves, the words, the bodies we know. We shall walk glorious in Egypt, our hearts swelling with passion, our lungs filled with breath of fire, all the gods and goddesses united in one body. Now is the day of the joining of opposites, of the mingling of the dust of flesh with the dust of the coffin. This is the day of flow, the living ether returned to air, the maker of forms assuming new form. This is the day without end--the passage into light itself, the joining of Osiris to Ra.

I have seen the face of justice, the terrible face of Osiris who is generator of spirit and degenerator of matter, whose tongue of fire licks away flesh, whose mouth devours filth, who stands before darkness as a guardian of light. Oh evil ones, fall down and shiver for he who lives truth passes by him, but he who lives lies falls, is held fast in his nets, is seized in his jaws. He is messenger of light, bestower of life and taker away. This white boat of spirit ferries the body through dark water, carries the heart of gold through the red core of earth. Great is the god in his boat. Great are the ways of becoming, the change-and-change again, the cycle of truth in the body. Great is the dough of life, malleable god-stuff from which earth and heaven are made.

I have seen the face of justice, the beatific face of Osiris, the whisperer of truth in the darkness, the power of moving on past mortality and illusion. No great evil comes to he who breathes the breath of his nostrils, who follows the path of the lightening flash that leaps to form between the two worlds.

I am traveler on the way, pure of heart. I am a son fresh from his birth. I have eaten the gods' saffron cakes laid out on platters of blue faience. I was given the bread of Osiris in the house of feasting. I saw the changes in myself, the god in his body, the beauty in earth, the gold orb of the sky making the corn green in the fields. Those who speak of words of becoming are the goddesses of dream and intuition, the magic of earth speaking beneath a brilliant sky under a carpet of unfolding yellow flowers. I am he who ate the saffron cakes.

I've known the pleasures of earth. I bathed myself in light on an afternoon of rejoicing--not a festival, but an ordinary afternoon where I opened my heart to the world and the world came in, where I brought water from the well with my daughter, where I chewed the grass, ate the figs and sat by the riverbank watching sunlight dazzle like the white pearls of my daughter's smile. I steeped myself in the passion for existence until my spirit rose like steam bearing the fragrance of cedar and flowers. I brought offerings to the gods: belladonna and mandrake and wine. I brought moly and frankincense, visions of peace unending. I brought turquoise and silver and carnelian, the stone of earth's joyful singing. I brought the earth ground into the pores of my skin and the melons I grew by the river. I brought yesterday and today and the sun rising between them, the roar of wind and time like two lions. I brought only those things which Ptah had made, which I cared for and gave back. I bring home the earth. I bring back the words.

There are days when a man must take up the sword and days when he puts it away. For now, at this moment, I am done with darkness. Blessed is the world of Ptah. Blessed is the world fashioned by his hands. Blessed is the word of Temu's mouth. I am a lotus rising up, my thousand petals of existence.

I am watched over by goddesses as Isis concealed her husband in her curtain of hair, as she veiled his body in light. The frangrance of her perfume falls over me--her hair! I am under its spell, drunk with love, entwined in arms of splendor, born of magic, engendered in dream, caught up in the whirl of existence. The weight of the heart is severed from me. I am drifting off, spinning, burning, waxing, waning... I am taking form. I am embraced in her thighs a million years. I am the body of her lover, full of awe and passion. And the mortals spin round and round beside me. I am refreshed. I come into being.

Now I seize darkness by its arms and shake it. The souls of ancient swallowed gods fall out of the belly of obscurity. The old, the few and the forgotten walk back into being with me. I am bringing home the world. I am triumphant. My wife kisses me twice. I bring to form the man I am, the thoughts I imagined, the worlds I dreamed. The bones of my head burst into flame. I shoot fiery arrows into night's darkness and they are like falling stars, messages of light. I live according to what I know and love, the healing of words, the healing of herbs, the stealing of kisses, the pleasures and duties of men.

I live in the eye of the lady of flame. I am light reflected in Hathor's mirror. The words of goddesses are bright and shining in my mouth. I create myself. I am the gods' secret. I have seen the great fire of perhaps, the beacon of possibility. I wake in the liquid light of a vision. Now Isis stands up and combs her hair.

Queen Neffertiti in the Luxor Casino in Las Vegas

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Awakening Osiris: The Egyptian Book of the Dead.
Normandi Ellis (Translator). Phanes Press: Grand Rapids, MI. 1988.
For non-profit educational use only. ISBN 0-933999-74-7

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