Getting Personal With the Gods: How I Found Grace in the Religion of Ancient Egypt By Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa, Pr.H/ Temple of Auset Nevada

Roman statue of Isis Hadrian era.jpg

How I Found Grace in the Religion of Ancient Egypt

When I was six years old I had my first powerful brush with the gods of ancient Egypt. In the pages of Encyclopedia Britannica I found photographs of statues, bas-reliefs, amulets, coffins and paintings depicting super-human beings with animal heads…jackals, snakes, cats, crocodiles and a dung beetle. A glittering golden icon of the god Ptah with his characteristic skull cap, a treasure from the tomb of Tutankhamun, enticed me to keep looking, to dig deeper for more. For most people unfamiliar with the nuances of ancient Egyptian art and religious iconography, the goddesses and gods of the Nile Valley present a bewildering and incomprehensible spectacle. A fusion of human and animal, each bearing their own set of complex crowns, regalia and signs, the netjeru or gods embody the fantastical and magical, seemingly defying the mortal realm and anything we could recognize as logical. The gods of ancient Egypt appear to defy logic, and are infinitely locked within the framework of their strange myths.

I was bitten by the bug (or should I say Scarab?) of ancient Egypt at an age when other kids were discovering cowboys and Indians and J.I. Joe. Today this would be nothing unusual, as ancient Egypt is all the rage from grade school to high school, and the Internet has created an endless place for discovery and research geared towards young people who are fascinated by this ancient world of pyramids and mummies. “King Tut” is a household name even for kindergarteners, and the recent global exhibitions of the Tutankhamun treasures (among many other collections currently circulating) have perpetuated the continued legacy of Egyptomania like never before. However, I grew up in the era before personal computers, the Internet and the iphone (I’m kidding, right?).

I grew up before Border’s and Barnes & Noble, before you could walk into any bookstore and find countless books on ancient Egypt to satisfy the voracious appetite of any Egyptophile. I had to make due with the few and far between titles available in mall bookstores or school libraries. When I did find those rare books (like E.A. Wallis Budge’s The Egyptian Book of the Dead or Mildred Mastin Pace’s Wrapped for Eternity), I devoured them greedily, taking notes and poring over the pictures for countless hours on end. Yes, it was the mummies and monuments, the fabled riches of Tutankhamun’s tomb that drew me in, but even more than those was the religion and magic of a world with which I increasingly found myself identifying. More than anything else from that culture, it was the gods of ancient Egypt that spoke to my mind and seemed to tug incessantly on the strings of my heart.

My first personal experience with an Egyptian deity happened some time after my seventh birthday. I was hospitalized for a severe concussion after falling over a tricycle, and I remember a terrifying moment when nurses were attempting to draw blood, and I squirmed around trying to prevent them from doing their job. I remember my stomach heaving, vomiting, an intense fear coupled with the fierce desire to get out of that hospital. It was then that I prayed to Imhotep- that most famous of Egyptian architects and physicians who after his death was deified as the son of the god Ptah and worshiped as a miraculous healer. I called on him and asked him to make it all better, and that’s exactly what happened. Call it a fantasy or a concussion-induced hallucination if you must, but I will never forget the vision I saw above my hospital bed: A shaven-headed and wise-looking man with a scroll of papyrus unrolled on his lap, surrounded by a scintillating golden aura. He spoke words in a language I did not know in my intellect, and yet my heart seemed to resonate with the sound and meter. All at once I felt a peace and comfort settle over me, and from that day to this I have called upon Lord Imhotep whenever in pain or in need of healing.

“Great One, Son of Ptah, the creative god, made by Thenen,
begotten by him and beloved of him, the god of divine forms in the temples,
who giveth life to all men, the mighty one of wonders,
the maker of times, who cometh unto him that calleth upon him,
wheresoever he may be, who giveth sons to the childless,
the chief Kheri-heb, the image and likeness of Thoth the wise.”

-Address to Imhotep in the temple of Imhotep at Philae
Imhotep by Jamieson B. Murry, M.A., M.D. Oxford University Press, 1926, pp. 46.

While in grade school I attended St. Alban’s Perish Day School, a private Catholic school, where every Friday we were required to attend chapel, take part in Mass, and to observe the saying of the Lord’s Prayer together with those prayers reserved for the feast days of various saints. I had been raised in the Baptist Church, which for me was appallingly sterile and devoid of mystery or passion. It was my experience with the solemnity and ritual of Catholicism that was to change the way I viewed religion. In the Baptist Church of my upbringing there was little to endear a heart already absorbed in the study of ancient rites of a pagan culture; enduring hour-long sermons in stiff pews surrounded by stark white walls and a plain wooden altar.

This is as agonizingly boring as religion gets! However, Catholicism struck a chord with me, and in it I identified with something that seemed to originate in a time and place much older than the origins of Roman Catholicism. When attending Mass- hearing the chants in Latin, being imbued with incense clouding up from swinging censors, seeing gilded icons glowing mysteriously by candle light- I connected with the temple rituals of the ancient Egyptians, for something in my heart recognized the sound of chanting, the smell of incense, and the power of golden icons.

In chapel there was an especially beautiful marble statue of the Virgin Mary, before which always burned dozens of votive candles in blue glass holders. I remember the morning I made my first prayer to Mother Auset (Isis), seeing in the smiling face and outstretched arms of Christ’s mother the spirit of a much older goddess, whose son Heru (Horus) was the savior-god of the ancient Egyptians. At this time I did not yet have my own statues of the Goddess to adore, so I used the statue of the Virgin Mary as my “stand in” to reach Isis. How can I forget the day Father Treat found me lighting a candle in front of the Virgin and said with a smile, “You are praying to Our Lady?” “No”, I answered with an even bigger smile, “I am praying to Isis”.

“Praise to you, Isis, the Great-One,
God’s Mother, Lady of Heaven, queen of the gods.
You are the First Royal Spouse of Omnophris,
The supreme overseer of the Golden-Ones in
The temples, the eldest son, first(born) of Geb.
Praise to you, Isis, the Great-One,
God’s Mother, Lady of Heaven, queen of the gods.
You are the First Royal Spouse of Omnophris,
The Bull, the Lion who overthrows all his enemies,
The Lord and ruler of Eternity.”

-Hymn to the goddess Isis from the temple of Isis at Philae
Six Hymns to Isis in the Sanctuary of Her Temple at Philae and Their Theological  Significance. Part I . By L. V. Žabkar. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 69 (1983), pp. 115-137

Isis was the first goddess of the Egyptian religion to answer my prayers. I came to her at first very timidly, not quite sure how to address a goddess, as I had been raised in the Baptist Church of Christianity, which recognized no goddesses and had no concept of the divine feminine. But I was enchanted by her story, because Isis is no ordinary goddess. Queen of Heaven, yes. Great of Magic, but of course. Crowned and arrayed in the trappings of royalty, to be sure. However, Isis is no loller on the clouds of divine queenship. She is a goddess who knows the sufferings of widowhood, homelessness, imprisonment, forced manual labor, single parenthood, poverty…and the list goes on and on. Something that won the hearts of millions of the ancients was the truly humble story of this powerful goddess whose husband (Ausir or Osiris) was brutally murdered, who then had to flee for her life as a widowed and pregnant mother, to give birth in the marshes of Egypt in hiding and on the run from her husband’s murderer. Isis raised her son Horus in secret, ever aware that the chaotic Set (the murderer of Osiris) would destroy not only her but also her young son. The trials of single motherhood in this day and age included near death encounters with scorpions and crocodiles, and the added humility of begging for scraps and help from rich matrons who slammed their doors in the goddess’ face.

This was the story that captivated the ancients, and, when Christianity was struggling to overtake the East, made it difficult for evangelists to convert adherents of the Goddess to the doctrine of Christ. The faith of Isis, Osiris and Horus is the story of a divine family enduring and transforming through very human circumstances. It is also the story of resurrection from death that formed the foundation of the Egyptian belief in immortality and physical resurrection from the dead. Long before Christians formed their doctrine of a divine son crucified and resurrected from the dead as the path to salvation, the very ancient Egyptian religion asserted the death and resurrection of its god Ausir (Osiris), and the guarantee of his story to all Egyptians that they could follow in his footsteps and be risen from the dead into the paradise of the Blessed. Central to this belief was the magic of the goddess Isis, who had used the insurmountable skill of her magic to revive her murdered husband from the dead. Upon achieving her aim, she conceived a holy child, the falcon-headed god Heru (Horus), who became to the Egyptians the very embodiment of divine justice, truth, and righteousness.

The story of Heru’s struggle to overcome the obstacles of his tumultuous childhood and regain the throne of Egypt from the murderer of his father had a particular meaning to me as a young boy; for the story of Horus is essentially the story of history’s first underdog turned top dog. He is a child who experiences severe tragedy and darkness, then, as a young man, enters a vicious struggle against his uncle in order to regain his stolen throne.

The trials of Heru seem to know no bounds, but he is, in the end, rewarded with justice, and himself becomes the embodiment of truth overcoming brute force and immorality. Horus, once perceived as the outcast renegade of the Egyptian marshes, proves his valor to the gods of Egypt, and wins the kingship of his father as the god of strength and honor. To a young boy who was also a runt, often an outcast amongst other children his age and the butt of many a joke, the story of Heru made me believe in the probability of noble character to surpass mere brute strength, and the significance of maintaining one’s moral and spiritual integrity even in the face of the most violent opposition. My prayers to Isis and Osiris inevitably included earnest petitions to the holy son Horus, the valiant god whose power of truth could help me defeat the schoolyard bullies, and survive the heartache of a troubled domestic life.

“I am Horus the Behdetite, great god, lord of the sky,
Lord of the Upper Egyptian crown,
Prince of the Lower Egyptian crown,
King of the Kings of Upper Egypt,
King of the Kings of Lower Egypt,
Beneficent Prince, the Prince of princes.
I receive the crook and the whip,
For I am the lord of this land.
I take possession of the Two Lands
In assuming the Double Diadem.
I overthrow the for of my father Osiris
As King of Upper and Lower Egypt for ever!”

-The speech of the god Horus from his temple at Edfu
The Triumph of Horus: An Ancient Egyptian Sacred Drama. Translated and edited
By H.W. Fairman. University of California Press, 1974, pp. 106.

I was raised in a very religious family, and I have always been a very religious person. I was even religious as a kindergartener. My problem as a child was that I was drawn to the “wrong” religion. Something about monotheism stuck in my craw and seemed to chew up my insides. And something about church made me shake me head for want of something more. Where are the statues?, I remember asking myself while daydreaming during Sunday school about being anywhere but there. Where are the flowers, the chants…the Mysteries? They had these in ancient Egypt, I told myself, so why shouldn’t they be in the houses of God now? Somehow, it all seemed wrong to me, and I never felt very right sitting in those stiff wooden pews surrounded by black-tied and suited fathers beside their starchy looking wives. I couldn’t stand church, because to my little mind it felt completely separate from the Divine. It seemed more about who was wearing what, and showing off good Christian morale than about finding and serving God. And which God?, I always asked myself. Some distant and wrathful old man flying around out there, just waiting to send irredeemable souls to the lake of fire. Even at eight-years-old I said to myself that one god was just not enough, let alone a jealous and angry god that would condemn his “chosen people” to forty years of hard time in the wilderness. So, I opted for something else.

When I was entering puberty my father told me I needed to be baptized. He was close friends with the preacher, whose son was just about my age and was going to be baptized in a group ceremony for young adults. And how would it look if I decided not to be baptized too? How would it make my father look, my family? Church was, after all, a place where one’s status in society could be firmly established. It’s where you showed off your new car, your wife’s 24 karat gold rope chain, your son’s straight A report card. It was also about showing off your Christian do-goodness. My parents were ahead of the game in that department. They volunteered for everything they could, everything from Wednesday night youth group to Sunday picnics and fund raising bake sales. My father was a pillar of the church, so his son just had to be baptized with the other boys. Period.

So I went to baptism class with the preacher’s son, memorized bible verses and evangelical prattle, and generally hated myself because I didn’t believe in any of it, and felt impure at the thought of taking part in it. Why did I feel impure? It wasn’t because I felt I was tarnishing Christian values by taking part in something so sacred without being a believer. That thought never crossed my mind. I felt overwhelmed by a sense of slandering the gods I truly believed in, the gods I kept locked away in my heart so that my Christian parents couldn’t see them. I would betray anyone, anything but them. How could I go through with it?

I stood behind the baptismal tank with all the other boys, dressed in my pure white robe, looking up behind the altar at a blue-painted sky in which clouds beckoned the mind to dwell in Christ’s kingdom. But my mind was lower than low, consumed in guilt and conflict, because I was consecrating my body (and, supposedly my soul, too) to the Christian faith in front of the whole community. But then something happened. I felt a presence leading and guiding my heart into awareness of how this moment could be transformed into something sacred for my personal religion, for my gods and my true beliefs. Looking at the four corners of the baptismal tank, I saw in my mind’s eye the four tutelary goddesses of ancient Egypt: Auset (Isis), Nebet-het (Nephthys), Selket and Neith. Their kind expressions and outstretched arms surrounded the waters in a protective embrace, just as they had the fabulous golden canopic shrine of Tutankhamun.

And I saw the baptismal tank not as the waters in which John the Baptist had baptised Christ, but rather as the waters of the sacred Nile, the holiest of rivers to the ancient Egyptians. And I called on the gods of those people, just as I was summoned to take my turn in the waters. I offered to them the vessel of my heart in sacrifice, and gave over my soul, my mind, the entirety of my being, to them and only them. With my mouth I parroted the words the minister spoke, the words he and everyone else believed would make me a true and consecrated Christian- but in my heart I prayed fervently to my gods, and gave myself over into their sacred care. When I was dipped beneath the waters I experienced them as the same waters in which the god Osiris was drowned, the waters beneath which opened up the hidden passage to the Netherworld. And I entered, and from that moment on I belonged to the living gods of ancient Egypt. Like Osiris, I died and was born again, and my life was the vehicle for the glorious gods who still spoke and moved when they were listened to and called upon.

“I come unto thee, son of Nut, Osiris, ruler of eternity. I am a follower of Thoth, rejoicing in all that he has done. He brings for thee refreshing breath to thy nose, life and dominion to thy beautiful face, and the north wind that came forth from Atum to thy nostrils, lord of the sacred land. He lets the light shine on thy breast; he illumines for thee the way of darkness”.

-Excerpt from Spell 183 of the Book of the Dead
The Book of the Dead or Going Forth By Day: Ideas of the Ancient Egyptians
Concerning the Hereafter as Expressed in their Own Terms. Translated by
Thomas George Allen. The University of Chicago Press, 1974, pp. 200.

My Kemetic (ancient Egyptian) icons are my answer and my call to the gods of the Nile Valley. However, these gods are not just fixed in space and time, belonging only to the hazy mythos of a long-dead civilization, nor are they solely the gods of ancient Egypt as a historical culture or geographical location. The netjeru or gods are manifestations of the Eternal, beings who both embody and transcend the extraordinary culture that first recognized them as the components of all life. Nor can they be boiled down to mere archetypes, the play of the human intellect as it attempts to define the undefinable and bestow meaning to what is beyond comprehension. I must ask how an archetype is worthy of worship? Do Christians, for example, worship Christ as an archetype of resurrection or salvation? Do they view his power solely as that of some abstract symbol by which the human mind can label a thing hidden deeply within the recesses of its own mind? The answer is self-evident.

The passion of Christianity lies in the physical existence of Christ, in his historical passion of birth, death and resurrection, in the redemption literally passed down to humankind through the spilling of his blood. There is no Jungian symbolism or Freudian theory that can define for Christians the solid truth of Christ’s sacrifice and promise. So too did the ancient Egyptians view their gods as historical and tangible beings, incarnate in and through the created world. Their powers were very immediate, very real to the mind of the Egyptian, who did not bother with abstract universal thinking, but opted instead to experience the Divine in the here and now, in the flesh, and in the world beyond this one that was as earthy and tangible to the Egyptians as their beloved Egypt.

There are those who, in the spirit of New Age thought, assign the gods to the Jungian realm of abstract symbols inherent to emotional states of being, or simply define them as “nature”. The true gods laugh at such egoistic folly, as human beings strive to quantify, label, and explain away through tidy language the quintessence of the Mysteries. My experience of the gods is that just when you find a convenient label to slap on them, they are sure to change and transcend logic in all its secure forms. That is why the netjeru were served by the ancient Egyptians through the cultic rites they called shetau, “the mysteries”, from a word meaning to “make secret”, “make inaccessible”, “mysterious”, “confidential” (Raymond O. Faulkner, A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian, pp. 248-249). The gods so enjoy the delicious complexity of form and symbol, name, color, texture and transformation.

To the ancient Egyptians, each deity was the composite of nearly limitless qualities and manifestations of form. Each assisted in lending the power of recognition to the whole; however, ultimately the gods were mysterious and hidden, experienced truly through the magic of ritual and iconographic forms.

So, I wish not only to connect with the netjeru personally as a devotee summoning up their images within the artistic medium, but also to bring these gods to humankind once more. The mission of my creativity is to literally give birth to the gods, for we are told in the so-called Memphite Theology of the Shabaka Stone that the creator-god Ptah determined the offerings and places of worship of the gods, that he made their body as they desired, and that because of this the gods entered into their bodies of all kinds of wood, minerals, clay, and all kinds of other things that grow thereon (Holmberg, The God Ptah, pp. 22). It is through the artistic medium, then, that the gods make contact with human beings, for the artistic medium is that process by which wood, stone, minerals, clay, and the substances that have sprung from the earth are transfigured into the shapes in which it pleases the gods to dwell.

All text and image copyright © 2011, 2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

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Vows to the Goddess For a Priestess, Priest or Shemsu (Follower)~ By Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa, Pr.H/ Temple of Auset Nevada

Auset Blue Stars

Great Goddess Auset, Isis, I have heard Your call in my heart, and I vow to love and serve You until I take my final breath.

O Auset, I take up the knot of the sacred red thread, and I tie this knot around my heart. My vow to serve You is a vow to serve all living things in creation.

My vow to You is to love all beings, to heal all the afflicted, to save all those in peril, to take the hands of those without a friend.

May my life be the vessel of Your kindness, generosity and abundant love.

I reject none, and take unto myself the needs of all creatures in the world.

Receive my vow, O Auset, and may Your great work flourish in my heart for millions upon millions of years!

All text copyright © 2001-2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

Auset is an Urban Goddess~ Part Two By Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa, Pr.H/ Temple of Auset Nevada

Auset Urban Goddess 2

In the early 80’s I was growing up as part of the MTV generation. Cyndi Lauper, Depeche Mode, Wham!, George Michael, Prince and Michael Jackson were all the rage. But foremost of the 80’s pop royalty was Madonna, savvy media mogul and video temptress, whose attention grabbing blend of sex and urban sheikh fashions, mixed with a high octane cocktail of street smarts and femininity, came to define the 80’s and everything that made us tick then.

The first video I saw of this glamorous street urchin was “Burning Up”, in which Madonna appears as a gyrating, sexually frustrated femme fatale, singing and sultry in the middle of a street as her lover drives toward her. Not an award winner by any stretch, but I was hooked. “Who is this girl?”, I thought, and decided to stay tuned. This was the beginning of a 30 year love affair with the Marilyn Monroe look alike who wasn’t, but also coincided with the initiation of a personal obsession with powerful women and divine femininity that was to take me to the depths and heights of human experience. Though pop goddesses may not seem a very likely introduction to THE GODDESS, for me as a young boy, the entrance of Madonna onto the pop culture stage resonated with a budding belief that the power and sexuality of women was a source of something sacred and mysterious…something primordial and latent in all living things.

I was attending St. Alban’s Perish Day School, a private Catholic institution, when Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” album and video were released. This was a seminal moment of my boyhood. Madonna appeared as a lace and crucifix adorned sex symbol, sometimes veiled, sometimes clad in very little at all, and yet her strength, power and femininity were anything but demure. Here was a girl on a mission to conquer the world, who may at times have appeared as the stereotypical blond bimbo, but whose dominant self possession belied any attempts by men to have or control her in traditional domestic sexist roles.

It was Madonna’s liberated sexuality and confidence that made an impression on me, but also her explicit use of Christian and Catholic iconography. For me, the crucifix and the veil, both making appearances in “Like a Virgin”, symbolized deeper mysteries than Madonna’s need to harvest visuals from her staunch Catholic upbringing. These were hallmarks of an ancient Goddess into whose mysteries I was just beginning to be drawn, a goddess whose veiled countenance was to transfix my inner gaze and provoke a lifelong quest.

On Fridays we were required to attend chapel at St. Alban’s. The chapel was an enchanted building surrounded by rose bushes, clad in vivid stained glass windows and icons of various saints and biblical heroes. I had been raised a Baptist, in the tedious austerity of undecorated churches without incense and ritual, so the Latin Mass, with its flickering candles, chanting and icons, struck a deep and mysterious chord in me. Secretly, I was already praying to ancient Egyptian gods and learning about the Goddess Isis, and had developed an aversion to the concept of monotheism and what I saw as the Christian superiority complex.

When kneeling to say the Lord’s Prayer, which I ardently refused to parrot, I folded my hands and silently prayed to Isis, Osiris and Horus. How else could I go through with it…praying in the house of a god I did not even believe existed? For me, I found consolation in transferring the symbols and dogma of Catholic Christianity into the hieroglyphs and deities of the ancient Egyptian pantheon.

Chapel possessed one virtue for me that helped me during what was a very troubled and difficult childhood. The secret faith I kept locked away deep in my heart had no open outlet through which to find expression. My parents were hardline Baptists…bible thumping church goers who believed and taught in the infallible, inerrant existence of the Christian doctrine. So, it was in the iconography of Catholicism that I was able to covertly maintain a living relationship with the Gods of Egypt. My gods.

The chapel at St. Albans contained a number of striking life size icons, but of all these it was the marble statue of the Virgin Mary that called to my heart. When I looked up into her outstretched arms, her veiled, tender form with its kind and compassionate gaze, I saw the Goddess Isis, most ancient Queen of Goddesses, and I petitioned Her to possess the statue of Mary so I could come and offer Her my prayers and heartaches.

For a year I came every week, and sometimes more frequently, to pray and commune with Isis in Her Catholic disguise, lighting candles, and in my mind reliving the ancient stories of the Goddess and Her holy family. Isis had traversed very troubled times, I knew. Her cherished brother-husband Osiris had been brutally murdered, even cut into pieces after He was slain, and Her son Horus was conceived in secret and reared on the run. The Goddess had lost Her queenship of Egypt, and had had to flee for Her life. She had been a refugee in Her own country, forced to scrape together a living in the marshes of the Delta, and She had almost lost Her son to a near-fatal scorpion bite. She had been alone and persecuted, and knew hunger, fear and heartache.

In Isis I knew that I was not alone, and that far from being a lofty fear-commanding god, Isis was the mother and caretaker of all living things. She took all people unto Her in their troubles, not only those who believed in Her, but all hearts. She did not rule through doctrine or man-made institutions, nor did She demand obedience via the threat of eternal torture in hell. Isis, the Mother of all Gods, simply loves. She is a queen of hearts, and it is through the heart that She calls, nurtures and loves.

One Friday morning Father Treat saw me lighting a candle in front of Mary, and sought me out. With a kind smile he said, “Ah, you are praying to our Lady”. With an even bigger smile I replied, “No, I am praying to Isis”. I am not quite sure what possessed me to confess my secret to Father Treat that day, but the cat was out of the bag! Suddenly I had diarrhea of the mouth, and blurted out everything, right then and there. I told Father Treat under no uncertain terms that my Goddess had given birth to his god, that Isis was the true origin of divinity, and that Her faith, the religion of Her people, was the true and ancient belief of the human race. “Christianity is second hand goods”, I told him. “The real thing began in Egypt”.

That was the end of my secret prayers to Isis, because Father Treat, naturally horrified and beside himself, called my mother to St. Albans for a meeting, during which I was chastised for my blasphemy, and assigned a strict penance for the “wicked lies” I had spoken. “Do you want to go to hell?!”, my mother yelled at me in the car on the way home from school. “Don’t you know that God punished the children of Israel for worshipping the false gods of Egypt?” For some reason I still had a tiny fragment of courage left. “No. He is your god, you deal with him. My god is Isis, and She was Goddess before your god ever existed!”

My father made me spend the whole weekend writing out John 3:16 in a legal notepad, and the controversy lingered in the household for quite a while. I never did recant my heresy, and I even had the nerve to return to chapel on Fridays. How suspiciously Father Treat eyed me as I lit candles in front of the Virgin Mary, and made my heartfelt little prayer to Isis:

Hail Isis, Queen of Egypt,
Mother of the World!
Blessed is the fruit of Your womb,
For the fruit which You have 
Brought forth is the Sun!

Then I went home, turned on MTV, and got my Goddess fix watching Madonna videos. My parents may have seen an 80’s rock sex symbol, dancing in lingerie in front of a burning cross singing “Like a Prayer”, but I saw Isis, the urban goddess, ever present and ever ready to steal hearts…even in the most surprising of places!

All text copyright © 2001-2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

Auset is an Urban Goddess~ Part One By Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa, Pr.H/ Temple of Auset Nevada

Urban Auset

In the late 90’s I had hit personal crisis big time. The long term relationship I had been in was slowly heading for the rocks. Like an ostrich I stuck my head in the sand and waited, hoping that if I hid long enough, pretended to go about things as usual, that it would all just take care of itself. So very Pisces, eh? My partner was a recovering Mormon from Salt Lake City, whose own father had been excommunicated from the Mormon Church for coming out of the closet. Initially, my partner found a breath of fresh air in my practice of the ancient Egyptian sacred traditions, and he seemed to be able to find a source of healing in the story of Isis and Her holy family.

Things took a drastic turn for the worse when my partner faced a crisis of faith, his Mormon past resurfacing to haunt him…his daily struggle becoming one of spiritual identity and life path. As I seriously considered taking priestly vows, my partner found himself despising religion in total, and unable to cope with my increasing spiritual epiphanies. It was a tense and difficult roller coaster ride….Enter Auset, Isis…enter DeTraci Regula.

My partner’s father was close friends with the owner of Better World Galleria in San Diego, and on a chilly Autumn night my partner and I attended a special event there that was to have serious repercussions on my life and spiritual path. DeTraci Regula was presenting a lecture and signing for her new book “The Mysteries of Isis”, and I knew I had to be there. It was one of those seminal moments in life…the kind you look back on even years later, and realize that without this one event, you would not be the person you are today.

DeTraci Regula is one of those rare speakers who has the ability to bring ancient, abstract or dated concepts right into the current moment as fresh and vibrant, living ideas. This is what DeTraci accomplishes in “The Mysteries of Isis”, which must be ranked as one of the most significant contributions to Goddess worship in the modern age. For me, the profound blessing of this book, together with its author, is the continued emphasis on the universality of the Goddess, and the continued relevance of Her worship and mythos in the current era.

Isis is not just an Egyptian goddess”, DeTraci said at the very start of her lecture. “She has Her feet planted comfortably in Greece, Rome, London…even in China and Japan. Isis is at home in New York City!” DeTraci’s ideas and research strive to take Isis out of the confines of Egyptian antiquity and reveal Her much broader influences and characteristics. At the same time, “Mysteries of Isis” links past and present, antiquity and future, by giving the current devotee a means of utilizing the ancient rites and mysteries in the here and now. This is precisely what I needed on that night in the 90’s when I attended DeTraci’s lecture, facing a crisis in private love life…facing a crossroads.

At this time in my life I was struggling with my ardent devotion to my Gods and Their ancient mysteries and how the expression of this devotion could be reconciled with life in the modern era. Gone were the monumental temples of Isis, where priestesses and priests could celebrate the complex rites and rituals without constraints from the secular world. In ancient Egypt the secular and sacred were blurred, and there was no separation of church and state. Ancient celebrants had it easy, say, in comparison with practitioners in today’s New York City. My partner’s identity crisis brought it home to me that in the current era, the sacred was not so readily embraced or easy to find confirmation of. Things came to a head, and I had to make a choice.

I was single, again, and alone, it so seemed, in taking vows to join the clergy of the ancient Egyptian rites of Isis. I had obsessed myself with DeTraci’s book, and it was through her wise but firm guidance that I handed myself over into the two hands of Isis, sacrificing my old life, and becoming a servant of the ancient Mysteries of the Mysterious One.

Isis Lady of the Two Lands
Are you there?
Hear my prayer Isis, hear my prayer.
Are You there Isis,
Are You there!
Isis Lady of the Two Hands
You are there.
You are there Isis,
You are there.
Hear my prayer Isis,
Hear my prayer!

This Isian song was given to me by DeTraci Regula during much happier times, but it lends itself with such grace to my struggles and tempestuous feelings when I began my path as a consecrated priest. DeTraci said to me once, “Ptahmassu, you came into this world a priest!” Most people would agree with her, and most people seem to see me as a natural priest and ritualist, leaping tall obelisks in a single bound…with a simple flick of a wrist manhandling the harmonies out of any sistrum!

But for me, the actual state of affairs is much more complicated, and the sacrifices I have had to make for my priesthood have often been difficult…sometimes devastating. To all would-be priestesses and priests out there I say, be very careful what you wish for…what you think you are asking for. Initiation into the Mysteries of Isis means making of your heart a sponge, and the Goddess squeezes nothing less than everything out of it…then asks for even more.

I spent time on the streets of San Diego just before the 90’s came to a close. I had had to put everything I owned in storage, and found myself without an address. Reading Isis and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy by day, and spending nights on the couches of this friend or that acquaintance, I rebelled against the concept of working a traditional job and being a respectable member of society (some things haven’t changed, right?!), and opted instead to be a shaven headed urban priest of Isis, the Goddess in the red dress.

One night I had no couch to crash on, so there was nothing for it, I crashed in the covered back doorway of a store…one of the favored haunting places of San Diego’s elite homeless. One of the regulars was already there, a kind old gentleman wearing a very sporty suit coat and shiny dress shoes. He tended to mumble incoherently under his alcoholic breath, but he was not unpleasant, and didn’t mind sharing his blankets with me. At one point he turned to me and blurted out, “She’s watching you, you know”. I was perplexed. “Who is watching me?” He shrugged. “I don’t know. Don’t ask me…but it’s her…the lady in the red dress”. At that, the old drunk let out a confident fart, and turned over in the blankets. Isis! I thought, almost so loud I was sure the old man had heard me. Just then, I heard him stutter, “Yeah, that lady in the red dress”. ISIS, I laughed inside my head….You’ve got to be kidding me!

All text copyright © 2001-2014 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

The Call of Auset (Part Two)~ By Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa, Pr.H/ Temple of Auset Nevada

Lady Olivia Ordaining Ptahmassu Convocation 2002

The year I was formally ordained a priest of Isis altered my life forever. Before that transformative event I had thought that I already belonged to the Goddess, that I was already accomplishing the work of a priest. I carried out the daily ritual for Auset the Mother of the God, showered Her gilded statue with offerings and prayers…paid homage to Her in every way I could. However, something changed profoundly in me that moment Lady Olivia called down the Isian Current and declared me a priest.

The afternoon after my partner and I were ordained, we sat in our truck at Isis Oasis, packed and ready for the long drive back to San Diego. DeTraci Regula had given us her blessing in the little meditation temple of Isis, and we felt stunned, transfixed…unable to move or speak for several minutes. Finally, we looked at one another with certainty and determination. “Nothing can ever be the same, ever again”, Brent said, shaking his head. “No”, I answered, “We can’t go back to San Diego and live the same life. Our life now belongs to Isis…so we have BIG work to do!”

My partner and I planted seeds that day that have had tremendous repercussions on every part of our life since then. Upon returning to San Diego, we committed ourselves to establishing a formal public devotional and ritual space for Isis and Her sacred traditions. The World Peace Temple of Isis was our vision for the first of several incarnations of the work we would be called upon to accomplish for the Goddess. With the generous support, leadership and guidance of Rt. Rev. DeTraci Regula and Rt. Rev. Linda Iles, Brent and I set about to open up the hearth of Isis to those who, like ourselves, had been called to the bosom of Isis’s love, and found themselves walking the path of Her Mysteries.

My experience has been that to answer the Call of Isis means to follow in the footsteps of the Goddess…wherever She might lead you! Since my ordination in 2002, my partner and I have picked up and moved more than a dozen times, packing up the Temples in order to follow where the Goddess and Her divine family have guided us. No, I have not always answered this call without doubt or fear…I’ve had my “bad hair days” as a priest; however, in the end, I am always reminded that the Goddess I serve once gave up everything She had…Her kingdom, Her queenship, and the life She had with Her child…in order to travel the length and breadth of the ancient world in search of Her slain beloved Osiris. When the Goddess calls, and we answer, She is often asking us to be initiated into Her Mysteries through direct experience. We must answer with courage and humility, and give up our selfish behaviors in order to embrace the higher awareness that I call Isian Consciousness.

Isian Consciousness is knowledge gained through direct experience of the life path of the Goddess Isis Herself. First, we receive the Call of Isis, which is the tugging on our heart’s strings to serve Isis and serve as an example to others of the life of Isis. For the Goddess Isis is not some abstract concept of energy or nature or power, though the Goddess Isis does indeed channel and use these things in Her work.

The Great Mother Goddess Isis, known to the ancient Egyptians as Ast or Auset, is a divine being, a sacred personality of the Eternal, Who came to earth and ruled the Two Lands of Kemet, divine Egypt, in the Time Before Time. Her mythos or passion, as recorded by the Egyptians and later Greek scholars, was very tangible and immediate to these ancient peoples. The stories of our Isis transformed the ancient Mediterranean world, whose peoples knew Isis and her holy family as living gods, gods that had walked, suffered and communed with humankind.

Gnosis of Isis, Isis Consciousness becomes a path in which the devotee experiences the very Mysteries of the Goddess in their everyday life, profoundly and directly in one’s human activities. When the veil between sacred and profane dissolves, when the Mysteries of Isis cease to be limited to the chanting and incense and icons of the Temple, and instead become the fabric of everyday human experience, then and only then does the meaning of the life and call of Isis become clear…real…the living embodiment of the Sacred as ever present and omnipresent.

Isis begins by asking us to walk with Her and Her holy family in order to live the sacred drama of life, death, resurrection, suffering, salvation and illumination that is woven in the shining locks of the Goddess Herself. When She asks us to follow Her Mysteries, She means FOLLOW! She often asks us to put aside self-cherishing behaviors, and even our own possessions, so that we may know directly what unconditional love, altruism and compassion are. How can we achieve divine illumination, in this body and in this very life. That is the mission of all Isians, and it is the path of the Mysteries of Isis, which are eternal, unending and ever ready for those whose hearts are brave enough to answer the Call of Auset.

All text copyright © 2001-2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

The Call of Auset (Part One)~ By Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa, Pr.H/ Temple of Auset Nevada

Call to Auset

As many of you know, I am a priest of Isis in the Temples of Isis California and Nevada, and a Priest Hierophant of the Goddess in the Fellowship of Isis. What does it mean to be a priest or priestess of the Goddess Isis in today’s world? I do not have a right to speak for others. The call of Isis is a deeply personal path, and each member of Her clergy has her or his own experience that awakened the desire to serve the Goddess in this way. 

For me, the call of Isis came to me as a young boy of only ten, when, through the intervention of Isis, the Rt. Rev. Lady Loreon Vigné answered a letter I had written to her, and very generously volunteered to be my spiritual teacher. For me, Isis embodied the ancient Egyptian rites and traditions, and the very essence of unconditional love. She was the protectress and custodian of the most ancient divine Mysteries, and to serve Her was to serve the origins of the human soul.

Lady Loreon was very patient and generous to me, and helped me to cultivate a genuine understanding of religion, not as an authoritative body of rituals and dogma, but a mystical path to self awareness and divine communion. The ancient Egyptian traditions of Isis, she taught me, were the origins of humankind’s relationship with the Sacred Feminine…and it was time for humankind to return to that Source called Mother.

Being a priest of Auset, for me, does not mean that I am holy or chosen or special. It does not mean that I have power or knowledge or gifts that others do not have. Queen Isis is the Mother of Gnosis, mystical awareness of things as they truly are. This is an awareness that all beings are heirs to, and all hearts can awaken. When we yearn for nothing else so deeply as to be united with our divine nature, then we have already achieved an answer to the call of Isis, and that answer can become the focal point for one’s service as priestess or priest.

In ancient times, the priestess and priesthood were responsible for carrying out the daily rituals in the temple, the rituals through which humankind and the Gods remained in direct contact. Today, women and men all over the earth are experiencing a reawakening of this sacred relationship with the Goddesses and Gods, and with Auset, Isis, the Goddess of 10,000 names.

When I answered the call of Isis as a priest, I took upon myself an iron mantle of service that to my heart embodies a path of service to creation through the virtues of the Goddess. When I was ordained, Lady Loreon said, “now you have to take this out into the world and do good works for the earth and all Her creatures. It is not enough just to do rituals in the temple…get out there and serve!”

Lady Zarita Zook, Arch Priestess of Isis and foundress of Temple of Isis Nevada, has also been a kind, generous and firm teacher to me. When she ordained me as High Priest of Temple of Isis Nevada, she cautioned me, “the mantle of the clergy is not soft fabric, but iron. Feel how heavy the mantle is! This mantle is forged of steel by the Goddess, for service in Her House is a grave responsibility, a calling only the most brave can bear!”

Lady Zarita teaches all her pupils that the call of Isis is a process of putting feet on your prayers…actually going out into the world and serving others, not as a religious duty or a means of conversion, but solely because Isis is the Mother of compassion, whose kindness and embrace are unconditional, altruistic.

Priestesses and priests who simply dress up in glamorous ritual attire and perform spectacular rituals aren’t really accomplishing the work of ISIS. The true work of the Goddess is the work of a physician…a heart surgeon…repairing and healing, soothing and loving all creatures in this world. When Isis calls, it is a call to awaken. Wake up, my child, the Goddess says. It is time to get to work!

All text copyright © 2001-2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa