Where are we going?
The ancients called this - The Land of No Return, when the moon is dark & vanished from the night sky.
Then the world is cast into shadow & and no one knows if the light will ever return. At such times only poetry will do - sacred words & sacred songs, striking into the hearts of all who hear.
Return, oh return!
Oh lovely helper return!
Those that were enemies are no more here,
Return, oh return!
That thou mayest see me, thy sister
Who loves thee.
And comest thou not near me?
Oh beautiful one, return, oh return.
When I see thee not my heart sorrows for thee.
My eyes ever seek thee.
I roam about for thee,
To see thee thee, to see thee,
Thou beautiful loved one'
The Tears of Isis
Yet ever it has been told that the souls of our lost dear ones will go on - and that loved ones will be waiting for them -
“Between the last degree of time & the first degree of eternity”
Henry Corban - Mundus Imaginalus
Many of us will lose loved ones at this time. Many of them will die alone - many have already died alone. Yet truth be told - we are never really alone - most especially at death's door, as those who have died & returned to us are so keen to share.
What wonderfully reassuring tales they tell of our transition from one dimension to the next - tales surpassing all we could ever hope for - where suddenly, upon leaving our bodies we are set free! Set free from all our pain, from suffering & every misunderstanding - and we are lifted up into a light & a love beyond all description. And we know then that we are truly home.
For those left behind it is important to honour the passing of those who have fallen. It has always been so. Even if we can't be with them. Even then, we must devise ways and means - as human-kind has always done - of making ritual & ceremony - even if only by ourselves - in our own homes - we need to do this - we have forever needed it - this marking of another’s life - this honouring of their souls, of the journey they have taken, their struggles & victories, great and small. Of how we loved them & how they loved us back.
To remember is the mythological task of Isis, who after the death of her beloved Osiris, murdered by his jealous brother who cut up his body and scattered it like slices of the moon across the entire realm - cut off all her hair and like a wild bird took to the skies with her sister Nephthys - and together they scoured the land, searching, searching, searching. And wherever they discovered a part, a great temple was erected so that their story would never be forgotten - and at Philae on the very edge of the southern border, where the Nile flows into Nubia they discovered the heart of the beloved - and Isis with her magic breathed life into him once more so that they might be for a moment King and Queen again and then she said her long goodbyes - and many sad songs were sung - and prayers chanted until the time came, near sunset, for the burial.
The Burial of Osiris
In torch-lit procession then, flames flickering against the crimson sky, they made their way with their priestesses down to the banks of the Nile and set sail westwards in a reed boat to the nearby island of Abaton, where the body of their beloved Osiris was to be finally entombed. All were shrouded in the black veils of mourning and there was much weeping and wailing and pitiful lamentation as the image of Philae receded into the distance and was eventually consumed by shadow. Yet the strains of their lament echoed and reverberated throughout until it seemed as though even the very stones were weeping.
By the time they reached their destination the sun had almost set. Slowly and silently they disembarked, their steps making no sound; and, kneeling in the sands with their arms stretched upwards toward the setting sun, they commended the spirit of their beloved to the darkness of the night.
"Great Being of Light," they sang,
"Who has deigned to smile over your creation during the hours of day,
We ask that you place a firm protection around him,
And all your deceased children,
Until their return journey brings them once more,
Into this part of your domain."
And with no more words than these, the late evening sun vanished like a great reddened orb beneath the western horizon.
The coffin was then lowered into the tomb and carried to a shrine at the end of a long tunnel, placed within an enormous marble sarcophagus and tightly sealed. The many coffin-bearers withdrew and the priestesses commenced the final rites.
They sang then the final hymn of sacred mourning, drawing out the strains of its hauntingly beautiful melody & their voices filled the tomb and lingered there long after they had left and locked the vast inner doors behind them, and for a longer time still, even after the approaching tunnel had been filled with rubble and tightly sealed.
Extracts from Breath of Isis & The Little Goddess
Anne Maria Clarke
At such times we, like the ancients before us, have only our faith to sustain us.
Yet, if we can bear to hear it, when we can bear to hear it - and this may take a very long time indeed and for some may never come to see, to understand - that the darkness is its self transformative, for it is within this hidden realm, this dark phase of the moon, this deep underworld which is both tomb and womb, that the process of regeneration mysteriously takes place, through which the shape of the future is established and given new form.
And maybe this is what is happening in our world right now - and those of us left behind are priveliged indeed yet also honour bound to make our lost loved ones smile down to us.
And when at last the day comes for our own death - for our own return to the light - they will be there - waiting to take us home.
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