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Sunday, December 23, 2012

who is this lady?


And as we wind on down the road,
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know,
Who shines white light and wants to show,
How everything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard,
The tune will come to you at last.
When all is one and one is all.
To be a rock and not to roll.

Led Zeppelin concludes their magical song, Stairway to Heaven, with this verse. There is a reference to this lady we all know. Patriarchal western religions for centuries have tried to eliminate this lady but she won't go away. Reasons for this include that try as they might to exclude a feminine presence from the godhead, such as the Christian trinity of father, son, and holy spirit or in Judaism the idea of a male figure running the show by himself, it defies the natural order of things to exclude the presence of the divine female and the wondrous power of birth that she contains. To move through and into different states of being through birth and death, thinking of death as rebirth, requires the assistance of this lady. It is documented that in altered states of consciousness a commonality of this phenomenon is this beautiful lady.

There is the recent story of Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who contracted a rare form of bacterial meningitis that shut down his cerebral cortex. Now I'm not interested in debating whether consciousness exists outside of the brain in this post but I do want to reference the article for a vision that he describes:

It gets stranger still. For most of my journey, someone else was with me. A woman. She was young, and I remember what she looked like in complete detail. She had high cheekbones and deep-blue eyes. Golden brown tresses framed her lovely face. When first I saw her, we were riding along together on an intricately patterned surface, which after a moment I recognized as the wing of a butterfly. In fact, millions of butterflies were all around us—vast fluttering waves of them, dipping down into the woods and coming back up around us again. It was a river of life and color, moving through the air. The woman’s outfit was simple, like a peasant’s, but its colors—powder blue, indigo, and pastel orange-peach—had the same overwhelming, super-vivid aliveness that everything else had. She looked at me with a look that, if you saw it for five seconds, would make your whole life up to that point worth living, no matter what had happened in it so far. It was not a romantic look. It was not a look of friendship. It was a look that was somehow beyond all these, beyond all the different compartments of love we have down here on earth. It was something higher, holding all those other kinds of love within itself while at the same time being much bigger than all of them.

Without using any words, she spoke to me. The message went through me like a wind, and I instantly understood that it was true. I knew so in the same way that I knew that the world around us was real—was not some fantasy, passing and insubstantial.

The message had three parts, and if I had to translate them into earthly language, I’d say they ran something like this:

“You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.”
“You have nothing to fear.”
“There is nothing you can do wrong.”

The message flooded me with a vast and crazy sensation of relief. It was like being handed the rules to a game I’d been playing all my life without ever fully understanding it.

From an article about the psychotropic brew Ayahuasca used by shamans in the Peruvian Amazon jungle written by Kim Kristensen, this story is related:

During one of my ayahuasca experiences, I "saw" a voluptuous, nude Indian female. I mentioned the vision to the other participants on the day after the ceremony, and they were able to describe the woman before I finished! Apparently, we all saw the same woman, who the shamans later told us was the female spirit known as ayahuasca.

There is the Green Fairy of Absinthe/Wormwood lore. Wormwood has psychotropic qualities due to the presence of an ingredient called thujone. Wormwood was known in the ancient world with it being used in ancient Egyptian medicine as well as an additive to the beer and wine they drank. The role of the Mistress of Intoxication, Hathor, starts to come a little bit clearer now.

The Green Fairy

The lady of gold in ancient Egypt, Hathor, is the lady we all know. One epithet of the goddess was the Mistress of Intoxication with, as it appears, the help of some psychotropic additives such as wormwood, mandrake, dried blue lotus, and even cannabis to help this along. She is the lady of turquoise and in statues of her she is depicted with the bright blue eyes and golden brown tresses of Dr. Alexander's vision:

The bronze mask of Hathor from the Saint Louis Art Museum depicts the goddess's face in a manner similar to that on the faience sistrum. Here the Hathoric wig, with the ends of the hair wound in tight curls, is held in place by bindings radiating outward from the face. The bovine ears and broad collar are indicated in the usual manner. The eyebrows and the corneas of the eyes are blue glass inlays. The central inlays that formed the iris and pupil were probably also made of glass but have been lost.
Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven: Women in Ancient Egypt, Anne K. Capel, Glenn E. Markoe, page 124


Bronze mask of Hathor

In cultures near and far the mother goddess has many different names and manifestations and it is something that however hard we try we will never get rid of. You can suppress and deny it but eventually it will present itself again. Just ask Yahweh about his Asherah.

Clay figurine of Yahweh's Asherah

The ceremonies held in honour of the great lady and her son Ihy were shamanistic in nature. At her temple in Denderah, intoxication was required in order for the participants to come in contact with her. At the jubilee celebration of the kingship of Amenhotep III we get this description of the ceremony from Kheruef, a courtier of Amenhotep's Queen:

Much later in his life Amunhotep celebrated a jubilee marking the thirtieth year of his reign.  It also seems to have been the occasion for his official, public declaration of his transformation into a deity, the sun disk itself.  He is shown in the sun bark with Hathor, and his artists rendered him far more youthfully during his last eight years, as if to stress that the king had been reborn.
This event had its origins in prehistory, and originally marked the ritualistic or symbolic death and resurrection of the ruler.  There are only fragments of inscriptional material that illustrate this event before Amunhotep's reign, but even those from the Old Kingdom share significant features of Hathoric ceremonies.  After the fall of the Old Kingdom these were taken over and imitated in the tomb scenes of private persons, who hoped thereby to be reborn after death, just like the kings.  Apparently Hathor's presence and her magical power were necessary to ensure this rejuvenation.  Lioness-masked priestesses using the curved ivory wands that were ritual objects of Hathor are depicted in Middle Kingdom private tombs and in the representations of these significant and memorable royal event in the tomb of Kheruef, a courtier of Amunhotep's queen, Tiy.  He had been present at the royal jubilee and recorded in his tomb the prescence of the goddess Hathor, about whom it was sung: "Make jubilation for The Gold and good pleasure for the Lady of the Two Lands that she may cause Nebmaatre (Amunhotep), who is given life, to be enduring…Adoration of The Gold when she shines forth in the sky…[T]here is no god who does what you dislike when you appear in glory…[I}f [you] desire that he (Amunhotep) live, cause him to live during millions of years unceasingly."
Amunhotep III also seems to have claimed divinity for his wife, Queen Tiy.  Artists altered existing statues of the queen to give her the blue hair and diadem of Hathor; others portrayed her from the start as this goddess, suggested she was the earthly manifestation of Hathor.
The Great Goddesses of Egypt, Barbara S. Lesko, pages 118 to 119

The goddess had to be called upon through merriment, intoxication, and music making in order to rejuvenate the aging Pharaoh. This was a tradition in ancient Egypt whose roots probably stretch back into its prehistory. The rituals seem to be describing a ceremony where you will see a vision of the goddess through this behavior. It has all the ingredients used by practitioners throughout the ages that allow the acolyte to enter into an altered state such as chanting, intoxication, rhythmic drumming, the shaking of a rattling device - which in this case would be the sistrum that would call upon Hathor. 

Ihy the Sistrum player

Furthermore these celebrations and invocations of the great goddess would occur during celebrations designed to renew the life force. These were not funeral performances but wild celebrations of intoxication with the intent being to come into contact with Hathor. It is as Hathor's son who has come forth, Ihy the sistrum player, that contact with Hathor is made:

But as musician, seated though he is, King Amenhotep is continuing a long tradition of royal music-making  at Thebes.  In inscriptions on a stela which Herbert Winlock found among the rubble at Deir el-Bahri, the Middle Kingdom ruler, King Antef, describes how he too, some 700 years before Amenhotep, was a night-time music-maker for Hathor, accompanying Re on his journey through the Netherworld:

My body speaks, my lips repeat
pure Ihy-music for Hathor.
Music, millions
and hundreds and thousands of it,
Because you love music,
a million of music for your ka,
In all your places.

Through such music-making, both Antef and Amenhotep become open to renewal through the shining, beautiful goddess.
Hathor Rising, The Power of the Goddess in Ancient Egypt, Alison Roberts, page 29

I'm interested in finding this lady in the tradition that has been passed down to us through the Judeo-Christian folklore. If it is hard to suppress this woman then there should be polemics against her and her celebrations in the bible. Let's look at the introduction of Eve in Genesis chapters 2 and 3. Our introduction is less than complimentary as Eve and the serpent are burdened with the blame for the suffering of mankind due to Eve eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the patriarchal Old Testament religion, Adam is depicted as the innocent obedient man whose downfall is his cunning wife and her serpent confederate. The overbearing god, Yahweh, is quick to judgment and condemnation due to the behaviour and tempting of this woman. In Genesis 3:20 Adam names the woman Eve:

Genesis 3:20 And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

The meaning of the Hebrew word, chay, for living in this case is describing the material life form. The mother of all living in ancient Egypt is Hathor:

One of her names was 'mistress of the vagina', and Hathor was associated with all aspects of motherhood and believed to assist women in conception, labour and childbirth.
The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, Richard H. Wilkinson, page 141

Temple of Hathor at Denderah

And Hathor had a connection to the serpent as she could be represented on the Pharaoh's brow as Wadjet, the Uraeus snake that wards off the enemies of the king. As well, her son Ihy the sistrum player who comes forth at dawn in the sun disk, could be represented as the Sata serpent that arises out of the primordial lotus such as this image taken from a crypt in her temple at Denderah.

Ihy as Sata coming from the lotus

Let's see if there is any connection here between the name Eve and the idea of a great goddess that has her origins in ancient Egypt. In Hebrew the name we translate as Eve comes from Chavvah which has the meaning of "life".

The Online Etymology Dictionary gives us this information:

Eve 
feminine proper name, from Biblical first woman, Late Latin, from Heb. Hawwah, literally "a living being," from base hawa "he lived" (confer Arabic hayya, Aramaic hay yin).
Like most of the explanations of names in Genesis, this is probably based on folk etymology or an imaginative playing with sound. ... In the Hebrew here, the phonetic similarity is between hawah, "Eve," and the verbal root hayah, "to live." It has been proposed that Eve's name conceals very different origins, for it sounds suspiciously like the Aramaic word for "serpent." [Robert Alter, "The Five Books of Moses," 2004, commentary on Gen. iii:20]
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=Eve&allowed_in_frame=0

Let's follow this one down the well travelled rabbit's hole. The Aramaic word for serpent being referred to here by Alter is hiwyah:

The story of the Fall (Gen 3:1-24) is the occasion for giving to the woman the proper name that has remained with her for all generations. After the sentence of punishment (3:14-19), the woman receives a personal name (3:20) that expresses her positive nature and destiny in relation to her primary role-motherhood: "The man named his wife Eve (hawwah), because she was the mother of all living (mol-hay)." The first naming is unambiguous in its etymological explanation and meaning, while the second one retains a certain syntactic ambiguity, inasmuch as it could include non-human creatures. The Aramaic word hiwyah means "serpent," and this meaning was adopted in one of the rabbinic interpretations of the passage (cf. Genesis Rabbah 20:11; 22:2). The creation of the name of Eve in Gen 3:20 seems to take into account the fact that Eve stands at the beginning of a genealogy, followed by a line of descendants. The explanation that the woman was "the mother of al living" manifests the magnificent theological perspective of the narrator: in spite of sin and hardship result from the penalty, the woman remains the symbol of the great miracle and mystery of life. The Hebrew text points to the linguistic association between the name hawwah and the word hayyah "living" (adj. fem. sing.), or an archaic noun form meaning "living thing." 
The Transformation of Biblical Proper Names, Joze Krasovec, page 10

With this knowledge it could be plausibly argued that the serpent in Genesis 3 is an aspect of the woman or perhaps Adam gave the woman a name that had a connection to serpents as a constant reminder of her betrayal. Probably not a good way to start off a relationship but hey let's not judge.

Okay the great semitic mother goddess Asherah had as one of her titles Rabat Chawat 'Elat, the Phoenician "Chawat" corresponding to the Hebrew "Chavvah". Another of her titles was Dat ba'thani which means "Lady of the Serpent". So we have a connection here that we could argue until we tire of arguing over it. In any case, I wanted to establish this connection because this Asherah shows up in ancient Egypt in the 18th dynasty as a Phoenician goddess named Qudshu, which was an epithet of Asherah, and this Qudshu is equated with the Egyptian Hathor.


The idea of a great mother was an idea that was certainly was prevalent in the ancient world and has been subject to a suppression at the hands of the patriarchal crafters of the Old Testament. The great mother goddess of the Levant that is suppressed in the bible, after we are treated to a story that casts her in a light where she causes all of our sufferings, had her origins along the Nile. It is her miraculous mystery of birth and rebirth plus her association with the wisdom of the serpent that is to be acknowledged, celebrated, and witnessed in altered states of consciousness. Misogynist pedlars of male dominated religion may try as hard as they can but they will never succeed in ridding the subconscious of the wondrous mother goddess and therefore thankfully she will live on birthing light into this world of darkness.

In future blog posts I will expound on this topic in parallel to a new blog I have started which you can read here.