You know you’ve been investing a lot of energy in public Pagan rituals when it takes you an entire week to replenish yourself! That’s always a delicate balance to walk: acts of service to your Powers and your city’s spiritual community while ensuring that your own personal reserves of energy don’t get depleted. And when you add the effects of a full moon total lunar eclipse in the mix, it goes without saying that you’re going to be living in what the ancient Chinese proverb refers to as “interesting times”!
Yet it was all well and good last weekend when the 22nd Annual Fellowship of Isis (FOI) Chicago Goddess Convention held sway in the city! The time-honored tradition of FOI clergy and friends/members of the Chicago Pagan community at large and representatives of other groups and traditions/Kemetic devotees/and curious seekers gathering together for a weekend of exchanging ideas, partaking of public ritual, celebrating, and welcoming the energies of transformation is alive and well.
The fun began on Friday evening, September 25, when I hosted the “Champagne & Chocolates” Convention Opening Reception at the Life Force Arts Center. It was an enjoyable but intense, spiritually electrifying evening of leading participants on a group meditation/oracle session that turned into a shamanic Upperworld journey to a Temple of Light. The goddesses Isis, Nut, Hathor, and Ma’at were present and I delivered several messages on Their behalf tailored to specific individuals in the crowd. Once we’d all returned to ordinary reality, and prior to cracking open the champagne, I read from several passages from The Book of Going Forth by Day (which has of course been assigned the somewhat morbid-sounding title of The Book of the Dead) and we discussed them. What does it mean for the deceased to become identified with Osiris? How did hearing the Negative Confessions recited aloud affect people? What are their thoughts on the concept of Judgment? I appreciated hearing peoples’ perspectives and triggering their curiosity to learn more. And we enjoyed socializing and learning about each other’s backgrounds–I was particularly delighted that representatives of the Pagan Student Association from the University of Chicago chose to spend their weekend with us. Folks, it’s about passing the torch–and as a devotee of the goddess Hekate Khthonia, that metaphor resonates with me on multiple levels.
The Main Day of the Convention was Saturday, September 26, and it was a sunny, glorious day in Chi-Town. The venue had been set up the night before so, unlike last year’s maelstrom of chaos (thank the Gods!), there was no last-minute scurrying around to have the main lecture hall and ritual space cleared of substantial debris before folks trickled in for on-site registration. All was light-filled and lovely and everyone’s mood was ebullient.
FOI Priest Rev. Vince Hawkins and Priestess-in-Training Carolyn Hawkins, both of whom also run the Chicago-based Kemetic order Kheperu Em Inu, continued their tradition of performing the space clearing and blessing of participants at the start of the day. We then gave our round of introductions and promptly got on with our ambitious agenda of workshops. Carolyn was the first to present with her very informative, and delightfully hands-on, workshop entitled “Working with Crystals for Healing.” She passed around a plethora of lovely crystals and gems from her own personal collection and I learned many useful things and fell in love with new shiny stones, especially celestite, which is useful for strengthening the throat chakra and enhancing creativity (and communicating with angels!). One of my go-to stones for absorbing negative energy (especially in the workplace) is black tourmaline, and I was happy to hear Carolyn confirm that it’s not water soluble unlike some other crystals (e.g., selenite); therefore, cleansing it in running water is just fine. Yaay!
Next, Vince returned to give a talk on “Pagan Church Bylaws,” providing very valuable information on the ins and outs of filing for 501 c3 tax-exempt status and discussing a variety of legal and practical issues, using actual bylaws from a former established Pagan Church (the Circle of Danu) to bolster his points. If you’re curious, the IRS will start to really take notice of your 501c3-approved religious organization if you make a minimum of $30,000 annually.
I followed Vince with my “Four Sons of Heru: Upholding the Cosmos, Protecting the Dead” devotional ritual followed by a brief lecture. My goal was to get people into a heart space and out of their heads. Even if they obviously didn’t know the Egyptian hymn I created and sang at the outset of my invocation to these four ancient, mighty, protective Powers, they could feel its impact in their hearts and choose to join me in this ritual of devotion and the creation of wards. In the lecture that followed the ritual, I distributed handouts that delineated helpful correspondences for each of the Four Sons of Horus: Hapi, Duamautef, Qebhshennuf, and Imseti. I explained that the 19th-century Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge and contemporary Egyptologist Dr. Rosemary Clark differ in their interpretations of the cardinal directions assigned to each of the Four Sons. I side with Clark, personally, but wanted to present Budge’s view as well and let the audience decide for themselves which works best if they decide to incorporate the Four Sons in their magickal warding operations.
|Son of Heru||Animal Head?||Associated Goddess for Protecting the Dead||Body Parts Governed||Cardinal Direction||Appropriate Offering|
|Hāpi||Yes, Baboon||Nephthys||Small Intestines||Budge: North;
|Qebhśennuf||Yes, Hawk||Selqet||Liver/Gallbladder||Budge: West;
|Tuamᾱutef||Yes, Jackal||Neith||Heart & Lungs||Budge: East;
|Sand or Gemstones/
|Imseti||No, Human||Isis||Stomach & Large Intestines||Budge: South;
Priestess-Hierophant Demetria Nanos, who currently leads our Chicago-based FOI Lyceum of Alexandria, delivered a brief but information-packed overview of the numerous ways ancient Egypt gets filtered into popular culture. Who knew that The Grateful Dead expressed such an affinity for the Kemetic Neteru with their collectibles, especially pins? Demetria gave a memorable show-and-tell with anecdotes and tangible concert souvenirs of her hippie youth; musically, it’s not my cup of tea, but I enjoyed hearing her speak nonetheless.
Then we broke for a 90-minute lunch break; as with last year, I used GrubHub to place a large group order of Middle Eastern food from a nearby restaurant and have it delivered. As I’d been struggling with a bit of a scratchy throat that day, my vegan lentil soup hit the spot! Our lunch break also served as a delightful way to shop our Isian bazaar and support the variety of vendors who chose to spend their day with us; I wound up buying yet more Kemetic Neteru statues from Alchemy Arts bookstore! Huzzah!
With our bellies full and our wallets less dense than they were in the morning, our keynote speaker took to the stage. Althea Northage-Orr gave a lively and rousing presentation entitled “Sekhmet: Goddess of Transformation Through Ecstatic Awareness.” Althea studied directly under Robert Masters, author of the acclaimed The Goddess Sekhmet: Psycho-Spiritual Exercises of the Fifth Way, for many years. He gifted her with a living statue of this most excellent, righteously powerful goddess–an actual antiquity recovered from Pharaoh Thutmose IV’s massive temple complex at Karnak. Althea said her life has never been the same since. She spoke of witnessing the statue move of its own accord and endow her with profound experiences of spontaneous healing of trauma at the cellular level. For a sixty-three-year-old woman, she certainly looked much younger, and she credits the goddess Sekhmet with totally transforming her life, celebrating Her as not just “the premiere goddess of healing,” but as a veritable tantrika. Desire, ecstasy, and illumination are interrelated paths to spiritual growth and fundamental to understanding both Sekhmet and Tantra, Althea said. The famous myth of “The Destruction of Humanity,” whereby Ra dispatches Sekhmet to kill wicked humans but She goes overboard, so to speak, and wants to wipe out humanity altogether and is prevented from doing so through trickery that leads to intoxication from beer, Althea suggests, is a story about “the teaching power of pleasure.” There’s much to contemplate there!
The next speaker, FOI ArchPriestess Rt. Rev. Gayle Mack, founder of the Keys to Ascension, gave a very stirring talk entitled “Activate Your Divinity.” As with Althea, Sekhmet was also Gayle’s Awakener to higher consciousness decades ago, only the statue of the Daughter of Ra that Gayle saw move was not a private artifact but one housed in the Cairo Museum! Later in that same trip to Egypt, she was pronounced clinically dead for 23 minutes upon being invited by her tour guide to lie down in the empty granite sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Cheops. She reported an incredible, spontaneous astral body journey that wound up altering the course of her life once she returned to her body and frightened the EMTs who had been summoned to revive her in the King’s Chamber.
“We live in a world where there are deliberately orchestrated layers of chaos that are meant to dumb us down, keep us numb, and prevent us from activating our true potential, our true divinity,” she said with her silky but strong pure Southern Belle accent.
Literal stimulation of the brain’s frontal lobe in conjunction with stimulation of the brain stem, which is achieved through healing modalities like cranio-sacral therapy, is what is needed to help accelerate one’s consciousness into a body of light, Gayle said, what the ancient Egyptians would have recognized as being a transfigured spirit, an akh. Healing, discipline, prayer, and walking with warrior energy in the world also facilitate this process. But there are very dark days of turbulence, even social collapse, coming, Gayle announced. I felt the hairs on the nape of my neck rise as I’ve been preoccupied with thoughts of social collapse lately myself. And when those days come, those of us already advanced into our light bodies will be sorely needed by humanity. “When chaos comes, those that are holding the Light are going to be a beacon,” she said. The role of true clergy and healers is to show people the way and give them the tools to heal themselves.
Many points from her talk were echoed by Rev. Vince Hawkins, who took to the stage again to present some Enochian magic and theological discussion this time in his talk “Gods, Angels & Humans.”
“Our society inhales and exhales fear of death,” he announced. Fear shuts down one’s whole cerebral cortex, a fact not lost upon our corporate-controlled media outlets and other systems of power. Where is the Platonic concept of The Good found? In nature. “Nature is truth because it is. It simply is,” Vince stated, eliciting many nods in agreement. People who cultivate “karmic relationship” with the Powers they serve are going to experience different outcomes during the times of tribulation that are headed our way from “the people who are clueless and disconnected right now. No one is willing to interact with anything beyond their own egos,” he concluded. That’s why the kinds of things the FOI and other groups, other gatherings like it, are so important and so needed in the world today. Hear, hear!
The good news is that at least among young Millennials, Pagan and polytheistic beliefs and practices have good chances of surviving and being espoused into whatever future awaits our society. Aura Chapa, the former leader of the Hyde Park Pagans campus group at the University of Chicago, discussed the importance of stepping up to the plate of service when you see a need for a group to exist but there’s no precedent for one in your community. So she worked with the school’s Department of Religion to create one, and wound up serving as the group’s Priesten (her term) for a little over a year. She discussed the pitfalls and pleasures of her experiences, and invited all Convention attendees to join in fellowship with Hyde Park Pagans at one of their monthly meetings on campus at Rockefeller Chapel.
By this point, evening had begun. Rev. Demetria Nanos led Convention attendees in a brief prosperity meditation and Healing Pillar of Light Qabalistic prayer session to send healing energy to loved ones not present. Afterwards, it was time to prepare for the Main Liturgy, which was drawn from the late Lady Olivia Robertson’s Sphinx booklet for FOI clergy: “Uranus: The Book of Coming Forth by Day.”
I played the role of Isis in the ritual, and I experienced nothing short of apotheosis–of Her ecstatic union with Her Beloved Osiris, and Her immense Sorrow at His death, of Her Magical Power (heka) in bringing Him back to life in order to conceive a Sacred Son, and Her Ever-Living Majesty as a Goddess Alive and at work in the world. Here. Now.
“My mighty kite’s wings stretch across the sky and sweep their long feathers upon the earth like glittering pathways to resurrection,” I said with full sekhem, full power, toward the ritual’s conclusion. I felt wings extend from the tips of my fingers, protrude from my shoulder blades.
I buzzed for hours afterwards, long after the group drum jam pounded its rhythms deep into the night, long after I packed up my car and beheld the almost-full moon gleaming in bulbous brilliance above me.
What does it mean to love the Gods? In Freemasonry, we have a saying, one that accords with my Virgo/Princess of Disks (from Crowley’s Thoth Tarot) nature: “There is no Higher Ideal in Life than to Serve.”
Those who have ears, let them hear!
Budge, E.A. Wallis. The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Papyrus of Ani, Egyptian Text Transliteration and Translation (reprint of 1888 unabridged original). New York: Dover Publications, 1967.
—–. The Gods of the Egyptians: Studies in Egyptian Mythology. Vols. I and II. 1904. New York: Dover, 1969.
Clark, Rosemary. Sacred Magic of Ancient Egypt: The Spiritual Practice Restored. Minneapolis: Llewellyn, 2003.
Taylor, John H. Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.
Teeter, Emily. Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
- Alchemy Arts Bookstore
- Althea Northage-Orr
- Autumn Equinox
- Chicago Center for Psychophysical Healing
- Fellowship of Isis
- Fellowship of Isis in Chicago
- Four Sons of Horus
- Kemetic Reconstructionism
- Lady Olivia Robertson
- Lyceum of Alexandria
- metaphysical workshops
- public ritual
- Robert Masters
- The Book of Going Forth by Day