We worked with four Egyptian deities at CloudCatcher WitchCamp 2012 – Isis, Nephthys, Set and Osiris. Their stories intermingle, overlap and essentially form one story together – I was convinced they represent four parts of one whole, and inspired by the line I am divided for the chance of union…
We made masks for each of them, in the days leading up to the Camp. Nephthys’ mask (that I now have hanging on my wall) was silver and blue, a little hawk-like and with wide eyes and an Egyptian ankh. Osiris’ was green, covering the whole face and with reeds growing out of the side, waving above his head. Isis’ mask was gold (of course), mysterious and alluring with a hint of copper veil… and Set’s was stark grey and brown, confronting and alert. All the masks were on sticks, so they could be held at different (non-human) heights in ritual, and even be passed between people easily. When we invoked these Gods and Goddesses on the first evening of the Camp, we invoked them into the masks, so that then any of us could pick up the mask and walk with that being, look through its eyes and maybe speak a few words for it… On the final evening we opened a doorway and released them back into their own land.
We also put four altars, in the east, north, west and south of our main hall; instead of creating elemental altars we created deity altars. East for Isis and the rising sun; North for Set, the desert and the heat of midday; West for Nephthys, the setting sun and entry into the Otherworlds; South for Osiris, the forests and the Underworld itself. Everyone who came to Camp brought something for these altars – offerings of candles, leaves, pictures, scarves, statuettes… and often when I passed by the hall I would see someone sitting in front of an altar, tending to it or meditating or just resting. Sometimes they would pick up the mask that rested there, between rituals, and examine it or ask their questions or commune with that spirit.
I loved the way the masks and the altars offered tangible connection to the deities we were working with, and more immediate access to the myth by individuals being able to approach and interact with these solid things; altars, masks. And in the ritual themselves, how extrordinary to be partnered not just by one’s own inner sensations or understandings of this being, but by the visible effect of a being, in the form of the mask… Not actually wearing the masks, but instead holding them on sticks, also added to this feeling of relating to the deity, being in service to it and companioning it, rather than being subsumed – which I have sometimes felt with masks that tie onto the head of the wearer.