Monthly Archives: May 2012

One Witchcamp Ritual experience

 During the night of the Egyptian Feast Ritual at Cloudcatcher Witchcamp we had all wrapped up warmly against the cool of the evening and left the bright lights and warmth of the buildings behind. The group were walking in slow procession down the roadway bearing the symbolic ‘sarcophagus’ under a clear full moon, quietly chanting “Set sail, set sail, over the waters of the shining Nile, we meet the dead, we meet the dead…” As we moved down towards the water I became aware of curious spirit beings drawing close around us and it seemed they were trying to make sense of what we were doing. What was this rather strange moonlight procession, what was its purpose and who were these costumed people? I could feel myself still part of the group walking along and chanting while at the same time seeing and conversing with the spirits around us, walking in two worlds as often happens for me without deliberate intention.
 
 
 I conveyed to the spirit beings what our ritual was about and particularly this part of it, as it seemed they found our night-time behaviour a most unusual occurrence for this area. They very quickly understood that it was a ritual of honoring and reverence for the dead and they very happily took this most unexpected opportunity to join us. I could hear them softly speaking what they needed to express in their own language as their particular way of honouring their own dead as they drifted slowly among us as we arrived at the waters edge. The ritual continued with the launching of the boat and sarcophagus out onto the water, reaching its eventual peak and then coming to a natural completion.
 
As we gradually dispersed afterwards and were slowly walking back up to the buildings in the clear moonlight I could see two of the spirit women attempting to speak with some of the people in front of me. When they noticed I was looking at them they came up to me and said with happy relaxed smiles to please thank everybody for doing this ceremony as it had been the caring support they needed to finally mourn their dead who had been massacred here on this land many many years before. They explained that at the time of the killings they themselves were forcibly rounded up and roughly transported far away from this part of the country and so weren’t able to do their usual ceremonies to honour and mourn their dead here on their own land. These women had drifted back here after their own deaths feeling lost, incomplete and a terrible wrenching heartbreak for their now obviously lost way of life and ceremonies.I assured the spirit women we were very happy to have been of some help to them with our ritual and we then bade each other goodnight. As often happens for me after really vivid spirit encounters like this I felt quite tired so I immediately took myself off to bed. My sense of that night is that our ritual had not only been for the benefit of the people attending Cloudcatcher Witchcamp but had also been a really useful support for the spirits of this land in allowing them to finally honour their ancestors and allowing a further completion with all the history of the land and its peoples.

Holding Nephthys at CloudCatcher

I held the Nephthys mask for two rituals at the recent CloudCatcher WitchCamp and felt like a flood of information entered my brain. Nephthys is the least obvious of the four Egyptian God/desses we were working with; she is the one who sews the edges of things together, who dwells between one place and the next, on the boarders of the civilised and fertile lands, knitting desert to delta, and brother to sister… In their myths she is a loyal sister to Isis, a secret lover to Osiris and the consort of Set. Having worked with her through the month of February, I already had some relationship to her; seeing her not just as the quiet, inconspicuous one but also the one carrying the energy and presence of their mother, Nut, the night-sky Goddess.

We made beautiful masks – and beautiful altars – for all four of them, and on the first night of ritual invoked their presences into the masks. Inbetween rituals, the masks rested on their altars; Isis in the East, Set in the heat of the North, Nephthys in the West and Osiris in the South. The Nephthys mask is blue and silver, and just covers the upper face. It has wide eyes, lots of fluttery feather bits and references to both bird-face and butterfly-shape in its design. Holding it I felt her non-humanness very strongly. She seemed to me to have almost a clinical curiosity in the actions of others, an observant but uninvolved perspective.

The curious thing was how much her ‘being on the edges of things’ seemed to affect things; during the whole first ritual I held her (which was actually the second ritual) she was completely ignored by her brother and sister, Osiris and Isis; though she hung around, adoring them and following their every word and movement and focused only on them, they never noticed her. I also noticed our (the humans) tendancy to take pieces away from her – on our plans she led Osiris’s funeral procession, began the keening for him and on the third day, led the song. In fact by the time of the actual rituals, she did none of these things.

During my second ritual holding her mask (actually our third ritual) I came into a deep, deep place with her. Once again, she – and I! – felt totally ignored by Isis, who upstaged Nephthys completely during what was supposed to be a shared blessing, and I began to feel an unrest, a stirring which I thought could explain WHY Nephthys had colluded with Set in the destruction of Osiris; not maliciously, exactly, but because she wanted to stir things up a bit, tip the balance. She was really sick of that status quo, and that combined with her lack of attachment to outcomes meant she might have done it almost as an experiment, a diversion. In the final ritual I got a shot of deep, surprised satisfaction when my son, who was invoking Nephthys that night, lept in front of Isis (in the wrong order, Isis should have gone first) and rushed with her mask around and around the circle of people, demanding attention for her beauty and mystery!

I felt like Nephthys had so much to offer – she has a whole story there, that mostly we don’t even notice. I also felt a deep affinity with her, edge walker by preference and yet, still wanting some recognition, still needing involvement. I felt her sadness at Isis’ heedless demanding of all possible attention, though I still loved Isis deeply (and Nephthys does too, I am sure). I felt how it is interesting out on the edges, but lonely, and how a little recognition; like when Set made a deep formal bow to her in the second ritual, or when she lept in front of Isis that one time, feeds her so profoundly. Of all the four, she is the one whose voice cried out to me through this WitchCamp. JANE MEREDITH