Even in this high-tech computer age of space exploration, the magical lure of Pharaonic Egypt still retains its hold on the imagination. The sun-drenched kaleidoscope of palm-fringed temple complexes, statues and obelisks, pyramids and tombs can generate a quickening of the blood in all but the most jaded of travellers. But more than mere landscape, it is the enduring power of ancient god-forms that probe the hidden corners of mystical awareness.
Multitudes of Egyptian deities parade in anthropomorphic and animal likeness, but strangely devoid of the demonising qualities usually reserved for such bizarre portrayals from other lands. So why are we still drawn by the haughty grandeur of these majestic beings from another world? From a magical point of view, Murry Hope gives her opinion that people respond to what she terms as the ‘Egyptian cosmic ray’ either readily and happily, or view it ‘with a suspicion bordering on unease’. These attitudes, she believes, stem from the subconscious and can be traced back through an individual’s psychic roots.
S. G. Brandon on the other hand, writing in Man, Myth & Magic, felt that two, more simple factors conspire to give ancient Egypt a unique appeal - its religion and the fact that the climate has preserved the relics of this belief system intact. Religious observance permeated the whole life both of the individual and society, finding expression in such rich variety of forms that it is impossible to separate the actual religion from the magic and mythology of the people. The sheer volume of detail about the magico-religion of Pharaonic Egypt also provides a concise introduction to the historical aspects of this unique Nile Valley culture which spans an immense time-scale unparalleled by any other civilisation.
“Almost every aspect of religious faith and practice is found in this ancient religion: polytheism (worship of a plurality of gods); henotheism (the worship of a single god; monotheism (belief that there is only one God); mythology, magic, ritual, divine kingship, mighty temples and mysterious tombs, a professional priesthood, illustrated religious texts, a wisdom literature and religious scepticism. It also embraced the most elaborate funerary cult, magical resurrection and a complex after-life, and the earliest concept of a judgement after death.” [S. G. Brandon - Man, Myth & Magic]
As the history and social structures of the country shifted and changed, so did the religion but few people were able to look at the Egyptian religious system objectively in the early days of scientific archaeology. One possible exception was Sir E. A. Wallis Budge, formerly Keeper of Department of Assyrian & Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum, who wrote extensively on the subject of the religious doctrines and magic. Today, in the age of computerised assimilations, Budge’s work is dismissed as inaccurate, fanciful and romantic but whatever the criticisms levelled at his interpretations by modern students of Egyptology, Budge still has the power to invoke the power and mystery of the gods for the student of Magic.
So, too, does Margaret Murray. Although better known in pagan circles for her books on European witchcraft, her reputation as an Egyptologist was gained studying under the great Sir W. M. Flinders Petrie at University College, London. The Splendour That Was Egypt realistically points out that social conditions affect religion as much as, perhaps more than, religion affects social conditions; and as those conditions change, the spirit and therefore the outward form of religion changes also. As with neighbouring cultures in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley, these social changes eventually submerged the original primitive deities of the people and re-introduced a god-form that appealed to the general populace rather than just the ruling classes.
Therefore to follow the Path of the modern Egyptian Mystery Tradition it is essential to have an understanding of the chronology of Pharaonic Khem. Few people have the opportunity or time to undertake a lengthy study of the science of Egyptology but it is relatively easy to put the history of this ancient kingdom into some sort of present-day perspective. As a guideline, Egyptologists have imposed their own system of dating which has been based on a royal dynastic framework taken from several ancient ‘king lists’ discovered in tombs and temples at Karnak, Abydos and Saqqara, in addition to the Royal Canon of Turin papyrus and the Palermo Stone. Since only rarely can a historical date be definitely established with any accuracy, suffice to say that an identifiable religion was already in existence during the pre-dynastic period some 4000 years BC.
Just as all civilisations have developed from small tribal states, each with their own separate kingdoms and deities, so the mighty kingdom of Pharaonic Egypt began as independent provinces or nomes [E=sepat] scattered along the banks of the Nile. The early deities of the individual provinces reigned supreme in their allotted districts and had little, or no influence outside their own region. During the course of time, either through marriage or war, some districts merged into another and weaker deities were either added to the existing pantheon or degraded, often becoming ‘demonised’ in the process. As Murray points out, however, the basic Egyptian religion was not confused until the foreign conquerors - Persian, Greek and Roman - “forcibly altered the condition of the country”.
For the aspiring Adept it is not enough to have a personal affinity for the images of Egypt. It is not a culture on which we can impose our 20th century prejudices and restrictions; neither should we view the past with benign sympathy for what it never experienced and feel ourselves in any way superior. It is the wise man who steeps himself in the history of his faith - the fool who tries to draw it forward into his own time to fit comfortably within an uncomplicated and familiar framework of established social interpretation. To truly walk with the Old Ones the Magus need to become Egypt; to understand it by going back in time, and so the first step is to begin a spiritual journey with a history lesson as an exercise in virtual reality ...