The Feathered Seer – Part 1 (or “whatever happened to The River of the Sun?”) by Running Elk

Sunlight on the River
(copyright 123rf.com)

…we may have to go back a little before we can begin. Say two years? All the way back to the River of the Sun in 2015, and the long-awaited “next post”, often promised but always failing to materialise. I suppose the key to its desire for immediate attention, under the (apparently) unrelated title of The Feathered Seer, might (just) be gleaned from events arising one Freaky Friday.

But of course, you don’t know how yet: there are pieces of that particular puzzle missing, and some of them won’t necessarily become apparent till The Feathered Seer – Part 3, at which point we might get round to the titular weekend. (I know! The suspense is killing me, too…)

The “River of the Sun” was to be our third Silent Eye (A Modern Mystery School) weekend in as many years. You don’t need to be a member to attend; indeed, the event usually includes such an eclectic mix of different paths and traditions that it becomes much more than the sum of its parts as the weekend unfolds.

It was, with some trepidation, that I read through the assigned part of Amkhren. Yet, no matter how many times you read through a part, it’s not until the Temple is entered and the energy of the other players becomes entwined in the space that the full import of the phrasing, the movement, and intention of the ritual can be appreciated.

Even knowing this, what would transpire in Ritual 5 that weekend was so unexpected, so off-the-scale bat-shit crazy, that there was no way I could have been prepared for it when it came. Possibly, even why the “next post“, this post, has remained aloof and unwilling to see the light of day till now… the order of things appears to be of some significance…

I knew, from the opening of the first ritual, that the weekend was going to be powerful. The opening had Amkhren sitting by the Nile, and, from the first words uttered, I was there: the other players faded into their own space, and only Amkhren and his doting grandmother remained… the waters lapped gently, bejewelled by a million dancing suns… So it continued; the mysterious stranger, the Priestess, the unexpected interruption of a solemn rite of initiation by Rameses and his cohort.

The entire first ritual passed in an instant, and, as in every ritual thereafter, I remained hardly aware of the “real space” in which the Temple resided, or of the people at the periphery of the direct action. The “Vessels of the Gods” were the Gods themselves…

The weekends culminate in Ritual 5, by which time the loose ends of the drama are brought together, the players are wrung out, and the Temple is running on “full“. All just in time for a good re-grounding in the form of Sunday lunch. Despite the intensity of the previous four, I suspected nothing and, lamb-like, entered the Temple for the last time.

Amkhren, aided by the Gods, relates to Rameses “…the story of that great mystery…” as expressed through the symbol of the Enneagram, which lies at the core of the school’s teachings. At the culmination of the story Rameses, moved to spare the boy’s life and to leave the Temple unmolested, calls upon all to bear witness to a Royal ordination of Amkhren as new priest to the Temple.

It is difficult to believe now, as it was then, that this was Rameses’ first time in ritual. With great care and deliberation, he removed his crown in order to retrieve a symbolic gift of initiation from around his own neck. At this point, he might have continued with the ritual. Instead, he took the time to replace his crown, and adjust himself such that Royal order should be maintained. Amkhren, kneeling before him, and the gathered crowd, wait…

Rameses places his hand on the boy’s head; “Let it be known across Egypt…”, a strange vibration was beginning to build; “…that the King-in-Rising has ordained…”, a lightening bolt of rather uncomfortable intensity; “…that there is created today, a new priest in this temple; …”, fire billows, in great waves, around the King; “…that the one known as Amkhren, nurtured to this honour by the Lady Scarab,…”, unbearable building of heat, engulfed and consumed in the flames emanating from, and directed by, the hand of Rameses; “…has been tested beyond the trials of normal process;…”, sweat begins to bead on Amkhren’s forehead; “…and has emerged a higher order of sacred servant.”

Continue reading here

The Light and the Eye of the Cobra – River of the Sun 2015…

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The water was soft on his skin. He was used to bathing in the river at sunset, but there was something special about today. He looked across at the glittering image of the sun as its reflection folded on the water, bouncing the golden light across the gentle waves at him. A boat had just sailed by and he felt the lapping waves caressing his thighs. It tickled and he giggled to the river.

His reverie was disturbed by the sound of his Grandmother’s voice.”Wash, Amkhren, stop your daydreaming!”

He smiled his cheeky smile back at Snefer, sole guardian to him since the death of his parents many years ago, in the fire that had destroyed their home while they slept. The name, which he had given her, made her smile, though he was too young, yet, to know the kindness behind such tolerance. The name derived from a present from his father, which he still kept. His father had travelled in his own youth – selling his beautifully hand-woven carpets, which he would pile onto his faithful donkey, before leaving for days or even weeks. He always came back with tales of his adventures, and Amkhren’s delight had been to sit, balanced precariously on his knee; and listen . . .

One day, his father had returned with a carved wooden object – a present to his son. He took it from his bedroll and presented it, smiling as he did so. He had carved it out of a block of wood. It was like one of the drawings his father had shown him of the fabulous white pillars that legend said graced the upper parts of the river, just before it spread and flowed into the sea. The wooden carving had a square base, whose four corners rose in two stages, to meet at a single vertical point. The angle of the climbing sides became shallower half way up and this gave the whole things a comic element. His father had said that the place it was located was called Sneferu, and it was known as the bent pillar. The day after that, Amkhren had pointed at his grandmother and said, “Grandma is bent, too! Can we call her Sneferu, like the carving?”. His father had looked at his own mother and smiled in that mischievous way that his young son had inherited. Then he had said, “Well, we don’t want to anger the Gods, so let’s shorten it to Snefer!”

She had sighed, inside, on that day. But now the memory of that time brought back such happiness that old Snefer didn’t mind at all. She looked at the boy, who had finally taken off his loin-cloth and was washing himself. Her heart burned with feeling for him – the sole survivor of a family that had known how to love and to laugh, together. The sight of him always drove away the aches and pains that had begun to afflict her ageing frame . . . and the sad memories.

The sound of footsteps behind her made her whirl in alarm. After that, she could only drop to her knees in the sand.

“High Priestess, forgive me!” She bowed her head to the mud. Before her was one of the most beautiful and stately women she had ever encountered – Neferaset, the woman who led the worship at the Temple of Isis on the island of Philae, across the river a mile or so away. Alongside her brother, Anzety, they were the most powerful of the bright people.

“Do not be frightened, old woman,” said the glowing one, bending down to take the hands in the dust and pull Snefer up to her normal, if bent, standing position. “We are not in the temple, and, if I choose to leave the sanctuary of the island and walk along the river, I am going to meet strangers . . .”

Snefer kept her head bowed. But spoke, “My grandson is bathing in the river. Forgive his rude nakedness.”

Neferaset looked beyond the bowed woman and saw her relative. He was talking to another boy who stood ahead of him in the deeper water.

“And who is that with him?” she asked.

“There is no-one with him, High Priestess . . .”

Neferaset frowned, then moved the sight into place to gain more distance; and blinked her eyes, focusing on the two boys in the shallows. One was plainly visible, his naked form dancing in the water. But he was definitely speaking to another boy – one who stood motionless before him and had a bright but much less distinct outline . . .

Amkhren was delighted with his new friend. As golden as the ripples on the river, he had appeared before him in the beautiful sunset, smiling. He had asked Amkhren’s name, but refused to give his own. Now, the other watched, while Amkhren bathed, as though the act of seeing someone so vividly alive fascinated him. Amkhren was about to press for his name, again, when he heard his grandma calling from the bank.

“Amkhren, put on your garment and come here at once!”

Amkhren, saddened, but obedient, spun back to say goodbye to his friend; but the other boy was gone. He peered deep into the waves in case his friend had swum off, but there was no trace of the other. A second, and sterner call from Snefer dragged him from his searching. Panting, he retrieved his rags and tied them across his wet waistline. Only then did he look up to locate the old woman. She was standing, with her head bowed, next to another woman. This was a day of surprises! He looked harder, narrowing his eyes to carry his vision deeper into the tableau. Then, he stopped walking and his mouth fell open. There on the raised bank, his grandma was talking, though her head was bowed, with the High Priestess of Isis – a woman he had once stolen a look at from the sanctuary of a hastily built log raft, which had floundered shortly thereafter.

The day had been baking hot and Amkhren had walked along the river bank, far from where Snefer had said it was safe for him to travel. He had gradually been extending his exploring, because he knew that the Island of Philae lay somewhere beyond the next twist of the river’s course. On that day, he had caught sight of a temple procession on the sacred isle and had thrown caution to the wind, and trusted his life to a few logs hastily lashed together with the stalks of reeds in the way that his father had shown him, so long ago.

Before the raft had fallen apart, he had caught sight of the winged one, as he thought of her. She had shone in the sun in her finery and splendour. All around her there was total silence, total reverence. Beside her, another of equal stature walked, but this one was a man, tall and purposeful, yet with a hint of gentleness to his bearing.

The reed bindings had given way, the logs parted and, plunging into the river with a cry, he was forced to cling to the largest as it rolled. Gone were the wild thoughts that someday he would find a way to return to Philae to serve them. Choking on the inhaled river water, he clung desperately to the remains of his capsized raft and forced his legs to kick, pushing the log slowly towards the far bank.

Now the Goddess stood before him. Disguised, yes, but it was her . . .

Amkhren took a few more steps and fell to his knees, prostrating himself in the dust.

“I feel I know you, boy?” said the shining one.

“Oh, you couldn’t know us, High Priestess – we are just beggars in your world,” blurted out his grandma, her head still bowed.

Amkhren’s mind raced. Should he tell her of his moment on the raft? Surely it would be to invite death . . . and yet, he didn’t want to miss the only chance that his life might contain to reach for that impossible goal.

“The river has many secrets, High Priestess,” he managed, somewhat proud of his utterance.

“And dreams, perhaps?” the tone of her voice was soft. There was deadliness there, too, but her knives were sheathed.

She knelt down in the dust of the bank and, with gentle hands that yet contained more power than he had ever felt, pulled his head up to stare back at her almond eyes.

“And what does this young man dream of?” she asked, running a painted finger up the side of his jaw…

The River of Life – by Jan Malique. River of the Sun 2015

Jan Malique, our Vessel of Hathor for the River of the Sun, has kindly given permission for us to share her thoughts on the ritual weekend. Jan is a Comapnion of the Silent Eye and this was her first time at one of our workshops. Thank you, Jan.

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Jan and Stuart

The River of Life

Where to start dear reader? At the beginning perhaps. This was my first Silent Eye open workshop – The River of the Sun, I was enrolled upon the Foundation Triangle course and standing at a crossroad seeking clarification. It was a strange time, spiritual doubts and a desire for introspection propelled me forward towards the doorway the weekend offered. Shall we say I had become a little disappointed with the “magical scene”. A true magician rises above ego, refrains from intellectual snobbery and becomes a living conduit for the Higher forces to come through. Or so I believed. There was something missing, so a step back was necessary to restore faith. Time to don the Pilgrim’s simple robe and start a new quest. The Silent Eye School beckoned over the Horizon. The Mystic within me cried out to be heard. It was to be an important move for me.

The River of the Sun offered me the chance to re-engage with my beloved Khem and its neters, possibly touch the mind of Egypt and perchance glimpse the Soul of this great nation. The weeks leading up to the weekend of the workshop flew by, I was excited and feeling a little overwhelmed to be honest. The workbook blew my mind, an incredible amount of time, effort and research had gone into manifesting it. Interesting. This boded well for the encounter with my fellow Companions, a few who were familiar from past encounters. The great River of Life flowed around me, I was part of it and yet removed.

This workshop was multi-layered, involving complex spiritual, mystical, magical and psychological themes. Both sacred and profane seeking and finding great truths. I believe it achieved its purpose. There was powerful magic manifesting in this temple, as the saying goes “As above, so Below”. Being given the privilege of being a Vessel of Hathor was rather significant for me. The Sunday of the weekend was also the first anniversary of my father’s death. The gods move in mysterious ways…This weekend was also an opportunity to heal the connection between myself , Isis and Osiris. It had never been an easy relationship and perhaps I could now move forward into a better space. I have never believed in blind devotion to either anything or anyone, one’s faith must be tempered by a balanced outlook and a questioning mind.

Within the space of our temple we were faced with the Divine, the Whole, Being itself. A mirror was being held up, one which had to be faced in order to see the True Self. One must never underestimate the effect such sacred dramas have upon the psyche and energetic systems, quite profound experiences at times. It ended all too soon and we journeyed to our lives in the outside world. Which is no bad thing, for it is in this outer world that we perform our real work. We no longer have our beloved temples of old, their time has gone and we the priesthood have been sent out into a far different world to manifest our work.

Jan Malique

12/05/15

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The last drop – River of the Sun 2015

river of the sun SE15 037One of the best things about the weekend workshops has to be seeing old friends. Many live too far to visit, so it is a real delight to be able to meet… even though the time together is way too short. There are old friends and new faces, clocking up many thousands of miles between them to attend the workshop and the hugs and smiles are warm and real.

For those who organise these events, there is another side to that story and one that may not be talked about all that much, but it is none the less real for all that. Friends and strangers alike, would they really come all that way… even from overseas… if what we were doing was not worth the journey? There is a reassurance in that which is like a hug in itself. Months of preparation to create something that lasts from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon… that is all very well, but if no-one came…? But they do. By land, air and sea. The come with smiles on their faces and leave, I think it fair to say, with smiles in their hearts…. And some have already booked their places at Leaf and Flame.

It would be difficult, perhaps, for an observer to know what makes these times so meaningful. From the outside there is nothing to see. For those on the inside, taking part, the imagination takes flight and the essence of the work may create change at a very personal level. The Sunday always feels different; the rituals reach an emotional climax, there is generally a special ritual too as part of the morning’s work… and then there is just friendship and time to talk.

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Robes are packed away, jeans reappear, the High Priest of an ancient temple may be seen lugging bags and boxes to the car… while a King in waiting stands with a mug of tea in the sunshine, laughing with an erstwhile adversary. The stories and rituals are new every year, but the camaraderie and feeling is the same.

Then, too soon, there comes a moment when only two cars remain in the car park… although this year there were three and for some of us the day was not yet over. It is at this point we look at each other and smile… realising that the focus of the last three months has come to fruition and, like a young hawk, fully fledged, has been released into the world to fly free and, with the breath of its wings, stir new currents into being.

There is a euphoria, relief, joy… and a gear shift that seems to roll up its sleeves, ready for the next task. This year, that will be the pre-Solstice gathering, visiting the ancient mounds and stone circles in and around Avebury… and suddenly the 12th of June doesn’t seem very far away…

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For some of us, though, the final partings were still to come. A mile down the road is a spectacular landscape full of mysteries … and as it was so close, four of us were going to visit the place before heading back respectively to Sheffield and the north east of Scotland.

We were welcomed by hawks flying overhead… six or seven of them… buzzards and kestrels… The sun was shining, the earth green and beautiful and there was time. Not enough, nowhere near enough…but some. There was also a pub, the oddest little place you can imagine, with a magical atmosphere that always makes you wonder if it is really there. It seemed a perfect and fitting end to the River of the Sun.

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Cave of the Seers – River of the Sun 2015

Whence did they come?
Through deepest earth, to starlit skies, they came.

Where did they go?
From one world to another, outer to inner, treading the Path of Light.

What did they find, the walkers between the worlds?
Nought but mirrored mirrors, reflecting each other. Gold and silver, into Infinity.

What were they told?
All they had ears to hear.

What did they see?
All they had eyes to see.

What were they given?
Blessings and riddles that are their own answers.

What did they take?
The shadow of a doorway.

What did they make?
A portal to the stars.

Who crossed the threshold?
All who were graced.

Will they return?
Not unchanged…

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“All the world’s a stage…”

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Photo by Nick Verron

“I remember them mainly by their character names…” We were talking about the people we had met over the years at various workshops we had attended before the birth of the Silent Eye and how the assumed persona of their roles overlaid memory.

“I don’t remember ‘my’ name from Alchemy…”

“I do… and I was scared stiff… but when it was my turn to introduce myself as my character, it wasn’t me who stepped forward, but the opera singer…”

It is odd how these things work. Talk about casting against type! Back then, I was quiet, shy, inexperienced and completely lacking in self-confidence… and, as far as I was concerned, couldn’t sing at all. Yet they had cast me as an internationally renowned opera singer; a diva with absolute confidence in her fame and sure of her place in the world. We were poles apart… about as far as you could get. Yet… I managed to portray the character, stepping into the role with surprising ease in front of a room full of people I considered my superiors in knowledge, experience and confidence. I even managed to make them laugh! And my surprise was complete when several people complimented me on ‘her’ grand entrance. Thankfully, I was supposed to be ‘resting’…I didn’t have to sing…

We talked about that… about how easy it is to leave the day-to-day self behind when we assume the mask provided by such a role. It is one of the reasons we use this method in the workshops, after all.

And we had, of course, been looking back on the River of the Sun … and looking forward too, to Leaf and Flame, next year’s April workshop, already underway as far as the creative process is concerned. As we have the broad outlines of the story we will be using, as well as a number of bookings, there was the almost inevitable pause as we considered who would be best in some of the ‘roles’ we will be writing for Leaf and Flame.

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The annual workshop is played out in the form of a ritualised story. Each person is given a fully scripted ‘role’ for the weekend. Unlike a theatrical production there is no requirement to learn lines or to be able to act. Just to be there and read from the script. Of course, the more we enter into the spirit of the role, and the more we get to know our ‘characters’, the more vivid the experience becomes. Robes and costumes simply add to the ‘alternative reality’ we create…and these roles are never allocated at random, though we may sometimes think that they are.

For example, there was, in my mind, only one person who could ‘be’ Amkhren, the young man brought into the Temple in River of the Sun to be initiated into his role as a priest in the Egyptian Mysteries. Which was odd, as we weren’t even certain he was coming until quite late in the day and the role had been ‘his’ from very early on in the writing process, long before I, for one, knew how the story would unravel. As it turned out, the personal journey that unfolded for him, and for those closely involved with it, could hardly have been more appropriate in symbolic terms. Yet outwardly, you wouldn’t necessarily pick the tallest person there to play a child… yet somehow the role ‘fit’ in a way that transcends logic.

The roles are not simply theatrical constructs; they are portrayals of the principles with which we work and shadow forth in symbolic terms aspects of the way human consciousness aligns with spiritual principles and the nature of the divine essence behind life itself. The assumption of one of these roles can leave a deep and lasting understanding at levels beyond logical thought. What is learned may take a while to bubble back up to the surface, but for those who attend, it is a magical experience in more ways than one.

Image by Matt Baldwin-Ives
Image by Matt Baldwin-Ives

All of these roles present you with a ‘mask’… a persona that lifts you from the everyday world and allows you to express yourself without the normal constraints of modern society. This is, after all, a fictional world we create. To be ‘typecast’… playing a role that aligns with your own character or spiritual journey allows you to explore your own psyche and its relationship to the world in ways not normally possible. You can observe the interaction from a unique and fascinating angle. To be cast against type allows that exploration in new and uncharacteristic ways, highlighting those interactions through contrast between the role and the world beyond the workshop and such roles have an empowering effect that lasts long after the weekend is over.

Add to that the effects of working in a group, where a shared and sacred intent and the combined energies of those present raise a simple room to a temple of the Mysteries and you have a recipe for true magic… and magic has been defined as creating change.

I thought back to the ‘mouse’ who had been cast as the opera singer… and had once been cast as a queen of the Fae who had ‘forgotten her origins’. That too had been apt. Then I thought back to the birth of the Silent Eye and the woman who had worn vivid red and orange robes the same colour as her hair… a woman who had opened the very first weekend workshop by singing, in public… and in tune!

Does magic work? Define your terms… If what you ask is ‘does what we do create positive change?’ then my personal answer would be a resounding ‘Yes!’ I am no longer the mouse I used to be, but the woman I am supposed to be. Still a work in progress, but nevertheless… whole. And happy.

But don’t just take my word for it… come along to one of our events and meet us… and see for yourself.

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“We become panoramic…” – River of the Sun

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There is something magical in rising before dawn and setting out to greet the sun. We had changed things this year; the traditional hillside ritual had been replaced by a visit to the Cave of the Seers… but it would not have felt right to forget the hills and stay cosily indoors. The landscape has always offered itself to our needs, seeming, almost magically, to provide what we have asked of it, even when we haven’t been certain what that was going to be. In some way, the Saturday morning walk through the pre-dawn light was both an expression of gratitude and the renewal of a bond.

It is even more than that, though; the connection to the land of this place runs deep. The hillside that has seen strange figures in the luminous dawn is part of an ancient settlement and an even older dance of earth, sky and Man. We spend so much of our time on concrete and asphalt, ruled by the ticking of necessity, that to choose to rise before dawn and walk into silent fields for no other reason than to greet the sun allows us to break a long fast and simply be a part of the flow of life again.

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We feel it through the soles of our feet, through the song we raise, and the air we breathe. The chill of dew, the rolling green starred with the gold and silver of celandine and daisy still waiting for the kiss of the sun to unfurl their petals.

We climbed the stile and walked through the fields to a natural portal… a gap in the curtain of trees that, quite appropriately, separates the lower from the higher, and there we waited. Two stood cloaked and raised an adaptation of the ancient Hymn to the Aten, penned over three thousand years ago. The rest, in an arc like the bowl of a chalice, joined their voices in a song penned just weeks before, especially for the River of the Sun.

Do we worship the sun? No, of course not… but we revere its light as a symbol of a greater Light and that, perhaps, is something the ancient ones whose shadows walk the land would have understood, for just as the rays of the sun give life and growth, so too does that Other Light… and perhaps that is the greater of the two.

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A small flock of sheep, led by one with a darker fleece, slowly climbed the Mound of Creation… a small hillock we had used the year before and which, to us because of that moment, is very special. They stood and watched, facing us all the while. I had to wonder if one of them was the lamb who had greeted us before dawn on that morning two years before, when a silent company had shared a moment’s delight and wonder. The Lamb too, reflects the Light.

The clouds did not break. The sun did not appear in the east as we had hoped… and so, when the sky had brightened, we turned back. It is not about the sunrise itself; that too is a symbol. Ali, for some reason, began to recite poetry… and arm in arm, laughing through the lines of Lewis Carroll, we headed once more for the stile. And the sun broke through the clouds, as if in response to our laughter.

We turned as one, the whole group, and watched the pale opalescence unfurl in the heavens; in silent peace, sharing a moment and our smiles. Something greater than we held centre stage, and in our very smallness we grew.

“We become panoramic…”

We were quieter on the way back to the centre… the line from the song played through my mind, knowing we would be using it as part of an innovative meditation on perception designed by Stuart. It seemed perfect for the feeling of those moments.

We had risen before the dawn and, at the end of the day, it seemed as if we were given the blessing of the sun itself in answer as the sky went up in flames…

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Another round – River of the Sun

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Friday evening is always a good sign of how the weekend is going… and by Friday evening we were pretty much all in the old pub next door. You can picture the scene… a low-beamed ceiling that has sheltered its patrons for centuries, a blazing fire against the spring chill and a crowd of people talking, laughing, getting to know each other and catching up. There is something quintessentially British about these moments… almost all conversations seem to involve the weather at some point… even if they then go on to the lightest of drolleries or the deepest philosophical discussions.

river of the sun SE15 034To be fair, good weather makes all the difference and the day had been a perfect example of an English spring. The little village of Great Hucklow looked beautiful decked in flowers and blossom and the sunlight was reflected in the beaming smiles with which we had greeted each other. By the time we headed for the pub, the sun had gone down and everyone had relaxed.

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The first ritual drama had introduced the story, setting the scene for our journey through a period of Egyptian history. A young man had been taken to the Temple at Philae to be trained by the priesthood… years had passed in that training and, at its culmination, the rite had been interrupted by the arrival of Ramases and his entourage… The scene was set for the story to unfold next day.

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It is quite strange… one moment you are buzzing around like the proverbial flies ensuring that all is in readiness… the next, imagination and the skillfully crafted ritual drama have carried you beyond these sceptered isles to another time, another place and anothe mindset… and you are travelling the River of the Sun in a reality far removed from daffodils and forget-me-nots. Then the ritual ends. There is a brief interlude… a time between times… when everyone doffs their robes and returns to a more familiar reality… and, in the evening, heads for the Queen Anne, filling the small inn with smiles and conversation… and making serious holes in the stock of Stowfords.

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The weather was still a subject of some concern, though. Next morning we planned on rising long before dawn to greet the spring sunrise on the hillside. These early morning rites have become something of a tradition. They are optional…yet we have been blessed by having the majority of our company gather to walk the hundred yards through the silent village each year; usually with at least three of us in somewhat unusual garb. It can be cold before dawn in April and the dew can lie heavy on the grass. As we wandered back to the Nightingale Centre, we wondered what the morning would bring.

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