Talking to myself?

nick north days 032

I was going back through some old writings and as is often the way, things written long ago come to my eyes as if penned by another hand and heart. Meaning leaps from the page, revelations lurk behind each word and understanding dawns as if for the first time. And yet, the words which bring these apparent gifts are my own.

How could I have written what I did not understand? Where did the words arise to capture such ephemeral wisps of thought? Ideas, teachings, wisdom I do not possess stare back at me from the page as if they have materialised from some other reality where the hand that wrote them had far greater depth than I. And yet, I know that hand was mine.

The words written years ago have become part of the yellowed paper. Thoughts were manifested within the letters scrawled across the page. They have not changed. Yet I might have written in invisible ink for all I understood as I wrote, so what has changed? Only the writer… the years, the continuous learning curve of life, the multitude of experiences, knowledge gained and illusions lost… all contribute to a changed perspective from which many things look different now from how they looked then.

Some revelations come simply from that transition between knowledge and understanding; from an abstract and intellectualised concept to a living knowing. Some ideas become clearer as we are distanced from them; we can be so close sometimes that we cannot see anything but the detail and the shift in perception afforded by the passage of time allows us to take a wider view. There are many things in those pages that I did not even know I knew, but on some level, at least, I must have done so or they would not now be staring back at me from the past. As a friend once put it, it is interesting when you become your own teacher.

Although, we always are. No matter what life gives us to work with, we can only shape what we can hold in awareness. Our perception is not pure, but is clouded by the accumulated layers of experience and reaction that have built up around us, so that anything that comes to us is seen only ‘through a glass darkly’. It can be a lifetime and the devil’s own job to chip away that accretion and change our perspective. First, we have to realise how securely we have immured ourselves and the walls built by our emotions can be a veritable bastion.

Occasionally, though, the mortar crumbles and a gleam of light blazes through, illuminating that which was before our eyes all the time and then we sit back in wonder at how we missed something so obvious that it shines. And yet, when the gem we have missed comes from our own pen, we have to wonder where it sprang from in the first place.

It was there all along. Perhaps there is a part of each of us that Knows… that doesn’t need to seek the answers, but which needs our conscious mind and heart to seek and ask the questions.

We can spend a lifetime in that seeking, only to find that the object of our quest was never lost. The words on the brittle pages are gifts, laid unknowingly aside in our inexperience, waiting, like a seed, to spring into life and bloom when we are ready. On some level of being, we already have both the questions and the answers. We just don’t realise that we do.

Slimegrobbels and custard…

“Tell me a story…”

My granddaughters and I were sitting on the floor of their pink-painted cabin at the bottom of the garden. I had evicted yet another invading spider and, while the youngest sat on my knee, her almost-five year old big sister was sprawling in the pink armchair.

The three of us had been playing. I had pushed little Imogen on her swing until she giggled with joy and had chased Hollie around the garden, swinging her up onto my shoulders and teaching her to stand on her head in a fairly unorthodox manner. Somehow, small children make you forget the aches and pains… at least until next morning when you try to move again.

By this point though, we had settled down in the playhouse and eaten a meal of chocolate-dipped worms and green slimegrobbels with custard… a menu chosen by Hollie and lovingly prepared by the smallest of chefs. I could only be thankful that the meal was imaginary… and delight in the serious expression with which Imogen, barely two years old, ‘cooked’ and ‘ate’ the ‘food’ while Hollie supervised. Watching a child’s imagination begin to flower is a beautiful thing.

As we settled down in the pink palace built by a besotted father for his princesses, Hollie asked what we should play next. I asked her to tell me a story.

“I don’t know any stories…” She held up empty hands, but that, I knew, was far from the truth. Not only can Hollie tell a good story from those she has heard, she also creates whole imaginary worlds for us to play in.

“You know lots of stories…” Hollie sighed and rolled her eyes in a manner that will serve her well when she has children of her own.

“Just pretend I don’t know any stories, Grandma… so, you’ll have to tell one.” I had walked into that, so we snuggled up and I began with the traditional words…

“Once upon a time, on the edge of a forest, there lived a little girl. She was as pretty as a princess and loved to wear a red riding cloak with a hood. Her name…” I could see the satisfaction as Hollie recognised the tale, “was Fred…”

Fred???”

“Fred.”

Hollie, her interest well and truly caught, sat forward in her armchair as I told how Little Fred Riding Hood had gone to visit Grandmother in the woods, carrying a basket of slimegrobbels, because Grandmother’s best friend, the Wolf, was poorly…and how, when she arrived at the cottage, Fred found that the wicked witch, disguised as a woodcutter, had changed them both into gingerbread men who had been packed in a giant’s lunchbox and had to be rescued by the fairy godmother who turned them into pumpkins by mistake.

Imogen was almost asleep, but Hollie had listened to every word. She sighed again.

That was just a pretend story, Grandma. Now tell me the real one…where Red Riding Hood isn’t called Fred… or anything else…” She went on to give me a synopsis of the whole adventure so that I would not miss any of the important details.

I smiled and told the story, pleased that my little granddaughter could tell the difference between a ‘real’ and a ‘pretend’ fairytale. It wasn’t simply that she knew the original plot well, she recognises that such tales have to be told in a certain way… ‘properly’, she called it. That is a common thing for children. The words and how a story is told matters.

What struck me most, though, was that from the way she was telling me the storyline, she also seems to understand, at some instinctive level, that while fairytales are not true, they are real in their own way. They have their own integrity and, when ‘properly’ told, they are important. Arbitrary changes are not allowed as they alter the essence of the story completely and, at the heart of every old fairytale, there are lessons to be learned whose sense will be lost if the salient details are altered.

In the days before the majority could read or write…and even further back, to a time before the written word was invented, storytelling would have been very much a part of the life of the tribes and families as they gathered around the light of the hearthfire. Stories would have been valued, from the anecdotes the old ones told of their youth, to the tales of the hunters, to those told by the shamans and teachers.

Much wisdom can be concealed within a story… and such tales would have been learned young, perhaps long before they were fully understood. Because they were stories, not obvious lessons, they would have been remembered and both the stories themselves and the hidden wisdom they held would have been passed down through the tribes and clans, just as we still remember the fairytales of childhood and tell them to the children at our knees.

As I sat there with my granddaughters, I felt that we were part of a story that goes back to the earliest human lives… and forward into a future that will one day leave even our memories behind. I remembered my own early years, looking up at great grandma and saying those same words. Images flitting across the screen of memory like gentle ghosts… a child absorbing lessons unawares, their stories attached to the emotions they engendered… and to the love of the storyteller .

Will Hollie tell her granddaughters about Little Fred Riding Hood one day? Will Imogen teach her grandchildren to make slimegrobbels and custard? How far into the past do we reach with that one simple phrase? How far into the future will one shared fairytale carry us as children uncountable say the magic words…

“Tell me a story.”


There is a lot more to fairytales than the wide eyed child understands, especially in the older versions. The archetypes we meet in these old stories echo many aspects of the human condition and the journey of the soul.

We are born into a magical world, where our childhood is peopled with wonders. We are given gifts and talents yet our soul is held within the body, like the princess in the castle. As we grow to adulthood the magic fades…or more precisely, our awareness of it fades. Like the princess, we fall asleep, lost to the song of the soul as the ‘curse’ takes hold. Alive but slumbering, waiting…

Join us next April to explore the hidden beauty of fairytales… and awaken the beauty that sleeps within.

A fully catered, residential weekend.

Click below for prices and to
Download a Booking Form – pdf

For further details or to reserve your place: rivingtide@gmail.com

Bean-Stalker…

bea

One of the ‘Cove Stones’ from the Avebury complex.

*

…Crisis!
The milk cow has finished giving…
Akin to a second weaning, but worse, this is a call to arms.

‘Go forth young man and make your way in the world,’ says Mum.

Jacques is anything but worldly.
He believes in magic.

He believes to such an extent that he is willing to give everything he has in return for five beans… magical.

Mum knows better and now she has her answer…

‘…Five beans… magical? Bah!’

Jacques will never amount to anything so she casts the beans aside without a second thought and banishes him to the attic supper-less and badly beaten…

Jacques’ tears of pain at his worthlessness activate the beans in the night and in the morning a stalk stands proud in the ground outside his window yoking Earth and Heaven…

‘Up the stalk then young Jacques, my lad, and see what you can find.’

‘… As if it were not enough to have yoked the two spheres,’ mutters Jacques but secretly he is thrilled that his ‘faith’ has paid such dividend…

*

…Heaven turns out to be just like Earth only everything is bigger.

At the top of the stalk is a Big Woman…

‘Mum’ Jacques calls her, cleverly, and then plays helpless, asking for food.

Like all ‘mums’ everywhere she is only too happy to oblige the little fellow, she leads Jacques into the kitchen perhaps thinking he will grow to be as big as her own man… who eats everything… including ‘young men’…

‘Quick, he’s coming’ cries the Big Woman as the heavenly-ground starts to shake…
‘Into the cooking pot, he’ll never think to look in there.’

‘Fee Fi Fo Fum’ says the Big Fella,
‘I smell the Blood of an earth-bound ‘un,
if he be living or if he be dead
his bones I’ll have to grind my bread…’

He does not think to look in the cooking pot for food though and after consuming what is put before him he falls asleep whilst counting his gold pieces and starts to snore…

In a flash Jacques is out the cooking pot and out the door and hurtling back down the stalk with the gold pieces…

*

Mum is pleased but like the milk the gold pieces soon run out.

Now what?

Jacques climbs back up the stalk to see what else he can find…

This time the Big Woman is a bit suspicious, ‘do you know anything about missing gold’ she asks, ‘I do actually ‘ says Jacques cleverly as the ground starts to shake again, ‘keep me safe and I’ll tell you where it is’ so the Big Woman puts Jacques in the oven, ‘he’ll never think to look in here.’

‘Fee Fi Fo Fum,’ says the Big Fella,
‘I smell the Soul of an earth-bound ‘un,
if he be free or if he be caught
his flesh I’ll have to nourish my heart.’

He does not think to look in the oven for food though and after consuming what is put before him he falls asleep whilst petting his golden-egg-laying hen and starts to snore…

In a flash Jacques is out the oven and out the door and hurtling back down the stalk with the golden-egg-laying hen…

Mum is pleased, the golden eggs never run out but the hen eventually dies.

Now what?

*

Jacques climbs back up the stalk to see what else he can find…

This time Jacques waits until the Big Woman goes out then sneaks into the kitchen just as the ground begins to shake. He leaps into the copper and pulls the lid over himself thinking, ‘he’ll never think to look in here.’

‘Fee Fi Fo Fum,’ says the Big Fella,
‘I smell the Spirit of an earth-bound ‘un
if he be moving or if he be still
I’ll take a draught and drink my fill…’

He does not think to look in the copper for sustenance though and after consuming what was left out for him he falls asleep listening to his self-playing harp, and starts to snore…

In a flash Jacques is out the copper and out the door and hurtling back down the stalk with the self-playing harp…

…But the harp calls out to its Master, ‘Wake up, wake up!
The earth-bound lad is stealing away with me.’

So the Big Fella wakes up.

Quick as a flash he comes charging down the stalk after Jacques.

But Jacques is too quick and Jacques is too nimble and he reaches the earth before the Giant and takes an axe to the bean-stalk so that it comes crashing down with the Big Fella still clinging to it… and in the fall… the Big fella breaks his crown, and wakes Jacques up!

***

 

Writings from the Temple III ~ Briony

Briony, who attended her first workshop with the Silent Eye at Lord of the Deep in April, first shared her thoughts with us a little while ago and continued earlier this week. Here she shares a little more of what came to her after the event.

Feminam
‘It is As it is’
The Mystery of the Feminine
You came like a thief in the night, unbeckoned, unwanted. You came with the Truth of your desire, the creator, urged by your Intention, fuelled by Primordia. You changed me. My Unknowingness, my darkness, my mystery became your resting place, your knowledge. I was wounded, changed forever, the unjudging welcoming the Judgement. I gave my passivity, my dormancy away like petals in the breeze, floating through Time and Space. The prostration was complete. I Am Changed. The darkness swells with the burgeoning Light. I shelter from it’s aching brightness. I cover it with the veils of the Eternal Feminam. There it lies, growing in knowing, changing my mystery. I become the
Cosmic Egg, the Unknowing and Knowing combined in the Eternal Dance of Light and Dark.
I Love You
Masculum
I entered, such bewilderment. The agony of innocence, the ecstasy of sense. How am I to fulfil my vow, my promise? How do I bring knowing to unknowing, the knowledge of Death in the Instance of Birth?
Agony and ecstasy are the same, pain and joy, love and hate, force and inertia, attraction and repulsion.
Living the Thought, speaking the Word. The Light blinds, the Darkness envelopes. Both shock our Non-being into Being.
I am that I am

Writings from the Temple II ~ Briony

Briony, who attended her first workshop with the Silent Eye at Lord of the Deep in April, shared her thoughts with us a little while ago. Here she shares the second part of what came to her after the event.

Fire and Ice, fire and ice. Ice in Fire, Fire in Ice. Melting without transforming, dousing without subduing.

Can these forces live in harmony? Knowledge encased, creates the decay of Time, eroding away the fabric of lost worlds. Civilisations stilled, bound by the potent desire to endure, to immortalise.

We watched the Accession. We listened to the cries of torment, of victory, of the vanquished.

We acted.

The Golem was created, born of Earth, filled with Divine Fire. Such beauty, such harmony! Trust incarnate, knowing no fear, living each solar cycle, each lunar cycle, each planetary movement, obeyed, trusted.

KA incarnate, AMMA flows with you, around you. My child be blessed! The Golem lives, forged in the womb of Earth, suckled by her beasts, given life by the astral fire of the Divine. Born of Earth, innocent of the Descent, no diadem of thorns crowns his brow, he lives, he breathes, the purity of life evidenced as untarnished love.

She came, her mystery entered his consciousness, he was awakened. KAMA IABBA. And so it began.

He knew himself, herself, they danced, she unveiled her mysteries, he learned her magic. The fire flowed with the water. The Child of Earth became Man.

‘Aye’ of the Unicorn: Tower…

Image result for Alchemical unicorn

*

To complete our pentagrams

we returned to our

core principles and considered the shadow.

*

The setting was not the swiftly flowing Spey

but a quitely progressing brook

which arced in a crescent

around the space in which we chose to work.

*

Out text saw the Queen of Witches,

Hecate, admonishing the Weird Sisters

for tampering with the modalities of time.

*

A fitting end to conclude our adventures.

*

The child outgrew the shadow

 filling the limbs

and head of the pentagram

before climbing astride

the Unicorn

and bounding away…

*

With thanks to Dean Powell and Steve Tanham for organising the weekend…
and to all those who joined us in Scotland for making it a great one.

Untitled

If you would like to join us for a weekend, exploring the inner, spiritual landscape, within the Living Land of Britain, please see our Events page.

‘Aye’ of the Unicorn: Circle…

*

As the weekened progressed

we were to work our way around ‘the limbs’

of an elemental pentagram.

*

Two sites from the region

were given over to each element.

*

In the first we would consider the element in question

with the help of a conducive environment and our core text.

*

In the second we would construct and walk our pentagrams,

again in a conducive environment,

whilst examining notions of our magical self

in relation to the element and its inner psychology.

*

Mid and late Saturday morning,

we considered and worked with the element of water.

*

Which all turned a bit weird.

*

For one thing we abandoned our core text

and instead considered the information board

to the Holy Well at Burghead.

*

There was no disputing that the place

was ancient and held to be sacred,

but some of the uses to which it had been put

caused rumblings in the assembled ranks of the Companions.

*

These only increased as the steep steps

down to the cavernous well head were traversed.

*

There seems to have long been an ancient connection

between skulls and sacred waters.

*

Symbolically, this combination relates

to accessing the pool of ancestral wisdom.

*

A ‘baptism’ in these waters would be an acceptance

of this higher source of being which reaches beyond the circle of time…

*

As if in confirmation of such a notion

when we reached our second site

for the element of water

the tide had come in!

 

 

 

Lord of the Deep: An overview of the Sumerian Planetary Beings by ‘The Patrician Lady’

For the Sumerians, Anu, the Sky Father, was the Supreme Being, from whom all other gods descended. His parents were Enshar and Kishar… the ‘whole Heaven’ and the whole Earth’. He was associated with the planet Pluto and he constellation, Draco, the Dragon.

Aruru, also known as Ninhursag, ‘the lady of the sacred mountain’, was the Mother Goddess upon whom Anu called to create Enkidu, a so-called ‘wild man’, in order to tame the arrogance of Gilgamesh. But there is far more to that part of the story…

The multiplicity of deities in many of the ancient cultures can seem incredibly complex to modern eyes and minds, accustomed, for the most part, to a monotheistic approach. It gets even more complicated as cultures evolve… Deities names are changed, an although their attributes remain the same, they may rise or fall in prominence.

We had to make some executive decisions on the choice of the names and incarnations we chose to use for the deities that feature in the story of Gilgamesh, a tale that came down from Sumer through later evolutions of that culture. But whatever name is borne by a god, their essence remains the same.

Although unable to join us this year, The Patrician Lady, a friend of the Silent Eye, generously wrote an overview of the Planetary Beings… gods of the Sumerian Pantheon…that formed part of one of the meditations.

The Planetary Beings

The Patrician Lady

Monday: Moon: NANNA (male)
I am Nanna, also known as Sin, first-born son of Enlil and Ninlil. I govern the Moon. I am the image of all things, and I have the quality of change, as indeed does the moon, for it is never the same for two days. I arise as a tusk of the boar of heaven and all things have their increase. I flourish in the night, rivalling Utu, the sun, and when I am at my greatest, then I need the dreams of men, for I mediate between this world and the sun. During the dark of the moon I spend my days of sleep in the underworld where I decide the fates of the dead. All pass my gate and I take taxes from all that possess. As the god Nanna I am particularly a ruler of women for the months of the moon are the days of a woman’s courses. In all matter of timing, of crops, of children and of beasts, I, Nanna, am over all, and in my character of governor of life I have dominion over illness. Therefore the wise man pays court to me, Nanna; he observes my movements and my relationships with the other Gods that go about the heavens. For I hold the keys to your lives, past and to come.

Tuesday: Mars: GUGULANNA (male) 
I am Gugulanna, also known as Nergal, second-born of Enlil and Ninlil. I govern the planet Mars. I am Lord of the Underworld, I am the certain, the justice of the gods. I am the God of war, God of Battle; reaper, plougher, I am he who burns, who destroys, purifies, who rejects and judges. I am portrayed as a warrior, fighting for the right and needing always to do so, and this is the Law. All depends on everything else and is balanced by the limitation of each part. The nature of a thing forms the limitation of that thing. Necessity is the axle of the gods and I, Gugulanna, am that axle. Turn the top of the wheel and the bottom turns. I am that wheel, I cannot be evaded, therefore I am called Cruel. In the kingdom our laws should reflect this inevitability. Penalties should be clear, quick and precise. All messages pass through Nebo, patron of writing, but the messages from the height of human experiences are formed by me, Gugulanna. When your mind soars into the area where there are only the Holy Winds blowing, and you apprehend things of a greater content than your mind can grasp, which have the certainty of Knowledge, Understanding and Skill, then I, Gugulanna, beating upon the limits of your ordinary knowledge and judgement, give form and content to this expansion of ordinary experience. This is the gift of listening, the gift of oracles, the power of prophecy. I am also the burner, the destroyer, for this is the last limitation. I have the drawback of certainty and can turn my back easily on what is considered by me to be not fitting. I create the limitation of all things, for I am the protector of all things, as well as the destroyer. Know the shape of a thing, and the laws that govern it can be used. Whatsoever the nature is, by that is it bound.  I make those laws.

Wednesday: Mercury: ENKI (male)
I am Enki, also known as Nabu and by some as Ea, son of Anu and Nammu, the sky and the sea. I govern the planet Mercury. I am the Message Giver, the god of speech, the god of letters, the god of numbers, the god of science. As the god of speech I can speak to the earth and the earth speaks. The sky speaks, the water speaks. And the fire. They speak and I recognise. And the god of writings. In the sky, signs; in the fire, visions; in the water, shapes; in the earth, letters. Know the signs and your eyes will speak for them. But the eyes must recognise the signs. I am the Lord of all forms which are ever made; changeable yet remaining always the same in essence. I am the god of science. I bring understanding of the nature of things and whence they come. The laws of the beasts, the law of the arts, the laws of growth and decay, seed-time and harvest, sickness and health. The laws of water, earth, fire and air. When we recognise them, then we know how we may act, in the smallest way for the best result. The voice of Inanna is Enki, and from me all that can be communicated comes, the laws and the signs and the symbols, all are mine; and the eyes, and ears, the mouth and the nose and the fingers, the common senses, all are mine. From me all numbers may be known. I am the architect; I measure and weigh. I plan foundations and measure the height. I have given you the secrets of the square by the art of number. I have left you rules by which to make our temples square and true, for if the foundations be not square and true your temples will not stand.

Thursday: Jupiter: ENLIL (male)
I am Enlil, brother to Enki.  I am also known as Marduk the Magnificent, the Ever-expanding, the Master of Life, the Source of Power. Lord of the creative force.
I govern the planet Jupiter.
Who is this that shines in the Morning of the World, brighter than a thousand suns,
Whose voice spreadeth to the ends of heavens, whose sound is as thunder,
I am Wakener of winds, binding chaos to make the worlds, thrower of thunderbolts,
Against me, who can stand?
Mine is the power that spreads, mine is the force that moves, I am the lover that livens, I am all that living may be.

Friday: Venus: INANNA (female)
I am Inanna, maiden, mother and crone; also known as Ishtar, lover of the sparrowhawk, lion, stallion, and of men. I am she who turns the planets in their courses, and the suns in their paths through the garden of precious stones, who brings forth the seed in season and cuts it down in its prime. I am the perpetuator of cycles: Fire comes from the warmth of the sun into wood, burnt as fire, goes to earth as ash and to heavens as smoke, to the sun as light, all returns, is changed and goes forth again. All eats and is eaten, changes, dies and is reborn. The mysteries of Inanna are simple. Within all living things there is an urge, a driving force that keeps them living. Yet all things living die. Here then is the reason for the mutilation of my servants. They are brought by dance and music and devotion to that state wherein they lose all idea of who and what they are and become vehicles for the goddess. I do not care. My passions are with life and death. Love and mercy are not mine. Only my dancing speaks, only the women in the way of the silver piece speak, with their inmost parts to the inmost parts of men, only thus may I be known. And the stars without number that you see in the heavens will in their turn populate the heavens, to time without end. For the star of the morning and the star of the evening are one. All is rhythm, all rhythms have an end. All have a death and a beginning.

Saturday: Saturn: NINURTA (male)
I am Ninurta, god of war and hunt, also known as Ningursu. I am the patron of restrictions and  boundaries and laws of man. I govern Saturn. I am one with the shape former.  I am god of all forms which are ever made. I am the water, taking the shape of the skin, or the pot. Destroy whatever there is but I remain unchanged. In the earth lies waiting the shape of grass, corn, the thistles, the trees, and the fruits and blossoms. I govern all the shapes of all the insects, birds, and all the living creatures that lie hiding and waiting. For they come from all the grounds and motions of things, awaiting the touch of the seed to spring into being, the fixed shape of things, as the egg is in the womb. I am the bringer and the preventer of Chaos, the giver of real form. From me the forms of all things are written and their fate. From all this it can be seen that I have no need to act.  For from the form, which I give, all necessary forms of action arise.

Sunday: Sun: UTU
I am Utu, also known as Shemesh, the Master of the Chariot. I govern the Sun. I am the giver of light to the high country. From me comes all warmth, from me comes fire. I, Utu, am the centre of this world of gods but I am created by all the gods. Now it is my nature to shine upon all, good and evil, just and unjust. I distribute their bounty. I balance all, erring neither above nor below, by right or by left. I am so near that I seem to be greater than all others. Yet I am given the thread of life from Anu, substance from Enlil, direction from Ninurta, dominion from Enlil, decision from Gugulanna; I give and receive instruction from Inanna, and from Enki I am given news of all that comes to pass. From Sin I both give and receive honesty and justness. Such a king am I, that is both sun and servant, a light to all men and a guide to their path through life.

Lord of the Deep: Offspring of Silence ~ A presentation from Jan Malique

Jan Malique , a Companion of the Silent Eye, has kindly agreed to allow us to share the text of a presention she gave at the Lord of the Deep workshop, which addresses some of the core themes of the story…

Offspring of Silence Grasping for Immortality: Journeys Beyond Death

Jan Malique

This presentation was born out of speculation and a result of the dialogue with Silence. Life, Death and Immortality are huge concepts to grapple with, and not always easy to understand. Like Gilgamesh, humans have strived to keep the approach of death at bay, perhaps hoping our glories and creative efforts will ensure an immortality of sorts. Maybe not physical immortality, but something greater, an enduring essence of spirit, of our names being uttered by those left behind. There’s an ancient Egyptian New Kingdom tomb inscription that beautifully encapsulates the essence of what immortality may really mean:

“To speak the name of the dead is to make them live again.
It restoreth the Breath of Life to him who has vanished” 

After several thousand years we’re still reading the exploits of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, so wouldn’t say they’ve entered into the glorious landscape of Eternity? Now what of the heroes of this drama? I suppose Enkidu would be the perfect person to begin with.

 

Cries from the Silence

Enkidu, was called “offspring of silence”, a romantic and terribly poignant title for anyone to bear. He was moulded out of clay and given life, an unbridled example of physical vigour and its appetites. A being who was the fearsome wilderness present outside the city gates, being a primeval manifestation of humanity’s psyche, its original innocence perhaps. A perfect companion to Gilgamesh the warrior king. They appeared invincible, immune from the ravages of time and hand of death. Might they be considered immortal even? Physically, no. It was achieved in other ways.

Their story made me think “aren’t we all offspring of silence?,” creatures born from the Great Silence that is the Unmanifest Universe. A place beyond mortal understanding and perception, forever veiled and open to perpetual speculation. We’re born from silence and enter into a world of noise, yet, the silence is ever-present and promises we’ll return to its embrace eventually. Even the Universe must return to a state of non-being, embrace the fire of destruction when the end comes. Then, only darkness and utter silence exist as the Cosmic Consciousness lies slumbering, gestating new worlds. Does this sound like total annihilation? No, but our fear of being extinguished totally at death is understandable, to become dust and clay covering the vestiges of civilisation in an inglorious end. A bleak viewpoint, but only one perception of a Universe that’s manifestly alive and filled with mystery.

The story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu is also humanity’s search for eternal life throughout the ages, as well as the fear of loss, of memories, loved ones, physical deterioration, and status. Philosophy and metaphysics have explored questions of existence and death at great length, but to what end? We continue to grasp yearningly at an elusive prize, despondent at the obliteration of the Self who returns once more to the earth.

How do we articulate our fears except to use the words of Gilgamesh in his conversation with Siduri the Alewife:

I am afraid of Death [and so I roam open country].

The words of my friend [weigh upon me].

[I roam open country] for long distances; the

Words of my friend Enkidu weigh upon me.

I roam open country on long journeys.

[How, o how] could I stay silent, how, O how

Could I keep quiet [             ]?

My friend whom I love has turned to clay:

Enkidu my friend whom I love [has turned to clay].

Am I not like him? Must I lie down too,

Never to rise, ever again?

(Dalley, S. 1989, Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, And Others, OUP, p.101)

Further words of regret will fall from his lips, when he eventually locates and (loses) the physical source of rejuvenation, a plant called “the restoration of old age to youth” found in the primordial waters of Apsu.  The prize is his only for a brief moment, then snatched by a serpent who ingests it and immediately sheds its skin.There’s symbolism aplenty to mull over in this extract.

As for Gilgamesh, he finds healing but not the prize sought so desperately. The return to Uruk is still filled with grief for the loss of his friend, and a yearning to learn of the secrets of existence after death. A wish that can only bring further regret and reinforce the futility of mortal existence.

 

From Blood and Clay arisen

For those who are seekers of the Greater Mysteries, we know death is not the end, but only a doorway to greater states of consciousness. Through training we can prepare for the moment of transition and what lies beyond. Regardless, grief and a sense of loss is still ours to experience despite the inner knowing. The human part of our nature knows this to be true, and the divine part? It urges us to look beyond the trappings of illusion and perceive reality as it truly is. It makes me wonder whether our eventual evolution will be into a state of pure consciousness, infinite and complete. A lovely thought.

Immortality has been the focus of humanity’s hopes and dreams since early times, infusing our creative and intellectual endeavours in its pursuit. One can speculate at length about what has been lost before the advent of written language. The conferring of immortality by the gods was a rare gift, achieved after tremendous trial and tribulation. Those so favoured were blessed indeed, touched by divinity, to be eventually placed amongst the stars in the heavenly firmament. What of the rest of humanity not so favoured?

One early Babylonian epic entitled “Atrahasis” describes the creation of humans from clay and the blood of a god who was sacrificed for this specific purpose. What inauspicious beginnings these fragile creatures sprang from, part human and part divine, yet never likely to taste of immortality. Humanity’s sole purpose was to serve the gods and provide them with daily care. A life of servitude meant being subject to deities whose fickle natures may offer a benevolent hand on one day and rain down vengeance on another. The human condition was defined by mortality and lives of hardship for many. The soul’s existence in the afterlife was dependent on the social status of the individual, and for those of a lower status the afterlife presented no cessation of hardships. Therefore the prevailing attitude was “why prepare for it?”

 

Descent into the Earth

Indeed, why prepare for it? The Soul’s existence in the afterlife was dependent on several factors:

  • Social status while alive
  • Care given to their body, grave and cult statue after death
  • The number of offspring they had, especially sons, as the eldest was responsible for making offerings

If these conditions were met, the deceased would have to navigate many dangers before it reached the place of judgement in the Underworld, presided over by Ereshkigal, Goddess of the Underworld and seven judges, the Annunaki. Once judgment had been passed, they would be assigned a place within the city of the dead.

Accounts of the Underworld describe it as a great cave beneath the earth, with the Earth being a mountain and the cave as a hollow within. The cave was a huge, dark place, surrounded by seven gates and walls, an invincible fortress guarded by Namtar, the god of pestilence. He prevented the living from entering and the dead from escaping. It was a place of decay, inactivity and devoid of joy. The Underworld wasn’t considered a “hell” as it is in certain cultures, only a duller version of life. On reflection, this could be regarded as hell by many.

The Mesopotamians didn’t consider physical death to be the end, as the dead were thought to exist in the form of a spirit called gidim (Sumerian) and etemmu (Akkadian). It was an entity closely related to the physical corpse. Death was a state of transition from one existence into another and in order for that to happen the proper funerary rites had to be performed. If not, the spirit was reduced to begging in the Underworld and could either become a restless ghost or demon plaguing the living. The living had a variety of methods to deal with these vengeful entities including:

  • Tying magical knots
  • Using magical ointments
  • Pouring libations while chanting magical spells
  • Making amulets
  • Burying figures representing the ghost
  • Drinking magical potions

This is only a fragment of what could be told about the dead and Underworld, but for the sake of our souls perhaps best not to linger in this dark and dismal place. Like Ishtar we need to return to life and the manifest world, bringing to light wisdom gained between states of transition and consciousness.

 

Arise Creature of Flesh and Divinity

The journey of “Offspring of Silence” is nearing its end and what have we learned from the experience? That physical immortality is not within reach, and perhaps not a viable option to avoid either the grave or funeral pyre. Who wants to be immortal anyway? To never age and die, to always suffer grief at the loss of loved ones as they wither and fade into nothingness, be witness to the ebb and flow of civilisations, see them rise and disappear into the dust, hear their songs being carried on the breeze and lament their passing. What do we think Eternity will offer us as we cling to our vehicles of clay and blood?  Who will remember us and our lives? Can we transcend our attachments to objects and people, and find solace in the vastness of the Universe around us?

These questions haunt the figure sitting on the quayside, beyond which lies the vast Ocean of Creation and Death. Hot salty tears slide down their cheeks, all appears lost at this point of the heroic journey. Then a gentle hand wipes away their tears. The figure lifts their head to face themselves, infinite and complete.