Abydos, the Osireion and Egyptian Sacred Science

© Vincent Bridges 9/1/2000

Far up the Nile in Upper Egypt, sometime during the fourth millennium BCE, three great confederations, formed around the cult centers of what our earliest references call “the living gods,” unified to create the first great Egyptian kingdom. Eventually, this federation would spread north and south to conquer the Two Lands of the Nile and become the 1st Dynasty. In the south, a cult of Horus the Elder formed around Edfu and Neken and grew into its own state. Just north of Neken, in the bend of the great river, the living god was a goddess, Hathor, the consort of Horus. Since time immemorial, far back into the mists of Egyptian prehistory, the Lady of the House of Heru sailed down the river each year to meet her mate, Horus the Elder, at the ancient mound of Behdet at Edfu and celebrate the sacred marriage.

This ancient closeness between the cult centers of the two early confederations led to a degree of political unity. However, Upper Egypt did not become a truly powerful federation until the addition of the third great independent confederation, that of Thinis down river from Nubt of Hathor. The living god of the cult center and capital, Abydos, was a dog deity named Khent-Amenty, which meant something like “Head of the West.” Since the entrance to the underworld, the land of the dead, was said to lie through the gap in the Libyan hills to the west, Khent-Amenty was seen as a kind of psycho-pomp or guardian of the land of the dead.

This of course is supposition, as the cult of Osiris later overlaid and distorted most of the original doctrines of Khent-Amenty. We can not even say with any degree of certainty when this happened. As early as 3,000 BCE, Osirian funeral artifacts appeared at Abydos. Within a few hundred years, the 1st Dynasty kings of a unified Egypt built tombs and cenotaphs at Abydos in order to be near the tomb of Osiris and the gateway to the Land of the Dead. From then on, Abydos was the center of the Osirian mysteries.

But the core of the Osirian mysteries may lie within the ancient cult of Khent-Amenty. Even though not much remains of the cult, the ancient cenotaph reconstructed by Seti I in the course of building his temple to Osiris, provides us with our most valuable clues. Called the Osireion to give it a proper Greek emphasis by its 19th century rediscoverers, Flinders Petrie and Margaret Murray, this structure is one of the most unique and intriguing in all Egypt.

To understand this, we must imagine what the area looked like during the rise of the Thinite confederation. Abydos, or Abedju (which, curiously enough, can be loosely translated as “heart of the world axis,” perhaps the same concept as the Greek Omphalos), in its wide bowl-shaped valley was primarily a ritual and funeral site. The administrative and trading center lay a few miles north, near the current village of Birba. The deep green valley, where the cultivated land reached almost to the Libyan hills, was seen as a spiritual enclave. In the center of the bowl, angled on a southeast/northwest axis from the western gap in the hills, lay the original Thinite necropolis.

Standing among its ruins, the eroded mounds of pre-dynastic mastabahs, one is immediately struck by the alignment to the western gap. Because of the angle, the equinox sunset does not fall in the gap. The ancient Thinite necropolis is aligned so that it is the summer solstice sunset that shines down on it through the gap. Following this line through the old necropolis brings us to Seti’s temple grounds. The line itself crosses the Osireion before running through the western wall of the Hall of the Djed in Seti’s temple. Of course, Seti’s temple was built in the 19th Dynasty, and so wasn’t there in the Thinite era. But something like the Osireion just might have been there, and served as the terminal point of the sacred “path of the Dead” guarded by Khent-Amenty.

An image from an Old Kingdom sarcophagus suggests how it may have originally looked. We see a hemispheric mound, similar to other omphalos images, with a chamber deep inside labeled “Osiris lives.” On the top of the mound are four large and prominent trees, representing the four axis of the celestial sphere, the four Trees of Life. We can easily imagine this tall mound rising from the valley floor and defining the central alignment of the Thinite necropolis as it guarded the path and its mysteries. Thus the term “Khent-Amenty” or Head of the West, from the top-of-the-head like appearance of the Osireion mound.

Equally curious is that Khent-Amenty, a dog-like deity shown recumbent on a black standard, may in fact reflect an earlier understanding of the zodiac. The guardian of the west suggests a match for that guardian of the east, the Sphinx, and both can be related to the same constellation, that of Leo. Primitive cultures have often seen Leo as a dog-like creature, and it has even been suggested that the Sphinx originally depicted a dog. At the time of the earliest pre-dynastic cultures at Abydos, the ancestors of the Thinites around the turn of the 5th millennium BCE, the summer solstice sun was in Leo. So, standing in the sacred grove on top of the Osireion mound, one would have seen the sun set, and there, sparkling in the night sky, would have been Khent-Amenty, the black dog of Leo, guarding the path of eternal life.

With this in mind, we can glimpse the greater pattern of precessional astronomy behind all of Egyptian sacred science. The Aker or horizon of the Sphinx marks the half round, every 13,000 or so years, rising of Leo on the equinoxes. The Aker/horizon of Abydos — and there is a curious sphinx-like Aker shown in the Osireion’s Book of Caverns — marks the quarter cycle with the summer solstice alignment of Leo. Thus using Leo, or more precisely the cusp of Leo/Cancer, which would allow the maximum visibility of Khent-Amenty through the gap, it is possible to track with great accuracy the turning of the seasons in the Great Year.

Interestingly enough, the date for the best viewing of Khent-Amenty/Leo from the location of the Osireion is the early 7th millennium, the approximate date, given the water erosion of its figure, for the construction of the Sphinx. There are also similarities in the construction of the Osireion and the Sphinx’s so-called Valley Temple. Both use massive unadorned blocks of granite as their prime architectural component. But while the Valley Temple has sophisticated polygonal shapes to its blocks, reminiscent of the stone work at Tianahuaco in Peru, the Osireion uses severely simple blocks of regular, although massive, size. The temptation is to suggest that both structures belong to the same ancient culture, with perhaps the Osireion being the oldest because of its simplicity of design.

Given the totality of the evidence, it seems likely that this is true, to a degree. Some head-like mound surely existed as the terminus of the summer solstice alignment, probably with some kind of simple chambered tomb inside of it. However, according to the evidence of the experts, Seti I extensively rebuilt the Osireion. On the main superstructure of the central island, it was once possible to see, three courses of masonry down, the cartoche of Seti I. Since this implies massive structural work in Seti’s time, we might as well suppose that he completely rebuilt the structure according to some ruined original. He as much as tells us this in the inscriptions in the antechamber. The Old Kingdom sarcophagus mentioned above suggests that its basic design was well known, and there is some evidence in the Osireion itself that an earlier king, the 11th Dynasty Mentuhotep II, did some rebuilding at the site.

What we do know is that sometime in the decade before 1300 BCE, work on the main Osiris temple halted until the early years of Rameses II reign. The temple itself has a curious L shape that is unique in Egyptian temple architecture, and which seems designed to avoid building over the Osireion. Even those scholars who insist that the Osireion is Seti’s cenotaph do not explain why the design of the main temple was shifted to accommodate the Osireion. Most unexplained of all is the sudden appearance of another Book of the Dead style version of the underworld known as the Book of Caverns.

While this is not the place to go into the intricacies of the Osirian mysteries, the importance of the Book of Caverns information must be stressed. Here, the creation drama is taken over to form the mythology of the salvation of the Prisoner in the Underworld. This unusual viewpoint forms the basis for a kind of Gnostic shamanism that lies at the core of Egyptian sacred science.

The Book of Caverns depicts the underworld journey of the sun through a series of caverns, bringing light to the depths and the darkness. In those depths is Osiris, protected and isolated by the cosmic serpent — Wer, the ancient One, or Nehaher, the Fearful Face, or as we are told in the Book of Caverns, Neheb-kau, the primeval snake power. As the sun shines into the depths of the chamber beneath the Sphinx-like Aker, Osiris begins to revive, his life force returns, symbolized by the erect penis. In order to free himself from the primeval snake power, an exchange must take place with the sun. “O you who were in the coils of the serpent,” the sun declares, “I deliver him to you by the order which comes from my mouth. I will cause you to breathe with what comes from my mouth . . . and may my light . . . give illumination to your caverns without the serpent seeing.”

Osiris had always been mysteriously connected with the idea of divine light, either of the sun and/or the moon. Chapter 183 of the Book of the Dead has Thoth, a moon god, announcing to Osiris that “he made the light shine on your inert body, for you he illuminated the dark ways.” This echo from the ancient mysteries continues down to the 19th century magical order, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which used similar words in its ritual of the Neophyte. However, the clearest exposition of this idea can be found in the Gnostic text known as the Paris Papyrus, one of the gems looted from Egypt by Napoleon’s savants.

In papyrus IV, lines 475 – 830, we find a ritual to attain immortality by inhaling light. The aspirant is first told to perform seven days of rituals, and then three days of dark retreat. On the morning of the eleventh day, the aspirant is to face the rising sun and perform an invocation: “First source of all sources . . . perfect my body . . . (so) that I may participate again in the immortal beginning . . . that I may be reborn in thought . . . and that the holy spirit may breathe in me.” With this, the aspirant inhales the first rays of the rising sun and then leaves his body behind, rising into the heavens, filled with Light. “For I am the Son (of the Sun), I surpass the limits of my souls, I am (magical symbol for Light).”

During the late New Kingdom, the ideas from the Book of Caverns became popular enough to be included on tombs and coffins. On the coffin of a late 20th Dynasty noble, we can see how these ideas reached their common form. Osiris as Sokar is entombed in a seven-step mound formed from the coils of the primeval serpent. The inner sun shines down on his body, and on glyphs identifying Abydos. Above the apex of the pyramid formed of the serpent’s body, Osiris sits enthroned on the gnomonic cube of space, his arms crossed in the position of the resurrected god. Isis and Nepthys stand behind him, with Horus before him offering a lotus on an omphalos-like mound. At the edge of the picture, behind Isis and Nepthys, is a strange being with an unidentifiable glyph on his head. He is holding two straightened snakes at right angles to each other over his navel center.

This simple ideograph holds the key to many mysteries, but for now let us direct our attention to the two most cogent, the mystery man with the straightened snakes and the offering from Horus. According to the authorities, including A. Piankoff (who suspects that the entire Book of Caverns is a remnant of the ancient Abydos cult), this mysterious figure represents the primal forces, the faceless beings found in the underworld. Why such a being should be holding two crossed snakes is left unexplained.

One of the main themes in the Book of Caverns is that of “straightening” the primeval serpent. In some versions, the serpent is chopped into pieces, an idea echoed in the checkerboard snake seen here. To straighten the cosmic snake then is to align one’s self in space/time. In that sense, our primal force is holding two of the three alignments of the cube of space, the axis of the Great Year defined by the Leo alignments of the Sphinx and Khent- Amenty. This suggests that the mystery of Osiris’ resurrection, the mystery of immortality, is also the mystery of time itself.

And then, there is that gift of Horus . . .

In most scenes of this kind, we would expect to see Horus presenting Osiris the magical Eye or an Ankh, and so the offering of a simple lotus is unusual. The lotus is the symbol of Upper Egypt, but this is no political symbol Horus is presenting. It is a simple lotus, but perhaps one of a particular kind. The mound suggests Abydos, and there might have been a rare kind of lotus grown just at Abydos.

Given the recent revelations concerning the psychotropic qualities of the Blue Lotus of Upper Egypt, perhaps this supposition is correct. However, once we start thinking along these lines, other ideas spring to mind. If, as seems most likely, the active ingredient in the Blue Lotus is in the Tryptamine family of psychotropic alkaloids, then we might have to rethink our basic understanding of the entire Osirian myth. Most tryptamines have trouble passing the blood-brain barrier without synergestic help from other alkaloids, usually in the beta-harmoline/beta-carboline families. In South America, these synergestic brews are known as “yage,” and are extensively used as a shamanic agent. Indeed, the complex knowledge of nature displayed by the native peoples of the rain forest and high plateau of the Andes seems to have been gained directly through the use of these shamanic agents.

Perhaps that is how the ancient Egyptians came by their sophisticated knowledge of the cosmos and human destiny. But do we have any evidence of anything like “yage,” other than the Blue Lotus, in ancient Egypt?

Recent Jordanian ethno-botanical research has disclosed that a type of “yage” brewed from Acaia tree gum, Syrian rue seeds and various grasses of the genus Phalaris has served as the major Bedouin shamanic agent for thousands of years. This is interesting because the Acaia tree has always been held to be sacred to Osiris. From the Middle Kingdom on, we have images showing Osiris being fed or even suckled from the Acaia tree. The sacred trees shown growing from the top of the Osireion mound are often described as Acaias. Even more curious is the fact that several of the barley grasses grown in pre-dynastic times, as today, in raised “Osiris” beds are rich in natural tryptamine alkaloids.

This casts the so-called “barley hymns” to Osiris, such as Coffin Text 330, in a very different light. “Whether I live or die, I am Osiris, I enter in and reappear through you . . . The Gods are living in me for I live and grow in the grain that sustains the Honored Ones.” And again: “I am the Lord of Khennet, I have entered into the natural order of the world, I have reached its limits . . .” Khennet is often translated as a name for the royal granary, but may in fact be related to the Osireion, in its ancient form of “head of the west.” Khen-net, could be a contraction of KHENt-aMEnTy. In this sense, we might think of the Osireion as not just a temple or a tomb/cenotaph, but as a sophisticated shamanic laboratory and botanical garden.

Horus is also the god of Light, in the sense of a mystical or inner sun. His offering of the lotus brings the light motif full circle, presenting us with the idea of inner and outer light sparked by the unusual, straightened snakes of the times. To unravel this final mystery, we must focus on the question of the light. Why are the texts insistent on certain kinds of light?

The Paris Papyrus suggests sunrise, while the alignment at the Osireion suggests sunset. The “midnight sun” of the Book of Caverns suggests starlight, while the strange insistence on including Thoth suggests moonlight, or possibly, an eclipse. The cosmic alignment gives still another kind of light, a unique eruption from either a nova or the center of the galaxy, as proposed by Dr. Paul LaViolette, and which could be related to the Great Year of precession if the eruptions are regular.

So we have four categories of “light” to consider. Sunrise and sunset could be considered as red light, that is sunlight filtered of all but the longest, and therefore the reddest, waves by the atmosphere. Starlight is a natural form of luminal coherence, such as is achieved in modern lasers. While starlight is nowhere as coherent as a laser, it does exhibit some of the same properties of frequency coherence. Also certain stars have light of a particular frequency, exhibited as their color; Canopus is green, Antares, red and Sirius a brilliant blue-white. Light from such stars exhibit coherence around these color frequencies.

Moonlight is simply reflected sunlight. However moonlight, like sunlight, seems too common for the scenario. Moonrise and moonset would also be reddened by the atmosphere, in addition to polarized by reflection, so that this would give these moments a unique light signature. Unfortunately, these moments are not indicated in the texts. But there are intriguing indirect pointers to suggest that an eclipse, and their light, could have been very important.

Around the central portion of the Osireion’s inner chamber are seventeen small chambers. This is an unusual number, a prime, which seems to have no relationship to any cosmic or planetary cycles. But when we add to this the ten pillars of the central island, we get 27, a key precessional number. Even more curious, when we account for “Osiris” as the central section of the island, we find that we have 18.6, the number of years in an eclipse cycle. We arrive at this by means of geometry. The center of the island contains another well, a square, and a smaller island reached by faux steps. The space defined by the small island and its steps is related to the square well in the proportion of 1: Phi, or 1.618. If we assign this value to Osiris, then we have a total of 18.618, which will define eclipse cycles within a few hours of accuracy.

So, if the hidden secret of the Osireion is the ability to predict eclipses, then what is the quality of eclipse light? Lunar eclipses would seem to be the absence of light, except perhaps for reflected starlight. A solar eclipse however is another matter, particularly a total eclipse. The body of the moon blocks the main light of the sun, allowing only the corona light to reach the earth. This is rich in the higher frequencies of the ELM spectrum, appearing almost ultra-violet blue, and is known to have a pronounced effect on all life, including humans. Perhaps this is the “midnight sunlight” which revives Osiris in the underworld?

Our fourth kind of light is even harder to get a handle on. This new light, timed by some portion of the precessional cycle, would exhibit unknown characteristics that could include radical shifts in our perceptions, and given the brain chemistry connection between the life cycle and the serotonin/melotonin cycle, perhaps even an enhancement of our species’ life span. In that sense, the resurrection of Osiris is something that happens rarely, once or twice during the Great Year, and produces radical shifts in human development when it occurs.

In many ways, this interpretation makes the most sense. The Osirification of a species is something that happens regularly, along with the burst of new precessional light. This new light drives us toward our future, and our destiny as a sentient species. Indeed, this seems to our modern consciousness the most likely explanation. But it does not explain those, throughout history, who have tried to hasten this process of Osirification.

However, if we assume that some kind of cosmological, precessionally timed Osirification did in fact occur, then perhaps we can reverse engineer the techniques of the Osiris cult who tried to reproduce it. While we cannot know exactly the qualities of light from, say, a galactic core eruption, we can determine some of its characteristics. Since it is exploding outward at the speed of light, we would see it as doppler-shifted toward the upper end of the spectrum. It would appear as deep ultra-violet blue. Also, the effect of the clouds of dust that obscure the center of the galaxy at the moment would act as an “eclipse” giving the impression of bluish light pouring out from around a block of darkness.
With these similarities, it easy to see the importance a solar eclipse would have. In many ways, it could be seen as a smaller and less intense version of the eruption light, down to the sense of having most of it blocked out. The light would also be rich in the upper ELM frequencies, just as the eruption light. However, a total solar eclipse happens only once or twice a generation at any locality. Surely, the Osiris cult would look for other sources of the proper light qualities.

And the place to look would be starlight, the blue white stars such as Sirius or the Pleiades. Both of these stars have mystical antecedents, with Sirius being deeply involved in the Osiris cult. Traditionally associated with Isis, through whose auspices Osiris was resurrected, Sirius is the brightest star in the sky. But is there a connection between the Osireion and Sirius?

Strangely enough, yes. If we assume that the orientation of the Osireion chamber itself was not changed by Seti’s reconstruction, then another intriguing alignment emerges. At the same time period, the turn of the 7th millennium BCE, when Khent-Amenty/Leo was setting on the summer solstice sunset through the mountain gap, Sirius was high in the southwestern sky, perfectly aligned with the central axis of the Osireion. This certainly suggests that the midnight sun whose light resurrects Osiris is the focused, coherent starlight of Sirius, seen by the ancient as the best available analog for the eruption light of the precessional Osirification.

This idea would also connect the sunrise/sunset light. These moments, and their red-light qualities, would be used to anchor the physical containers, both the bodies of the initiates and the physical structure of the mound and chamber. It might also be useful for the growth of the initiate’s psychotropic pharmacology. In this perspective, the pattern of light delineated by the Osirian mysteries becomes part of a larger sacred science that includes such cosmological ideas as the quality of time being related to the quality of light, a sophisticated pharmacological technology to achieve resonance with that frequency wave of new light, and knowledge enough to make use of eclipse light and Sirius light to mimic the new light of the precessional moment.

Of course, the process of Osirification remains obscure. A major clue is provided by the geometry of the Osireion itself. We have seen how Osiris is described as Phi by the geometry of the central structure. This tendency, as shown by the analysis of the Osireion by Lucy Lamy, extends in several very interesting directions.

First, the basic geometry she delineates is an edge-on double pentagram. Interestingly, this is also the indole/receptor pattern formed by serotonin and typtamine alkaloids when they are absorbed by the brain. In this instance, geometry and architecture mimic the internal process. This is a powerful clue to the inherent sacred science of Osirification.

The geometry found in the Osireion also suggests a nest of 3D generative roots, the square root of 2, 3 and 5, and the Golden Mean ratio of Phi. As Mayan scholar John Major Jenkins elucidates in his Mayan Sacred Science, these incommensurable numbers form the connective tissue that holds the collective and the individual worlds together.

The geometry of the Osireion displays this level of understanding, and extends it to include the merging of the Cubes of Space. Any pentagon can be used as the basis of an exercise called squaring the circle, or in 3D, cubing the sphere. The double pentagon of the Osireion allows two such cubed spheres, interpenetrating in the space of the central Osiris island, whose Phi structure allows us to generate another pentagonal figure. This pentagon pair, unlike the original, interpenetrates to a degree that suggests that the resolution to the whole geometric complex is the dodecahedron, composed of 12 pentagonal faces. Traditionally, this platonic solid is used to represent the spirit.

As witches have alleged for centuries, the pentagram is also a gateway to higher dimensions. The simplest 3D solid, the tetrahedron, has its 4D complement, the pentatope, which is a tetrahedron with another tetrahedron on each of its four faces. The shadow of a 4D wire figure pentatope in 3D is a pentagon/pentagram. Two back to back pentagon/pentagrams allow the packing and unpacking of tetrahedrons into and out of the 4D space of the pentatope, in effect forming a cascade channel for energy of a higher order, 4D, to flood into a lower frequency space, 3D.

Deeper than this into the process of Osirification, I am afraid we cannot go. Further work remains to be done, but the outline of my Stargate Hypothesis, as presented here, provides us with clues and connections. The mystery of the Osireion has taken us a long way toward the goal.

Originally posted at:www.aethyrea.com/abydos
(cited as such by John Major Jenkins in his book Galactic Alignment)