The HermAphroditic ChAOrder of the Silver Dusk is a loose global network of occultists aiming to counterbalance, through an emphasis on art and spontaneity, the structured approach to magick of the famed Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Prolific Australian artist, performer and ritualist Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule is the most public face of the network. This essay documents a rite from the Spring Equinox (southern hemisphere) 2005 in which he and his collaborator Giselle Aquila, a trained holistic kinesiologist with extensive experience in natural healing, developed a restorative ritual process based on ancient Egyptian funerary texts.
An elaborate and intense ritual process developed towards the September EquinoXuliuqE of 2005, involving the individual embalming and mummification of initiates after some powerful group work. This ritual grew until its research, development and preparation took over the lives of Giselle and I (the facilitators of the process) in the week leading up to the actual event. During this time we were bombarded with constant synchronicities and omens — small but regular — related to the process.
Giselle had done some rudimentary wrapping (just in single sheets) of people as a part of her professional body-work treatments (kahuna1 massage and kinesiology), and this inspired the process. She felt that some of both the spiritual and accompanying physical practises described in some funerary texts of the ancient Egyptians were not just performed upon the dead, but also upon the living, as rejuvenatory initiations for personal transformation. I was dubious, but after experimenting with these ideas, I do wonder. Whether the Egyptians applied these ideas and techniques to living beings is I guess ultimately unimportant: the significant fact is that they do seem to work applied in this way!
On the full moon preceding the equinox I mummified Giselle; a couple of days later she mummified me. During these rituals we worked out and developed the full procedure, which was then applied with a group on the equinox; it surprised us how easily and naturally it developed. In the meantime we were contacting local (Melbourne, Australia) members of the global HermAphroditic ChAOrder of the Silver Dusk to see who wished to participate, as this was too deep a process for just the usual turn up on the night or not of our more regular circles. We also had material costs so needed commitment from people who knew what was involved.
On the night of the 22nd I did an Ardhanarishvara-An (Hindu hermaphrodite God/dess) ritual performance at the Angel Circus arts collective to celebrate the 5th anniversary of my self-wedding.2 It was apt that the fortnightly event fell on equinox eve, as the equinox peak was early morning of the 23rd here so the outer performance and inner mummification ritual were about Equi-distant from this fulcrum.
People arrived at the Illuminature temple in Monbulk at 3pm on the afternoon of the 23rd. The rite was supposed to begin about an hour after that but preparation of the temple space and materials took considerably longer than anticipated, so people waited around eating and chatting upstairs until dusk while we ripped up linen into sized portions and put the finishing touches on the altars.
After a brief discussion of the ritual so people fully knew what to expect and we wouldn’t have to break the flow once the circle was cast, we ritually bathed in the enclosed spa room then descended spiral stairs into the large temple space and began the ritual in the last rays of sunlight.
Initiates had been implored to drink a lot of water, especially before and in the early stages of the ritual, as there was a sauna and other purgative processes involved.
As people arrived in the heavily-decorated temple, frankincense was sizzling and smoking in a censer before the double-headed lion table where I knelt in prayer.
A new circle-casting had been prepared for the ritual, involving the placement of the canopic jars3 we had crafted from clay in the few days previous. They were lidded, as is traditional for ancient Egyptian funerary rites, with the heads of the four sons of Horus. They were placed thus as the pillars of the sky, their father Horus: hawk-headed Khebesenuef (made by Giselle), jackal-headed Duamutef (made by myself), man-headed Imsety (made by Bridgid) and baboon-headed Hapy (made by resident potter Kathleen who also made the canopic jars each of these lids sat upon).
An interesting aside regarding the creation of the jars: when Giselle was mummified on the preceding full moon, we only had astral canopic jars to work with. But while under wraps, whenever she began to think or feel anything, the thoughts would immediately depart like a swarm of bees to the canopic jars which contained her organs. When we then made the physical jars, the best way to craft them was as coil pots (winding long cylinders of rolled clay up in a spiral) — giving them the initial appearance of a hive or honey-pot!
Once the circle was cast we began the group work, starting with the chanting of chakra tones up the octave and our spines. This was more powerful than usual; everyone seemed charged for an intense ritual process.
A couple of breathing exercises had been chosen for both their cathartic and uniting qualities. First the Sufi drum-breath, which had been shown to us by Naiyah on the previous years September EquinoXuliuqE. This was also more powerful than usual, and people began to go into a purgative space, emotionally expressing ourselves in whatever way we saw fit, with movement and sound. After several rounds and intermediary cathartic expression, we proceeded (with resonant chimes to calm the energy and move on) to the next breathing exercise. This was something I’d had explained to me in Italy and was yet to try. It was certainly effective!
We all lay down on our backs in a circle, with our heads central and just enough space between them for use to turn them to the left and right. We began to inhale with our heads all turned to the left, then exhale turning them all to the right. Slowly and deeply at first, then once a rhythm was established and the energy began to flow well around the circle, we gradually sped up, until we were hyperventilating, throwing our heads from one side to the other, and the energy was zooming around the circle with our breath at great velocity. When this peaked, we stopped, went into further catharsis, then reversed the flow from right to left, again beginning slowly and building up to a peak. The idea was to get all our personal baggage out, to purge ourselves emotionally so that when we eventually went into our cocoons during the inner mummification stage of the ritual we would be in an appropriately still and silent space. Thus a balance of inner and outer work was being done to echo the seasonal balance of light and dark on this day and night.
After the second round of circular hyperventilation, people were wailing, screaming, roaring, sobbing, cackling, shrieking… It had been expressed beforehand that catharsis was expected and if something comes up, let it out. People certainly seemed to be taking full advantage of the opportunity!
When things eventually simmered down, we all stood up and began to chant the Egyptian mantra Sa Sekhem Sahu, assuming the Ankh stance (spine straight, legs together, arms out at right angles). This is a powerful and evocative mantra asking the fiery (Kundalini/Shakti) Power (Sekhem) of Sekhmet to come through (Sa), but with Protection (Sahu) so that only the degree the initiate is ready for will be raised. We repeated this mantra for quite some time in the main temple space, then slowly moved like a procession of human ankhs towards the sauna, still chanting. Having emotionally purged, now it was time for the physical purification process. In the sauna we continued the Sekhem chant, rising and falling through different harmonic cadences until it was gradually replaced with more abstract free-form vocal soundscapes.
The facilitators emerged from the steam first, to prepare for the next phase of the ritual. I donned an Anubis costume (lots of neck and wrist jewellery, a golden loincloth and black leather jackal mask from the Choronzon Machine ritual opera4 ), while Giselle, in white and silver, now put an ostrich-feather plume of Maat in her hair, and Bridgid and Kathleen dressed in red and black as Isis and Nephthys respectively.
As each initiate emerged from the sauna (and shower) they selected a shabti from the altar in the main space. Kathleen makes terraphins, small semi-abstracted clay figures, so these were perfect as shabtis, the ceramic figurines the ancient Egyptians took with them to help out in the next world (many of the terraphins are phallic shaped, having another ancient uses also, but we didn’t all know each other quite well enough for mummies within mummies).
Each initiate embalmed their shabti with the near-to traditional embalming ingredients: pure ground rock salt (to purify the physical and subtle bodies); Dead Sea mud (to earth and preserve their prayers for eternal life); balm of frankincense and myrrh (the fragrance of which would be guide to the Ba5 of each being back into this incarnate life). The shabtis were then wrapped in pure cotton muslin for a restoration period of 40 days, done with the same care and attention as those wrapping would want to soon be wrapped themselves, and placed on the low double-headed lion table/altar.
While others waited (some still tending their shabtis), initiates were invited one by one into the inner chambers, divided from the main section of the temple with golden fabrics. As Anubis, I came and took them into the Treasury Room, which consisted of an indigo blue massage table and an altar with the four animal-headed canopic jars and various tools upon it.
Upon entry — while the naked initiate was still standing up — I performed the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony (chapter 23 in the Egyptian Book of the Dead) and also the Opening of the (third) Eye.
The tools used for this were involved in one of the strange synchronicities leading up to the rite. A few days before the ritual, I showed Giselle two objects from my altar — the finger from a statue I found in Rome (vestige of the nearby broken vestal virgins?), and a small brass Celtic cape clip. After she left — only half an hour or so later — I started researching the Opening of the Mouth on the web, and discovered that the tools they used for this were called a kesh-pesesh (which was shaped exactly like the cape clip, with ram-horn-like shape curling out in each direction from the handle), a setep (a serpentine wiggly staff like the one I had just used in practising my Ardnarishvara performance), and a stone finger!
So these objects were each employed in the EquinoXuliuqE ceremony (verse adapted from Egyptian funerary texts):
Your Mouth is split open with this finger of Horus
With which he split open the mouth of his father Osiris.
With this Setep I bless thy Heart and thy Tongue
Thy Heart that it may be as light as the feather of Maat
Thy Tongue that thou mayest be True of Voice in Amenta MaaXheru
With this Kesh Pesesh I bless thy mouth so that thy jawbones separated in the embalming may be re-established
That thou mayest eat in the next World
That thou mayest drink in the next World
And that thou mayest Speak in the next World
Your Word of Power. Hekau MaaXheru
With this Setep I bless
Your eye that you may see in the next World
Behold, the eye of Horus has been seized that it may be brought before thee…
Then (with the forewarning, you wont be needing them here) the initiates brains were etherically pulled out through their nostrils with another tool, as was done with bodies prior to mummification in ancient Egypt. They were then asked to lay on their backs on the first massage table and covered with silk, for the continuance of their preparation for embalming.
The bass delta-waves of the brain-synch CD that Ground had brought along were slowly increasing in volume and depth, permeating the low-lit atmospheric space we had created.
The initiate was covered in a body sheet and a face veil, and once fully relaxed with harmonic chimes over the body and around the head, I proceeded to remove their vital organs. An etheric incision was made in their side, with slight pressure from a real (blunt) blade — my lioness-hilted knife — and energy work combined with laying-on of hands and tools over the sheet and discordant chimes then gave the full effect of organs being removed.
First the liver was taken out, and while it was held above their abdomen, the initiate was asked to cleanse any bodily toxins, anger and stress from it. This intent was aided by Isis and Nephthys at each end of the table, who began slowly to fan the body. This was inspired by Keirons idea that the posture of winged Isis in Egyptian images encodes healing techniques. Energy was passed with the breath and arm movements bearing black eagle wings (Nephthys) and peacock-feather fans (Isis), gradually increasing in speed until at the maximum velocity the toxins were released with a resonant harmonic chime lifted up and away from the body. The purified liver was then placed, as Anubis whispered to its owner, in the canopic jar of man-headed Imsety, for storing and restoring, under the protection of the Goddess Isis.
Next the stomach was removed, cleansed of all anxieties held therein, and placed in the canopic jar of jackal-headed Duamutef for storing and restoring, under the protection of the Goddess Neith. The intestines were unravelled and pulled out, cleansed of fears and doubt, and placed in the canopic jar of hawk-headed Khebesenuef for storing and restoring, under the protection of the Goddess Selket. Another incision was made along the left shoulder-blade and with the initiates forced exhalation the lungs were removed from the chest, cleansed of any sadness and grief held there, and placed in the canopic jar of baboon-headed Hapy for storing and restoring, under the protection of the Goddess Nephthys. As in ancient Egyptian tradition, the heart remained in the body for mummification with its host.
Soothed with singing bells and bowls over the form, they were left empty to relax for a while before proceeding to the Golden (embalming) Room…
The Treasury Room was adjoined to the embalming chamber known as The Golden Room. As it was set up traditionally these two areas contained no door between them so as to permit the energetic exchange between the two processes occurring in both areas.
In the embalming chamber was a golden altar upon which stood the Scales of Maat, embalming salts, heating oils and perfumes. Greeted by the Priestess of Maat with the breath of Life, the initiates gazed into an ankh mirror, witnessing their former selves for the last time prior to their coming resurrection and were laid upon a white massage-table. Giselle worked on one initiate there while I brought the next into the Treasury Room for mouth-opening and organ removal.
The embalming process was lush and intended to bring each initiate into the full embodiment of the sacredness of their sensory selves. A sheet of gossamer silk was pulled across the entire body in water-like motions. Hot oils of frankincense and myrrh were poured upon them and temple-style bodywork was performed, specific to each person.
Then continued the same embalming process that they had already completed on their shabti-selves: a layer of pure rock salt, sprinkled or thrown onto energy centres was gently glided over body for ritual purification, and then rinsed off with dripping warm water and hot towels. Mud from the Dead Sea, a powerful mineral-rich substance, marked certain centres, which were then painted with a warm bees wax balm of frankincense — their souls being asked to follow the scent into this life. Finally, more embalming hot oil and the wrapping of the form.
Depending on whether I was busy with someone else in the Treasury Room, I helped with some of the wrappings, so that right limbs would be wrapped by a male and left by a female simultaneously.
Legs and abdomen were bandaged tightly in muslin strips — but not too tightly to cause discomfort. The arms we had to be especially careful with, as they were then folded over the chest in Osirian posture; we didn’t want joints to become sore over time while cocooned possibly for an hour or more (as happened with me on one of the test runs). Finally the ears were stuffed with cotton wool (to mute further sounds of other people going through the wrapping or unwrapping process, and turn the senses and thus energy even more inwards) and the head was wrapped, a separate cloth for the neck and chin ensuring a slit was left open for breathing through the mouth.
Our aim was to create a nurturing womb-like gestation for people, an inner journey and rejuvenatory passage rather than an intense ordeal of bondage. Only one person had real difficulty with the process (initially) and this was due to vivid memories of being buried alive in a previous life. She suddenly panicked as we began the final layer, the cotton sheet which was wrapped around the bandages to keep the arms and all in place. However, she was encouraged to face and go beyond her fears, although we would of course unwrap her any time she definitely wanted to be. After a while she calmed somewhat and bravely decided to go through with it, and eventually settled into a comfortable space with the process, remaining cocooned for an hour or so like everyone else. Later she was glad to have overcome her fears.
If they wished when asked, initiates would have a Kheper scarab beetle placed over their heart under their wrapped hands — to represent Kheperi, the Midnight Sun of Becoming. Some who had expected a ceramic scarab were surprised when unwrapped to find an actual large iridescent turquoise Christmas beetle, as I had collected many which had flown into the black lights at our Earthcore electric egg installation a few years ago.6
When fully mummified, with final chimes and the blessing Unto Amenta, the bodies were lifted by the four facilitators from the massage table and carried horizontally to be placed on the far side of the temple. Aside from the practicality of clearing the table for the next initiate, this also conveyed a sense of the Barque of the Dead, the passage of the sun-boat unto Amenta, the Ancient Egyptian afterlife.
People were then left to their own inner journeys in stillness and silence, rather than any kind of guided meditation. Several reported afterwards vivid visions, while others simply experienced a serene void space of no-mind and deep relaxation.
Every ten to fifteen minutes I would come by and sprinkle water over the arrayed cocooned forms, to keep their body-temperatures down (they were also next to an open window), and to give them each the opportunity — without me having to ask and thus potentially invade their trip — to tell me if they needed to be unwrapped or anything else.
Personally (in my own pre-equinox mummification experience) I felt both extremely aware of and in my body, with senses extremely amplified, simultaneous with an awareness of astral realities: my soul-bird or Ba hovering above me, and the other layers of etheric bodies like onion-rings around and within my physical form. My consciousness flickered strangely between occupation of my body, and of the soul-bird above looking down at it. Then I had a vision of Giselle coming back down the spiral stairs into the temple from the house above, and in Maat-form weighing my heart upon the scales. Her physical form followed only a few minutes later, and actually merged with her astral body as she reached the table and touched my head, bringing me back into full body-consciousness again. She corroborated later that she was in deep trance and had indeed on suddenly waking felt herself coming down, just before she actually did physically, to see if I was alright.
In the pre-equinoctial rites we had also experimented with the raising (but not release) of sexual energy during the embalming process, and at first when wrapped this turned into extreme tension and discomfort. I just wanted to get out, but then circulated the energy with deep-breathing and Kechari mudra (tongue deep in the back of the throat), and found myself in a space of intense bliss. Because I was so completely contained, no prana could escape and I could feel it coursing around my form in tingling currents of ecstasy.
On the equinox, when it was time to unwrap the physical initiates, these words were spoken in their ears by Anubis, Isis and Nephthys, as extracted and adapted slightly from an ancient Egyptian funerary text found on the web:
Anubis: Ah Helpless One! Helpless One Asleep!
Ah Helpless One in this Place
Which you know not (yet I know it!)
Behold, I have found you lying here
The great listless One.
Isis (to Nephthys): Ah, sister
This is our brother/sister
Come, let us lift up his/her head
Come, let us rejoin his/her bones
Come, let us reassemble his/her limbs
Come, let us put an end to all his/her woe
That, as far as we can help s/he will be weary no more.
May the moisture begin to mount for this spirit!
May the canals be filled through you
May the rivers be created through you
[name of initiate], live!
[name of initiate], the great Listless One arise!
I am Isis!
Nephthys: I am Nephthys
It shall be that Horus will redeem you
It shall be that Thoth will protect you
Then will your power be visible in the sky…
Anubis: Now you are a kings son/queens daughter
As long as your soul exists,
So long will your heart be with you.
Your embalmer rejoices in every place
Ah, truly you are the Chosen One!
You are made whole in this your dignity before us,
Anubis heart is happy over the work of his hands
And the hearts of the Lord and Lady of this Divine Hall are thrilled
To behold this radiant new God/dess.
The unwrapping was amazing (from both sides of the process). People would emerge feeling and looking very fresh and tender, like newborn babes with soft glowing skin and expressions of peace and regeneration, or flowers unfurling for the oncoming Spring. Re-sensitised skin was softly caressed with ostrich-feathers and vibrations from Tibetan bells run along the limbs close to the surface.
When the face was unwrapped (last) the initiates were requested to keep their eyes closed, until my mirror-pyramids had been placed over the eyes. Then, when they opened them, the first thing they saw was their own eyes reflected in hive-like prismatic matrices of triangles.
Restored organs were then retrieved from their canopic jars and re-inserted into their bodies by Anubis, jiggled into place and re-awoken with the ringing of my caduceus-bell over their forms.
Everyone said they didn’t want their brains back, then consented on, ‘Are you sure?’; except for Shannon, a Tantric priestess who still declined their return on second request (presumably preferring to think with her heart, as the Egyptians believed).
All initiates physically present found the experience intense and rewarding, although the facilitators were pretty exhausted for a few days. When I was mummified, I found my senses heightened for days, even weeks afterwards.
We have chosen the Middle Path, the Lion Path of Regeneration!
Since this initial equinox ritual of group embalming, Giselle and I have further developed the process and have practised it for a year as a professional therapeutic treatment, a healing restoration intensive. Usually one person (but occasionally two) at a time undergoes most of the process as we initially devised on the equinox (only the group breathing exercises are left out, since they require the numbers). From repeated (though irregular) practise of the process we have refined it considerably, the flow increasing progressively. Some interesting visions have occurred during the ceremony even for those who had little knowledge of ancient Egyptian deities or customs. For example, one woman saw a cat-headed woman with glowing golden eyes standing watching at the foot of the massage table throughout, despite no conscious familiarity with the similarly-imaged feline Egyptian pleasure-Goddess Bast.
Performing a number of embalmings in a concentrated period on a visit to Adelaide (South Australia) we further developed the importance of the Word of Power in relation to the process: initiates finding a word, sound or vibration which summarizes and codifies their journey of transformation.
Now (August 2006) we are taking these unique treatments we have developed from their seeding-grounds in the rainforests of the Dandenong Ranges just out of Melbourne, and out into the world. We are embalming candidates during the Festival season in Edinburgh in a room overlooking the Castle there, then doing treatments elsewhere in the UK before visiting for the first time the original source of our inspiration — Egypt itself, for the Global Vishudha (throat chakra) Working. There we will collectively resonate our Words of Power in Giza in November 2006.
Sa Sekhem Sahu
- http://www.crossroads.wild.net.au/embalm.htm — All about the Embalm process, including testimonies from those who have experienced the intensives, and updates on where and when we are performing them next.
- http://www.crossroads.wild.net.au/vision.htm — Information on the group rituals being performed at seven Earth chakra locations between 1999 and 2012. Already [in 2006] completed at Mount Shasta (USA), Lake Titicaca (Bolivia), Uluru / Ayers Rock (Australia), and Glastonbury (England).