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Unintended initiations

21st October, 2015 Miscellaneous

‘Have you been initiated into spider medicine?’ A question that sent me spinning back over thirty years. ‘Yes, by a tarantula,’ was my reply. I still remember the feel of those delicate furry feet sashaying up my arm and exploring my ear. But at the time I hadn’t thought of it as an initiation, more a test of nerve when offered the chance to hold a teenage Scorpio’s pet. Arachnophobia lurked just below my skin. But she was cute and I was assured she wouldn’t bite so up my arm she ran to whisper in my ear.

Little Miss Muffet

‘Little Miss Muffet’ has its roots deep in the human psyche.

We’d been talking about my urge to buy a spider drum I’d been introduced to in Lefkas in May. The sound had been amazing, deeper than any other drum in Tribal, a rather surprising shop. Not really what you’d expect to find in a holiday resort. Although I was delighted to do so. I’d resisted the urge to buy because the drum was huge, far too big to be carry-on and I didn’t think it would survive a journey in the hold – but maybe that should have been part of its journey? We all have to take a journey into the underworld at some time. And to be truthful the equally huge spider motif had given me the slightest of shudders, taking me back to childhood rustlings in the dark. I much preferred the motif on one of the other drums. But the sound wasn’t right. Somehow though, that drum has never quite left my mind. It still resonates deep within me. Hence the question.

Six legged spider

Six legged spider? Funny how the memory plays tricks, could have sworn it had eight and a small furry body. But then, from the website, this could be another drum entirely!

So, having been asked the question, as always I looked to the symbolism on the invaluable what’s-your-sign site and wasn’t surprised to find:

The Spider is an ancient symbol of mystery, power and growth…Just as the Spider weaves a web, so too must we weave our own lives. The Spider symbol meaning here serves as a reminder that our choices construct our lives. When the Spider appears to us, it is a message to be mindful of the choices we are making – and ask ourselves:

Questions The Spider Asks of Us

  • How are my choices affecting my life?
  • How can my choices improve my life?
  • How are my choices affecting others in my life?
  • How can I create the most effective life?
Spider Symbol Meaning

Hindsight is a wonderful thing so I wasn’t surprised to find that my unintended spider initiation had been synchronistic with what was happening in my life back then – as it is now. What I learned then still informs my life and underpins my work today. It was – and is – one of those great turning point moments. The quote from Albert Camus is so relevant, ‘in order to be created, a work of art must first make use of the dark forces of the soul.’. Back then I was about to take a plunge into Hades. I always say that the dark isn’t evil. We need dark just as much as bright light. It is in exploring all the taboo areas of life that we find the soul insights we need. But then I do have my Moon in Scorpio and so all those myths of entering the Underworld are second nature to me. See my Hades Moon to learn about that!

Judy Hall The Hades Moon

My first piece of self-designed cover art. Innocence about to descend into the Underworld for initiation.

Reliving an Egyptian temple initiation inspired my novel

Egypt has some of the best Underworld myths around. Myths that become rituals that have to be undertaken anew by each initiate who is seeking to awaken soul memory, as I was forcibly reminded some years ago. This is a piece I wrote years ago to promote Torn Clouds, a novel that came out of another unintended but oh so powerful Egyptian initiation:

‘The bright Egyptian sun was swallowed by gloom as we penetrated deep into the shadows of Dendera temple, cool under its heavy stone roof.

“Come, see.” A smiling, blue-robed guardian urged us forward, his teeth gleaming whitely. As he lifted a flagstone and I peered into blackness, claustrophobia crawled up my spine.

“No. I can’t.” I muttered.

But it was too late. The guardian nimbly disappeared, clutching my torch. My excited companion pressed past me down narrow stairs, pulling me behind him. The walls were colder than anything I’d ever felt before.

“Don’t be foolish,” I admonished myself. “You’re an astrologer. You know all about the twelve crypts of Dendera and their astrological links. This is what you came to see.” But I hadn’t realised they’d be like this, low and stooped, crawling with something I didn’t want to think about, and so very black.

As the flagstone dropped behind us, it was all I could do not to scream. The light from the torch hardly touched the darkness and then the guardian must have turned a corner because, suddenly, the light was gone.

When I put my hands out, the air pushed back against them. This wasn’t an absence of light. Something was eating it. I couldn’t breathe, black air was pressing on me, the walls were closing in. I could hear the stones grinding together as they moved closer and could sense the skittering of scorpions, smell the must of sharp-toothed rodents, and the decay of the tomb. Panicking and panting, I knew there was a huge black hooded cobra waiting to strike. It’d attack any moment. There were demons and unspeakable things of the night crowding in, horned beings and serpents crawling near, and a strange triple-headed beast swallowing the light. I bet those old priests conjured them up and forgot to banish them again.  

The eyes of a lioness flared out of the darkness.

My Lady

My Lady barely reveals herself out of the dark. Image: Terrie Birch, www.astrologywise

Suddenly I knew I’d done this before, it was all an illusion. I could send them back where they belonged. I took a deep, calming breath:

“Begone foul beasts and creatures of the depths of night,” I began firmly. “Be gone great snake that waits to strike, resist me not. Return to your lair. Be gone triple headed demons of Set, return to the far reaches of the desert to him who made you. Be gone in the name of light. Walls stand firm, hold your place. Protect those who come in light. Protect us.”

I had no idea where the words were coming from but it seemed to work. As the banishing ritual ended, a torch pierced the darkness and my companion called impatiently for me to join him on the tour. Thankfully I hurried forward.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. That night, in a dream, I relived the whole initiation. Meeting and overcoming unspeakable beings as I passed through the door to each crypt and all the parts of myself were stripped away and my soul was finally laid bare before The Terrible One.

The lion-headed goddess Sekhmet, memories of whom had haunted me since childhood, told me that I was to tell a story. I’d already written several books, but those had been non-fiction. I’d no idea how to craft a novel, or what story I’d tell.

“Use your memories, my child,” the now kindly lioness told me. “Weave them into a tale that tells what it was like back then and how the past intertwines with the present. I will help you.”

And she did, getting me out of bed many a night to jot down a dream or spontaneous memory. I resisted, however, writing 28 mind-body-spirit books in the meantime, but these didn’t satisfy her. Torn Clouds took over 12 years to evolve from a short story into what metaphysician Alan Richardson called: ‘an outpouring from another age, a genuine glimpse into beyond-time mysteries’. A time-slip novel of reincarnation and romance that, as he warned, draws you into more than a mere novel. It certainly does, that reliving of the ritual became a major part of the novel, although it was transposed into my heroine’s experience along with many more of my past life memories.

Torn Clouds dips into the Egypt of an unknown Pharaoh and the upheavals brought about by the mysterious Akhenaton – the latter drawing on another time-slip experience in Egypt where I was face down in the dust, a young priestess being plucked from her home to go to the new City of Light. That regression was immensely real to me because, in my present life, I can’t imagine being face down in the dust before anyone. But the love I felt then for the misshapen Pharaoh and his mother Tiye is reborn every time I hear their names and, standing in front of his statue in the Luxor museum, I was in tears. Entering the Sekhmet temple at Karnak made me want to throw myself full length before her. I settled for the touching of her chakras and my own that the smiling Nubian guardians taught me – little did they know that they were carrying out an ancient ritual themselves.

Akhenaten and his family

Akhenaten and his family – including daughter Merit Aten, the Egyptian sodalite head that now shares her wisdom with me and which, for me, holds the essence of my mentor Christine Hartley.

My heroine Megan McKennar appeared fully formed one stormy night and took over my computer to write her story in a heart pounding three months. It was quite a ride. In the end, I simply had to comply with Sekhmet’s demand and tell the story. After many rejections on the grounds that there was no market for this kind of fiction, Torn Clouds was published by a courageous publisher I’d gone to visit to discuss another non-fiction book. Telling him about my novel and its reincarnation theme, he casually said: “I’ll publish it.”

As soon as he did, one of my non-fiction books, The Crystal Bible, became a best seller. It was as though Sekhmet had relented and brought me success. All I need now is for Torn Clouds to become a best seller too. An American friend has dreamed she was in a cinema watching Torn Clouds on the screen – she described that heart stopping visit to the crypts without having read the book – and recently I found myself sitting next to a screenwriter… Hollywood, here I come!’

Merit Aten

Coming full circle, Merit Aten, my Egyptian mentor head.

Well, it didn’t quite work out like that. Torn Clouds didn’t make the best seller list, it didn’t go onscreen (but there’s still time!). As so often happens, I was before my time. Ahead of the zeitgeist. Some time later Kate Moss wrote ‘Labyrinth’ and the timeslip genre took off. One of my mainstream publishers, who I’d approached when I first wrote Torn Clouds, contacted me to see if I still had the manuscript available. He hadn’t taken it because there was no genre. Now there was. But no, the lovely John Hunt of O Books had taken the novel and has kept it in print all this time. It’s on ebook for a very reasonable price if you want to dip into that initiation with me.

You can try the ritual that evolved out of it yourself, many participants on my retreats have! But it is best done under guidance. This is how it appears in the book. All you need to do is strip away Megan’s experience and insert your own – I find using Steven Halpern’s ‘Initiation’, recorded in the Great Pyramid, really helps the process!

The death and rebirth ritual

“Be gone foul beasts and creatures of the depths of night. Return to him that sent you.

Be gone great snake that waits to strike, resist me not. Return to your lair.

Be gone triple headed demons of Set, return to the far reaches of the desert to him who made you. Be gone in the name of light.

Walls stand firm, hold your place. Protect those who come in light. Protect us.”

I didn’t know where that had come from, but I could get comfortable now. Might as well lie back, the bottom step made a handy stone pillow – and it was really warm. Suffocatingly hot in fact but it was best not to dwell on that.

“Allow your ka, the etheric self to stand up, to leave the physical body behind. Before setting off, hear the invocation:

My cavern is opened, the spirits fall within the darkness. The Eye of Horus makes me holy. Wepwawet has caressed me, O Imperishable Stars, hide me among you. May the immortal ones protect me.”

I could see again, a bit shadowy rather like looking through night glasses, but clear enough. A misty halo surrounded each person, some blending together, others were more sharply defined.

“You appear before the Interrogator who asks.

Who are you who comes?

You reply.

I am an initiate.

Is your motive pure?

It is pure.

Is your mind clear?

It is clear.

Is your heart open?

It is open.

Are you whole?

I am whole.

Are you equipped?

I am equipped.

Are you ready to become Adept?

I am ready.

Are you ready to be reborn?

 So be it.

Go forth.

As you approach the first gate, strip off your clothes and leave them before the gate, putting off the outward appearance that you showed to the world.”

 Mmn, must have left mine behind with my body, I could see right through myself.

“Hold your head high, take your courage in both hands and step past the guardians of the gate.”

That wasn’t so bad. Three animal-headed beings. Serpent-head hissed a bit but the hare and the dog were quiet. I thought they’d be much more fierce than that.

“As you approach the second gate lay before it your inner appearance, the picture you have of yourself.”

The lion-headed being was rather fierce but a look cowered him. The man and the dog stood well back. What was next?

“As you approach the third gate, lay before it your personality.”

I was beginning to feel a bit bare by now. Hardly noticed the jackal-headed being until he took a swipe at me. Once again, the dog and the serpent stood back, it seemed like although there was always three, only one had a go at a time.

“As you approach the fourth gate, step out of your ego, the constricting small-self.”

That felt good. The man, the hawk and the lion-headed beings nodded in approval.  

“As you approach the fifth gate, leave your past behind you, let your programming fall away, your patterns dissolve.”

That was better, much lighter, I could see them spiralling away into the darkness, shattering into interstellar dust.
“As you approach the sixth gate lay before it your hopes and wishes for the future.”

That was a hard one, what about my child – and my health, and seeing Ramon again. That hawk was looking intently at me. The serpent was ready to strike. Only the man-being nodded encouraging. Better do as she said.

“At the seventh gate, lay before it your family, your parents, your partner, your children.”

How could I leave Ramon behind? Such anguish. And my child. To see my baby lying there, it was breaking my heart. What if those jackal-headed beings ate him? No, this was too much, I couldn’t do it. I’d already let my sister go, and I had no one else in the world. But trying to snatch my baby up again, my hands passed through his body. I had to leave him. Come on, onward and upward, I told myself, though the path moved steeply down.

“As you approach the eighth gate, bring to mind all the names you have been known by. Lay them before the gate. Step through with no name.”

It was strange to have no name, no identity. Now I really felt stripped, as though I no longer existed. That dragon-like creature soon had them consumed with its breath.

“As you reach the ninth gate, lay before it your etheric self. Fly forth in your ba, the soul bird.”

That was brilliant, flying free…I could travel more quickly now, anxious to get out, surely I must be nearly there.

“And at the tenth gate, leave your akhar, your soul essence.

Strange, but I didn’t seem to have that with me.

“At the eleventh gate lay your I, your sense of individuality, of self.”

My I, what would be left? What would I be if I wasn’t an I? …oh… what was that?

In a chamber of flames, Sekhmet, The Terrible One, The Lady of the Bloodbath stood watching, her stance implacable, with the totally absorbed, unhurried stare of a lion surveying her prey. Her eyes reflected the flickering flames. This was her in destroyer mode. And yet she looked almost playful.

No, no, no… surely not that…

Turning, she ripped me to pieces, pulling off arms and legs, separating the torso, tossing the head aside, tearing out the heart, eating lungs and stomach, unwinding intestines, taking my life … Flames shot around her, she was the Wrath of Ra. No, my Lady, no…… Small, sharp toothed rodents slobbered over my entrails, triple-headed beasts crunched my bones. I was consumed by flame.

I descended into night, looked on my dismemberment.

Saw my death. There was nothing left, I was extinguished.

The great heart beat of time paused

Terror fissioned into understanding. Pure spirit, all that Is. Such peace, blissful, bathed in light. In all things, of all things, no separation now. Light eternal. Spirit unceasing.

No time passes in eternity.

“And then step through the final gate, into the twelfth level of the Duat to meet Anubis.”

A black, jackal head, with fiercesome fangs, holding a feather, the feather of Maat.

My heart was being weighed against the feather of Maat. Divine Justice. It balanced perfectly. The Devourer of Souls slunk away there was no task for him today.

“Enter into the presence of the Lord Osiris. Lay an offering before him. Petition for a good rebirth.”

A great green God, sprouting corn from every orifice.

I didn’t want rebirth. I wanted to stay there for ever.

But no, I was being moulded, shaped like clay. I was on Ptah’s wheel and he was breathing me back to life. Quickly, I checked the spleen and the blood. It looked good, and the child? A shining being, one of the bright ones.

“Go forth with blessings, my child,” the Lord Osiris sent me on my way. Power poured into me. The portal burst open, I was reborn into sunlight.

“To me belongs everything, and the whole of it has been given to me. I went in as a falcon. I came out as a phoenix; the Morning Star has made a path for me, and I enter in peace in to the beautiful East. I have been in the Garden of Osiris, and a path is made for me so that I may go in and worship Osiris the Lord of life.”

Amen to that.

The torch was blinding.’


She really is amazing! Photo c. Terrie Birch, astrologywise.

No wonder I first go to see Sekhmet whenever I’m in Egypt. Formerly forbidden territory, the Mut Temple, was open to public last time I went. Walking through the gate brought back such vivid memories, but how I missed scrambling over the wall to meet the policeman who had his hand out for baksheesh! And touching those so-loved heads sticking up out of the sand. Now my Lady has been made visible for all to see. No longer hidden. But she’s still tucked away in her atmospheric temple at the back of Karnak and there’s where I go to perform my own personal ritual. (See Light Becoming and The Big P.S. elsewhere on my website).

Mark, my webmaster will probably say enough is enough at this stage. I was going to tell you about snakes and the trip to the heart of Mother Earth who sits on a throne of pythons – another workshop favourite. But I’ll leave that for another time.

A modern teenage initiation

Is it any surprise that this is one of my favourite CDs of all time. You are instantly transported back into ancient Egypt. Try it!

Is it any surprise that this is one of my favourite CDs of all time. You are instantly transported back into ancient Egypt. Try it!

But before I go I must just tell you about another, definitely unintended, initiation when I was a teenager. Terrifying at the time, it now makes me smile. I was walking along a public right of way through a field with my boyfriend when a herd of stampeding young bullocks suddenly thundered towards us. There was nowhere to run to – and they were fast. All we could do was scrabble under the hedge. That put us alongside a stream amongst very prickly hawthorn bushes. The stream eventually disgorged itself in the local sewage works. Which we had to cross balanced precariously on a narrow round pipe over extremely suspect water. An unseen hand guided and steadied me. I think I met Pluto that day! The whole experience was a great metaphor for the relationship that followed. But the seeds for ‘The Hades Moon’ were sown all unwittingly too. Such is life!

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