FOI Online Liturgy
Rite of Rebirth of the Fellowship of Isis
By: Olivia Robertson
Printable PDF File
After weeks or months of preparation, a snake, a bird, a butterfly makes its sudden emergence into a new sphere, leaving behind its safe egg or cocoon. The life cycle is a repetition that yet is never the same. It has infinite variety: a new expression for each creature, each newly formed atom. In spring the buds appear, the young birds are hatched from their eggs. Yet may autumn be regarded as the birth time of the soul.
The legends of the many-coloured land of the Western world, Hy Brasil, tell us that their spring is our autumn: their winter, our summer. As the spiral of evolving life rotates, when one half sleeps, another awakens. Winter nights are the schools of the soul.
There are those who would dwell quietly on this earth and only accept the times of Initiation at birth into physical life, and at its end in death. Any other shock of transition is not desired and therefore not needed. But there are others who, often not realising it, awaken into another, preternatural sphere of being while still retaining earthly consciousness. It is this sudden change of focus from the earthly to the preternatural that is called Initiation. And this Initiation comes when it will, for it follows the flow of Spirit. It comes in eddies and tides: it strikes suddenly and leaves madness in its wake: it may even bring forth death. Yet this onset of a new form of consciousness is the most longed for goal of those who follow the Path of the Mysteries.
Yet is the experience given often to the most unexpected people. It is sometimes denied to those who have followed the inner teachings for a lifetime: yet blesses some simple person who has no words to describe the experience, or the ability to use it for good. It may even come to the apparently unworthy: or even those who reject it with fear. And the worst is when the recipient becomes deluded with false ideas of grandeur, and spreads confusion instead of understanding: and best, when it is given to those who are able to understand and to interpret, and so help rather than mislead those who would share the experience.
No solemn ceremony, no vows, no secrets told in a whisper or strange tongue, no outward insignia, may necessarily confer an extension of consciousness upon another. And though the use of drugs can temporarily activate those psychic centres that are the doors to changed awareness, after such artificial inducement the centre may become damaged: without preparation the percipient cannot make use of an experience that is not understood by the mind nor controlled by the will.
Short cuts are promised to those who follow certain systems: yet there can be no short cut to hard work. Only that which is gained by study, endurance, courage, and the practice of the virtues stays. Easily won experience makes only a surface impression. Years of work with a group and on one's own give the necessary preparation for Initiation. Only then can a ceremony be bestowed by the Order or group. And even then any Initiation Rite is an earthly enactment of an experience that must dawn at the appointed hour in the Candidate's own consciousness. The time of rebirth must not be hurried, any more that a butterfly can be drawn prematurely from the chrysalis. It must come when it is ready: otherwise it dies.
Nonetheless for those who follow the occult path an Initiation Rite is a reflection of a greater Reality and accustoms the soul to a new way of thinking and feeling. Otherwise a sudden onset of cosmic consciousness can bring about a nervous breakdown. These Initiation breakdowns are not necessarily caused by the experience itself, if the candidate is properly prepared. A breakdown is frequently due to the personality finding itself in confusion, through the eruption of one sphere of being upon the one to which the person is accustomed. Everything seems upside down. Sleeping brings about an awakened awareness: so-called wakening seems now like a dull sleep. Values are different: new knowledge pours in, without sanction from the rational mind which helplessly tries to stem the flow. The emotions can become a turmoil, suddenly released from a lifetime of suppression. The personality is like a sailor in a boat without sail or oar on a stormy sea.
Here memory of symbols saves the frightened personality. For in mystical experiences the language used is that of symbols. Rites that once seemed meaningless, fairy-stories that were regarded as unreal, myths half forgotten, suddenly are real. Stained-glass windows of winged beings become animated: works of art have a mysterious living message: the very form of a garden has meaning.
Any great myth may be used as an Initiatory Rite: one of the most ancient known to the human race is the Descent and the Ascent of The Goddess.
When an archetypal myth that relates to all spheres of existence manifests, it is repeated from age to age. The oldest narration about the descent and ascent of The Goddess is that of the journey of the Sumerian Goddess Inanna, Lady of Heaven. The Chaldean Heaven as recorded by the Arabian Albumazar shows a sphere or globe with the Celestial Virgin holding in her arms a new-born baby. Ishtar, Inanna's Babylonian counterpart, leaves Heaven to bring back her dead husband the Shepherd God Tammuz from the Underworld, ruled over by the Goddess Allat. Ishtar is a grain and wine Goddess and makes her descent in July and August. She passes through seven gates to reach the Pit and returns with Tammuz, who subsequently stays with her for six months every year.
The same theme is repeated in the myth of Astarte and Adonis. The Egyptians told of the same story of the resurrection of Osiris by his loving wife Isis. Here however we notice a variation. The Babylonians appeared to prefer the Upper World, and provide their composite half-human half-animal Beings with great wings. Their Underworld is not described as being particularly attractive. Aralu, the Dark Land is beneath the earth or at the Northern or Eastern extremities of the universe. A river opens into this region which separates it from the sunlit earth. The source of this river is the Primordial Ocean into which the earth is plunged, and is named the Waters of Death. Aralu is surrounded by seven high walls.
The ruler in the Babylonian myth is Queen Allat. She has the head of a lioness, the body of a woman and the claws of a bird of prey. She holds two serpents in either hand. She travels through her realms standing on a horse. When she travels upon the river she uses an enchanted ship without sails or oars with the prow projecting like the beak of a bird.
Allat's subjects are beings formed from a medley of human and animal parts arranged in artistic combination. Among these are scorpion-tailed jackals with eagles' claws, and enormous birds. The human "ekimmu," the soul, after death went to Aralu.
On the other hand there is a strong feeling for the wonders of Outer Space in Chaldean and Babylonian mythology. An Eagle bears the hero Etana to heaven and on the journey speaks to him.
"Behold, my friend, the earth what it is: regard the sea which the ocean contains. See, the earth is no more than a mountain, and the sea is no more than a lake."
On the other hand the Egyptians describe the Underworld of Osiris as a place of just judgement and of immortal wheat standing six feet high. Here is water to drink, food to enjoy and here the soul, the Ka, refreshes itself. Only the winged Isis and Horus the Hawk seem to like moving from above to below. The star gazers of Chaldea and Babylon had a longing for open space and the sky: whereas the Egyptians in after-life preferred dwelling in a land underground.
The Greeks provide another variation in their Lesser and Greater Eleusinian Mysteries. The descending Goddess here is represented by Persephone who leaves the grain Goddess Demeter in the Upper World. So here we have the feeling of a divided consciousness. The Ruler of the Underworld is a God, Hades. We realise that this is a later version, in the full onset of the Iron Age when the earth was becoming to be regarded, not as the fruitful womb of the Great Mother, but as a treasure house of jewels, gold, silver, copper, and the all important source of iron weapons of Power. Nonetheless, the Greeks portray Hades as somewhat shadowy and depressing.
I felt particularly drawn to the Myth of Ishtar since reading an account of it in Colm O'Loughlin's Myths of the World. At the time I was not acquainted with the inner teachings connected with the Serpent Power that lies coiled three and a half times round the base of the spine, and circulates from pole to pole of the earth. But there is something in the soul that responds to the slow descent of the Goddess step by step, at each pylon or Gateway handing over her jewels. This myth is a representation of our descent into the womb, and our ascent from it. We face our unconscious past lives in order to progress.
Every great myth carries many meanings related to consciousness. So the descent of Ishtar with her crescent headdress may be seen as the waxing and waning of the Moon - for is she not the Lady of 15? It may be understood as the alchemical transmutation of the soul, leaving the domain of air and sun and sinking through the seven spheres of consciousness, through the Four Basic Elements. Air and fire transmute to earth and water: spirit and thought gain knowledge of the practical sciences, the ability to feel and use the passions. This accomplished, totality of consciousness is experienced, and the soul, bringing with it understanding born from experience, ascends to its former state, in glory.
In the story of Ishtar and Tammuz first one goes down separately - then the other. We remember the Indian teaching of the separation of Positive and Negative Powers, of Ida and Pingala in the human psychic body. When wakening is experienced these two forces unite with Sushumna; then the Serpent Power, the Goddess Kundalini, ascends the spine with a hissing sound, until she reaches the thousand-fold petalled lotus of the brain, the Crown Centre.
Can we not notice here the analogy with the Myth of Ishtar and Tammuz? The Goddess descends and the lights of each psychic centre, the Chakras, are extinguished. Queen Allat bears a resemblance to the Goddess Kundalini, for the basic Shakti Power is suggested by her head of a Lioness, her two snakes, and the horse on which she stands. Ishtar and Tammuz ascend together. Curiously enough there is a resemblance to the story of Mozart's Magic Flute; here the two lovers pass successfully through ordeal together, having previously been separated: and the hero, like Tammuz, plays an enchanted flute.
In the Egyptian myth Osiris stays in the Underworld while Isis goes to and fro. This also represents totality of consciousness, the ability to accept both Underworld and Upperworld as acceptable parts of Universal Reality.
This brings us to the use of myth for an Initiation Rite. Every gesture, word, scent, colour, symbol in a ritual has an effect on the psyche of the participants. As Power builds up, a more intense awareness may develop that creates a borderland between the phenomenal and the noumenal states of consciousness. When a participant later experiences Cosmic Consciousness, this half state experienced in a Rite provides a safety area, a Limbo. There is in a Rite an interconnecting series of related symbols, movements and works that relate the psychic centres to other spheres of Being.
Our first Rebirth Rite of the Fellowship of Isis was performed at Samhain, 31st October 1976. Curiously enough it became linked unexpectedly with the UFO mystery. Four young men from the Irish Branch of the British Unidentified Flying Object Research Association came to us on the morning of Samhain to study our teachings. We had a short sitting with the intention of contacting some "UFO" telepathically, and I had the impression we had done so, and told them of this. I had the idea, I said that they would get some reward for their work and that they were being looked after by a young "UFO" occupant with long fair hair and dark clothing.
The young men left. About the time we were doing our Rite, the young men sighted a "UFO" at Naas, followed it for twelve miles in a car, and lost sight of it. Later in the evening they saw it again and took two photographs. It was bright red and extremely large. One photograph showed peculiar markings. There was another witness in a car who signed a form declaring that he had witnessed the UFO.
What struck me was that we used the symbol of the Eight-Pointed Star of Ishtar during the ceremony, linking it with Venus and Sirius. In Chaldea the Eight-Pointed Star is often depicted in Ishtar's hand. It is a powerful symbol of magic and Chaldean emblem of divinity.
A metaphysical version of the Rebirth Ritual was offered during "The Occult Experience", Nevill Drury's television film and video. Allat wore a primitive wooden mask: at the climax, she unmasked, revealing a woman's face and declared: "I am Ishtar, Goddess of Love."
In the Temple of Isis in Clonegal Castle we use a "surprise Initiation." The Guide leads the Neophyte from the castle grounds through a guarded hall door and six other doors, barring long passages and flights of stairs. Vision is obscured by veil or hood. Speeches of Ishtar or Tammuz are given by the Priesthood. The Oracle is bestowed on the Neophyte privately, behind closed doors in the old dungeon, Chapel of the Mothers.
In a Ritual when the Candidate for Initiation is ready, a woman may herself enact the role of Ishtar, and a man may take the part of Tammuz. Identifying with these roles may produce a change of consciousness that brings a greater experience of two spheres, the inner and the outer. The aim is to produce harmony of spirit, soul and body.
When this Rite is performed all those taking part are recreating an ancient pattern that involves the human and elemental participants; those of the animal, bird, reptile and insect realms described in the Rite and the Deities invoked. The Priest says to those assembled in the Temple: "Those who participate in the Mysteries prepare themselves for the Great Awakening."
Continue to the Rite of Rebirth
Return to the Table of Contents
Return to the Online Liturgy
Copyright Note: The FOI Liturgy on this website is copyright protected. Copying the Liturgy text or pages to another website or publication, is prohibited. Printing of individual rites by FOI members for their personal and group ritual use is encouraged and allowed.
All Rights Reserved.