FOI Online Liturgy
Rite of Rebirth of the Fellowship of Isis
By: Olivia Robertson
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Rite of Rebirth of the Fellowship of Isis
Those taking part:
Guardian of the Gate
Psychopompos, Guide of the Neophyte
Neophyte, the Candidate for Initiation
Priestesses and Priests
The God Shamash, the Narrator
The Goddess Ishtar
Neti, Gate-Keeper of the Underworld
The God Tammuz, husband to Ishtar
The Goddess Allat
On the main altar of the Temple let there be placed seven lighted candles. Also let there be ready spring water in a cup, grains of corn in a dish, burning incense and a phial of oil. At the opposite end of the temple or in a side chapel let there be an altar with a red lamp burning upon it. On this let there be placed a ring, a crook and a flute. Only the red lamp burns here: this far end of the Temple is dark.
Those invited to the ceremony assemble in the Temple.
Processional music. The priestly procession is admitted into the Temple by the Guardian of the Gate. Outside stands the Psychopompos with the Neophyte. If a woman be the Neophyte she is covered from head to foot in a white veil. A man Neophyte wears a long hooded white cloak, the hood covering his face. The Psychopompos wears a violet hooded cloak, hood up, and bears the Wand of Hermes, a staff topped with a winged disc, with two intertwined snakes in four folds about the shaft.
PRIEST HIEROPHANT: Friends: we are assembled in this holy Temple to initiate a Neophyte into another sphere of Being. So do we present the Holy Mystery of the Descent and Ascent of the Goddess Ishtar to bring back her husband Tammuz held in the Underworld. Honoured Scribe, is the Psychopompos present, to guide the soul of the Neophyte to Awakening?
SCRIBE: Reverend Priest, the Psychopompos is without, with the Neophyte.
1ST PRIEST: Worthy Guardian of the Gate, let them be admitted.
(Processional music. Psychopompos enters with the Neophyte.)
PSYCHOPOMPOS: Behold the Neophyte!
PRIEST H: Does the Neophyte desire to be initiated into the other Life and so be born again?
PSYCHOPOMPOS: None may choose Rebirth for another. Nor may the soul demand entry into the Other Sphere without Divine Authority. Know that the moment of awakening into eternal life comes through Deity and no one may dare to declare that moment nor that hour.
1ST PRIEST: Why then, O Guide of Souls, do you come amidst us with your mysterious hooded cloak and with your Rod of Hermes?
PSYCHOPOMPOS: I would that the soul I guide may enact the Holy Mystery of the Goddess Ishtar, She who holds the keys of the Spheres. The key of the Upper World and the key of the Underworld are in Her hands. So shall this Neophyte, concealed with a veil, choose to throw off the veil of division when the hour strikes for Rebirth into Eternal Reality.
PRIEST H: You speak with the voice of wisdom. Those who participate in the Mysteries prepare themselves for the Great Awakening. Your request is granted. May the Hierophant invoke Deity.
PRIESTESS HIEROPHANT: (faces the candlelit altar, arms upraised - she faces to the left and makes the sign of Earth.) I invoke the Goddess Allat.
1ST PRIESTESS: (faces right of the altar and makes the sign of Neptune) I invoke the Goddess Dana and the God Manannan of the Western Islands. May the Mysteries of Atlantis be revealed.
1ST PRIEST: I invoke the Goddess Isis and the God Osiris of Egypt. May the Mysteries of Khem be uncovered.
2ND PRIESTESS: (faces the centre of the altar and makes the sign of the eight-pointed star of Venus and of Sirius) I invoke the Goddess Ishtar and the God Tammuz of Babylon. May the Mysteries of Erech be given unto us. Hail to Ishtar, the Giver of Revelation, the Queen of Heaven, the Goddess with the beautiful voice. May she inspire us in our enactment of her Mystery.
(All lights are extinguished save the lights of the seven candles on the bright altar, and the red lamp on the dark altar. Neophyte is robed for mystery as Ishtar or Tammuz. Music.)
PRIEST H: Thousands of years ago was the Epic of Ishtar and Tammuz performed within the great Temples of Babylon. Harken then in your souls to this divine drama, that new life be born within you. Let the God Shamash tell the tale.
SHAMASH: Know that the shepherd husband of the Goddess Ishtar, Tammuz, spouse of her youth, was mortally wounded by a wild boar.
(TAMMUZ goes to dark altar or side chapel.)
He sank into the dark underworld, domain of the Goddess Allat. There he bewailed his fate.
TAMMUZ: (falls on his knees) Alas, I Tammuz, who once lived in glory as a God in the Upper World with my beloved wife, Ishtar, Queen of Heaven, am now cast forth into the Lower World through the fury of a wild boar. Here I now find myself, in dreadful darkness; I who was once strong and manly now crawl in the mud, covered with the pelt of an animal, the scales of a serpent, the feathers of vultures and buzzards. I flee from my slayer: I slay him. I am devoured: I devour. I am encompassed by my enemies who hate and seek the destruction of my soul. My wrath is great against them. I have forgotten my own name. I have forgotten my wife, I have forgotten Heaven. Yet in my heart a spark of life remains. I call for help.
ISHTAR: (by the seven candles) Great is my grief. I wail, I cry out. I who am the Lady of Life have lost him who is dearer that life. Heaven has lost its joy for me. And I look down upon those who crawl in the mud covered with feathers in the dark Underworld. Are they not my people, for I brought them forth?
SHAMASH: Ishtar called upon the priests and the people to unite with her lamentation on the death of Tammuz. For lo, the captive God was bound in the Underworld, fallen into a magic sleep. Ishtar was like a wife bereft of her husband, a mother bereft of her child, a cow of its calf, a goat of its kid, a sheep of its lamb. The women wept for Tammuz and for their own lost loves. They wept in the place of the North.
FIRST LADY: Let us weep for Tammuz the beautiful flute-player, the strong Shepherd, for he has fallen into darkness and despair! He is lost to us, for he sees us no more, but is surrounded by fantasies and images of terror. We call on him and he hears us not: we send him visions of the Goddess and he sees them not. Weep for Tammuz in his death-like sleep!
SECOND LADY: Let us mingle our tears with those of the Lady Ishtar; let us make lament. For have we not lost our own fair loves in the dire Underworld? For who that is captured by dark earth ever returns? Rather do they crawl in the mud clothed in the pelt of ravening beasts and the feathers of birds of prey.
THIRD LADY: Rather let us weep for ourselves, for may we not too fall into this pit of darkness, and forget our dancing and our song?
ISHTAR: At his departing away I make a lament,
‘O my child! at his departing away I make a lament:
My Damu, at his departing away I make a lament:
My Enchanter and Priest! At his departing away I make a lament:
At the shining cedar, rooted in a spacious place,
In Eanna, above and below, I make a lament.
Like the lament that a house makes for its master, I make a lament.
Like the lament that a city makes for its lord, I make a lament.
LADIES: With the Lady Ishtar we make a lament.
(All wail with Ishtar and make lament.)
3RD PRIEST: So the dwellers in Heaven lament when a soul makes the perilous journey into the sphere of Earth. Yet the dwellers in Earth rejoice that to them a child is born!
SHAMASH: The Goddess Ishtar could no longer rejoice in Heaven while her people foundered in the Underworld. So it came into her heart to bring back Tammuz, and with him all those who would re-enter Heaven.
ISHTAR: Ladies, help me make ready for my descent through the spheres! I paint my eyes with stibium for my husband Tammuz, and I deck my shoulders with boughs of sweet-smelling cedar, my body with shining robes, and my head with a gleaming diadem for him.
SHAMASH: The Goddess turned her thoughts to the place where darkness is the dwelling, where the garments are the wings of birds. And as she turned her mind and heart upon the Underworld, she began to sink through the spheres.
(ISHTAR turns away from the Company and descends the altar steps towards the far end of the Temple where Tammuz is.)
SHAMASH: Finally the Goddess Ishtar reached the very depths of Hell. And she stood in all her glory before the portal of Queen Allat's domain. She knocked. In an imperious voice she addressed Neti the Guardian, who stood by the portal.
ISHTAR: O Gate-Keeper, open the gate.
Open the gate that I may enter!
If thou openest not the gate,
So that I cannot enter,
I will smash the door,
I will shatter the bolt,
I will break the door-post,
I will burst the panels,
I will raise up the dead!
SHAMASH: The Guardian opened his mouth and spoke: he announced to the mighty Ishtar:
GUARDIAN: Stop, O Lady, and do not overturn the door until I go and apprise the Queen Allat of thy name.
SHAMASH: And the Guardian told the Queen of Hell that the mighty Ishtar stood outside her portal.
ALLAT: Tell the Lady Ishtar that she may enter according to the law of my domain.
SHAMASH: The Guardian went, he opened his mouth:
GUARDIAN: Enter, my Lady, and may Kutha rejoice. May the palace and the land rejoice in thy presence.
SHAMASH: Not so easy was it to penetrate the dark Underworld ruled by mighty Allat.
GUARDIAN: O Lady Ishtar, according to the Law of this realm, at the First Gate thou must needs surrender thy crown.
ISHTAR: Alas, must the light of my Spirit be so extinguished? Where-with shall I see when Light is removed? My mind shall know. Take thou my Diadem.
(ISHTAR hands the Guardian her crown, who places it on a darkened altar at the far end of the Temple. PRIEST at the bright end extinguishes one candle.)
(ISHTAR takes some paces towards the dark altar. For her descent she moves 2 steps forward, 1 backward.)
GUARDIAN: According to the Law of this realm, to pass through the second Gateway, must thy earrings be surrendered.
ISHTAR: How then may I hear the words of the Deities in Heaven? But so must it be. My heart shall know.
(ISHTAR removes her earrings and gives them to Guardian who places them on the dark altar. 3RD PRIEST extinguishes second candle.)
(ISHTAR takes more paces down the Temple.)
GUARDIAN: At the Third Gate thy pectoral necklace with its amulets must be given.
ISHTAR: Alas, must I lose my very heart's warmth? For love's sake it shall be so.
(Gives the Guardian her pectoral to be placed on dark altar. 2ND PRIEST extinguishes third candle.)
(ISHTAR takes further steps towards the dark end of the Temple.)
GUARDIAN: The Third Gate has been passed through. Yet there remains the Fourth Gate. Let thy bracelets be given.
ISHTAR: Must I not have the power of Magic? So must it be.
(ISHTAR gives Guardian her bracelets who places them on the dark altar. 1ST PRIEST extinguishes fourth candle.)
(ISHTAR takes steps towards dark altar.)
GUARDIAN: Stern are the laws of the Goddess Allat, ruler of this realm. For those who have passed the Fourth Gate must yet, if they have the courage, travel deeper into the darkness. Thy jeweled girdle must be surrendered.
ISHTAR: How may I continue my journey without my strength? Yet is my Will set upon this Quest. I give my enameled girdle.
(ISHTAR gives Guardian her girdle who places it on the dark altar. 2ND PRIEST extinguishes fifth candle.)
(ISHTAR moves some paces towards the dark end of the Temple.)
GUARDIAN: Those who would pass through the Sixth Gate need but give their anklets.
ISHTAR: My anklets! Lose my winged feet and crawl on hands and knees as do the humble inhabitants of this muddy place! Yet I choose to be as they are.
(ISHTAR hands Guardian her anklets who places them upon the dark altar. PRIEST extinguishes the sixth candle. Only one light remains.)
(ISHTAR falls upon the ground. She drags herself towards the dark altar or chapel.)
GUARDIAN: O Lady Ishtar, there now standeth before thee the Great Seventh Gate of the Underworld. Many turn back here who have passed all other ordeals. Here thou must abandon thy veil.
ISHTAR: My veil! Protection of my innocence! But love needs no such protection. Take my veil.
(ISHTAR gives Guardian her veil that falls from her shoulders to her feet. Guardian places it upon the dark altar. 1ST PRIEST at the far end extinguishes the seventh candle. The Temple is in darkness save for the red lamp on the dark altar.)
GUARDIAN: Pass! Let feathers be thy garment, O woman, and mud thy kneeling place.
(ISHTAR in the darkness wraps about her a cloak of tatters and drags herself before the dark altar and touches it. By altar is Allat enthroned. Tammuz on ground.)
SHAMASH: Immersed was the Goddess Ishtar in the infernal regions. Those in the Upper World wore mourning. Papsukal, the servant of the great Gods, tore his hair before me, the once happy Shamash, clothed now in mourning, full of sorrow. My tears flowed in the presence of Ea. I made lament and these were my words: “Ishtar has gone down into the earth, and she has not come up again. Love is lost in Heaven!” And the Gods harkened to my lament and they said: "The only remedy is the return of Tammuz and those who follow the Lady Ishtar for without these Ishtar will not return to us." And now came a great wonder. For Tammuz began to awaken when he beheld Ishtar, though he knew her not. And Ishtar could not truly behold Tammuz in the darkness, yet still she loved him. And Tammuz spoke these words:
TAMMUZ: Who is this woman that fills my heart with love? She has no beauty about her, no light, no jewels. Rather is she like unto myself and all those about me, crawling in mud and clothed in skins and feathers, and eating the dust. Praise be then to the terrible Goddess Allat and her domain and all within it! For I would choose to be in the dark Underworld with this woman than dwell in the Upper World. What care I for her name, who know not my own! Where love is that is Heaven.
ISHTAR: Not so terrible then, is the Underworld, but rather a place of beauty that holds this man within its power. Praise be to the Goddess Allat. Blessed is this place and all within it! Gladly would I dwell here with this man.
SHAMASH: Know that when Ishtar and Tammuz gave their praise to Allat and to her domain and all her subjects they found favour in the eyes of the Dark Goddess.
ALLAT: Blessed are they who love my dark earth. Blessed are they who love my children who wear skins and scales and feathers. Wise are they who fear me not. Beneath my black veil of dreams is my True Being, the Primordial Mother.
(Entranced veiled Priestess of Allat may instead give oracle of the Goddess.)
SHAMASH: As Allat spoke these words, Ishtar heard them and she remembered her own name, and knew herself as Queen of Heaven. And she was greeted by Queen Allat as her younger sister. And Tammuz when he heard the words of Allat, knew himself as the Shepherd King who holds the Crook: the Protector of the fearful: the starry Music-maker astride the sky of night.
GUARDIAN: Lady Ishtar, take thy veil. Tammuz, take thy crook.
(ISHTAR puts on her veil and Tammuz takes his crook. 1ST PRIEST lights the seventh candle. Music. ISHTAR and TAMMUZ are on their feet, their hands lightly touching. They leave dark altar. They advance towards the candlelit altar, two steps forward, one step backwards for the Ascent.)
(ISHTAR and TAMMUZ take a few steps forward.)
GUARDIAN: Lady Ishtar, take thou thy anklets.
(ISHTAR does so.)
(2ND PRIEST lights sixth candle. ISHTAR and TAMMUZ advance more paces.)
GUARDIAN: Lady Ishtar, take thou thy girdle.
(ISHTAR receives her girdle and puts it on.)
(ISHTAR and TAMMUZ advance some paces. 3RD PRIEST lights fifth candle.)
GUARDIAN: Thy bracelets are returned to thee, O Lady Ishtar. Tammuz, Take thy carnelian ring!
(ISHTAR puts on her bracelets. TAMMUZ puts on his ring.)
(ISHTAR and TAMMUZ advance. 1ST PRIEST lights fourth candle. Seven candles are relighted in turn.)
GUARDIAN: Thy pectoral ornament with its amulets thou may now put on, O Lady Ishtar. Tammuz, take now thy magical flute of lapis.
(ISHTAR puts on her pectoral ornament and TAMMUZ receives his flute.)
SHAMASH: And as Ishtar and Tammuz slowly ascended step by step through the Seven Spheres, those who chose to come with them followed them. And those who chose the ways of earth stayed with the Goddess Allat. And they also were blessed. And so at last they reached the Great First Gateway of the Underworld.
GUARDIAN: O Goddess Ishtar, receive now thy Crown, with the blessings of Queen Allat! From Queen Allat take thy diadem, O Tammuz Shepherd of the starry flocks of Heaven!
SHAMASH: And Ishtar received her Crown and her husband Tammuz received his, and all the company were given crowns set with sparkling jewels, and they rejoiced.
(ISHTAR and TAMMUZ are crowned by NETI.)
Now Ishtar had once prophesied with these words: "On the day when Tammuz welcomes me, when with him the lapis flute and the carnelian ring welcome me, may the dead rise and smell the incense." So it was that Tammuz entered the Upper World first to make ready to receive Ishtar. And he welcomed her with these words:
TAMMUZ: Welcome to thee, Ishtar, my Bride, my Wife, welcome to thee who are Goddess of Spring, May Love now reign once more in Heaven. I am the Flute-player and I welcome thee with my enchanted flute of lapis. When I play the birds sing and the trees wave in the breeze. When I play the stars dance to my measure. I bestow upon thee my carnelian ring of eternity. For Love and wisdom and beauty are here in our Upperworld and reign in Queen Allat's dark domain.
(Tammuz gives Ishtar flute and ring.)
ISHTAR: Yet what are these without the life to enjoy them? May the dead rise, may the sleepers awake!
(NEOPHYTE resumes veil or hood.)
PRIEST H: Harken to these words. For know that as Tammuz was held in the Underworld in dreams, so was he brought to life by the love and courage of his wife. So does each soul awaken when the time of Rebirth is nigh. May the Priesthood give the gifts of the Goddess to the Neophyte, that, as a butterfly draws forth from its chrysalis when it is ready, so may this soul awaken to Eternal Life.
1ST PRIESTESS: In the Name of the Goddess of Spring I give you this water! May the Neophyte receive the Water of Life.
(She anoints Neophyte's brow with water.)
2ND PRIESTESS: In the Name of the Goddess of Harvest I give you immortal grain. So may Creativity and Imagination be awakened.
(She presents Neophyte with grain.)
3RD PRIESTESS: In the Name of the Goddess of Winter and the Starry Darkness receive this incense. May the Fire of Spirit bring strength at the hour of Initiation. In the Name of the Goddess Ishtar, Bringer of Revelations, Holder of the keys of the Spheres, may you awaken into Eternal Life!
(She presents incense.)
PRIEST H: (throws back the veil or hood of the Candidate to reveal the face.) In the Name of the Goddess I initiate you into her Mystery.
PRIESTESS H: (makes the sign of the eight-pointed star in oil in centre of the Candidate's brow) I anoint you with holy oil with the sign of the eight-pointed Star of Ishtar and of Isis and of Dana. In your hour of awakening may you bring others with you into glory.
1ST PRIEST: In the Name of the Priesthood of the Goddess I bear witness that this Neophyte is an Initiate in the Mystery of the Goddess.
PSYCHOPOMPOS: As Guide of Souls I bear witness that this Candidate is an Initiate in the Mystery of The Goddess.
SCRIBE: As Keeper of the Records I bear witness that this Neophyte is an Initiate in the Mystery of the Goddess.
PRIEST H: Let us give thanks to Deity.
1ST PRIEST: (turns left) Thanks is given to the Goddess Dana and to the God Manannan for vision restored to us from the depths of the Atlantean Ocean.
2ND PRIEST: (turns right) Thanks is given to the Goddess Isis and the God Osiris for the wisdom brought to us from the Sphinx and the Pyramid.
3RD PRIEST: (turns to centre) Thanks is given to the Goddess Ishtar and the God Tammuz for the Beauty that is bestowed upon us from the Stars.
PRIESTESS H: (turns to assembly, hands upheld) May you go forth with the Divine Blessing.
All Priesthood give blessing in turn. Processional Music. Psychopompos leaves with the new Initiate. The Guardian of the Gate opens the door for the Procession. Priestly Procession follows and then the general assembly.
End of Rite.
Sources: Babylonian Liturgies edited by Maspero, Frazer, Hooke, Sandars, from "The Goddesses of Chaldaea," by Lawrence Durdin-Robertson.
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