Sunday, January 22, 2012

Scotsman in Ancient Egypt

A Scotsman in Ancient Egypt.
The other night I was watching the first Blackadder series. For those of you who have no sense of humor, Blackadder was a British comedy done back in the Dark Ages of television. In the episode, I was watching the main character, the infamous Blackadder (played by Rowan Atkinson) is busy trying to get a Scotsman killed. One of his ploys is to involve the Scotsman in a play set in Ancient Egypt.

One of the audience members watching the play turns to another and asks, "What is a Scotsman doing in Egypt?" At this point, I just lost it. You see, I have occasionally wondered this myself about someone else. Yes, I am talking about Samuel L. Mathers.

The short answer is that Mathers like many in his generation was enchanted by the lore of Ancient Egypt. Periodically, Egyptology has surges of renewed interest. The late Victorian period was one of those times. And unlike previous times, the late Victorain Age had the advantage that they could actually consult the actual words of the Ancient Egyptians.

After the closure of the last temple of Isis around 400 BCE, the ability to read the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs was lost. The lore of Ancient Egypt was lost beyond those parts that had already made their way into the Hermetica and Greek histories. Periodically, someone would claim to have broken the code behind the ancient hieroglyphs, but today we know that they were completely wrong.

This all changed in 1799, when French soliders found the Rosetta Stone while dugging a defensive trench duing one of their many wars with the British. After the war, the British claimed the Rosetta Stone as part of their war spoils. Over the next fifty years, scholars used the Rosetta Stone to figure out how to read the Ancient Egyptian language.

One of the changes in the esoteric scene brought on by the decoding of the Ancient Egyptian language was that for the first time in two thousand years, actual Ancient Egyptian ideas could be used in the Western Mystery tradition. The Cipher Manuscript of Golden Dawn has a reference to the images from Ancient Egypt (the subject of a future blog post), and Golden Dawn would be the first esoteric Order to use actual Egyptian words in their rituals since the time of the Ancient Egyptians.

This fact attracted students who were interested in such things to the Order. One of these students was Macgregor Mathers, which passion led him and his wife, Moina, to create a set of rituals celebrating the Ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses while they were living in France.

Of course, using the first generation of translations resulted in the Golden Dawn lore being hopelessly out of date by the time you get to our day and age. This has led the Golden Dawn being looked at with contempt by the modern-day scholars...then again, the modern day scholars tend to also frown on magical experiements, so it is not like we were going to get any of them as members in the first place. But it has also led to Golden Dawn (RR et AC) Egyptian lore and techniques to function differently than those used by the Ancient Egyptians. The gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt tend to "speak in an English accent" (not literally), or maybe it is a Scottish accent, when they are filtered through the Golden Dawn matrix. Parts of the Golden Dawn system, to use the modern insult for the method used, started out as a "recreation" of the long dead Egyptian mysteries.

So what was a Scotsman doing in Egypt? Simple, he was busy looting the tombs of the dead, just like the English and French were doing. Sad, but true.

(If you feel the punchline is wrong, you know the drill---leave your comments in the comment section. Not all comments are approved, but I do read all of them.)

1 comment:

Frater VAL said...

Funny. :) I like how serious the Occult students got around that era, particularly because of their zeal is all the material we have to study today.

I also think that there are some pretty serious students alive Today that will eventually be the new SL Mathers, or Wescott. Not literally of course, but I mean that the currents are open and some people are tapped in. This time in history has the potential to be the most enlightened since the Egyptians.