A Life Well
Rameses I
by Rosemary Clark

Tales of reincarnation and past-life memory are rarely proven. In some instances the recollection seems fanciful and speculative, in others the information may be provocative and the details unique.

   One of the most convincing examples of the latter in modern times is the extraordinary life of Dorothy Eady, an Englishwoman born at the turn of the 20th century who later became known to many as Omm Sety. Portions of her life have been documented in books and on film in recent times, describing her conscious memory of a life as a priestess in ancient Egypt, which began to awaken at the age of three following a serious fall. She told the dramatic story of how it came about candidly to many people, and made no apologies for her peculiar interest in this past life or for her remarkable affinity with a well-known monarch of Egypt's 19th Dynasty, Pharaoh Sety I (c. 1320-1200 B.C.E.).

   I came to know Omm Sety at a dramatic time in my own life, when I made my first pilgrimage to Egypt in 1976. I had begun a temple practice in the canon of the ancient Egyptian religion, and was determined to find answers to my questions about this long-forgotten spiritual work and its meaning in the present day. Books on egyptology and arcane religions did little to satisfy my confusion about what it meant and why I was doing it. I knew the solution had to exist in Egypt.

   It was there that I met Omm Sety and with her encouragement, began my own journey of awakening, just as she had decades earlier.

    Dorothy Eady’s Transformation

 Born January 16, 1904 in London of Irish parents, Dorothy Eady was headstrong and more than a handful to her parents as an only child. After her early childhood accident (in which the attending doctor had initially pronounced her dead), the door between her past life in ancient Egypt and her present persona fully opened, and she began to regularly dream of being in an Egyptian temple. At times, she believed that she actually visited the temple at night, in her astral body.

   Eventually, she discovered that the temple in her dreams really existed, at the ancient site of Abydos in Upper Egypt. As she grew up, she sought more information about this place and just about everything Egyptian, telling her parents longingly that she “wanted to go home.”

   She read every book and listened to every story about Egypt, and had the good fortune to be living near the British Museum. There, she befriended and learned hieroglyphs and Egyptian history from the eminent Keeper of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities, Ernest A. Wallis Budge, whose prolific books on Egyptian legend and magic are still in print today.

                        Sety with Bastet
Omm Sety and Bastet

    Dorothy did these things not under the tutelage of her parents or mentors, but solely on her own, and this was to be her pattern for the rest of her life. After a sporadic education that was interrupted by the first World War, she agreed to marry an Egyptian man in 1933, admittedly so that she could go to live in the world of her dreams. The match lasted only two years because, she said about the split, “He was ultra modern, and I was ultra ancient.” They had one son, whom she insisted on naming Sety. Years later, she adopted the Arabic name Omm Sety “mother of Sety,” which designated her identity thereafter.

      She eagerly accepted work at Giza, assisting some of the eminent egyptologists of the day, including Selim Hassan and Ahmed Fakhri. Serving as amanuensis and draftsperson, she provided invaluable support to those who excavated and recorded the extensive cemeteries and pyramid complexes of Lower Egypt.

    The Two Worlds of Omm Sety

   When she went to the Per Neter (“divine house”) at Abydos, in dream/astral state, Omm Sety did not see the temple as it was in her day. Rather, she saw it as it had been thousands of years ago, replete with braziers, incense, white-robed priests, and brilliantly-colored wall reliefs, finished in gold. And in those ethereal visits to her spiritual home, she saw herself moving through the corridors and chambers, going about daily life and performing the rites of a priestess of Isis, chanting the lamentations of the goddess at the funeral of her husband Osiris, to whom the temple was dedicated.

   Ancient legend relates the horrific death of the god at the hands of his brother Set, and his mystic renewal through the ritual power of Isis. These solemn events were celebrated at Abydos in festivals throughout the year that commemorated his death  and physical reconstitution, and these observances became the prototype for the funerary tradition of ancient Egypt that lasted for millennia.

   Through her dream life and visits from spirits of this past life who came to her at night, she learned that she was Bentreshyt ("harp of joy"), a young orphan girl given to the keeping of the temple as was the custom in ancient Egypt. But the more remarkable detail about her life as the young priestess was that she had caught the attention of the visiting pharaoh, Sety I, and they had broken religious law by having a physical relationship that was discovered. Nevertheless, their bond still existed, and he paid her frequent nocturnal visits throughout her present life to prove it.

   Omm Sety showed a remarkable familiarity with the period in history that Sety represented, and often referred to him by his throne name,  Men Maat Ra, “established in the light of truth.”

The Per Neter ("God's House") at Abydos
                      temple courtyard

Temple Outer

Entry to the Temple's Outer Court
    Abydos, Abode of Ancestors

   After her first pilgrimage to Abydos in 1953, she was firmly convinced that she could never live anywhere else. A few years later, she managed to get a work transfer there from the Egyptian Antiquities Department, where she held a modest job as an assistant and draftsperson.

   When she set up her house, she said that all she wanted was “to live, to work, to die and be buried here.” Indeed, she arrived in 1956 and remained there until she “became an Osiris” (an ancient Egyptian term for passing over) in 1981.

   Almost as soon as she arrived, her amazing knowledge of the ancient city came forth.  She accurately pointed out to excavators the location of the temple gardens from her past life memory, though they had not yet been discovered. She was also instrumental in the discovery of the famous wavy wall, an enclosure around the Abydos sacred precinct that emulates the primeval ocean of Egyptian cosmogony.

   Abydos was known as Ta Wer  (“exalted land”), a time-honored place of spiritual pilgrimage and the ideal destination for burial in ancient times. Tombs from the Predynastic period (prior to 3,500 B.C.E.) down to the Christian era are found here, and important records have been discovered in the area. Not far from the great cemetery was found the important Nag Hammadi scrolls, which vie with the Dead Sea scrolls as the oldest evidence of Christianity.
Seti II

Sety I
Egyptian Museum, Cairo
    Rameses the Great

   Omm Sety’s memory of one of the great figures in ancient Egypt was quite personal. Her past life companion’s son, Rameses II, was one of the most prodigious (and prolific) monarchs of ancient times, leaving thousands of monumental works and a multitude of children (111 sons and 69 daughters are recorded in temples and tombs throughout Egypt). And though he is known in history as “the great,” his ubiquitous appearance at most of the sacred sites in Egypt has also earned him the name of “the inevitable.”

   “He’s a much maligned young man,” she said of Sety’s famous son, speaking simultaneously in her past and present personas. “But I can never think of Rameses except as a teenager. And yet when he died he was a very old man, I think he was about ninety.”

   She remembered young Rameses racing through the halls of his father’s temple, where she served as a priestess. In the life of Bentreshyt, she would only have known Rameses to be around her age at the time. She died in her Egyptian life as a young woman, and could not have seen him in old age. Her reminiscences of him reflected that.

   “Even now when I go to the temple, I can always see young Rameses coming in, rushing through the corridor -- a very restless boy and rather noisy,” she confided.

Seti II

Pharaoh Sety
Reconstruction by Marianne Luban
om mummy photographs

    Humor with Reverence

   Though her recollections of her Egyptian life were profound and her knowledge of ancient history quit extensive, Omm Sety possessed a wicked sense of humor about things both ancient and modern.

   About 60 miles south of Abydos is Dendera (the ancient Tentyris), site of the ancient temple of the goddess Hathor. The existing temple, though a prodigious example of the Divine House of ancient times, was rebuilt in the Graeco-Roman period (approximately 300 B.C.E. to 300 C.E.), nearly 1,500 years after Sety’s temple at Abydos. Omm Sety believed, as do many others scholars, that the reliefs at Dendera depict a corrupt canon of artistic representation in temple art, an inferior rendition of the flawless sacred art of former times.

   And though she liked the Dendera temple’s spiritual atmosphere and loved the mystic chapels on the roof that show the mutilation and resurrection of Osiris, she poked fun at the reliefs of the corpulent priests carrying the goddess’ shrine up to the roof chapels. “You can almost hear them panting,” she joked.

Dendera temple priest in procession at ascending stairway

    Sacred Cats

   Omm Sety loved her cats, and we shared stories about our feline friends. I told her that my cat at home ate the food offerings from my temple altar, which I thought might be highly improper for a spiritual environment. But she was indulgent. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “After all, they are sacred, too.”

   Her cats seem to have shared her propensity for seeing the ancient spirits that interrupted her daily life. She once had a ginger-colored male named Horemheb who liked to ride on her shoulder, and she reported an intriguing incident about this cat, who often accompanied her to the temple. “One day,” she related, “He went into the chapel of Sety, and let out a loud shriek. He came running out with his tail and his back puffed up.”

   Abruptly, she added, Horemheb then went back into the chapel and Omm Sety followed. “It was a vision of Sety that gave him the fright,” she said matter-of-factly. The encounter with her spiritual companion was evidently a surprise to the cat, but commonplace to her.

  Her last and most favored cat was named for the goddess of domestic felicity, Bastet. She gave birth to several kittens on Omm Sety’s bed in the spring of 1981, and they had just opened their eyes in the days before she passed into the Sacred Land.

Hypostyle Hall at Sety's Abydos Temple
Abydos Hypostyle
Abydos 1976
A Life Well Remembered

   When I last saw her in March 1981, Omm Sety spoke of her difficult visit to the temple on December 8, occasioned by an ancient festival that she observed annually. It was celebrated by the Egyptians on the last ten days of their calendar year as “the great feast of Osiris,” and offerings were presented at the temples and the thousands of funerary shrines in the region.

   But in the final year of her life, Omm Sety struggled with chronic rheumatism brought on by a broken leg, and visits to her beloved temple were severely curtailed. Nevertheless, she was determined to continue her priestess duties, and brought the traditional offering of a loaf of bread, wine, and incense to the Divine House, though it took her two hours to make the journey. In doing so, abundance for the coming year would be ensured by the offering, as the gods would be honored and the temple’s spirit would continue to function.

   “Magic in ancient Egypt was a science,” she noted. “It was really magic, and it worked.”

   I found it both strange and admirable that she contributed so much to the scholarly side of Egypt and at the same time maintained a psychospiritual connection with it, too. If anyone could walk between those two worlds, it was her. I related to that, and she certainly encouraged me to pursue that path.
Abydos 1981
El Balyana with Omm Sety 1976
One month before her transition in 1981
   And as incredible as her story may sound in its telling, those who knew her – from scholars and tourists to townspeople – regarded her with respect and affirmation. Even while she was living, she was called the “patron saint of egyptology,” because of her knowledge – derived from both her practical experience living and working in Egypt – and her personal reservoir of recollection and intuition. Few separated those aspects of Omm Sety from their acquaintance with her, and even fewer questioned the validity of her beliefs because they were expressed so convincingly. It took a great deal of courage – rarely found in a woman at the early part of the last century – to pursue her unfinished life at Abydos and fulfill her dedication to the temple.

   After she passed away, I received a message from Bill Donovan, of the American Research Center in Egypt, an institution that had many members who worked with Omm Sety. “Ms. Eady was truly a remarkable person and she is highly respected by those in the ARCE that knew her,” he commented. Afterward, many egyptologists acknowledged that her contribution to the research and writings of many in their profession was extensive.
    Remembering Omm Sety

The most accurate monument to Omm Sety’s unique life is the manner in which she lived it. Ancient records left by the Egyptians show that they lived close to nature, regarding their animals and divinities with equal affection, and celebrating the simple pleasures – from enjoying freshly-brewed beer to sailing on the Nile – with delight and appreciation. These things she did in this life, and she spoke of doing the very same things in the life she recalled.

   For these reasons, Omm Sety accomplished something extraordinary and unique – she lived a life worth remembering twice, both in the ancient and modern worlds.

Fate Magazine
Fate Magazine Originally Published in January 2001

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