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.
Entry to the Temple's Outer Court
| Abydos, Abode of
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.
Egyptian Museum, Cairo
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.
Reconstruction by Marianne Luban
From 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
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
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.
|El Balyana with Omm Sety 1976
|One month before her transition in 1981
Fate Magazine Originally Published in January 2001
to Sacred Tradition