Elizabeth Rose is a highly regarded American occultist, psychic and healer residing in Sacramento. She began formal study of the occult in her twenties as a regular visitor to a local curiosity shop. She befriended a local Wiccan priestess who taught her astrology, magic and tarot. This led to her formal initiation into the Craft in 1988. She continued her studies by joining the Clairvoyant training program at Psychic Horizons, graduating as a reverend in 1993. With a hunger for art and history she enrolled at SFSU in the theater program where her training exposed her to the ancient connections between shamanism and theater. Majoring in Drama with an emphasis in World Religions, she studied the history of Greek and European theater as well as Women's Studies. She graduated with a BA in Drama & Performance in 1997. Since then she has expanded her occult knowledge through studies of Irish folklore, Chinese astrology, herbal healing and Feng Shui. She is an adept healer and psychic, and continues her practice of tarot readings, psychic healings and marriage ceremonies while studying Ceremonial Magick and Qabalah with the Temple of the Silver Star.
CURRENTLY: Sun at 18 Leo Mercury at 11 Cancer (weak) Venus at 3 Cancer Mars at 22 Aries (Rulership) Jupiter RETROGRADE at 19 Capricorn (fall, very weak) Saturn RETROGRADE at 27 Capricorn (rulership) Pluto RETROGRADE at 23 Capricorn Neptune at 20 Pisces (rulership, strong) North Node at 26 Gemini
We’re in the dark of the Moon this week, so don’t do anything, just rest. The Moon is waning, or balsamic, until next Tuesday, August 18th when we will have a New Moon in Leo. There’s a lot roiling under the surface…
The current Sun in Leo is a wonderful time, since out brightest star has come home to his kingdom. We can let our hair down and be ourselves. The Sun symbolizes the soul and identity, and invites us to express ourselves. The background of Saturn, Pluto and Jupiter in Capricorn have changed how we do this. We can express ourselves, but we have to protect our fellow humans from the scourge of Covid19 at the same time. We need to wear masks and physically distance. The North Node in Gemini encourages us to connect online. It’s up to us to let go of our heavy worries (Pluto), welcome inspiration (Jupiter), and restructure our reality (Saturn). Leo, the sign of the heart, asks us to fall in love with ourselves and the creativity we hold inside, and share it with the world.
And then there’s all the stuff going in Aries which is INTENSE! We have Black Moon Lilith (wild feminine) joining forces with Eris (Goddess of Discord) – both hanging out with Mars (God of War). Yikes. These three are scary enough on their own, all sitting on their dark thrones at 22 Aries. They bring the absolute insistence to be ourselves, define our boundaries and fight if need be to make a point. Have you seen the violence in American cities over the past week? Stand offs and clashes between protestors and police, looters… and that horrible explosion in Beirut. These three are squaring (causing tension) with the three in Capricorn, causing the fall of old patriarchal structures, institutions, and governments (Saturn). Change is in the air.
This affects us personally too. We need to find our deep, repressed, toxic wounds and give them some air. Collectively, there is a new spotlight on the toxic wounds of slavery, racism, sexism and wealth disparity. It’s all coming up to be healed and shifted. We need to own all that we are, all that we’ve done, and all that we want to be; moving forward with justice and compassion for our fellow woman and man.
Mars square Pluto will be exact on Thursday, and will be continuing into October. This square can be violent and will turn the heat way up on simple disagreements. Be diplomatic and avoid risks. Seriously. The pandemic and rioting can increase the danger on the streets. Remember Pluto represents repressed sexuality, ambition, anger and masculinity. Lilith, Eris and Mars have the keys are letting this energy loose. Men in general, and Aries people, can get into a lot of trouble the second half of this year.
Monday, August 10th: Moon in Taurus. Authority can be stubborn today, so best to not rock the boat. However, if you want to bring stability to an issue, today is a good day to work on it.
Tuesday, August 11th: Moon in Taurus. Refocus on your needs and home life. Walk in nature, work in the garden and cook something scrumptious. Beware of overspending with online shopping.
Wednesday, August 12th: Moon into Gemini. Chatty day, good for talking, sociability and online activities. Tensions are rising though with tomorrow’s event, so don’t dig too deep.
Thursday, August 13th: Moon in Gemini. Mars, Lilith and Eris in EXACT square to Pluto. Stay in bed lol. Seriously though, lay low today and stay under the radar. This square could ignite big confrontations.
Friday, August 14th: Moon in Gemini, going into Cancer at 4:35pm Pacific. Probably the best day for reaching an understanding with others. Good movie night.
Saturday, August 15th: Moon in Cancer, Uranus RETROGRADE in Taurus. Get yourself grounded and centered before undertaking anything. Bring some compassion into your day.
Sunday, August 16th: Moon in Cancer continues… be kind to yourself and others. We are in the realm of the New Moon, so contemplate what you’d like to see happen in your life over the next month.
Born on January 17, 1706, Benjamin Franklin, at 22 years old, had written the epitaph that was to adorn his future tomb. Forgotten, it doesn’t appear on his grave, but we know the text:
′′The body of Benjamin Franklin, a printer, like the cover of an old book with striped contents of its leaves, text and gilding, rests here in a pasture for worms. But the book will not be lost because, as he believes, it will appear once again in a new edition; more elegant, revised and corrected by the author.”
Benjamin Franklin’s body rests in Christ Church Cemetery in Philadelphia
“She was the goddess who scattered her benefits on the end of life on those who protected it. She welcomed them, in peace underground, among the ranks of the blessed in the happiness of Elysium. In the painting she has a gold crown with serpents’ heads and necks on the top. Her chest was crossed by a white band to which was attached the quiver, visible behind the right shoulder. She is within a sacred portal wrapped in yellow ribbons. From the portal hangs a bearded mask of an old Silenus above which a lintel is supported on the wings of two swans. On top of the lintel are two silver urns and between them is a round gold shield. At the base is a small red walled area with an altar with offering on top and two vases on benches. Either side are red columns painted with flowers and climbers.”
See Barnabei F., 1901. La villa pompeiana di P. Fannio Sinistore. Roma: Accademia dei Lincei. p.74, Fig. 17. ————————————————
“Hecate: The Virgin Mother Goddess The Greek Magical Papyri repeatedly refer to her as the Great Mother, using the epithets of Geneteira and Pammetor. An example comes from the Spell to the Waning Moon: “Mother of all who bore love.”
The judeochristian depiction of a virgin woman who brought to life the son of God, displayed in a metaphorical way the connection between the Acausal and the physical realm.
This is one of the hidden aspects of Hecate, the one who holds the keys between the Acausal and the Causal.
Reviewing the existing literature about Hekate reveals that her three-formed nature is reflected in her maternal roles. She can be considered Mother of the Gods, Mother of All Things and a mother to individuals.
In addition, her long history portrays her as the Mother of Witches. Contemporary Hekate is often seen as The Dark Mother, which reflects NAOS’ interpretation of her.
Hekate is a complex goddess that presents herself in different forms throughout the ages and to those seeking her, as reflected in her various maternal roles.
(1) Hecate has even been linked to the Virgin Mary through Mary’s indirect link to Lilith (as the second Eve) and through the association of both with the holy day of August 15. This is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin when Mary is petitioned to avert storms so that the fields can ripen. A festival for Hecate was held on August 13. She too was invoked for help in preventing storms so that the harvest could be gathered.
(2) She was at one time the goddess of all aspects of the moon but eventually this dominion was split into three with Persephone/Artemis as the virgin/new moon and Demeter/Hera/Selene as the mother/full moon.
She was connected to all three of the life stages. She was there at the time of fertilization and birth. She could open the womb of all living creatures. As the mistress of gates, doors and the abyss she was the symbol of the feminine womb. She was the guardian of women in child birth. She was a nurse of the young. She had associations to growing and the harvest through her relationship to the phases of the moon and her suppression of storms. She was the goddess of healing and magic. And at the end of time she was the Queen of Night, Mistress of the Lower Way, Opener of the Way to Death.
As the Queen of Death, she ruled the powers of regeneration as represented by her association with the serpent.
CURRENTLY: Sun at 11 Leo Mercury at 26 Cancer (weak) Venus at 25 Gemini (neutral) Mars at 19 Aries (Rulership) Jupiter RETROGRADE at 19 Capricorn (fall, very weak) Saturn RETROGRADE at 27 Capricorn (rulership) Pluto RETROGRADE at 23 Capricorn Neptune at 20 Pisces (rulership, strong) North Node at 26 Gemini
Saturday was Lughnasadh, the first harvest festival of the year. It’s a Gaelic festival that was observed in ancient times by jumping over bonfires, athletic contests, community festivals, huge feasts and celebrations of the abundance of the Earth i.e. the cornucopia. It still widely celebrated throughout Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England, and is always held on August 1st. This is the midpoint between the Summer Solstice (June 21st) and Autumn Equinox (Sept. 22nd). You can read more here. Basically, whatever seeds you planted around the Spring Equinox of this year (March 20th) will start to bear fruit now. This can be a figurative harvest too, if you look at what you’re reaping in your life right now.
We begin this week with the Full Moon at 11 Aquarius, which symbolizes liberty, community, invention, rebellion, and the desire for something new. This Full moon and Sun form a perfect square with Uranus in Taurus, which is Aquarius’s ruler. Uranus brings sudden change, liberation, radical ideas and shocking events. We might struggle more with the limits we are currently living with, as well as the avoidance of people. The Full Moon in Aquarius is a turning point, and often reveals visions, the truth, or hidden realities. Be open to revelations this week.
Monday, August 3rd: Full Moon in Aquarius. Express your genius and your gifts. No one else in the world can share your unique energy, so it’s up to you. People are friendly, and progress can be made in communications. With an Aquarius Moon, video chat with your friends or community. Mercury opposition Pluto is exact. This can be heavy, and can lead to pessimism, anxiety and depression. Practice mindfulness today and avoid heavy conversations.
Tuesday, August 4th: Moon void-of-course in Aquarius until 7:30pm Pacific. A void Moon always means to follow previously established plans. Stay away from risks and stabilize what’s in progress. Think about the future. With an Aquarius Moon, it’s good to “detach and observe” rather than bursting out emotionally. Mars square Jupiter is exact, amplifying Mars square Pluto. Case numbers and deaths could elevate significantly. If you’re protesting be very careful of the virus AND the police.
Wednesday, August 5th: Moon in Pisces. Follow your intuition, go with the flow, and make time for solitude. Mercury went into Leo last night, so folks could become passionate and stubborn over the next few weeks. Focus on creativity, writing and music.
Thursday, August 6th: Moon in Pisces. Meditate and contemplate. Music and spirituality soothe the soul and ignite our imaginations.
Friday, August 7th: Moon In Pisces. Creative and peaceful day. Venus enters Cancer, which brings us closer to food, home and family. For writers and artists, imagination is enhanced and we can capture emotions in art. Jupiter sextile Neptune is a beautiful influence on our creativity, and we might produce something special and unique.
Saturday, August 8th: Moon in Aries. We will be full of energy and ambition today, but get yourself grounded before undertaking anything. Lots of energy for socializing, adventures, creativity, and beginning new projects.
Sunday, August 9th: Moon in Aries. We are still feeling energetic and good progress can be made in the morning and afternoon. Moon enters Taurus in the evening, bringing our attention to the coziness of home. Nice evening to cook and be around loved ones. Mercury trine Chiron is exact today and can bring new ideas surrounding our emotional wounds and how to heal them.
“Nobody likes being wrong, we’re told. Least of all those individuals who suffer from pathological narcissism. They have to believe that they were right all along, even when it becomes obvious they are very much in the wrong.
Figures who live in the public eye, such as celebrities and politicians, if they become overly-incentivized by praise, risk turning this into a habit. As Aristotle once said, habits become our “second nature”. They solidify into character traits if we’re not careful.
So do we always have to be right? The ancient Greek philosophers — who loved paradoxes — said the opposite: maybe true wisdom requires the capacity to delight in being proven wrong. My favourite expression of this idea comes from Epicurus:
In a philosophical dispute, he gains most who is defeated, since he learns the most. — Epicurus, Vatican Sayings, 74
How crazy is that? Perhaps sometimes the person who gains the most is the one who loses the argument. The one who wins the argument gains nothing, except perhaps some praise — but what does that matter? The one who loses, though, gains knowledge, and perhaps gets a step closer to achieving wisdom. It wasn’t just Epicurus who had this paradoxical insight. The rival Stoic school of philosophers taught essentially the same thing. This article will focus on what one Stoic in particular, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, said about the benefits of being proven wrong. (For a more in-depth discussion of Marcus’ life and philosophy, see my book How to Think Like a Roman Emperor.)
The Stoicism of Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius looked up to one man above all others: his adoptive father, the preceding emperor, Antoninus Pius. In his private notes, which we call The Meditations, Marcus carefully lists the qualities he most admires in Antoninus, despite the fact that by this time he had been dead for over a decade.
We can think of this as Marcus’ attempt to study and emulate what today we would call the Emperor Antoninus’ leadership qualities. He tells himself to be, in every aspect of life, a student of Antoninus (Meditations, 6.30). It’s a fascinating analysis of the man’s character. However, for our purposes, I just want to draw attention to one of the things that Marcus says:
[Remember] how he would tolerate frank opposition to his views and was pleased if somebody could point to a better course of action. — Meditations, 6.30
Earlier in the book we find something related:
And most admirable too was his readiness to give way without jealousy to those who possessed some special ability, such as eloquence or a knowledge of law and custom and the like, and how he did his best to ensure that each of them gained the recognition that he deserved because of his eminence in his particular field. — Meditations, 1.16
In other words, although he was a hard-working and intelligent ruler, the Emperor Antoninus also had the wisdom to know when to listen to experts. Marcus admired this as an example of the man’s strength of character, self-awareness, and humility. If someone showed him he was wrong, rather than being offended, he was pleased. It didn’t hurt his pride or damage his ego, as we say today. Antoninus was a big enough man, and emotionally mature enough, not only to deal with criticism but to actively seek it out and welcome it as an opportunity for personal growth. That was one of the qualities which made him such an exceptional leader.
Marcus says that it was his Stoic mentor, Junius Rusticus, who first persuaded him that his own character required correction and even therapy. (Literally, he uses the Greek word therapeia.) He also tells us that he often became irritated or angry with Rusticus and was thankful that he never lost his temper with him over the years. Elsewhere, Marcus tells us that showing a man his moral faults is like telling him he has bad breath or body odour (Meditations, 5.28). People often don’t like hearing it and so there’s an art to communicating criticism effectively. It requires a delicate combination of honesty and tact. Rusticus was adept at this. Nevertheless, Marcus found that it required lifelong training to genuinely welcome plain speaking and criticism from others.
We enslave ourselves to external things and other people whenever we betray reason. True, absolute freedom would consist in doing what we know is right, regardless of the cost. Sometimes it takes courage to admit you’re wrong, and in that moment you’ve broken free. If you change your mind to please other people, sure enough, that’s a form of slavery. However, if it’s because you genuinely recognize that you were in error then the opposite is true — you’ve liberated yourself by admitting your mistake.
CURRENTLY: Sun at 4 Leo Mercury at 15 Cancer (weak) Venus at 20 Gemini (neutral) Mars at 15 Aries (Rulership) Jupiter RETROGRADE at 20 Capricorn (fall, very weak) Saturn RETROGRADE at 28 Capricorn (rulership) Pluto RETROGRADE at 23 Capricorn Neptune at 20 Pisces (rulership, strong) North Node at 27 Gemini
The Sun is now in Leo, the playful sign of the Summer Lion. The Sun represents the Soul, and the sign of Leo is it’s natural home. The Sun rules healing, leadership, creativity, romance, children, and our ability to shine. It’s presence in your chart indicates the most important area of your life. We’ve made it through the transformative eclipses of June/July, now we reestablish our new identities in the brightness of our star.
This week sees the start of some amazing planetary oppositions and “square offs”. Mercury (the Mind) is opposing the heavyweight planets of the “Covid point” – Pluto, Jupiter and Saturn. Then Mars (drive, strength) comes along and squares these same planets. The Saturn-Pluto conjunction that set off this year’s pandemic, social upheaval and global restructuring, will be shaken and stirred by these aspects. Astrologically, each of us is being transformed by the power of Pluto, the seriousness of Saturn, the truth of Jupiter and the heat of Mars I hope these tensions in the sky won’t translate to more violent protests here on Earth. Take care of yourself and your loved ones. If you’re going to a protest be extra careful, especially around the police.
Both collectively and individually, this is a time to face our deepest selves and to own all that we are, all that we’ve done, and all that we want to be.
Monday, July 27th: Moon in Scorpio. Mercury squares Mars today, which can bring opportunities for truth sharing and blunt opinions. With the Moon in Scorpio, it’s best to avoid “going there”. Keep things as light as you can, because folks are sensitive right now. Venus square Neptune today gives us creative and artistic opportunities, but we have to actually DO it. Daydreaming or escaping reality doesn’t count. These two aspects are influencing us all week.
Tuesday, July 28th: Moon in Scorpio. Transform and rebirth yourself. Set yourself on fire like the Phoenix, and fly high like an eagle. Scorpio is the sign of letting go of something you’ve outgrown, and welcoming the new you.
Wednesday, July 29th: Moon in Sagittarius. It’s a day of motion and looking at the big picture. It’s a lighter mood if you need to express something difficult or challenging to someone.
Thursday, June 30th: Moon into Sagittarius. Day of truth and justice. Pragmatic, honorable, and well-thought-out actions will bring progress to your ambitions. Mercury opposes Jupiter today, so commit to facts rather than fantasies.
Friday, June 31st: Moon in Capricorn. A serious tone for people seeking romance and fun. Time is better spent on completing responsibilities, cooking, resting, and getting grounded.
Saturday, August 1st: Moon in Capricorn. Get yourself grounded and centered before undertaking anything. Today the Mercury Opposition to Pluto is exact. The Moon is in the same area and could create stubbornness, inflexibility and stony silences. Journaling, meditation, online research and healing are a great use of time. It could be an evening of transformative conversations involving sex, healing, ambitions and money.
Sunday, August 2nd: Moon in Aquarius. Sun square Uranus exact. Watch out for risky behavior, since Uranus brings spontaneity, rebellion, and independence. Focus on the future, and expressing your unique genius.
CURRENTLY: New Moon in Cancer TODAY! Sun and Moon at at 29 Cancer Sun into Leo this Wednesday. Mercury at 8 Cancer (weak) Venus at 13 Gemini (neutral) Mars at 11 Aries (Rulership) Jupiter RETROGRADE at 22 Capricorn (fall, very weak) Saturn RETROGRADE at 28 Capricorn (rulership) Pluto RETROGRADE at 24 Capricorn Neptune at 20 Pisces (rulership, strong) North Node at 27 Gemini
We are done with eclipses until December. We’ve all walked through a portal into a new life – personally and collectively. Things should start feeling more balanced and mobile with Mercury and Venus now moving Direct. If there were any final breakthroughs, they occurred over the past week with the Sun’s opposition to Jupiter, Pluto and Saturn – all still hovering near the “Covid point” of 24 Capricorn. The New Moon at 28 Cancer today, directly opposite Saturn, brings some heaviness and responsibility to our growth over the next couple of weeks. The time is ripe for decisive action. The Sun enters Leo this Wednesday, July 22nd.
In the background we still have many retrograde planets – Saturn, Pluto, Jupiter and Neptune. This means we are reassessing our lives right now. We are going over ground we’ve already covered, to see if our chosen path still works for us. It’s a time of truth (Jupiter) responsibility (Saturn) and soul searching (Pluto). What changes do we need to make to participate in the new paradigm? The transitions are DEEP, and shake the very foundations of who we are and what we are doing on this planet.
Monday, July 20th: New Moon in Cancer, then into Leo at 1:16pm Pacific. People might be sensitive, so be kind and gentle towards others. Intuitive, creative, motherly, vulnerable and domestic. The place where Cancer falls in your chart is where you nurture, cherish, and encourage loved ones. See this New Moon as a beginning and an ending – a way to change both your history and your future. Reach out to love ones; check on folks who are stuck in their homes alone. Nurturing comes in many forms: food, a hug, and being there to listen.
Tuesday, July 21st: Moon in Leo. Let the child in you come out and play! You can receive concessions from authority today, or you may find yourself leading others. Great day to stand out, shine, and perform.
Wednesday, July 22nd: Moon void-of-course in Leo, Sun into Leo. Day of continuity from yesterday’s developments. A void Moon always means to lay low and follow well-laid plans. Stay away from risks or negotiation, instead stabilize what’s in progress.
Thursday, June 23th: Moon in Virgo. Our focus turns towards health, habits and being of service to others. Spend the day getting organized, exercising or starting a new, healthy habit. Detailed work is easy now.
Friday, June 24th: Moon in Virgo. Continued putting things in their place and getting your life in order.
Saturday, June 25th: Moon in Libra. We will be full of energy and ambition today, but with the moon in Libra everything will be a team effort. Partnerships are highlighted. It’s a romantic weekend ❤
CURRENTLY: Sun at 21 Cancer Mercury now DIRECT at 5 Cancer (weak) Venus at 10 Gemini (neutral) Mars at 8 Aries (rulership & strong) Jupiter RETROGRADE at 22 Capricorn (fall, very weak) Saturn RETROGRADE at 29 Capricorn (rulership) Pluto RETROGRADE at 23 Capricorn Neptune RETROGRADE at 20 Pisces (rulership, strong) North Node at 28 Gemini
We’re in the dark of the Moon this week, so don’t do anything, just wrap up loose ends and rest. It’s the dark of the Moon, preparing for a New Moon in Cancer NEXT Monday. Big time feminine energy this weekend as the Moon (women) transits Aries (the warrior) and conjuncts Mars (assertiveness), Chiron (healing), Lilith (wild women) and Eris (discord). Also Black Moon Lilith will be conjunct Eris this week, AND squaring Pluto in Capricorn (patriarchy). Watch for more upheaval around women’s equality and the rights of the oppressed. This week could see some bitter truths revealed with violent repercussions.
Sunday, July 12th: Mercury IS DIRECT around 1:30 AM Pacific. Mercury is standing still (stationing) in the sky all week, so things won’t be up to speed for several days. With the dark of the Moon, and Mercury stationing Direct, use this week to wrap up loose ends, organize, and rest. Start communications and negotiations next week when Mercury has gained momentum.
Monday, July 13th: Moon in Taurus. Focus on your needs and home life. Walk in nature, work in the garden and cook something scrumptious. Beware of overspending with online shopping. Romantic day.
Tuesday, July 14th: Moon in Taurus. Work with animals and take care of your possessions. Clean out the garage lol. Not the best day to seek concessions from authorities, but a great day to work on your finances. Tax day tomorrow!
Wednesday, July 15th: Moon in Taurus. Day of continuity from yesterday’s developments. Taurus moon means to be cautious, so stay away from risks or negotiation. Stabilize what is already in motion.
Thursday, June 16th: Moon into Gemini. Chatty day, good for talking, truth-telling and online activities. Mercury Direct will enhance the lovely social vibe. Save important purchases and conversations for next week.
Friday, June 17th: Moon in Gemini, going void-of-course 2:14pm Pacific. Probably the best day for reaching an understanding with others. Good date night, but wear a mask 🙂 We are in the realm of the New Moon, so contemplate what you’d like to see happen in your life over the next several months. Romantic evening.
Saturday, June 18th: Moon in Cancer. Get yourself grounded and centered before undertaking anything. Bring some compassion into your day. People are SENSITIVE this weekend, so don’t rattle the cage.
Sunday, June 19th: Moon in Cancer continues… we are in the orb of the New Moon in Cancer tomorrow, so prepare for a rebirth or new beginning. What do you want to build up or focus on over the next month? It starts now.
“A remarkable example of classical Egyptian philosophy is found in a 3,200-year-old text named “The Immortality of Writers.” This skeptical, rationalistic, and revolutionary manuscript was discovered during excavations in the 1920s, in the ancient scribal village of Deir El-Medina, across the Nile from Luxor, some 400 miles up the river from Cairo. Fittingly, this intellectual village was originally known as Set Maat: “Place of Truth.”
The paper containing the twenty horizontal lines of “The Immortality of Writers” is divided into sections by rubrication. They seem composed to be read aloud, as the Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson points out in his new Penguin Books translation.
The existential message of the “The Immortality of Writers,” written by Irsesh¹, echoes through the centuries and millennia, over sand dunes and oceans, before finally reaching us now in the 21st century. Thinking and writing is more important than religion, materialism, and – even more controversial – one own’s family:
Man perishes; his corpse turns to dust; all his relatives return to the earth. But writings make him remembered in the mouth of the reader. A book is more effective than a well-built house or a tomb-chapel, better than an established villa or a stela in the temple!
This 12th BCE century Ramesside papyrus, from the 19–20th dynasty, is the oldest and most authoritative excuse philosophers and intellectuals of today have for prioritizing reading and writing over securing offspring or respecting priests. Because “the writer is chief.”
For the last decades, the only copy of Irsesh’s manuscript, formally known as “Chester Beatty IV” (EA 10684, verso) and also named “Be a Writer”, has been stored at the British Museum in London. In 1997, it was removed from public display. New translations from hieratic – Egypt’s ancient cursive writing system – have made the text accessible to the public. Yet “The Immortality of Writers” and other significant Egyptian philosophical manuscripts await detailed scrutiny by dedicated philosophers.
After all, Irsesh’s text is symptomatic of the era during and following the revolutionary pharaoh Akhenaten (died 1336 before the common era, BCE) and his wife Nefertiti (1370–1330 BCE). These two New Kingdom rulers abandoned Egypt’s traditional polytheistic religion and introduced a rather monotheistic worship of the Sun, Aten, instead. Shortly after Nefertiti’s death, their successors returned to polytheism.
The ideological upheavals in Egypt caused new ideas and philosophy to flourish. In the tomb of Neferhotep (ca. 1300 BCE) three different perspectives on death are presented in the “Harpist’s Song,” a text initially stating that the ancient tombs were “extolling life on earth and belittling the region of the dead.” A skeptical view on the after-life is also witnessed in the tomb-chapel of Paatenemheb at Saqqara, dating from the era of Akhenaten. This harpist text argues in a rather hedonistic way, a thousand years prior to Epicurus:
One of the most vibrant eras in Egyptian history was this period spanning the two hundred years from Akhenaten and Nefertiti in the mid-14th century until the economic and political decline from the mid-12th century BCE; ancient Egypt’s last “Golden Era.” We can discover this in the love poetry of the middle-class village Deir El-Medina. Based on a reading of these poems from ordinary women and men, Renate Fellinger concludes that the “fairly equally distributed freedom of speech, action and movement as reflected in the poems may suggest that gender roles were perceived as equal.”
After all, women owned property, could buy land, and were equal to men in the ancient Egyptian court. One evidence of this, is the will – dated November 1147 BCE – of the woman Naunakht, who described herself as “a free woman of the land of Pharaoh.” She owned an impressive library of papyri; including the Dream Book, the world’s oldest interpretations of dreams. In Naunakht’s will, presented for a court of fourteen witnesses, she disinherits three of her adult children as they did not care enough for her. One of the disinherited was her workman son; she also rejected to give him any property from her first husband.
Furthermore, one of the most powerful pharaohs in Egyptian history was the woman Hatshepsut (1507–1458 BCE) of the 18th Dynasty. While the female pharaoh Twoseret (d. 1189 BCE) was the last ruler of the 19th Dynasty, as Kara Cooney attests in her new book When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt.
When it comes to writing, the Egyptian texts are “often consciously intellectual, making abundant use of wordplay through homophones and homonyms, in which the Egyptian language is particularly rich,” as Wilkinson underscores. Metaphors, idioms, and epigrammatic utterances are some of the other literary techniques applied.
Hence, it should come as no surprise that not only the oldest but also some of the most original ancient philosophical texts in writing stem from Egypt. A similar point was also made by the foremost of the Greek philosophers: Isocrates (b. 436 BCE) states, in Busiris, that “all men agree the Egyptians are the healthiest and most long of life among men; and then for the soul they introduced philosophy’s training…”
Isocrates was 16 years Plato’s senior, a founder of the rhetoric school in Athens, and he declared that Greeks writers traveled to Egypt to seek knowledge. One of them was Pythagoras of Samos who “was first to bring to the Greeks all philosophy.”
These Greek descriptions of Egypt have often been disregarded in the past couple of hundred years. But the scholarship of the 21st century has opened up a new possibility: the founding Greek word philosophos, lover of wisdom, is itself a borrowing from and translation of the Egyptian concept mer-rekh (mr-rḫ) which literally means “lover of wisdom,” or knowledge.
In 2005, The Book of Thoth was finally collected and translated into English. This text originates partly from the 12th century BCE, as Egyptologist Joachim Quack has pointed out. And in this book, “the-one-who-loves-knowledge” (mer-rekh) is a central figure. The philosopher (mer-rekh) is the scholar who desires to know the wisdom of Thoth, the author of books.
The Greek respect for the Egyptian love of wisdom, philosophy, is a context that can explain Plato’s statement in Phaedrus that the Egyptian Thoth “invented numbers and arithmetic… and, most important of all, letters.” This also makes it easier to understand Socrates, who in Plato’s Timaeus quotes the ancient Egyptian wise men when the law-giver Solon travels to Egypt to learn: “O Solon, Solon, you Greeks are always children.”
In 2018, projects are under way to translate several ancient Egyptian texts for the first time. Yet we already have a wide variety of genres to choose from in order to study the manuscripts from a philosophical perspective:
The many maxims in “The Teaching of Ptahhotep”, the earliest preserved manuscript of this vizier of the fifth dynasty is from the 19th century BCE, in which he also argues that you should “follow your heart”; “The Teaching of Ani”, written by a humble middle-class scribe in the 13th century BCE, which gives advice to the ordinary man; “The Satire of the Trades” by Khety, who tries to convince his son Pepy to “love books more than your mother” as there is nothing “on earth” like being a scribe; the masterpiece “The Dispute Between a Man and His Ba” of the 19th century BCE – in which a man laments “the misery of life,” while his ba (personality/soul) replies that life is good, that he should rather “ponder life” as it is a burial that is miserable – recently discussed by Peter Adamson and Chike Jeffers in their “Africana Philosophy” podcast series.
Or we can read Amennakht (active in 1170–1140 BCE), the leading intellectual of the scribal town Deir El-Medina, whose teaching states that “it is good to finish school, better than the smell of lotus blossoms in summer.”