Approaching the Magical Book of Gates

I thought it timely to introduce the Book of Gates: the mystical initiatory text of the Underworld and stars from Ancient Egypt.  The Book of Gates is a complex, enigmatic and coded book that acts as a signpost and guide to those who seek to evolve in life and also in death. It is a little known text – the most powerful of the mysteries always hide in plain sight, overlooked, misunderstood, or ignored: they are often a tiny voice in a loud choir of shouting. Many think it is a book that is only of consequence for the dead, but that is incorrect: it is also a guide book for the living who seek to transcend the base elements of humanity through living trials and initiation. Through this blog post, I hope to give those are interested in the Gates as a magical text, a few pointers on how to approach it.9781911134220

The Book of Gates exposes the mystical truth that life and death are truly entwined with each other, and your passage through life is also your path through death: the separation is an illusion. This is not about religious morality or sanctity, it is about you as an individual and no one else. There are various funeral texts in Ancient Egypt, but none of them express the cohesive complete magical and mystical pattern that the Gates do – the Gates are the foundation text for magical evolution in Ancient Egypt. I strongly suspect the Gates was a text that was known and passed down for many generations within the Temple before it was exposed on a tomb wall at the beginning of the nineteenth dynasty. It was too developed, and too mature to be a new text when it first appeared on the tomb walls of Horemheb in 1292BC.

The Book of Gates is heavily connected with the Osirion initiations and mysteries, and I am guessing that it was the sequence of the Gates that was used during those initiations at Abydos (the Book of Gates is inscribed on the walls of the north passage leading down into the Osirion) and also likely used at the vast labyrinth at Hawara. I say ‘guess’ because I have no archaeological proof,… but magically? Yes, I have no doubt.


An artists rendition of the Labyrinth of Hawara in Lower Egypt

Workers of the Truth: when they are on earth, they are striving for their godhoods. They are those who are summoned to a post of the earth (the Geb posts), to an enclosure called ‘Living in Truth’. Scrutinized for them is their truth, Before the Great God who causes the destruction of sin”. – the seventh hour scene 43

The magical reading of the Book of Gates is a skill within itself. Like many magical tomes since, there are layers upon layers of meaning, something the Egyptians were very good at, and the top layer of meaning is there to deflect and distract the casual reader. But for those who persist, who ponder, who dig deeper, who allow inspiration to rise to the surface of their minds, they are rewarded by the mysteries that one by one reveal themselves to the seeker.

duat and zemit

Duat and Zemit – the underworld and inner desert personified

It is a book that needs many re reads. It is no coincidence that the two companions of Re as he passes into the Duat are called Sia and Heka: Perception and Magic – they are the personification of these two qualities. Having magical knowledge alone is not enough. Having perception alone is not enough, but when you combine magical knowledge with inner and outer perception, you have the ability to cast a deep eye into the shrouded mysteries.

In the Gates, Re, the sun god, descends down into the depths of the Duat, lighting each hour as he goes through the gates, and casting a brief glimpse of light to those who are resting, or traveling through the Duat, the path of death and regeneration through the underworld. Through his presence, the living and the dead can travel with him, and as he rises out of the Duat towards the sky, his presence allows others who are ready to ascend with him.

p211 from Seti 1st tomb 9th hr

Re passing through the Duat in the Barque, flanked by Sia, and Heka, with the serpent Mehen who protects Re. Note that Mehen is held by Heka (magic) as a staff.

This foundation dynamic of passage through the underworld and rising again in the company of a God is a constant theme in Egyptian Funerary texts, and laps over into the Christian mythos.

Everyone focuses upon Re with his two wing men, Sia and Heka. Few cast their eyes to the ones who tow the boat, the ones who shepherd the dead through the various stages, the ones who stand guard over serpents: there are many workers in the Duat, and to presume they are underworld spirits is incorrect: careful analysis of the text reveals that they are human, some dead, and some living.

Scene 58 from the ninth hour: the Swimmers

Your Presences, which are on Earth (i.e. alive), they are at peace, meaning they breathe and there is no destruction for them. Their extension is the peace of the Earth. Now, putting forth what is theirs on Earth, means coming into the power of ones peace on Earth.

 When you are searching through magical texts, always pay attention to the people in the shadows, the people who are lowly; the workers.p241 11th hr Look at seemingly ‘throw away references’ and follow them up. With the Book of Gates, not only do you look at the workers, at those resting in the caves, those pulling the tow ropes, also look at the actions, dynamics and events. What is in death is also in life: the magician walks through the hours and gates in his or her life, and they express through events and places. You are confronted by various challenges, gifts and choices: how you respond to those challenges dictates how you will proceed through the hours and gates.

Fear not, for I have called you by your name and you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you, and the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fires you will not be burned, nor with the flame kindle upon you, for you are precious in my sight, and honorable, and I have loved you. – Isiah 43  (this section relates directly to the trials of the hours, walking through the rivers, swimming through the waters, and taking the trial of fire).

And you are truly walking through the hours and gates in life: the moment you step on to the magical path of development, you are walking the hours and passing through the gates through life initiations. True magical and powerful transformations do not come from rituals of initiation, they come from life events and choices around you every day. The rituals can trigger such events and trials, just as magical actions can: your whole life becomes a series of lessons, achievements, trials, failures, successes, more trials, and evolution.

Gnosis does not come from reading a book, or standing in a ritual space with a wand. Strength, wisdom, experience and true magical knowledge comes from facing the trials and overcoming them, it does not come from being comfortable in your armchair, or wafting around in the smoke of nice incense. It comes from facing yourself at times of great difficultly, and using the gifts for the good of all, not for getting rich or smiting your enemies. We can always be nice and spiritual on a full stomach and wearing a warm coat. When your back is up against the wall, then you are truly tested to see if you really are who you think you are.

CAPTIVES p163 7th hr

The captives of the Geb posts. When you are in a particular septenary of learning, you are ‘trapped’ in a pattern, a post, until you overcome it.

The Gates outline those key steps and challenges, and it is also a series of signposts, advisories, and warnings. The key steps towards Justification, to being ‘as a god’ (a Justified adept), to being one with the stars and the underworld, can be found in the seventh hour, scene forty five. On the surface it appears as a sequence of ‘enemies’ tied to Geb posts and overseen by spirits. But a closer inspection reveals seven steps from being the magical mystical seeker to becoming Justified and one with the stars –  They are those who are summoned to a post of the earth.  In Hermetic wisdom, we magicians all know about the magical sequence of seven, but few realise from whence it came – the seventh hour of the Gates.

In the Magical translation of the Book of Gates,

horus the child

Horus the Child using the right hand to signal silence

I outline and decode those seven steps, as they are vital to the whole journey of the Path of Hercules, the path of the magicians from apprentice to adept. There are many things I was not allowed to decode: overstepping the boundaries of necessary silence is the greatest sin in magical development and teaching:

You place the mysteries behind you? You withdraw from the governance of the Place of Mysteries? True of Voice is my father Seat of the Eye against you! True of Voice am I against you! You who decide to expose what is hidden, Being in the peace of he who ejaculated me, who is in the Duat. Rejoice, you who were Finishing, at being Finished!

This is a warning to those Justified Ones (adepts) who reveal secrets that should not be revealed, for them is the ultimate punishment – they cease to be in any world. This is not about breaking an oath of secrecy, this is about damaging the development of others by laying out that which they must find for themselves.  If they do not find certain keys of the mysteries for themselves, but rather have it spelled out for them, their passage of development is arrested and they cease to walk the path of mystical evolution. So for everything I have outlined in the Book of Gates commentary, it is still only barely ten percent of what can be found, discovered, understood, and recognized in relation to one’s own unique life path.

The ultimate lesson of the Gates is that curve balls are there to challenge you, to test your true integrity and truth both in life and in magic, to push you to your limits, and then some. By doing so, you break through in to deep understanding, if you do not degenerate down into victim-hood. From deep understanding comes wisdom, from wisdom comes true knowledge, and from true mystical knowledge comes mystical evolution – the light of the stars rest upon you and illuminate you.

The Book of Gates is available on Amazon in three different translations.

The Magical translation by Michael Sheppard, and commentary by myself can be found here .

The academic translation by Erik Hornung can be found here

And the original translation by Wallace Budge can be found here

MEHEN 2 p 250 11th hr

Easy is the descent to hell; all night long, all day, the doors of dark Hades stand open; but to retrace the path; to come out again to the sweet air of Heaven – there is the task, there is the burden.
— Virgil

About Josephine McCarthy

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