Druid Wen: Religious Development in Ancient Egypt


As long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with understanding the human mind, and it was this fascination that led me to Egypt. There’s a haunting beauty that echoes through the deepest parts of the mind, like a call from the forgotten past. These echoing depths are a realm of dreams, symbols, and dramatic representations. A realm where meaning is the fundamental reality, rather than matter. Civilizations have worked to represent and articulate these meanings across eras, gradually unifying them into complex models of reality. We often call this endeavor religion. My research attempts to explore the primordial dreamworld at the base of consciousness and to follow the development of higher consciousness from these ancient foundations.

There is a feeling of standing at a grand religious monument that goes beyond awe and cannot be ignored in any serious conversation on religion. My journey through the major religious sites of ancient Egypt provided a profound depth of experience that no amount of remote study could have generated. Egypt’s religious sites contain many of the world’s oldest surviving religious texts and artifacts. Many of these texts and artifacts, such as the pyramid writings, are built into the sites and lose much of their meaning when taken out of context. I had studied some Egyptian texts and artifacts before, but nothing could have prepared me for experiencing them firsthand. And as I continued exploring Egypt’s ancient past, I began to catch glimpses of patterns woven seamlessly through myths and monuments alike. Everything I saw was an embodiment of a deeper meaning, and each profound meaning was the lifeforce of something apparently mundane.

The ancient Egyptians did not worship objects or animals, but used them as symbols to represent dimensions of reality which were worthy of elevation and worship. Thoth—the ancient Egyptian god of wisdom, language, and magic—is primarily associated with the ibis, a wading bird with long legs and beaks. Ibises use their long beaks to probe for food in places they cannot see, such as murky waters and narrow crevices. Because of the ibis’s ability to know without seeing, the ancient Egyptians used the ibis to represent wisdom in the face of the unknown and declared the ibis a sacred animal. This representation illustrates the relationship between symbolic embodiments and religious meanings as humans have attempted to act in a chaotic world of unknown dangers and opportunities. As we probe into the darkness beyond civilization, we eventually find what we need and bring it into the known world.

The process of travelling through Egypt was its own adventure, as nothing works quite the way an American thinks it should. Egypt is still recovering from the turmoil of the 2011 revolution and many Egyptians find themselves socially and economically displaced. However, the confusion and desperation cannot overpower Egypt’s rich and vibrant culture, with its unique flavor of resilient hope. Though the country is chaotic, it is not particularly dangerous, at least not along the Nile. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and would highly recommend it to confident travelers.

I’ve learned so much from this trip, and I hope to carry these experiences forward as I continue my research and my life. It’s as though the ancient gods still watch over the Egyptian sands, and I had the honor of walking amongst them, however briefly. While I did not have the fantastic epiphany which I might have hoped for on this trip, I have gained an inexplicable sense that the answers I’ve been hunting for are now just beyond my view. I am thankful to have had this opportunity and more determined than ever to finish the work I have started.