Dorothy Eady

Dorothy Eady

Dorothy Louise Eady, also known as Omm Sety or Om Seti (16 January 1904 – 21 April 1981), was Keeper of the Abydos Temple of Seti I and draughtswomen for the Department of Egyptian Antiquities whose life and work has been the subject of many articles, television documentaries, biographies and a source for modern scholarship seeking to understand how traditional ancient religious practices persisted until modern times. The late John A. Wilson, the head of the Oriental Institute, and considered at the time the “dean of American Egyptology”, wrote that Omm Seti deserved to be treated as “a responsible scholar”.[1] Her interest in Egyptology came about through an incident when she was three years old when a doctor declared her dead after a fall.[2] She recovered, to the surprise of her doctor, and over a period of time came to believe that she had lived before in a particular location in Ancient Egypt and had a relationship with a Pharaoh in the New Kingdom era. She moved to Egypt and spent the rest of her days living and researching the ways of ancient and modern Egypt with particular reference to “folk religion” and how ancient practices have passed down through modern Christians and Muslims, frequently without any knowledge of their roots. Unlike many who have claimed to be reincarnated after previous lives in ancient Egypt she was treated with respect by Egyptologists, and whilst none publicly are reported to subscribe to the phenomena she reported, none doubted her sincerity and many have used her observations of past and present Egypt, founded on modern scholarship, as reliable source material. Kent Weeks wrote that scholars have “never doubted the accuracy of Omm Sety's field observations. As an ethnographer, a participant-observer of modern Egyptian village life, Omm Sety has had few equals. Her studies easily hold their own next to the works of Lane, Blackman, Henein, and others who have examined Egypt's long and fascinating cultural traditions.”[3] A New York Times article described her life story as “one of the Western World's most intriguing and convincing modern case histories of reincarnation”[4]


Early life

Seti I making an offering to Osiris

Dorothy Louise Eady was born in London in 1904 and raised in the coastal town of Plymouth during the “golden age” of Egyptology.[5] At the age of three she fell down stairs and the doctor who attended left the room to write her death certificate but on returning found her crying repeatedly “I want to go home”.[6] Her parents sent her to Sunday school but the teacher requested that her parents keep her away as she had compared Christianity with Ancient Egyptian belief which the teacher considered "heathenish".[7] Expulsion from a Dulwich girls school followed after she refused to sing a hymn that called on God to "curse the swart Egyptians".[8] Her regular visits to Catholic mass, which she liked because it reminded her of the "Old Religion", were terminated after an interrogation and visit to her parents by a priest.[9]

After being taken by her parents to visit the British Museum, and on observing a photograph in the New Kingdom temple exhibits room, the young Eady called out “There is my home!” but “where are the trees? Where are the gardens?” The temple was that of Sety I who was the father of Rameses the Great.[10] She ran about the halls of the Egyptian rooms, "amongst her peoples", kissing the feet's of the statues.[11] She began to take every opportunity to visit the British Museum rooms and there she met E. A. Wallis Budge who was taken by her youthful enthusiasm and encouraged her in the study of hieroglyphs.[12]

After a close escape during a bombing raid near her dance school during World War 1 she moved to her grandmothers house in Sussex where she continued her study of Ancient Egypt at Eastbourne public library.[13] When she was fifteen she described a nocturnal visit from Pharaoh Seti I.[14] Her behaviour coupled with sleep walking and nightmares led her to be incarcerated in sanatoriums several times.[15] On Leaving school at sixteen she visited museums and archaeological sites around Britain, facilitated by her fathers investigations into the nationwide booming cinema industry.[16]

Eady became a part time student at Plymouth Art School and began to collect affordable Egyptian antiquities.[17] During here period at Portsmouth she became part of theatre group that one occasion performed a play based on the story of Isis and Osiris. She took the role of Isis and sung the lamentation for Osiris's death based on Andrew Lang's translation:

Sing we Osiris dead, lament the fallen head;
The light has left the world, the world is grey.
Athwart the starry skies the web of darkness lies;
Sing we Osiris, passed away.
Ye tears, ye stars, ye fires, ye rivers shed;
Weep, children of the Nile, weep – for your Lord is dead.[18]

At the age of twenty-seven she gained employment in London with an Egyptian public relations magazine for which she wrote articles and drew cartoons that reflected her political views for an independent Egypt[19] It was during this period she met her future husband Eman Abdel Meguid, an Egyptian student, with whom she continued to correspond with when he returned home.[20]

Move to Egypt

In 1931 she moved to Egypt after the Emam Abdel Meguid, by now a teacher of English, asked her to marry him. On arriving in Egypt she kissed the ground and announced she had come home to stay.[21] The couple stayed in Cairo and her husbands family gave her the nickname "Bulbul" (Nightingale) Their son was named Sety from which is derived her popular name of Omm Sety (“Mother of Sety”).[22] After a chance meeting with George Reisner's secretary who commented on Omm Sety's apparent ability to charm snakes , and how spells relating to such powers were to be found in the earliest Ancient Egyptian literature, she visited the pyramid of Unas dating from the fifth dynasty.[23] Klaus Baer recalled her piety when she accompanied him on a visit to Sakkara in the early 1950's, her bringing an offering and taking off her shoes before entering the pyramid of Unas.[24] She continued to report apparitions and out of body experiences during this time which caused friction with the upper-middle class family she had married into.[25] During this period she reported night time visitations by an apparition of Hor-Ra who slowly dictated to her, over a twelve-month period, the story of her previous life.[26] The narration began with “O, Bentreshyt, you have sinned, and your crime was punished by death.”[27]


The story dictated to Dorothy Eady by Hor-Ra took up around seventy pages of cursive hieroglyphic text. The outline of the story described the life of a young women in Ancient Egypt called Bentreshyt who had reincarnated in the person of Dorothy Eady.[28] Bentreshyt (“Harp of Joy”) is described in this text as being of humble origin, her mother a vegetable seller and her father a soldier during the reign of Seti I (c.1290 BC to 1279 BC).[29]

After her mothers death, and her fathers inability to raise her properly due to his occupation, she was placed in the temple of Kom el-Sultan at the age of three to brought up as priestess.[30] When she was twelve years old the High Priest asked her if she wished to go out into the world or if choosing to stay become a consecrated virgin. In the absence of full understanding, and without a practical alternative, she took the vows.[31]

During the next two years she learned her role in the annual drama of Osiris's passion and resurrection, a role that only virgin priestesses consecrated to Isis could perform.[32] One day Seti I visited and spoke to her and they became lovers, eating “the uncooked goose”, an Ancient Egyptian term that has been compared to “eating the forbidden fruit.” Bentreshyt became pregnant and when she was interrogated by the High Priest she finally admitted who was the father. Seti was by this time in Nubia and the High Priest informed her that the gravity of the offence against Isis was such that a trial, with death as a penalty, the likely outcome.[33] Unable to be the cause of public scandal for Seti she committed suicide rather than face trial.[34]

Separation and a new life

In 1935 Dorothy Eady's husband took a teaching job in Iraq which led to their separation with the only child of the marriage staying with the mother.[35] Two years after the marriage broke up she went to live in Nazlat al-Samman near the Giza pyramids where she met the Egyptian archaeologist Selim Hassan of the Department of Antiquities who employed her as his secretary and draughtsperson (the first woman to be employed by the department).[36] During this time she prayed and made frequent offerings to the gods of Ancient Egypt and would often spend the night in the Great pyramid.[37] Eady became the object of village gossip because she would go out at night to pray and make offerings to Horus at the Great Sphinx.[38] Not far from her room a hawk came to perch regularly waiting to be fed by her. She named him Horus, the hawk being associated with Horus in Egyptian symbolism.[39] She became respected by villagers for her honesty in not making secret her true faith nor pretending to be a Muslim or Christian. She was sensitive to the religious observances of others and would fast with the Muslim villagers during Ramadan and celebrate with Christians at Christmas.[40] Barbara Lesko wrote “She was a great help to Egyptian scholars, especially Hassan and Fakhry, correcting their English and writing English language articles for others. So this poorly educated Englishwoman developed in Egypt into a first rate draughtswoman and prolific and talented writer who, even under her own name, produced articles, essays, monographs and books of great range, wit and substance.”[41]

During this period she met many of the famous Egyptologists of the era who became friends, through her keen interest in antiquities.[42] The archaeologist Walter A. Fairservist observed that Omm Seti made such a significant contribution to Hassan's work that upon his death she was employed by Ahmed Fakhry during his excavations at Dashur.[43] Hassan's magnum opus, the ten-volume “Excavations at Giza”, gives “special mention, with sincere gratitude” to Dorothy Eady for her editing, drawing, indexing and proofreading work.[44] She learned from these scholars the techniques of archaeology whilst they benefited from her expertise in hieroglyphs and drawing.[45]

Her associations with the workers and their families gave her first hand experience of contemporary Egyptian life and what she saw as a common thread that joined all periods of Egyptian history, from the Pharaonic through the Greco-Roman, Christian and Islamic periods, that which animated peoples lives on many levels: the River Nile.[46]

Move to Abydos

Ahhed Fakhry's Dashur Pyramid Research Project was terminated in early 1956 which left Dorothy Eady unemployed. Fakhry suggested the she “climb the Great Pyramid; and when you reach the top, just turn west, address yourself to your Lord Osiris and ask him “Quo Vadis?” along with the choice of taking a well paid job in the Cairo Records Office or a poorly paid position in Abydos as a draughtsman. She choose the latter.[47] She reported that Seti I approved of the move and said that the "wheel of fate" was turning but that it would also be a testing time which, if lived chastely, would undo the sin relating to himself and Bentryshyt in ancient times.

On the 3rd of March 1956 the fifty-two year old Omm-Seti left for Abydos.[48] She set up home in Arabet Abydos which sits in the cradle of the mountain Pega-the-Gap which the Ancient Egyptian believed led to Amenti and the afterlife. Abydos had been a place of pilgrimage and the centre of the Osiris cult since the Old Kingdom but, due to her belief in a past life, it had an special significance because this is where she believed Bentryshyte had lived and served in the Temple of Seti.[49] During one of her short earlier pilgrimages to Abydos the chief inspector from the Antiquities Department, who knew about her claims, decided to test her by sending her into the temple in complete darkness and asking her to stand at particular wall paintings based on her prior knowledge as a temple priestess. At this time the wall inscriptions of Temple of Seti had not been published and she reported their surprise after several successful attempts at finding specific locations.[50]

In Egyptian villages it was considered impolite to call a married woman by her real name so the custom was to call the woman by the name of her eldest child. It was in Abydos that Dorothy Eady became known as Omm Sety (Arabic for Mother of Sety).[51] She spent the first two years listing and translating pieces from a recently excavated temple palace. Her work was incorporated in Edourard Ghazouli's monograph "The Palace and Magazines Attached to the Temple of Sety I at Abydos". He expressed particular thanks to her in this work and he, along with other members of the Antiquities Department, was impressed by the skills she showed in translation of enigmatic texts.[52]

In 1957 Omm Sety wrote out a liturgical calendar of feast days based on Ancient Egyptian texts and every morning and night she would visit the Temple of Sety to recite the prayers for the day.[53] On the birthdays of Osiris and Isis she would observe the ancient food abstentions and bring offerings of beer, wine, bread, and tea biscuits to the Chapel of Osiris. The Lament of Isis and Osiris, which she learned as a girl, would also be recited.[54] She turned one of the rooms in the temple into a personal office where she carried out her work and befriended a cobra whom she fed on a regular basis, to the alarm of the temple guards.[55] She described the Temple of Sety as like entering a time machine where the past becomes the present and that the modern mind, especially western mind, has difficulty in understanding a world in which magic is accepted.[56] For her the scenes depicted on the walls of a temple were active in the minds of ancient Egyptians on two levels. Firstly they made permanent the action displayed so, for example, the Pharaoh being shown offering bread to Osiris continued so long as the depiction remained. Secondly the image could be animated by the spirit of the god if the person stood before the depiction and called on the god's name.[57] For her the Temple of Sety was a place of peace and security where she was watched over by the benevolent eyes of Ancient Egyptian gods.[58] Omm Sety had described how in her past life as Bentreshyt the temple had a garden (not uncommon with Ancient Egyptian Temples) and where she had first met Sety I. Her descriptions as a young girl were not believed by her parents but whilst living in Abydos the place she said it would be found was excavated and located. The garden found matched her description including where a well was to be located.[59]

Surviving folkways

Omm Sety observed that although modern village women could have free birth control they didn't want it. “If they miss one year without having a child, they go running around all over the place – even to the doctor! And if that doesn't work, they will try all sorts of other things.” These included approaching a temple image of Isis at Abydos (“the Good Lady”), Hathor at Dendera, a statue of Senwosret III south of Abydos, a statue of Taweret in the Cairo museum and the pyramids at Giza[60] She also reported how people would come to her looking for a cure for impotency and that she would carry out a ritual based on the Pyramid Texts that always worked.[61] The use of Heka without Maat was contrary to the “will of the gods” so she concentrated on healing people or ridding them of the “effects of evil spells”.[62] According to an acquaintance “Omm Sety wouldn't do any harm to anybody unless he or she did harm to her.”[63] She described unusual baby feeding methods used in modern times in Egypt, such as breast milk being supplied via bowl, as echoing similar scenes from Pharaonic times.[64] The sidelock of youth which Ancient Egyptian children wore survives with some modern Egyptian peasant children who are left with a tuft of hair after the rest is shaved off during their first hair cut.[65] Ancient Egyptian boys were circumcised, probably for reasons of hygiene, and she believed this was picked up by the Jews, (who gave the practice a religious significance), which in turn has been passed down to modern times with Muslims as well.[66] Many children's games and toys familiar to the modern world were also played by children in Ancient Egypt[67] Omm Sety observed that the Tree of Extremity mentioned in the Quaran with inscribed leaves compares with Ancient Egyptian Temple scenes in which a god is shown inscribing the royal cartouche on leaves which adorn The Tree of Life.[68] Uniquely for a Muslim land, Omm Sety noted the custom in modern Egyptian villages of a highly visible form of mourning as a carry over from ancient times, first recorded in the Pyramid Texts during the third millennium bce.[69] Other modern rituals associated with the dead she also compares with ancient practices, e.g. keeping watch with the dead (even though it be at variance with official Islamic teaching), perfuming the dead, boats in tombs, lights for the dead, the modern peasant practice of placing bread on the bier of the dead and washing the cloths of the dead.[70] Omm Sety observed that in Lower modern Egypt “old fashioned people” believed that the stars in the night sky represented the dead and notes how in the Pyramid Texts the Royal deceased where also thought to be stars.[71] The practice in Omm Seti's time of not cutting hair or shaving as a sign of mourning is also echoed in Ancient Egypt.[72] Though it doesn't form part of official Islamic teaching she noted the widespread belief amongst modern Egyptians, educated and uneducated, of each human having a qarina, a spiritual component which is separate from the soul, and she compares this with the Ancient Egyptian belief in a persons Ka[73] Ancient Egyptians believed that the shadow of a person was an intrinsic part of human make-up and Omm Sety noted that the peasants of modern Egypt hold similar beliefs and treat the shadow with caution.[74] She compares the modern Egyptian belief in Afrits (demonic beings who appear upside down) with the demonic upside down beings who appear in the Pyramid Texts.[75] Ancient Egyptians believed in Heka, what is now translated as magic, and used protective amulets with spells written on them. She compares this with modern practices, as found by poor sellers in market squares, in which verses of the Koran are inscribed on, or tucked into, amulets. Coptic priests also practice similar methods.[76] Both Ancient and modern Egyptians commonly believed in spiritual possession and practised techniques for freeing the victim. Examples survive from ancient times showing how a statue of a god, who is propitiated with offerings, brought the release of person possessed. In modern times the person who presides over such a ritual is called a shaykh and, similar to ancient practices, offerings are made to the spirit which has taken up residence in the person.[77] An alternative way is a ceremony called the butadjiyya in which words are recited from the Quaran with the patient immersed in the smoke of incense. A Christian method involves a pilgrimage to a Coptic Church at Mit Damsis and after ten-days without washing hoping that St. George appears, piercing the patients foot from which the demon will depart.[78] Omm Sety believed in the curative powers of water from certain holy places and friends report how she not only healed herself (by jumping in to the sacred pool in the Osireion fully clothed) but others, such as a baby brought to her by distraught parents because of breathing difficulties, who recovered after using water from the Osireion.[79] Omm Sety reported that she no longer needed glasses, was cured of arthritis and appendicitis using the waters of the Osireion.[80] Along with Kent Weeks she was interested, and very knowledgeable, on the subject of folk medicine. He notes that treatments used today can be traced back through Ancient Egyptian texts that associate the particular tree used with goddesses such as Hathor and Isis.[81] Omm Seti recorded that long after the conversion of Egypt to Islam the power of the “old gods” was still recognised. Al-Maqrizi recorded that that ever since a fanatical shaykh disfigured the face of the Sphinx the cultivated land around Giza had been invaded and covered with sand.[82] Unlike the gods associated with fertility she noted the fear inspired in some modern Egyptians with the goddess Sekhmet (through an accident involving several fatalities on the discovery of a statue) even though they are unaware the Ancient Egyptian accounts associating her with the destruction of mankind.[83] A common belief amongst village people relates to a “bogeyman” and “terrorist”, called Ba Bah and compares this with the obscure Ancient Egyptian god Bwbi who similarly invoked terror.[84] Villagers from the town of Arabet Abydos reported occasionally seeing a “large golden boat” floating upon a one-time lake and Omm Sety noted that the villagers were ignorant of the Ancient Egyptian mystery play that was once enacted at Abydos and the part played by the Neshmet boat, nor that location they observed the apparition was once a sacred lake.[85] Popular customs associated with Easter, and observed by both Copts and Muslims, were considered by her to probably originate in Ancient Egypt. On “Job Wednesday”, during the week preceding Easter Sunday, a bath is taken and the body scrubbed with a plant called ghabira by the Muslims and damissa by the Copts, believing that Job of the bible was cured from his leprosy by similar means. In the absence of any scriptural authority for this event she speculates it is based on the Pyramid texts in which the same plant is used by the King to purify himself.[86] Between December and January (the month of Koiak in both Ancient Egyptian and Coptic calendar's), Muslims and Copts, (but mainly the latter), sow small gardens which, when sprouted are thought to bring prosperity to the household. Omm Sety believed that this originates with the Ancient Egyptian practice of sowing “Osiris Gardens” and “Osiris Beds” during the month of Kiahk when the sprouting vegetation symbolised resurrection.[87] Andrew Strum notes a similar practice amongst Egyptian Jews, in this case relating to atonement for sin, and also speculates that this has its origins in the Osirian beliefs of Ancient Egypt.[88] Omm Sety detailed many other practices that have been transmitted down from ancient times to the modern era in a number of short articles written between 1969 and 1975. These were edited and published by the Egyptologist Nicole B. Hansen in 2008 under the title “Omm Sety's Living Egypt: Surviving Fokways from Pharaonic Egypt” with a foreword by Kent Weeks and an introduction by Walter A. Fairservis.[89]

Later years

On reaching the age of sixty in 1964 Omm Sety was faced with mandatory retirement by the Antiquities Department and advised to seek part-time work in Cairo.[90] She went to Cairo but only stayed one day before returning to Abydos. The Antiquities Department decided to make an exception to their retirement age rules and allowed her to continue her work at Abydos for a further five years until she retired in 1969.[91] Her thirty dollars a month pension was supplemented by needlework that was purchased by friends and tourists who also brought gifts of clothes, food, and reading materials. She also began work acting as part-time consultant for the Antiquities Department, guiding tourists around the Temple of Seti and explaining the symbolism of the painted wall scenes.[92] In 1972 she suffered a mild heart attack and in the aftermath decided to sell her old house and move into a zareba (a ramshackle single room made of reeds). Ahmed Soliman, the son of the onetime keeper of the Temple of Seti, built a simple mudbrick house adjacent to his family home where Omm Sety moved and lived as part of the Soliman family.[93] She reported in her diary then on first moving in to her new home Seti I appeared and carried out a ritual that consecrated the habitation and made it holy, bowing reverently towards small statues of Osiris and Isis she kept in a small shrine-niche.[94] During this visit Seti is reported to have described the one and only time he saw the god Set from whom, as a military man, his own name was taken. As a prelude to meeting Set he fasted for ten days before entering the Chapel of the Great Strength where the god appeared with “a beauty that cannot be described” but on sensing that he was the spirit of all that was cruel and evil he fled to the sound of mocking laughter from the god, never to serve Set again, and counselling that “one should not serve an evil being, even if it appears to have a good or useful attribute or function.”[95] Seti made several visits during the following weeks during which he gave his opinion of the Greek story of Atlantis (a Cretan had once told him that the islands of the Aegean were the tops of mountains from a great land that had sunk into the Mediterranean) and the origins of Osiris (“our Lord came from Amenti, whence he returned”).[96] Omm Seti got to know all the leading Egyptologists of her day during her stay in Abydos. Lanny Bell and William Murnane from Chicago House recalled going “up to Abydos to see Omm Sety, have tea in her place” and then viewing the temples with her. John Romer recalled taking a bottle of vodka to her home and Omm Sety her having fun telling the slightly more ribald stories of the gods and goddesses.[97] Omm Sety spoke of Rameses II, the son of Seti I, whom she always saw as a teenager, his age when she believed Bentreshyt first knew him. She regarded him, in common with other Egyptologists, as “the most slandered of all the pharaohs” because of biblically derived accounts describing him as the Pharaoh of the Oppression and the slaughterer of baby boys, traits which are contradicted by contemporary records.[98] Kenneth Kitchen, an expert on this period, considered her “a true Ramesside”, that there was “a certain truth in her familial approach” and that she “came to all sorts of perfectly sensible conclusions about the actual, objective material of the Sety Temple.”[99] Nicholas Kendall of the National Film Board of Canada visited Egypt in 1979 to make a documentary “The Lost Pharaoh: The Search for Akhenaten”. Donald Redford, who had led a team that recently unearthed material relating to the reign of Akhenaten, asked Omm Sety to appear in the film. She, in common with other Egytologists, didn't regard the king as romantic idealist dedicated to a universal god, but a “one-track minded, authoritarian iconoclast who impaled captives and deported populations.”[100] In October 1980 Julia Cave and a team from the BBC arived in Abydos to film the documentary "Omm Sety and Her Egypt". Featuring interviews with Egyptologists T. G. H. James and Rosalie David it described Abydos and the excavations that had been undertaken along with extensive input from Omm Sety who was using crutches due to her deteriorating health.[101] The documentary was broadcast on BBC 2 in May 1981. The Times wrote of the documentary "An incredulous smile froze on lips as I watched the Chronicle film Omm Sety and Her Egypt. Could I be absolutely positive it was all a lot of eyewash? Of course I couldn't. And neither will you be able to. In any case, it makes marvellous television."[102] At the time the BBC were recording their documentary the American producer Miriam Birch asked Omm Sety to appear, along with Egyptologists Kent Weeks and Lanny Bell, in a documentary that National Geographic was filming "Egypt: Quest for Eternity" which concentrated on Ramesesses II, the son of Sety I. Shooting took place in March 1981, coinciding with Omm Sety's seventy-seventh birthday party at Chicago House which was filmed. She was in a lot of pain but of good cheer and the film crew carried her to the Temple of Sety for filming. This was to be her last visit to the shrine that she believed 3,000 years before she had served in as a priestess.[103] Omm Seti had once said "Death holds no terror for me..I'll just do my best to get through the Judgment. I'm going to come before Osiris, who will probably give me a few dirty looks because I know I've committed some things I shouldn't have."[104] Because the Muslims and Christians wouldn't let "a heathen" be buried in their graveyards (on land appropriated from an Ancient Egyptian burial ground) Omm Sety built her own underground tomb decorated with a false door, through which the Ka was believed to travel between this world and the next, and engraved an offering prayer in conformance with ancient beliefs. The staff of Chicago House gave her an imitation Shawabti figurine to place in the tomb.[105] On April 10 1981 she gave away her two cats as her condition deteriorated.[106] On the 15th April she recived a letter from Olivia Robertson confirming Omm Sety had been enrolled in the Fellowship of Isis, an interfaith spiritual movement focused on the goddess, on the 23rd March.[107] On April 21, 1981 Omm Sety died in Abydos. The local health authority refused to allow her to be buried in the tomb she had constructed so she was interred in an unmarked grave, facing the west, in the desert outside a Coptic cemetery.[108]

Possible sites for archaeological exploration

In the early 1970's, shortly after Nasser's death Omm Seti disclosed that she believed the location of Nefertiti's tomb was known to her but showed some reluctance in disclosing it's “most unlikely place” because Sety I didn't like Akhenaten for how he attempted to suppress traditional Egyptian religious practices and his desire that “We don't want anything more of this family to be known.”[109] She described the location of the tomb as being close to Tutankhamun's which was counter to the then prevailing opinion that no more new tombs would be found in the Valley of the Kings.[110] In 1998 the ARPT group led by Nicholas Reeves began exploring in the area of Tutankhamun's tomb based on two anomalies (indicating cavern spaces) found during a sonar sounding in 1976.[111] During the dig two undisturbed seals of the 20th dynasty scribe Wen-nefer, a well known person whose seal has been found on many Valley of the Kings tombs, were discovered.[112] A radar scan in 2000 produced evidence of two empty chambers but the work was halted pending an investigation into the theft of antiquities.[113] In 2006 Otto Shaden, on a completely unrelated dig, accidentally burst into one of the “anomalies” (later numbered KV63) which contained particularly fine examples of mummification supplies used for a royal burial, presumably nearby. Reeves opinion is that the second “anomaly” is likely to be an undisturbed tomb.[114]

Whilst the general public tend to focus on the beauty of Ancient Egyptian artefacts, scholars value highly texts which reveal more about history and religious beliefs. Since Edgar Cayce, a clairvoyant of Presbyterian background, asserted whilst in a trance state that a Hall of Records was to be found in the area of the Sphinx there have been repeated attempts to find it's supposed location[115] In 1973 Omm Sety recalled asking Sety I about these Halls of Records. He is reported as saying that every temple had a book repository (Per-Medjat) but that the one attached to the Temple of Amun-Ra in Luxor contained all the important documents “from the time of the Ancestors.” (including those that survived the political upheaval at the end of the 6th dynasty.[116] Omm Sety recalled having translated for Abdul Kader in 1952 inscriptions from Ram statues he uncovered from an area around this temple at Luxor where Seti is reported to have located the Hall of Records. Contrary to normal practice for this type of statue there was no writing on the back, suggesting that they had once been placed against an otherwise unknown wall or building. Based on Sety's description and the location of the Rams both she and Dr. Zeini believed that the Hall of Records is likely to be located under the modern building which houses the Arab Socialist League.[117]

Opinions of Egyptologists

Egyptologists who knew Omm Sety were impressed by her knowledge of Ancient Egypt.[118] Klaus Baer of the Oriental Institute commented “she had visions and worshipped the Ancient Egyptian gods. But she understood the methods and standards of scholarship which is usually not the case with nuts” nor did she “desire to convert anyone.”[119] Omm Sety was impressed by Hermann Junker, “one of the elders of 20th century archaeology” who had taught Selim Hassan. He advocated a more honest approach to the study of Ancient Egyptian religion, believing that “nobody had made a real effort to go deeply enough into it.” She admired his open-mindedness, especially since Junker was also a Catholic priest.[120] One noted Egyptologist, who didn't wish to be named, commented “I was deeply shocked when, one night, I attended a party given by Dr. Ahmed Fakhry behind the Great Pyramid..and there under the full moon was Dorothy Eady belly dancing! I couldn't believe my eyes!”[121] William Murnane of the Oriental Institute recalled “It was always a pleasure to be with her and listen to whatever she really couldn't take her anything but seriously.”[122] Kenneth Kitchen, author of the seven-volume “Ramesside Inscriptions” described Omm Sety as a “true Ramesside” who “came to all sorts of conclusions about the actual objective material of the Sety Temple – which may have also coincided with things that she felt she knew some other way..and that paid dividends.[123] Donald Redford invited Omm Sety to appear in the documentary “The Lost Pharaoh” in which she gives her description of Akhenaton, including a negative view of the religious revolution he attempted (comparing him to the Ayatollah Khomeini - “a fanatic”), a viewpoint broadly shared by scholars such Seton-Williams and Redford.[124] John. A. Wilson of the Oriental Institute of Chicago praised her book “Abydos, Holy city of Ancient Egypt” for its “comprehensive coverage of every ancient element in Abydos” and described Omm Sety as “a responsible scholar”.[125] During a visit to the Great Pyramid by a Japanese team with sophisticated sensing equipment one English Egyptologist, with nods of approval from others, said “If Omm Sety were still here I'd take her word for where things can be found, any day, over the most-state-of-the-art equipment out there.” [126] William Simpson, Professor of Egyptology at Yale, considered Omm Seti to be a “delightful person” and thought that “a great many people in Egypt took advantage of her because she more or less traded her knowledge of ancient Egypt by writing or helping people out by doing drafting for them for a pittance.”[127] Dr. Labib Habachi, one of “two leading Egyptian archaeologists of his day” and a great admirer of Dorothy Eady's work, claimed that she was responsible for writing a book that came out under another persons name.[128] James P. Allen commented "Sometimes you weren't sure whether Omm Sety wasn't pulling your leg. Not that she was a phoney in what she said or believed - she was absolutely not a con artist - but she knew that some people looked on her as a crackpot, so she kind of fed into that notion and let you go either way with it..She believed enough to make it spooky, and it made you doubt your own sense of reality sometimes."[129] Barbara Lesko wrote “She was a great help to Egyptian scholars, especially Hassan and Fakhry, correcting their English and writing English language articles for others. So this poorly educated Englishwoman developed in Egypt into a first rate draughtswoman and prolific and talented writer who, even under her own name, produced articles, essays, monographs and books of great range, wit and substance.”[130] William Golding wrote of the Egyptologists he met in his travels through Egypt in the nineteen-eighties who were “as well disposed to the Mystery as any child could have wished.” and that when “the question arose of a dear lady who believed herself to have been a priestess of a particular temple, they did not dismiss her as a crackpot but agreed that she had something.”[131]

Other opinions

Carl Sagan considered Omm Seti as "a lively, intelligent, dedicated woman who made real contributions to Egyptology. This is true whether her belief in reincarnation is fact or fantasy." He viewed such phenomena as being rooted in fear of death and that humankind has commonly sought reassurance in some form of afterlife.[132] He pointed out that there was no independent record, other than her own accounts, to verify what she claimed. In his opinion, whilst "functioning soundly and constructively in most aspects of her adult life" she "nevertheless carried strong childhood, adolescent fantasies" into adulthood.[133] A psychiatrist who specialized in adolescent behaviour speculated that Dorothy Eady's fall down stairs as a child may have resulted in damage to the locus ceruleus which could have resulted in a dislocation from her surroundings resulting in the embracement of an obsession.[134] The psychologist Michael Gruber noted that Omm Sety lived "a functional life in so-called everyday reality", including work in Egyptology, embroidery, making jewellery and socializing with people, and that her reported experiences enriched her life such that "it would be an extreme loss to have seen her simply as someone who was hallucinating"[135]

Reference books

  • “The Search for Omm Sety”, Jonathan Cott in collaboration with Dr. Hanny El Zeini, Doubleday & Company, 1987, ISBN0-385-23746-4
  • “Omm Sety's Living Egypt: Surviving folkways from Pharaonic Times, Edited by Nicole B. Hansen, Glyphdoctors Chicago, 2008, ISBN 978-0-0792023-0-2
  • “Omm Sety's Egypt”, Hanny el Zeini & Catherine Dees, T Lynn's Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-0767631-3-0
  • “Breaking Ground: Women in Old World Archaeology”,Omm Sety by Barbara Lesko[3]

Publications by Dorothy Louise Eady

  • "A Dream of the Past", 1949, Egyptian State Tourist Board[136]
  • "A Question of Names", 1970, American Research Centre in Egypt, Newsletter 71, p. 10-15[137]
  • "Some Miraculous Wells and Springs of Egypt", 1970, American Research Centre in Egypt, Newsletter 75, p. 17-22[138]
  • "Warding off an Eclipse" 1972, American Research Centre in Egypt, Newsletter 80-, p. 25-27[139]
  • "Omm Sety's Abydos", 1979-80, 1982, Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities[140]
  • "Abydos: Holy City of Ancient Egypt", 1981, with H. El Zeini[141]
  • “Survivals from Ancient Egypt”[142]
  • “Pharaoh: Democrat or Despot”, with Hanny El Zeini, unpublished as of 2011.[143]


  1. ^ Hansen, 2008, p. xix
  2. ^ Lesko
  3. ^ Hansen, 2008, p. xiii; Walter Fairservis wrote that she never set out to write an “anthropological monograph” and her writing style is more like a collection of images in the manner of Herodotus and therefore her impact in this “profoundly academic field” was minimal compared to others.(Hansen, p. xix);El Zeini (p. xii) for public v private commendations of Omm Sety's skills by Egyptologists
  4. ^ Lesko; A diary entry of Omm Seti reports that Set I on one of his visits said “People are sent back to earth for two reasons, usually to pay for some sin; more rarely, to fulfil some important work in the world. For the first reason they are usually sent into a body closely resembling their original one. They enter the new body at the very moment of it's death, or at a time when it's deeply unconscious. This is what happened to you, and although you were only a little child, you became different” Seti I was reported as saying that multiple incarnations to reach perfection may be so for other peoples but it is not the Ancient Egyptian way.(El Zeini, p. 11)
  5. ^ Hansen, 2008, p. xiv
  6. ^ Hansen, 2008, p. xv
  7. ^ Cott, p. 15
  8. ^ Cott, p. 15
  9. ^ Cott, p. 15-16
  10. ^ Hansen, 2008, p. xv
  11. ^ Lesko
  12. ^ Hansen, 2008, p. xix-xv, Lesko; It was Omm Sety's belief that Wallis Budge adopted the Ancient Egyptian religion but he discouraged her from using heka, commonly translated into English as magic.(El Zeini, p. 15)
  13. ^ Lesko
  14. ^ Lesko; El Zeini, p. 22; The mummy of Seti I (the form in which Eady reported he first appeared to her) was discovered in 1881 as part of the Deir el Bahri cache and exhibited in Room 52 of the Cairo Museum. Anwar Sadat had the room closed to the public as he considered it a desecration that the Royal mummies should be objects of casual curiosity. It has since been reopened.(El Zeini, p. 29)
  15. ^ Lesko
  16. ^ El Zeini, p. 32-33 who notes during a visit to Stonehenge she found Egyptian mummy beads, “not the first” such find of beads “or even scarabs” at the site which he takes as evidence of trade between the Mediterranean and the British Isles
  17. ^ Lesko
  18. ^ El Zeini, p. 35
  19. ^ Lesko
  20. ^ Lesko
  21. ^ Lesko
  22. ^ Hansen, 2008, p. xvi;
  23. ^ El Zeini, p. 59
  24. ^ Cott, p. 56; S. G. F. Brandon, a Professor of comparative Religion, noted “The Pyramid Texts have a unique place in human records; for they are not only the earliest records we have of Egyptian thought, but they are also the earliest body of religious writings we have of mankind as a whole.” (Man, Myth& Magic, vol 1/7, p. 305)
  25. ^ Lesko
  26. ^ Cott, p. 42
  27. ^ El Zeini, p. 73
  28. ^ Cott, p. 42; Omm Sety described the Demotic text as looking “to me like nothing I could appreciate – as if a beautiful hieroglyph text had been run over by a lorry and totally distorted out of shape” (eL Zeini, P. 72-75 for part transcript) She hadn't studied demotic and it was only whilst in a trance like state she was able to struggle in putting down what she reported as Hor-Ra's dictation. She showed the text to Jaraslov Cerny a few years later who thought her writing was good for a beginner and that he could obtain employment for her if she continued to be enthusiastic about the subject.(El Zeini, p. 69)
  29. ^ Cott, p. 42
  30. ^ Cott, p. 42
  31. ^ Cott, p. 42
  32. ^ Cott, p. 42; cf. El Zeini, p. 34
  33. ^ Cott, p. 5-6
  34. ^ Cott, p. 6
  35. ^ Lesko; El Zeini (2007)describes the incredulous response of the midwife to Omm Sety's pain free traditional birth (p. 65) and the Islamic ceremony el sebou relating to the naming of the baby involving placing the baby on a sieve, harking back to an Ancient Egyptian custom in which Anubis holds the sieve to determine the child's life span: an example of the ceremony appears on the walls of Hatshepsut's temple at Deir el Bahri.(p. 66, fn)
  36. ^ Hansen, 2008, p. xvi, Lesko; El Zeini, p. 81
  37. ^ Lesko, p. 50 recounts an episode when Napoleon visited the Great Pyramid on 12 April 1797. He spent the night in the Kings chamber and emerged distressed in the morning. He refused to describe what had happened other than “You'd never believe me.”
  38. ^ El Zeini, p. 82
  39. ^ El Zeini, p. 82
  40. ^ Cott, p. 59
  41. ^ Lesko
  42. ^ Cott, p. 47
  43. ^ Hansen, 2008, p. xvi
  44. ^ Cott, p. 46
  45. ^ Hansen, 2008, p. xvi
  46. ^ Hansen, 2008, p.; See also Naguib essay “Survivals of Pharaonic Religious Practices in Contemporary Coptic Christianity”, Encylopedia of Egyptology, UCLA, 2008, quote “..the Coptic renewal and, from the 1970's, the radicalization of religion among both Copts and Muslims have led to the consolidation of normative religion and the abandonment of most religious practices belonging to the Egyptian lore” and that “Cultural changes usually occur as part of long processes of transformation. However, some changes may trigger rapid changes in a culture's structures, generate innovations, and bring about new ways of life. The construction of the Aswan High Dam was such an event. Inaugurated in January 1971, the Aswan High Dam has radically altered Egypt's ecology and led to the disappearance of most rituals and religious practices related to the Nile and it's inundation. It has modified a cumulative body of local knowledge and made the agricultural calendar meaningless. Nevertheless, some religious practices tied to seasonality of the Nile are still recognizable in Coptic Christianity.”
  47. ^ Cott, p. 69-70
  48. ^ Cott, p. 71
  49. ^ Cott, p. 78
  50. ^ Cott, p. 79
  51. ^ Cott, p. 81
  52. ^ Cott, p. 84
  53. ^ Cott, p. 85
  54. ^ Cott, p. 84
  55. ^ Cott, p. 85
  56. ^ Cott, p. 80
  57. ^ Cott, p. 80-81; quoting from "Abydos:Holy City of Ancient Egypt"
  58. ^ Cott, p. 81
  59. ^ Cott, p. 84
  60. ^ Cott, p. 96-97, Hansen p. 82,84-89; Omm Sety on observing the damage done to the phallus of Min in the Temple of Sety at Abydos, by people scraping particles from it to drink as a cure for impotency, exclaimed “That idiot of a sculptor! If he had any foresight he would have made the phallus of Min a hundred yards long! (Cott, p. 97)”
  61. ^ Cott, p. 92- 93
  62. ^ Cott, 92
  63. ^ Cott, p. 91
  64. ^ Hansen, p. 3
  65. ^ tba
  66. ^ Hansen, p. 5
  67. ^ Hansen p. 8-15
  68. ^ Hansen, p. 22; Rodwells translation of the Koran in note 3, p. 487, describes how each leaf contains a name. On the 15th day of Ramadan the tree is shaken in Paradise and those leaves which drop are those who will die in the following year. In Ancient Egypt the number of leaves corresponded with the years of the Pharaohs reign; See also Hebrew and Christian usage in Gen 2:9, 3:22, Proverbs 3:18, 11:30, Ezekial 47:7,12, Revelations 22:2,14,
  69. ^ Hansen, p. 24; The Pyramid Texts describe “The gods who are in Buto were filled with compassion when they came to Osiris Neferkara, at the voice of the weeping Isis, and at the outcry of Nephthys; at the wailing of these two spirits..It is this that you have heard in the houses, what you have learned from the walkers in the streets, on that day when this Pepi was summoned to life” (Hansen, p. 24)
  70. ^ Hansen, p. 27-29; the first five practices are mentioned in the Pyramid Texts whilst washing the cloths of the dead is mentioned in the Book of the Dead
  71. ^ Hansen, p. 41
  72. ^ Hansen, p. 25; see also Herodotus 1990, 2.85
  73. ^ Hansen, p. 43-48
  74. ^ Hansen, p. 48-51
  75. ^ Hansen, p. 51-52; King Unas is frightened of these beings in the Pyramid Texts, exclaiming “The abomination of this Unas is to travel in darkness lest he see those who are upside down”
  76. ^ Hansen, p. 54-55; she notes modern Egyptians who write a spell on paper then wash off the ink and drink it so that the magic stays in their bodies. Ari Goldman in his book “The Search for God in Harvard” notes the Muslim practice of writing a verse of the Koran with honey on a slate then dissolving the honey in water which is then given to a boy to drink at his fourth birthday. He further notes how words of the Koran are inscribed on objects for the power they confer (p. 232, 1991 edition, ISBN 0-345-37706-0; See also Revelations 10:9 for “eating the book” that tastes like honey and the article Maat for eating truth; see Devotional medal for how inscribed medallions are used in Roman Catholicism and their origins with specific mention of magical formula being attached to Christian symbols in early Christianity, especially by Gnostic's
  77. ^ Hansen, p. 65
  78. ^ Hansen, p. 69; It is commonly thought that the St George iconography of him piercing the dragon with a spear was inherited from similar depictions of the Ancient Egyptian Saviour god Shed.
  79. ^ Cott, p. 98-99; OS notes the statue of Djedher in the Cairo Museum]] as once having been used for curative purpose by the drinking of water that had been poured over it.(Hansen, p. 85). Others note similar practices associated with Shed and Harpokrates in the late period.(tba); see also article Lourdes water
  80. ^ Hansen, p.86
  81. ^ Cott, p. 99; see Hansen p.176-190 for Omm Sety's comparisons between ancient and modern Egyptian medicine
  82. ^ Hansen, p. 83
  83. ^ Hansen, p. 84
  84. ^ Hansen, p. 90-91
  85. ^ Hansen, p. 87
  86. ^ Hansen, p. 92
  87. ^ Hansen, p. 94-95
  88. ^ THE ANCIENT ORIGINS OF AN OBSCURE EGYPTIAN JEWISH HIGH HOLY DAY CUSTOM, Andrew Strum, Eshkolot: Essays in Memory of Rabbi Ronald Lubofsky, Hybrid Publishers, Melbourne, 2002
  89. ^ Hansen, p. x
  90. ^ Cott, p. 100
  91. ^ Cott, p. 100
  92. ^ Cott, p. 100-101
  93. ^ Cott, p. 103
  94. ^ Cott, p. 104
  95. ^ Cott, p.103-106
  96. ^ Cott, p. 107-110
  97. ^ Cott, p. 111
  98. ^ Cott, p. 112
  99. ^ Cott, p. 113-114
  100. ^ Cott, p. 114-115
  101. ^ Cott, p. 168
  102. ^ Cott, p. 168-169
  103. ^ Cott, p. 169
  104. ^ Cott, p. 173
  105. ^ Cott, p. 166
  106. ^ Cott, p. 169
  107. ^ Cott, p. 172
  108. ^ Cott, p. 174
  109. ^ El Zeini, p. 262, 265
  110. ^ El Zeini, p.261, 264, 265, 268
  111. ^ El Zeini, p. 267; See Reeves report "Another New Tomb in the Valley of the Kings?", Ancient Egypt 7/1, issue 37 (October/November 2006), pp. 31-34[1]
  112. ^ El Zeini, p. 269
  113. ^ El Zeini, p. 270
  114. ^ El Zeini, p. 270-271
  115. ^ El Zeini, p. 253, see Britannica 2004 CDROM edition for refs to Cayce
  116. ^ El Zeini, p. 255
  117. ^ El Zeini, p. 255-260
  118. ^ Lesko
  119. ^ Lesko, Cott, p. 54-56
  120. ^ El Zeini, p. 94
  121. ^ Cott, p. 56
  122. ^ Cott, p. 111; See Murnanes obituary from the Guardian[2]
  123. ^ Cott, p. 113-114
  124. ^ Cott, 114-115; Omm Sety reported that Seti I in his nocturnal visits to her continued to feel antipathy towards Akhenaten, describing him as an “evil man” (Cott, p. 115)
  125. ^ Lesko
  126. ^ El Zeini, p. xii
  127. ^ Cott, p. 57-58
  128. ^ Cott, p. 58, p. 54
  129. ^ Cott, p. 231
  130. ^ Lesko
  131. ^ ”An Egyptian Journal”, William Golding, 1985, p. 11, Faber & Faber, ISBN 0-571-13593-5
  132. ^ Cott, p. 205
  133. ^ Cott, p. 205
  134. ^ Cott, p. 219
  135. ^ Cott, p. 225-226
  136. ^ Lesko
  137. ^ Lesko
  138. ^ Lesko
  139. ^ Lesko
  140. ^ Cott, p. 58, fn 4
  141. ^ Cott, p. 58, fn 4
  142. ^ The manuscript for this book was in the possession of Professor Walter A. Fairservis for editing when Omm Sety died. Fairservis never completed the work before his own death. The Egyptologist Nicole B. Hansen chanced on a passing footnote reference to the manuscript Jonathan Cott's 1987 book. She obtained the manuscript and published the book under the title “Omm Sety's Living Egypt: Surviving Folkways from Pharaonic Times” in 2008. See Reference books for details.
  143. ^ Cott, p. 58, fn 4

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