My writing journey:
I was inspired to write Mistress of the Temple several years ago, on my second trip to Egypt. While reading Abydos: Holy City of Ancient Egypt, followed by The Search for Omm Sety, I began to appreciate the incredible life of Dorothy Eady (aka Omm Sety) and I immediately saw the fictional potential in her story. There was so much more to say about Bentreshy and I felt a novel could fill in the blanks, give a voice to a heroine who’d been rendered silent.
I then set off on an amazing journey, retracing Omm Sety’s footsteps back to Abydos, where my heroine once lived as Bentreshy over three thousand years ago…
In Bentreshy’s time Abydos was known as Abedju, the legendary cult centre of Isis and Osiris. I discovered that Abydos had been a place of pilgrimage since pre-dynastic times, when worshippers came from all over the Egyptian empire to honour the resurrection god and to take part in the sacred Mystery Plays. The Mysteries of Osiris re-enacted the life, death and resurrection of Osiris and were connected with the inundation and the subsequent renewal of life.
Wandering around the exquisite temple, I imagined how Bentreshy had once lived and worshipped as a priestess, and how she’d fallen in love with King Sety – right there in the temple garden where I stood in rapture – now a mass of sand and ruins, but springing to life in my imagination.
Through Bentreshy’s eyes I perceived that the festival was a great time of celebration, bringing the temple priesthood and local people together, with everyone dancing, singing and enjoying a communal feast in the name of Osiris. Through this divine connection, they too would travel to the Afterlife and live as Eternal Beings.
Isis was also worshipped in Abydos as the goddess of wisdom and healing. The temple has many murals depicting her beauty, wisdom and nurturing qualities. Isis was a key figure in the resurrection story as she restored Osiris to life and used her magic to conceive a child, who became the Mighty Horus, the benevolent ruler of Egypt.
I began to understand that Bentreshy and King Sety were a continuation of the Isis-Osirian myth, tragic lovers who must conquer great obstacles in order to fulfill their destinies. 3000 years later, Omm Sety was central to that myth – a modern day priestess who must resurrect the past.
In ancient times the Priestesses of Isis were renowned for their wisdom, artistic and healing skills, providing both spiritual and medical advice to the local women. I knew that Bentreshy had been such a priestess, praised for her beautiful voice as Harp of Joy, who had captured the heart of the pharaoh. Through her short life Bentreshy had left an eternal mark on Abydos.
Hear Omm Sety in her own words…