The magical origin of the dance of the 7 veils
by Schatten

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Ancient times Popular culture Dance

The Babylonian goddess of love and fertility, Ishtar, descended to the underworld six months every year. On her descent, she passed through seven levels, each with seven gates. At each gate she had to get rid of one of her attributes (beauty, power, wealth, temples, etc.) until at the end both her body and soul were naked, as we all are when we die.

According to the ancient Babylonian myth, when Tammuz died, the terrible Ereshkigal, Ishtar's sister, concealed his body. This awakened in Ishtar a lively desire to find him. Displeased by such an unexpected determination, Ereshkigal lets her sister undertake the adventure on the condition that she leaves an offering at each of the seven gates of the underworld.

Thus, at the first gate, she took off her sandals, attributes of the will. At the second, she had to give up her ankle bracelets, which was like giving up her ego. In the third, she gave up her clothes, which meant sacrificing her own mind. In the fourth, the golden cups that covered her breasts, images of her sexuality. In the fifth door, she left her necklace, a symbol of enlightenment. In the sixth her earrings, and with them her magic. Finally, at the seventh door, she left behind her crown of a thousand stems, which symbolises her divinity.

Now fully naked, Ishtar was able to enter eternity and rescue her lover. But Ereshkigal regretted having let her in and immediately forbade her to come out. Meanwhile, on Earth, her absence began to be noticed: people were not marrying and children were not being born, so the other gods had to force Ereshkigal to allow her to return. Once she regained her belongings, Ishtar returned with Tammuz and everything went back to the way it was.

The Egyptian version speaks of the sea of Nun, the sea of possibilities where all the souls waiting to return to earth are found in the circle of the coagulation and dissolution of life; we are the fish-souls. For the Egyptians, at the time of conception, the soul of the future baby is called down to earth and transformed into a bright green beetle that sets out on its journey from the Sea of Nun to the earth. This traveller is sent through the seven gates of life to be born as a human being on earth.

Legend has it that a green Beetle, the Jeper who came from the sea of Nun's possibilities, through which he has travelled for 120 years around the sun, is called to reincarnate in a human life for 10 moons. In 280 days he passes through the 7 thresholds or gates of the Yins, the cosmic genii, where he is offered gifts and virtues that he will need for a conscious and balanced life on earth. Isis, the great winged and pregnant mother goddess, performs the magical rituals and dances retrieving from the celestial spheres the 7 veils of light to bestow on her future son, Horus, the 7 gifts and virtues that will be given to him by the guardians of the thresholds or gates of life and that will make him a complete being.

It is at this precise moment, in these rites, that the magical dance of the 7 veils is born, the dance of life and death, of rebirth in the circle of eternal life.

Over time, the legendary misfortunes of Ishtar became a sort of sacred oriental erotic dance, in which the dancer playing the role of mother or lover strips off –until she is partially or totally naked– of «seven veils» which are connected with the seven gates and the seven sacrifices which colours and meanings –now in an esoteric contexto– are usually the following:

  • Red. Related to Mars and the base chakra. Removing it symbolises the triumph of love and passion. It is usually about three metres long.

  • Orange. Represents Jupiter and the sexual chakra. It covers the hips and buttocks.

  • Yellow. Represents the Sun or chakra housed in the solar plexus. It covers the belly.

  • Green. Corresponds to Mercury and the heart chakra. It is worn on the chest or on one arm.

  • Blue. Represents Venus or the laryngeal chakra. It is worn on the neck or on the other arm. This and the previous one can be removed at the same time.

  • Violet. Represents Saturn and the frontal chakra. It covers the face.

  • White. Symbolises the Moon or crown chakra. It covers the head.

In the dance of Isis that grants the powers of each veil, the following symbolic scheme is followed:

- The first and farthest gate she has to pass through is the Threshold of Saturn, Ash-Samhuris, the Unfortunate One. The blue veil with ritual perfumes of mandrake at the mother's feet bestows the gift of temperance and the feeling of calmness.

Colour: Blue, Metal: Lead, Signature: Mandrake, Organ: Spleen, Bone Marrow, Tissue: Skeleton, Element: Earth, Temperament: Nervous, Entrance: Left ear, Gift: Temperance, Feeling: Calm, Zone: Feet.

- The second gate: The Threshold of Jupiter, Al-Maynum, the Fortunate One. The yellow veil with ritual perfumes of laurel and mistletoe, which is held by the arms, bestows on her the gift of patience and the feeling of joy.

Colour: Yellow, Metal: Tin, Signature: Laurel, mistletoe, Organ: pancreas Liver, Tissue: Cartilage, Element: Air, Temperament: Sanguine, Entrance: right ear, Gift: Patience, Feeling: Joy, Zone: Arms.

- The third gate: The Threshold of Mars, Al-Ahmar, the Red. The red veil with ritual perfumes of pepper and wormwood, fastened at the hip. Giving it bestows the gift of diligence and the feeling of passion.

Colour: Red, Metal: Iron, Signature: Pepper, wormwood, Organ: Blood, gall bladder, Tissue: Muscles, Element: Fire-Air, Temperament: Bilio-sanguine, Entry: left nose, Gift: Diligence, Feeling: Passion, Zone: Hip.

- The fourth gate: The Threshold of the Sun, Al-Madhâb, the Golden One. The orange veil with ritual perfumes of rosemary and orange, held in the heart, bestows the gift of generosity and the feeling of happiness.

Colour: Orange, Metal: Gold, Signature: Sunflower, Rosemary, Orange, Organ: Heart, Fabric: Arteries, Heart, Element: Fire, Temperament: Bilious, Entry: Right Eye, Gift: Generosity, Feeling: Happiness, Zone: Heart.

- The fifth gate: The Threshold of Venus, Al-Burqân, the Lightning. The green veil with ritual perfumes of coriander, held in the lower abdomen, bestows the gift of proliferation and the feeling of charity.

Colour: Green, Metal: Copper, Signature: Coriander, Organ: Kidneys, skin, genitals, Tissue: Veins, Element: Water – Earth, Temperament: Lympho-nervous, Entry: right nose, Gift: Charity, Feeling: Proliferation, Zone: Sex.

- The Sixth Gate: The Threshold of Mercury, Al-Marra, the One Who Passes By. The veil with ritual perfumes of anise and fennel, held on the lungs, bestows the gift of humility and the feeling of communication.

Colour: Indigo, Metal: Mercury, Signature: Anise, fennel, parsley, Organ: Lungs, Tissue: Nerves, Element: Fire-Earth, Temperament: Bilious-nervous, Entry: Mouth, Gift: Humility, Feeling: Communication, Zone: Mouth.

- The Last Gate: The Threshold of the Moon, Al-Bad, the White. The lilac veil with ritual perfumes of opium and linden, fastened on the head, bestows the gift of chastity and the feeling of creativity.

Colour: Lilac, Metal: Silver, Signature: Poppy, opium, linden, oats, Organ: Brain, Reproductive organ, lymph, Tissue: Ganglia, Element: Water, Temperament: Lymphatic, Input: Left eye, Gift: Faithfulness, Feeling: Creativity, Zone: Head.

With this information about the veil colour, the essence or perfume of the veil, the place where it should be placed, the gift it offers in each sphere, the virtue it represents, etc… we arrive at a ritual and mystical dance full of symbolism and strength. Each veil is an offering to the future being and, once the dance is finished and the veils of light are offered, the pregnant mother is ready to give birth to her child in the darkness of the earth and may it illuminate life with its birth.

We thus recover a sacred fertility dance far removed from the phallocentric eroticism that has accompanied it for so long.