|Dorothy Eady: Public Domain at https://medium.com/the-collector/the-baffling-tale-of-dorothy-eady-a8e996982674|
The girl who fell down the stairs
Dorothy Louise Eady, also known as Omm Sety or Om Seti (1904 –1981), was born in East Greenwich, London, to a lower-middle-class family (her father was a master tailor) during the Edwardian era. As an adult, she became an antiques caretaker, folklorist and keeper of the Abydos Temple of Seti I and draftswoman for the Department of Egyptian Antiquities.
Dorothy is primarily known for her belief that she had been a priestess in ancient Egypt in a previous life and for her considerable historical research at Abydos.
Dorothy Eady’s story starts with something that happened in 1907 when she was three years old. She fell headlong down the stairs at home and became unconscious. Nobody knows for sure what happened next. Some say she was pronounced dead before suddenly regaining consciousness. Others claim she had suffered a rare brain injury, such as foreign accent syndrome. The family doctor was surprised when the girl’s parents called him back to the house barely one hour after the fall to say their daughter was alive and seemed to be perfectly healthy.
However, Dorothy was never the same again. From then on, she claimed to be the reincarnation of a priestess in the cult of Isis and seemed to have intimate knowledge to back it up. Dorothy even knew details that had never been published. She had vivid dreams of the vast building with large columns and beautiful gardens.
Apart from the change in her speech patterns, something else baffled her parents: she kept asking them to take her home. When Dorothy was asked where ‘home’ was, the girl couldn’t (or wouldn’t) say.
When she was four, her parents took her to the British Museum in London. At first, Dorothy was bored, but upon seeing the Egyptian sculptures, she hugged them and didn’t want to leave the museum. Like a child having a temper tantrum, she started to yell and scream when it was time to go, refusing to leave. Dorothy told her parents these were ‘her people’.
At some point on a later visit to the museum, she caught the attention of the prominent Egyptologist Sir E.A. Wallace Budge, who encouraged her to learn hieroglyphics.
Dorothy belief in her previous life caused considerable conflict in her school years. Her Sunday school teacher requested that her parents keep her away from class, because she had compared Christianity with “heathen” ancient Egyptian religion. She was expelled from a Dulwich girls school after she refused to sing a hymn that called on God to “curse the swart Egyptians”. 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. By age 16, she left school as school life was so difficult for her and the teachers.
At the age of seven, Dorothy discovered a photo of the Abydos Temple of Seti (the father of Rameses the Great). She immediately ran to her parents and told them she had found her home but was puzzled and confused as there used to be more trees and a beautiful garden next to the temple. At age 15, Dorothy said she began to have ‘visitations’ from Pharaoh Seti I, of the New Kingdom 19th Dynasty of Egypt. Recurring impressions occurred during her adolescence of being in an Egyptian environment. She suffered from nightmares and somnambulism (sleep-walking and sleep-talking), for which she was committed to a mental hospital for observation on several occasions.
Dorothy continued to claim to be the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian priestess, and with her ‘knowledge’, she helped experts track down previously unknown historical sites. Dorothy later worked out the details of her previous life.
She told her parents that night-time apparitions of the god Hor-Ra dictated it to her over a year-long series of visitations. Claiming to be the reincarnation of a girl named Bentreshyt, Dorothy claimed she had been abandoned at age three. What happened next is described as follows:
“… and being raised in the temple of Seti I at Abydos — the very building she had pointed out as a four-year-old. She recounted meeting the pharaoh in the temple gardens while serving as a priestess of Isis. For a priestess of Isis to lose her virginity, though, was a capital offence. After becoming pregnant with Seti’s child, Bentreysh was ordered to stand trial. Instead, she chose to die by her own hand.”
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 (Dorothy) to appear in the film. She, in common with other Egyptologists, did not regard the king as a romantic idealist dedicated to a universal god but a “one-track minded, authoritarian iconoclast who impaled captives and deported populations.”
In October 1980, Julia Cave and a team from the BBC arrived 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. It had extensive input from Omm Sety, who used crutches due to her deteriorating health. The documentary was broadcast on BBC 2 in May 1981. The Times wrote of the documentary: “An incredulous smile froze on my 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.”
When 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 Channel was filming, Egypt: Quest for Eternity. It concentrated on Rameses II, the son of Seti 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 full of good cheer, and the film crew carried her up to the Temple of Seti for filming. It was to be her last visit to the shrine in which she believed she had served as a priestess 3,000 years before. Omm Seti died shortly before this film was shown for the first time in May 1981.
Excerpted from the following Sources & Further Reading
- YouTube Video: National Geographic documentary Egypt – Quest for Eternity, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPjWrqLPFDE
- Book: The Search for Omm Sety, by Jonathan Cott, Henry El Zeini, at https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/281473.The_Search_for_Omm_Sety
- Book: Omm Sety’s Egypt: A Story of Ancient Mysteries, Secret Lives, and the Lost History of the Pharaohs, by Hanny El Zeini, Catherine Dees, at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/263829.Omm_Sety_s_Egypt
Picture Credit: “Temple of Seti I at Abydos, early 13th century. BCE (108)” by Prof. Mortel is licensed under Creative Commons
Foreign accent syndrome (FAS) happens when a person suddenly start to speak with a different accent. Although very rare, it is an actual condition. Only about 100 people have ever been diagnosed with this condition since the first known case emerged in 1907. It doesn’t just affect English speakers. FAS can happen to anyone and has been documented in cases and languages all over the world. ↑
The cult of Isis was centered around the Egyptian deities Isis and Osiris. Its Roman origins are placed in the early empire, which would make it very likely that the Egyptian campaigns of the Second Triumvirate (probably under Marcus Antonius) brought the cult to Rome. The central image of the cult concerned the myth of the death and rebirth of Osiris. In this myth, Osiris’ brother Seth (god of death and punishment) was envious of Osiris’ rulership of Egypt and the Nile and murdered him, cutting him into many pieces. See more at: https://www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/Projects/Reln91/Gender/isis.htm and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mysteries_of_Isis ↑
Source and Acknowledgement: https://medium.com/the-collector/the-baffling-tale-of-dorothy-eady-a8e996982674 ↑