Before there were two things, there was the Nun.
And then, Zep Tepi.
Zep Tepi: the First Time. Also translated “the First Moment”, “the First Occasion”. The origin point of reality, the Big Bang, the primal orgasm, the cracking of the primal egg, the first dawn. That point at which being emerged from unbeing and sparked off everything else.
My favorite image of Zep Tepi – and there are many – is the sun in the lotus.
The waterlily emerges from the primal waters, lifting itself above the surface. The pod cracks open, the flower within the blue of the summer sky, edging with twilight. As the flower opens, the heart is revealed, brilliant yellow, a memory of sunlight, but in the myth this was the birth of the sun. Sometimes one can find artwork of a child emerging from the flower, or crowned with the lotus.
Two major species of waterlily grew in the Nile: a blue-petalled day-blooming flower, and a white-petalled night-blooming flower, both with a golden core. The ancients saw in this their continuing dualism, the day-sun and the night-sun.
The blue waterlily is the gift of life, regeneration and rebirth; it is painted over and over again on the walls of tombs, held in people’s hands, as they inhale the sacred scent. It was used in perfumes, it was soaked in wine, it always partook of that sacred moment, the flower that held the first dawn.
In many cosmologies, there is a moment of perfect creation, and the world has drifted away from that, has become Fallen. There is a sense in which this is true of the Egyptian – their viewpoint was always aimed back into the depths of time, reaching for the perfection of the First Time, looking to keep the traditions dear even as they elaborated upon them or transformed them entirely.
The critical difference between Zep Tepi and Eden is that Zep Tepi is not lost.
Every dawn is the First Dawn.
Every kindled light is the sun, every kindled light is the First Dawn.
Everything was made whole, sound, and perfect.
Everything can be re-made whole, sound, and perfect.
If there was not that spark that is the first light in it, it would not exist. It just takes cleaning it up a bit, looking to find the ways to make it shine. Mending the cracks to make it whole again.
That impulse to heal, to mend, to make better, to raise up, to open the petals and give light, that is the call of Zep Tepi, the First Moment, as it rings in every moment, the timeless beginning that sounds through all of time: there is in you that essence that could be better, more luminous, more whole, that could truly bloom. There is in you – in everything – a pure beginning, which can be honored, which can be celebrated, which can, no matter how far from there it has drifted or been taken, be returned to.
“Peace! Peace! Supplant the doom and the gloom! Turn off what is sour! Turn into a flower and bloom! Bloom! Bloom!”
– Jeremy Hilary Boob, PhD., Yellow Submarine
Among the transformations in the Book of Going Forth By Day (the Egyptian Book of the Dead) is one for making a transformation into the flower. Each of these shapeshifting spells includes taking on some of the powers and significance of the thing turned into – the flower beloved of the sun, and the transient eternality of Zep Tepi. Dawn happens, dawn breaks, dawn shatters before the day and the night, but dawn is eternal, unbroken, and in the heart of the flower, in the heart of the spirit, there is the beginning, the first sun, the first moment.
It is always there, waiting.
Who is this flower above me
And what is the work of this God?
I would know myself in all my parts.
– the Flower Prayer of the Feri tradition, said to be derived from a Hawai’ian prayer