College of Isis - House of Life
The House of Life
by Michael A. Starsheen, Archpr. H.
Isis of the Stars Lyceum
The house of life concept is a very old one in ancient Egypt; the “per ankhs” provided all the services that a temple needed to keep functioning, plus taught students in the mysteries of that temple. Everyone from the priests who kept up the manuscripts of spells used in the temples (lector priests) to cooks and bakers were part of the house of life, each a valued member to keep the temple functioning.
For example, the per ankh of Heliopolis was heavily involved in the teaching of astronomy as the Egyptians knew it, including material on precession, which the Greeks then passed on to the world. The per ankh of Memphis was a crafting and engineering center, and was renowned for the engineering tools that they taught—particularly those involved in building the great stone structures of Egypt. The per ankh of Edfu taught blacksmithing, in association with the temple’s primary mythology of Horus the Elder and his struggles with Set.
Without the per ankh, the temples could not function. And without the individuals who ran the per ankhs, nothing would have been accomplished. And, it is important to note, the majority of the people who were involved in the houses of life were not priests or priestesses. They were simply the necessary support people that kept the temple running.
We’ve taken this idea for the Fellowship of Isis and modified it a little bit. We no longer have live-in temple staff (or, at least, most of us don’t), but we still do a lot of teaching, and there is a lot of maintenance work that has to happen. We want to celebrate these other functions of the temple and provide a way to thank these important people that isn’t another “degree system” or centered on the liturgy of the FOI.
Part of the function of an FOI house of life is to provide the basic teachings that are essential to that particular Iseum, Lyceum, temple or other group, as well as taking care of the books and manuscripts that the temple uses for its ceremonies, as the lector priest would have done. This may even be the same person! Many temples are small. (And I use the word “temple” as a generic descriptor for all FOI iseums and lyceums of whatever size.) (*)
But we also have people associated with our temple who do other special work. One may provide astrological information to the temple group for the planning of events. Someone else could be the person who always cooks food for the rituals and gatherings. Each individual is a key part of keeping the temple functioning!
So in the FOI House of Life program, what we want to do is to acknowledge these folk who help us do our jobs. Each group that wants to participate—and it is voluntary—can create certificates for these support members, and name them the chef of the temple or the keeper of the books. This way, their important contributions get acknowledged, not ignored.
Also, we can add a statement to our temple’s description online that details what the House of Life within your temple teaches. For example, while we all work with the FOI liturgy at some level, one temple may teach basic magic, while another teaches their students herbal medicine, or crafting artwork for the gods, or caring for the hordes of temple cats. (The latter is one of the functions of the House of Life of New Karnak Center, here in northern California.) This work, too, should be acknowledged, and potential students made aware of what is offered so they can make a good fit selection of the temple they wish to study with.
The idea is to simply find ways to acknowledge the hard work that is already occurring within your Iseum, Lyceum, Grove, Priory, or other center, and to let the people who support you know that they are appreciated. Hopefully, this new process will help acknowledge the assistance of the support people and also the teachings and work of the temple itself.
(*) All lyceums begin as an iseum, therefore even after the founder of the center has been consecrated as a hierophant and then has the ability to teach the magi degree system, their lyceum still functions as an iseum, which is a hearth of the goddess or the goddess and the god.)
The History of the Development of the House of Life in the Fellowship of Isis:
This page was originally added to Fellowship of Isis Central in order to better facilitate answering the many questions and overall tremendously enthusiastic response received on the Circle of Isis online group at the time of the preliminary introduction of the House of Life received by FOI Central and members of the Circle of Isis Advisory Board.
Anyone who may have further questions or concerns about this FAQ of the House of Life on the Fellowship of Isis Central website is genuinely welcome to contact us.
If you wish to incorporate the concept of the House of Life in your FOI center, please contact Rt. Rev. Michael Artonn Starsheen. His e-mail address is provided in the answer to the last question listed on this page.
Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs meaning "Per Ankh" which translates as "House of Life"
The House of Life
An Optional Service That May Be Offered within Fellowship of Isis Iseums
“The original House of Life was an adjunct of temples in ancient Egypt. It supplied support services to the temple in the form of libraries, medical services, cooking, magicians, artisans, scribes, blacksmiths, and all other forms of support that specific temple might need. I got the idea for this while reading Bob Brier's book, “Ancient Egyptian Magic”, and considered that it might be worth adapting to the needs of the Fellowship.”
- Michael Artonn Starsheen, ArchDr., AU
Is the House of Life an FOI wide procedure?
The House of Life is an optional service that may be offered within Fellowship of Isis iseums.
Why was the House of Life created?
While interacting with members of the FOI community, ArchPriest Michael Artonn Starsheen became aware of a specific need. Many members of the Fellowship of Isis have definite skills - as astrologers, herbalists, healers and in many other fields - whose expertise is offered to the FOI community.
At the same time, there is a percentage of these skilled members who are not able, for various reasons, to take part in study of the FOI Liturgy or in the earning of degrees. Yet, Michael felt these people deserved recognition for their valuable contributions.
Did FOI Co-Founder Olivia Robertson issue any statements about the House of Life in her lifetime?
Yes. Michael wrote to Olivia Robertson, FOI co-founder, about the concept which he had named in the interim, the House of Life. Olivia responded with great enthusiasm in support of the idea and asked Michael to announce it to the general FOI membership.
Olivia’s response, dated June 19, 2006, is included here:
"Many congratulations on your splendid, inspired idea of the House of Life. It is truly a concept I myself like - a library, hospital, and support staff. It will be the life support for our FOI in the future. Houses of Life attached to Lyceums* and Iseums - wherever needed. Truly you are inspired. You have my warm support for this new process for FOI."
A second letter from Lady Olivia was received on July 10, 2006, to further clarify her wishes concerning the House of Life:
"I, Olivia Robertson, have already given enthusiastic permission for the excellent idea of the "House of Life" to be used by the Rt. Rev. Michael Starsheen within his own Iseum (not his Lyceum).
Overall authority on any such innovation, affecting other centres within the Fellowship of Isis as a whole, belongs to the Combined Membership of the ArchPriesthood Union. No new path, branch, titles, certification or any addition whatsoever to the overall established structure of the Fellowship can be made without full permission from all the Members of the ArchPriesthood Union.(**)
I encouraged the idea of "Houses of Life" which might inspire other centres. "Iseums" are free to create their own range of services through their membership, but not to legislate for other centres.
With the Blessings of Isis, for peace and harmony.
The Rt. Rev. Olivia Robertson,
Co-Founder of the Fellowship of Isis, AU"
What type of FOI Center has Lady Olivia authorized to offer House of Life certification?
House of Life certification may be offered through any FOI Iseum.
Is the House of Life a new FOI Pathworking? Does it replace the existing Spirals or the earning of Degrees in any way?
The House of Life is not a pathworking structure. Michael calls the House of Life a form of “local empowerment”. The House of Life is offered as an optional form of certification. It does not replace earning a degree through coursework based on the rituals of the FOI Liturgy.
The intended purpose of certification within a House of Life is to recognize the ability and commitment of those members who support the work of their FOI group and the greater FOI community, often behind the scenes. It is a way to honor the genuine contributions made by FOI members who, for various reasons, cannot partake in formal study of the liturgy and the earning of degrees.
My FOI Iseum is not ancient Egyptian based, how can I employ the concept of the House of Life in my center?
The term 'House of Life' is from ancient Egypt, but this name could be adjusted within a group to reflect their focus. The titles can also be adjusted to fit the orientation of the particular Iseum.
For example, a Celtic pantheon based Iseum would give out certification using the appropriate nomenclature, a group that honors the Greek pantheon would use wording for the titles appropriate to ancient Greece, etc. They are specific to that Iseum - an acknowledgment issued in keeping with the spiritual focus and patron/patroness deities of the particular Iseum.
What is the criteria for House of Life certification?
(1) Demonstration of substantial ability and knowledge in the given skill.
(2) Demonstration of substantial commitment of time and energy utilizing the given skill in support of the work of an FOI Iseum, both within the group itself and in cases where it applies, within the greater FOI community.
Example of types of skilled service are listed below:
Newsletter Staff Member
Cook - as in preparing meals for group meetings and ritual gatherings
Caregiver - performing services for FOI members who are elderly or ill
Animal Welfare - offering services to animals in need
Ceremonial Drummer or Chanter
Is House of Life certification only offered to FOI members who are not ordained or not certified through the FOI Pathworkings?
The original concept arose out of a need to recognize those FOI members who, for various reasons, do not study the liturgy or earn degrees, but have a high level of skill offered in service. However, certification within the House of Life is not limited.
People who are ordained, or certified in other branches of the FOI may be awarded House of Life certification as well as non-ordained and non-certified FOI members. The emphasis is on service and the recognition of service freely given.
Is House of Life certification transferable?
Regarding transfer of House of Life certification between FOI Iseums, a letter from the head of the center who issued the certificate would be required, stating the rationale for granting the title. Each new center should be willing to honor such a letter, given that certification is awarded for service.
How can I find out more about the House of Life?
Michael has been given written permission by Lady Olivia Robertson, FOI co-founder, AU, to further develope the idea within his own FOI Iseum and to share his concepts of House of Life certification with other FOI Iseums who may be interested in offering this optional service.
For more information on how to utilize the concept of the House of Life in your FOI Iseum please contact Rt. Rev. Michael Artonn Starsheen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: It is stressed that although the House of Life was originally authorized to be provided and developed through the Iseum (twinned with his Lyceum) of Rt. Rev. Michael Artonn Starsheen, any FOI Iseum may create a House of Life. For more information please contact Michael at the e-mail address provided directly above.
(*) Note: Lady Olivia's response refers to standard FOI policy - "All Lyceums are twinned with an Iseum."
(**) Note: As of October 2009 this also includes the ArchDruid Union of the Druid Clan of Dana and Grand Commander Union of the Noble Order of Tara, which together with the ArchPriesthood Union form the Fellowship of Isis Foundation Union Triad. The ArchDruid Union and Grand Commander Union were both founded Friday, October 9, 2009.
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