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Joan Grant: Author of Winged Pharaoh July 20, 2011

Posted by heidi skarie in Book Review, Past lives.
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Recently I went to the “King Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota.  The beautiful wall designs, jewelry, statues and architecture of ancient Egyptian civilization (which lasted for 3,000 years—from 3050 BC to 337 AD) fascinated me and rekindled my interest in that time period.

Ancient Egypt has been studied for centuries but it wasn’t until 1799 AD (after the Rosetta Stone was found) that modern man had the key to understanding Egyptian hieroglyphs. The decree on the stone occurred in three scripts: Egyptian hieroglyphs, demotic script and Ancient Greek. This enabled scholars to decipher it. The Egyptian hieroglyphs gave us a glimpse into their culture.

We learned much from the tombs, ancient runes and temples, but it’s hard to imagine what it was actually like to live back then.  What did the people believe, how did they live and what was important to them?

While I was wandering through the museum, my thoughts turned to Joan Grant who wrote three books about her past lives in ancient Egypt.  Her first and most famous book, Winged Pharaoh, was published in 1937.  Grant shot to fame upon its publication and it is still considered a classic. The New York Times hailed it as “a book of fine idealism, deep compassion and a spiritual quality pure and bright as flame.”

Joan went on to write a series of “historical” books.  It wasn’t until almost twenty years later that Joan claimed to recall the events in the books while in a trancelike state and that the episodes were of her own past lives.  Winged Pharaoh is about Sekhet-a-ra, the daughter of a Pharaoh, who with her brother (Neyah) becomes co-ruler of Kam (Egypt).  As a young woman she is sent to study at a temple to become a “winged-pharaoh”—a ruler and priest because of her clairvoyant powers.  Her initiation into the inner mysteries includes a four-day ordeal where she is enclosed in a tomblike place and her spirit leaves her earth-body in search of wisdom.  It is in this place that initiates die (to an old state of consciousness) and are born again in wisdom.

Far Memory: The Autobiography of Joan Grant was published in 1956.  It’s here that Joan tells about how she came to remember her past lives.  What soon becomes clear is that she learned her clairvoyant skills in her life as a priest in Egypt and those skills carried forward into her current life as Joan Grant.  One of her skills was what she called “psychometrise,” the ability to touch an object to get visions about the owner and its history.

Joan experimented with many objects, going into a trance and speaking of  her visions while her husband wrote down what she saw.  Once she used an ancient Egyptian scarab made of turquoise.  The scarab beetle symbolized the rising sun and constant renewal of life to the Egyptians and it was used as an amulet.  Joan wrote of this experience: “The moment it touched my forehead I know it was warm and lively.” (p. 253 Winged Pharaoh)

By touching the scarab, Joan had visions from Sekhet-a-ra’s ordeal of initiation.  Fascinated by what she learned about Sekeeta, Joan continued to use the scarab to gain visions day after day.  Eventually she realized that she was remembering her past life as Sekeeta and she didn’t need to touch the scarab to have visions.  Sometimes she watched the scenes while at other times she seemed to be experiencing them.  The scenes from this past life were in random order. Gradually Joan put them into chronological sequence from when she was a baby to when she died.

As a child Sekhet-a-ra traveled out of her earth-body to other lands to learn about them.  Sekhet-a-ra’s mother tells her: “All upon Earth are travelling toward their freedom and must one day reach the great gate where the last shackle is struck from their feet.  Then shall all be equal in the light of the last sunset and the first sunrise.” (p. 77 Winged Pharaoh)

Sekhet-a-ra looked at death as a joyful occasion of returning home.  At the end of her life she says, “Far below me I saw Earth as a little cold room that had opened its doors and let me free.  .  .  . Then like a sun-shaft breaking through a cloud I left the shadow-land of tears and pain, to walk with my dear companions in the Light.” (P. 322- 323 Winged Pharaoh)

Joan Grant’s current life was just as fascinating as her past life as a pharaoh.  She was born in 1907 in London, England and describes her resentment at being trapped in a baby body.  When she was a child she saw a “monk” ghost in the music room of her home, “Seacourt ” shown in the photo, and tried to get rid of it.

The First World War broke out when she was ten and she started having dreams of being on a battlefield as an adult in a Red Cross nurse uniform or as a stretcher-bearer.  She was frightened by these “nightmares” and too young to understand that she was tuning into soldiers who were fighting in the war.  In her war “dream” experiences she had to report to duty and get orders.  Sometimes she explained to a soldier that he had been killed and was dead or she had to encourage a seriously wounded soldier to return to his body as he wasn’t due to die.  In these experiences she got close to people and could feel and see what they felt and saw.

As a young adult Joan dreamed of a man for a year before she met him in her “earth” life.  When they met they both recognized the other from their dreams. They were already deeply in love with each other.

After reading Winged Pharaoh, it was clear that Joan learned clairvoyant skills and some ways to help people inwardly in her life as an Egyptian priest.

She carried these skills over into her life as Joan, even when she was still a child.  As Joan grew older she was able to bring back more of her skills and continued to help others.

Winged Pharaoh is a beautifully told story that gives a detailed picture of life in ancient Egypt from the point of view of a person who lived back then.   It gives details about the dangers of lions, crocodiles and poisonous snakes, the climate, what people ate and wore, as well as insights about their religion and how they were governed.  Reading Winged Pharaoh made the King Tut exhibit come alive to me on a whole new level.



1. bachhula - July 25, 2011

A well written piece Heidi – you’ve certainly piqued my interest in the book! It’s fascinating to magine getting such personal insights into that time in history. Leslie

2. JAne - March 3, 2012

Thank you for this piece. One book you may not be aware of but I believe would love is a book edited by Nicola Bennett ( Joan’s Grand-daughter and Sophia Rosoff – Joan’s dear friend and myself) it is titled Joan Grant – Speaking from the Heart and published by Overlook Press. You can get it on Amazon.

It is a wonderful collection of Joan’s unpublished writings, letter, poems, and interviews.

Jane Lahr

3. Tobey - March 14, 2012

I only recently read “Winged Pharaoh” after having heard about it for some years. More than a classic, I think, it’s a very important book. It helped me understand, I believe, the ancient lineage of Spiritual Masters that taught Sekhet-a-ra and are still quietly teaching today anyone ready to break the surly bonds of orthodoxy and start to grow spiritually. For me these are the ECK Masters, such as Harold Klemp, the present day spiritual leader of Eckankar. I’m ordering others of Joan Grant’s books. I think a great many of the most important books are first published long before they do their most important work. Consider the Rosetta stone!

4. Charlotte - April 1, 2012

ALL of Joan’s books are wonderful. You can find them in any Theosophist library if you can’t find them anywhere else. I think there are Theosophy centres in most cities? They are all worth reading for their ethical tone. I can’t wait to get hold of “Speaking from the Heart”.

5. Kay Collett - October 29, 2013

“Far Memory” is Joan Grant’s autobiography from conception to the publication of ‘Winged Pharaoh’. A fascinating story about a fascinating (and highly gifted) woman. A great read.

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