River of the Sun, Chapter Eleven – Inundation
“Vessel of Sekhmet, take our chosen priest-to-be and show him the path of initiation that lies ahead.”
Firmly within the power of her magic, Amkhren felt the unspoken command to continue looking at the high priestess. His senses were so heightened that he could feel the approach of the severe Vessel of Sekhmet long before fingers that felt like claws came to rest on his shoulders. Her voice spoke through his skin, as though an animal ghost had entered his backbone and was playing him like an instrument. Wordlessly, with light-fingered touches, the lioness turned him. For a second, he gazed into the feral eyes, set into green flesh, then drank the wild beauty of the exotic fabrics flowing over her glowing skin. The red-gold orb with its descending cobra that topped the headdress inclined slightly towards him, and the slightest flicker of a smile played across lips whose inner skills began with portraying savagery as well as gentler arts.
She bent him to his knees, facing the six-pointed figure that framed the centre of the temple with its mysterious rays.
“Kneel before the sacred figure, priest-to-be. Face the centre of your life!”
Before him, set in blue lapis stones within the glittering mosaic of the floor, was a beautiful triangular shape that made up the very heart of the temple, yet connected with the other six points of the innermost circle, making an inner ring of nine, whose extensions, outward from the altar in the centre, formed the radiating symmetry of the whole chamber and its two, larger rings.
Although the figures of Mut and, behind her, the spread of the wings of ancient Isis, dominated the East, here in the centre the geometry defined a different type of space. Set in gold holders, which shone like the sun in the darkness, were three large candles, their flames burning peacefully as the rite unfolded. The flames defined the three points of the inner sanctum. The single point facing him was the inner East, and beyond that lay only a large silver bowl, raised on a plinth of white crystal, which housed a small sea of pure water, with a surface so calm that it was difficult to see that the silver vessel contained any liquid at all…But it did, for those who knew where to look…
The Vessel of Sekhmet was speaking again, “Observe the approach of the season of Akhet – inundation. The inner life of the great river spills over into the lives of men and women, providing for everyone’s needs. This has been your life for the past seven years, working for the temple, which, in turn, fed you and clothed you. Tonight the waters of your inner life will burst through the banks of your previous experience and into the quiet pastures of your outer life… tonight, if you are ready, we will ride this flood…”
Amkhren felt himself drifting into a trance as the Vessel of Sekhmet’s words filled his mind. Floating, he could see beyond the walls of the temple to the great river he had always loved, watching the spring waters as they overcame the meagre banks and spilled onto the flat plains that fed Egypt. As he followed his vision, the flood waters receded, leaving the land black with the gift the waters had carried from distant and fertile places – the dark soil that gave Egypt its reverential name – Kemet, the Black Land.
Sekhmet’s voice rose in intensity. “Expect nothing to be same again!” She let the words fall away, then said, “Rise! One who would be priest. Journey with me around the circle of the year.”
Amkhren felt his soul pull back from the image of the great river, through the great pylons of the temple entrance, on through the huge doors and over the glistening water of the central altar. Something was happening in the temple… something unlike anything he had ever known. The sense of power infused everything around him. His skin crackled with the flow of that energy around the inner circle where the vessels stood, watching him intently, focussed entirely on him. Would his simple soul be able to hold this, he wondered?
Rising from his knees, to legs suddenly leaden, Amkhren stayed perfectly still. As though sensing this, Sekhmet placed a firm hand on his upper arm, guiding him, clockwise, around the inner circle to face the Vessel of Hathor at the next radial point.
“Honour to you, priest to be.” said the woman in the red robe, head resplendent with the same solar disc as Sekhmet, but held in the grip of a pair of horns. “Let the nurturing and healing energies of the Goddess Hathor wash through the pains of your life, bringing you fresh to this moment, as great Ra rises anew each day.
Amkhren bowed to the vision of compassion before him, then in youthful boldness, looked up and tried to read the eyes that understood the heart of kindness – but his arm was taken with great force by Sekhmet, who pulled him around the inner circle to face Anzety, the High Priest. Anzety–he of the calm counsel, always there to walk and talk with, now radiant and waiting…
“Honour to you, priest to be,” said the Vessel of Khonsu. The old god of the moon, elevated to renewed status by Seti in a glorious act of reconciliation to wipe from history those doomed attempts to take the gods from the people. Anzety had, over many years, explained the complex history of this god-form… now, Amkhren knew why…
“Honour to you, priest to be,” said the tall man with the green skin, his head a dome of pure silver. The god-form shook the crook and flail that he carried. The sound made Amkhren shake with its power. “Behold the seed of the future,” said Khonu. “Here you will learn that, in the presence of the Gods, doing begins somewhere other than the muscles of the body…”
Amkhren looked up to read the eyes of the friend he had come to trust above all others, but the strong arms of Sekhmet spun him round to face the centre of the temple, again.
“Kneel before the sacred third point!”
Amkhren fell to his knees and, once again, faced the clear lake of tranquillity at the temple’s centre. But, this time, the sense of potency within his young soul threatened to overwhelm him…
Index to previous chapters:
Introduction to River of the Sun
In April 2015 a group of people gathered in the Derbyshire hills to enact the Silent Eye’s annual Mystery Play, entitled, The River of the Sun. The five-act mystical drama formed the backbone of that Spring weekend, and told the fictional story of a clash of ego and divinity set in an Isis-worshipping temple located on an island in the Nile, during the the fascinating period of the 19th dynasty, the time of Rameses the Great.
The 18th and 19th dynasties were a time of upheaval for ancient Egypt on many levels. The reign of the ‘Heretic King’ Akhenaten saw Egypt’s religious structure torn apart, as the revolutionary Pharaoh became what Wallis Budge called the ‘world’s first monotheist’; re-fashioning the power of the many Gods with one supreme entity – the visible sun disc, the Aten, for which Akhenaten, alone, was the high priest. Many have pointed to the failure of the ‘herectic’ Pharaoh’s politics, but few have doubted the sincerity of his religious vision. He will, forever, remain an enigma.
Whatever the nobility of his goal, the actions he took were ruthless, and included the shutting down of the annual deity festivals which were the sole point of ritualistic contact between the ordinary people of Egypt and their locally-worshipped gods. In addition, Akhenaten paid little attention to the domestic and military affairs of Egypt, allowing the country’s enemies to encroach on its borders, greatly weakening Egypt’s power at that critical time for the region.
After Akhenaten’s brief reign, culminating in the Pharaoh’s mysterious death, shadowy military forces took control of Egypt, instigating the 19th dynasty in the persons of Rameses I and, soon thereafter, Seti I, whose throne name derives from the god Set – often considered the ‘evil one’ because of his slaying of his brother, Osiris.
Seti I is judged by modern historians as having been one of the greatest-ever pharaohs, yet his importance in the 19th dynasty was eclipsed by the actions of his second son, the brilliant Rameses II, whose long reign of over sixty years included much self-promotion and the alteration of Egypt’s recent history. Both Seti and Rameses II (Rameses the Great) were passionate about the evisceration of the last traces of Akhenaten’s ‘chaos’, as they saw it.
But, although, by the 19th dynasty, the the ‘Son of the Sun’ was long dead and the buildings of his embryonic and doomed city of Tel-al-Armana were reduced to rubble, something of that time remained in the Egyptian consciousness. A new kind of connection between Pharaoh and God had been established, one which elevated mankind, if only in the being of the Pharaoh, to be someone who ‘talked with God’. It was, at the very least, a bold experiment and, though the world would have to wait until the 19th century to re-discover the ‘erased’ pharaoh, the philosophical waves of that period rippled out and dramatically affected the way the incoming 19th dynasty had to repair the worship of the Gods, uniting the people of Egypt under a trinity of Amun-Ra, Khonsu and Mut.
Our fictional story is a tale of politics, friendships, mind and faith. It is set against an historically accurate background, and at a time when Rameses was due to take the throne from the dying Seti .
Returning to Thebes in his swift warship, crewed by his fearsome Talatat mind-warriors, Rameses decides to mount a surprise night-time raid on the island-based Isis temple which has prospered under the sponsoring reign of his father. Rameses suspects that the inner teachings conducted by the revered High Priestess and Priest conceal views that relate to the thoughts of the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten. He plans to insert himself and his warriors of the mind into the islands’s Spring rites as the high priest and priestess begin a cycle of initiation for a chosen apprentice priest who has proved himself worthy of special advancement.
The resulting clash draws everyone, including the young Pharaoh-in-Rising, into a spiralling situation where each is forced to confront their own fears as well as living out the roles which life has allocated them. River of the Sun is the story of a spiritual and political encounter from which none emerge unchanged, including the man who will shortly be Pharaoh, the mighty Rameses II, whose secret name for himself is ‘the unchosen’.
Through the eyes and minds of those surrounding the chosen priest and the ‘unchosen’ Pharaoh, the River of the Sun takes us on a tense and compelling journey to the heart of power and its eternal struggle with truth.
The chapters of the book will be serialised in this blog. The finished work is planned to be available in paperback and Kindle in the Spring of 2016.
River of the Sun, serialised here, and its associated images, is the intellectual property of Stephen Tanham and is ©Copyright material.