Entranced by the living spell that is the movement of the Fate Dancers across their patterned marble floor, I, Gilgamesh – for the other is passive – surrender to the music of destiny and allow my eyes to be transported to a place of wildness; a place so far from the order and safety that I have built here from my children…
There is a constant whirling, and in that spinning wind I watch as six days and seven nights revolve around my throne. As the seventh takes hold, I am dragged into this killing wind which leaves me in the wilderness and watching a scene in which I may not participate, because it is controlled by Shamhat… My eyes scream at the realisation of what she is doing… triumphing over my own command, working with the Fates to unseat the sanity of her king.
The air of the watering hole is quiet, as the dance of the veils is enacted. The wild man – huge and powerful, every muscle straining to hold back his power of movement – watches, as entranced as I am by what neither of us can control.
My loins surge as I see that the woman I have loved – whose divine flesh I have worshipped like no other – has dressed herself in the thinnest of veils… Seven of them. They do not hide per pale skin; they set it on fire.
Beginning with the outer – the white veil, she moves around the beast-who-looks-like Gilgamesh, holding him paralysed by her beauty; but more by the gradual revealing of her body as she strips the thin, shining gauze from her vibrant flesh. My moaning becomes the wind, spinning around the edge of the hollow that holds the watering hole at which the Enkidu beast drinks.
My impotence is complete when the white is added as a cloak to his shoulders, followed by the red, then the grey, orange, green, black and finally yellow. Shamhat stands naked before the savage…
Then, when the screaming wind can get no louder, Shamhat lays him down on the soft earth and makes exquisite love to him… as she once did to a young king named Gilgamesh…
Far away, my throne is silent, now, Tears make my vision swim. The Fate Dancers have come to rest. They are frozen in time, looking at me. They do not act against me; they act from somewhere else, but their actions have ripped my being in two.
Time has ceased to have meaning. Days pass, here, yet the Fate Dancers remain frozen, until there comes a noise from the city walls, and a great cry goes up in the streets outside the palace. The dancers begin to move again and I know I must go out and meet this man, this anointed man, who the spinning winds say is my twin.
The vizier’s soft voice reminds me there is a bride whose marriage ceremony is complete, whose husband has been set aside to allow the king to enter their chamber… and to enter her, as the laws of Uruk – my laws – demand.
Despite the soft promise, I pull a leaden body from the throne and stride, heavy-hearted, through the palace and towards the bride’s chamber which lies across the square. The crowd is excited, but not by my presence. The Divine Council – that bunch of effete Elders – are pulling and pawing at the creature that Shamhat has supposedly civilised – this Enkidu…
They are saying, “How much like Gilgamesh he is!”
But he is not. There is none like the King. Tears form in eyes that have been, until now, all-seeing. How can they be so disloyal? Have they forgotten the glory of their ruler? Have they forgotten my hand-hewn mighty walls and how well they protect the citizens of Uruk?
The pawed one sees me and tears himself away from the Elders, glaring–then charging at me. The aggression is unmistakable. He knows my intention and intends to prevent it. The crowd retreats to a safe distance as we circle each other, four great arms extended.
In his rage, he shouts that he has been raised up by his divine union with Shamhat; and that I will not be allowed to debase the bride who is entitled to the same and should be waiting for her husband – not her king… My response is a blow to his bearded face.
We fight with such ferocity that the crowd scatters. Our battle becomes a mirror of the Fate Dancers’ whirlwind… but this is my city, this is my skill, this is my art. Mighty though he is, I use the whirling motion – learned from the Fate Dancers – to tire him. Then, at the moment when he is most distracted, I draw on my hatred of the power that made me watch the lovemaking of the wild man and my Shamhat and use it to perform my own special magic, driving him to the ground…
… But Enkidu’s hands, which the Trapper said could tame wild beasts, pull me down with him, and we fall to our knees…
And in our laughter, I think of Shamhat… and I steal from her this lover and make of him my brother.
Other parts in this series:
This narrative is a personal journey through that ritual drama in the persona of Gilgamesh.
Header image by Sue Vincent, copyright the Silent Eye.
Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.
The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.