I watch as he runs. I am tired of his slow-witted learning. Act Four is half way through, but already he has exhausted the patience of everyone but his mother….
Where did that come from! One of the features of a central role in these mystery plays is a certain degree of exhaustion. Even if you are familiar with it, the script will have many points where you will wish you had studied it in more detail. Sometimes the fine details cannot be pre-written into the script, and have to be adapted to the conditions on the day.
We three – the annual writers in rotation – are by no means above making a mistake or three… and these crop up as part of the ‘testing’ that must apply if this ritual drama experience is to be raised beyond a simple ‘reading’ of the text.
We learned our temple craft from Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, the former head of the Servants of the Light organisation. I remember her saying, at the beginning of one such intensive weekend:
“Long before the end, you will be tired, very tired – and that exhaustion is a part of the process. Do not forget to learn from what is happening to the player as well as the character…”
The character you bring to life in these mystery plays is what Dolores would have called a thought form. Sue’s, recent post, Lord of the Deep: Getting under the Skin touched on this process. When you realise how much power you can bring to such an occasion, you have a double responsibility on your head and in your heart. You must guard and guide the role… and your self playing it. Both are part of the emerging alchemy of intent and delivery.
So now we face a double danger. Gilgamesh charges through the labyrinthine passageways of the temple of Ishtar, not realising that he is in a magical place that is not subject to the laws he knows and can control. Clutched in his sweat-streaked right hand is Enkidu’s axe… He pursues a woman he thinks is his enemy – Shamhat. But this is not the high priestess but the goddess to whom the Temple of Ishtar is dedicated.
But now I must surrender to his presence and, literally, be there for him…
She is inhuman, this Shamhat who can outrun her King. As the passageways get darker, I know I am losing her in the endless triangles along which she flees… Surely, we must be near the very centre of the temple – the Holy of Holies. My feet slide on the warm stone and I arrest my movement facing one who stands before me, unafraid–so familiar and yet, other-worldly. The Bull of Heaven is like a man, but his face is masked in pure white, as though a pot has been thrown to demonstrate the perfection of the art…
He calls to me from across this chamber, “Gilgamesh, you have offended the Divine Council.”
I snarl back that I will cast his corpse down the narrow streets, so that the city orphans may gorge on it. My taunts seem to leave him unmoved. I would be disappointed if it were other than this…
I am about to tell him of the bravery of my brother, who died leading the fight against Humbaba, the tree-demon, but, as though knowing my thoughts he says, “You have slaughtered Hu-Wa-Wa, the watchman of the Cedar Forest.”
I raise my weapon. It is time to silence this half-animal fool. I will not have the memory of Enkidu besmirched. But the weight of the blow is wrong, and only then do I realise I am clutching an axe – Enkidu’s axe; the one with which he led the attack on the demon. My soul soars, knowing that Enkidu is somehow here with me, in the form of his fearsome weapon. A warrior knows how to tune his strike – learning in an instant how to make fine changes to its arc and balance. I have earned and defended my kingship…
The blow splits the head of the Bull of Heaven and he sinks to his knees. Not even granting him time to die, I cast away the dripping axe to rip off the pure, white mask he wears…
And die another death… Before me is the stricken and bloody face of my brother Enkidu. I have killed him with his own axe.
In death – again – I can see he was, indeed, my twin; that the word brother does not encompass the wholeness of my love for him.
But how have I twice caused his death? Only beneath the spires of Ishtar can I imagine that this has been arranged by the Fate Dancers to show me the pitiful place to which my will and desires have brought me. Sobbing, my life seems to spill out from eyes that have seen too much, the hot tears falling through my fingers and becoming lost in the old dust that covers the stone floor of the inner temple of Ishtar. It is a fitting picture of my life…
Unseen hands raise me, the Fate Dancers are directing my life more openly, now. With eyes than can cry no more I watch as I am placed at the left side of a portal. Disbelieving, I see that a ghostly Enkidu has been raised to stand at the portal’s right side. Like two statues unearthed from the ground, we stand, undead, as the Fates and their charges pass through this portal of inner learning to their blessings.
Only the ghostly Enkidu and the worthless Gilgamesh remain unblessed…
The temple Guardian looks at me with something like pity in his eyes, seeing my exhaustion… and his. The King’s fingers clutch at where his sword used to rest on the wide leather belt… But, for now, there is nothing.
Other parts in this series:
Part One> Part Two> Part Three> Part Four> (opens in a new tab)” href=”https://stevetanham.wordpress.com/2019/05/09/gilgamesh-descending-5/” target=”_blank”>Part five> (opens in a new tab)”>Part Six> This is Part Seven
©Copyright Stephen Tanham
This narrative is a personal journey through that ritual drama in the persona of King Gilgamesh.
Header image by Sue Vincent, © Copyright.
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.