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Part Four

Samples > Chapter One

Preparing The Field


With my skin softened, the two Priestesses came for me and walked me to a mat under a sycamore tree. They rubbed jasmine-scented oil all over my body, including my head, and asked me to stand. The Priestesses picked up sharp flints and began the process of depilation: scraping off a layer of skin with all the dirt and hair. The others created an awful noise with their instruments. It was the music of derision against the dangers of dirt and excrement. The old, unclean Heroo became ritually pure. Although the process was painful, I was used to it from my annual service to the Divine Falcon, the God of our Falcon Province at whose Temple I was High Priest for fifteen years.

Another Priestess came to anoint me, this time with lotus oil. The sistra no longer tinkled. They chimed and jingled as the young Priestesses shook the wooden handles vigorously. Others clapped their hands with joy and sang songs welcoming the pure of body, the pure of heart. They were all naked except for a leather belt decorated with beads around their hips. We formed a procession and moved to the main temple. I also remained naked, hairless, glistening with oil in the morning sunshine. The procession entered through the Main Pylon and walked through each of the three courtyards, each smaller but higher than the previous one. Then we proceeded into the Hall of Columns, the first of three great covered halls leading to Hathor’s Shrine, to the altar of the Goddess of Love. After crossing the first Hall, we turned left and right again into the long, sloping corridor to the roof where the chamber of conception stood deep within a complex of low, sandstone rooms. I felt ready for anything, although I did not know what the Goddess had prepared for me.

Large sandstone blocks formed both the floor and the walls of this roof complex. Direct sunlight penetrated the antechamber through its door, but each subsequent room became darker and darker. The only light that came into the chamber of conception filtered through the cubit-wide ceiling vent. The sun's morning journey was only half completed. It had not yet entered the chamber on this day, so the light remained gray. The brilliantly painted carvings on the square walls were barely visible until my eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness.

Across the room I could see the west wall carved with the act of conception. Ast, Great of Magic, the most beloved Goddess in all of Egypt, perched on the erect phallus of the reclining Aseer, her husband and brother. She took the form of a kite with her wings widespread in order to conceive their son and heir, Heroo. That pose was a variation on the ancient story of how Ast had revived her dead husband and equipped him with a functioning phallus. The south wall was carved with the scene where Ast had retrieved Aseer from Byblos and freed him from the coffin in which Sutekh had imprisoned him alive. The north wall showed Ast hiding among the marshes of the Great River with her son, Heroo. My eyes returned to Aseer’s erect phallus. ‘Am I going to lie on the altar in the center of the chamber like Aseer? Who will descend on my phallus?’ I wondered. Mereeyet and I had practiced a number of variations: copulating for divine effect, for practical fertility, for wisdom and for the sheer fun of it. I figured there must be a variation for a male child and I was ready to participate in it.

Musicians and dancers entered the spacious chamber and quietly sat under the conception wall. A Priestess placed a comfortable chair in front of the musicians, facing the entry and the altar, and bid me to sit down. The drum rhythm rose slowly, the music started softly and the three female dancers moved out from behind me, their undulations almost imperceptible as they came into sight. More light began to filter through the ceiling vent as the sun moved toward its apex. Soon a thin shaft would flood one side of the waist-high, stone altar. The pace of the tambourine increased, the pitch of the double-reed pipe jumped an octave and a shrill note came faster and faster and ran from the lower to the upper scale in a pleasant, rhythmic fashion.

The three dancers wore heavy, black wigs. Their eyelids and eyebrows were black with fresh kohl. A diaphanous linen robe covered two of them, but left nothing to the imagination. The third was naked with only a snake belt tied around her waist. All three of them had an image of the Goddess Hathor, their Mistress, tattooed on their inner left thighs. They began to tell a story with their hands tracing magical patterns in the air. Someone behind them spread a thick, white linen cloth upon the altar. The moment the first shaft of light entered through the ceiling vent, it exploded on this white altar cover and diffused into every part of the brilliantly painted room that was above the level of the altar. My eyes had been fixed on the naked dancer’s breasts, but the light behind her darkened my view of her, so my eyes fell on her fingertips, the part of her silhouette that now commanded my attention. Like bird's wings, those fingers folded outwards from her perfumed and oiled body, then became graceful ibis birds circling around the marshland looking for nesting places. Her two arms, like two birds, played out a mating dance. With each movement the dancers' hands and arms drew me more and more into the story, then with symbols and strange gestures, hypnotized me. My body became rigid, my mind freed.

My body felt like a clay amphora, a crude vase that held both my mortal flesh and my soul. I watched helplessly as the lead dancer's left hand drew my Ka, my free spirit, out from the prison of my flesh. I experienced air and light, freedom and movement as never before. No sooner did I become aware of this freedom, the dancer's right hand sent my Ka floating back into the dark, airless, restraining walls of the amphora. A deep sense of depression flooded my heart, but only for a moment, before some unseen force spewed me out again. Then my etheric body, my Khabiyet, ballooned out and filled the universe without the least threat that it might burst. I felt as if I were larger than anything I had ever known or dared to imagine. As soon as the euphoria of limitlessness propelled me towards ecstasy, without warning I hurtled back through the amphora neck into eternal darkness. Out into omnipotence the dancers sent me, then back into fleeting impotence. Suddenly my consciousness was inside my body. I floated in and out of my own throat with every breath. I entered my own lungs and was blown out again. I became a fold of my own intestines, contracting and expanding in turn, pushing putrefaction along its divine course until I could see my entire life. There was my body, having come along the similarly twisted route of time and experience. I was able to see my life as an eternal quest for renewal and foresee the time when I would resign myself to the final putrification, from which only the skilled hands of the embalmers might save me.

I became aware of my heart beating, my phallus throbbing. The three dancers retreated to the right, the south wall. Someone removed the white linen cloth from the altar and the light beam, in spite of becoming stronger as the sun moved overhead, stopped at the dull gray stone of the altar. Everything below the flat altar top was now completely dark. Everything above, eerily lit. Under this umbrella of dully reflected light three shadowy forms entered the chamber and moved to the north wall on my left. All I could see were their shaven heads that began to bob up and down from the shadowy darkness below into the soft, eerie light and back. The dancers at the south wall started to undulate gracefully, back and forth, slowly moving towards the center, behind the altar, towards these bobbing heads. At times both the female dancers and the shaven-headed new forms sank below the light into the shadows as if shadow could swallow light and transform whatever is lit into shadow. Even the music sounded eerie, making my spine shiver. As the dancers sank into the shadow and rose again into the light, I recognized the shaven headed ones! They symbolized the Baw, the souls of those who hover around couples at the time of conception.

One of the dancers embraced a shaven head against her breasts and began a slow spin while the others continued their free-floating movements and slowly made their way out of the room. The light waned as someone on the roof covered the ceiling vent with layers of cloth. In the ensuing darkness I could just make out the shapes of the remaining couple. They parted and one of them jumped onto the altar and continued to spin slowly in place. Then the light returned in its full noontime glory. It shone upon this risen being on the altar. It was the shaven-headed dancer, clad in a thin layer of aged mummy wrapping as a symbol that as a soul, it had lived before, died, was mummified and now lives as a discarnate being, a Ba, looking for a new body to inhabit. A silver thread floated behind this apparition, a sign of new bondage to the earth, the cord upon which the soul travels to and from the womb. The dancer’s arms moved slowly into the air to greet the sun's disk, the Aten of daytime. I sat up from my entranced stupor. The dancer was male! Instead of the soft breasts, strong muscles rippled on his wrapped chest. His girdle bulged forward at his groin. A discarnate soul had been ceremonially attracted into a male body!

The two dancers unwrapped the ancient linen from the vigorous male body on the altar. One of them picked up a mirror. A flash of brilliant light blinded me. Another turned me around to face the west wall. When my eyes had readjusted, I found myself in silence. The musicians and the dancers were gone. The ceremony of attracting a male soul, a Ba, was over.

I stared breathless and speechless at Aseer’s erect phallus before me. The morning’s ritual began to make sense. I had a glimpse of Horemheb before he was born, before he was even conceived, before he even had a name.

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