Sunday, June 17, 2007

Marshes and Lotuses and Kythara

The people I went to college with were descended directly from Ancient Egyptians. At least behaviorally.

According to a summary of Betsy Bryan's work on MSNBC, , rites at the Temple of Mut included "getting drunk on barley beer, then "traveling through the marshes" (a euphemism for having sex), then passing out, then waking up the next morning for religious services."

In defence of the women, they may be throwing up because they've done a whole bunch of lotus root, not just beer. And at least they aren't being carried home like the men.

The theory is that the revelers were reenacting an earlier religious incident when mankind was almost wiped out by Sekhmet. Quick thinking gods got Sekhmet plastered, and she passed out before finishing the job.

Here is E. A. Wallis Budge in his Legends of the Gods, describing the destruction. He calls Sekhmet "Hathor", because he does not distinguish between her terrible aspect as Sekhmet and her motherly aspect as Hathor:

"When Ra entered the Great Temple, the gods made obeisance to him, and took up their positions on each side of him, and informed him that they awaited his words. Addressing Nu, the personification of the World- ocean, Ra bade them to take notice of the fact that the men and women whom his Eye had created were murmuring against him. He then asked them to consider the matter and to devise a plan of action for him, for he was unwilling to slay the rebels without hearing what his gods had to say. In reply the gods advised Ra to send forth his Eye to destroy the blasphemers, for there was no eye on earth that could resist it, especially when it took the form of the goddess Hathor. Ra accepted their advice and sent forth his Eye in the form of Hathor to destroy them, and, though the rebels had fled to the mountains in fear, the Eye pursued them and overtook them and destroyed them. Hathor rejoiced in her work of destruction, and on her return was praised by Ra, for what she had done."

But Ra became worried that she would destroy the whole of mankind. He did not have the power to stop her. He would have to make her incapable of feasting on men. He sent runners to bring red ochre, which was "given to Sekti, a goddess of Heliopolis, to crush and grind up, and when this was done [it was] mixed with human blood, and put in a large brewing of beer which the women slaves had made from wheat. In all they made 7,000 vessels of beer. When Ra saw the beer he approved of it, and ordered it to be carried up the river to where the goddess Hathor was still, it seems, engaged in slaughtering men. During the night he caused this beer to be poured out into the meadows of the Four Heavens, and when Hathor came she saw the beer with human blood and mandrakes in it, and drank of it and became drunk, and paid no further attention to men and women.

In welcoming the goddess, Ra, called her "Amit," i.e., "beautiful one," and from this time onward "beautiful women were found in the city of Amit," which was situated in the Western Delta, near Lake Mareotis. Ra also ordered that in future at every one of his festivals vessels of "sleep-producing beer" should be made, and that their number should be the same as the number of the handmaidens of Ra. Those who took part in these festivals of Hathor and Ra drank beer in very large quantities, and under the influence of the "beautiful women," i.e., the priestesses, who were supposed to resemble Hathor in their physical attractions, the festal celebrations degenerated into drunken and licentious orgies."

Ra was sick at what had transpired, and shortly afterward left the world to live in heaven.

The scans are taken from Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, Volume I by Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson, 1854.

Oh, look, chitarras! We've talked about those before!

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