Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Once, Under a Theban Sky

'This is the day that our Lord God made long ago, a day that makes my heart happy to have seen, little one.' Meriamun whispered the words but in my overcharged mind they boomed. I raised my head from the bowed position. I had held as still as possible, as still as I could given the energy that rippled in my veins, kneeling on the stone floor whilst the high priest had completed the requisite offerings, voiced the words that I had spent years waiting to hear.

For a large man, his hands were gentle, swift as the Oryx, as he tied what remained of my hair into a topknot. His eyes, the colour of our blessed river in Shemu, smiled down upon me. A warm breeze crept into the cramped space, tickling my newly shorn head and filling my nostrils with the sweetness of jasmine oil. Clear reminders, clear confirmation that, after so long I had fulfilled my promise and had been given, been bestowed with the great honour of the title 'God's wife of Amun'.

Meriamun twisted his torso and somehow made to kneel next to me. 'Now we prayer as equals, little one' he murmured in my right ear. We were then prostrate in front of the one who had created everything and Meriamun intoned a short prayer as conclusion to my anointment, extolling the God to forgive us, absolve us of all our sins.
As was my wont, I added a silent coda to the lady that dwelt in my heart, Isis. I saw no sin in this.

We stood, and Meriamun clasped me in his arms. Though he was past 50, his strength had not left him. I squealed, 'do you mean to crush me Lord priest,' in mock protest but my voice betrayed joy. Joy that he still felt able to hug me in the way he had done so since I was a very little one.

Moving out of the shrine room and into the temple courtyard, we were greeted with cheering and clapping. The spontaneity caught at my breath. Meriamun calmed our temple folk with his arms outstretched. I looked across to my right where a group of my sisters had gathered with sistrums between two of the columns. At a nod from the high priest they began a chant in praise of Amun, of Ra, of all the gods. In celebration of my elevation. Soon everyone had joined them and the song, echoing from the high ceiling, resounded and mixed with the musk of myrrh that had been burning in the censors all morning. I attempted to sing also but my voice was a pomegranate stone, lodged in my throat. I battled the tears in my eyes.

When it was over, many of those assembled came forward to wish me well. Though they still spoke with the same voices they always had, I heard the reverence in their tone, saw in their eyes that, for them, unlike Meriamun, I had changed. An invisible curtain fell in the air between them and I, and I accepted that the joy of my new position would always be tinged with the sadness of distance from the self I was, from how I was perceived by my brothers and sisters before.

Outside, in the temple grounds and beyond, there was a furious hurrying and scurrying. Co-incidentally, or perhaps ordained by Isis, my lifeboat, my barque day, when I had crossed from votary to priestess, was also the day when, here in Thebes, we were expecting the goddess-on-earth herself, our Pharaoh, our Queen, Cleopatra.

A Nubian guard came quickly up to Meriamun and spoke. I was a few feet away and could not hear him clearly above the hubbub. His words came as gibberish, and sounded like 'yabba dabba do'. The old priest searched my eyes puzzlingly. I went to his assistance, feeling like I had begun my new role at last. A comfortable feeling, like when I would run my childish fingers over my Father's soft leather pouch. That in which he kept important papyri.

The guard towered above me and looked sceptical at first until he recognised the headdress of God's wife. He nodded in respect and repeated his question. I translated for Meriamun - having had a Nubian grandmother helped - 'his name is Calyp and he says there is a problem with the amount of food ordered for the Queen's banquet.' But Meriamun had moved away, called by another problem to deal with no doubt. Happy for me to deal with this one, I thought, just as he should be. 'Calyp,' I smiled up at the guard, 'show me please.'

It was still early morning. As I walked with Calyp towards the kitchens, the expectation of the Queen's coming was growing, almost an ululation. There was so much to make ready, so much to ensure as right that I knew I would see my whole life this day. But, I was busting with happiness, replete with the nurturing my parents, their parents and kind, dear Meriamun had given me, and this would sustain me. I was sure.

When evening came, I would take my place as part of the welcoming when the Queen approached, carried aloft by her retinue. The torches that would light her way to the city were prepared. A flickering fantasy of her power. This thought intruded on my way back from resolving the kitchen problem.

'For how can she be Isis, the Lady of two lands,' I mused,'it is political whimsy.' I chided myself, if Cleopatra had deemed herself one with the Goddess then, as she is our Pharaoh, it must be so. I remembered the words of my Mother long ago. 'Be still Ankensenptah, be good of heart, be open of mind.' I chimed the Goddess's name but visualised my Mother, not Cleopatra, as I wandered off to the next task. The fattened bison required the correct offerings and words of prayer before it was sacrificed to bless the Queen's feast.

Ra was rising above. Heat touched my forehead. I looked forward to the promise of some tea. Later, much later after the grind, the gradual grind of this special day.

Copyright Gabrielle Mooney 2013

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