An Egyptian Tale of Bloodlust, Senility and perhaps even a Flood
20 June, 2008
Ra had ruled the gods for countless years. He was stern and fair in matters of justice, and wise in the council he heeded from the other gods. But now the ravages of time were affecting even the mightiest of the gods for Ra was growing weaker and older. He spent many hours asleep and less time attending to the matters of state and running creation than he used to. His Eye still blazed from above though and he gazed upon the humans who worked the land. All was in order along the fertile river banks, but when Ra’s gaze wandered to the desert he saw some humans plotting a coup. This went against the ancient order and Ra was furious. He summoned his council of gods and spoke to them.
“Oh woe is me, the humans are plotting against the sacred order. After all I have done for them, after I created them from my own tears they turn against me. You that I have summoned are the wisest gods of my council, created by me – as the humans were created by my tears so you gods were created by all my other fluids (and I do mean all…). What punishment should I mete out to these ungrateful mortals?”
Apis spoke up, “Oh mighty Ra, should we destroy them utterly? Send a flood perhaps to wipe them out?”
“No Apis, that is a stupid idea. I only want to punish the wicked, and besides a Flood is a good thing to happen since it makes the land around the river fertile. No, only an insane god would countenance such a thing.”
Thoth gave his council, “Ra of the Heavens, perhaps we could send a lion to diminish their numbers?”
“Umn, not that terrifying really, unless it was a lion who was also a god. Perhaps you are onto something there…”
Ptah spoke, “Eternal Ra, you know that the only punishment that is fitting is for your own Burning Eye to scorch these wicked people from the earth.” The other gods nodded in agreement.
Then Hathor, Ra’s beautiful daughter spoke. “Father, the council of gods is wise, and your Burning Eye should indeed be the instrument of destruction. But you are tired and sometimes look the wrong way when you are trying to concentrate. Let me take your Eye and be your vengeance. It would be a shame for the pyramids to be burned to a crisp because you needed your afternoon nap and your attention wavered.”
“Wise council indeed”, replied Ra, “Very well, so it shall be.”
And Ra took his Eye and gave it to the enchanting Hathor – and with the power of the burning sun she changed – no longer was she the goddess of love and affection, now she was Sekhmet, goddess of war and destruction. Her head was that of a Lion (Thoth nodded in approval), and her eyes shot fire. She descended to the desert and began to destroy the humans who had been prepared to bring chaos to the land.
“Well, that was tiring”, said Ra, “I’m off for a nap. Wake me when my daughter returns…”
Ra slowly returned to consciousness. He could hear mumbling around him, voices whispering “You tell him”, and “No, you tell him!” Ra stood up and the gods who had come to wake him shuffled quickly back from his bed.
“Oh mighty Ra, there’s been a bit of a problem” said Osiris. “While Sekhmet has indeed carried out your wise plan and killed the evil ones who plotted against the order of the universe, she has, umn, gotten a bit carried away. In fact we can’t stop her from killing people, it seems she has gotten a taste for human blood.”
“Oh dear, well this wont do. And none of you can stop her eh? All right, I’ll just get the Eye of Ra and stop her with that.”
“Er, she has the Eye of Ra, that’s why we can’t stop her, oh mighty and aged one.”
“All right then, I have a cunning plan. Bastet, bring in the harvest and start making as much beer as possible. Seth, go and fetch as much red dye as you can. And Apis…”
“Yes, my lord?”
“Prepare a flood!”
And so it came to pass. The beer was dyed red and put into the Nile. And a great flood came upon the river and it burst its banks spilling the red beer all over the land. When Sekhmet saw this she thought it was blood and quickly ran over to drink it. And so she did, gallons and gallons of beer, she drank it all, reveling in the taste, not noticing that it was not the blood of humanity. Eventually she grew quite drunk and collapsed, and as she was asleep Ra took back his magical Eye and Sekhmet became Hathor once again.
The next day while Hathor the beautiful stayed at home nursing a hangover, Ra addressed the gods.
“My fellow immortals, through my own negligence the humans were nearly wiped from the face of the world. Never again should this happen, and rather than make some grandiose promise (which some other god will only end up breaking) I shall instead retire. Gub, my grandson, will become the new King of the Gods and rule in my stead. As for me I shall go up into the heavens and flow through the sky each day, watching over you all.”
And so he did, and the Gods never again made such a mistake as to nearly kill the people they so loved.
Image copyright Hrana Janto, used by permission of the artist. http://hranajanto.com