Moses Mondays: Letting Egyptians Be Egyptians

One of the main problems I have faced in writing this story has been the challenge of letting the Egyptians be real Egyptians and not straw men to play off of. I have wanted my Egyptians to believe in their gods, their priests to be true followers of the religion of Egypt, their people to be representative of what Egyptians of the thirteenth century B.C. would have really been like. I hope I have succeeded and will continue to do so as I complete this book along with rest of the books in the series.

With that in mind, we come to an Egyptian temple, the abode of the patronness of our princes, the goddess Satis. Here we meet our first Egyptian priests. In this chapter I begin to lay the groundwork for the acceptance of Moses by those who would normally be opposed to his continued existence. Momentous events have been set in motion and the first skirmishes in a long and historic war have begun, the spiritual war between the God of the Hebrews and Egypt, represented by her gods, her priests, and her pharaohs.

See also Chapter 5: The Hebrew Village

Destiny’s Passage
Copyright 1993-2004 William G. Meisheid

Chapter 6: The Temple of Satis

Despite Asati’s anxious desire to go straight to the temple of Satis, she returned home to do the necessary preparations to be seen in public. No woman of the Court of Pharaoh would dare go out in public until her wig, facial makeup, and clothing were in proper order. Even her impatience, now inflamed by finding the child, could not deny this necessity.

She rushed her servants through the preparations and then hurried her bearers, sending the lead soldier ahead to clear the way. This would enable her to arrive at the Temple of Satis while it was still early, since the sun was still only a short distance above the horizon.

The urgent excitement of the morning soon gave way to the rhythmic gate of her bearers as her underlying weariness overcame her. A short distance into the trip to the temple she fell asleep.

Since Satis, Asati’s patron goddess, was the protectress of the first cataract of the Nile, a somewhat distant post, she did not hold a major place in the Egyptian pantheon. In recent years, however, she had been growing in power and influence and was now seen as the goddess of the annual life-giving inundation of the Nile upon which all of Egypt depended for a good growing season.

Religion in Egypt was bound by deeply embedded ancient traditions, yet in many ways it was extremely flexible. As long as no god or goddess tried to claim exclusive rights, as the solar deity Aten had done under the attempts of the false Pharaoh Akhenaten forty years earlier, the priests and people could adjust to the continual ebb and flow of the Egyptian pantheon. While every divinity had adherents and temples, none claimed to be the sole deity. Indeed, Thebes, the City of a Hundred Gates, many now called the City of a Hundred Gods. Only the solitary Hebrew God, the invisible, nameless one, tried to stand alone.

Asati’s father, Ramses I, had exerted a considerable effort to unite the Upper and Lower Kingdoms, the two traditional regions of Egypt, under his rule. He had begun life humbly, a scribe and the son of a soldier. Though later he became General of the Armies of the Two Lands and Vizier to the childless Pharaoh Horemheb, Ramses had little more than the designation of Horemheb, himself the son of a soldier, to secure his throne. Already old at the beginning of his reign, her father had ruled less than two years. His designated heir and son, Seti, was a soldier himself and named for the god Seth, the brother and enemy of the popular god Osiris. Asati’s father had to quickly secure the allegiance of the priests of the other prominent gods, especially those of Amon-Ra to solidify his position as Pharaoh, a course her brother diligently followed.

Asati was born shortly after her father had returned from a successful campaign against bandits based in the southern Kurkor Oasis. On the trip home down the Nile, Pramesse had stopped at the estate of Mut-Khendra, an old friend, who had been given governorship of the First Nome as a reward by the Pharaoh Horemheb to his former general. This was Pramesse’s first chance to visit his friend since he had taken the post two years earlier.

Mut-Khendra had obtained the estate of a former official of the despised Pharaoh Akhenaten, located on an island 12 arura upstream from Nubt, the administrative center of the Nome. One of the chief features of the island was a small but beautiful temple to the goddess Satis, the protectress of the first cataract, another 50 arura upstream. Mut-Khendra had become a devoted follower of the local goddess, and he took Pramesse to an early morning festival at the temple, a ceremony of blessing for the coming inundation.

While at the temple Pramesse had found himself being drawn to Satis. Since Mut-Khendra was giving a small banquet in his honor that evening, Pramesse asked that an invitation be extended to Sostris, the First Priest of the temple. That night during the meal, there was a thunderstorm. It rained for almost a fourth of an hour, a rare and propitious event at this time of year.

Sostris had declared it to be a good omen, coming as it did on the day of the festival. He said that it boded well for the future of Pramesse and then, to everyone’s surprise, he uttered a prophecy. He predicted that Pramesse would become like the life-giving rains that bring forth the inundation. Greatness for Egypt would spring from his seed.

Pramesse, impressed by the exuberance of the young priest’s words, told him that his wife was due of child any day now. If it was a girl he would dedicate her to Satis.

Nine days later, Pramesse’s wife gave birth to a baby girl, and together they undertook the six days’ journey back up the Nile, where the child was dedicated to the goddess at the Temple of Satis. Since that day, the fortunes of the young priest Sostris had risen with the fortunes of house of Pramesse.

Now Asati was turning to that same priest for help. Before leaving her estate, she had sent a runner to make sure he knew she was coming so that they would be ready to receive her. As the litter stopped and was placed on the ground in front of the temple, the sudden change in rhythm startled Asati from her short nap. She stretched and took a moment to compose herself before opening the curtain.

As she had hoped, Sostris, the First Priest of Satis, was waiting for her, together with a few of his priests, at the entrance to the temple.

Sostris bowed as she stepped from the litter. The priest said, “Come in peace in the name of Satis, my princess. Your servant said you have had an eventful morning.”

Asati paused a moment to send the bearers to rest in the shade. The heat would soon begin to conquer the morning air, and it was no use tiring them further. Then she turned to the First Priest. “Yes, noble one, the morning’s events have followed a strange night. I don’t know where to begin…the child or the dreams and omens.”