Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Myth Week: Ancient Egypt

Posted by: Veronica Scott
I’ve always been fascinated by the ancient Egyptian civilization and its rich culture and mythology. In my “Gods of Egypt” series, I bring the deities into the action in various ways, much as the Egyptians believed, or hoped, they would participate.

Personally I’m very fond of the Crocodile God Sobek, since he was the hero of my first-ever published novel, Priestess of the Nile. I even have a Sobek faience amulet bead from the time frame of my novels, 1500BCE. (It’s probably a well-crafted fake from the late 1800’s, although it came with documented provenance, but I will say the first time I held it in my hand, I felt something for a moment.) He also plays a supporting role in the sequel, Magic of the Nile, which recently won the 2015 Hearts Through History “Romancing the Novel” award in its category. This novel also includes the goddesses Hathor, Tawaret, Sekhmet and Ma’at at various points in the action.

One of the most interesting and useful aspects of Egyptian mythology for me as an author is that the accepted details changed and shifted over the centuries, and sometimes various regions would have completely differing beliefs about the same god or goddess. This allows me quite a bit of freedom in crafting my stories.

Ma’at is my favorite goddess, I think. She represented truth and the maintenance of order in the universe, and was present at the judging of a person’s heart after death. She’s associated with the golden scales used to weigh the heart against her curling red ostrich feather. For my most recent novel set in ancient Egypt, Ghost of the Nile, I asked myself how I could involve her in setting a story into motion, and the following excerpt reveals what I decided, as she talks with Periseneb, an Egyptian soldier who was murdered:

“... I’m the goddess of second chances for the human race.” She raised her elegant eyebrows. “Although such chances are few and far between.”
            Despite the warmth of the brightly lit room, a shiver worked its way down Periseneb’s spine. “You wish to right the wrong of my murder? Bring my murderer to account for the crime?”
            She shook her head, the golden beads in her wig chiming like little bells. “Your death is done, past, woven into the fabric of life in the upper world these two-hundred years and more.”
            He staggered, locking one hand on the edge of the table to steady himself. “So long?”
            “Time here and time there run differently, warrior. Only the Nile remains unchanging.” She moved to the black-and-gold chair, seating herself and leaning against the richly decorated back. “Yet, your death is connected in a way to events now.” Ma’at nodded her head as if some decision had been reached. “I need a champion.”
            “To do what? How can a human accomplish something the gods or their servants can’t?” Action sounded good, but he was wary after his time in the outer dark. She didn’t invite him to sit—he didn’t think he was brave enough to sit in the presence of a Great One—so he assumed parade rest stance. When in doubt, Periseneb’s code was to rely on what the military had taught him.
            “Matters are in flux in Egypt. A new pharaoh sits on the throne and he’s repelled the forces of the god Qemtusheb, the great enemy of my King, Osiris. For a time.” Ma’at raised one finger as if her listener might rejoice prematurely. “Evil constantly seeks to re-enter the Black Lands, seize its richness and feed, grow stronger.”
            Taking little interest in the affairs of a pharaoh he’d never met, Periseneb spread his hands in a helpless gesture. “I can’t fight the Hyksos god.”
            “Gods have agents. Pawns. Sometimes even the innocent commit acts advancing a Dark One’s agenda, merely because the mortal mind lacks understanding of a god’s agenda. Each of us on the other side of the scale must do our part to balance the evil.” As her shoulders slumped as if with great weariness, Ma’at sighed. Then she straightened her back and smiled. “To business. I need a champion to go to the Nome of the Shield…”
            “My home province,” he said, knowing his voice was unsteady. Memories flooded into his mind, past the blocks he’d erected to keep away thoughts of home and family. No coward when it came to physical pain, he feared the agony any dream of his birthplace brought to his heart.
            Apparently oblivious to his inner struggle, Ma’at nodded. “Events are in motion there. I wish to influence the outcome, but it isn’t the kind of situation I can affect directly.” She tapped the table with her stylus. “Nor can I be absent from my duties here for so long as this task may require.”
            He found it hard to imagine a goddess walking in his home province for any time at all. Shield Nome was dry, dusty, and far removed from Thebes and the known places of power. “What do you need done?”
            Head tilted, smile on her ruby red lips, she said, “You to complete your interrupted journey home.”
            Disappointed, since he’d been thinking of battles with demons or other epic deeds, he said, “That’s all? Show up two-hundred years late and say, here I am? Who would know me now? Who would care? I have no place there, Great One.” His voice cracked a little on the last sentence and he clamped his lips closed, taking a deep breath. Thinking about the simple dreams he’d cherished as a man hurt like a knife to the heart. All gone, turned to dust.

Of course nothing is that simple and she hasn’t told him everything, because the gods enjoy being mysterious….he’ll be seeking her help more than once in the novel, and also invoking a few other Egyptian gods, not only on his own behalf but for Neithamun, the woman with whom he falls in love.

I also have to say I LOVE my covers, done by Frauke Spanuth of Croco Designs!

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