Maat

maatThe concept of Maat was central to Ancient Egyptian thought. Often simply translated as justice, Maat actually expresses the proper order of the universe, right thinking, correct action and the regulation of time and space. It has hints of social propriety, the pyramidical nature of interaction between people, the respect that is due to a father, the duties one should show to a son. It encompassed the majesty of the Pharaoh and the loyalty that is owed to him by a subject, as well as his duty to protect and nurture his people. There is no doubt that pharaohs believed that they ruled under the auspices of Maat.

Maat was personified as a goddess from earliest times. A daughter of Ra, Maat came into existence as the cosmos was born. She can be thought of as a female equivalent to wise Thoth; like him, a regulator of the seasons who keeps the stars in their proper courses. She is usually portrayed wearing an ostrich feather on her head, or simply as the feather itself. It is in this form that she is central to the judgement of the dead. It is she who is set in the balance against the heart of the deceased to measure whether he was “justified” in life or not. The place of judgement in the underworld, where Osiris sits, is known as the Hall of Maat.

Though there are few temples to Maat she was widely honoured, so much so that the chief minister of the Pharaoh was given the title High Priest of Maat.

Source: Chronicles of Ancient Egypt by Jonathan Dee

The Magic of Names

Belief in magic was an integral part of Ancient Egyptian culture. It was believed that the essence of any person, animal, object or indeed of the gods themselves was contained within its true name. Ra, for instance, had many names but his real power resided in his hidden name which was engraved upon his heart at the moment of creation. The ancients were convinced that to possess the true name of Ra would make the possessor all powerful.

On a more mundane level, children were given two names, one for general use and the other to be jealously guarded for fear it might be used in malign enchantment.

This belief in the power of names extended to funerary practices. In tomb paintings the gods are repeatedly begged to make the deceased’s name live forever to ensure his or her immortality. This is the primary reason that the pharaohs of old were so keen to build enormous statues, temples and mortuary palaces eternally to enshrine their names. Conversely, disgraced rulers such as Hatshepsut (d. 1458 BC), Akhenaten (d. 1336BC) and even Tutankhamun (d. 1325 BC) were condemned to oblivion by having their names systematically erased from monuments which were originally raised in their honour.

Source: Chronicles of Ancient Egypt by Jonathan Dee

The Amarna Letters

The Amarna letters are about 350 baked clay tablets, found in the ruins of Akhetaten. They are mainly letters written to the king of Egypt from the kings and princes of Assyria, Babylonia, Mitanni, Cyprus, Palestine, Syria and Hatti (the Hittites).

The tablets are written in cuneiform script, (wedge-like shapes), and in Akkadian, the diplomatic language of the day. The more powerful kings called the Egyptian king “Brother”, but their letters could get very frosty – in one, the king of Mitanni is furious with the king of Egypt for detaining a Mitanni messenger for six years. Lesser kings addressed the Egyptian king with more respect, calling him “My God”, or “The Great King”. They begged for help, or tried to turn Egypt against their rivals.

Source: The Usbourne Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt

Symbolic Power

Egyptian art sometimes demonstrates the king’s power by showing him as a powerful animal, such as a lion or sphinx. This was a reminder that he was a god, who could appear in many forms.

The king was also represented as a strong bull, which gave rise to the “Festival of the Tail” – the Heb Sed. Part of the king’s costume was actually a bull’s tail.

During the Sed festival, the king had to perform physical activities, such as a ceremonial run, to renew his strength and show that he was still fit. Sed festivals were supposed to happen when a king had reigned for thirty years. But kings often held them more often, especially if their strength was failing or after some kind of disaster.

Source: The Usbourne Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt

The Predynastic Period

The river Nile, snaking its way across the desert and into the sea, first attracted people to its banks many thousands of years ago. At first, they moved around and survived by hunting animals and gathering what they could to eat. Then, by around 5500BC, people started to settle along the riverbank and grow crops.

Until around 3500BC, things changed slowly. This time is called the Predynastic Period. People farmed the land along the Nile, and began to dig irrigation canals to make more use of its water. They kept animals, too – many sheep, goats and pigs.

There were two main groups of villages – one in the south (Upper Egypt), and one in the north (Lower Egypt). These areas gradually became two kingdoms (which means they were ruled by kings). In Upper Egypt, early mud-brick tombs or “mastabas” have been found that contain beautiful pots and objects. These suggest that a sophisticated culture and religion were already developing, and a belief in life after death.

The kings of Upper and Lower Egypt had their own separate gods and crowns. The southern king was guarded by the vulture goddess Nekhmet, and wore a tall white crown. In Lower Egypt, the king wore a red crown and was protected by the cobra goddess Wadjet.

Around 3100BC, it seems that Upper Egypt defeated Lower Egypt in a battle, and the two areas were united for the first time. The man who then became king is a slightly mysterious figure, because three different names appear in records: Menes, Narmer and Hor-Aha. This could be because kings always had more than one name. It’s also possible that Hor-Aha was Narmer’s son. Whatever the truth is, the Narmer palette is one of the earliest records of a king who ruled both Upper and Lower Egypt.

Once Egypt was united, the land was ruled by kings for more than 3,000 years. The 1st and 2nd dynasties form the Archaic period, which lasted about 400 years. Menes (or Narmer) created a capital city for the whole country between Upper and Lower Egypt, at the bottom of the Nile Delta. This was called Memphis, which became a great city with it own special god called Ptah.

Source: The Usbourne Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt

Murphy’s Law

I often think I’m jinxed, because everything I do – which should be easy, and is for other people – becomes a huge headache. It’s Murphy’s Law that if it can go wrong, it will, especially when I’m involved.

Updating to openSUSE 10.1 was NOT a breeze. The set of discs that I bought from the newsagent were faulty. Just my luck. Well, it wasn’t all of them, just the first one, but still it meant I couldn’t do the upgrade. G took pity on me (translated… that means that he thought his life would be better if he took action) and he was kind enough to download the first disc. It took a while, but it worked. That made us both happy.

Now, I’m running the latest version of just about all the linux software that I use. Cool!

Goodbye Scene

Chapter 11 turned out to be a real “stopper” – as in stop writing or editing. The chapter was awful.

I remember the feedback on that chapter, and everyone said the same thing. “I hate that scene, it’s so boring.” Alright, I admit that they didn’t actually use those words, but they may as well have. It was boring, even I know it. It had to go.

I considered my options:

1. Just delete it and move on.

2. Try to fix it and make it not boring.

3. Replace it with something better.

After much thought, I’ve decided to go with option 3.

Another complaint I had was that being in the tunnels all this time was becoming boring. This was a bigger problem, because this world is underground and I didn’t know what to do about that. However, four months ago I found a book with images that suited my purpose and would solve this problem. I’m going to incorporate what I see in these drawings into the new scene that I plan to write. It will be a challenge, but I think it will be worthwhile all round. I started that scene last night and hope to finish it this weekend.

The King’s Name

The king was considered so important that people didn’t refer to him directly. They spoke of the “Palace” or “per-aa” instead. This is the origin of the title “pharaoh”. Kings had two different names: their “Son of Re” name, received at birth, and their nsw-bity name, received when they were crowned. Nsw-bity means “King of Upper and Lower Egypt”. We usually refer to kings by their Son of Re name.

Source: The Usbourne Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt