The Daughter of Sekhmet

20 Sep

Daap, Chief of Mysteries and Secrets at the temple of Hathor, was distressed by the reports that fellow priests were bringing him.

Something unprecedented was happening in Dendara.

Uneducated, unprepared interlopers were breaking into the previously exclusive monopoly of the temple in the area of communication with the dead.

This unexpected incursion into priestly privileges was the illegal work of those called the rekheti, the so-called wise women who claimed special gifts and arcane knowledge.

What was Dapp to do about the threat to the status of his clerical profession?

He decided it was best to send an assistant to summon the most notorious “knowing one” to be questioned by him at the special therapeutic building next to the temple where visitors came for healing and psychic enlightenment.

There were many questions in his mind about these women who claimed to exercise special powers. He hoped to gain some answers from the rekhet named Nuje.

The young woman approaching the temple was surprisingly short and beautiful. She wore a simple blue gown that matched the morning sky over Egypt. In passing, she looked up at the six columns that had Hathor heads at the top. The entrance to the temple was magnificent. Her green eyes took in the cow ears and the solar disc between the protruding horns of the goddess.

Nuje smiled at the divine image, but instantly remembered why she had come to this shrine to Hathor.

An interrogation by the senior hekau of the temple lay ahead for her.

What was she going to tell them? How much about what she was doing should be revealed to this religious official? She was in a quandary about what to say.

A priest in white robe met her and led the one under suspicion to the private chamber in the medical building where Daap was waiting for her.

Without a word of greeting, the high priest sitting on a stool began questioning the standing young woman.

“Tell me this: are you aware of the accusations you are under?”

She looked at him with a steady look of confidence.

“I do not attend to rumors, even when they pertain to me. Idle talk never contains any truth, not the smallest iota.”

“That is only your opinion, young woman,” shot back the priest with anger. “It is your duty to cooperate in my investigation of what is being said about you and others. As everyone knows, only the royal temples are authorized by our divine Pharaoh to carry out certain sacred practices that are mystical in nature. Among the most important of these is communicating with the dead. That becomes criminal behavior if committed by persons who are not officially priests of public temples.

“Inhabitants of Dendara have reported that you are engaged in such forbidden activities. What do you say to that? Can you answer that charge?”

The reply from Nuje came in a hollow whisper.

“My dealings with the persons who visited me with tears over the loss of a loved one were private, confidential matters. I would be breaking promises to my friends should anything about our work together be revealed to anyone outside our own circle.

“There can be no justification for any inquiry by priests into what I do in consoling others over their grief. I am doing nothing whatsoever that harms the power or privileges of the temple of Hathor. There is no justification for the interference occurring at this time, here in this very room.”

Daap gaped at Nuje, astounded at her boldness and insolence toward himself.

How was he going to handle the problem she was presenting with this attitude?

His immediate decision was to postpone any showdown with this rebellious individual.

“You may leave and return to your home,” he loudly ordered. “I warn you to be most careful in everything you may be doing, young lady.”

A man and a woman met with Nuje in her small adobe cottage in the workers’ section of Dendara. The three were determined to make contact with the netherworld that evening. The two clients aspired to reaching the spirits of their departed spouses.

Sitting around a circular table on low stools, the three joined hands and concentrated on the hard, demanding task that faced them.

Nuje, directing their efforts, called out into the non-physical world.

“Messengers of Sekhmet, listen and obey this plea of ours. Connect the members of our tiny group to the departed ones these people mourn for. Bring us precious words from them who now dwell in the netherworld. Tell us what the condition of those who died is. We beg you to help us in this quest for some message from elsewhere.

“We are loyal followers of the Great Lioness, Sekhmet. She is goddess of eternal warfare and struggle, the immortal divinity who decides where plague and illness fall. Our petition to mighty Sekhmet is that she send us a messenger who will carry our words to those who are gone from this world and bring back answers to all our questions to them.”

Silence followed the emotional pleas of the rekhet.

In the dim, flickering lantern light that illuminated the room, Nuje turned her head and peered into the eyes of the young widow seeking a message from the dead far away.

The two of them exchanged deep looks for a considerable time. This uninhibited staring ended when the female client closed her eyes. Was she in some sort of trance?

Huje then turned to the widower and performed the same long exchange with her dark green eyes.

Again, after a long while, the client closed his eyes as if in a coma.

Time flowed by with unnoticed inertia.

It was the middle of the night when the two visitors awoke at the same moment.

The woman, smiling with joy, spoke first.

“I was given a message from my dead husband!” she said with excitement. “He informed me that he is calm and satisfied now.”

The man then joined in.

“I, too, received word from my loved one. She is also well and happy where she is in the other world.”

Both clients related to Nuje the good news delivered to them by the messenger of Sekhmet, an unseen spirit. Their eyes and faces glowed with rhapsodic enthusiasm.

By the time they left near dawn, the rekhet knew she had succeeded with them.

Again and again, people who had learned about her special gift visited Nuje. Their hopes were always fulfilled by credible communications from the underworld of the dead.

As rumors of her ability spread ever wider, more reports reached Daap.

The priest thought a long time about what he was learning about the troublesome young woman. Can she actually assist people in contacting their departed relatives? Does she possess a talent far beyond that of the official clerics in their temples?

His frustration growing into despair, Daap decided on direct confrontation with this dangerous competitor for public trust and confidence.

Instead of summoning her again, he himself had to go to the place where she operated as a rekhet.

The success of that course did not seem certain, but he had no other option available to him, he told himself.

Daap found out where Nuje lived and walked there just before sundown.

The streets of Dendara were surprisingly empty as he made his way through the gathering reddish dusk. It proved impossible for him to rehearse what he was going to say to the bothersome young female. That would depend on circumstances at the time and the actual course of their exchange.

The Chief of Mysteries and Secrets halted in front of her small cottage and looked at it for a moment. All at once, a small shape appeared in the entrance way and addressed him directly.

“Priest of Hathor, why have you come here this evening? Is it that you are in need of my assistance in some way?”

Daap felt a jolt of unease within himself.

“I wish to talk with you about your work,” he said in a low, unemotional tone. “Could I enter your dwelling and discuss this matter in private?”

“You have already questioned me. What more is there for me to say to you?”

She watched as the priest in a gown of gleaming white approached the doorway.

“I will have visitors coming here later tonight,” muttered the rekhet.

A sudden idea occurred to Daap and he instantly decided to pursue it.

“Would you permit me to be present to witness how you deal with those who come to you seeking relief and assistance?”

Nuje hesitated only for a moment, sensing a way of pacifying her visitor.

“Yes, but I will have to conceal you somehow, so that my clients are not disconcerted by a priest’s presence. It would be a disaster if anyone became frightened during our session together.

“Will you agree to conceal yourself behind my bed screen?” she asked.

Daap answered yes and proceeded into the cottage of the rekhet he thought of with profound fear.

Standing behind a barrier of hard papyrus at the opposite end of the room, the hidden listener overheard the exchange between Nuje and her single female client that night.

“Why is it that you wish to send a message to your father, my dear?” asked the rekhet. “What do you want him to tell you?”

“There is a personal matter between my mother and him,” was the reply in a high, squeaky voice. “I must find out whether her doubts about his fidelity were true or not.”

“I see,” said Nuje. “There is no need to tell me more. I understand.”

“I must find out whether her accusations have any merit or not.”

“We shall summon one of our messengers of Sekhmet to act on your behalf. Now, look deeply into my eyes. Both of us must elevate ourselves up to the high plane of spirit.”

Daap felt uneasy as the ensuing silence continued for a length of time.

But at last, the voice of the client became audible again.

“I have learned the truth from my father. There can no longer be any doubt in my mind. Mother was grossly mistaken. She had no reason to have doubts about him at all.”

“The message that you received was fully satisfactory, then.”

“Indeed,” said the woman who had come for help. “I can now be at peace.”

As soon as this client was gone, Daap stepped out from behind the papyrus screen. He was at a loss as to what to say after want he had just experienced.

Rising from her stool, Nuje came up to him, her green eyes glowing from inside.

“What do you think? Was there anything harmful in what I did for that person?”

The priest, making no reply, simply stared at her as if under a spell of enchantment. Each one of them gazed into the eyes of the other, hunting for something there. But at last Daap asked a question.

“May I return the next time you meet with someone here?”

“That will be tomorrow evening,” she answered. “Yes, your presence will be welcome then.”

Visits by the high priest became regular events at the small cottage. His curiosity rose as he learned more about the nature of what Nuje was doing.

“My successes are dependent upon one factor,” she told him one night after a pair of clients had left.

“What is that?” he eagerly asked her.

She focused her eyes on him in the low light of a lantern with intense concentration.

“Everything I do is connected to intervention by divine Sekhmet. My accomplishments are due solely to her favor towards me.”

Daap gasped for breath as his pulse raced. He decided to probe for more.

“Our temple teaches that Sekhmet, the all-powerful lioness, was once the great enemy of the human race. We preserve the story of how the supreme god, Re, gave to her the mission of destroying all human persons because of their sin and disobedience. He unleashed her as deliverer of plagues to wipe out all traces of our kind.”

“I know about that tale,” countered Nuje. “It does not tell us what Sekhmet became after that event, how she turned into a benevolent healer of mankind.”

Daap continued on. “The slaughter she carried out was so deadly that Re had to use a trick to halt it. He provided her red bear to drink that put her to sleep for a long time. She was led to believe there was blood in the liquid, but it was a plant like mandrake or pomegranate juice.”

“She ended up as an associate of the goddess Hathor, tamed and peaceful,” declared Nuje. “When Sekhmet awoke from her bloody intoxication, she was totally transformed into her opposite. Instead of being the deliverer of plague, pestilence, and slaughter, she became a sponsor of human health and well-being. She is today a benefactor of all who worship and follow her.”

Daap gave her a skeptical look. “How can what you say be true?”

“Let me explain how Sekhmet sends messengers to connect me and others to the departed dead so that there can be exchanges with loved ones.”

As she went on, the priest’s resistance to her claims appeared to melt away.

With Nuje as the facilitating medium, the messenger spirits of Sekhmet were summoned to transport questions of the Chief of Mysteries and Secrets to his own deceased parents.

The father of Daap told his son why he had been cold and unconcerned toward him in his early childhood years. “I was always busy with my work in the Pharaoh’s service, supervising the construction of river docks up and down the Nile. It was impossible for me to be at home as often as was desirable for your sake. You were left too much to yourself. That is probably why you decided to become a priest at the temple of Hathor. Forgive me, my son, for having ignored you so much during childhood.”

Daap heard and absorbed this confession with understanding and compassion.

Then came a message from his mother that brought him great contentment.

Her words of undying love made the cleric warm sentiments. Yes, she was happy that he had achieved a high position as high priest. Her pride made her glow with joy, though she was dead.

It was while Daap was in this elevated mood that Nuje revealed her plans for the future to him.

“The temple where you serve has to be converted into a shrine to the divine Sekhmet. She deserves to be the center of worship. Her face must become the one looking down from the top of every entrance column. The chants and prayers heard inside must be dedicated to her glorification alone. Sekhmet deserves to be restored to her ancient primacy here in Dendara.

“It will be your responsibility, Daap, to advance the cause of the goddess who has allowed you to contact your parents in the netherworld. Will you do this for her? It has become your duty to Sekhmet.”

He opened his mouth wide in his astonishment. Ideas were occurring to him in a wild torrent.

What did the words of Nuje mean? Was the rekhet attempting to make him a disloyal traitor to Hathor? Had that been her goal from the beginning of their acquaintance? Was he now the victim of spiritual seduction?

In his difficulty and confusion, Daap found himself unable to give her any adequate answer.

“I will think about what I have heard you propose to me, Nuje,” he managed to tell her. “When I return here tomorrow night, my decision will be ready for you.”

The troubled priest was glad when he was able to leave her cottage.

No sleep came to Daap as he wrestled with his dilemma. How was he ever to escape the trap he had fallen into? Could he rescue himself from treason to the goddess Hathor, whom he had served for many years with fervid loyalty?

Early the next morning, the head priest walked to the temple repository of ancient scrolls. His purpose was to learn what he could from the records about the nature and powers of the goddess named Sekhmet.

He was surprised that she had an army of demons who eternally served her. Old titles for her were appalling to Daap: The Devouring One, Lady of the Blood Bath, The Great Harlot, Lady of the Scarlet Garments, Lioness of Revenge.

The scorching breath of Sekhmet had created the barren desert.

Though she had been stopped and thwarted by Re in her campaign to kill every human being, she still nursed a blood thirsty hatred demanding complete vengeance upon mankind.

Daap read with disgust how the goddess had once waded in blood, drinking it with a lust that could never be satisfied or fulfilled.

Finally, he found in the scrolls the story of the daughter of Sekhmet, the eternally evil Khalida who served her mother by furnishing her the blood of victims in Egypt. This immortal demon steals life from the blood of humans who fall under her spell. She walks the earth for endless ages, finding blood for herself and her divine mother.

Daap left the record repository with his mind in turmoil.

I have met this Khalida, the vampiric daughter of Sekhmet, he said to himself.

When he arrived at the cottage that evening, the priest put on an act of surrendering to the demands of Nuje.

“Yes,” he lied. “I shall organize the transformation and rededication of the temple that I head.”

She beamed with happiness at what she had achieved through him.

“The goddess shall reward both of us generously, dear Daap,” sweetly murmured Nuje to her new confederate. “You will never regret joining with me in service to divine Sekhet.”

All of a sudden, he reached beneath his white gown and said “I have a gift for you, Nuje. It comes from the sacred treasury of my temple, a necklace that we priests call a menat. It is worn by the head priest at our most secret ceremony dedicated to Hathor. You must now wear it as a sign of the approaching triumph of Sekhmet.”

She gave him a glowing smile of victory.

“And I myself shall place it about your beautiful neck, Nuje,” he told her in a whisper.

He lifted up the string of colored, precious shells and moved it above her head, lowering the rare object until it circled her shining black hair.

The smile on his face vanished in an instant.

His hands dropped the menat so that it fell downward onto her pale neck.

The hands moved down simultaneously, permitting him to grab hold of the exposed throat. His hold on her grew tight and strong.

By the time Nuje realized what had happened, the Chief of Mysteries and Secrets was turning his choke hold into a complete strangling of her upper neck.

Green eyes dilated and bulged forth in terror.

The throttling and suffocation of the rekhet devoted to Sekhet was unexpectedly easy, he discovered. Her neck was small and her body weak.

He met with no resistance whatsoever to the pressure of his killing hands.

Once she fell to the bare ground of the interior of the cottage, Daap had the presence of mind to bend down and remove the menat necklace, lifting up her head to pull it away from the corpse of Nuje.

Pocketing the sacred object, the priest made a quick escape into the dark street outside.

Daap waited the first day for word of her discovery, but it did not come to the temple of Hathor. A second day, then a third one passed. More followed. It was only on the tenth day that the anxious high priest decided to investigate what had happened to the body of Nuje.

He took the risky gamble of returning to the scene of the strangulation, with no idea of what might have happened to her.

As he approached the cottage, a stranger came out of the adjoining building, a man who looked crippled by old age.

“Do you seek Nuje, sir?” he asked.

Daap stopped and looked at him. “Yes,” he answered, uncertain what to expect.

“She is not at home. No one has seen her for many days.”

“Has anyone entered the cottage to see whether she is well or not?”

“Yes, I have done that the last several days. She is not inside and has not returned. The neighbors all believe she has disappeared. There is no trace of her or her belongings. Nuje has completely vanished, sir.”

What could the investigating priest say?

After thanking the old stranger he turned and walked back to the temple of Hathor, uncertain what to think or believe.

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