Sunday, July 11, 2010

The First Ruler: Part 2

Alice C. Linsley

(To read Part One, go here.)

Ra's Morning at the Tree of Life

Ra was a tall man with black hair and reddish brown skin. His eyes were like chunks of agate, a dark honey color. His hands were strong. Once he had killed a giant cobra with his bare hands.  He also was adept at weaving rope from grasses and making baskets from reeds. His large hands were capable of gentle handling of precious things like his son Ka and the fragile ostrich egg that he used for his daily prayers.

Ra said his prayers every morning. He came down from his cave in the hills to the edge of the lake and stood under an ancient tree with large grey roots only half buried under the ground. The roots were twisted so that from certain angles they looked like snakes rising up from the earth. Ra often sat on one of these roots while he waited for the first rays of light to flicker across the horizon. The great roots were like an elephant’s trunk, sucking water from the lake.  Ra thought that this explained the thrumming that he sometimes felt when he sat on the roots. It seemed that the ancient tree pulsed with life from the tips of its boughs to the tips of its deepest roots.

Ra stood under the tree facing the east. It was early and the Sun had not begun to show its first rays upon the horizon. The pale pre-dawn light made the water appear darker than usual and all was quiet, the way it is when the night sounds have ceased but the morning sounds haven’t yet begun.

Ra’s stomach grumbled but it didn’t concern him. His wife would have something for him to eat when he returned to the cave. He never ate until he had completed his prayers to the Father who lived above. It was a small thing but it was the right way to show honor to the Father whose territory stretched in all directions. One day Ra hoped to give his son a kingdom, though it would be a small one, since Ra and his wife never ventured far from the cave and the water near the great tree. Perhaps from this small piece of land, there would come a bigger kingdom.  It was something that Ra wanted, but what price would he have to pay for his ambition?

When the Sun began to rise it cast a lavender glow across the water and birds began to chirp and chatter in the tree branches over Ra’s head. That was when he stepped out from under the tree and walked to the water’s edge. He was carrying half of an ostrich egg and now he stooped down and used the egg shell to scoop up water. Then he stood very erect, his dark face radiant in the Sun’s light. When the Sun had risen so that he could see the full orb, Ra poured some of the water onto the ground in a straight line from west to east, between where he stood and the bank of the lake. He prayed:

“Father, I greet you as you come from your house in the east and begin your daily journey to your abode in the west.”

Ra then poured water in a line perpendicular to the first line, this one running north to south to form a cross. Then he prayed again:

“I have but one dwelling place as I am but dust and will return to dust. Father, grant that my territory might extend from the north to the south for as far as the eye can see.”

Then Ra stood at the center of the lines he had made with the water, at the center of the cross, and he poured the last of the water over his head and prayed:

“May I not give offense, since you see all things. Make me clean and shower me with blessings from the highest heaven. Make my house into a great house. Grant that my son may have a territory like you have, with two houses, that he too may go forth like a bright light.”

When Ra finished his prayers he returned to the great tree and gently wrapped to ostrich egg in a large leaf. He reached up and placed the bundle in the V formed by two large branches. Then he headed home for his breakfast, feeling content with his life and eager to see his young son.

When Ra arrived the fire was cold and he could not find his wife. A sick feeling in the pit of his stomach told him that something was wrong. He crouched toward the entrance of the cave and looked in but there was no sign of his wife and infant son. He heard a muffled sound above him and looked up. His wife was motioning to him from a cliff above the cave where she was laying flat against the stone. He could see fear in her eyes and before he could scramble up to her, he heard the angry roar of a lion. Ra braced himself for the attack, but the lion turned and leapt into the forest as if pursued. Then Ra heard voices. He signaled for his wife to put her head down and he moved behind a tree at the edge of the clearing. From there he could watch the approaching hunting party. He could hear them moving through the forest and knew that unless they picked up the animal’s tracks further up, they would surely come into his clearing.

You see, Ra was a Firstling but he was not the only Firstling. There were others and they now outnumbered his small family. It was best to avoid confrontation, if he could. So he hid himself, hoping that the strangers would not discover his cave. He waited until the hunting party had passed and then he climbed to where his wife was crouching. His son lay asleep in her lap, unaware of the dangers he faced in that time and place so long ago when his father prayed for blessings from heaven and a territory for his son.

Now Ra sat beside his wife and stroked the tender face of his son.  He looked up to see that his wife was watching him. Then she smiled.  Ra smiled back. That's when Ha told her husband that she was going to have another child. Ra laughed. Wasn't he blessed to have Ka? And now there would be another! They would wait until the child was 6 moon cycles old to name him.  Ra was certain it would be another man child though Ha was hoping for a girl. Either way, a name could be given only once so they would wait to be sure that the baby lived. In those days many babies didn't live very long.

You've probably noticed that all the names in Ra's family are single syllable names.  That's because Ra, Ha and Ka spoke a language with one and two syllable words.  That is a trait of the languages still spoken in the place where they struggled to survive. Today we would consider their language a precursor of the Chadic languages.  If you look on a map of Africa you will be able to find a country called Chad.  But you must remember that there were no countries in Ra's time. That is why it is so remarkable that Ra imagined controlling a territory for his son. 

If you are a boy, you probably think it is only natural that he'd want to control a piece of land. It would make it easier for him to protect Ha and Ka and the new baby. Girls don't think much about controlling land. Maybe because they have their hands full trying to control situations and relationships. But Ra was a man of vision and he always remembered the thoughts he had while he intended the tree where he prayed at the very center of his territory.  Just as the roots of the great tree radiated from the tree's trunk, so his territory would stretch in all directions from the ancient tree that thrummed with life. He would find a way because the Creator wanted his clan to increase and to spread out. He was sure of that, and he was sure that the Creator would him him do it.

That's all for now.

Your loving Grandmother

Part 3

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