Thursday, August 5, 2010

The First Ruler, Part 3

Alice C. Linsley
(Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.)

     It was cool when Ra left his cave but it grew warmer as he descended to the spring-fed lake. He stood on the bank of the lake facing the east and began his prayers as the sun rose over the horizon. Using the half of the sacred ostrich egg, Ra scooped up water and poured the water on the ground, forming 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 with this water as the rains wash away the dust. As the water brings life and sustains life, make me and my house to live before you. Shower me with blessings from above. 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 he had finished his prayers, Ra turned to hide the ostrich egg in the tree of life and was startled to see Ha's mother standing under the tree. She was watching him. He was sure that he was seeing a ghost and he started to run away but stopped when she called him by name.

"Ra, It is I. Don't be afraid."

Ra turned to face the woman.

"But I thought you were dead.  You didn't want to live. You..."

The woman stepped toward Ra and smiled.

"The Southlanders found me and took me to one of their villages. I'm alive and I've come to tell you.  It is time to make friends with the Southlanders. They are strong and know many things. They know how to read the stars and they count days by the Moon. They have work cycles for the men and for the women - 6 moon cycles for the women during which they plant and harvest and store grain.  That's the time when they bring forth their young. And there are 6 for the men when they hunt, make war and sit in council. Their numbers increase because they have food and good shelter. They have good water and they take blood from the earth."

"What do you mean 'they take blood from the earth'? How is that possible?"

"They have made great caves in the high mountains and they bring red stones out of them. Then they pound the stones to a powder and use it to make images on the walls of their caves and to bury their chiefs and their ruling women. They believe that life is in the blood as we believe that life is in the water."

"But how can I make friends with them? They will surely kill me and take Ha and my sons."

"Sons?  You have sons? Why didn't you tell me?  Take me to see them. Let's go now!"

So Ra and Ha's mother climbed to the cliff where Ra's family lived and as they climbed higher, both began to call out to Ha so that she would not be frightened as Ra had been.  When they reached the cave, Ha threw her arms around her mother and cried for joy and the two women embraced each other and wept and laughed. Ra watched his wife and her mother, noticing how much they looked alike with their eyes the color of roasted coffee beans and their long black hair framing their wide faces. They had the same high cheek bones. The older woman was almost as beautiful as the younger.

"I would have come sooner," Ha's mother said. "But I was very weak.  The wife of the chief cared for me until I was strong enough to return. She wanted me to stay and serve her, but I slipped away.  The chief will not be angry because I told him that I would return with a gift for him. If we make friends with the Southlander chief we can live more securely as neighbors."

"But won't the chief's wife be angry that you ran away?"

"Not if I bring her something of value when I return."

"What do we have of value that the Southlanders don't already have?"

Ha's mother frowned and shook her head. 

"It is something we must think about. But now, let me see these fine sons."

She sat down and took the youngest grandson into her arms. Ha sat beside her mother and smiled. 

"Let's talk about this later, " Ha said to her husband.  "Now is time to celebrate.  My mother is alive!  She is here."

Later that night Ra, Ha and Ha's mother considered how they might make friends with the Southlander chief who had saved Ha's mother. 

"We can give them ostrich eggs," Ha suggested.

"No. They have many ostriches wehre they live and the villagers use them as we do."

"Perhaps they would like our horde of turtle shells. Our's are very large and make excellent vessels for gathering seeds and berries. and for storing grain."

"No. They have turtles there," Ha's mother explained.  "We must think of something truely special to offer them, soemthing that they do not have. I know!  The tree that throbs with life.  They don't have a tree like our's.  Their sacred tree is the opposite. The branches look like serpents, all twisted about and they say the tree serpents speak to them when they eat a certain plant. Whereas with our tree, it is the roots that look like serpents going down into the ground, not trying to climb up to the heavesns. It is as if the 2 trees were reversed. Isn't that strange?"

"But we can't take the tree to them," Ra protested.  "It can't be moved, and if we cut it down it will no longer live and we will no longer have the tree wo mark the holy place." 

"Then we must bring the chief to the tree and offer it to him here."

Ra didn't like that idea. It frightened him and made his face turn down.  What would happen when the Southlanders knew about the tree?  Why should he invite them to come here where he and his family lived in peace?  What Ha's mother was asking of them was not good.  It smelled of great danger.  There had to be another way to make friends with the Southlander chief who saved Ha's mother from death and let her come home to them. There had to be a way to offer friendship without surrendering his holding, the place that he needed to build a territory for his son Ka.

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