Friday, August 12, 2011

Long Night's Journey into Day

This is a poem I wrote a few years ago celebrating the Ra's night journey through the Dwt. It is told from the point of view of Bast. I offer it in honor of my cat family, past and present. Enjoy!

I am Bast, Divine Mother of Cats,
daughter of Ra, Lord of the Sun.
My day side is pleasure, loving, and warmth,
but at night I defend the life of the Earth!
My sister is Sekhmet, Blazing Lioness of Strength,
daughter of Ra, Lord of the Sun.
Her day side is prowling and seeking fair game,
but at night She protects the daylight from death.
My sister is Hathor, Great Goddess of Beauty,
daughter of Ra, Lord of the Sun.
Her day side is loving, lusting, and adorning,
but at night She helps Father to win free to day!

Many are the names of His great, shining ship:
In the morning—Ma’atchet—“Day becomes strong.”
In the evening--
Semktet—“Day becomes weak.”
But it’s always
Wia hehe—“The Boat of Million’s of Years.”
Many are the souls who ride on his ship:
The blessed dead who’ve followed the way of Ma’at.
The dead poor, who’ve no one, wait, hoping for mercy.
The evil dead, who’ve done wrong, await soul’s destruction.
Many are the neters who sail forth with Ra:
Neith in the West, Bast in the East,
Uatchet for the North, Nekhebet for the South.
Isis stands in the center, and Thoth brings his words.
Hour 1
Old Ra is Atum, the first neter and the last.
He sinks down to
Amenti in the blood of his death.
He reaches the
arret of the first Hour of Night
that lies between Manu, the twin hills of Sunset.
Hathor Khentimentu throws open Night’s portals.
Ra sails through, and Mother Nuit swallows him down.
His blood fills the water, and stains the night flood,
‘til the dark between the stars drowns it in dusk.
Hour 2
We mourn for old Atum in the second Hour of Night,
passing its portal on the flow of our tears.
The souls of the poor dead leave to live in dusk’s shadows
until Anubis leads them forth on their life’s final journey.
The daylight has dimmed; the Aten is in shadow.
We cannot see clearly what things lie ahead.
Anubis and Thoth prepare Atum-Ra’s body,
wrapping the darkness like linen for his shroud.
Hour 3
A light grows ahead through the Third Gate of Night.
Firelight seethes and burns on the waters!
Here stay the souls of the unquiet dead,
trying to hide from the shadows of the deeds that they’ve done.
In the Third Hour of Night, we encounter our Enemy.
Apep, the great serpent, seeks to swallow the Sun down,
so that all will be darkness and chaos will reign.
We fight him back briskly: Ma’at rules supreme.
Hour 4
The rowers fight through to the Fourth Gate of Night.
Bloody, but unbowed, Apep slinks out of sight.
Hathor weeps and watches over Atum-Ra’s body,
while Nephthys guides the boat on into the darkness.
Sekhmet and I watch out for more serpents:
minions of Apep that slither through the sands.
Our duty lies in wakefulness, watching and waiting
for cats’ eyes see best in the dark of the night.
Hour 5
We pass the arret into the Night’s Fifth Hour.
The boat runs aground as the river runs dry.
The riverbed still lingers as an old road before us:
dry as dust, dry as old tears, and cold as the tomb.
Our companions leap overboard and seize the great ropes.
They groan as they drag the boat over the sands.
Slowly we slide forward, still in the darkness,
heaving our way toward the Sixth Gate of Night.
Hour 6
Horus awaits us to lead us to judgement:
the Sixth Hour sees Ra stand before great Osiris.
Anubis weighs Ra’s heart in the scales of Ma’at,
and Thoth records the day’s deeds for eternity.
Here the blessed dead are led to their Judgement.
One by one they come to stand before The Judge.
Pure heart and true voice ensure their rebirth,
coming forth to the day in the new world that awaits!
Hour 7
Atum-Ra’s body is gone; all that’s left is the Aten.
Dim but still shining, it seems like the Moon.
We sail again, slowly, into Night’s seventh Hour.
is the time we must watch for our Enemy!
Apep attacks us from out of the darkness.
We fight and we slash at his slithery minions.
Set spears Apep’s heart; he retreats from the field.
The Boat moves forward toward safety and morning.
Hour 8
We arrive at the Eighth Hour, tired and sore,
pulling towards freedom through the marshes.
Slowly our boat traverses the nightmare swamp,
lit only by faint, glowing, false lights that shimmer.
Wary, we watch for more sign of our enemy,
as we sail with our hopes and the ka of Ra’s heart.
These hours are weary, cold, dark, and so lonely!
Forward is the only way out; we cannot go back.
Hour 9
The Ninth Gate lets out onto a river of starlight.
Even bright Aten is just another star now.
Stars swirl in the shimmer of the eternal
Our eyes seek the Enemy--Apep is coming!
I see him, so does Sekhmet: the advantage of cat’s eyes.
We yell forth our war cry--you hear it in the night.
We leap to the fray, and tear at our prey!
The battle is glorious; we get drunk on his blood.

Hour 10
In the Tenth hour, we rest ourselves panting on deck.
Isis sings to us gently, bathing our wounds.
Thoth shines his moonlight into the star shadows.
We sail on the ancient River, heading toward morning.
We sail along slowly, Senses navigating the shoals:
Sa’a senses shifting currents through soles of his feet.
Hu tastes the waters; its savor tells him where we are.
Ma’a looks ahead, while Sedjem listens to hear the dawn birds.
Hour 11
The Eleventh Hour arrives as we pass through its portal.
The ka of Ra’s heart is beginning to stir!
Apep strikes fiercely, his last chance before him.
Set, Sekhmet, and I leap, roaring our warning.
We fight fiercely to shield the sacred magicians:
Isis and Hathor, Nephthys, Thoth and Anubis.
Their resonant hekau shiver over Ra’s birthing,
shaping his form that will live out the new day.
Hour 12
Bloody, rejoicing, we rejoin the Great Boat.
Apep is vanquished, torn into pieces.
We sail through the Gate of Night’s Twelfth Hour,
onward towards the morning.  Pi-neter-djuau is our new guide.
The Twelfth Hour is cold; the wind dies down to nothing.
You can’t tell we’re moving.  The river is like glass.
We watch as the new God arises from his sleep.
Khepera now bears forth the ka of Ra’s heart.
The twin hills of Morning, Bakhau, glow before us.
Ra’s birth blood is coloring the skies of the world.
Shu lifts us up from the womb of the darkness.
Khepera rolls the
Aten onto the day’s Het-Heru.
The others go their ways to their own day’s amusements.
I know what is best--a nap in the sunshine!
Dreaming of loving and dancing and living,
I rest now for the next Night’s battle for Life.
The day passes in its Hours. They are never my worry.
Khepera becomes Ra-Horus; old Ra becomes Atum.
We sail forth to evening in the world’s endless cycle:
the eternal, ethereal long night’s journey into day.
© 2000, 2006 Michael A. Starsheen

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