Home : Archive : TSV 31-40 : TSV 34 : Fiction

The Workings of a Humble Scribe

By Leigh Hendry

I, Ptenisnet, humble scribe at the Court of King Sety I, dread lord of this land, and earthly manifestation of the great sky god Horus, have been instructed by my lord King to commit to papyrus the terrible tale of the life and downfall of Sutekh, God of Confusion. For my lord in his wisdom has decreed that all men must know of, and tremble at, the corruption and depravity wrought upon our fair land by such a god.

I have no choice but to give way before the weight of your demands, my honourable Lord. The work is difficult, my intelligence and command of rhetoric small; none the less, though the result might come below expectation, the effort will at least pay my debt of obedience. It is my hope and trust that all patient readers of this, my humble work, will forgive any errors that I in my ignorance may commit.

Atum gave birth to Shu and Tefnut. Shu and Tefnut produced Geb and Nut. Nut then bore to Geb Osiris, Sutekh, Isis and Nephthys. These nine deities form the Pesdjet of Heliopolis. This is all well known to worshippers in the land of Egypt.

Osiris was the firstborn, and as the eldest son, inherited the right to govern the land of Egypt. Osiris' heart and body were given to his sister Isis, whose eyes sparkled with the glory of the sun on the river Nile, and whose beauty blinded all who looked upon her. Osiris was a great lord of Egypt. There was great prosperity in Egypt during his reign; he commanded all resources and elements in a way that brought good fortune and abundance to the land. Favourable breezes blew, plants flourished, all animal life followed a perfect pattern of procreation. Osiris was dearly beloved and received immense respect from other gods. He governed the system of stars in the sky. Osiris and Isis ruled Egypt in a golden age. Oh, that all Egypt lived in such a glorious time.

But alas, the golden age was not to endure forever, for the wickedness was yet to come. Anguish and despair entered the idyllic land of Egypt, when Osiris' brother Sutekh attacked Osiris in Gahesty and killed him by the river at Nedyet. Violence and chaos became the way of the land. I am not strong enough to write more about the death of Osiris - the brutal murder of the beloved monarch and the usurpation of his throne is not to be dwelt upon.

With Osiris dead, Sutekh became ruler of all Egypt, and took as his consort his other sister Nephthys. But unknown to Sutekh, who thought he saw all, Nephthys grieved with her sister Isis who was sorely stricken at the death of her lord Osiris.

Isis bent the use of her magical powers to recover the body of Osiris and to resurrect her lord sufficiently to conceive a son to avenge the monstrous usurpation and murder. Tirelessly, for the rise and fall of many moons, Isis and Nephthys roamed Egypt, bewailing and lamenting Osiris until eventually, through the use of magic and because of their great love, his body was discovered at Abydos at Peger. Isis then used her powers to revive Osiris from death and they conceived a son. Osiris' duty to his land was now completed. He descended into Duat, the underworld, and reigns there even now as Lord of Eternity, thus giving even the humblest of all Egyptian people the hope of a continuity of existence in the underworld, where Osiris continues his wise and goodly rule as ruler of the living in the Underworld.

And so it came to pass that Isis went to Khemmis where in hiding from the vengeance and wrath of Sutekh, she gave birth to a son, whom she named Horus. She continued to live amongst the papyrus marshes, raising her son free from the gaze of Sutekh, until the time came when Horus was ready to struggle for his rightful place as the ruler of Egypt.

And so Horus took his claim to a gathering of the greatest of the gods, presided over by the sun god Ra. The air god Shu and the god of wisdom Thoth agreed with Horus' claim but Ra preferred Sutekh, whom he called ‘great of wisdom.’ And so there was no change for 80 years, years during which Sutekh ruled all our land with an iron fist and a disregard for all life and men bewailed the loss of the wise rule of Osiris.

Some of the gods then once again raised the question of the right of Horus to the throne and Ra told Horus and Sutekh to submit their cases to the gods.

Sutekh claimed, in his pride, that he deserved the throne of Egypt by virtue of his unassailable strength and powers. The gods were divided over whether the throne should go to the son of the last ruler, or whether Sutekh, the brother, as the elder of the two deserved the office. Isis endeavoured to gain the tribunal's sympathy and to influence their decision towards her beloved son Horus. Sutekh was angered by her interference and he swore on all he held holy that he would not recognise any court in which Isis was allowed to participate.

The court moved to a mountain in the western desert, where in the Solitude amongst the shifting sands, they awarded the throne to Horus, but the execution of their decision was thwarted by the successful appeal of Sutekh to challenge Horus to a contest.

Isis, in her love for her son Horus, struck Sutekh with a harpoon, but when Sutekh pleaded with her that he was her brother, she relented and conjured the harpoon out of his body.

Horus, in a rage at Isis for sparing Sutekh, cut off her head and carried it with him into the desert mountains. Thoth, the knowing god of wisdom, saw all that had happened and told Ra. Ra avowed that Horus would be punished and gave orders for the desert to be searched. Isis' head was found and restored to her body.

Sutekh discovered Horus in the desert and gouged out his eyes, burying them in the desert. Then, in his wickedness, and assuming that Horus was dead, he returned to the gathering of the gods and declared that he had not been able to find Horus.

A goddess, Hathor, found Horus and rubbed his eyes with gazelle milk, healing them. When Ra was informed, his long patience with the quarrel between the brother and the son of Osiris faded, and he summoned both Horus and Sutekh and told them that their argument must end.

With the help of Isis, whose interference on behalf of her beloved son assisted him, Horus humiliated Sutekh In front of all the other gods.

Finally, with the wisdom of his calling, Thoth persuaded Ra to write a letter to Osiris in his kingdom in the underworld. When Osiris replied, saying that Horus must not be defrauded of his birthright, and threatening that he had at his command bloodthirsty agents who would willingly search out and bring back to him the heart of any wrongdoer, and reminding them that all gods and all mankind must eventually descend into the realm of Osiris to be under his rule, the gods were sufficiently overawed to unanimously vindicate Horus and establish him in all his glory upon the throne of his father.

Sutekh, vanquished in his wickedness, was led as Isis' prisoner before the gods to relinquish his claim to the throne. Ra, still holding a special regard for Sutekh, would not allow Sutekh to be put to death. The gods decided that Horus must be allowed to punish Sutekh for all his destruction and chaos. And so Horus placed Sutekh in a chamber in a pyramid, imprisoned there forever by the powers of Horus and the gods in the sky.

And yet, I in my weakness as a mere mortal, cannot help but tremble at the thought that the evil and wicked Sutekh still lives, his putrid nature festering in his imprisonment and his hatred for all life growing day by day.

And as my quill falters over these writings, I dare not speak of the dreams that haunt me, of the eyes glowing red in a thin, savage face, and the fearful voice promising revenge upon all the gods and upon all mankind. And I pray that Osiris, ever vigilant in his realm where he is all powerful, continues to watch over the rulers of his once-beloved Egypt and to care for our souls.

For all men must know that if Sutekh ever broke free from his chains, the ending of all life in all places would be his aim. And it is our fear that the god of chaos and destruction would be unstoppable, and that the weakness of man has afflicted our ability to cope with such corruption.

Written at the time of the flooding of the Nile in the seventh year of the reign of our exalted and magnificent lord Sety, and dedicated in praise of the patron of scribes, Imhotep, for whose grace in the completion of this my work I give thanks.

This item appeared in TSV 34 (July 1993).

Index nodes: Fiction