Guide Artwork: The Map

(I highly recommend clicking the map image to embiggen it.)

Map of the Seen and Unseen Worlds

I think it’s very important that travel books should have maps. This, of course, is the map of the world, showing the location of the Duat in relation to more familiar territory.

The familiar definers of the Seen World, Geb and Nut, dominate the top half of the map, separated by the figure of Shu who creates space between them for, you know, everything else. Though they are held apart, their fingers still twine together affectionately. In front of them, the double lion Aker (whose halves are Yesterday and Tomorrow) governs the horizon, the place where the Seen and the Unseen meet.

Since the Guide is of course primarily interested in the Duat, that portion of the map below is notably more detailed. The regions are based in the travel portrayed in the Amduat; the solar bark departs in the west, on the left side of the map, and travels around the circle the long way to reappear in the east. (This also corresponds to the other conceptualisation of the night journey, as I’m exploring in the posts on the Nut Cycle, in which she swallows the traveller at sunset and gives birth to them again at dawn. You can see that Nut is oriented appropriately.)

I noticed when I was trying to build a mental map of the Duat from the perspective of what was written in the Amduat, the regions closest to the “surface”, lying adjacent to the horizon in the lands of dusk and dawn, were rich and fertile. Wernes, on the sunset side of things, is largely filed with the rejuvenating flood; the baboons praise the sun as it goes by. (The baboon, one of the sacred animals of Djehwty, is observed in the wild to raise its hands and cry out at dawn.) On the dawn side, the Fields of Hetep (that famous Field of Reeds to which the deceased aspires) are closer to harvest-time. You can see in the map all four of the races of man as conceived by the Egyptians hanging out and having a good time: Nubian, Egyptian, Libyan, and Asiatic. (As four was a number with a significance of completion, portrayals of the “four races” represented “all of humanity”; there is artwork with four each of the four races, so all of all of everyone.) On the eastern edge of Hetep, the turquoise sycamores that are the gates of dawn are visible.

It seems to me that most dream travelling probably remains within these closest regions of the Duat – Wernes and Hetep. This is, after all, where most of the folks that someone dreamwalking would want to visit hang out, as well as most of the productive and generative form. These lands are the most familiar and similar to the Seen World.

Similarly, further away from the seen world, there is a broad span of desert – much like further away from the heart of Egyptian civilisation, the shielding and perilous desert lies. To the sunset side, the snake and nightmare-filled land of Sokar, who is upon his sand, Rosetjau, where the sunboat must become a fire-breathing serpent to have a hope of piercing through the darkness. To the side of dawn, the perilous hour in which the newly rejuvenated sun and entourage must face A/pep and destroy it, which is desert because the great serpent has swallowed up all the water and must be forced to relinquish it.

Here be monsters – whether personal and intimate ones, as in Rosetjau, or cosmic horrors which must be faced as part of the community of gods. Various spiritual disciplines require crossing these deserts, of course, and I suspect everyone has some experience with being thrown into the desert – the dark night of the soul, the haunting nightmare, or whatever else – at some point in life, regardless of seeking out passage. Dreams can go here, but not usually pleasant ones.

These more accessible portions of the Duat are divided into the sunset and sunrise halves on the map by a djed pillar. The djed, a symbol of stability, is sometimes referred to as the spine of Wesir; it is Wesir’s governance that keeps this entire space in order. I don’t actually think that the regions are as distinct as this might imply, but there is a difference in perspective that changes how one experiences Wernes/Hetep and Rosetjau.

In the deepest part of the Duat, where it rides the border of Nun, is the cavern where the mystery of the midnight sun occurs. It is drawn in the charts of the Amduat as happening within a space shaped like a shen symbol, the looped sign for the eternal that gives its form to the cartouche that surrounds the names of kings. Here, the mystery within the shen is embraced by the ka symbol, suffusing it with life and magical potency.

These are abstract symbols, because the transformational experience of the midnight sun, the union of Ra and Wesir, is a mystery, difficult to comprehend without experience. This is the room of initiation, the heart of the journey to mystical enlightenment. I for sure haven’t been there yet.

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