Yes, I am running behind again. With a little luck, the adjustments to my medication will help me keep on top of everything for a little bit. So this is late, but it is at least here before the Heb-Sed.
The theme of the first hour/month of the Nut cycle is the entering the realm of the night. Placing oneself in trust into the hands of the mother, awakening to the life of the spirit world. For if you imagine, as the ancients did, that the seen and unseen worlds were intertwined, and dreams were visions that passed through the unseen, then to go to sleep is to awaken in the world of dreams and the dead.
This is not a riskless thing to do. I am sure most of us can quote that line of Hamlet’s, “in that sleep of death what dreams may come.” We go to sleep; we awaken to the world of spirits and gods, of demons and akhu.
The Amduat names the gate between the first and second hours as Which Swallows All; the Nut texts in the Book of Night speak of her as “Lady of Trembling, high of walls, preeminent one, Lady of destruction, who forsees aggression and repels the raging, who saves the robbed from the one who comes from afar. Lady of terror.” The teeth of mother sky divide the traveller from the world of the living, a gnash that suggests, further, a crushing between her cosmic molars of those who would seek to plumb the mysteries of the spirit with “aggression” or as those who are “raging”, or who would “come from afar” – perhaps the sunlit lands of the living – in order to commit theft. To enter here is to face her judgement and her bite.
The king making this journey is, of course, granted passage: he is described as “the shining bull… who is with the Unwearying Stars”. The bull is the Egyptian symbol of virility par excellence; his name in Egyptian is one of many words etymologically related to the ka itself. The shining bull’s guide is the Bull of Light, a twinning that perhaps evokes the ka again, perhaps to serve as a reminder that the world of the dead is also the world of life, the font from which fertility flows, the spring of our blood.
In the Amduat, these lands are the fertile fields of Wernes, filled with the promise of the flood and the praise of baboons with hands lifted to greet the arriving sun. In the Book of Night, Sia acting as herald for our passage cries out to those present to receive their heads, to gather up their bones, to come and receive offerings. These cries are received by the transfigured and holy dead, and the surrendered, who may suffer, but who have submitted to the ministrations of the Mother. Their passivity here is like the passivity of Wesir himself, who was torn to pieces and restored (receive your head, gather up your bones, you are complete).
The body is the vessel of the soul. We cannot travel in a damaged boat; we must gather up our parts and bind them securely. This hour of the night is often linked to the Book of Going Forth By Day chapter 22, for regaining a mouth (and thus the power of speech – and therefore magic) and chapter 71, a spell for reintegrating the body.
Sia calls upon us now to take stock of ourselves, to pull ourselves together so that we can continue. He calls upon us also to partake of offerings, to step up to the space in which we share in the powerful nature of the gods. Here the dead have become divine; the living, also. The Powers are come to grant deliverance and strength, the abilities of the senses, a breath of air, and the capacity for great magic. The Amduat speaks of sharing the blessings of the gods: food and water and sex.
To go on, one must have claimed and established a form. Your head must remain affixed to your spine. You must be in possession of your members. You must be whole and hale and unified, with a clear understanding of your image. If you do not have an image to hold onto, a clear sense of a physical form, you may be lost in the waters. And while the drowned will be saved, in time, that is a voiceless road.
Mehet-Weret comes with the flood and its promise of renewal, and washes everything away.