Tuesday, June 3, 2014

You thought gardening was hard?



I  an a gardener. Like all gardeners, I sometimes employ helpers who sometimes drive me crazy and vice-versa. Sometimes, I even call upon the gods (or at least the eye of a god) to help me in my gardening endeavors. Exhibit A: My garden last spring.

But, make no mistake about it, we modern gardeners and gardener helpers are rank amateurs compared to ancient Egyptians. Exhibit B: the "Gardening Agreement" between Talames and her gardener Peftumont, c. 500 B.C, Egypt in this delightful post from the gardenhistorygirl blog.

Gardens were essential to  ancient Egyptians. Those who could afford to do so laid out gardens in front of both their houses and tomb chapels. The gods were even thought to enjoy gardens, and most temples were surrounded by lush greenery.  (See The Gardens and Ponds of Ancient Egypt.)

In my novel, Queen of Heka, Iset (Isis) is a gardener par excellence and often sees the world through gardening metaphors. Is it any wonder when she wants the attention of her lover, Asar (Osiris), she sends him a poem in which she is the garden and he the gardener?
Summon me like the sedge summons the bee.
I belong to you like the plot of ground
Where you plant flowers and sweet-smelling herbs.
I will come to you like a sweet stream, dug by my own hand,
To wander in a lovely place as refreshing as the north wind.
The preceding poem is based on an actual  New Kingdom love poem ( Poem 2, from IIc, The Third Collection, Papyrus Harris 500).