Monday, July 14, 2014
Romancing Sobek the Crocodile God
Ancient Egyptians feared and worshipped Sobek, Lord of the Crocodiles. They kept crocodiles in their sacred lakes and sometimes decorated them with jewels, no doubt to entice Sobek's minions not to eat them while they were out on the Nile. The strength and speed of the crocodile was thought to be symbolic of the power of the Pharaoh, and the word "sovereign" was written with the hieroglyph of a crocodile. It was thought that Sobek could protect the Pharaoh from dark magic.
Sobek is often associated with Isis and Horus. Some myths suggest that he might have been present at the birth of Horus and helped Isis find the dismembered parts of Osiris. Other myths, undoubtedly playing on the fear factor, align him with Set, the god of Chaos. Some even go so far as to suggest that Set fathered Sobek.
With such a juicy background, I decided Sobek had an interesting role to play in Queen of Heka. He is a companion of Heru (Horus) and suffers from his unrequited love of Iset (Isis), which has some fatal consequences. In this excerpt, Sobek "woos" Iset.
Iset tucked the hem of her skirt into her sash and waded into the sedge marsh, sinking to her ankles in mud. The river lapped at her knees, making the sun’s steady drizzle of heat almost bearable. Spikes of yellow-green flowers swayed in the sporadic breeze and released the rich, heady scent prized by perfumers. Filling a basket with sedge, she paid little attention to her dog until a sharp bark trailed into growls, then whimpers. An enormous crocodile lumbered from a thicket. The dog, hackles rising, stood stiff-legged between them. She dropped the basket and pulled the dog by its scruff onto the riverbank.
“Sobek?” She held her breath, dreading the answer.
“Glorious Iset.” The creature, evolving with every step, confirmed her worst nightmare. By the time Sobek reached her, he was fully man. He patted the dog’s head. It collapsed as if its
bones had melted.
“What did you do to my dog?” She ignored Sobek’s outstretched hand.
“It’s sleeping.” He grabbed her wrist and pulled her against him. He reeked of river water and something pungent and feral that overpowered the sweet sedge and singed her nostrils. His breath scalded her ear. “There’s an island near PaSabek where crocodiles come in the afternoon. Would you like to see it?”
“I thank you, no.”
Another shadow darkened the water. Nostrils and eyes emerged. The second crocodile’s indifferent gaze, pupils floating like black spears in a gold field, chilled her blood.
“I thought you might say that.” Rejection did not cool the heat in Sobek’s eyes.
She tugged her belt. The wet skirt plopped around her muddy ankles.
“I often see Light and Asar hunting out here.” Sobek’s thumb, cold and scaly, caressed her pulse. She shivered even though sweat beaded her forehead. “He handles a spear like a full grown man. Asar must be proud.”
Two crocodiles lumbered onto the bank. At least ten bobbed in the water. She licked her lips; her tongue was dry and parched.
“Asar adores him, and Heru worships his father.”
“No doubt, but what does that leave for you, darling Iset?” Sobek growled. The circling crocodiles, at least twenty by now, swung their heads toward him. “Your child no longer needs you, and your husband cannot be a man with you.”
The crocodiles’ bobbing heads and yawning mouths stifled her tart response.
“Poor Iset.” He stroked her cheek, his fingers incredibly cool against the heat that blossomed there.