Monday, August 10, 2009

Kom Ombo and Edfu: Healing The Body and the Mind

Day 8 on the ground dawned with us in motion. We left Aswan and travelled by bus to Kom Ombo and Edfu today, two temples from the late period of Kemetic history and, in the case of Edfu, the largest and best preserved temple in the Nile Valley. We have learned so much over the course of the past week: at Kom Ombo, everyone quickly identified major symbols and figures and easily identified the image of Seshat, the female creator of numbers and measurement, as she supervised the "stretching of the cord," laying the foundation for the temple structure. I often think of Seshat, the partner of Djehuty and also the keeper of all records in Kemet, as the figure whose energy animated the work of the phalanx of woman librarians of African descent who collected and preserved our history in the twentieth century, from Howard's Dorothy Porter Wesley and Wilberforce's Hallie Quinn Brown to the Schomburg's Jean Blackwell Huston and Tennessee State's Lois Brown Daniel, among so many others.

Kom Ombo, situated near an important trade town that dealt in gold from Nubia in ancient times, was a center for healers known for its double holy of holies, dedicated to the veneration of Sobek and Heru. On the wall beyond the holy of holies is a remarkable series of panels depicting medical advances in Kemet, from the birthing chair to suction devices, scalpels, flasks, knives, tongs, sponges and saw blades, among other tools. We looked at the eye of Heru, inscribed next to the surgical instruments, and Clarice noted that the "Rx" of the apothecary takes its shape and direct inspiration from this earliest of symbols for healing.

We re-boarded the bus and decamped an hour later at Edfu, the imposing temple dedicated to Heru which contains the remarkable narrative rehearsal of the epic Battle of Heru and Setekh (Horus and Set). The temple of Edfu took 180 years to finish and was finally completed under Ptolemy XII, father of Cleopatra VII (the minor figure who seems to attract all the attention in discussions of the "race of the ancient Egyptians" even though she was of no consequence to the long-view stretch of Kemet and was clearly Greek). By now, the heat of the day was upon us: we were set upon by the vendors at Edfu, a particularly aggressive lot who were all the more intent on selling us something given the relative lack of visitors at the time of day we had arrived.

Still, we managed to complete our work, including a reflection on the principal character lesson taught by the struggle between Heru and his uncle: Setekh, who often represents the lesser angels of human nature, cannot be killed. He/it can, however, be controlled by strength of character and purity of purpose. The Yoruba have a phrase, "Iwa Rere" (gentle/good character) and contend that the purpose of being on earth is to work on one's character. In another demonstration of the conceptual cultural unity of Africa, the classical people of Kemet used the narrative of Horus and Set to reinforce this basic message: one should never relent to the temptations brought about by urgings to revenge and to reactionary impulsiveness.

Before I sign off for the night, I want to send love to the high school students in Philadelphia who are completing the tenth "Philadelphia Freedom Summer" as a part of Philadelphia Freedom Schools. These young people hold their end-of-summer research symposium today, and I am saddened at the thought of missing them for the first time in a decade. Their symbols are Djehuty and Ma'at, and they have been models of intellectual excellence and passionate commitment. Like the healers of Kom Ombo and the character-building lessons taught at the Temple of Heru at Edfu, they aim to restore our people to wholeness and health.

Tomorrow we spend the day engaging the largest outdoor museum in the world and the single most imposing collection of artifacts in the valley: Wa'set (The Scepter), known as Thebes to the Greeks. We will start at Ipet Isut, "The most select of places" (Karnak) and end the day at Southern Ipet (Luxor), beginning the day by pouring libation at the White Chapel of Senusret (pictured below), one of the most powerful single structures in the sprawling Ipet Isut complex. We'll have so much to report tomorrow night. Hotep.


Brother Flagg said...

Hotep Dr Carr

Greetings and asante sanaa 4 allowing us to share this glorious adventure with you all.
We are learning so much.

the Flagg family.

"all I ever wanted to be was a good class room teacher" JH Clarke

Pearl said...

Virtual Classroom.

I can digg it!


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Kemet Travel said...

A great healing experience within Ancient Egypt gods & goddess.

In Love & Light,
Kemet Travel Team

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