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- Uarda, Volume 2. - 6/13 -
[The sentences and mediums employed by the witches, according to papyrus-rolls which remain. I have availed myself of the Magic papyrus of Harris, and of two in the Berlin collection, one of which is in Greek. ]
and the ibis feathers, and the scraps of linen with the black signs on them. Stir it all a little; now put out the fire,
"Take the jug and fetch some water--make haste, here comes a stranger."
A sooty-black negro woman, with a piece of torn colorless stuff hanging round her hips, set a large clay-jar on her grey woolly matted hair, and without looking at him, went past Paaker, who was now close to the cave.
The old woman, a tall figure bent with years, with a sharply-cut and wrinkled face, that might once have been handsome, made her preparations for receiving the visitor by tying a gaudy kerchief over her head, fastening her blue cotton garment round her throat, and flinging a fibre mat over the birds' heads.
Paaker called out to her, but she feigned to be deaf and not to hear his voice. Only when he stood quite close to her, did she raise her shrewd, twinkling eyes, and cry out:
"A lucky day! a white day that brings a noble guest and high honor."
"Get up," commanded Paaker, not giving her any greeting, but throwing a silver ring among the roots that lay in her lap,
[The Egyptians had no coins before Alexander and the Ptolemies, but used metals for exchange, usually in the form of rings.]
"and give me in exchange for good money some water in a clean vessel."
"Fine pure silver," said the old woman, while she held the ring, which she had quickly picked out from the roots, close to her eyes; "it is too much for mere water, and too little for my good liquors."
"Don't chatter, hussy, but make haste," cried Paaker, taking another ring from his money-bag and throwing it into her lap.
"Thou hast an open hand," said the old woman, speaking in the dialect of the upper classes; "many doors must be open to thee, for money is a pass- key that turns any lock. Would'st thou have water for thy good money? Shall it protect thee against noxious beasts?--shall it help thee to reach down a star? Shall it guide thee to secret paths?--It is thy duty to lead the way. Shall it make heat cold, or cold warm? Shall it give thee the power of reading hearts, or shall it beget beautiful dreams? Wilt thou drink of the water of knowledge and see whether thy friend or thine enemy--ha! if thine enemy shall die? Would'st thou a drink to strengthen thy memory? Shall the water make thee invisible? or remove the 6th toe from thy left foot?"
"You know me?" asked Paaker.
"How should I?" said the old woman, "but my eyes are sharp, and I can prepare good waters for great and small."
"Mere babble!" exclaimed Paaker, impatiently clutching at the whip in his girdle; "make haste, for the lady for whom--"
"Dost thou want the water for a lady?" interrupted the old woman. "Who would have thought it?--old men certainly ask for my philters much oftener than young ones--but I can serve thee."
With these words the old woman went into the cave, and soon returned with a thin cylindrical flask of alabaster in her hand.
"This is the drink," she said, giving the phial to Paaker. "Pour half into water, and offer it to the lady. If it does not succeed at first, it is certain the second time. A child may drink the water and it will not hurt him, or if an old man takes it, it makes him gay. Ah, I know the taste of it!" and she moistened her lips with the white fluid. "It can hurt no one, but I will take no more of it, or old Hekt will be tormented with love and longing for thee; and that would ill please the rich young lord, ha! ha! If the drink is in vain I am paid enough, if it takes effect thou shalt bring me three more gold rings; and thou wilt return, I know it well."
Paaker had listened motionless to the old woman, and siezed the flask eagerly, as if bidding defiance to some adversary; he put it in his money bag, threw a few more rings at the feet of the witch, and once more hastily demanded a bowl of Nile-water.
"Is my lord in such a hurry?" muttered the old woman, once more going into the cave. "He asks if I know him? him certainly I do? but the darling? who can it be hereabouts? perhaps little Uarda at the paraschites yonder. She is pretty enough; but she is lying on a mat, run over and dying. We must see what my lord means. He would have pleased me well enough, if I were young; but he will reach the goal, for he is resolute and spares no one."
While she muttered these and similar words, she filled a graceful cup of glazed earthenware with filtered Nile-water, which she poured out of a large porous clay jar, and laid a laurel leaf, on which was scratched two hearts linked together by seven strokes, on the surface of the limpid fluid. Then she stepped out into the air again.
As Paaker took the vessel from her looked at the laurel leaf, she said:
"This indeed binds hearts; three is the husband, four is the wife, seven is the chachach, charcharachacha."--[This jargon is fund in a magic- papyrus at Berlin.]
The old woman sang this spell not without skill; but the Mohar appeared not to listen to her jargon. He descended carefully into the valley, and directed his steps to the resting place of the wife of Mena.
By the side of a rock, which hill him from Nefert, he paused, set the cup on a flat block of stone, and drew the flask with the philter out of his girdle.
His fingers trembled, but a thousand voices seemed to surge up and cry:
"Take it!--do it!--put in the drink!--now or never." He felt like a solitary traveller, who finds on his road the last will of a relation whose possessions he had hoped for, but which disinherits him. Shall he surrender it to the judge, or shall he destroy it.
Paaker was not merely outwardly devout; hitherto he had in everything intended to act according to the prescriptions of the religion of his fathers. Adultery was a heavy sin; but had not he an older right to Nefert than the king's charioteer?
He who followed the black arts of magic, should, according to the law, be punished by death, and the old woman had a bad name for her evil arts; but he had not sought her for the sake of the philter. Was it not possible that the Manes of his forefathers, that the Gods themselves, moved by his prayers and offerings, had put him in possession by an accident--which was almost a miracle--of the magic potion efficacy he never for an instant doubted?
Paaker's associates held him to be a man of quick decision, and, in fact, in difficult cases he could act with unusual rapidity, but what guided him in these cases, was not the swift-winged judgment of a prepared and well-schooled brain, but usually only resulted from the outcome of a play of question and answer.
Amulets of the most various kinds hung round his neck, and from his girdle, all consecrated by priests, and of special sanctity or the highest efficacy.
There was the lapis lazuli eye, which hung to his girdle by a gold chain; When he threw it on the ground, so as to lie on the earth, if its engraved side turned to heaven, and its smooth side lay on the ground, he said "yes;" in the other case, on the contrary, "no." In his purse lay always a statuette of the god Apheru, who opened roads; this he threw down at cross-roads, and followed the direction which the pointed snout of the image indicated. He frequently called into council the seal-ring of his deceased father, an old family possession, which the chief priests of Abydos had laid upon the holiest of the fourteen graves of Osiris, and endowed with miraculous power. It consisted of a gold ring with a broad signet, on which could be read the name of Thotmes III., who had long since been deified, and from whom Paaker's ancestors had derived it. If it were desirable to consult the ring, the Mohar touched with the point of his bronze dagger the engraved sign of the name, below which were represented three objects sacred to the Gods, and three that were, on the contrary, profane. If he hit one of the former, he concluded that his father--who was gone to Osiris--concurred in his design; in the contrary case he was careful to postpone it. Often he pressed the ring to his heart, and awaited the first living creature that he might meet, regarding it as a messenger from his father;--if it came to him from the right hand as an encouragement, if from the left as a warning.
By degrees he had reduced these questionings to a system. All that he found in nature he referred to himself and the current of his life. It was at once touching, and pitiful, to see how closely he lived with the Manes of his dead. His lively, but not exalted fancy, wherever he gave it play, presented to the eye of his soul the image of his father and of an elder brother who had died early, always in the same spot, and almost tangibly distinct.
But he never conjured up the remembrance of the beloved dead in order to think of them in silent melancholy--that sweet blossom of the thorny wreath of sorrow; only for selfish ends. The appeal to the Manes of his father he had found especially efficacious in certain desires and difficulties; calling on the Manes of his brother was potent in certain others; and so he turned from one to the other with the precision of a carpenter, who rarely doubts whether he should give the preference to a hatchet or a saw.
These doings he held to be well pleasing to the Gods, and as he was convinced that the spirits of his dead had, after their justification, passed into Osiris that is to say, as atoms forming part of the great world-soul, at this time had a share in the direction of the universe-- he sacrificed to them not only in the family catacomb, but also in the temples of the Necropolis dedicated to the worship of ancestors, and with special preference in the House of Seti.
He accepted advice, nay even blame, from Ameni and the other priests under his direction; and so lived full of a virtuous pride in being one of the most zealous devotees in the land, and one of the most pleasing to the Gods, a belief on which his pastors never threw any doubt.
Attended and guided at every step by supernatural powers, he wanted no friend and no confidant. In the fleld, as in Thebes, he stood apart, and passed among his comrades for a reserved man, rough and proud, but with a strong will.
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