Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Legend of the Scarab King

I have often been asked if the Scarab King, the foundation character of Book 1: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab is based on a real person. In ancient Egyptian pre-history, two centers of civilization developed: one in the north, around the Nile Delta, (Lower Egypt) and the other in the Nile Valley, to the south (Upper Egypt). Before the unification of Egypt in 3100 BC, the area was divided into small chiefdoms, each ruled over by a king, who was generally the leader of his tribe. The ancient Egyptians did not call the kings of Egypt ‘pharaohs.’ This word was used by the Greeks and Hebrews, and today is commonly used to denote the ancient kings of Egypt. At various times in its ancient past, the country was split up and there were at least several kings ruling different areas at the same time. There were also probably kings who ruled regions of Egypt before recorded history, and in fact, several ancient historians mention legendary kings who were elevated to the status of Egyptian gods. I’ve based my legend of the Scarab King on an idea of what a king of that time may have been like.

“Many thousands of years ago, long before the time of the great pharaohs, the gods walked with men on earth. It was a time that has long been forgotten. In the ancient land of Kemet, there lived a wise and good king. He was a humble man who looked to the earth and nature, the birds, beasts, and insects for inspiration on how to rule with wisdom and skill. He searched for a creature as his totem; a creature that would be a sacred symbol of his kingship and his beliefs. But what to choose, he wondered. There were already so many royal symbols: the serpent, the lion, the falcon, the scorpion, the sun …

The king was baffled. He had no answer. One day, against the counsel of his advisors and courtiers, he walked out alone into the desert. He believed an answer would come to him there in that vast expanse of sun and sand. After a few hours of walking, he became hot and tired, and regretted his decision. He sat down and just watched the scenery around him. Movement in the sand next to his sandal caught his attention. An insignificant black insect, a scarab beetle, scurried past him, rolling a ball of dung in which to lay its eggs.

“Khephri! The sacred scarab and god of the rising sun,” said the king. “The giver of new life and the symbol of the sun’s rebirth each day after the blackness of night.”

He chose this beetle, so humble and yet so vital in the Egyptian circle of life and mythology, as his totem, his symbol. He made the name Khephri part of his own name and had images of the sacred scarab carved onto the temple walls. Then he commanded his royal goldsmith to fashion a magnificent scarab from gold and jewels to hang around his neck. In the middle of the scarab, the jeweller placed the First Stone of Power, given to the king by the Seven Sages to help him rule wisely and well. The king became known thereafter as the Scarab King.

The king was tall, strong, and handsome. He loved to hunt. He was an excellent sportsman and a wonderful king. His people loved and admired him. Under his reign, the kingdom prospered. People were well fed, employed, and enjoyed their lives. The king married a beautiful girl but, sadly, they had no children. He had a stepbrother, Seti, who took his name from the dark god of chaos and storms, the god Set. Seti was the opposite of his handsome stepbrother who worshipped the sun god, Ra.

Seti was jealous of his stepbrother. He wished to rule in his brother’s place. One problem stood in his way. According to custom, in order for a succeeding king to take up his rightful place on the throne, a secret ceremony was held between the old king and his appointed heir or successor. The new king would receive special instructions: magical chants, particular hand signals, and other aspects of the mystic rituals that passed from king to king. Then the priests would know that the new king was a genuine successor, and not a pretender to the throne.

Seti needed to know the secret rituals. When he asked his stepbrother about them, the Scarab King replied, “Ah, Seti, why do you pester me with these questions? Why do you ask for what cannot be given? You will never rule after me because you do not share my beliefs in life. You think only of yourself when a king must think of his people first. Do not ask me these questions again! I have chosen my cousin on my mother’s side to succeed me. Senreset is a good and wise man. He will make an excellent ruler.”

Seti seethed with anger as the king dismissed him from the royal chambers. Once he knew the secret words and signals, the kingdom would be his.

Of course, the chicken-hearted priests will accept me, he thought. They believe in the ritual. I believe in the power. Once I am king, I will have the First Stone of Power, and then my control over the kingdom will be complete.

He sent his men to bribe the High Priest to reveal the secret rituals, but the man refused. Seti tried three times, but each time the High Priest sent them away. Seti was so angry that he ordered his men to slay the High Priest. However, his men were afraid of the wrath of Ra, and they disobeyed. Finally, Seti went himself to the High Priest. Although the man trembled before the king’s stepbrother, he would not reveal the sacred secrets of the rituals of kingship. Seti knew that the Scarab King, being healthy and strong, would live for many years. There was only one thing left to do: he must kill the king! He lured his stepbrother into a lonely part of the palace, under the pretext of discussing building plans. Then, when diagrams that Seti had brought along distracted the king, Seti struck him down.

The king fell to the ground, bleeding from the fatal blow. As the king lay dying, he groaned and grasped Seti by one hand. “You will never find it, my brother, and you will not be king for long. Your heart will be weighed on the Great Scales and you will be found lacking.”

Seti, frightened by these words, felt under the king’s tunic for the scarab. It was not there. Seti shrieked for his men and, within minutes, they had overrun the palace. Seti questioned the king’s priests closely, threatening them with torture, but they pretended not to know where the sacred scarab and the king’s regalia were kept. They also denied knowing the magic words of the ritual. Seti cursed the heavens and the gods for defeating his plans. His screams rose skyward and the city trembled beneath his wrath. The Secret of Power had gone with the king to his grave. However, Seti thought that when the king was buried, one of his priests would place the scarab in the king’s sarcophagus according to custom. If he could find the scarab, he could try to turn its power to his purposes.

But the king’s loyal followers prepared his body, placing it in a sarcophagus of solid gold, and transported it at night, along with all the treasure, to a secret tomb so that none would violate it. They descended into the entrails of the earth and hid the body in the Place of Divine Inundation, protecting it with magical incantations. The Scarab King, like the sacred scarab, returned to the earth, later to rise in the sky as a star.”

If you’re looking for more adventures, then please visit The Quest Books, where Middle Grade authors Cheryl Carpinello, Wendy Leighton-Porter and I have teamed up to offer readers an array of exciting quests. Sign up for our monthly newsletter with exciting exclusive material and get your choice of any e-book on the site FREE!

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