April 12, 2012

The Lady of the Lake and Two Ladies of the Court

The Lady of the Lake
The Westcar Papyrus (now in Berlin), written much later during the Hyksos period, mentions Snefru as an amiable pharaoh. A story recounted by Prince Bauefre, a son of Khufu (Cheops), tells how Snefru, wandering one day through the palace in a state of boredom, called for the chief lector priest, Djadja-em-ankh, to provide a solution. The priest suggested that the king should be taken out on the lake, rowed by some of the younger palace ladies, ‘all the beauties who are in the palace chamber’. Snefru thought this an excellent idea, and improved on it by commanding, ‘Let there be brought to me twenty nets, and let these nets be given to these women when they have taken off their clothes ... and ... the heart of His Majesty was happy at this sight of their rowing.’ (This must be the first recorded use of ‘fish-net’ in an erotic context, later to be taken over by stockings.)

Westcar Papyrus on display in the Ägyptisches Museum, Berlin
Unfortunately the excursion came to an abrupt halt when one of the strokes lost her fish-shaped turquoise charm from her long tresses and refused to continue. The king offered to replace it, but she wanted her original piece back. There was nothing for it but to summon Djadja-em-ankh to the rescue again, this time in his capacity as a magician. He immediately caused the waters of the lake to part and retrieved the missing bauble, found lying on a potsherd at the bottom, and all was well and the rowing continued.

Two Ladies of the Court

Tetisheri
Ahmose had two strong-willed and influential women in his immediate family. The first was his grandmother, Tetisheri, the founding matriarch of the dynasty. Greatly honoured by her descendants, she was provided not only with a lavish tomb but also with a pyramid and chapel at the sacred site of Abydos, complete with a full staff of mortuary priests. Tetisheri gave birth to Ahmose's father Seqenenre II and his mother, Aahotep, who was herself a formidable character.

Aahotep was extolled in a most unusual way on the great stele of Ahmose at Kamak as ‘one who cares for Egypt.

She has looked after her [Egypt's] soldiers; she has guarded her; she has brought back her fugitives and collected together her deserters; she has pacified Upper Egypt, and expelled her rebels.’ So, as well as probably being co-regent with her son, she was evidently also an active military leader. This is further demonstrated by a superb battleaxe (below) and three ‘Golden Fly' awards for valour which were found in her intact coffin at Thebes in 1859.

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