solar barque

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Among other things, Hatshepsut, the woman who would be king (she gave the royal scribes all manner of headache, since “pharaoh” required the masculine form, but she was female, something along the lines of “Her Majesty, King Hatshepsut,” poor chickens), effected this lovely solar barque to be built (and thereafter commemorated in stone) (and much thereafter postally commemorated!) during her reign as pharaoh in the Eighteenth Dynasty, New Kingdom, Ancient Egypt.  Issued for the Congrès International de Navigation, held in Cairo in 1926, these stamps show a ship from Hatshepsut’s fleet, sailing to the Land of Punt for trade.  [The Land of Punt……well, it’s either along the Horn of Africa, or along the Arabian Peninsula, or it encompasses both, or it’s somewhere else altogether……]  [In the original relief, the water is populated by fishes so well-documented that their species are easily identified by any decent Nile/Red Sea inhabitant worth his or her reeds/salt.]  After her death, Hatshepsut’s name was erased from the official record, her temples were destroyed, and her successor (Thutmosis III) attempted to exact upon his stepmama the fate that all Ancient Egyptians feared and reviled above any other–to have one’s name forgotten.  Luckily, Thutmosis III (as in most things) wasn’t as efficient as he could have been and we still get to dream about Hatshepsut, “the first great woman in history of whom we are informed,” as Breasted used to say.

Stamp details:
Issued on: December 9, 1926
From: Cairo, Egypt
MC #109-111

kneel down and close your eyes, devotee
breathe in, breathe out, sink into yourself
now open your inner eyes
and find yourself in this private chamber
deep within the temple complex
grand Bubastis beside the Nile
worship place of Bast, The Fiery One
the only sound torches flickering on the walls
and the soft patter of paw-steps in the shadows
temple cats or the spirits of their kin
the air is heavy with the scent of incense
and on the walls carvings laid with gold and lapis dance in the torchlight
images of the Lady of the East at Her work
standing proud and fierce upon Ra’s solar barque
or kneeling with Her children all around
scenes of hunting fields and sunlit courtyards
of celebration and devotion to the Lady of Truth
and standing tall and regal before your bowed form
a statue of the Mother Cat Herself in polished stone and shining gold
taller than any human, older than a thousand lifetimes
in one hand She holds a sistrum and the other an ankh
tools of Her trade, protectress and guide
at Her feet burn candles and incense
and offerings lay all around
cloth and ribbon, perfume jars and precious stones
place your own offerings at Her feet
bow your head and open your heart
in this chamber you are safe and welcome
the Lady of the Flame fills you with love like the eternal sun
devotion like the heart of the fire
peace like the most delicate perfume
the Lady hears all
speak and She will answer