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Princess of Bekhten


Princess of Bekhten

According to this tradition a king of Egypt, who was probably Rameses II, was in the country of Nehern, i.e., a portion of western Syria near the Euphrates, collecting tribute according to an annual custom, when the "prince of Bekhten" came with the other chiefs to salute his majesty and to bring a gift. The other chiefs brought gold, and lapis-lazuli, and turquoise, and precious woods, but the prince of Bekhten bright with his offerings his eldest daughter, who was exceedingly beautiful ; the king accepted the maiden, and took her to Egypt, where he made her the chief royal wife and gave her the Egyptian name Ra-neferu, i.e., the beauties of Ra," the Sun-god. Some time after, that is to say, in the fifteenth year if the reign of the king of Egypt, the prince of Bekhten appeared in Thebes in the xxiind day of the second month of summer, and when he had been led into the presence he laid his offerings at the opportunity he explained the object of his visit to Egypt, and said that he come on behalf of the young sister of Queen Ra-neferu, who was grievously sick, and he begged the king to send a physician to see his daughter Bent-Reshet, or Bent-enth-reshet. Thereupon the king summoned into his presence all the learned men of his court, and called upon them to choose from among their number a skilled physician that he might go to Bekhten and heal the Queen's young sister ; the royal scribe Tehuti-em-heb was recommended for this purpose, and the king at once sent him off with the envoy from Bekhten to that country. In due course he arrived there and found that the princess of Bekhten was under the influence of some evil spirit, which he was powerless either to exorcise or to contend with in any successfully. When the king of Bekhten saw that his daughter was in no way benefited by the Egyptian scribe, he dispatched his envoy arrived in Thebes at the time when the king was celebrating the festival of Amen. As soon as the king had heard that he went into the temple of Khensu Nefer-hetep, and said to the god, "O my fair lord, I have come once again into thy presence {to entreat "thee on behalf of the daughter of the Prince of Bekhten, and entreated him to allow the god Khensu to go to Bekhten" ; and said, "Grant that thy magical {or, saving power may go with "him, and let me send his divine Majesty into Bekhten to deliver "the daughter of the Prince of that land from the power of the "demon." The king of Egypt, of course, made his request to a statue of the god Khensu Nefer-hetep, and the text of the stele affords reason from believing that the statue was provided with a moveable head, for each of the petitions of the king we have the words hen ur sep sen, which mean that the king's wishes. The head of the statue was worked by some mechanical contrivance which was in the hands of the priests, and there is little doubt that not only the head, but also the arms and hands of statues of the gods were made to move by means of cords or levers that were under the control of the high priest in charge. When the god was unwilling to grant the request of the suppliant the head or limbs of his statue remained motionless. In the present case the king first asked Khensu-Nefer-hetep to send Khensu to Bekhten, and when the god had nodded his assent, he further asked him to bestow upon Khensu his sa, i.e., his magical, or divine, saving power. From this passage we learn that a god was able to transfer his power to work wonders from himself to a statue, and the text tells us that Khensu Nefer-hetep bestowed upon the statue of Khensu which was to Bekhten a fourfold portion of his power and spirit,. How this was done is not stated, but it is tolerably certain that the hands or shoulders of the former four times. That statues of gods were made to move their arms and hands on special occasions is well known, and in proof may be quoted the insistence given in the Stele of the Nubian prince Nastasenen. Before this prince was crowned king, we are told, he was one of those who were chosen by the priests of Amen, the great god of Napata, to appear in the temple of the Holy Mountain in order that their god might tell them which was forthwith acclaimed by the priests and generals of the soldiers, and in due course his coronation took place. It would be idle to assume that statues of gods with moveable heads and limbs were employed in this way in Nubia only, and we may be quite certain that the Nubian priests of Amen-Ra merely followed the customs connected with the election of kings which were current in Egypt. The better informed among the people must have known that the limbs of the statue were moved by mechanism worked by the priests, but the ignorant, who believed that the doubles of the gods animated their statues, would assume that it was they who moved the head and limbs of the statue and gave them a voice to speak. Returning to the narrative of the Stele we find that the king of Egypt dispatched Khensu to Bekhten, where the god arrived after the journey of seventeen months. As soon as he had been welcomed to the country by the Prince of Bekhten and his generals and nobles the god went to the place where the princess was, and he found that Bent-reshet was possessed of an evil spirit ; but soon as he had made use of his magical power the demon left her and she was healed straightway. Then that demon spoke to Khensu, and acknowledged his power, and having tendered to him unqualified submission he offered to return to his own place ; but he begged Khensu to ask the Prince of Bekhten to make a feast at which they both might be present, and he did so, and the god, and the demon, and the Prince spent a very happy day together. When the feast was concluded the demon returned to his own land, which he loved, according to his promise. As soon as the Prince recognized the power of Khensu he planned to keep him in Bekhten, and the god actually tarried there for three years, four months, and five days, but at length he departed from his shrine and returned to Egypt in the form of a hawk of gold. When the king saw what had happened, he spoke to the priest, and declared to him his determination to send back to Egypt the chariot of Khensu, and when he had loaded him with gifts and offerings of every kind the Egyptians set out from Bekhten and made the journey back to Thebes in safety. On his return Khensu took all the gifts which had been given to him by the Prince of Bekhten, and carried them to the temple of Khensu Nefer-hetep, where he laid them at the feet of the god. Such is the story which the priests of Khensu under the New Empire were wont to relate concerning their god "who could perform mighty "deeds and miracles, and vanquish the demons of darkness."


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