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15 August 2010 @ 09:18 am
The Eternal Empire: Pan-garble  
Another potentially long one on the subject of my 'ancient' empire idea, so you can yawn and pass over at will. I devoted my last post to an overview of the lineage of kings, mostly to set the general tone of changes for future reference. In this, I'll try to come up with a preliminary look at the pantheon of gods in my series of kingdoms. As the cultures surrounding the Mediterranean were varied in their theology as well as their theogony, my empire should also be complex in this way. I played at forming a dogmatic mythology for Sita Roryn, but the religions of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome were never so concretely defined. Many of their gods were worshiped before they even had writing, and many factors precluded their religions from ever being defined in a single coherent mythos. Particularly in Egypt, there was a dichotomy between official gods, those used in political ceremonies and whose cults were handled by vast and rich bureaucracies, city and village gods, whom were worshiped locally and generally had a more personal character, and household gods, whose character and attributes shifted with location. As far as I know, only the Hindu pantheon has been given even partial consistency in works like the Vedas and the Mahabharata. Nevertheless, in a given place and time of Ancient Egypt or Greece, the religion was consistent and well understood by the people. It is only when trying to look at every location and time period together as a seamless whole that the tapestry and evolution of the religion becomes needlessly confusing. In my empire, therefore, the religion will also be both universal and local, timeless and evolving, official and personal.

I won't try to create a comprehensive timeline that includes every god, spirit, or elemental force with their interrelationships; this would be folly and would require thousands of pages in its own right. This kind of thing is impossible even for Egypt, though its religion was documented for several thousand years in countless texts and monuments. Such a religion is not a monolithic entity to be looked at in this way, it must be watched as it evolves, with understanding about its origins and inner connectivity gained by understanding this evolution. Instead, I'll come at the problem in the same way as I show the narration - from many different perspectives at different points in time. I do need at least a quick reference on its major aspects to keep what I write in context, however, so I'm setting some of it out here pretty much as I think of it.

Faceless Gods

Ha - The premier state god in the Second and Third Kingdoms, rising in status from a variety of local versions by virtue of its universality and ultimate mystery, this is the Breath of Life. Although akin to several Egyptian deities (or, more exactly, their power as life-bringer), I got the name from a different kind of deity in Egypt, a nondescript god of the Western Desert and its oases. This is appropriate, as I'll show, and can be used as a particular origin for the word used. In the northern region of the empire, where mountain valleys open into narrow headlands before the sea, this god had its origin as the elemental wind and cause of storms. Its meaning as the Breath of Life comes from the ability of animals to create their own wind, and the loss of this ability at death. During the First Kingdom, it is seen in various ways around the inland sea, not all of which are entirely comparable. Nevertheless, each version is concerned with air, lightness, and calmness in its benevolent aspect and destruction, loudness, and vengefulness in its darker one. Nowhere is it given human form, however it can be written simply as a single glyph representing an open mouth with three concentric curved lines below it signifying the act of breathing. Also, it is used to differentiate "living" figures from "dead" ones in art by showing their mouths open in profile with three wavy rays pointing away (Resembling the comic symbol for a talking character. Thus, "Ha springs from him" means "he lives" while "Ha comes to him" means "He is born."). In later times, the glyph is integrated directly into full-face pictures and statues of other primary gods, thus relating them directly and giving these the (literal) power to give life and making a fundamental change from earlier usage. Otherwise, all later human figures in art are shown close-mouthed. The god is later combined with a similar life-giver, the dragonfly Nem as Ha-nem, and often shown as the insect flying from (or toward) a figure's mouth. Along with the symbolic changes in art, later associations are made with other gods in name and title because there are many local gods that stand for aspects of storms, high winds, and the like. Specifically, the original (northern) name for this, Ghoh, gives way to the one used in the western desert regions where "Ha" is almost constantly heard in the ambient wind. In both cases (and however it is named), it is unvoiced, a kind of hoarse whisper. This is to symbolize that the god is ultimately beyond words, while making the utterance of it an evocation of its power and a guttural scream its most dramatic example.

Khoh - related to Ghoh, this is the northern region's sacred mountain, twinned in reality with similar one along the coast and deified as the visible part of the foundation of the world. In part, therefore, all mountains are equated with it, most prominently the volcanoes of the southern islands which lie in the straits leading to the outer sea. It is seen as the bringer of earthquakes and landslides, but also the giver of precious metals and gems. Due to the high winds upon its flanks, it is originally believed to be the home of Ghoh (from where the sacred breath is sent to all parts of the world to its desired effects). Later, when the capital is moved to the southern islands, the volcano caldera responsible for the destruction of the First Kingdom largely replaces the original (coincidentally) as the spot considered to epitomize the god. A representation of the original next to its twin (to symbolize the god's presence in all mountains) is used for "founded" and holds up a sun disc as a combination glyph for "peace" (literally, Ekeh Khoh, for "the sun is founded").

Ekeh - the sun as bringer of light and warmth. Every other source of either is therefore related to it. Fire is considered to be Ha given the sun's aspects. As with Ha, Ekeh is seen to be essential for life, but only its heat is becomes a part of living things (except for sacred animals that light themselves). One can be said to "burn like Ekeh" during a fever, as the heat presumably seeks to return to its source. Likewise, anything that is naturally warm to the touch is said to be "blessed by Ekeh". Along with Ha and Khoh, Ekeh is unvoiced, with the added exception that it is usually referred to by a title rather than the name (from a myth of the breath becoming a fire that consumes the speaker). Also like the other two, Ekeh begins as a local god, in this case exclusive to the western desert, originally named Me'ktak in one of the migrant languages. It becomes prominent after large quantities of gold and other minerals are found there, causing the capital to be moved to the western coast. For a short time, Khoh and Ekeh are combined as Khoh-mektak, a god of strength, but this god becomes confused with others at the fall of the First Kingdom. Once the western capital is established, the sun and wind are combined in Ha-ekeh, a god of fire that replaces older local ones. Ha-ekeh is written as an open mouth with the sun resting upon the tongue when its Ekeh part is emphasized, but as a simple sun disc with the dragonfly of Ha-nem shown inside when its Ha part is emphasized. When finally all three of the faceless gods are in place in the official mythology, they become combined in Ekeh-ha-khoh, the god of the sacred volcano in the southern islands (not to be thought of as a god within the mountain, but as the mountain itself). It is thus shown as the sun disc-plus-dragonfly upheld by twin mountains. This also becomes seen as the (future) place of rebirth for the Father of the Waters.

The Three Fathers and the Enemy

Oshako - the First Father, whose name means literally "the mountain's issue" and is taken from the name of the sacred river of the northern region. The first king of the combined northern region, Oshako was a devout Khoh worshiper who became deified after his death, with the help of his descendants. As the kingdom became an empire, his temples spread with it, so that he became the first official state god besides Khoh itself. Seen as the vessel of Khoh's strength given to men, his approval was sought by kings throughout the First Kingdom. After its fall, his true history became mythologized so that he was seen as the progenitor of the human race for all later dynasties and a necessary recipient of ritual sacrifice by kings.

Benko - the Second Father, whose name means "the foot of the mountain", and a grandson of Oshako. As the most successful king of the First Kingdom, he conquered Jhisfin, the Eastern Kingdom, cementing the Oshakoan dynasty as the undisputed rulers of the northern region of the inland sea. As a result, he was able to send diplomats as far south as the straits, where the world was believed to end. After the fall of the First Kingdom, Benko became synonymous with the living king as protector of the empire and conqueror of new lands.

Ghosepwer - the Father of the Waters, whose name actually meant "the wind on the water". He was another warrior king, the son of Benko, who sought to expand the empire to every part of the inland sea, but drowned during a battle in the south. He was the first king both to declare himself divine while living and to die by drowning, so he was immediately seen as a symbol of resurrection and given reign over the underworld that was believed to lie beneath the inland sea. He was also given place beside his father and great-grandfather as epitomizing the life cycle of a king, thus in later kingdoms became the last member of the state's chief divine (political) triumvirate. Through the symbolism of the three, a king was believed to be born of Ha as Oshako on the peak of Khoh, thence to go forth to rule as Benko the conqueror and eventually die and be sent into the sea where he became one with Ghosepwer.

Lisht - the Great Enemy, the last king of Jhisfin, killed by Benko and thrown into the inland sea. Because he was the last ruler of the Eastern Kingdom during that time, he was personified as equal with all of those who had gone before and deified after death as the divine enemy of the Two (later Three) Fathers. Also, because he preceded Ghosepwer in going into the watery underworld, his final destruction was seen to be the true reason for Ghosepwer's drowning. In later mythology, Ghosepwer is shown overthrowing him as king of the underworld, thus giving hope to people who feared pain and torture in death. Despite general animosity for the ancient Eastern Kingdom in the later empire, Lisht was worshiped as a redeemer god in his homeland until the empire was finally purged of its native religion.

Later Kings as Gods

After the fall of the First Kingdom, during the ensuing two centuries when there was essentially no centralized political power around the inland sea, the only part of the empire that did not wholly crumble away was its religion, kept alive by the efforts of local priests who copied and recopied texts that became decreasingly understood as history and eventually seen as mythology. The former great kings became premier gods in the local pantheons, to be honored and invoked by town leaders throughout this dark period. Naturally, warrior chiefs and later regional kings saw themselves directly connected to the Three Fathers, Benko especially. By the time that the Second Kingdom had begun, leaders regularly referred to themselves as "Oshakoda", or "Son of Oshako", and the ancillary title of "Habek", a hieroglyphic play on "The living Benko" and "the bright light", became widespread as synonymous with "king of kings". Thus during much of the Second Kingdom, kings were worshiped after their deaths as an aspect of Ghosepwer and, in many instances, worshiped during their lifetimes as the living figure of Benko. After the rise of the Ha-ekeh cult and its transformation into Ekeh-ha-khoh, the king increasingly became thought of as the representative of this sun god and high priest of its cult, with his Benko aspect relegated to official rituals of succession. During the Third Kingdom, both of these aspects remained, but were largely overshadowed by the new view of the king as Sutoh, the albatross god that ranged far over the sea, and Whiss, the divine shark that struck at enemies anywhere without warning. When referring to the king, these were combined as Whis-toh, who could transform between the two aspects at will. Therefore, while on land, the king preferred his ceremonial aspect as Ekeh-ha-khoh and conquering majesty as Benko, but spread his fame and power throughout the inland sea as Whis-toh.

Gods Associated with Death and the Afterlife

The afterlife was populated with a plethora of gods. Chief among these was Olgum, the many-armed octopus that dragged evildoers into the sea, and the Ekwiss, angelic dolphins that accompanied the dead worthy of being taken up to the sky. A separate fate was envisioned for those who died on land or wandering spirits who never found their way to the sea. This last was Eyoh, the voiceless and faceless death of forever riding aimlessly on the wind. Eyoh was seen as a kind of mirror-image world separated from the real one by day, with echoes and doorways opening to it by night, but empty of any kind of pleasure or sustenance. Even here, however the hapless dead could find help in the sheltering wings of Ha-emquay, the ancient owl god who hunted demons in the guises of vermin and predators.

The underworld itself was divided into Jhisfingoh, literally "the evil land without breath", and Whiskekeh, "where the fish have swallowed the sun". The former was the original underworld of the northern region, while the latter was an amalgamation of many local versions of a world beneath the sea. The dead could enter either, depending on the place and manner in which they died, but those who died on land and were believed to be carried to Khoh had to traverse Jhisfingoh before finding their final places in Whiskekeh. Regardless of their particular journeys, deceased persons were judged by various gods before having those judgments tabulated by Kenowlem, a scribe, who then told the deceased what fate they had earned. According to the peculiarities of the prior judgments, the deceased were assigned various tasks in the watery underworld, such as feeding sea animals with parts of their bodies, fishing with vast nets to feed the underworld gods, or carving "quickness" trenches to aid ships. Each task was meant to last forever (or until the end of time). In only a few cases were the dead shown to be rewarded, as they were meant to associate their lot (and thus hopes) with the king, who was invariably shown to get a favorable judgment from every god and therefore claim his throne as Ghosepwer and later his place in the sky as the sun when he was replaced by the next king. Whereas Jhisfingoh was subdivided into several large chambers, with gates that must be won to be opened, Whiskekeh was seen to encompass the whole bottom of the inland sea, with places close to its shores given to specific local gods and tasks and its central (and presumably deepest) areas set aside for the most evil of the dead. This arrangement echoed the history of the concept, which began in local myths with the "good" dead staying close to shore where they could be protected by sympathetic spirits and "bad" ones disappearing forever under the far horizon, where the most powerful and dreaded gods lay. Conversely, people in the northern region originally believed that their dead were carried up the slopes of Khoh, where they entered the underworld through the eyries of Khoh's four bird sons. Those who were judged worthy were carried into the sky by Weygo (Ha-emquay), while the rest were lost forever to knowledge.

Syfrek - the Surgeon, tender to the dead, the one who "heals" the deceased so that their souls can be carried to Khoh or to the sea. Depending upon the manner of their deaths, Syfrek would make the bodies appear alive so that the gods would recognize them. If they had burned or otherwise were irrevocably unfit (besides being lost at sea), he would make a copy out of them (a wooden figure by priests, a "living" likeness in art). Originating in the northern region as the priest who would ready a body to be taken to its place high on a mountain, on the coasts as the village healers who would place bodies in ceremonial boats, and in the deserts as shamans who prepared burials, Syfrek was the first god to bring the various religions together under one framework. He was shown as a doctor in the north and as priests in various local garb elsewhere. His signature glyph was a narrow-bladed knife made from flint.

Olgum - the Inescapable, an octopus normally depicted with enormous size and any number of arms of arbitrary length, the greatest threat against doing evil for people living near the sea or by large rivers and lakes. This was another god that originated in the northern region, particularly in the river deltas, that was exported as the empire grew. When fishermen went out to sea, they were said to be in "mer-olgum", or in "the sight of Olgum". When people drowned in the sea, they were said to be "mayalgum", or "in the arms of Olgum". This last eventually changed to "mayalm", a general term for death. Many temples were raised to this god during the First Kingdom, as it was respected as a defender of victims of evildoers, but its cult did not rise to popularity again until the Third Kingdom, when emphasis was placed on gods of the sea.

Ryush - an ancient god of the sea, the preeminent female serpent/dolphin who reigned there before Ghosepwer overtook the role. She then became associated with Sen-ekeh, Ghosepwer's main wife in life and companion as a god. Ryush was originally indicated in writing by the glyph of a curved triangle projecting from a wavy line, symbolizing a dolphin's dorsal fin above water, and in art as a great serpent with a dolphin's head and fins. After the First Kingdom, she was shown as a woman (goddess figure) striding over the waves, as Ghosepwer was sometimes shown as a man standing on a mound over water. Less frequently, both Ryush and Sen-ekeh were shown together as a woman standing upon the back of Sen-ekeh. This was not used when Ghosepwer himself was often shown standing on Sen-ekeh, Olgum, or other sea gods. Rarely until the late Third Kingdom, Ryush was shown as a winged dolphin with a serpent's tail, owing to her eventual association with Satah, the (deceased) wife of Sutoh.

The Ekwiss - dolphins, guardians of the sea against sharks and demons associated with Olgum. Of these, Lothwiss, the Great Whale, was the chief. All whales and porpoises were considered to be of the same kind, with great whales being dolphins of great age and power. Lothwiss was thus seen as the first Ekwiss, the progenitor of all life in the sea and son of Ghoh (Ha). Regardless of his place in the pantheon as sometimes husband of Ryush, Lothwiss never gained status as a state god, remaining always a patron god of fishing villages and a household god of fishermen. He did become connected to various regional governors during their rise to power, but this was short-lived. However, the Ekwiss in general were ancient local gods throughout the inland sea and so were ubiquitous in state (sea) art, shown accompanying the king and his ships on campaigns or taking soldiers into the sky during battle. During the Third Kingdom, they were often shown with gull wings, an association with Sutoh.

Sutoh - the Messenger or the Preserver, usually an albatross or large gull, the primary guardian of the king while he is at sea, also used as a spiritual conveyor of messages to outlying regions. Derived from local guardian deities from all over the inland sea, Sutoh became predominant as a state god in the Second Kingdom. As such, it shepherded the king (and by proxy, everyone) on sea voyages, but only carried a king's soul into the sky, and this only after a deceased king was replaced as the figure of Ghosepwer when the next one died. Otherwise, worthy soldiers and sea captains were said to be carried by Ekwiss either up or down, according to local preference. It is written that innumerable albatrosses and gulls lie on the sea floor awaiting the end of time to carry the remaining souls of the dead hence. Once Sutoh gained status as a state god, it merged in meaning with Ha-emquay, the owl god. Sutoh was represented by a glyph of outstretched wings, unique in their slenderness. In art, it is often shown soaring above the king's head, holding the glyph of Ha in its claws.

Keritoh - the Cat of the Night, chief among gods said to punish evildoers on land, the approximate analog of Olgum. Shown as a panther in the north and a lion in the south, this was another god of the northern region that took on roles of ancient local gods. Despite its popularity, Keritoh was not widely used in official public art, though extensively seen in inner temples and tombs. This is probably due to the king's emphasis as himself in the role of punisher. Its glyph is simply a stylized cat striding or jumping, depending upon usage. In funerary art, Keritoh was used as the usher of unrepentant dead, who carried them on his back down to the sea (or, earlier, up to Ha-emquay's eyrie on the slopes of Khoh).

Ha-emquay - the Whispering Slayer, a giant owl with snow-white plumage, hunter of (and ironically, often companion to) land demons in the guises of predators. Also called Weygo, this god is ancient in the north, the first animal there directly associated with Ghoh. Its primary use is that of a protector of travelers and those left outdoors at night, but it has a duel nature granted by Ha (Ghoh), a taker of life as well as a protector of it. Thus, it is a reminder that only the innocent are protected after dark. His glyph is a pair of white outstretched wings, similar to those of Wekah, the warrior eagle. Both birds are said to have their eyries on the upper slopes of Khoh, with Ha-emquay's on the north and Wekah's on the south. Together with Sekoh and Thekoh, the twin hawks that nested on the eastern and western slopes, they were the four (original) primary sons of Khoh. During the Second and Third Kingdoms, Ha-emquay became directly associated with Sutoh, until the two were coequal in status and interchangeable in art. All of the divine birds were considered to dwell in the living world and afterlife simultaneously, giving kings and priest/oracles a symbolic route to travel between before their deaths. This was a treacherous way, however, as the person had to be made absolutely spiritually clean before consulting the god, or he would be taken as prey.

State Gods

Besides gods associated with the kings and their families and those concerned with the afterlife, there were many gods that had their places in official rituals and thus were associated with the workings of government. Among these were Keweplem, the brother of Kenowlem and his equivalent among the living, Ooway, the god that held the sun and stars in the sky, Ootah and Kawtah, the dove and raven who respectively ushered the sun and moon through the sky, Huah, the many-faced goddess of fecundity, Ha-resht, the inseminator who quickened what Huah made ready (sometimes by ritualistic rape), Kolo, the god of wealth and gifts, Titi, a monkey god who entertained the children of the royal family and the nobility, and Homekt (originally Khoh-mektak), the many-faced god of strength and military victory. With notable exceptions (such as Huah, Ha-resht, and Homekt, who were used as personal helpers), these gods existed mostly in the statuary and on the walls of temples, where they served specific purposes.

Ooway - another universalized god made from innumerable local variants, Ooway was the "maintainer" of the sky as well as the one who set heroes in the sky as stars and planets and let loose meteors and comets. Its name means "filler of the sky", also known as Ooket-ha for "the filler of the world with Ha". It was shown in art only tangentially as slender arms holding up representations of the (night) sky that framed a scene, with one extra reaching down, crooked to hold up the king. Within such scenes, the king was shown to be breathing Ha above the heads of attendants to "refill" the god. It purpose was thus to show the king as ultimately being the one who maintained the sky. A prominent yearly official ritual was the Prayer for Good Fortune, whence the king would ask Ooway to send many good portents in the guise of meteors and hold the sun, moon, and planets to their courses. When storms arose (presumably as Ha in anger), commoners would write prayers to Ooway to intervene on their behalf. Ooway's glyph was three stars above a single curved line, symbolizing the canopy of the sky.

Ootah - a great white dove with owl's (Ha-emquay's) wings, this god carried the sun across the sky on its head. Ritually, the king would ride in a stylized ship resembling the bird from temple to temple during festivals in the Third Kingdom, representing his status as Ekeh-ha-khoh. In various regions, doves were said to carry boons of long life, owing to older local versions of the god as a bringer of good fortune. In art, it was shown holding up the sun when the twin supporting mountains were not present, especially in tomb ceilings.

Kawtah - a great raven, this god carried the moon on its head much like Ootah carried the sun, but was shown only in scenes of the night sky, where it was given a blue outline. Since the moon was a minor god, a remnant of local religions later relegated to a kind of anti-sun, Kawtah was seen as the opposite of Ootah. In ritual art where the king dealt with Ooway, he was often shown berating Kawtah for straying and thus bringing about solar and lunar eclipses.

Huah - the ubiquitous goddess of health and procreation from before civilization, Huah took on uncountable forms depending upon location, including mostly female animals like cattle, geese, and bears. As a fierce protector of the young, she was invoked by kings and commoners alike. As the symbol of pregnancy, she was a preeminent household god, but also invoked by queens in their rare appearances in official art. In ritual art, Huah was mostly shown as a majestic goose sheltering or shepherding royal children who wore the wings of Ha-emquay. In her state capacity, she was shown with a queen as a cow with upheld wings. In addition, queens were often shown with a goose crown. Huah's glyph was a cow's head set between outstretched wings.

Ha-resht - the not always benevolent inseminator of the gods, Ha-resht was the companion to Huah in state art, but the tormentor of mortal women in household prayers. In the northern region, he was originally Nolko, the "bear of Khoh". He was shown as a swan when Huah was shown as a goose, and a bull or large dog or cat when she was shown as a cow. When Huah was shown as a bear, Ha-resht echoed this, and this was the form he took in art showing him forcefully taking mortal women. Regardless of the fear of rape that caused commoners to write prayers asking him to stay away, the king (often accompanied by the high queen) was shown in art offering to the god, thanking him for making his house (and the empire) "strong of boys". The king's army was said to "carry Homekt before it and Ha-resht after." Many secondary royal palaces were thus named "strong of boys by Ha-resht (Nolko)". His signature glyph was a stylized phallus surmounted by the breath of Ha and set upon a bunch of grapes, with the phallus also used for the procreative act.

Homekt - the God of Storms, a combination of Ha and local gods of rain and bad weather (ironic considering his origin as a god of mountains and deserts), Homekt was the patron of the military and thus considered to give the king his physical strength. As a state god, his place was originally taken by Khoh as Nolko, but influence from the priesthoods of the western desert brought the sun god Me'ktak to prominence. This god was absorbed as Kho-mektak, then Homekt. In art and sculpture, Homekt became so popular as to replace many depictions of the king-as-Benko and so, during the Third Kingdom, the king was often shown wearing the garb of the storm god. While being shown as a man with a pronounced frown in ritual art, Homekt carried a streaming water bucket in his left hand and a stylized lightning bolt in his right, with the over-sized wavy lines of Ha coming from his open mouth. Because of his role as bringer of rain, he was grudgingly worshiped by farmers and sometimes shown with Huah and Ha-resht. In this capacity, he was often shown standing on a cloud or riding in a ship above clouds.

Saremenko - the Ship Builder, patron of sailors and last son of Khoh. His name meant literally "the one who brings Khoh to the sea". This was figurative, as a ship was considered to be only as stable as its captain and crew were devout. Rather than being a "mountain on the water", a ship was thought of as a temple, and large ones echoed this in their design. In ritualistic art, he was presented gifts by the king to insure a fit fleet. In funerary art, he was shown readying the deceased king's underwater "ship". In common homes, he was worshiped by fishermen and prayed to for protection. His signifying glyph was a stylized awl and plane.

Keweplem - originally the patron god of all scribes, later to be seen in official art as the assessor of taxes and accountant of lawbreaking, he was invariably shown with a stylus in his right hand and a mace in his left. His name means "fist holding the pen of Lem." Based in the First Kingdom upon a deified vizier, Sarweplem (literally, the holder of Lem's pen), he was an amalgamation of this man-as-god and the older local god of writing, Lem. He was shown in art accepting grain from the king and portioning it out to the state cults as an official explication of the nation's wealth. His signifying glyph was simply a stylus held in a fist, to differentiate it from the stylus used for "lem".

Kolo - one god of fortune among many, Kolo was the one reserved for the royal family, bringing them gifts from the gods themselves. He was shown in art as a man with many arms, each one holding a different kind of offering. In rituals, the king would accept tribute from a statue of Kolo before taking tribute from vassals. He had no signifying glyph, but his name was written with an extra stylized table heaped with offerings.

Titi - a monkey god imported along with the monkeys associated with it from Jhisfin after that kingdom was conquered. Originally a god of fertility and wisdom, it was used specifically as a pet to insult the leaders of the rival kingdom. Later, it was relegated to a role of protector of royal and noble children. Although Titi was mostly shown in family portraits of the (main) royal family, it was sometimes shown on the shoulder of the crowned prince, even when he was shown in battle. Its name means literally "laugh", with its glyph used alternately for derisive laughter at enemies.

Khosh - as with Titi, an imported god of ridicule, shown invariably as an elephant. Originally Yubub, a god of strength from the western desert, Khosh was brought to the royal palace with elephants captured in battle and thus became a symbol of conquest. Tamed, the animals were used for the king and his family to ride, so the king was sometimes shown in art riding into battle upon an elephant. This never actually occurred because the animals were rare, coming from the grasslands out of reach across the desert, and highly prized as curiosities in life and mounted as "living" statues in death.

Local and Household Gods

There's no use trying to come up with a comprehensive directory of local and household gods before I begin the actual writing, since they will be legion, highly varied, and in large part unique to the different characters. Given the scope of time and place I'm looking at, only the most enduring types of gods will be recognizable from one story to the next. For instance, fertility gods, which have always been predominant in the private lives of common people, will no doubt appear in multiple stories. Huah, Ha-resht, and more localized versions must have an integral part, as Hathor did in Egypt and as goddesses and their sometimes attendant mates did since long before writing was invented. As there was much more to the Earth Mother or Goddess of Love figures in real history than just the hopes of wives (and their husbands) to have children, so too Huah must be about the health of the land, the fecundity of crops, and the general good fortune of the family unit. Ha-resht is a different thing, as I've decided to use him as a more threatening kind of sexual partner than is normal in historical mythology. I find the characterizations of the Horned God or Min to be vacuous, superficially important as partners in creation, but totally empty of the often brutal and cruel realities of life in the Stone and Bronze Ages. In truth, conquering armies took slaves and raped women, and bragged of it, so I believe that the mythology should reflect this. What history says was the hopes of men to have lots of strong sons too often meant the stealing, raping, and sexual enslavement of women; my kings should have the arrogance to own up to this.

Men have also always prayed to their gods for strength and women for every need in the home. I have Homekt for the kings to worship, but I think commoners would more likely turn to local variants in this case. Bulls, bears, lions, just about everything vaguely resembling a phallus; these are the civil and personal deities of physical strength that endured in areas not dominated by a central government, so they will be the localized faces of Homekt for my characters. I don't know as much about the gods and goddesses that women have prayed to for fortune, release from the pain of childbirth, relief for their children from fever and disease, and hopes that their husbands would come home from the wars or stay loyal. I'll be looking at that as I work on my other projects, hopefully coming up with some topical material in the mean time.

Like farmers and fishermen, professional people have always had their own favorite gods. For scribes, I'll have Keweplem and less "mortal" versions of him. For priests, Syfrek and his helpers. Fishermen will have Saremenko, but also a variety of gods pertaining to water and seafood. As far as I know, neither viziers, co-regents, professional bureaucrats, nor regional governors or vassal kings have had any gods specifically devoted to their stations, but rather they have either worshiped the gods of their families and home cities or borrowed the ritualistic gods of the royalty. I'll be reflecting this odd vacancy as well. In many places around the world, worship of direct ancestors has played a central role in the home, reflected most obviously in Egypt by the cults of dead kings (although this might have been more for political than personal reasons). In many cultures, family members have even been buried right under the floors of their homes, and I think I'll show this kind of devotion in at least one area of the empire. In short, whereas state and local civil gods fulfill mostly political needs, gods of the household have been historically intensely personal, fulfilling emotional and acute physical needs. I'll be sure to reflect this personal nature in the variety and character of the gods I choose for the homes of my non-royal characters.

For a final note, as with the lineage and preliminary history I've already laid out, this is meant to give the feel of ancient Egyptian and other Mediterranean mythologies, which means that relatively little apparent interest is given to women or the feminine. It's not my intention to merely recreate a historical civilization in all its paternalistic glory and relegating its women to chattel. History itself proves that women have at times been world-shakers, although the vast majority of them have been overshadowed and repressed by their male husbands/leaders. Where I hope to give women depth and reason for pride is not in the story's framework, which is admittedly overtly misogynist, but in the characters I choose to show and the circumstances I give them to navigate. Therefore, there can be no state goddess set aside specifically for the (high) queen or a celestial (or in this case, watery) harem to mirror the earthly one in the same way that kings have always had their supporting deities. Even Isis and Astarte were ritualistic goddesses, meant more for controlling the roles of women than for their support. As Hatshepsut, Ankhesenamun, and Cleopatra VII had no female god to look to with the equivalent validation that even the most contested kings had, neither can my queens. Nevertheless, as I tweak the story and build its dynasties and drama, I will make sure to include women who are strong of will and smarter than most, if every one inevitably tragically misplaced. If anything, the gods of every religion share at least one idea in common; they enact roles. As such, they are models for the stratification and moral behavior of the people. One of the purposes of my story will be to show how those roles are defined, filled, and tested by people who, after all, are more than cartoonish figures drawn on walls.