The Shrine of the Golden Hawk
by Florence Farr
The Argument of the Shrine of The Golden Hawk
The scene is in a cave on Mount Bakhua, near Sinai, about 4000 B.C. Gebuel. the Magician of Fire and Metals, makes a talisman to Heru in the form of a Golden Hawk, in the hope of overwhelming the power of Zozer, King of Egypt, builder of the Step-pyramid at Sakkara. Zozer finds this out, and sends his daughter, who is skilled in the sombre mysteries of Isis, to win for Egypt the Golden Hawk, giver of exultation of heart.
The Characters in the Shrine of the Golden Hawk
Gebuel, a magician who has earned a great reputation for power in the brotherhood. He wears a richly decorated robe of red and gold, sandals, and a conical headdress with hawks' eyes on either side of it. His age is forty-five.
The Priest of the Floods and Storms wears a robe and symbolic headdress of blue and green.
The Priest of the Harvests and Famines is also dressed symbolically.
Nectoris, daughter of Zozer, King of Egypt, is dressed as a member of a religious order - her under garment and wig are of the ancient Egyptian pattern, but she is completely veiled in a thick gauze drapery. She is twenty-six years old.
The Ka has the same kind of dress. She is the double or other self of Nectoris. The Ka is frequently represented on ancient frescoes as a smaller figure walking behind the king or queen. It represents the subtle body, and supports and strengthens the more material body.
The Priest of the Waters is seated. Enter the Priest of the Harvests.
The Priest of Harvests. Our Master finishes his work tonight.
The Priest of Waters. At last! Each day his spirit becomes more charged with lonely suspicion. I doubt sometimes if this act of faith will bear good fruit for us.
The Priest of Harvests. Do not fear. Gebuel, being a great magician and our master, has promised us the victory. Even the Majesty of Egypt, whose name shakes our land, is to be overcome.
The Priest of Waters. Gcbuel shall overcome Zozer, the enemy of our arts.
The Priest of Harvests. Hark! Did you not hear the distant thunder? Which of us has dared name the king of Egypt for these many years?
The Pnest of Waters. Pah! He, whom I have named, is the enemy of our arts. When I cursed the land of Egypt with a great flood, he opened water courses, and the evil became a good, and the desert was no longer waste.
The Priest of Harvests. The curse of famine, which I laid upon the land of Egypt, was unavailing. I cursed the land when he, whom you have named, was using the strength of his people to build the pyramid of six heights and four sides as a tower of magic - for it is raised above that chamber which lies empty - hidden deep in the earth - waiting for the divine secret which is to manifest in its depths and make full its vacancy.
The Priest of Waters. Curse the king over Egypt - for he has wrought so that our power fails from us.
The Priest of Hanvsts. Curse the king over Egypt - for he has annulled the ancient law to which all the works of men have been obedient! He has made bread from the substance of heaven - wherewith he fed his people when it was my will that they should starve.
The Priest of Waters. Tonight great Gebuel will bless the talisman of Heru, for the power of Heru is supreme - and if his godhead is on our side, not even the Egyptian himself can work against our will.
The Priest of Harvests. The fire of Heru will take the form of the Golden Hawk; and his wings shall stretch out, and he shall hover over the secret place which Gebuel, blessed be he, has made of precious stones and rare metals. And our ancient glory shall be given to us once more.
The Priest of Waters. So long as the Golden Hawk is with us, victory is with us.
The Priest of Harvests. Only the taking from us of the Golden Hawk can take victory from us.
Gebuel (without). Ruler of the rivers and the floods, prepare for the coming of the Hawk of the North!
The Priest of Waters. Here I obey, great Gebuel.
(Gebuel enters, carrying the enamelled pectoral of the Golden Hawk.)
Gebuel. Let the ruler of the floods and of the storms stand on my right hand.
(The Priest of Waters brings libation vase to his right.)
Gebuel. Let the ruler of the harvest and the famines stand on my left hand.
(The Priest of Harvests brings com and a cone of bread to his left.)
Gebuel. Take the perfected talisman of the Golden Hawk between your hands while I invoke Heru, who rests upon the central pillar of the world! Heru, whose four servers uphold the shining adamantine heavens! Heru, who has sent forth his retinue to the uttermost limits of the earth, and remains solitary in the midst whilst they wind the magic cord on the circle of the wheel. Heru, the axletree of flame, the source of the fire of life!
(The priests each hold one side of the pectoral while Gebuef rests his hands on their shoulders and prays.)
Gebuel. O Ancient, before all time! Supreme Ruler over the work of that Mighty Countenance which speaks the Word of Life! Pour thy golden fire into this Golden Hawk now coming into being. I have made thee in the image of the mountain hawk which thou hast chosen to be thy symbol because of his fearless eye, which alone can affront the eye of heaven. Thou hast commanded, and I have made thy visible image in unchanging gold. May thy chosen ones rejoice in its presence, feeling the spirit of peace resting upon them. (Removes his hands from the shoulders of the priests.) Lift the bolt of the doors of the sanctuary.
(Priests go out. Gebuel holds the pectoral on high. Priests return.)
Priests. It is done, mighty one.
(Gebuel stands before the door. The pnests kneel on either side of him.)
Gebuel. Hail in the holy place of thine Epiphany, solitary one! O thou who resteth on the star in the centre of the Northern heavens! That star which alone is immovable. Thou art the celestial, abode of our god, Star of the North! Divine Hawk, hovering in the blue night, dark as lapis lazuli! Immovable eye, in the midst of the wheel of the stars, send down a ray from thy splendid solitude upon this hawk - image of thee, thou solitary one, resting upon the empty air. immovable as thou urt in the midst of heaven. Let the Priests of the Harvest and the Famine do homage before Heru! (He prostrates himself.) Let the Priest of the Floods and the Storms do homage before Heru! (He prostrates himself.) Hail, Hawk of Gold! I give thy symbol into thine own keeping. Hail to thee, resting over the Star of the North!
(Veils himself and enters the sanctuary. The priests rise and replace their symbols upon the altar.)
Priest of the Harvests. So long as Heru in the form of the Golden Hawk is hidden within the shrine, victory is hidden between our hands.
Priest of the Waters. The Golden Hawk is hidden within the shrine; and victory is hidden between our hands. (Gebuel reenters trembling. The priests support him.)
Gebuel. I am stricken by his eyes; I am stricken by the eyes of Heru.
(They lead him to the seat.)
Gebuel (staring in front of him). The Star of the North shines beyond the open gates - but some strong hand holds me back. I have a strange knowledge of one coming - whose coming will bring darkness. (Tries to stand.) I cannot stand. Close the doors quickly. Drop the bolt. (this is done.) Bring me the sweet smelling fire that I may breathe it and find strength. (They burn incense. He gradually recovers.) Bring me the stones of wisdom, that I may understand this portent. (They bring two stones.) Let the secret be read and the sign given. Speak! let me know the riddle. (He holds the stones to his ears. He says to the priests.) Leave me, for the answer is adverse. There is a secret evil even at the doors of this holy place. Go cleanse yourselves with rites till I summon you again before me. (The attendant priests go out.) O Heru, dost thou demand that a victim should be sacrificed? How have I unwittingly sinned against thee? Thou sayest, "One must be made desolate." Someone is to be made desolate.
(Nectoris knocks outside.)
Gebuel. Who is there?
Nectoris. A wanderer.
Gebuel. There is food and shelter for all a little to the westward of this place.
Nectoris. I ask no food for t he body. I come to feed the soul on wisdom. (Gebuel opens the door.) Hail to you, guardian of the mysteries. (She salutes him in the Egyptian manner).
Gebuel. What wisdom do you seek?
Nectoris. The wisdom of the Golden Hawk.
Gebuel. Who told you of this place?
Nectoris. In my dreams I went into the forest where the bronze and gold serpents coil like flames amid the leaves, and they made me wise with great sayings, and the spirits of power passed into my spirit - for the forest was the forest of knowledge. But when I held the image of the Hawk exalted on the standard of the crossed pole before the serpents, they paled and grew dim in the presence of a strength greater than theirs- and as I looked the wood became silent and empty - and the creatures of the wisdom - which is of time - faded away.
Gebuel. The serpent is wisdom from the beginning of time - but the Golden Hawk is poised in the immensities between that which has been and the revelation of the last secret.
Nectoris. Even so - I saw before me the Hawk brooding with spread wings in space beyond the worlds - in the midst of the network of the stars - and as its wings moved they fanned the golden denseness of the air - and sparks arose and came and went like luminous winged creatures.
Gebuel. They are the times of life.
Nectoris. I saw three towers rising from the head of the bird like a great crown - and from them sprang the souls of the heroes.
Gebuel Even so - This is one of the greater mysteries.
Nectoris. From the wings and the heart sprang the souls of the workers, who make beautiful all they touch.
Gebuel. The heart is the kindling will of the golden one.
Nectoris. From the feet of the bird came the workers of less skill and cunning, and these make the foundations of ihe works of beauty, and drift onwards, without the inspiration and the kindling fire.
Gebuel. Where did you learn to discern these mysteries, my daughter.
Nectoris. Since my childhood I have lived among strangers in a place of dreams. I have wandered from land to land searching for wisdom. I have but the sombre knowledge born of time, which is shattered before the final ecstacy. Now my foot-steps have brought me to you, O great magician.
Gebuel (kindly). You arc welcome.
Nectoris. I have been guided by some star that smiled on my nativity, which was darkened until this day in obedience to a wisdom higher than its own.
Gebuel Why did you seek for me?
Nectoris. Your spirit springs from the triple crown. You alone can fill my soul - hungering for satisfaction in that wisdom which is beyond, hidden behind the veil.
(Gebuel sighs, feeling conscious of his own difficulties, He is genuine in his interest in Nectoris.) Will you not let me follow you one step beyond the threshold of the golden sanctuary?
Gebuel O child of the serpent wisdom, do you not know that no mortal may look upon the face of Hcru and live? Only after the purifications of long silences, long fasts, and constant uplifting of the heart, may one born of the human race purge himself of the perishable substance of the life we know, and exchange it for the imperishable essence of the Shining ones. Only after such rites have been performed may you hope to pass through the closed doors of the sanctuary.
Nectoris (with passion). Let me but look upon the door.
Gebuel The door is there - your first duty is to keep vigil. But beware of the brightness hidden in the heart of the shrine. To look upon it is to be blind - to be enfolded by its heat is to pass through fires too potent for any human soul.
Nectoris. I will keep vigil.
Gebuel. You are rash! - being young - and do not know that there is wisdom before which the sun pales and the stars are put out.
Nectoris. Let me begin the vigil that it may be the sooner ended!
Gebuel. To watch from this day until your span of earthly life is ended
would not be long enough. Be warned - let the shut door remain closed.
Nectoris. Father of Wisdom - put me to the test. I will endure all hardships.
Gebuel. No hardship is before those who worship Hem. I ask nothing but obedience to my warning. Keep vigil before the door of the sanctuary - the bolts are easy - the secret of secrets is within - but remember the light of flame brings desolation. You arc warned.
Nectoris (as if in a dream). "The light shines forth and leave you desolate."
Gebuel (suddenly becoming suspicious). The words that were spoken to me out of the stones! Desolate—one to be made desolate! Where have you heard those words?
Nectoris. They passed through the air as you were speaking.
Gebuel The warning is given for the second time! To you the unseen spirits are not dumb. How have you this power?
Nectoris. Great Master, I am but a little child in the presence of your wisdom. I come not to show that I have knowledge, but to gain it by your aid. I have heard the voices of the unseen ones since I was a child, and taken no thought of it.
(Gebuel claps his hands. The priests enter.)
Gebuel Set guards about the door - and see that none go in or out this day.
(The priests salute and go out)
Gebuel (sardonically). The secret of all knowledge is within the shrine. The vigil must be long. You will be alone for many hours, and none will enter in to disturb you. Have courage!
Nectoris. Your look upon me is heavy and cold as stone. O Master, do you deny me the wisdom of the Golden Hawk - for which I ask in all humility?
Gebuel Again I say the secret is within the shrine. Keep vigil!
Nectoris. I am afraid! Your face has become like a mask of stone, "'The human face is hidden behind it. I am afraid!
Gebuel The secret is within the shrine. Keep vigil till I come again. (He goes.)
Nectoris (shrieks). This terror kills me! (She throws off her Veil.) Spirit of Zozer my father, I call on you for help! My flesh fails—I cannot move, Father in thy magic shrine - save me! Father in thy magic shrine - reign over me! Father in thy magic shrine - pour thy will into me - for I am powerless alone! Spirit of Zozer my father - help thy child!
(She sinks on the floor. The Ka glides in and covers herself with the veil.)
The Ka Look upon me. I am with you. You have begun well - and are worthy of your Inheritance. Do not fail now. Have you forgotten your father's words?
Nectoris. Sister of my soul! They are in my heart for ever.
The Ka. Speak them.
Nectoris. He said - a Golden Hawk has been fashioned by the magicians of Mount Bakhua - and will be hidden by them in a sanctuary. Its capture would bring joy and great knowledge to Egypt. If you, a woman wise with the serpent wisdom, should gain that sanctuary and bring back the amulet, I will give the throne of Egypt to you and to your daughters for ever - that honour may be paid to the woman of splendid courage. And no man shall reign over Egypt in his own right from that day.
The Ka. So he swore to you. You know what is within this shrine - enter and take the Golden One for your people.
Nectoris. The face of the Guardian was terrible when he left me, as though he knew I were tempting the gods to my ruin. Can a mortal look on that hidden brightness and live?
The Ka. You are not mortal. The pure essence of the gods - whereof your spirit is made - is but veiled with a gossamer of substance. Have not we, O my sister soul, passed together through the flames which cleanse us from mortality? Have I not stripped you naked of that mortal flesh, which gives terror to the whirl of time and to the immensity of the abyss - when your mortal heart died in you - and your spirit dared greatly in those spaces beyond knowledge?.
Nectoris. I will cast out trembling from my heart in this hour - and take the strong soul which no passion can shake - that I may enter into the shrine and win the Golden One for my people and the throne of Egypt for myself and my daughters.
The Ka. Egypt is great and skilled in august mysteries - and to reign over her and to follow her wisdom is to become equal with the gods - and when the last mysteries are won, even greater than they. Kneel with me, that we may together call the powers forth from their hiding place, for the great Heru is not without us.We shall find him in ourselves.
(They kneel.) O Thou whose wings cover the earth! Cover the body of thy servant, that she may find the living flame within herself - and enter without fear before thee! O Hawk of the North - whose secret places are paved with fire which consumeth time and the substance thereof! Bless the feet of thy servant that she may pass unscathed to thy throne. O Heru - whose eye pierces the earth and the heavens - bless the eyes of thy servant that she may look upon thee and live. O Heru - on whose brow lies the weight of wisdom, bless the brow of thy servant, that she may bind upon it the triple crown of glory; and that she may win the wisdom of the Golden Hawk, and give it to her people.
(Nectoris rises and enters the shrine. The Ka looks after her.)
The Ka. The bolts are lifted and the doors turn in their sockets. She kneels, and fear wraps her round as a grey garment. O sister, let the light of Heru pierce you. She rises, and her fear is rent upon her as lightning rends the flesh. She is clothed in the cold fire of the Northern Star. She flings her arms to the air - and a wild toy is in her heart. The spirit and the flesh wrestle for victory, for she has yet some part in what is mortal. She cannot breathe - She speaks at last!
Nectoris (within). Let my feet move now in triumph to the music of the worlds beyond space - where thy mighty heart beats out *he rhythm, making the worlds to fall and rise in their order - and the stars to follow in their courses! I am drunk with conquest - and I shake the sistrum and dance with my naked feet unscathed upon thy golden floor! And the measures I dance are to me as the movement of a great army which has scaled the awful walls of thy majesty - and taken the fortress of thy wisdom!
The Ka. She moves in the dance as one who sees a splendour which is beyond the eye of man. Her limbs shine in the nimbus of the Hawk of Glory. She is more golden than the talisman upon her breast. She is here! (Dances.) She is around me! (Dances.) Her substance is not mortal! (Dances.) She is around me; the flames sweep over me, and the shadows of time pass away! (Dances.) Nectoris, my sister soul, the victory is won! (Dances, and passes into the shrine.)
Gebuel (enters and looks round). Yet another vigil broken! Heru has chosen his victim. He has called her into the shrine that he may slay her. One more mortal light put out by the light of the gods!
(Nectoris appears at the door of the shrine, radiant, looking younger and full of exultation. The amulet is on her breast.)
Gebuel. You are not slain before the face of Heru?
Nectoris. I am not slain!
Gebuel. How have you, being unveiled, looked upon his face?
Nectoris. I look unharmed upon the face of the god because his eyes are my eyes, and his power is my power, his spirit is my spirit. I am an Egyptian and mistress of the mysteries. I have become one with Heru - for I have eaten of his substance and I have drunk of his spirit - and I am henceforth ruler of the holy places. Whoso is made one with the gods makes their holy places desolate - and himself becomes their sanctuary - and his being is greater than theirs - being made of their own substance. For he has devoured their mystical rites and symbols - he has swallowed their shining forms - he has eaten the power and wisdom of every god - and the period of his life is eternity!
Gebuel Let the presence of Heru seal your blasphemous lips!
Nectoris. Yes, you arc in the presence of the Flame of Life. I, a woman of Egypt, have been chosen to pierce this mystery - and have entered into the shrine of the Golden One - and his fires have not burned - neither has his eye wounded me. The wise sister of my spirit enfolded me in safety - and gathered about me the shining garment of Heru. Enter in - O magician - and look upon the place of flame. Enter into the empty shrine which has yielded its treasure to me. The Golden Hawk is on my breast as a sign. Heru has put his finger upon me and marked me for his own - and I am Egypt. I go to my own country that I may sit on the throne and give wisdom and exultation of heart to my people.
Gebuel Desolation has fallen upon me! I am myself the victim of Heru. Verily it is true, "In his shining I have seen darkness - and the light of mine eyes has been put out." You are stronger than I - the amulet of the god lies upon your heart and does not strike you dead. You have won it - let your triumph be enough. Give me back my Golden Hawk, which I have made of the imperishable substance of the earth!
Nectoris. I carry the Golden Hawk to my father - wise and beautiful Zozer - builder of the pyramid of six heights and four sides - that he may place it in the secret sanctuary under the bolt of granite that will answer to the touch of his finger - but takes the strength of a hundred men to lift.
Gebuel Daughter of Zozer, wise and beautiful, let the spirit of your victory remain with you, and give me back my image of the god - that I, who am less than you, may see and worship with mine eyes - which may only look upon the god in his semblance.
Nectoris. You can follow Heru into Egypt, O magician, and so long the secret lord of this place! Your day is darkened. Come with your God into Egypt, and serve him in that new land which is thirsty for him; you shall see the dawn again when his light rises in a great country - and you shall teach his wisdom.
Gebuel And if I follow you, will it be to forsake this shrine which I have made of precious stones and metals, each stone with its own secret? - in chrysoprase the secret of vision, in amethyst the inner fire of the soul, in chrysolytc the secret of seership, in lapis lazuli the hidden wisdom, and in cornelian the secret of ritual.
Nectoris. Bring the dwelling place of Heru with you, for it is sacred - and you are the master of these things. And my people shall hold you in high honour, and your works shall live afrcr you, wrought in amethyst and in cornelian, in chrysoprase and in chrysolyte, and in lapis lazuli. Bring the shrine of Heru, for his spirit goes before. And put chains on the necks of your priests, and bend their wills to the will of the great one who rules in Egypt, that there may be no more floods or famines in the land.
Gebuel O wearer of the Golden Hawk! Daughter of Zozer of whom prophecy has spoken! Daughter of Zozer, builder of the pyramid of which the six heights are the steps of wisdom, I follow you, and my priests shall follow you - we are the victims upon his altar. Is not the dwelling of Heru my dwelling? - and shall not the shrine of Heru be the eternal resting place of my spirit? I follow you, O great among women, for you are the will of Heru made manifest.
Chorus of Priests. Immovable in heaven, we adore thee. Heru, Hawk of Gold, we adore thee.