By Zoe Adlam
As Ra’s boat emerged from the east, the gentle awakening of the household began. The cool breeze filtering through the palm trees was gradually replaced by the scorching, flat heat of the day to come. The sun itself was slowly unveiling itself.
Though for Amenemhet, squished next to his younger siblings, Meresankh and Khafra, the day had already begun. He had stirred at the crack of dawn upon hearing his father leave for the fields. Amenemhet’s mother followed soon after as she made herself ready for the daily grind. Amenemhet could, through the tips of his eyelashes, make out her lean frame quietly pushing on her sandals. Slipping out of the room to her work.
It wasn’t until Ra was further along his journey that Amenemhet and his siblings finally stirred. His grandmother Meritites rose with them. She took toddling Khafra and Meresankh each by the hand, leading them down to the main room of the house. Amenemhet himself followed behind, bundling down the stairs. At this point, his mother had already finished the daily grind and had moved on to preparing the first meal of the day. Amenemhet relished every bite of this meal: from the freshness of the bread to the subtle sweetness of the honey to the softness of the fresh plums. He was fuelled and ready to go. Ready for a day of not a lot as he was not required in the fields. Instead, Amenemhet had to make do with being entertained by the stories of his grandmother.
His grandmother had to finish her weaving for the day so took Meresankh and Khafra, with Amenemhet following behind, to the front yard, to sit under the canopy. Meresankh was encouraged to watch her grandmother, as in just a few years, it would be her turn to take on the tradition. However, in order to keep Khafra from overturning the basket of threads and Amenemhet from slowly drifting into sleep, Meritites said ‘Amenemhet, Khafra and Meresankh, would you like to hear a story?’ The eagerness of the children to hear such a tale had sucked Amenemhet out of his daydream, his little sister to clap enthusiastically and even his little brother to come crashing back down to the earth with a thud.
Meritites cleared her throat and began her tale.
‘In the beginning, there was just water. An infinite expanse of motionless dark. It contained no elements, no life nor death. It was a nothingness of calm yet chaos.
Within this eternity, there was eight. An eight who represented limitless waters, infinity, darkness and hiddenness. They had formed pairs for each of these things: Nun and Naunet. Huh and Hauhet. Kuk and Kauket. Amun and Amunet. These eight were the primeval gods who would go on to create something amazing.
First, the eight toiled to make a mound. They pushed the matter, sculptured its shape and smoothed its sides to create an island. An island which sat within the limitless water. This new creation left the eight amazed at what they done but they were equally still hungry for more. Just one new thing was not enough.
So next, they went beyond. Whilst they had used Nun’s limitless waters to establish their island, they wanted to push what could be made in him. They wanted to bring forward beauty into the chaos. They utilised the same toil which had created the land, to create a perfect lotus in Nun. The eight had pushed their boundaries further than previously thought. Nun had pushed creation, demonstrating he was a place of potential and possibility.
Yet, what came next was a surprise. From this lotus flower, came the sun itself. This new object impressed the eight. Whilst the others were delighted by this new plaything, they were again left wanting more. The sun was still just an orb.
Nun, eager to impress, produced a humble beetle which stepped out of the lotus flower. The others scratched their heads. Why had Nun produced such a thing? It was neither pretty or useful or even fun to play with. That was until they saw the beetle moving towards the sun. Once it reached the sun, the beetle began to roll it. It rolled it until the sun finally reached its place in the sky. What a world they were building!
However, darkness remained. Until a beautiful blue lotus bud pushed its way out of the dark. The bud gradually bloomed into Nefertum. As Nefertum emerged, his eyes fluttered open, throwing a bright light into the expanse of darkness. The world as we know it was finally shining bright.’
Meritites’s tale enraptured Amenemhet, whose mouth fell agape during it. He turned to look to the burning ball in the blue sky, doing so with a newfound respect. He wondered at the way the light hit the ground and the way it seared his skin. Meritites turned to her grandson. Her eyes mirrored his which were filled with wonder. His eyes were like that when she had been told the story of Nun. So, to her, it didn’t matter that Meresankh had toddled away and Khafra had upturned the basket as she had planted the seed of belief in her grandson. A seed of acknowledgement of how amazing the world around them really was. How blessed they were to feel the warmth of the sun and be able to create. They had potential and possibility.
Meritites took Amenemhet’s face in her hands and looked deeper into his eyes and said ‘Each of us has a part of Nun within. Each of us can create. Each of us can create the new just as Nun did. Never forget that.’ And like that Amenemhet knew today had been special.