"SARGON'S OATH' focuses on Sargon, the Akkadian, one of the most memorable kings of Mesopotamia, the founder of the dynasty of Akkade, the first regional empire in the Ancient Near East, which extended from 2350-2220 Before Common Era, and consisted of five rulers. Although this is a fictional account of how a future priest-king found his own identity as the True Shepherd of the Land, the narrative is based on existing sources, such as "The legend of Sargon", as well as historical and archaeological records available on the life and deeds of this great king.
Many, many centuries and a couple of millennia ago, but only a few days before the onset of springtime in the city of Kish, Ancient Mesopotamia, a man in his mid-twenties, with the body of a trained warrior and stance of a nobleman, was taken blindfolded to a wooden gate before cleverly covered by bushes. Priests and priestesses of the main temple of Kish had led him there. In silence, they walked, in perfect stillness they waited. The night was dark, although the last of wintry chill was strangely stimulating.
"Son of this mighty city of Kish, I call upon you now, at the hour of the night's high noon. Is it your desire to follow the Path of tonight's Mystery and accept the outcome of what it may bring to you, whether in failure or success?'
The clear voice was Esharra's, the newly appointed High Priestess of Kish, dedicated to Inanna, the Great Goddess of Love and War. In his mind's eye, he saw the serious slim woman of raven's hair and dark eyes, whose sharp tongue and clear laughter made him wonder on the devious ways sometimes the goddess chose her own. He had heard people talk that she was also a master storyteller. Strangely enough, he had never seen her tell any so far. Esharra had replaced the Wise High Priestess whom the initiate had loved as a teacher and holy mother since childhood. The Great Lady had died from old age seven months before. Was this the reason why he had some clear resistance towards the new High Priestess? He interrupted the train of straying thoughts and replied to Esharra:
"It is", he said, his voice hoarse in his ears.
"So be it, 'said the High Priestess, drawing a sigil in the sky in acceptance. "When you hear no more our footsteps, take off your blindfold and find your way through the darkness. May the light of your soul sustain you in your darkest hour and beyond! Let the testing begin!"
A chill of anxiety and impatience run through his body, but he waited as he had been told. When no sound could be heard, he took off the blindfold and looked up to the Heights Above and down to the Depths Below, searching for a clue on what to do, where to start. He was a well trained in the mysteries, he trusted his Inner Vision.
After some minutes of careful self-examination, he turned to the wall and to his amazement saw that a small stone gate could be seen among the bushes by the city walls, opening itself to a greater darkness. He chose to explore what laid beyond the gate, and saw a narrow trail that led downwards.
'So the gods have decided for me,' he thought, and resolutely started the descent.
He went down a long way through utter dark, over stones and pebbles that made walking unsteady and painful if he did not thread carefully. But the steady flame of expectation and desire to win over whatever challenge came his way kept him going, even when he was overcome by a weird dizziness that as disorienting as it was, also marked the gateway to the Realms of Beyond. He was now Between Worlds, and there was no way back. At least not for him in this very moment. He closed his eyes and sat on the ground, unaware of pebbles and sharp stones that would hurt the unwary.
When the feeling of disorientation finally subsided, he saw he was close to the bottom of what seemed to be a cave and his ears identified the soft rumor of waters. He followed the familiar sound, and then saw he was on the side of a river that flew through the cave. In the opposite direction to him, he saw as if conjured by dream or fantasy the shadowy lines of a woman sobbing so loud her body shook. She was holding a baby in her arms and stunned he saw blood ... as if the woman had just given birth?
"Oh, baby, I can't keep you! I am too young to care for you. I cannot let you hold me back... There is so much I want to see and do, I am simply not ready for you", he heard the girl say. "Baby, baby, half of my flesh, but not desired by my soul or planned by my mind, heart and body, I need to let you go. If I only knew of your father, who came to me in a festival night and I... foolish I was to have shared a night of passion and pleasure that only touches the flesh, but does not reach out for the mystical heights. Baby, baby, do you hear me? I have to let you go!"
The initiate saw the woman rock the baby for a little longer and then she reached out for a reed basket she had probably woven herself. With immense tenderness, she placed the infant within it, well wrapped up in the precious wool of her shawl:
" I will give you to Akki, the water thrower, flesh of my flesh, the sage hermit that serves Enki the wise", she said to the infant. "He has the wisdom I still must conquer, he has the knowledge and knowing I one day may master. And may the gods forgive me for this deed, but I need to let you go".
It was not only the young woman who was crying, but the initiate himself. For what he had witnessed, as if conjured by long lost memories was his own birth, this he knew now for sure. A succession of images followed, images he thought he had buried in the shores of past and forgetfulness so long ago.
Firstly, he saw a lonely boy growing up under the wing of Akki, a wise hermit and strict sage who followed an endless chain of rules of profound piety. The water thrower, nevertheless, was a difficult companion for the boy. It was not his fault that the Old One did not know how to laugh, kiss or hug. Theirs was from the start a life of silent companionship, observation of nature, of the coming of the seasons, the maintenance of water levels in the channels to water the land for the people. But then there had been the Temple Garden and the Wise One, and for this there would be forever gratitude in his heart for the Goddess.
The memories came back with the strength of the Winds of the Four Quarters. It was in the very beginning of springtime when he was seven years of age that he saw the Lady in the garden in the High Priestess of Uruk. Like Esharra, she had been newly appointed, a tall serious woman, slender and youthful of sad eyes who had taken the lonely boy under her protection to teach and train in the Great Knowledge of the gods. His breath choked in his throat, for deep down in his heart, mind, body and soul he recognized in her his own mother.
Suddenly, everything became so clear. Like Akki, the water thrower, the high priestess was serious and not used to demonstrations of affection, but she had been there for him every step of his journey towards becoming an adult. He had been such a fool not to have noticed her love for him, and yet he had loved her dearly, a mix of admiration and awe. But deep down he knew his heart had always known the truth beyond all veils. She had not spared him, but he could still remember the thrill of joy and excitement she had showed when he had told her he had discovered in himself the Sight, the capability to see beyond appearances to reach the essence of things and beings, as well as very strong healing powers. Urged by her counsels, he had proceeded to the strenuous training of the body, mind and spirit, little by little conquering space and higher posts in temple and government, until he became the cup bearer for the king of Kish.
Indeed, he had become Chief Cup Bearer to the king of Kish, a position of considerable importance (1). The Chief Cup Bearer was firstly in charge of the king´s wine, and tested it for poison. Secondly, because drinking vessels were made of previous materials, the Chief Cup Bearer was indeed responsible for a very large quantity of precious metals, virtually the palace treasury.
Unfortunately, the king had got involved in war campaigns he should have refrained himself from getting into. To prevent more damage to the land, the initiate had seized power. He had betrayed the trust of the former king by overthrowing the unbalanced warrior that could only get himself and the people into trouble. Nevertheless, deep down he asked himself whether this had been the best course of action. This was the reason why he was being tested by the temple to see his suitability for the throne. Sacred Kingship was not only about seizing power but deserving it. Had he survived the temple's rite, he might be the lawful representative of the people in the eyes of the gods, the new king of the land between the two rivers.
But nothing could have ever prepared him for the ritual he was witnessing, for the gradual unfold of his own story yet in a much deeper dimension. Shaken beyond measure, tears in his face, moved by emotions so long buried within his soul, he sat on the ground.
' Son of Kish, that was then, this is now. The moment is never the same twice. Forget the past and embrace the present to build a better future. Abandon once and for all the well of despair and welcome the future you will make be by your visions and deeds. What do you have to tell me? ` he heard a voice whose authority and urgency had the power to interrupt the wave of self-pity that was threatening to engulf him.
He raised his face and saw the veiled figure of ... Esharra? Yes, and no. She had small the form of Esharra, but was not entirely her. He understood the Goddess had made of the human woman her vessel for the time being.
` Lady, what do you want from me?' he asked with absolute honesty, his voice choking in his throat.
´ What do you have to give me?' was Her soft and relentless reply in the form of a question.
' I have nothing to give you, but myself... though I am unworthy...'
' Why are you unworthy? ´
Truth is hard medicine, but nothing can be built unless it is built upon Truth. He proceeded, baring his soul and knowing that perhaps the end of the testing would mean the defeat of the man and priest-king to be:
' I have no name, I betrayed my friend and mentor, although I had to, because he was getting into wars we should not get involved into for the good of the land. I am unworthy' .
The voice that was Esharra's and was not sounded both soft but with an edge of steel in the darkened cave:
' A man's or woman's worth, a manes or woman's True Name is given by themselves, by the Truth within they need to accept and make whole within and without in all worlds. I don't find you unworthy, on the contrary! From loneliness to all-one-ness you grew, and although I wished things could have been easier on you, they were not. But it is in your hands now to heal the past and become what you really want to be. There was a higher purpose in the ritual you willingly accepted to perform. What was the main purpose of your being here?'
' To be accepted by the gods to be the new king, this I know. But after seeing my inner story so far, could I become a true king? Your chosen? What about the future, Great Lady?' he dared to ask.
She kept silence for some time and took a deep breath before speaking in that dream-like voice that sounded like poetry and yet was not, because it did not contain idle fantasy but Truth, no matter how hard and painful it could be.
'The future... what is the future, but Process and Goal, eternal Be-Coming as deeds ensouled by the Spirit make one achieve, if one really wills, the most impossible dreams? What I see is still to unfold, but a time of prosperity and peace could very well succeed if a champion came and united the land from the very South of Mesopotamia to the areas along the Euphrates in the North, possibly extending to the Land of the Cedar Forest (2)? Because of the love you always felt for me, I wish this champion were truly you, but the decision is yours to make. If you choose to be the One I have been waiting for, the future King and shepherd of the land, I will call you Sargon, the lawful and truthful king, because you will then govern by the laws of the gods and unify the land under your protection. I dream too of a new capital under a ruler who would centralize the power and yet appoint local governors who would be faithful to him and to the land. What I see is a dream of wholeness, the eternal longing of the Spirit made concrete by deeds. Will I make myself heard in this generation? I can only hope, for by the bond of heaven and earth our designs can only be achieved by the deeds of humankind..."
Deep silence followed the priestess' words. Esharra bowed her head for a couple of minutes, and then raised it. He was struck by the Change, for the face that looked in his direction with unseen eyes was so very tired. He did not need to use the Sight to see that tension and weariness irradiated from every cell of her body. Indeed, she could very well collapse any minute. He understood the Goddess had departed, leaving Her human vessel.
'Are you alright?' he asked.
She sighed deeply, winced and touched her stiff neck before looking straight at him. .
'Are you?' she asked back, her eyes full of immense tiredness, yet the tone demanded an answer.
The question struck him as lightning in a moonless night. Suddenly he understood what she had done for him, and for so many others she received in her private hearing chambers. The nature of her Gift, and how hard on her it could sometimes be. She was a storyteller and bard, a Weaver of Words that Heal. But the stuff she built her stories upon was myth, sacred storytelling and life, the wounds that made people vulnerable, weak and lonely, and from these heartbreaking plots she wove Patterns to show other ways of Be-Coming firmly grounded on the experiences of the gods and goddesses she made her own to share. Nevertheless, to do so she had to make hers first the sadness, the pain and the hurt.
' I sure am in a better shape than you now,' he phrased the answer carefully, expecting her to react.
' Why did I bother to ask?' she grumbled.
He suppressed a chuckle. She had style even when nuts with fatigue. Then he reached out for her, diving in the strength forged by a vulnerability that she masked very well. Esharra stiffened and opened her mouth to protest. He just pressed her head gently against his chest and found the spot on her neck that was hard as stone, stroking it with practiced skill, sending all healing energy he could unto her.
'I felt that!' she moaned surprised, and wriggled, enjoying the sensation but still not yielding totally to it. ' I normally don't feel these things...'
' Just enjoy it for now,' he added, puzzled at the reserve he knew was there.
" You don't trust me much, do you?" But instead of pressing her for answers, he changed the subject:
' If you felt a bit more, my Lady, you would probably not be able to function in the world. So this is the way you work, isn't it? Strange gift this of yours, to make of people's lives a story greater than what they can perceive..."
'I don't do anything,' was the muffled denial. 'I just weave a Pattern of Truth many cannot see. Or take chances upon' (3)
Again, that tearing straightforwardness of hers. Esharra sat up then and created a space between them. He was becoming used to her emotional intensity and braced himself for ... for whatever she was going to dish out next.
'Your pattern was a deeper challenge. Can't you see?"
The flash of recognition struck him even deeper this time. They came from different ends of the world, different stories that yet showed a strange pattern of complementarity. Who had he been in Kish? A child of noble birth, who had had no identity in a foreign environment he had made in the end his own. Through discipline and self-determination. Esharra was not from Kish, so she had been a stranger, with no identity, but she was acknowledged as the High Priestess and holder of the most important temple office of the land. Like himself, she had discipline, strength forged by tears and the laughter of those who had seen much and yet kept believing that all worlds could be greater than any dream. He, likewise, had made his way up through discipline and faith, the right contacts and single-minded determination, guided by the love of the goddess, but somehow getting a bit stray on the path. Where had been the magic, not only the rush of energy, that ensouled the world, outer and inner, in these last couple of years?
How about Esharra then? She had not known or cared about outer wars, politics and power conflicts, because her ground was the challenge of making the Wounds of the Spirit become triggers for Inner and Outer Transformations. But he suspected there was much more in what she did not or could not tell him as yet. No matter what, she had brought change unto his life. He did not know exactly what to make out of it though, but would sooner or later find out. Her coming into his life was like a very strong wind, seconds that had the flavor of eternity. And she was definitely still considering him with a puzzling mix of curiosity and caution The one who was going to call himself Sargon took a deep breath before saying:
'It seems that I have a great job ahead of me, Esharra. To become the lawful and true king, Sargon, as I was named by you not so long ago. This was the name I was given, this is the name I will make mine. To unify this land, bridge the gaps between the different peoples of the Land Between the Two Rivers. And more: I want to build a new capital, not Kish, but a new city capable of centralizing trade and government between North and South. A capital that will be a trading post to distribute the harvests and products of the land.'
A moment of charged silence followed, and she closed her eyes, summoning the Powers that gave her sustenance. This was too important; she could drop of fatigue later, not this very minute.
'And why will you do all this?' asked Esharra finally, her voice deep, soft and relentless.
' To become the priest-king of this land, the living link between the gods and the people, out of my own choice and deeds, of my love for this land and desire to build something that will last longer than in my dreams. You said you were waiting for the lawful and truthful king to come and unite the land, and now I name myself such: I am Sargon, the future king of the land between the Twin Rivers, land that will be united one day as one! With these words I bind myself to the land, to the people of this land, to the gods that ensoul this land. May the Igigi and the Anunnaki hear my oath, may They bless the reign and empower the king to act on the best interests of the land and the people who are the land!
He stopped to contemplate what he had just said, and felt as if he could project himself right into the future. He would build an empire, the first in the region. Akkad, he would call it, and more.
Esharra blinked and sighed, but her voice was sharp as usual:
' Do you fully understand what you've just said to me?'
' My word is my bond, Esharra,' answered the one who was calling himself Sargon from that moment on. 'I did not say those words lightly.'
Esharra traced a sigil in the air.
' I accept your vows then. But don't count your chickens before the eggs are hatched. You will sure have to work to deserve your name and your kingdom first' she added.
' Anything worthwhile should be fought for,' Sargon stated very simply, and he meant it. ' With passion, integrity and daring'.
At these words Esharra started with surprise and delight. The qualities he had chosen were all in her own personal motto, the secret vow every high priest and priestess is pledged to make come true in a life of dedication to the path. Esharra then tilted her head slightly upwards, eyes dancing with mischief.
" Add up laughter and we will have a deal", he heard clearly her thoughts, but she kept silence.
Nevertheless, the fact was that all of a sudden all tension and stress seemed to have left her, and for the briefest of moments, Sargon saw not the youthful looking high priestess, but a smooth-furred lioness licking and grooming herself. Then it was Esharra again.
' Oh, I could not agree with you more!' she replied, ' get the job well done and perhaps I´ll make you king!'
Stephanie (1984) Mari and Karana, two Old Babylonian cities. Longmann, London,
2. Present day
3. It is my
opinion that the work carried out in temples in Antiquity through
myth-making, ritualling, oracular and dream divination was a
proto-psychology, which was retrieved this century first by Freud
and then by Jung. True alchemy of the spirit preached selflessly
by ancient priests and priestesses, i.e. by identifying the
person´s story with the mythic setting of the god/goddess or
tutelary deity of the temple, much soul healing could be brought
to the person, who would find within her/himself the strength to
conquer her/his own destiny based on the victory achieved by the
god/goddess. Or, as Jung put so well this century, 'find a myth
that reflects the best reality in you' and live the reality of
being the hero/heroine of your own life here and now. No matter
what, reality is better than any dream, reality that we make be
guided by the beacons of our Visions and Dreams.
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