One thing I love about writing my novel is how much I’m learning. For example, did you know that if a person is having an epileptic seizure, you should never put anything in her mouth? I learned this when I was writing the first description of Pharaoh enduring a seizure, and it runs counter to everything I ever saw in a movie theater or on T.V. This information comes to me from Epilepsy Foundation Northwest. The reason is that it’s impossible to swallow one’s tongue, and an object in the mouth could cause broken teeth and choking. Here’s what you should do instead.
I’ve also learned a lot about Nile crocodiles. I’m reluctant to tell you why I need this information because it would be a spoiler for my novel but I will tell you that crocodiles have a hierarchy. The large, old males are at the top and they get the best basking spots in the sun. While Nile crocs range in weight from 500 to 1,650 lbs, some have been recorded at 2,400 lbs. Wow. Hell yes, you can have my basking spot. These reptiles can sit underwater motionless for up to two hours which is a handy ability when waiting for prey to come to the water’s edge.
The ancient Egyptians worshipped many gods and one was Sobek who was associated with the Nile crocodile. “Apotropaic” means having the power to turn away evil influences or harm and this describes Sobek. He was a deity with a fluid and complex nature. Pyramid texts from the Old Kingdom say: “. . . green of plumage, with alert face and raised fore, the splashing one who came from the thigh and tail of the great goddess in the sunlight.” This is from a spell that praises the pharaoh as the living incarnation of the crocodile god.
Kom Ombo was the cult center for Sobek meaning that the crocodile and croc god were held in special esteem by the people of Ombos. Crocodile mummies were found in catacombs there. Below is a picture of the columned ruins of the Temple of Kom Ombo where carved images of Sobek are common.
Another thing that intrigues me is the fascination the dung beetle held for ancient Egyptians. And no wonder. The female beetle uses her super strong legs to roll a ball of dung into a hole and lays her eggs in it. When the larvae hatch, they feed off the dung until it’s gone and then emerge from the burrow. It seemed to ancient Egyptians that the young beetles appeared spontaneously from the hole. They called the dung beetle, which was a common artistic motif, the scarab and worshipped it as a god who could roll the sun across the sky and bury it each evening before the sun’s rebirth or re-emergence the next morning. Do you see the scarab in the two cartouches below?
The dung beetle figures prominently in a stunning piece of jewelry — a pectoral — found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb. (After you click the link, scroll down a bit to see the jewelry.) A pectoral often hung from a chain or necklace in the shape of a trapezium or rectangle. The one belonging to King Tut symbolized the young king who is reborn every morning like the sun. The hard blue stone from which the beetle is carved is engraved on the back with a formula from the Book of the Dead. The text asks the heart not to betray the young king during the weighing of his heart against the feather of truth. This kind of research is a treasure trove for a writer — symbolism, metaphors, fascinating detail — and it’s immensely fun to figure out how and where to use it to best effect in my story. Check out this short National Geographic video about dung beetles.