Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Troubador Publishing (21 May 2019)
BLURB The Awakening Aten envelops the reader in an Egypt of whispers and fears, of webs within webs, deceit upon deceit. Its themes of murder, intrigue, political and religious conflict, corruption, tomb robbing, war and executions are set against a background of fundamental ideological change.
Ancient Egypt is seen through the eyes of two families; one royal, the other commoner. Yuya, whose tomb is in the Valley of the Kings, is a foreigner who rises from slavery to become Regent to an infant Pharaoh and thus, the most powerful man in the world’s wealthiest empire. His children and descendants will remain at the very heart of the country’s destiny. Kha is a tomb painter and builder who experiences both the despair of imprisonment and the horror of war. As Overseer of the King’s Works he restores the Great Sphinx, and inscribes the ‘Dream Stela’ placed between its paws, still visible today. Through tragic and deathly events his family and that of Yuya become entwined.
This is the fictional tale of real people, whose possessions and artefacts can be seen in museums throughout the world. It gives a voice to those people, inspired by their personal items, buried with them 3,000 years ago.
Guest post – Are 60 pairs of underpants enough to last for eternity?
For the Ancient Egyptians, much of their life on earth was spent in preparation for the eternal existence of their ba and ka (roughly equivalent to what we call our ‘soul’). Death was not the end of life, but another beginning.
There were strict rules to follow. It was essential that in the weighing of the heart, at the beginning of the journey in the afterlife, its weight was no more than that of a feather. To achieve this, obedience to the forty-two ‘Divine Principles of Ma’at,’ the Goddess of wisdom, truth and justice, was indispensable.
Lead a good, honest and blameless life, then the scales would move in your favour. However, if the feather rested higher than your heart there was someone waiting to end your journey.
With the head of a crocodile and her body a blend of hippo and lion, Ammut ‘The Devourer’ was the most feared of all demons. She waited greedily by the scales to eat any heart which failed the test. Without your heart, which the Egyptians believed was the source of intellect and personality in the body, your life ended.
In preparation for their eternal existence, great care was taken in the preparation of the tomb. Wall art depicted important aspects of the life of the incumbent as well as offerings to the gods. Bodies were buried with a ‘Book of the Dead’ which would aid the deceased in his journey through the underworld. These ‘Books’ are not a single text but rather a compilation of spells believed to equip the dead with knowledge and power, guiding them safely through the dangers of the hereafter and ultimately ensure eternal life. Littered with pictures of the deceased aboard boats, making offerings, receiving gifts from the gods these are truly amazing works of art. Written on Papyrus they can extend for many metres in a continuous scroll. The longest known example, that of Nestanebetisheru, a woman living in the 21st or 22nd Dynasty, is 37 metres in length!
For Kha, a tomb builder, ‘Overseer of the workers at Set Ma’at’ and a major character in ‘The Awakening Aten,’ his ‘Book of the Dead’ now on display in Turin Museum is, a still impressive, 18 metres long. His story is one of the main inspirations that enabled me to write this, my first novel.
Kha’s tomb, which he shared with his, obviously much-loved wife Merit, was discovered, intact, by the Italian archaeologist, Ernesto Schiaparelli, in 1905.He was given permission to export everything and therefore, all of the items which they, or their children wished to be buried with them are now in a room in the Museo Egizio, Torino.
What a story they tell!
Coming back to my initial question, why would Kha, a tomb builder for three Pharaohs, living 3500 years ago, be buried with 60 pairs of underpants?
Amongst the Pharaonic gifts, food, furniture, jewellery, walking sticks and his craftsman’s tools, lay tens of loincloths.
Was he obsessed with cleanliness? He lived to be around 60, which was a great age for the time, did he suffer from incontinence at the end of his life?
I would love to hear from anyone who has an idea as to why. Contact me through my website https://www.aidankmorrissey-author.com There are links to facebook and twitter if you prefer to contact me that way.
Each item of clothing bore Kha’s embroidered monogram or his name painted in hieroglyphs. This wasn’t so he would recognise his underpants in the afterlife, but was to ensure he got them back from the laundry during his lifetime.
Although life was very basic for ordinary people in Ancient Egypt, they were extremely well organised and the workers’ village had its own laundry system and people like Kha, would have their clothes washed for them.
Writing ‘The Awakening Aten’ has been a tremendous experience. From the gem of an idea more than 10 years ago to its recent publication has been a test of nerve, patience and never ending research. We sometimes feel we know a lot about Ancient Egypt, but the more research that is done, the more we realise that, in fact, we know very little. A big problem for me was to know how much, of what I learned, to leave out.
It is so easy to get distracted and go off on a tangent. I could happily spend many more days than I already have, just in Kha and Merit’s room in Turin Museum. The detail in the ‘Book of the Dead’ is phenomenal Sadly I am (at least, not yet) able to read the hieroglyphs but the pictures are enough to hold my attention for prolonged periods. Merit’s compartmentalised, wooden, cosmetic case with its duck headed jar and colour co-ordinated kohl stick, its numerous creams and perfumes and grooming essentials; or Kha’s shaving kit, kept in a leather case with shaving cream based on beeswax, different size razors and horse shaped tweezers, all make me feel closer to the people they were.
I hope that ‘The Awakening Aten, has done justice to the lives of Kha, Merit and the other characters in the novel. This is Book One of the ‘Aten Saga’ and the start of a long journey. This and the following books ‘The Rising Aten,’ ‘The Gleaming Aten,’ The Setting Aten’ and ‘The Sleeping Aten’ take Kha, Merit and their descendants through life changing events over a period of some 130 years. The interconnections with Pharaohs and others, real and fictional, will lead us on a journey of biblical proportions.
I hope you will enjoy reading, ‘The Awakening Aten.’ Please let me know what you think of it, you don’t have to be kind, but please be gentle!
About the author
I am of Irish heritage and was the first member of my immediate family to be born outside of Ireland. My professional life has caused me to travel the world. I am now looking forward to settling in the North East of England, to concentrate on writing.
A graduate in Law from Leicester University, after working for some years in a commercial environment, I qualified as a Solicitor in 1981.
My career developed in an unusual way and I have lived and worked at various times in Italy, Brazil, the United States, India and Germany.
I have always had a love and fascination for history. A holiday in Egypt sparked a particular passion for Ancient Egypt, especially the latter part of the 18th Dynasty. A history, which Pharaoh Horemeb (Djeser-Kheperu-Ra circa 1319-1292 BCE) tried to destroy and which only came to light following the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.
‘The Awakening Aten’ is the culmination of many years of research.
I have built up a substantial collection of academic books and novels on Ancient Egypt, its customs, traditions and daily life. I am fortunate to have been able to visit all of the major museums containing artefacts from Egypt throughout the world, as well as spending months in Egypt itself studying the funereal valleys and other sites. All of this supplemented by internet research.
This novel is the first in a planned five book series, looking at the fictional lives of real people through a period of major political and religious change, spanning approximately 130 years.
My hobbies are reading, which I enjoy as much as I do writing, and taking bracing walks along the North East Coast and in the Northumberland Hills.