We began the workshop weekend by opening a whole can of worms.
Gilgamesh, Lord of the mighty city-state of Uruk, stands within the temple of Ishtar, face to face with the High Priestess, Shamhat, and demanding her favours, and when that fails, commanding her obedience. Shamhat refuses; within the temple, her obedience is owed only to the gods.
She is no longer one of the harimtu, the priestesses who offer their bodies to all supplicants as a portal to the goddess. She has served at each of the seven altars of the gods, holding the hues of their power for the sacred act that opens a portal to the stars and beyond; she has earned the right to choose.
“Is it not the law that the priestesses must offer themselves to all who ask?”
“No, Great One, it is the law that they must offer their bodies to all who worship here…”
Gilgamesh does not see the distinction between the physical and subtle. He wants none of her ‘underlings’. Each day he has visited the temple with his demands and the priestesses of the seven gods have offered their gifts to him. As Shamhat tells him of those gifts…the dreams, insights and strengths each would bring… Gilgamesh dismisses them. Those, he believes, he has no need of, or can have for the asking.
The one thing he is denied has become the focus of his desire. Sensing a power within the priestess that he neither understands nor owns, he is determined to prevail. But, says Shamhat, High Priestess of the Temple of Ishtar,
“I am Woman, and I serve no man.”
The existing fragments of the original story, that has come down to us through the millennia, are missing many of the human motivations that tie the tale together. We had to try to understand and create, from those fragments, a workable narrative that would illustrate the principles taught within the Silent Eye , while staying as true to the original as possible.
We chose to present the story as a series of vignettes and, between each of them, show the wheels of creation in motion as the Fates walked the Hexaflow, the paths between the points of the Enneagram. These paths represent process, which can be defined as an “interlinked and interdependent set of actions that transform input to output”. Within the Silent Eye, we use it to symbolise the evolution and alignment of the personality. Within the workshop, we used it to portray the process of the ‘cosmic machinery’ in motion. The two are not so very far apart.
The Fates moved as events unfolded, carrying before them the Voice of Destiny mask through which they spoke with one voice. They filled in the gaps in our version of the story, drawing heavily upon the original text. They also told a parallel story…that of the Flood, the earliest version of which is found in Sumerian texts.
As the Fates moved and the wheels of destiny were turned by the actions of the characters, the story took a new direction. Input to output… a process with which we are all familiar through the effects of our own actions. The altercation between the King and the Priestess sets the scene for a later part of the story, when Gilgamesh sees an opportunity for revenge.
The story that we know also works on many levels. It is, first of all, an exciting story…which is possibly why it has survived for so long. It also shows an exceptional understanding of human psychology… and why should it not? People have always been people and we do our ancestors a vast disservice if we think they did not understand psychology, just because the label would not be invented for another few thousand years. It is also deeply symbolic, and symbols are designed to convey, through the imagination, concepts for which words are never enough.
Within this very brief opening scene, we had established the character of Gilgamesh. All-powerful king, a great warrior and rich beyond measure, he holds his kingdom secure… and yet, he burns for anything he feels he is denied. The original text extols his virtues as the strong Lord of Uruk and yet tells us that, in their beds at night, the young people of the city cried themselves to sleep…
Clearly, there is something lacking. The unbalanced force of his personality is missing an essential ingredient and, in desperation, the citizens of Uruk plead with the gods for help.
They call upon Anu, the Sky-Father and greatest of the gods, who intercedes. He summons Aruru, the Mother, to whom, as a love-token, he had given the rainbow as a necklace. From clay that she takes from her heart and her own spittle, Aruru, on the threshold of Beyond, forms a man to be the Second Self of Gilgamesh. She calls him Enkidu and sets him to run with the wild things at the heart of nature.
That night, the King dreams, and, disturbed by the vision, seeks counsel of his mother, the goddess Ninsun. The goddess, who lives upon Earth in human form, explains what Anu and Aruru have done. She knows that her son is not whole… he is two-thirds divine, one third-man… and that Enkidu, the newly created ‘wild man’, is two-thirds animal, one-third man. If they could work in harmony, combining the aspects of their natures, then balance would be attained. All Gilgamesh can do is await the unfolding of the story…
Steve, our Gilgamesh, had chosen to wear black and gold as his royal raiment. The colours were apt for the character, both as the king and as an echo of his dual nature. Anu, the Sky Father, wore white, for the Light that contains all colours, girdled with the green of Earth. The Fates also wore white, as the blank pages upon which our stories are written.
Aruru was garbed in the greens and browns of Earth. Shamhat had chosen red… not as a ‘scarlet woman’, but to symbolise life and passion… with golden beads describing two incomplete circles linked by the vesica, a feminine symbol. Such details may pass unnoticed, but these are the symbols that can speak beyond words.
However, perhaps the most memorable costume of that first ritual drama was our wild man, Enkidu, who chose to attend his own creation in a ‘leopard skin’ loin cloth and wildly dishevelled wig. Sadly, we have no pictures of many of the costumes as very few are taken… and never while we are working.
There is a serious psychological and spiritual intent to these weekends… we would not run them otherwise… but no-one said that spirituality cannot be fun. A light heart learns easily and laughter can be a wonderful teacher.