music and its dance ~ an Africa-centered s/hero's journey perspective

Auset ~ Divine Seeker

Born in 1803 and orphaned at age 5, Maria W. Stewart was an American domestic servant who became a teacher, journalist, abolitionist, lecturer and women’s rights activist. She urged “daughters of Africa” to reject the negative images of Black womanhood that were/are so pervasive, but to instead possess the power of self-definition. In an 1833 speech, Stewart said: “Like King Solomon, who put neither nail nor hammer to the temple, yet received the praise; so also have the white Americans gained themselves a name, like the names of the great men that are in the earth, whilst in reality we have been their principle foundation and support. We have pursued the shadow, they have obtained the substance; we have performed the labor, they have received the profits; we have planted the vines, they have eaten the fruits of them.”

The power of images [for good or ill] has been well-known since ancient times in Africa, as evident in the following proverb from the Luxor Temple of Amun-Mut-Montu/Khonsu: “People need images. Lacking them they invent idols. Better then to found the images on realities that lead the true seeker to the source.” The Gods of Khemet created a number of art-for-life’s-sake images that would, when properly looked upon, indeed lead the divine seeker to the source. Knowing the little strength of the angel of the church in Philadelphia, the God of Revelation encodes one of these key images in His instructions: “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it… hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown…” [Rev 3: 7-12 KJV]

The Divine Seeker or ‘true seeker’ – from a ‘daughters of Africa’ perspective – is represented in the archetype of Auset, Queen and wife of Khemet’s beloved King Ausar. According to their mythology, the respect Ausar was able to command on earth and in the nether-world as the bringer of civilization made his ‘younger brother’ – a god with pedophilic issues named Seth [Gr.] – so jealous that, in his bloody coup for the throne, Set[h] murdered and cut the king into 14 pieces which he scattered throughout the wilderness to prevent Ausar’s resurrection. In modern terms, Set [god of the desert, chaos, violence, foreign oppressors…] is understood to be the adversary who enslaved Africans and stole land and other treasures via colonialism. Thus the ‘wilderness’ is the diaspora where his predatory neo-colonial rule and campaign of chaos and extermination expanded. Auset must search this wilderness for the pieces of her beloved while holding fast to her crown of life which, imaged as the royal throne, represents her shero’s journey and consciousness of who she is.

Auset ~ Divine Seeker – shows up as the Shulamite in the Song of Songs, the biblical book attributed to King Solomon who, though featured in the song, is not the true ‘Majesty’ Auset seeks. Famed for wisdom, wealth, and possessing  700 wives and 300 concubines, Solomon represents the unease of one who is trapped in an excess of creature comforts, including his gross objectification of the divine feminine. It’s very clear that the Shulamite [Auset] is critical of the modalities of capitalist exploitation, including occupation and sharecropping which have created Solomon’s trappings of power and, in turn, required military guardians. She says: “Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s; threescore valiant men are about it… They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night.” [SoS 3:7-8 KJV] “Solomon had a vineyard at Baalhamon; he let out the vineyard unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver. My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred.” [SoS 8:11-12 KJV]

The Song of Songs represents Auset’s mourning as she communicates with and searches for the pieces of her soul-mate in a ‘wilderness’ [diaspora] caused by the misdeeds of Set, including murder, mutilation, scattering, plunder and rape. Auset’s crown of life, denoting her consciousness, purpose and allegiance, is significantly different from those which are worn in the capitals of Europe – their opulent design and materials conspicuously symbolizing conquest of peoples and control of resources. Without this Africa-centered understanding which would acknowledge Auset’s presiding role in Ausar’s resurrection and return, biblical scholars and translators promote other interpretations even while struggling to explain her divinity and/or justify her existence in ‘their’ holy book. Introducing herself to an audience of the “daughters of Jerusalem,” the Shulamite [Auset] makes clear: I am black… My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies. [SoS 2:16 KJV] Local to Upper Khemet – southern source of the Nile River – the lily is also the symbol of resurrection in Khemetic imagery. I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me. [SoS 7:10 KJV]

Euro-patriarchal translations and commentaries surrounding the Shulamite’s introduction of herself have varied from I am black and beautiful…[New Revised Standard Version Catholic Ed] to more sinister/racist ethnic notions – specifically, as Maria W. Stewart pointed out, against Black womanhood:

  • “I am black but beautiful…” [Douay-Rheims Bible]
  • “I am black but lovely…” [New American Standard Bible 1977]
  • “I am black, but comely…” [American KJV; American Std. V; Webster’s Bible Trans; JPS Tanakh 1917; Darby Bible Trans; English Rev. V]
  • I am very dark, but lovely…” [English Standard Version]
  • I am dark but beautiful…” [New Living Translation]
  • I am dark, but lovely…” [New KJV 2000; World English Bible; NET Bible; New Heart English Bible]
  • Dark am I, and comely…” [Young’s Literal Translation]
  • “Daughters of Jerusalem, I am dark like the tents of Kedar, yet lovely like the curtains of Solomon… [Holman Christian Standard Bible]
  • I am dark, O ye daughters of Jerusalem… desirable as the booths of Kedar, as the tents of Solomon… [Jubilee Bible 2000]
  • The word “black” does not necessarily mean that the skin is black, but rather sunburnt, dark brown… the livid or swarthy appearance of one who has suffered long from famine and wretchedness. There is certainly no reason to take the word as an argument for the bride being Pharaoh’s daughter… She has been living in the fields, and is browned with the ruddy health of a country life… The country maiden feels the greatness of the honor, that she is chosen of the king… [Pulpit Commentary]
  • …she was “black” in herself through original sin and actual transgression; in her own eyes, through indwelling sin, and many infirmities, spots, and blemishes in life; and in the eyes of the world, through afflictions, persecutions, and reproaches…: “but comely” in the eyes of Christ, called by him his “fair one”, the “fairest among women”, and even “all fair” through his comeliness put upon her, the imputation of his righteousness to her; through the beauties of his holiness upon her; through the sanctifying influences of his Spirit being in a church state, walking in Gospel order… “desirable”(y) to Christ, and to his people. [Gill’s Exposition of the Bible]

Certainly, if such white male interpretations of the black female principal in the Song of Songs prevail, then they should at the very least co-exist with culturally-centered interpretations of the African Queen. One version of the Song of Songs’ backstory – which has received extensive Jewish, Islamic, and Ethiopian elaborations – describes King Solomon being tested with hard questions during his visit from the “Queen of the South” AKA the Queen of Sheba. The Kebra Nagast [“Glory of the Kings”] tells the national saga of Ethiopian Emperors being descendants of King David as a direct outcome of their Queen’s visit with his son Solomon. Followers of the Rastafari movement believe Emperor Haile Selassie I – the last descendant of the Solomonic line to rule Ethiopia [from 1930 to 1974] – to be the Messiah and Lion of the Tribe of Judah. The African Queen’s storied visit is acknowledged in the bible thus: “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.” [Matthew 12:42 & Luke 11:31 KJV]

Told in highly symbolic language, the Song of Songs is itself a riddle worthy of the Queen of Sheba who purportedly used riddles to test Solomon’s wisdom, and to apparently expose the limitations of Euro-patriarchal translations and analyses [above]. Who knows what manner of ‘darkness’ lies in the tents of Kedar or curtains of Solomon to which the Shulamite is being compared by such biblical professionals?! She is not “original sin” in need of white male prescriptions for “salvation.” Nor does she seem particularly desirous of the kind of ‘majesty’ Solomon represents – at least not in my reading of the Song of Songs in which the Shulamite’s mission is that of the African Goddess Auset. As divine seeker who wears a distinct crown of life, it’s critical that Auset be able to distinguish between chaos/shadow/idol versus truth/substance/source as the above-mentioned proverb from the Luxor Temple states. Only in this way does she prove herself worthy of the crown and title bestowed on all true African Queens: “She Who Sees Set and Heru.”

Goddess Auset is…

Comments on: "Auset ~ Divine Seeker" (4)

  1. “Told in highly symbolic language, the Song of Songs is itself a riddle worthy of the Queen of Sheba who purportedly used riddles to test Solomon’s wisdom, and to apparently expose the limitations of Euro-patriarchal translations and analyses [above]. Who knows what manner of ‘darkness’ lies in the tents of Kedar or curtains of Solomon to which the Shulamite is being compared by such biblical professionals?! She is not “original sin” in need of white male prescriptions for “salvation.” Nor does she seem particularly desirous of the kind of ‘majesty’ Solomon represents – at least not in my reading of the Song of Songs in which the Shulamite’s mission is that of the African Goddess Auset.”
    Great post! Very nice breakdown of what a real queen represents! Thank you for this.

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