The King’s Daughter
by Tala Bar
Table of Contents|
Chapter 2, part 1 appears
in this issue.
Chapter Two: Sha’ul|
part 2 of 2
Sha’ul’s first meeting with Ahino’am occurred when he was about thirteen years old. At that time, he was betrothed to Re’uma, and ready to commit his first love offering. It was his grandmother Maakha who took him to the most proper place for such an act, as she thought.
“Do you think he is ready for it?” Asked Kish, the boy’s worried father.
“You should have taken him yourself,” she replied, frowning at her son, “and if he had an older brother, I would have sent him with him.”
Kish, who had chosen to worship Yhwh rather than Ashtoret, conceded this honor, and was silent about his mother’s actions.
* * *
On their way to the temple, Maakha did not refrain from explaining to Sha’ul some of the facts of life as she understood them.” The best gift to Ashtoret is virgin love,” she said.
He recoiled in shyness, but was used to fulfill his grandmother’s wishes and commands. Not that she ever actually commanded him, but he could never object to her requests. Still, he was growing up, and puberty was doing its work on his body; in his instinctive way, which had been his guide all his life, he felt that going to Naaman’s temple to meet with Ashtoret’s priestesses might be a good thing for him to do.
Like everyone else in the Giv’a, Sha’ul had heard much about the temple of Naaman, and of the ritualistic ceremonies taking place there, which were basically connected with the birth, love and death of Naaman; now, curiosity and his awakening desires acted together to make it easy for him to agree to go there with Maakha and her escort.
* * *
Whenever I want to cool my spirit in the hot summer days I remind myself of the place where Ahimo’am served as Ashtoret’s priestess since her childhood. The temple of Naaman lay in the lap of a cool gorge in the bosom of his Mother Earth; it faced partially northward, the resting place of the god from where the sun never shines, and patially westward, from where the rains come.
The rays of the sun never reached in the heat of summer, only touching it in their weaker state of the afternoon. A stream of clear water sprang out just below the temple, surrounded all over by thickets of raspberries, maidenhair and twining fig branches. In winter and spring flowers of all sorts and colors blossomed there: tall yellow and white narcisusses, little dark blue muscaris, delicate pink cyclamens, and lovely white, red and purple anemonies, called after Naaman himself.
The temple had been built within an hour’s walk from the town of Naama, because a house of love should not dwell too far from an inhabited place. I heard that once, there had been no temple house at all there, the place was open and the love act in honor of Ashtoret and Naaman was performed on the bare earth under the open sky.
On that autumn day the trip was pleasant; Maakha’s girls laughed with the soldiers accompanying them to guard against robbers and wild beasts; Sha’ul, as usual, sunk in his reveries, or was absorbed in the sights of this new part of country.
The road from the Giv’a to Naama went westward, meandering through the undulating hills of Binyamin; Sha’ul’s place of birth, The Giv’a (meaning hill), was just one of those. The hills were fairly wooded on top with forest trees frequenting stretches of meadow, while densly terraced on their slopes and cultivated with small lots of cereal fields, vegetable gardens and fruit orchards. It was a good, beautiful country which the boy loved more than anything else in his life; his grandmother, though, to whose words he had to be awakened from time to time, came a close second.
* * *
As they decended into the gorge, he was taken with a slight shiver, not knowing whether it was caused by the chill of the place or by some inner feeling. Suddenly, the blood started pulsing in his veins, and he closed his eyes for a moment, almost stumbling on his way down.
“Welcome, Grandmother,” a priestess received Maakha at the entrance to the Temple. That nickname was not strange to Sha’ul, because it was a title of honor given to her by people who were no relatives; he did think, however, that this woman who was unknown to him might be one of Maakha’s many descendants. The priestess, though, covered from head to toe in her black robe, looked almost as old as Maakha herself. She was accompanied by a lively bevy of girls dressed in white and yellow.
Entering the courtyard surrounded by the Temple’s buildings, the company was invited to take their rest there, while the boy and his grandmother were led inside. Sha’ul looked curiously around him. He had spent his early childhood among Ashtoret’s priestesses and was used to them, but since he had come to live in his father’s house at the Giv’a, he had not visited any temple.
At the Giv’a, he spent his days in the company of the boys doing their work around the farm; at night he sat with them among the men round the common fire, eating and listening to their talk. He was not always comfortable with the other boys, did not like much their coarse talk and jestings; but growing up drew him closer to them, and when he was betrothed to Re’uma, he realized he was almost a man.
Sitting with Maakha inside a temple again, surrounded only by women, it was a very different situation from when he was a child. He was no longer there as the object of their care and affection, but a young man who was supposed to prove himself as such.
From within the haze of this mixture of reflections and feelings, Sha’ul heard his grandmother explaining the purpose of their visit, felt the eyes of the old priestess on his face. There was gentleness in them, usually absent from Maakha’s eyes, such tenderness which almost caused tears to fill his eyes.
He heard the priestess sending the girls away. “Ya’el,” she told one of them, “tell Re’uth to send in the Holy Ones.”
* * *
Sha’ul, not knowing the meaning of this expression, let his eyes wander around the room, trying to avoid the look of the two old women who kept searching his face. Then his face reddened, and all he wanted was to hide himself anywhere he could find, even under the red carpets they were sitting on. Neither the Goddess’s nude body nor Naaman’s naked genitals — sometimes unrealistically enlarged — had been a strange sight to him; but the illustrations on the walls showed these organs in such actions, the Goddess in such positions, that he could never imagine or think possible.
Luckily, he had not long to ponder; as the fog started gathering before his eyes, he heard the sweet, trilling sound of a flute playing, and a bunch of women invaded the room with much noise and color. The boy looked at them, astonished, the red color of his face turning scarlet. The women, all of them mature and some quite ripe to look at, were naked from their waist upwards; the lower parts of their bodies were covered with transparent red skirts which swayed like waves with every motion of their rounded hips. Sha’ul, stunned, stared at the multitude of breasts surrounding him, his mouth open and his eyes goggling; he had never seen mature women walking about with their chest uncovered, either at the Ashtoret temple in Giv’on or at home in the Giv’a.
These breasts were of many shapes and forms, some of them small and firm, sticking proudly forward, others full and pendulous, pulling heavily downward. They all had their nipples surrounded with red circles, and they were all jumping and jiggling with the dance, giving the boy the impression of some strange living creatures.
“These are the Holy Love Priestesses of Ashtoret,” Maakha explained to her grandson, looking closely at his reaction. He did not take his eyes off them. Their dance, which at first was just circling around the boy, now took to express definite action; some of the women were holding images of Naaman, their sexual organs larger than anything Sha’ul had ever seen.
They moved in rhythm to the sound of the pipes held by two or three of the women. Throughout the ceremonial love dance each dancer, using the image as if it was a man in her arms, lifted her skirt and inserted the image’s penis between her thighs, hugging it tightly to her bosom. Sha’ul breathed hard, gasping; then, shutting his eyes he fell backward in faint.
* * *
“No!” Maakha cried out, and the music ceased at once. Through the fog in his mind, Sha’ul opened his eyes. The dance had stopped, the women were standing around, hesitant; they all had their skirts down, the god’s images put aside. Carefully, he sat up, breathing in slowly, deeply.
“Not this,” his grandmother repeated, “send them away.” The old priestess moved her hand, and a meandering line of red-clad mature bodies snaked out of the room.
“Don’t you have anything else?” Maakha asked.
“Most young boys love it,” the priestess said.
“Not my grandson,” the old woman replied.
The priestess reflected, again she searched Sha’ul’s face and figure, weighing possibilities. “I have someone, but it may be a risk.”
“The risk here is greater, more fearful. If you can’t find someone more suitable, I’ll have to look elsewhere.”
“No,” the priestess said; then she smiled, “no one has ever left us unsatisfied.” She rose and left the room. After a while she came back, signing to the boy to come.
“Go, go with her,” his grandmother pushed him gently.
The woman took his hand, led him to a small room which was also padded with carpets on the floor and the walls; but here they were embroidered with bright mixed colors, the figures on them dancing erotically but not so vulgarly as in the guestroom. A wide bed stood in the center, and on its edge sat a little figure, dressed fully in shiny red. When they entered, she stood up with her eyes lowered, like Sha’ul’s.
“I am leaving Sha’ul with you, Ahino’am,” the preistess said softly, then turned and left.
For Sha’ul, there could be no better woman. Although nobody had ever told me what happened at that first meeting and lovemaking of Sha’ul and Ahino’am when they were both children in many aspects, I know he left the Temple with a calm heart and satisfied desires. Mainly, she taught him about himself and about his own body; so absorbed he was in himself, that he did not even recognize her when they met again after many years.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2005 by Tala Bar