O mnie

Jestem jak droga polna, niczyja,  którą się mija,

Co nigdzie wiodła i wieść nie będzie, choć idzie wszędzie.

Dzieli mnie zawsze, tak jak tę drogę,
miedza od nieba,
a poco jestem pojąć nie mogę, bo mnie nie trzeba!

Nie byłem nigdy sobie, czy komu,
drogą do domu –
i dobrze życzę każdej godzinie
kiedy już minie.

Contact me

Ryszard Antolak



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The Cobra Mountain of Jebel Barkal

Drawing of Jebel Barkal by Ernst Weidenbach, 1845.

In the desert landscape of Sudan, in the ancient territory once known as Kush and Nubia, is a group of colossal statues carved into the side of an isolated mountain. Almost twice as high as the Statue of Liberty, the four figures stand guard over the River Nile in a haze of mystery and neglect. No one knows how old they are, or who created them. Centuries of wind have erased their finer details, so that  visitors are sometimes tempted to believe the statues were carved by the winds themselves (which would be remarkable indeed). One of the figures, unmistakeably feminine in shape, was said by a Turkish traveller in the 1600s to weep rivulets of tears, which collected in a ceramic pool at the foot of the mountain. The holy waters were used for healing.

Although the figures are badly weathered, one giant statue remains almost intact, thanks to its sheltered position at the corner of the mountain. It is a three-dimensional statue of an erect cobra, 200 feet high, projecting from the side of the mountain. On its head, the serpent wears a giant crown, the symbol of Egyptian kingship.

The Mountain of Jebel Barkal was once the most sacred place in ancient Egypt, as well as being the most remote. It was the birthplace of the God Amun, the mysterious ram-headed spirit immanent in all creation.  Clustered together at the foot of the mountain (and indeed within it) are found the remains of 13 Egyptian temples, the largest of which is dedicated to the God Amun. Palaces, royal residences and other buildings have also recently been uncovered nearby. One of them housed the famous oracle of Amun. The great Nubian Pharaoh, Taharka, had a small chamber built high up in the cobra’s head, where he placed a statue of himself. Beside it he had made a commemorative inscription in gold that reflected the rays of the sun like a lighthouse across the desert. This has been a very special place for countless centuries.

Be assured, the mountain is not dead. All the djinn of the Nubian desert have retreated here, ruled over by their queen Nasira (bint el-Jebel) daughter of the mountain. Legend says that she left her hiding place once, looking for food for her subjects. A young farmer found her in a sad state and cared for her. She married him and gave  birth to a daughter and a son. The couple had a stormy relationship and after several years, Nasira returned to the mountain and her own people, It is said that her children were the founders of the Omerab tribe, who live around the mountain. Even today, women come here secretly by night in small groups. They sit astride the statues of the rams at the great temple of Amun, hoping by such means to become pregnant by the grace of the ancient God.

When the Pharaoh Thutmoses III arrived in the 15th century BC at the head of his conquering army, the God Amun appeared to him in a vision uttering the words: “My spirit is here”.  In response, Thutmoses ceased his invasion and went no further south. He meditated in solitude on the mountain with the spirit of Amun and built the first of many temples here. Centuries later, when the Egyptian Pharaohs abandoned Nubia (together with its remote holy mountain) and retreated northwards, the priests of Amun questioned the legitimacy of the Pharaohs to rule, and successfully removed them from power.

View towards the Nile from summit of Jebel Barkal. Dawn.                                         © Ryszard. Antolak.

You do not need the history of this place, however, to know that it was special. You can feel it without knowing the archaeological facts. Climb up on to the summit just before dawn and wait for the sun to emerge from the Underworld as pure as a snowdrop from manure. The planets circle around your head like storm birds. Below you is an almost infinite plain where the scarab beetle navigates by the light of the Milky Way. Deserts surround you from horizon to horizon: deserts of soft sand you can sink your hand into like butter, deserts of grit, deserts of black fossilized trees and deserts of boulders large as dinosaur eggs.

The cobra mountain of Jebel Barkal is the Primordial Mound that existed before Time. It was believed to be the womb from which Amun (first of the Gods) was born, “the Hidden One”, who moves in the wind. From his tears were formed the first human beings.  Egyptian God of the common man, he is the one “who listens to the voice of the poor”. The course of the Nile flows southwards here, and Amun, god of Life and Fertility, bends back the course of the mighty river a great tortured loop to flow northwards again, bringing life to the desert landscapes of Sudan and Egypt.

Amun of Jebel Barkal.                                     © Ryszard. Antolak.

Carved into the pregnant belly of Jebel Barkal is an ancient Egyptian temple. On its walls can be seen beautiful images of the ram-headed god together with his consort Mut. She stands with her hand placed gently on her partner’s shoulder in a gesture of warm intimacy.

An even older, pre-Egyptian, temple is said to be hidden within the mountain: a temple with Golden pillars where statues of Amun can be found sitting with other deities in splendour. Its entrance is half way up the Face of the mountain. The large triangular doorway is blocked by a massive landfall of rock. No one has managed to gain entrance.

Laugh if you must. Be rational and clever. Dismiss all this from your mind as nonsense. But Amun will still be there when you return. If you are ever fortunate enough to stand upon his mountain at dawn, be certain you will feel him trembling beneath your feet, breathing over your skin and echoing in the spaces of your skull. And you will feel free and alive, as you never have been before.

Amun is not God in some distant Heaven far from mankind. He is here in creation, with us. When our lives become domesticated, tame, insipid, he appears in a dream with stars in his hair and crescent moon on his head. Behind his shoulders are infinite spaces of endless desert.  You can stay safe here, he seems to say, and chirp meekly in your shells like unborn chicks.  Or you can take a risk, and soar into an endless sky so vast, your fledgeling imaginations cannot fathom it.

© Ryszard. Antolak.

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