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LAce Posted Monday, December 11th, 2006
Beate Sigriddaughter

At some point you held cows sacred, didn’t you? And in places they still do — to an extent, but it isn’t as it used to be. Mostly “cow” is used as insult now. In Germany, for example, they call a dull witted woman — or whoever they think is one — a dumb cow. If she’s more sprightly, but still offensive, they might call her a stupid she-goat instead. The only term of stupidity that includes both genders would be a camel.

Meanwhile, an acclaimed Scottish ballroom dancer once called his slender partner — who was stunning, though not pretty — a fat cow just to hurt her. It probably worked, though there wasn’t an ounce of fat on her bones. Like most contemporary women she was most likely afraid of the specter of that horrifying ounce and spent a good deal of her precious life fighting against its threat, feeling each day of deprivation and struggle and physical weakness a triumph of calories counted, rather than counting her accomplishments or ecstasies.

But I digress. You may or may not know the story of how I came to wear a cow’s head. In short, my brother Seth — greedy, moody, and jealous, as some gods simply are — killed our mutual brother, Osiris, who was also my beloved husband. Sibling rivalry is the root of most evil, though I should perhaps say fraternal rivalry. Sisters aren’t well documented for killing one another or their brothers. In any case, Seth ended up killing Osiris not just once, but twice, because I managed to revive Osiris the first time. But Seth found him again when I wasn’t watching and hacked him into fourteen pieces. I searched for them with our other sister, Nephthys, and I found them all except for his penis. So I put my husband together again and replaced the missing piece with a golden one. (The original, in case you want to know, turned out to have been swallowed by a fish — who then in turn mysteriously swallowed itself. An Egyptian puzzle if you ever saw one!). I can imagine some smart-aleck woman say to her lover, “If I’d been Isis, I would have kept looking.”

Anyway, we gods do what we can. And I did become pregnant by Osiris, even after he was slain. I carried our cherished son Horus. For a while there, Seth kept me imprisoned and I sat in a little prison cell weaving for him and teaching the women he tried to rule. He ruled with considerable difficulty because of his moods and jealousies that I already mentioned. But when Horus was about to be born I escaped and hid and raised my son.

Then Osiris managed to come from the other world to teach our son, and eventually Horus was strong enough to challenge his uncle Seth for the throne, which was of course what the killing of Osiris earlier on had been all about. Horus and Seth fought for eighty years. Yes, you heard that right, eighty years. Sometimes one would have the upper hand, then the other. Once I interfered out of pity for Horus and helped him out, which he appreciated very much. And then later I interfered and helped out Seth out of pity as well, which saved Seth’s life that time. This upset Horus so much that he turned against me and cut off my head. Not long afterwards, Horus felt sorry about this impulsive rage against me and put a cow’s head on my neck. That’s how I came by my cow’s head. But, as I said, that was then and this is now. Cows are out of fashion now, except for meat and milk, which most people take for granted and don’t treat as anything special anymore — except in places where meat and milk are not so readily available and there they might still trade cows for women.

Ladies, I don’t understand your world.

If I stood by a battlefield today, I would do exactly what I did before, and I would say to anyone who would ask or listen, “He’s my brother. He’s my son.”

You, my diluted sisters, stand by the battlefields as of old, with the same urgent horror in your bones. Only you don’t interfere. Perhaps I could teach you. I was always good at teaching. Death has its place, but I am here to teach the living.

It’s cold here at the edge of evil, blood and guts all around, the wind of ignorance howling. Perhaps I could howl louder yet.

He’s your brother. He’s your son.

Comments [post a comment]

Posted by Donia Carey on Tuesday, February 6th, 2007 at 11:04 AM
Brilliant, witty, and wonderful. A lesson in mythology and a diatribe against war. Thank you.

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