Basset, Moshe Rashidi

Introduction and First Visitation

Sa’eeda dear readers and may the blessings of the Divine Family of the Nile be upon you. The purpose of this text is to provide some context to my role as a Scion of She-of-the-Throne. I hope you find it edifying if not exhilarating.

I was born in the great and ancient city of Alexandria in 1971. My father was a wealthy gentleman of leisure by the name of Rashidi Shenouda. He was a loving if frequently absent father who spent most of his time poring over the latest academic publications at the library of University of Alexandria or relaxing in his favourite coffee shop with friends. Our home was a ramshackle stone mansion that had been in the family for generations. A large part of it was uninhabitable but, for an only child often left to his own devices, it offered plenty of scope for exploration and introspection. With my mother entirely absent and unexplained, my father’s cook and maidservant Nadira looked after me the best I would allow. I still have fond memories of her strong arms giving me a hug when I needed comfort and the smell of her mulukhiyya soup always made my mouth water.

I received an excellent education by my father and those friends of his from the university that he could convince or cajole into tutoring me. My father’s topic was Egyptology, with a particular emphasis on religion. It was more than just academic however for him. Not only did the Pesedjet exist but they had a special duty for our family. At age 13, as a mark of growing adulthood, my father took me down for the first time into the lowest part of the family mansion and into the city’s catacombs where the family’s vault lay hidden. There in cold, silent, gloom lay an extensive library kept on stone shelving carved out of the walls. The texts ranged from modern bindings to ancient scrolls kept in wax sealed cylinders. We stood in silent awe for a moment between the shelves with lamp light our only illumination before my father told me our story.

Before the destruction of the ancient library of the city some of the librarians were visited by Bast, in her role as guardian of sacred texts. She commanded them in dreams to hide certain scrolls sacred to gods in their homes, which would then receive divine protection. Sure enough the barbarians and mobs did their destruction soon afterwards but the librarians’ homes were left untouched. These librarians then formed a secret brotherhood to protect the texts left in their possession. Over the centuries the families added to their collections where instructed or on their own initiative but the growing number of texts saw the dwindling of the families and by the dawn of the 20th century there was only one family left – mine. To ensure security, all of the libraries were brought together under our family home. My father, despite his academic tastes, rarely used the library, almost dreading the place in his reverence. Unfortunately for my father, and for me, this reverence did not extend to his son.

Whilst I shared my father’s desire for learning, I wanted to go beyond what he could teach me and study in the company of peers. I therefore pressed him to send me to the local international school at age 15. For three years I studied a modern curriculum and excelled. My western teachers encouraged me to think of university in Europe and to my great delight and my father’s horror I was offered a scholarship by King’s College, Cambridge.

Despite my father’s pleadings that my abandonment would incur divine disfavour I left Egypt in September 1990 and journeyed to England for what I thought would be my freedom from my father’s controlling superstition. How foolish was I to think thus but then hindsight is the most terrible of viewpoints.

Despite the consequences, I enjoyed my time at Cambridge. The city is beautiful in its gothic architecture and academic quietude. The student community was like nothing I had ever experienced and I happily threw myself into it. I read history for three years and then moved onto bibliographic studies for postgraduate study. My doctoral thesis was a thematic look at the transmission of texts to and from the Islamic and Christian worlds from the 8th to the 20th century. By the time I was 28 I was tutoring my own students at University College London and attending conferences on European and Arabic thought, diplomatics and literature. In August 2000, however, this all changed.

I should have realised beforehand something was not right about my exodus from Egypt. I had always been a friend to and of cats in my childhood. In Alexandria many roamed free and wild and I would always take time to feed or pet any stray that crossed my path. We had no pets at home but quite often cats would end up staying for a short while in some part of the house. Nadira always welcomed them as she said they kept the vermin out of the kitchen. Once I left Egypt, Nadira and my father, however, I seemed to suffer a surprising feline enmity from any I came across. Troubled to start off with, I put it down to different attitudes in different countries and then accepted the change as part of all the other changes that were going on at the time. In any case, I digress.

In August 2000 I attended a conference on 19th Century Egyptology as a conduit between Arab and Western academics. I gave a paper on Rifa'a al-Tahtawi that went down quite well with the audience and afterwards a distinguished looking lady approached me. Instead of the usual post paper questions or congratulations, she said she had news of my father. This came as quite a shock since we had not communicated for years. I had ignored his letters and telephone calls in the first couple of months of my departure and they had stopped after that. The lady and I went to a nearby café where she broke the news of my father’s murder a week before. This understandably upset me greatly but the lady carried on heedlessly detailing how both he and Nadira died (disemboweled and burned) and how the house had been ransacked. She even asked if I had any idea what the murderer was looking for. At this point my bewilderment and pain turned to anger and I made to stand up and shout my way past this bearer of evil tidings. It was at that point that Isis revealed her divine nature to me by slamming me down into my seat with a simple command. From then on I was her attentive if captive audience.

My divine dominator explained that the Pesedjet did indeed exist and that I had very badly offended them. In particular Bast, who was, it turned out, my mother. She had disowned me the moment I turned my back on my family duty and father. The superstition I thought I had escaped from had not only turned out to be true but had come looking for me. Expecting to die I was astonished to hear that She-of-the-Throne herself, was willing to give me another chance. I readily agreed out of both relief and guilt to be “adopted” by her and to pursue the lost library of both my mortal and divine families. The smile she gave will haunt me for the rest of my life. It promised a hard and painful road to redemption but a path to ma’at none the less, text by returned text.

Isis explained a whole lot more to me that night – about the other Divine Tribes and the war in Duat with the titans who had found freedom after millennia of imprisonment. At the end of my first divine visitation she gave me a shining crystal pendant, calling it one of her tears. She indicated that it would be my focus for the gifts she was to bestow on me. She laid her hands upon my head and gave me a blessing in ancient Egyptian which awoke something deep within me – my sekem as I now realise. After that I remember no more until I came to in my hotel bed with the sure sense that firstly what had occurred in that café was no dream and secondly that I knew instinctively where the first book of my long task was.

I got up and left my old life behind me.

The First Book and Second Visitation

To be continued…

The next couple of years to the Third Visitation

To be continued…

The Fourth and Final Visitation

To be continued…