This month: fairy tales from ancient Egypt!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Human versus Demon versus Divine: The Surprising Story of the Possesssed Princess and Chunsu the Executor of Plans


The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain, Duccio du Buoninsegna (c. 1255-1319), Frick Collection

(2 versions of the original story provided below)

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The Possessed Princess is a mysterious tale about what happens to a princess dominated by an unclean spirit (not much) and more interestingly, what happens to the demon (a bit more). Set in Ancient Egypt in the time of Ramses II, the text was probably written in or around the first century BC. It is important to read this story in the context of its time. According to The New Oxford Annotated Bible, at the time of the New Testament “Demons were thought to be non material existences of a personal kind, hostile to human welfare and against God. The Gospels reflect widespread dread of demons and a general sense of helplessness before demonic activity.” This idea had apparently been around for a long time for even in the Old Testament we find the Israelites sacrificing to demons and not honoring God, instead they paid homage to deities they had never known. (Deuteronomy 32:17). The New Testament provides startling accounts of exorcisms that are often followed by even more remarkable stories of curing the sick, the paralyzed or those suffering from physical deformity. These stories lump physical and mental maladies into a general category of illness that requires a supernatural wonder cure. It was thought that only a god was powerful enough to heal a person suffering from one of these infirmities. This notion is developed further in the New Testament when Jesus is able to pass on the power of healing to mortal men or his followers. It suggests he is even more powerful than all prior gods.

In the Possessed Princess, we encounter the same biblical helplessness before demonic activity. But in this story the king takes action and summons the most learned scholars of the land. From their circle the most illustrious and skilled scribe is selected to dispel the demon. Very quickly the chosen one finds out that a mere mortal is no match for an evil spirit. The desperate king now turns to the god “Chunsu, Who Stands at the Pinnacle of all Gods”. A common feature of both biblical and Egyptian accounts of possession is that the gods roam the earth and mortals have direct access to them. In the Egyptian tale, the god communicates with the king by nodding his head twice. Like the Christian God with its threefold character, the god Chunsu has a partite nature. He decides to dispatch one of his sub-forms, Chunsu, the Executor of Plans, a deity revered for his healing power and miraculous cures. The demon’s speech in this story is remarkable for its striking similarities with the biblical account of Jesus driving out the demons in the book of Mark. The demon in the Egyptian tale, negotiates with the demi-god an outcome more to his liking. "I am your slave. I will go back to that place whence I came…I will satisfy your heart…But I ask your majesty to order a festival to be held for me…”
The demon doesn’t want to go and lingers with the Prince of Bechten until a festival is held. Then the demon “peacefully left the place he loved so much” and returned whence he came. The last we see of him, he is retreating into the desert sunset.

This is reminiscent of biblical accounts of exorcism. In Mark 5:12, “He (the demon) begged him (Jesus) earnestly not to send them (the demons) out of the country.” And in Matthew 12:43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house, from which I came.”

The fate of the demon is clear but not much is said about what happens to the princess. Of more concern in this story is the nature of man’s relationship to the gods and demons and the power structure under which the world operates. Chunsu, the Executor of Plans, is held captive by the king, who imprisons him in his chapel for over three and a half years. In the end the god cannot be kept down and returns to heaven and Egypt in the form of a golden falcon. Upon his arrival, Chunsu the Executor of Plans is embraced by the other form of his nature, Chunsu the Beautiful Resting One. He returns to his dwelling in peace and presumably stays there until he is next called to perform a miracle on behalf of mankind. And at the conclusion of the Book of Mark we read: "So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God."


To read the fairy tale of Princess Bentrescht and the Demon:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/01/egyptian-princess-bentrescht-and-demon.html

More fairy tales can be found at:

FairyTaleChannel.com

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