XXXVIII: Tales from the top

To those who may be receiving one of these post-notifications for the first time: This is not a blog; it’s actually part of a book, and will make little sense to you without knowledge of what has come before—which you can easily obtain, along with a goodly amount of satirical theatre as matters progress, by simply entering into your web browser, opening the menu, and starting at page one. J.J.

Scene 8

Then people’s new High Priest gazes all about for some token Mountain around which he might develop his own great city of Atumla.

But alas, the land is flat in every direction all the way to the horizon!

* * *

And calling everyone together, he directs that there should be a mountain in the center of the delta.

That it should be built of stones gathered from the immediate area and then as necessary from upriver, where they might be placed on a raft and floated down to the construction site.

That the mountain should be perfectly square, with each side five hundred paces in length and the whole carefully oriented to the Four Directions.

That it should rise step-fashion, or in progressively smaller layers; and that just below the peak, the penultimate one should bear a modest temple within which he might perform various important ceremonies throughout the year.

And finally, that there should be a special staircase leading from the interior of the temple to the Mountain’s highest, or ultimate layer—where the peak came closest to touching the sky, and to which he and his successors alone might ascend: upon pain of the cruelest possible execution—with the stairwell finally opening unto a round, ring-like altar that would symbolize the Earth-mother’s sacred vulva, centered on a simple but strong, upright post representing the Sky-father’s own sacred phallus.

* * *

And then, upon completion of the Mountain and it’s new Great Symbol of the Divine Union—he thought ahead now with some excitement—the ultimate word on all matters would henceforth pass from the Mountaintop directly to him as, well, nothing less than the first ‘Holy Father’ of all the modern world!

And of course, he’d pass it down to his priests, that they might assist him in its universal seeding—as in semen, seminal, and seminary, pay attention—and for that, they too should be called ‘Fathers’.

Who in turn, would pass it down to ordinary fathers, that they might pass it on to their sons and other responsible family members.

Who’d be sure to pass it on to their own sons; and so on—generation after generation—oh yea, until the very end of time!

Scene 9

And next morning, Atum climbed upon this big rock and gazed out upon the horde of men who’d proudly assembled before him, typically bringing along their young sons, to help undertake the world’s first male-oriented civilization.

“I hail you all,” he suddenly shouted with more pent up passion than he’d realized he still had in him—and compulsively extended his right arm straight toward them—as right-thinking Atumlans!”

“And we, you!” they responded in kind while dropping their right knee to the ground and bowing their head, lest they rudely appear as important as he in all this, “our noble King.”

Ah, it was a heady moment for the former second sex!

Scene 10

Oh, but that was nothing compared to the day, some weeks later, when Dawn finally presented him with their first child—a fine, healthy son, Atum Jr., who cried out almost at once, “Papa!”

For upon hearing that, the king virtually melted.

“Oh, you Don’t have to call me ‘King’ anymore—or ‘Holy Father’ either,” he told everyone then. “Rather, just think of me as your Papa, at least in spirit, and I’ll not only feel plenty looked up to, but have to occasionally remind myself that I’m not really divine!”

Scene 11

And when his new, stepped pyramid is finally complete, Papa needs only a brief audience with the Great Father on the summit before returning to the ground with his first Great Message.

“The Great Father in the sky, who is at once the Creator, Sustainer, and Destroyer of all the world, wants you all to know,” he begins modestly enough, “that in the Beginning, he alone existed; but then as you might imagine, he grew lonely and restless and subsequently turned part of himself into the Earth-mother, that he might have someone with whom to copulate and ultimately generate a family.

“And begetting many Divine Sons and Daughters, he gave them dominion over the various parts of the world; while almost as an afterthought—lest the world have no entertainment—he created us inquisitive people and, well, just set back to enjoy the show!

“However, to his divine amazement, we people have finally figured it all out—so impressing him, that he has actually given us this whole middle or terrestrial realm as our own, though with the understanding that we may keep it only for as long as we might remain true to reason!

“While even at death, he promises, we may look forward to showing off our great intellectual prowess in the afterworld—worthy males Up There, and females Down Below, of course.”

* * *

“I gather we won’t be needing our sex-organs in the afterworld,” someone observes with some disappointment when Papa appears to have finished his story, “—but then, I suppose the Great Father handles all the procreating at that level.”

So then he tells them how once, all of his immortal Sons—by then fully grown, and accordingly feeling pretty restless themselves—had challenged him to give them one good reason why now he shouldn’t just turn his role in Creation over to them!

And he’d responded, Papa reported solemnly, by inviting them to compare the size of their respective phalli to his own; whereupon they’d discovered themselves so thoroughly outclassed, they’d immediately emasculated themselves in deep embarrassment and had resolved never to bring up the subject again.

Scene 12

And afterward, Papa summons his Chief Scribe—who himself has only recently developed a new writing method based on reed paper and ink—and directs that this new Story of Creation should thus be set down: oh yes, for all posterity!

“Except, when you arrive at the part about how the Sky-father gave the terrestrial realm to us people,” he carefully instructs his aide, “be sure to make it clear that he specifically meant us Atumlan people!

“And then you might add a little something about how it became necessary to defend it against our jealous enemies, the matriarchal-minded, evil Gamopolites; how we subsequently overcame them under some great leader, put their own leader to the sword, and ultimately developed a proper, worldwide male-oriented civilization, and so forth.”

“But most of that hasn’t happened yet,” the other quickly points out in some confusion.

“Oh, it’s coming,” Papa assures him, leaning back and clasping his hands behind his head with great confidence, “—it’s all coming.”

Once upon a time, then, people built these mountains . . .


1. Step-pyramid of Djoser, Saqqara, Egypt

Some 4700 years ago, the remains of Egyptian kings and queens were simply committed to mud-brick, flat-roofed tombs called ‘mastabas’. Then, during the following century, someone named Imhotep, chief architect for the third dynasty’s King Djoser, having been ordered to come up with some new tomb designed to make it easier for the king’s spirit to find its way to the hereafter in the sky, conceived of fashioning mastabas out of limestone blocks instead of mud and then placing them on top of one another, with each layer a little smaller than the last and the whole finally bearing a protective face of bricks—in the end, creating a kind of pyramid that would ultimately become Egypt’s first pyramid-shaped tomb (seen above).

2. Aerial view of ‘true pyramid‘ complex, Giza, Egypt

More than a hundred thirty Egyptian rulers would eventually order tombs similar to Djoser’s; which within a century or so, started to be conceived of and built as true pyramids, geometrically speaking; while the most famous of these—if only because at 480′ high, it’s the tallest pyramid of any kind in the world—is the Pyramid of Khufu, seen second from the top in the photo.

We’re not particularly interested in tomb-type pyramids here, but in the kind that bear temples on the peak—which exist all over Central America, and to some extent in Asia—but before we leave Khufu’s behind, it will be instructive to learn to just what lengths people might go to bring a religious ideal to reality.

Choosing a site in an ancient necropolis, or ‘city of the dead’ high up on the Giza plateau on the west bank of the Nile, Khufu’s building engineer first laid a square limestone foundation, with the roughly 755-foot sides carefully oriented to the cardinal compass points—using true north, believe it or not, rather than magnetic north—ultimately covering some thirteen acres.

Sounds rather simple, doesn’t it? But true north can only be found by people who really, really know the stars. And even the smallest of those limestone blocks, most of which obviously had to have been hauled to the construction site from nearby quarries, has been estimated to weigh several tons—including some that could only have come from a quarry on the river’s eastern shore; meaning that they would have to have been floated over to the site.

At one point, when the plans had called for the actual burial chamber to be encased by granite, stones weighing as much as eighty tons must have been floated downstream from the Aswan area—almost five hundred miles away.

Ultimately, Khufu’s pyramid would require roughly 2.3 million building blocks, or some 5.5-million tons of limestone, 8,000 tons of granite, and half a million tons of mortar, altogether attaining a volume of 81 million cubic feet; while it’s estimated to have taken somewhere between fifteen and twenty years to complete.

3. Pyramid of Cholula, Mexico

Known to the Aztecs as Tlachihualtepetl (‘made-by-hand mountain’), this ancient, 4.45cc monster covering more than 44 acres, but only 217 feet high, is easily the world’s largest known pyramid by volume—and in fact, as a structure consecrated to the great Mesoamerican god whom the Aztecs called Quetzalcoatl, the Yucatan Mayans Kukulkan, the K’iche’ Mayans Q’uq’umatz, and so forth, it’s the largest religious edifice of any kind ever known to have existed, anywhere. Already overgrown by vegetation by the time that the Spanish arrived in the area, they thought that it was just some grassy hill and built a rather impressive little church, which still stands today, on its summit—probably hoping to dazzle the natives, you know?! As indicated in our photo, the pyramid is currently under excavation by archaeologists.

4. Remains of ancient Teotihuacán, Mexico

Some seven centuries ago, when a semi-nomadic, Nahuatl-speaking people calling themselves Mēihcah first drifted south from North America’s Great Basin region into the area that we now know as the Valley of Mexico—named after them, notwithstanding that we ourselves have come to refer to them as the Aztecs—they came across the remains of what appeared to have once been a great city built around an impressive ceremonial center.

Then completely devoid of human habitation, they hardly knew what to make of it; but judging by the sheer size of its temples and monuments and the number of its remaining dwellings—for in the end, the whole area had been sacked and burned, and by then was almost entirely overgrown with vegetation—it was plain that at some point in the past, it had been an important religious center for hundreds of thousands, or over the centuries, even millions of people. And so they named the place Teotihuacán, or ‘city of the gods’.

Of course, since then we’ve learned that Teotihuacán, containing some of the largest buildings ever erected by the New World’s indigenous peoples and at one point one of the largest cities in the Americas, with more than a hundred fifty thousand inhabitants at its peak—about ninety percent of the people in the valley actually lived therehad been built almost a thousand years before the Aztecs stumbled onto it; that for whatever reason, the city contained large quantities of mica, with almost every remaining building having at least some in it—mildly strange in itself, inasmuch as it was eventually found to have come from a site almost three thousand miles away in Brazil—and finally, that the city had been sacked around 700, and completely abandoned shortly thereafter.

5. Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacán

The 248 steps of this two thousand year old pyramid consecrated to the Sun-god once led to a temple at its peak, more than 200′ above its modest, 760×720′ base.

In addition, we might note that the present façade actually covers an earlier pyramid consecrated to the Rain-god.

6. Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacán
7. Remains of ancient Chichén Itzá, Mexico

This ceremonial center was built by the Mayans—an important Mesoamerican people with three thousand years of history that we know about.

8. Pyramid, Chichén Itzá

Each side of this pyramid has 90 stairs plus the step onto the platform, for a total of 365 – one of the central numbers of the Mayan calendar; 79′ high. Note the temple on top.

9. More Mayan ruins: ancient Palenque, Mexico
10. Pyramid, Palenque
11. Mayan ruins: Uxmal, Mexico
12. Pyramid, Uxmal
13. Pyramid, Uxmal
14. Mayan ruins: Tikal, Guatemala
15. Pyramid, Tikal
16. Pyramid, Tikal
17. Mayan ruins: Yaxhá, Guatemala
18. Pyramid, Yaxhá
19. Mayan ruins: Zaculeu, Guatemala
20. Pyramid with temple ruins, Zaculeu


Photo Credits

1: Live Science

2: Pinterest

3: Wikipedia

4: History Channel

5: About History

6: National Geographic

7: Fifteen interesting . . .

8: DK Find Out!

9: TripAdvisor

10: Sacred Sites

11: History Channel

12: History Channel

13: Pinterest

14: AirPano

15: Wikipedia

16: Wikipedia

17: Wikipedia

18: Love2fly

19: The Culture Trip

20: Pinterest

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