Recently I went to Karnak Temple with a small group of friends. We did not want to trail the normal tourist route but wanted to get into the feel of the Temple complex itself
We entered the temple through the main gate, managing to get through the security point ahead of a large tour group, and headed off down the Avenue of Sphinxes on our mission to get to the soul of the Temple.For me, that is not the Hypostyle Hall with its throngs of people and loud tour guides, it is not the Sanctuary that is the Holy of Holies, which is now tainted by the guides who speak loudly and try to outdo each other with their levels of volume, it is not the sacred Scarab which seems to be constantly surrounded by hordes of tourists circling it 7 times just because their guide has told them to.
The soul of Karnak Temple is away from the crowds, in the peace and solitude of the outer precincts, in the giant blocks lying around waiting to be reunited with their fellow blocks, like huge pieces of a gigantic jigsaw. It is in the small chapels and shrines which are dotted around the perimeter, in the moments where you suddenly find something exquisite that you have never seen before, a carved relief that makes your heart jump, a piece of pottery just laying on the ground, ignored by the throngs, but precious to the soul of the Temple.
We found ourselves wandering happily among the giant blocks of stone lying in the grass, some numbered ready to be pieced back together so that we may eventually see the whole. We walked along with our eyes glued to the ground at one point looking for treasure and the next moment our eyes were glued to a particularly wonderful relief on one of the giant blocks.
But our feet constantly lead us to the small chapel of Ptah, where the god, Ptah (although minus his head) still sits in solitude, and in the small room next to him in spectacular isolation is his wife, the goddess Sekhmet. Sadly, the chapel is not currently open to the public, as there is archaeological work being carried out, but as we approached, one of the guardians saw us coming and came out to meet us. “You want to see Sekhmet?” he asked. What a silly question! So after a few minutes of negotiating how long we would need, he allowed us through and led us quickly to the chapel itself.
All of us, bar one had already been to talk with Sekhmet at various other times, but one of us had never seen her. Naturally, she was the first one to enter into the presence of Sekhmet.
A sharp intake of breath accompanied her first step into the chapel. The atmosphere was still and heavy, almost tangible, as she tentatively approached the magnificent statue of Sekhmet. Sekhmet appeared to be alive. You could almost see her breathing. My friend simply sat down at her feet while I sat down nearby. We both meditated silently.
I cannot speak for my friend as to what her experiences were, but she was unable to look directly into the eyes of Sekhmet and left with a feeling of peace in her heart and a smile on her face. I think Sekhmet enjoyed her quiet presence.
As for me, this time, Sekhmet had nothing to say to me and I simply enjoyed the serenity of being in her powerful presence. Maybe that is all I needed, just to know that serenity and peace are always there for us whenever we need to escape from the stresses of day to day living.
After the inevitable handing over of baksheesh, we left the Sekhmet chapel and meandered our way through the humps, hollows and hidden treasures that form the majority of the outer perimeter, slowly making our way towards the Osiris Heqa Djet Chapel.