One day the mighty pharaoh Rameses II decided to leave Egypt and travel into Syria, a region bordering the eastern Mediterranean Sea, several hundred miles north of Egypt. There, he collected tribute, or payment acknowledging submission - in the form of gold and other valuables - from the princes of several surrounding lands.
Some of these lands he had recently conquered, while others saw the wisdom of submitting to the pharaoh before he sent his armies against them. Either way, a payment signified that a realm acknowledged Rameses’ dominion and authority.
One of these princes, the king of faraway Bakhtan, sent the usual collection of precious metals, rare gems, cartloads of timber, and other valuable commodities.
However, he also included a very special gift, namely his lovely eldest daughter. He hoped that if Rameses was pleased with her, the pharaoh would allow her to join his harem of Egyptian wives. (By custom, Egyptian kings usually took many wives, forming a group called a harem.)
Indeed, the great king of Egypt was much pleased with the girl, for she was not only beautiful, but also intelligent, kind, and generous. In addition, she possessed many talents, including a lovely singing voice and the ability to play the harp and other musical instruments.
Captivated with the princess, Ramses gave her an Egyptian name, Maat-nefru-Ra, and soon made her his number-one wife, so that she bore the title of Queen of Egypt.
About a year later, in the summer, Rameses and his court were celebrating the joyous Beautiful Festival of the Valley, honoring the sun god, Ra. At the height of the festivities, a messenger arrived from Bakhtan with news that immediately dampened everyone’s good spirits. “Your sister, Princess Bentresh, is gravely ill with a burning fever,” the messenger told Queen Maat-nefru-Ra.
Turning to King Rameses, who was obviously quite concerned, the messenger bowed low to show his respect, and then said: “Oh great king, all of the doctors in my land have failed in their attempts to help the princess.
Egypt is known far and wide for its skilled doctors and healers. My master, the king of Bakhtan, requests that the great pharaoh, lord of all the lands that lie under the dome of the sky, send a powerful healer to Bakhtan to cure his ailing daughter.”
“Of course,” Rameses declared without hesitation. “I will do everything I can to help my dear wife’s sister. This very day I shall call together all of my best physicians and magicians to decide what should be done.”
Possessed by Evil
True to his word, Rameses consulted with his medical advisors. And all agreed that the palace’s chief scribe, Djeheuty-em-hab, who was also a skilled healer, should journey to Bakhtan to diagnose and hopefully to cure Bentresh’s illness. Because that land lay so far from Egypt, Djeheuty-em-hab realized that there was no time to waste.
Riding a camel, he traveled as quickly as was humanly possible, often pushing himself day and night and sleeping only when he could no longer keep his eyes open. He crossed seemingly countless rugged mountain ranges, sweltering deserts, deep forests, and wide rivers, until finally, after several difficult months, he reached Bakhtan.
There he met briefly with the king, who was greatly relieved and thankful to see him. Then the scribe hurried to Bentresh’s bedside. It was obvious that she was still quite ill with a raging fever. Her skin was flushed and hot, her breathing heavy and labored, and she did not seem to recognize her own father, nor anyone else who visited her.
Once Djeheuty-em-hab examined the girl, it became clear to him that the fever was caused by an evil demon that had taken possession of her body. The royal scribe did his best to drive the loathsome spirit out, but his magic was not strong enough. “I’m sorry,” he told the king. “But only a god’s power can drive away this demon. Your best chance of saving the girl is to ask my master to send one of our Egyptian gods to try.”
The king agreed and immediately sent his swiftest messenger to Rameses with the request. Rameses hurried to the temple of the moon god Khonsu in the royal city of Thebes and approached the golden statue of the god, which rested on a magnificent carved pedestal.
“Great Khonsu,” he said, “who at Hermopolis is called Great Khonsu-Thoth, I come to you today on behalf of my chief wife’s sister, the Princess Bentresh. She is under the control of a demon, and my priests tell me that one of the forms you have been known to take is that of demon-expeller. Would it be possible for that manifestation of your divine and righteous self to travel to faraway Bakhtan and heal the girl?” After a few seconds, the great golden statue slowly nodded its head, indicating that the god had agreed to the request.
Khonsu Fights the Demon
The travelers crossed the same daunting array of mountains, deserts, forests, and rivers that Djeheuty-em-hab had the journey was long and tiring, but luckily they encountered no problems.
Reaching their destination, the Egyptian priests transported the divine image into the local palace and then, guided by the king, to Bentresh’s bedside. Almost immediately, there was a deep rumbling noise, and the sacred statue began to glow.
The king, priests, and others in the room were filled with awe and bowed low, as Khonsu the demon-expeller suddenly materialized before them. Floating in a brilliantly radiant sphere, the hawk-headed god bent over the feverish girl and placed his hands on her burning forehead. Then both he and the princess began to shake, for Khonsu and the demon were now engaged in a fierce battle.
It did not take long for Khonsu to win the battle, for no evil spirit could withstand his powerful magic for long. The demon, a hideous, twisted-looking creature with leathery skin and yellow eyes, suddenly exited the girl’s body and bowed low before Khonsu. "I admit that I am no match for you, mighty Khonsu," it said. "I pray that you will have mercy and not destroy me completely!"
“So long as you refrain from bothering anyone else in this land, I will spare you,” Khonsu replied, for he was indeed a merciful god.
“So be it,” sputtered the demon with an audible sigh of relief. “I shall leave Bakhtan forever; all I ask is that its king first grant a feast for you and myself.” Khonsu and the king agreed to the demon’s request. Then the god and the demon banqueted together, and the demon kept its word and departed in a puff of smoke.
Princess Bentresh then awakened, and it was plain to see that she was completely healed. Her father was overjoyed, but he worried that the demon might return, and decided to keep the statue of Khonsu in Bakhtan.
However, after three years the king had a dream in which he saw the god Khonsu, in the form of a golden hawk, rise up from the statue and fly away toward Egypt. Finally realizing that he no right to keep Khonsu from his native land, the king sent the statue back to Rameses, along with a new batch of tribute and his undying gratitude for saving his daughter.
Label: Egyptian mythology