Mommy, how do the gods make babies?
It was a hot spring day and the khamsin was blowing on the Black Earth. It blew so hard that the palms almost flattened and their large leaves were torn off. It was impossible to go out and the glorious Isis stood on her balcony, contemplating the storm that threatened to engulf the Nile and its green banks.
Her son joined her on the balcony and, as each time she saw him, her heart exploded with pride and love. The baby she had given birth to was gradually becoming a tall, handsome boy like his father. But he was not yet a man, far from it. He still had his adorable round cheeks and his little child braid.
Horus leaned on the balustrade by her side and gazed at the scene with wonder. There was, indeed, a certain beauty in this orange sky and this dust flying with fury. Horus was not used to khamsin. Isis was and shivered with apprehension. This wind brought only dark news.
"I've never seen the wind blow so hard," Horus told his mother.
"See, my son, the anger of your uncle Seth. If he were allowed to do so, he would make the Two Lands a desert as desolate as the rest of his lands. That's why you have to rule as your father did."
"Yes mother," he replied docilely.
"Your uncle is only capable of destruction. There is goodness in you and the courage to build a glorious future for this land. You will make a great pharaoh."
"I do my best mother."
Isis turned her thoughts away from the storm and looked at her son more closely. He was unusually pale as if he was incubating something. He was also dishevelled and covered in dust. The storm had surprised him on the way, but she did not know where he went. Unfortunately, he arrived at the age when a child likes to hide his life from his mother. Why did he have to grow so fast?
Horus stared at the storm, frowning and beating his fingers on the granite balustrade. He was disturbed by something. Isis put her arm around Horus's shoulders and kissed his head. This affectionate gesture released her son's tongue, as she had hoped.
"Mother," he asked in a tiny voice, "how do the gods make babies?"
Isis did not expect this question at all. The situation was worse than anything she could have imagined. Her little boy was too young to ask such questions. It was like yesterday that he came to see her covered with mud, a broken tooth and a frog in his hands, eager to show it to her.
Isis had protected him from this kind of horror. She adored her son, but life would be much easier if her siblings had been able to contain themselves. No, her little boy was pure and innocent. She had watched over it. So someone had put those bad ideas in his head. Isis was going to find them and make them suffer so much that mortals would talk about for millennia.
"Mom?" Horus insisted. "Is there something wrong?"
"Well," hesitated Isis, "when a god loves a goddess very, very much, Ra comes down from heaven and offers them a child made of sunlight."
Horus gave her a sceptical look.
"Really? It seems frighteningly impractical and it does not explain everything. If it were true, I know many divine couples who would not have children and others who would have dozens."
"Maybe, but you're a little young to ask yourself these questions."
"Yes, I am, mom! If I am old enough to become pharaoh, as you always say to the Ennead, I am old enough to ask about sex."
He may not have been entirely wrong. Isis was beginning to recover from the shock he caused her and looked at him more closely. He was almost as tall as she, and muscular. His cheeks were not so round as she remembered. Indeed, he was nearly a man. She smiled gently.
"It's going to be time to cut your braid."
Horus blushed. It told Isis much more than he would have liked. She did not want to know.
"It's time, yes," he paused. "But you did not answer my question."
"I imagine that you have already discovered by yourself."
"Well, I have my idea," he confessed trying to look casual. "So my question is this: if two male gods make love, is there a risk of becoming pregnant?"
Isis held a cry of horror and had to cling to the railing not to fall.
"Why such a question?"
"Well, you see, it turns out that since I'm the best choice as Pharaoh as you always repeat at the Enae, I thought it might be a good idea to go to my uncle Seth to convince him and things have ... degenerated. He offered to stay for dinner, we ate a little bit and, one thing leading to the other ... I let you imagine the rest."
Isis did not want to imagine the rest. Incest between brothers and sisters was one thing, it was not as if she and her siblings had a lot of choice in terms of partners. However, it was necessary to put a limit somewhere and Seth had crossed it. Maybe Sekhmet would agree to start a very, very targeted deadly crusade.
"So, I was at his home tonight, and I felt sick all the time," Horus continued. "I ended up leaving without finishing my plate and vomited several times on the way. Do you think I could be pregnant?"
"We will make sure this is not the case. I know Seth. He will use this story to convince the gods that you are not worthy to reign. We must take him by surprise. You will cleanse yourself and purify of his sperm. And if I have to put your sperm in his salad so that the god do not take this seriously, I would not hesitate!"
Isis sometimes had strange ideas.
"I'll do anything to protect your rights, son," Iris said before sighing, "thank goodness that it only happened once. The situation would be much harder to smother if it had happened several times."
Eyes on the ground, Horus did not dare look at his mother in the face. She held a groan of horror and postponed her plans to keep Seth away from the throne. It was time she took care of the question that Horus was asking so insistently.
"How many times?"
"I lost the count. Some months. I'm sorry, mother."'
"It is a little late for regrets no? You would be a human, I could certify that there is no chance that you are pregnant, but our family is special and it's better to check. It is still out of the question to entrust this little secret to another god or goddess. We will consult a human healer. Go wash and we'll go."
Horus did not try to protest. Isis took advantage of his absence to find something to pass incognito among the humans because if they saw the bird's head of his son, they were grilled. Fortunately for her, if Seth regularly call her as a big cow, she did not have its head. Of course, she did not know she would ever have one, but you and I are better informed than she is. As a precaution, the goddess also called a servant to urge him to seize Horus's clothes while he bath and to throw them into the river. One could never be too careful.
Isis went to the healer with Horus but left him alone with her. She pretended he would be more comfortable without his mother and pushed him into the tiny brick house. Horus did not protest. Then, she morphed into a hawk and flew away. She had to flap her wings with all her strength but eventually managed to fly over the khamsin and quickly reached the palace of Seth, on the edge of the desert. She morphed again and screamed as loud as she could.
"Seth! Show yourself immediately, you putrid animal!"
"You don't need to fall into vulgar insults, here I am."
The god was nonchalantly leaning against a pillar of basalt. Isis found he had a sickly complexion. However, she had not been able to feel sorry for her brother for a long time and she grabbed his throat.
"What did you dare to do to my son?"
Without effort, he took her hands away from his throat.
"I could be wrong very dear sister, but it seems to me that your offspring was very enthusiastic at each of our meetings. The language that this young man adopts once he's on his back is most imaginative. I would have thought you'd educate him better than that."
With a loud cry, Isis rushed back to him. He pushed her away once more and kept her at arm's length.
"I'll make you pay for what you did to him. Horus is too young to realize what he's doing. Imagine if he finds himself pregnant! He is not at all mature enough to assume such responsibilities!"
Seth's face froze.
Isis tried to reply but she was suddenly swallowed up by a roll of sand and dust that sent her away. When the wave deigned to let go, Isis got up in the middle of the desert. She contemplated flying again to Seth's palace, but the khamsin was blowing louder and turning into a storm. She didn't dare to ride that violent blast. And after all, she had other assets to use.
The day after this altercation was to meet the three hundred and forty-fourth session of the Court of the Gods devoted to the succession of Osiris. Isis went there burning with fury, followed by her son who had a slightly greenish complexion. Seth, who was already sitting in his usual place, groaned and dropped his head in his hands as he saw them. He seemed as sick as the day before.
"If I come to meet you today," said the goddess, not allowing anyone time to say hello, "it is to say that a great wrong has be done to my son."
"We know about it," sighed Ra. "As in every session since the death of Osiris."
"This is a new insult that Seth made to us. He abused the trust of my son!"
This changed the routine enough that all assembled gods stopped sleeping. They listened with delight as Isis narrated with tremolos in the voice the seduction of Horus by Seth. Her brother and opponent listened in silence, punctuating her diatribe with contemptuous sniffles. Horus looked like he wanted to disappear underground.
"I'm surprised you did not throw his sperm into the Nile to deny everything that happened between us," Seth finally mocked.
Isis blushed but refused to answer. Seth stood up and addressed the assembly.
"I heard many accusations but saw little evidence. I am astonished that I have not been accused of more crime. My dear sister, you accuse me of having dumped Horus. Go farther! Accuse me of having impregnated or poisoned him! Could you become less prone to exaggeration?"
"Because you did not cut Osiris into pieces maybe?"
"Single detail. So?"
"I thought you did one of those two things when he came in so pale and nauseated. But I made sure you did not do this in addition to the rest."
"Charming. And you were not tempted to humiliate me by showing that at least Horus was above me during the act, for example by spraying my salad or lentils with his seed?"
"I thought about it."
"These are serious accusations that I hear," Râ said. "Horus, do you want to add something?"
The young god blushed, whined and turned green but did not say anything. Seth rolled his eyes.
"By my mother Nout ... All this went too far. Do you want to know what happened? Horus felt slightly ill after tasting my cooking. I cook very badly."
Moans filled with disgust and remorse echoed throughout the assembly, confirming his claim. Seth winked at one of these victims, then looked dark again.
"But this is not the only thing that has driven Horus to flee my home. The truth is that this cowardly young man fled when he understood why I had invited him that night. I hardly mentioned my morning nausea that he ran at full speed."
The silence became deafening, then a piercing scream tore it.
The latter tried to make his head disappear in his shoulders.
Isis had never looked at him like he was a disappointment. It was the case now.
"Sorry mama," he implored. "I did not know how to tell you. I think I was a little terrified of becoming a father. I did not want to lie to you."
"I hope so. And now, be sure that I will not live to see my son flee his responsibilities."
Her voice was rising again. Several gods and goddesses grumbled in their seats, guessing that she was ready to deliver one of her prolonged and moralizing discourse. Others sharpened their arguments to support her. Seth cut them off in their tracks.
"I want a pension to raise the little one. Not much, just, say, half the revenues of the kingdom of Horus until the baby comes out of childhood. I'll settle for a third then. To ensure his education, obviously."
-Do you mean that you are ready to give up the Kingdom of Egypt against alimony?"
The gods began to murmur their incredulity all around the stands. Seth smiled, delighted with his little effect. Isis seized him by his tunic and whispered while clenching her teeth so that only he could hear her.
"Why are you doing this, Seth?"
Her brother did not even try to look innocent. He smiled with full teeth.
"Is it not obvious? You put most of the gods in your pocket and Horus was soon going to get the throne of Egypt. By making him impregnate me, I make sure at least to put in my pocket a part of the revenues of the kingdom."
"And you think we'll accept that?"
"Yes. Because if you say no, I stay in the ranks to become Pharaoh of Egypt and after discovering that Horus was ready to abandon me so that I raise our child alone, I guarantee you that there will be much less vote in his favour."
"I'll make you pay for that."
"No, you will pay me in silver and jewels, for a very long time. For the rest I do not care, you can tell the mortals how I was crushed by Horus in a trial of strength or intelligence. Make them eat all the salads you want, I do not care."
With a hiss, Isis let Seth go and joined Horus to whisper in his ear. The young god bowed with relief, then raised his head and spoke to Ra.
"If Seth gives me the throne, I accept his conditions."
Negotiations could finally begin. They stretched for days and days. Eventually, the gods ended up leaving the court, murmuring their joy and relief at seeing all this behind them. Really, was it really necessary to make a salad of it?