Tuesday, March 8, 2011

When the Devourer stands guard over the W.C.


In our dreams, a visit to the rest room may be about more than the ordinary bodily functions. In the British Museum, during my recent visit to a splendid exhibition devoted to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, I found that some inspired designer had chosen a fearsome mythic gatekeeper for the descent to the loos.

There, at the head of the long, turning flights of steps next to the exhibition space, was a hybrid monster that seemed to combine features of the crocodile, the hippopotamus and the lion.

This entity appears again and again in ancient Egyptian paintings of the scene of afterlife judgment in which the heart is weighed against the feather of Truth. If the heart is found to be burdened by guilt and darkness, it is tossed to the monster, whose name - Ammit - is translated as Devourer. The unhappy soul is now denied passage to the desirable afterlife of the Field of Reeds, and must wander restless and homeless.

In our bathroom dreams, we often learn about what we need to dump, not only from our bowels but from our lives. When the Devourer of the Heart stands guardian over the way to the W.C., the mind may be drawn to focus on what needs to be released in order to pass the test of the Weighing of the Heart.

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