Monday, January 22, 2007
A NIGHT AT THE SENET
The ancient Egyptians enjoyed a lot of things. Monument building, religion, sports, and thinking about the afterlife. They thought a lot about the afterlife. The only thing that even came close to competing for their mental free time was beer. They loved it. It was the drink of choice for the nobility and the common people, or “fellah”, alike. It was used as money (can you honestly tell me YOU wouldn’t like to pick up your check on Friday and have a case of cold ones thrown in?), in religious ceremonies (just like today, it makes the temple dancers even more attractive); it was buried with their dead (one tomb inscription said “…satisfy his spirit with beef and fowl, bread and beer.” Lord, I hope there are cheeseburgers in Heaven.), as well as enjoyed with every common meal (all of them, breakfast included. What a way to start the day!). The Ancient Egyptian word for beer is “hqt”, which is just another American word for “PBR”.
They loved beer enough to build taverns, known as a “Senet Houses”, named after one of their other favorite past-times, a board game, the oldest one known (circa 3500 B.C.). The Senet house was the social hub of the community. Everyone could be found there on one evening or another, with a beer at their elbow, and racing their opponent to the “afterlife” on the Senet board. The board consisted of three rows of ten squares, two sets of pawns, and the moves were determined by throwsticks, knucklebones, or dice. The rules for this game are a little sketchy, as like most board games, the rules are the first thing lost. The game was so popular that it spread as far as Greece, but without the religious connotations.
It is recorded that the most popular toast in a Senet house was “Here’s to your ghost!” Now isn’t that a wonderful sentiment. Much like the old Irish saying of, “I hope you are in Heaven for an hour before the Devil finds out you’re dead!” And the next time you find yourself complaining about American beer and wishing you could afford some import, think of the Egyptians. They had no bubbles, it was served warm, and you had to drink it from a wooden siphon, just to keep the impurities out of your mouth. Now that is a true beer lover my friend!
So in true Egyptian fashion, call up a few friends and invite them over for a game of Monopoly and pass around some brews. Sure, you may not have Boardwalk and Park Place, but at least you have had some fun and your “afterlife” isn’t riding on this, only your “nightlife”.
P.S.: Doc told me that he found a link to play an online game of Senet through the British Museum, but couldn't post the link. If you'd like to try YOUR hand at this ancient game, you can go HERE and try it out!!