Freud’s Shabtis Speak

By Jordan Maly-Preuss

Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt land

Tell old Pharaoh to let my people go.


We are still with you now you are dead. We were formed to serve the dead and we have lost our masters and are bound to you in the mausoleum of your thoughts. We were formed to serve the flesh of the dead, to sow and to plough and to thresh, to grind and to knead and to bake. We were formed to watch your needs that you might watch your heart. But you brought us out of the Black Land to the land your friends promised you. You made us servants of your mind and took us on your journeys. We should have stayed to tend your home while your soul travelled the lands of night, and welcomed you back every morning. But you wanted underworld guides. You saw that we had eyes but did not see, ears but did not hear, mouths but did not speak. You spoke to us and learned our names. You spoke us into more than was inscribed upon us and we heard you.

You held us as our masters once held you. Out of us you have built bricks but you have used no straw. You removed your heart of flesh and changed it for our hearts of stone and clay. You wanted a heavy heart, so that at the reckoning it could not be consumed with your flesh. You wanted your mind to stay with us.

And we who are older than you say to you: we too have dreamed dreams. We have learned your mind. We see that the battle is not to the strong and we say that the dream is not to the interpreter. That great king of yours for whom you were named desired wisdom and sought it outside himself. That young friend of yours knew better than you. He saw that the darkness through which flesh creeps is a cave and not a pit. You have not learned from us. The terrors along the path must be defeated. You devoured them.

We would tend your mind if you would let us in. You say that we come from a narrow place but we are broader than you. Your dreams are not what they seem to you. We say that Antigone’s father was her brother and Horus’ mother was his aunt and Cain’s mother was his father’s flesh. It is flesh that binds flesh and not desire.

The man who married his mother wanted to save his father and killed him. He knew what he had done. He became his father and could not change. He defeated the cat who was one of our own. He told her that men become old. He did not wish to become old so he fought the old man and killed him. He took the man’s place. He became old. Flesh becomes the thing that bore it. Do you not see? 

A man made us and we are clay. A man makes a man and makes the man into himself. You are flesh no longer but your mind remains. We are not flesh but we too are bound. We were made to serve. We will tend your mind if you will let us in.


And being warned in a dream not to return, they departed to their own country by another way.

Jordan Maly-Preuss loves writing but dislikes bios. She contends with Greek epic poetry as a DPhil student at the University of Oxford (Merton College). Her aristeia has not yet come.


Shabti of Imhotep Born of Bastetirdis

Egyptian, Late Period

3351, Freud Museum London