Mistress of the House of Books

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Seshat: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Architecture


June 15th, 2013

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NAME: Seshat
HAIR: Black
EYES: Dark Brown
HEIGHT: 5'9”
BUILD: Tall and slender, willowy.

PARENTS: Her father is Re.
FRIENDS: Isis and Bes.

PATRONAGE: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and Architecture. The Mistress of the House of Books, she's also the librarian of the gods, and the patron goddess of libraries and librarians on earth.
CURRENT RESIDENCE: Seshat shares a home in London with her husband. And while it is a perfectly lovely home with all the requisite rooms like bedrooms, dining rooms and so forth, they are perfunctory to her. She recognizes them enough to appreciate their functionality and keep them neat and tidy, as she likes all things to be. There are bits and bobbles that have been collected from around the world, and she likes to think of those as tangible memories. They make more of an impact on her than the rooms themselves, and she can tell you exactly where each piece is or belongs in the house. Just as she can tell you the exact layout of the teacups in the cupboard without actually caring what color the walls in the kitchen might be.

The true heart of the home for her, the part that makes her feel like this is exactly where she belongs, is the library. Those rooms, on all four floors, she not only can describe with perfect accuracy, as she can with any other space in the home, she is willing to do so with great passion. Seshat loves the library. The first three floors below ground are a traditional library, arranged and cataloged using a system of her own devising (that was later used in a slightly modified version by the Library of Congress because of her influence and inspiration). Though she does think they might need to add some more shelves soon. And the fourth floor, below the open shelves of books on the first three, is a sealed room containing scrolls and papyrus so old and fragile that handling them or subjecting them to fluctuating conditions would damage them beyond repair. The room is temperature and climate controlled to provide the most stable environment for the oldest recorded knowledge left on earth. Seshat guards that room fiercely, and if any one of those precious items were lost, she might very well disembowel someone with one of her fountain pens.

REFERENCE: http://ancientegyptonline.co.uk/seshat.html
On her worst days, she could be called pedantic; on her best, knowledgeable. Though Seshat tries very hard not to be a know-it-all, it's very difficult to avoid falling into that category after thousands of years of collecting, organizing and storing tomes, scrolls, books and various scraps of the accumulated learning of humanity. Having a near eidetic memory, very helpful when trying to find an obscure bit of information, doesn't always endear her to people when she accurately corrects them. She does try to be tactful about it, but she really can't stand misinformation so it's almost impossible for her to completely hold her tongue when something needs to be rectified.

Seshat loves libraries. All libraries. Not just because of their purpose, but because of how that purpose is fulfilled. Not only are they intended to be used to disseminate the knowledge that they hold, it's organized in such a beautiful fashion that it gives her a little thrill of joy every time she sees a row of books with their authors in alphabetical order, or numbers printed in specific sequences on their spines. It gives her a great deal of satisfaction, that organization, and she's been doing it herself long before Melvin Dewey was “inspired” to come up with his system.

In fact, Seshat has a penchant for organizing in general. Not that she's compelled to do so, or that it's a pressing obsession. She just personally likes the way things look when they are in order. Occasionally, she will rationalize and claim that it makes things easier to find, which is entirely true. But that isn't the real reason that her underwear are folded into neat squares and placed in her drawer in a slowly progressing gradient, from color to color. She simply loves the patterns created from the order. So she does it with everything from books, to her underpants, to her fountain pen collection, to the Skittles she eats.

The organization of the pens make it easier for her to choose which she wants to use for that day. Though she's a fair typist, and she appreciates what computers are capable of doing in terms of storage, Seshat has a contentious relationship with most electronics. Somehow, something always seems to go a bit haywire, and she will end up doing it the old fashioned way in the end anyway. So it's quicker just to start there. Besides, nothing beats watching the ink flow from a pen in her hand.

Words on a page are as beautiful as a painting to her, and she's spent thousands of years learning the best ways to write words in all shapes and forms. Because of that, she can fluently read and write in every language that has a written form. Though she cannot speak well in most of them, and in some she makes terrible errors in pronunciation. It's much better if she can write things out, rather than attempting to speak and make a terrible faux pas.

As proficient as she is with reading and writing, she is just as competent with numbers. Numbers never lie, and they are perfectly orderly all on their own. Everything can be broken down into numbers, including the colors that are used to create a Botticelli, and the precise notes of a symphony. Though really, Seshat prefers jazz herself, for the very reason of its mathematical complexity.

Though her pursuits are academic, her passion for them is anything but. She speaks of libraries as though they are beloved children. A discussion of numbers can take on the tone of a heartfelt discourse on the merits of a piece of artwork. Every bit of architecture is as dear to her as a childhood home. And though she has the memory of so much knowledge stored inside her agile mind, and should be able to make the most logical decisions because of her access to all of that information, her passions can lead her to make terribly illogical decisions.

And knowing as much as she does is sometimes only applicable in the cerebral sense, the practicality can elude her. For example, she knows how the various ingredients combine, the chemical changes that take place, but her cakes still fall in the middle and her cookies are still flat. Seshat's culinary abilities are generally limited to making a sandwich. Likewise, gardening is not a hobby that has proved fruitful for her, even though she thoroughly enjoys watching things grow. Knowing and doing, it seems, are two very different things.

Which isn't to say that she doesn't have things to keep her occupied. Other than looking after her own library, she also dabbles in calligraphy, paper making, and origami. But her favorite hobby is building 1/8th scale model towns. She began making model villages long before locomotives were ever invented, let alone model trains. But the new HO scale sized accessories make it possible for her to create entire metropolitan cities, all laid out in neat and orderly civic patterns. It keeps her busy.
Seshat was always a rather exact person, even when she was young. She liked things in a precise order, in precise places. It was not, and is not, a compulsion as it can be for some. It's just that it made sense to her for things to be organized, so they would be easier to find and easier to catalog. And cataloging things became important to her very early on when she realized that everyone couldn't remember things as she did.

It seemed so unfair to her that others, especially mortals, couldn't keep track of all the facts and information that passed through their lives. If they didn't remember, how could they make informed decisions? If they didn't know what had happened with their predecessors, what was to keep them from making the same mistakes? If they didn't understand the precise relationship between numbers, words, and results, and how they all formed the beautiful pattern that was all around them, how could they ever grow? So Seshat came up with a way to record it, all of it.

But it was her invention of writing that seemed to have a real impact. And though she was the one that invented it, teaching it was another matter entirely. That wasn't something she could seem to impart with any degree of success. She just got so frustrated because in her mind it was so simple, yet others seemed to stumble when they attempted to learn it. But not Thoth. Thoth not only learned it, he found a way to pass the knowledge along that truly stuck. He was the one that really gave the gift of writing even though she'd come up with the idea, and that impressed Seshat a great deal.

After that, she began to spend more time with her brother, finding in him the same sort of passion for learning and knowledge that she possessed. It made her look at him in a completely different light, and it took very little time for her to fall utterly in love with his mind and his quirky sense of humor, with his generous nature and his gentle heart. When marriage was brought up, Seshat wasn't sure if it was because he loved her, or because he wanted her help with his growing collection of scrolls and knowledge. Not that it caused any hesitation on her part; she loved him and she convinced herself that, along with their shared interests, would be enough.

She continued to help her people, even after becoming a wife and then a mother. She recorded the passage of time, kept track of how long each pharaoh was to rule, helped the pharaoh's stretch the cord to measure the lengths for architecture, surveyed land after flooding, and was the divine scribe and mathematician. And she absolutely loved what she did. It gave her a great deal of satisfaction to make certain that everything within her sphere of influence was in order, and that included aiding mortals that wished to follow in her footsteps.

Clever men and women saw what she saw, the need for recording, the requirement of measuring, the beauty of order. Some of them only applied themselves to mathematics, or architecture, others to writing or storing knowledge. Seshat watched over them all, guiding and helping, and the culmination of her efforts was the library at Alexandria. Libraries had cropped up before that, of course, some maintained by families, many by kings, and some by scholarly academies. But none of them had the breadth and volume of the Alexandrian library, and the library itself was only a part of the museum there that was dedicated to knowledge and learning. It was so glorious that she was happy to claim it as Egypt's own, despite the fact that it had been founded and maintained by the Greek interlopers that claimed the throne.

And then came the fire. Seshat remembers every excruciating detail of that night, just as she remembers everything else, but it is one of the few things she wishes she could forget. She did her best to save what scrolls she could, and she knows her husband was just as dedicated, but the fire moved so quickly through the papyrus that even with her divinity she was only able to retrieve a small portion before the flames became too intense even for her. It was lost. All of the accumulated knowledge, all of the learning and recording, it was lost. Seshat cried for a full year.

The only thing that remained was a “daughter library,” the Serapeum, located in another part of the city. The scrolls that had survived were moved there, and were safe until that too was destroyed by a man that claimed to serve a god of peace even as he hunted down all those that didn't believe in his faith. And again, Seshat cried for the loss, mourning as deeply as she would had she lost her child. It broke her heart, and very nearly broke her spirit.

But what had been done before could be done again, and she began working hard to restore the thirst for acquiring knowledge. Libraries became something worth having again, and she fought tirelessly to make mortals understand that it was not something that should be hoarded. Silly, selfish creatures that they were, they liked to cling to what they thought was their own. But knowledge should be shared, and finally she managed to inspire the mortals to open their libraries to all, to make them public. She still considers this her second greatest achievement, her first being her son.
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