Saturday, 22 June 2013

Sultan al-Watawit & The Secret Chamber

This ancient Well under the arch in a corner of the court of the Bait al-Kretliya, now little used and little considered, was once famous far and wide. So much was this the case that the road leading uphill to the House and the Mosque is still called 'The Way to the Well of Bats,' which is still writ up in order to direct all who wish to visit this famous well; and they were many in the olden days, for its waters have always been known to possess magical and beneficent properties; and that is hardly to be wondered at, since they flowed into this shaft from the Great Flood as it subsided, and left Noah's ark stranded on this hill of Yashkur.

Yes, the Well had long been renowned for the many cures it has wrought, lovers it has served, and countless strange happenings concerning it which have taken place in the Bait al-Kretliya. But above all, it is renowned as the haunt and home of Sultan al-Watawit, the King of the Jinn, who inhabits a palace within it with his seven fair daughters amidst vast treasures which are guarded by his magic.This explains why, at the Sultan's demand, the Bait al-Kretliya was built round the magic well, instead of a shaft being sunk in the midst of the house as was the usual procedure. 

The Sultan is still in his palace and his seven fair daughters-in another version of the story it is seven sons- lie around him under a spell, each in her golden bed; and all so fast asleep that if any intrude and arouse them they hardly stir, but murmur, 'Take all you will and leave us to our slumbers.' Their father guards them-and his treasure-by his sorceries, changing himself at times into a bat, a shape he assumes at will, in which guise he may sometimes be seen of an evening to enter or leave the mouth of the well. All that closely guarded treasure remains still for the finding, but it is by no means easy to come by, for very many have tried but so far no one has succeeded.

Some of those who have set out on that venture have never returned, but were either lost in perdition or chose to abide where they found themselves. And, strange though as it may sound, the good King of the Djinn sometimes helps the wives or the widows of those who have not returned from the venture of seeking to rob him, should they be needy, and he does it in the following manner. He sees to it that, now and again, when such a one lowers her bucket into the well, a coin of gold or silver is dropped into it for her to recover.

Though, as I say, no one so far has come by this treasure, it is well known through the writing in magical books how best to obtain it. First of all, well provided with rope, rations, a lantern, and all else that such a venture may need, and not forgetting the holly book and to commend yourself to God's care, you are lowered on the end of a rope to where the shaft opens out at the water's level into a chamber. From the east and west of this space issue two hidden passages, and at the entrance stands an Ifrit who works a shadoof, lifting water out of the well and pouring it down these two inclined ways, one of which leads to the palace of the Sultan and the treasure, the other to an unknown bottomless pit of destruction.

Now which is which of these two passages no one can tell, save by divination, divine intuition or by some sorcerer's spell. Yet on the choice of direction depends whether the seeker shall survive and emerge a rich man, or fall and disappear entirely, never again to be seen or heard of: for so steep are the two paths, and so slippery, that once started on either one cannot stop.

Before setting out on this adventures one must also learn, through sorcery, not only which way to turn at the well's end but also the magical word that shall open the door of  the palace if one gets there, for it is locked and sealed with Solomon's seal.

(Though it is the primary conjunction in Arabic, the letter waw "و", never connects to the letter following it)

There were also various secret reasons which caused the Sultan to remain for long in league with al-Kretlie family, to whom he gave much gold as a reward, and this they stored away in a secret chamber under the floor of the hareem, a procedure that resulted in a catastrophe to al-Kretlie family. When Agha Saleem al-Kretli who lived in Bait al-Kretliya long ago, though a pious man, was avaricious for gold, had made a pact with the Sultan al-Watawit concerning some secret matter of great import, and for his help in the affair the Sultan paid him vast sums in the form of gold-dust which he drew up in a bucket from the bottom of the well and stored it away in the secret chamber under the floor of the hareem. and if any of the women would ask what he was hiding there, he would say 'it's only tibn, chaff for the donkey to eat, for the bins are full in the stable below.'

All things went well, and the secret chamber was nigh filled with the yellow dust when, alas! Agha Saleem took to him a new wife,and one day, while he was away on a journey, his new wife called out the serving maids and ordered them to clear the secret chamber of all donkey chaff. After considerable labor, with shovel and basket, they left not one speck in  the secret chamber, for they had thrown out of the window the gold dust into the street below where it was swept, trod and lost forever and ever.

When Agha Saleem returned from his journey and after he learned what had happened to his precious gold-dust he cried in horror 'My golden tibn, My gold!'  And those were the last words he ever spoke, for there on the spot he was struck dumb! Some say it was by the Sultan al-Watawit, lest his secret be given away. Be that it may, the power of his limbs also forsook him, so that he could but lie abed with out speech.
The Agha Saleem never recovered. He withered way and soon afterwards died.

They say too. that the Sultan al-Watawit, in his anger at the waste of all the good gold, smote also the young wife, widowed now, with a lingering illness from which she, too never recovered. Ever since then, even up to our own times, in order to propitiate him and obtain his good office, women in these parts are accustomed to cast offerings to the Jinn through the trap-door into the secret chamber, now empty, which once was brim-full of pure gold.