Who is Sobek?

First published at Neos Alexandria, here.

Who is Sobek? His image is striking, standing tall, staff in hand. His face is
in profile, the long snout of the crocodile immediately apparent, sharp teeth
crooked but noticeable. His crown extends upwards, in two large plumed feathers.
Fierce Sobek was the guardian of the Nile and of the primordial waters of
creation. He is primal, ancient beyond knowing. His is a murky realm of
primordial terrors. None understand fear more than He, and so none can help us
defeat our fears better than He. Demons and evil spirits flee before Him, for
nothing is scarier than a crocodile when angered.

I do not know Him well, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Sobek.. I’m sure
this extends in large part from my experiences in the now-closed pet store my
family used to own. I grew up amid all kinds of animals. I’ve cared for (and
cuddled with) animals from large blue-and-gold macaws to 22 ft. albino tree
pythons. Unlike many girls I know, I’m not afraid of snakes, rats, tarantellas,
or crickets (yes, there are people afraid of these harmless little insects. One
girl who was hired at our business refused to get the crickets out of their cage
either to feed the lizards or for customers to buy. She didn’t work there long.)
I have very little patience for who scream at run at the sight of a mouse or a
tiny spider.

I didn’t think any animal could scare me. (except scorpions. Yuk. That’s from
spending several of my younger years in the Arizona.) Then into my life came
Zookie. She was an American Alligator, about 6 feet long at that point. She was
still pretty young at that point, 2 or 3 years I believe, and most of her length
was in her tail.

Zookie came from a family that had loved her and cared for her very well. But
she had simply gotten too big and they no longer had the resources to keep her.
We were building a reptile room at the time, and the store had a reputation for
dealing in exotics. So her family bought her to us. It was late at night when my
father walked into my room, carrying this large alligator in both hands, her
tail extending behind him, wagging slightly. Few animals scare me, but I have a
healthy respect for crocodilians. Plus, I had not been aware of Zookie’s arrival
prior to that moment!

She was gorgeous. I was surprised at how calm she seemed. She looked at me with
her bright yellow eyes, and the intelligence inside them was almost chilling.
She was obviously sizing me up, wondering if I was lunch, a predator or
something else. The wheels in her mind were turning, and you knew that this
creature could take your hand off with ease in one quick tear. Or worse.
Although she was small for an alligator, if she decided to go for your throat,
it was all over. Lucky for me, she must have decided on “something else.”

Despite her beauty, I was wary of her at first. But my father encouraged me be
to pet her. She was used to people. While he still held her firmly I tentatively
reached out and touched her. Her scales were cool, rough by still pleasant to
the touch. She seemed to enjoy the touch, her eyes sliding half shut. I was
enchanted.

We didn’t have a habitat prepared for her, so she had to stay in a 130 gallon
glass tank as we set about building her a specialized pond. It worked out better
than we thought. Turns out alligators are very,very lazy. All they want is easy
food, a heat lamp, and nice warm water. When well-fed, all she wanted to do was
lie in the water and bask in sunlamp. She wasn’t about to jump out at anyone — she had no reason to!

But she wasn’t tame, not in the way most people think of the word. She was not a
dog to be taught to fetch and roll over. But neither was she dangerous, if you
knew how to work with her. When working with any kind of animal, but especially
with exotics, all you need is to understand their patterns and instincts. Unlike
humans, animals always follow their instincts. The problem lies in mankind
expecting all of Nature to bow to their wims.

A few times while we were building her habitat, we had to throw some morons out
of the store. A couple of times some ignorant redneck decided to bang on the
glass top of Zookie’s tank, to “try to get her to move.” Zookie could have
easily shattered the glass if she wanted to. But why would she want to? She was
happy and well cared for and had a full belly. But if frightened, she would lash
out. My brother had to physically escort one of these men from the store. If he
had continued Zookie would have seen him as a threat to her safety, and she
would have defended herself.

I’ve told you this story because I think that modern people fail to respect
Nature, not just its beauty but also its power to kill you. We arrogantly assume
that Nature is there only to serve us. Oftentimes we put our expectations onto
animals and Nature. Having worked as I have with many exotics, I know that some
are not tame, in the sense that a dog is. A dog has been breed by humans for
thousands upon thousands of years to be our companions. They are well suited to
us by now, but it should not be forgotten that it took thousands of years for
them to get that way. Most animals still have their primal natures, and if not
respected that primal nature can easily devour you.

I think this is something Sobek teaches. You can love animals and be struck with
awe by the beauty of Mother Nature, but still respect its deadly power and know
when to stay away. The ancient Egyptians knew this intuitively when they
glimpsed the deadly power of the Nile crocodile. Filled with awe at its primal
power, the Egyptians knew the crocodile must surely be divine. They named Him
Sobek, and enlisted His frightening power in the ongoing fight against Isfet and Apophis.

I’ve struggled for many years with anxiety and panic attacks, continuously
increasing in intensity. Turning to Sobek, master of fears, seems natural.
Perhaps it is significant as well that His mother Neith is identified with my
beloved patroness, the Greek Goddess Athena.

I’ve held only one festival for Sobek so far, attended only by myself and one
close friend. My work with Sobek has barely begun, but I look forward to
celebrating His birthday in a few weeks’ time. This time, several more
celebrants will attend. At least one that I know of also struggles with issues
of anxiety and fear. We will pray to Sobek for the courage to face our fear, and
in honoring Him we will ask His assistance in this tasks. I do not now know
where this association will lead, but I will face whatever comes head-on.

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