The Queen of Sheba is an original African Myth, arguably traceable to the far ends of Ethiopia. Researchers believe she came from the Kingdom of Axum in Ethiopia, the Kingdom of Saba in Yemen, or both. While her story is found in the Holy Books of the Bible and the Quran, there are one too many theories surrounding core aspects of it and whether or not certain parts of it are indeed facts. The focus of the Holy Books, are centred on the significance of her visit to King Solomon and the gifts she brought to his tent.
For one, much of which is known about her is not recorded in these Holy books, but rather in ancient mythology. The colour of her skin, her beauty, whether or not she was a seductress; most of the information about her are entirely myths with a bit of legendary folktale. Her story is that of power, wealth, conquest, manipulation, negotiation, and dominance. Inasmuch as there are numerous lessons to be learnt from every event that is traceable to the Queen of Sheba herself, her visit to King’s Solomon’s kingdom, is the most spoken of.
If you were wondering what the real name of the Queen was, well, there is no actual record of it. The queen of Sheba is regarded as Makeda to the Ethiopians and Bilquis to the Yemens. For simplicity sakes, our focus would be on the Ethiopian Myth. Thanks to the new series, American Gods, a few more complications have arisen as the queen is portrayed as Bilquis and termed to be the African Goddess of love who devoured men. It is believed that she is buried somewhere in Nigeria today and still worshipped by many of its inhabitants.
According to the myth as laid out in Ethiopia’s “The Kebra Nagast” or “Glory of Kings,” she was the queen of the land of Sheba and she was mysterious, wealthy, and powerful. Being a seeker of truth and wisdom, she pays a visit on camel’s back to Jerusalem to see of King Solomon’s wisdom herself. The goal was to meet him and test his knowledge by asking various questions and riddles. To show off her own wealth, she comes along with frankincense, myrrh, gold and other precious jewels.
It is said that Makeda and her entourage stayed for several months, and Solomon became interested in the beautiful Ethiopian queen. Towards the end of her stay, the king invited her to stay in the same wing of the castle as his own sleeping quarters. She agreed to do so, only if King Solomon promised not to make any sexual advances at her. He agreed, but only if she promised not to take anything that was his without him giving it to her.
That evening, King Solomon ordered a spicy and peppery meal prepared for her. He also had a glass of water set out beside her bed. As a result of the meal, Makeda became really thirsty in the middle of the night, and drank the water. Immediately, the King came and told her that she had broken his rule, hence his promise to her was also broken. They slept together, and the Queen was carrying his son as at when she was going back to her kingdom. The name of her son was Emperor Menelik I. Again, bear in mind that even though every myth has a link with an actual occurrence, is not exactly completely verifiable.
Her story is quite striking, because she was a powerful queen at a period where there were very few female leaders. However, this event was big because of the concepts that were put to use. I have probably read one too many ‘power-preaching’ books, so forgive my bias, if any. Three major concepts lurk – Mystery, Sex, and Power Changing hands.
The queen has always been regarded as a minx and one heck of an enigma. However, just as she sent an aura of mystery to the King who had also heard so much about her, she went to see him as a quest of hers. With an intention to find out if he was really as good as she had heard, she left her own comfort zone. Two very smart, powerful, and equally mysterious individuals. Each trying to test the other’s capabilities. She wanted to see if he was as wise, and he wanted to see how beautiful she was and win her at her own game.
I was having one of my usual pro feminism arguments with a friend, one day. My theory was that women were being marginalized and my core argument was that a man would never be asked to offer sex, before getting a job. But, his reply was different. He told me that sex was always being traded on the table and everything was a negotiation. So, rather than negotiate the offer that had been placed on the table, women victimize themselves. In this story, the king supposedly admired her and apparently wanted sex. Rather than fret at his subtle sexual advances, she made it a negotiation and kept her best offer on the table. “I would agree stay with you only if you agree not to touch me”. A cliché one, regardless.
On Power Changing Hands
In all these things, the Queen of Sheba had the upper hand. She was the one who was curious enough to go after a man who was so wise, he was feared and respected by many. But because she believed she had the upper hand, she came with her gifts showing wealth, and her tough questions, showing her own level of wisdom. However, there is a level of power that is lost when you leave your comfort zone. You would have to be a god to beat a man on his own land. Hence, power changing hands.
These things are traded every single day and it is on a level playing field. These seemingly irrelevant games are the things that could uplift you or reduce you. These are my takes from this story. What are yours?