That Soup of the Seven Swords 


There's this thing about legends. At very least they tell a good story. Sometimes, whether true or not, there are lessons to be learned. We call them legends because nobody really knows for sure. We have legends which explicate the turn of history.

So, how come you ask there's that only one sword. It's there in the telling. Read on.

This one comes down from the time when the Eastern world was a patchwork of hard won immense tracts of land. Not even feudal. Just a top dog lording it over everyone else. Everything — the folks too — belonged to him. The rulers in each land conducted themselves with benevolent, but absolute authority. They were both loved, and feared. Hated, by some of their rivals in the other territories. Those seven lands weren't divvied up from the beginning. Countless wars and intrigues tell the complicated history of how things came to be.

Their days were mainly spent presiding directly over all matters of state. All matters. Obviously, the large issues; but nothing too small. The audience with the ruler went on from dawn to dusk, and on most days. They didn't divide their time like we do in weeks, months, and years. More in tune with the seasons. The light of day for business, night for enjoyments and rest. This was a latitude where there were distinct seasons. Hot to cold, and the in between periods; our spring and fall.

That time. It's a story in itself. But, now ... that pot of soup.

The clay pot was fashioned by hand, during the festivities, and in full view of the revelers.

Yes, festivities. Wherein the legend was born.

The story goes that the rulers of the seven dynasties were once invited to a once in a millennium festival. Who did the inviting and whose turf would it be at isn't at all clear as the story is handed down the centuries. 

Every millennium you may ask! Well, with so many centuries already under their belt, those ancient ones marked periods of time in a way we can't now even imagine. Oh, it was a big deal. Know it. Just that we don't have a reference for such historical spans. Or, such goings on.

Why the festivities, you may also ask? The same as was so — and is — for folks everywhere. You want to get to know your neighbors, see what they're up to, maybe make friends ... alliances, in this more geopolitical case. You want to show your stuff, of course. Make deals, trade stuff.

And, show they did.

Every rulership was represented. You didn't snub this gathering. Splendid and sumptuous treats of every sensory delight and description. Only the best. The very best. The whole beglory.

The condition of the invitation was simple. Seemingly. Each guest would bring a battle sword of such a quality as to represent the pinnacle skill of their finest artisans. 

Keep in mind, this was a time when things were done to traditional codes. Heck, if you apprenticed to a sword maker, you would spend years just cutting the wood blocks for the fire. It wasn't just a matter of getting the size and shape just so. It was more in the cultivation of the spiritual essence attributed to fully accepting and surrendering to the task at hand. Whether or not you would get to advance to the next stop — tending the fire — you had to truly, authentically, and deeply surrender that expectation. Then, maybe you might advance. Think about it. Not an easy trick. To not want what you want. Because, after all, is it really just all about fashioning a piece of metal? More so, about the fashioning of the soul.

It is said that even now with all our technical prowess, the quality of the crafting of swords such as those would not be even nearly possible. A lost art.

Even though the invitations specified that minimal requirement, you wouldn't want to go to a once in a millennium affair anything other than dressed your best.  And, they did indeed pull all the stops out. And, each in their own way. You see, not only were there seven territories, they were longstanding and large enough to have developed their own unique cultures. All of them together unified in the sense of that simplest existential fact that they all stood barefoot on the same planet Earth. We don't even know if they had a sense of "planet". And, if so, whether they had a notion about whether it was round, or flat. Or, maybe something else we haven't even imagined. Or, maybe it never occurred to them at all. We'll never know.

Besides the full retinue of their courts and gifts of the finest of things, each potentate brought animals and foodstuffs for the feast. Only the best. And, a large contingent of youths. The cream of their young. All virgins. At some point in the proceedings after the gifts were exchanged there would be dancing, with wild abandon, when those unspoiled innocents would be free to have their way with one another. Then, of course, it was everyone into the pool. 

It made Caligula look like a prudish prom chaperone at a tight laced girls country boarding school. You can fill in the details using your own imagination. The full spectacle will be captured at length in the movie version.  Suffice to say that, sunrise come, just a heap of slimy, sticky, stinky bodies. It was an all day clean up job, for a staff of hundreds. Slaves. Well, you wouldn't expect anyone else to deal with such and so! Slaves. No wonder you don't see any statuary from this historical period. Must've been some historical "cleansing" along the way.

There were nights upon days of feasting. Pretty much the same kind of orgiastic goings on as in the foregoing description. I could go into page upon page of detail. But, remember, this is about the soup. Go see the movie. Teaser: No particular evening's festivities even closely approximated the others. Clean slate every time. OMG!!!

Moving on.

You can't have soup unless you got a pot. That is a bit of wisdom that may be as old as the tale of that soup itself. 

The pot. Yes. Call it black.

The pot was large. Not so large to serve all the hundreds. No, silly. This pot was earmarked for the potentates themselves. Only. It was large. Hand fashioned in the coiled rope method. Worked up during the time of the festivities. It needed to be soft clay, for reasons which will become apparent soon, and shortly.

Once the pot was fashioned into its shape, all decorated and colored, each of the swords was brought forward and presented in no particular order in front of said pot. "Said" pot. Hah! As if. This was some pot! Big. So big you could bathe in it. 

Remember the clay was still soft. 

With great pomp and flair each sword would be thrust into the upper side wall of the pot. Entering obliquely on the outside, penetrating to the inner space, then exiting obliquely out the other side. The placement was set to keep each of the three pairs of the swords in parallel, but in a circular fashion to form a six sided hexagram when viewed from above.

So, what about the seventh sword? It would be used to stir the pot. And, maybe other things.

That last point is significant. The order of insertion and the relative placement of the swords piercing the uppermost portion of the pot was completely random. Did we mention that upon arrival each ruler relinquished his precious sword, and no one involved with the pot and the swords inserted into it knew who's would go where. Those fortunate ones who would eat the finished soup each would know which was theirs, for sure. That pot finished, resplendent and ready to serve, with their six swords locked into the hardened clay. The seventh perched on the lip, for to do the stirring. If you have ever served a large pot of soup you would know that you have to stir the entire contents to ensure serving a good proportion of the ingredients.

We referred to them as fortunate! Well. You see, there was something else about that pot and those swords. We'll get to that momentarily.

The pot, all festooned with those exquisite instruments of death and dismemberment needed to be cured first to hard stone to make it fit to cook with. For this a huge fire was started under the pot and it burned slowly for days, curing the clay hard with its heat and blackening the outside like a piece of fine Pueblo pottery. And, like that Native American pottery, the pot was meticulously burnished with rare and precious stones first made smooth in running streams, then polished to high perfection from rubbing other fine pots over years upon years. You can guess that the one(s) designated to fashion the pot were also high craft artisans. No less distinguished than their sword crafter counterparts. 

You may want to know at this juncture ... Is it soup yet?

Yes. And, as you would expect, most delicious. Every one of the seven exalted ones ate to his heart's content. After such a soup, nothing else could compare. There's a term handed down from that time ... "The Broth of Your Own Desire." It means that eating this concoction was so deeply soul satisfying you would just as well think you had died and gone to heaven. 

This is already too tediously long for most readers, so I won't go into the hours — days! — of preparation and the book length list of ingredients that went into this heady brew. Just to say that almost anything edible in the known world was in there; the secret was in the proportions. Closely held, you better believe it. And, just like the other crafters mentioned previously, the cooks were at the zenith in their own profession as well.

It was a nice bowl of soup.

Once the pot was finished to the last drop, the festivities moved along to the next level at an uptick pace.

Remember that the lords had no idea going in where their individual swords were placed in that pot until they entered the room for their slurpy repast. And, also remember that six of the seven swords were inextricably bonded to said pot.

Which leaves that seventh one. 

It is said that those who lord it over, they too must face being lorded over. So, it was. By sheer luck of the draw the guest whose sword was set aside for to the stirring of the soup pot had some hand. A hand on a sword, if you haven't figured that out by now.

Here is where the legend fades into a great many different versions. 

Some say that the owner of the seventh sword forthwith slayed all his rivals, thus becoming the so-called Big Cheese. (There was a Cheese(s) course during the feastings, and it was something in itself.) 

What persists is a land unified to this present modern day. Yes, with provinces, but central rulership. 

We don't know if any of the others actually made it out alive or not. Just to say that the hand who holds the sword stirs the pot to his own tune. 

Besides the inclination that the high festive event of legend, and that soup and pot, were placed at an historically pivotal moment in world geo-cultural history and resulted in the unification of an entire racial culture, we can only imagine what other watershed events it might have kindled. 

We do in our own time have something called the "Broth of Your Own Desire" and it's one tasty dish. And by dish, I use the term in its several possible meanings.

Also, it comes to mind, that old chestnut, "Hunger is the best sauce." It probably doesn't fit. 

So sue me.