28 September 2022
The prophecy: What happens in Blood Psalms Episode 1
Blood Psalms opens at a time of upheaval in Ancient Africa, around 11 000 years ago. Five tribes – the Akachi, the Uchawi, the Ku’ua, the Chini, and Great Nziwemabwe – whose ancestors all fled the destruction of Atlantis together before our story begins – share a prophecy about the end of days. Signs are growing that the end is coming soon …
Want to know more about the tribes? Read this handy guide to the Tribes and Houses of Blood Psalms.
The new Magi
Episode 1 starts around 18-20 years before the events of the series’ main timeline, which begins in episode 2.
Queen Assili of the Uchawi wails over the body of the late Magi, the high priest of the Uchawi’s magical Order – someone who has control over the elements, especially the rain.
Queen Assili visits the Uchawi’s Temple of Heka (a god of magic and medicine from ancient Egypt whose symbol is two crossed snakes) for an audience with the Emissary, a magical being with a green, flaming head, who is the vessel of Heka on Earth, and the temple’s snakeskin-clad Nymph, who calls on the gods. Queen Assili the Sorceress is expecting to take the crown and the powers as the new Magi. Instead, Heka chooses Queen Assili’s servant and cloak carrier, Ndiya Zazi, and Assili is dragged away screaming in fury.
As Queen Assili rants to her husband, Ntuka, about commoner Nduya Zazi stealing her position as Magi, she reveals that Ndiya Zazi isn’t even Uchawi, instead coming from the cursed tribe of outcasts and vermin, the Chini, and that Ndiya Zazi is the concubine of both Prince Letsha of the Akachi and his father, the Ancient Monarch. Assili, in her fury, renounces the Elemental and Heka.
King vs prince
Prince Letsha is due to go into battle for the first time, fighting the Ku’ua, a tribe with whom the Akachi have a long-standing feud.
Before he goes, he spends time with Ndiya Zazi, the woman he’s fallen in love with – but reveals that he knows his father has taken Ndiya Zazi’s virginity by force.
Letsha asks Ndiya Zazi to marry him and be his queen. When she returns to the temple of Heka, we see that Ndiya Zazi is pregnant. The Elemental warns her that before Heka returns to Earth, Ndiya Zazi will be martyred, and that her death will set off an age of darkness and evil. But she’s also told that her daughter will reclaim the throne, restoring order and peace.
In the battle with the Ku’ua, the Akachi Ancient Monarch orders General Toka (who was born a Ku’ua) to guard his son, Letsha. But during the battle, Letsha stabs his own father in the back just as the Ancient Monarch is about to kill the Ku’ua Chief Xemantso.
Toka watches helplessly as Xemantso finishes off Letsha’s father with an axe blow to the back of his head, before kneeling to the new king, Letsha, with his men following suit, ending the battle with a pact to unite the Ku’ua and the Akachi. The Akachi warriors, especially second-in-command Lekoya, kneel before their new king resentfully.
We’re then told that shortly after being crowned, Letsha made a pilgrimage to the ruins of Atlantis and returned a changed man, one ready to rule.
The power behind the throne
Inside the Akachi’s temple complex, Letsha’s uncle Nkamanzu visits his right-hand man, Mfengetho, high priest of the Akachi, to warn him that since his return from Atlantis, Assili has driven Letsha mad with paranoia. And Mfengetho announces that all his readings are pointing towards doom under Letsha’s reign.
Meanwhile, Queen Ndiya Zazi makes a secret visit to the royal nursery to ask new mother Sithenjwa, her sister, to promise her that Ndiya Zazi’s unborn daughter will learn the truth about their Sacred Order. She gives her an amulet of the goddess Isis. She begs Sithenjwa to watch over her daughter because she knows that Letsha is planning to kill her, and instructs Sithenjwa and Madlamini to take her baby the moment she is born, to the Emissary at the House of Heka. Alone, Sithenjwe pleads with Isis to protect her baby daughter.
Ndiya Zazi’s suspicions are soon proven right. She gives birth to Zazi only for Letsha to immediately take the baby and accuse her of adultery. At his shoulder, Queen Assili encourages Letsha to order Ndiya Zazi’s death. King Letsha sets off to Heka’s temple with the baby, stopping only to tell the goddess Sekhmet (goddess of plague, chaos war and healing), in the form of a black panther, that he holds their only chance of survival. What an interesting time Letsha must have had in Atlantis!
An audience with a god
At the Temple of Heka, the Nymph watches the stars, and seeing the death of Ndiya Zazi she announces that the god Thoth foretold this betrayal ages ago in Atlantis, and that the prophecies are beginning to unfold. The end of days is coming.
In the Akachi palace courtyard, discipline is lax among the restless, gossipy Akachi soldiers. They are complaining about having to assemble to visit the witches at Heka’s temple at Gwadana for the third time in a month and speculating about what it will mean for the kingdom that the newborn is female, and moaning about not being allowed to fight anymore … until Toka reprimands Lekoya in front of the men.
In the royal carriage, before Letsha arrives, Madlamini warns Zazi’s wet nurse, Sithenjwa, that King Letsha must never find out that Sithenjwa is Ndiya Zazi’s sister. Madlamini drops a hint that Letsha’s father also murdered Letsha’s mother just after she gave birth. As the carriage sets off, the mention of his father prompts Letsha to recall the moment that his dad laughed at Letsha’s threats of murder before he took Ndiya Zazi’s virginity, and Letsha tells Madlamini that Princess Zazi could as easily be his father’s daughter (making Zazi his sister) as his own daughter.
At the Temple of Heka, Letsha reveals that Ndiya Zazi’s heart is being carved out as the agreed-upon sacrifice. Sithenjwa is forced to hand over Princess Zazi to Letsha and in a fury, she attacks and tries to stab the King, but the Akachi soldiers drag her away still hurling threats.
The prophecy is revealed
Letsha has his audience with the Emissary, during which he begs for Heka’s protection over the Akachi in the coming time of darkness, and he offers his baby daughter up as a human vessel for Heka.
The Emissary reveals that his offering has been accepted but that Heka had chosen even before he asked, and that Ndiya Zazi was Heka’s chosen vessel while she was alive. So, the Akachi already had Heka’s protection and Letsha’s bloodline was under Heka’s protection, too… and then he went and killed Ndiya Zazi.
The Emissary then gives Letsha a medallion to wear for the rest of his life as a symbol of Heka’s mercy and warns him that he has lost his mind. In parting, she tells him that everything that he has tried to destroy will be restored. And on Princess Zazi’s 18th birthday, she will be pregnant, and Heka will return with the birth of that child, ending Letsha’s regime and his world.
Back at the Akachi palace, Assili gloats until Ndiya Zazi (not yet murdered) speaks with the voice of the gods, telling Assili that she cannot escape the prophecy and that three signs will usher in the apocalypse: “1: The burning eye is open to the portal. 2: Unlocking the flaming gates of hell. 3: Setting forth the inevitable purge.” And Ndiya Zazi warns Assili that she will return, at which Assili has her drowned and cuts her heart out.
As the episode ends, Letsha wakes with the Emissary’s words echoing from his dreams and sees a great flaming dragon fly out of the sky. In the opening credits for the episode, we saw Princess Zazi’s face turn into that of a dragon as she sits on the Akachi throne, holding her baby daughter, so perhaps this is a clue to what’s to come?