The first epagomenal day marks the
birth of Wesir, the eldest child of Nut and Geb. Most of this post is introductory and will focus on the practices of Edfu and Dendera during the Ptolemaic period. Despite this I tried to include some trivia and a bit of an explanation of the significance of the holiday. It is in no way complete.
Coinciding with the myths Wesir is the first epagomenal day since He is the eldest child of Nut and Geb. There were a few names for this holiday. Anthony Spalinger notes in the Leyden I papyrus the first epagomenal day was in reference to Wesir despite the illegibility of the name. Meanwhile the Leyden II papyrus noted it as “HAsgw, who does not know his oar”. Spalinger also noted in the Cairo Calendar the “pure bull in his field” was the name for the Birth of Wesir. However another manuscript about the epagomenal days notes the day refers to the an aHA-fish in a pool, though this is possibly a scribal error. All of these are referencing the new year and connect Wesir with being responsible for it in some fashion.
This connection with the new year was further reflected astronomically through a few aspects. One of the aspects was with the constellation Sah (which many in the Western world will recognize as Orion). Most Kemeticists are familiar with the associations of Aset and Sirius as well that association with the new year. What is less noted is the constellation of Sah and its stellar association with the end of the year. Part of this is suggested by His depiction of looking away from Sopdet (Sirius), whereas Sopdet looks towards Him. They both are believed to look in the direction of the decans and Sah’s turning away suggests and ending of that year, whereas Sopdet looks towards Him as a suggestion of the start of a new year.
One possible interpretation for this connection to the constellation Sah lies in some of the associations of Wesir in other temples. In the temple of Opet there is a passage to Wesir which refers to Him as a harbinger of new beginnings. While the inscription in Opet is most assuredly about the first epagomenal day, there is some suggestion Wesir is also tied to the new year through passages such as this. Some of this comes from the interpretation of how Wesir begins the epagomenal days and, therefore, must begin the new year in the same fashion. A way this is tied is through His birth being visited by Ra at Opet, where a form of Wesir’s father is mentioned as Amun. In the inscriptions there are further inferences about Wesir’s traits of rebirth and rejuvenation. He also is said to bring the new year through “inheriting” Egypt from Aset in Her form of Sirius.
In the Temple of Edfu this festival consisted of dressing the pillar of Behedet as well as Edfu’s ennead. Meanwhile in the temple of Dendera there doesn’t seem to be an observance of this day. On the other hand the calendar for Het-Hert in Edfu notes how the robing ceremony was performed on a statue of Wesir from Dendera. In that light it’s possible there was something observed in Dendera but the information is unavailable to me.
Some Kemeticists light a candle and say prayers during the epagomenal days. While the source I found is a questionable translation of the Cairo Calendar, it should give some idea of a prayer to use if one wishes:
O Osiris, bull in his cavern
whose name is hidden…Hail
to thee; I am thy son, O father
Osiris. The name of this day is
The Pure One…
Brier, Bob. Ancient Egyptian Magic. New York: Quill, 1981. Print.
van Bomhard, A.S. The Egyptian Calendar: a Work for Eternity. London: Periplus, 1999. Print.
El-Sabban, Sherif. Temple Festival Calendars of Ancient Egypt. Google books.
Spalinger, Anthony. “Some Remarks on the Epagomenal Days in Ancient Egypt”. Journal of Near Eastern Studies 54.1(1995): 33-47. JSTOR.