Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.

The Epagomenoi: The Birth of Aset

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The fourth epagomenal day marks the birth of Aset, the eldest daughter and fourth 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 a complete resource.

The epitaph for this day is puzzling because of an issue with the name of this holiday. In the Leyden I papyrus the day is called, “Sobek, great of…”. Sadly much can only be surmised due to the damage of the papyrus. Spalinger notes in the Leyden II papyrus the day was called, ‘the pure one in the field’, though this is possibly an attempt to parallel the holiday back with Wesir (more on this in a moment). The Cairo Calendar calls the day, “the one who makes terror”. Some contention about this day arises from the discrepancies found in some calendars about the recording epagomenal days ending on this day. There is little record following about the fifth day since the records stop here. This day, like the day of Nebet-Het, is also called “the child in the nest”, though the changing of dates may be due to Aset’s association with Sirius.

As suggested in the post about Wesir’s birth, it may be something of a parallel to the couple astronomically as well as mythologically. The constellation Sah’s not only associated with Wesir but with the end of a year cycle. In associating Aset with Sopdet (Sirius) the associations with the new year arise in a different light. Spalding notes that Wesir is tied to the new year through the revival concept as well as Aset in the form of Sopdet passing along Her ownership of Egypt to Wesir. In this sense He also plays a role in the revival of Egypt as well as the revival of the year. We see this reflected in not only in Aset’s epitaph referring to Wesir’s epitaph on His birthday, but as noted in the syncretizing of Sopdet and Sah with Aset and Wesir respectively. Since Aset and Wesir must bring in the new year the emphasis on focusing on the fourth epagomenal day as opposed to the fifth makes more sense. While Spalding dismisses Leyden II on the count that the text seems too distorted to be of any worth, I feel the astronomical and mythical parallels are too big to ignore.

In Dendera, a procession and feast took place in honor of Aset the night before. Other temples had additional rituals, such as the possibility of dedicating the temple to Aset in Philae. In Edfu there is a procession which leads to the “Place of the First Feast” where, alongside Ra, purifications are performed as well the robing ceremony. The procession then moves to the Mesenet-chapel for the night. The Het-Hert calendar of Edfu adds the “festival of the revealing of the face”. It also specifies offerings of fowl, bovine, milk, and wine.

Modern Kemeticists like to say a prayer on this day while lighting a candle. While the translation provided from the Cairo Calendar is questionable, it provides some groundwork for anyone who’d like to practice it:

O this Isis, daughter of Nut, the

eldest, mistress of magic,

provider of the book, mistress

who appeases the two lords,

her face is glorious. I am the

brother and the sister. The

name of this day is He Who

Makes Terror.

Sources:

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.

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3 thoughts on “The Epagomenoi: The Birth of Aset

  1. Pingback: The Epagomenal Days | Upholding Ma'at

  2. Pingback: Link: Birthday of Aset | Fiercely Bright One

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