Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.


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Festival of the Beautiful Union: Preparations

Despite the beginning of the holiday beginning on the new moon in the third month of Shomu preparations for The Festival of the Beautiful Union began in the second month of Shomu.

In Dendera there were two weeks of preparing for the ritual. During this time several rituals were performed, many of which repeat throughout the festival. The first of such festivals is the Offering of the First Fruits. Offerings from the fields were presented to Het-Hert. It seems there were some connections to the myth of Aset mourning the death of Wesir, as the offerings were presented by mourners before Aset and lamentations sung.

Another ritual practiced during this time is the Driving of Cattle ritual. Cattle are driven around the primordial hill four times while dragging ritual chests. Even though the main idea of the ritual is self-explanatory there are certain specifics. One source states cattle and donkeys are driven. Another source states that four cattle –one red, one spotted, one white, and one black, but all calves –are required. It is agreed, though, the cattle are driven around the primordial mound while pushing wheat into the ground. This is possibly a reference to Ka-her-Ka where Wesir’s effigy is made with sprouting wheat and clay. If so it serves to further the element of regeneration during the holiday.

After these rituals were performed the priests prepared a barque to sail towards Edfu. This journey had its own rituals and entourage, which will be covered in the next post.

Sources
The Festival of the Beautiful Reunion.” Asetmeri, n.d.Retrieved from http://www.philae.nu/

akhet/BeautReun.html.(dead link).

Coppens, Filip. “Temple Festivals of the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods”. In Jacco Dieleman

and Willeke Wendrich (eds.),UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology Jan 2009. eScholarship.

El-Sabban, Sherif. “Temple Festival Calendars of Ancient Egypt. Google books.

Lloyd, Alan B. A Companion to Ancient Egypt. Google Books.

Ritner, Robert Kriech. “The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice.” Studies in

Ancient Oriental Civilization  54 (1993): 59. PDF.

Wilkinson, J. Gardner. The Ancient Egyptians: Their Life and Customs. New York: Bonanza

Books, 1988. Print.

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Festival of the Beautiful Union: The Procession to Edfu

After the preparations finished in Dendera the procession to Edfu began. This procession took many days with some stops and rituals along the way. On the day of the procession the party, along with the statue of Het-Hert, set forth on a barque named nb mrwt (“The Mistress of Love”). While the party fit on the barque it was a considerable size.

In Dendera it seems the procession consisted of many parties who weren’t necessarily clergy. The priests, the mayor of Iunet, as well as other officials joined the procession. It seems as if there weren’t any pilgrims on the ship, but pilgrims did meet the ship along each stop.

During the few days of the procession several stops occurred. Some of the stops included Karnak, Pi-Mer, and Nekhen. At each stop pilgrims gathered. During this time they petitioned Het-Hert, called upon Her for divination, and witnessed a ritual at each stop. The particular ritual was called The Observance of the Renewal of the Earth and All Things That Come With It. While there were visits to the various gods at the respective temple of each stop the ritual consisted of visiting each god and honoring Them. It is known that the various forms of Heru from each stop joined the procession to Edfu.

However, the procession from Dendera to Edfu was not the only procession. Heru-Behedity had His own procession in Edfu. He is accompanied by Khonsu and the Edfu ennead, as well as other gods. The Edfu procession boarded their barque “The Brow of Heru” at Wetjeset-Hor, where it met The Mistress of Love on the new moon.

Sources
The Festival of the Beautiful Reunion.” Asetmeri, n.d.Retrieved from http://www.philae.nu/

akhet/BeautReun.html.(dead link).

Coppens, Filip. “Temple Festivals of the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods”. In Jacco Dieleman

and Willeke Wendrich (eds.),UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology Jan 2009. eScholarship.

El-Sabban, Sherif. “Temple Festival Calendars of Ancient Egypt. Google books.

Lloyd, Alan B. A Companion to Ancient Egypt. Google Books.

Ritner, Robert Kriech. “The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice.” Studies in

Ancient Oriental Civilization 54 (1993): 59. PDF.

Wilkinson, J. Gardner. The Ancient Egyptians: Their Life and Customs. New York: Bonanza

Books, 1988. Print.

 


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Festival of the Beautiful Union: An Introduction

It’s time for another holiday by my calendar, and this time it’s the Festival of the Beautiful Union. This holiday goes by other names, like The Festival of the Beautiful Embrace, The Sacred Marriage, or the Festival of the Beautiful Reunion. I’ve only seen the latter with members of the Kemetic Orthodoxy, however. Regardless of the variation of the name the holiday is celebrated the same way. The actual date of the holiday is the new moon during the third month of Shomu. Depending on the calendar observed this is marked either in May or June on the Gregorian calendar.

The significance of the Festival of the Beautiful Union features some complexity. This holiday focuses on when Het-Hert marries Heru at its surface. In Dendera this roughly month and a half affair where the Het-Hert statue travels with an entourage to the Temple of Edfu, where She marries Heru-Behedity, consummates the marriage, then returns to Dendera to give birth to Ihy. Sources note this holiday marks a harvest festival as well, though it seems there is more to it. There are some mortuary elements to the holiday celebrations in addition to creation aspects. Those rituals and aspects will be addressed in later posts.

The observance of the holiday is very lengthy and contains a lot of complexity. The main celebration in Edfu itself is two weeks long with an additional two weeks for preparation, the procession to Edfu also included. Each phase of the holiday repeats the same motifs but enforces the importance of the themes, which focus on the harvest, birth, and death. While the information I present is by no means exhaustive I hope to add to it as I learn more in future posts. The current posts I have will focus on the preparations in Dendera, the procession to Edfu, the rituals within Edfu, and the procession back.

Preparations in Dendera

The Procession to Edfu

Hethert Arrives in Edfu

The Festival of Heru Behedity

Celebrating in Edfu (Days 3-4)

The Gods Emerge (Days 5-6)

The Festival of Behedet (Days 7-13)

The Procession Home (Day 14)

Sources

Bleeker, C.J.  Hathor and Thoth: Two Key Figures of the Ancient Egyptian Religion. With 4 Plates.  Google Books.

Coppens, Filip. “Temple Festivals of the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods”. In Jacco

      Dieleman and Willeke Wendrich (eds.), UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology Jan 2009. eScholarship.

      Web. 5/8/15.

El-Sabban, Sherif. “Temple Festival Calendars of Ancient Egypt. Google books.

The Festival of the Beautiful Reunion.” Asetmeri, n.d. Web.

Lloyd, Alan B. A Companion to Ancient Egypt. Google Books.

Ritner, Robert Kriech. “The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice.” Studies in Ancient

      Oriental Civilization 54 (1993): 59. PDF.

Wilkinson, J. Gardner. The Ancient Egyptians: Their Life and Customs. New York: Bonanza Books,

1988. Print.


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Kemetic Round Table: Happy Multi-Holiday Observance Time!

When anyone converts from a belief in which they were raised to a new one there’s always conflict. If it’s not reconciling old beliefs with new ones it’s reconciling old religious traditions with new ones. I’ve been down this road in many ways before converting away from Christianity. I grew up thinking having to change tradition was a norm. My family is apparently very odd, yet very American, in that respect.

 

My father worked for a German company during my teens, which meant lots of traveling for him. He traveled so much I lost track of which country he was in most of the time. I’m sure my teachers suspected he was running out on us (it was one of those small towns that made Petyon Place look like Mayberry) since they grilled me often about his whereabouts. Awkward school situations aside it meant having to adjust holiday traditions. Since my father was out of the country a good portion of the time he missed out on holidays often. Holiday gatherings that once took place as a family had to be adjusted. Christmas gifts weren’t always opened together as a family or they arrived late. We stopped watching certain movies or specials because they were specific ones he requested and wasn’t there to request them. My father, since he still travels, ordered a Christmas tree this year instead of following tradition of picking out one at a tree farm.

 

Sometimes because my father travels new traditions were added or halfheartedly added. One summer my father insisted we observe Bastille day after coming back from France and missing Independence Day, even though we have no significant French ancestry nor ties to France. What happened was a confusing disaster and a house smelling of cheap wine. All but my father were against this practice for obvious reasons and felt it saw it for the contrived attempt to excuse poor wine choices. We gave up and left him to his cheap liquor. Despite this disaster some other traditions have been introduced with greater success, like a new holiday decorating tradition or a new holiday dish. After all, we’re Midwesterners and easily bribed with food.

 

There were times where family traditions changed not just because of absent family members, but due to changing circumstances. It used to be an Easter tradition to dye eggs for a family Easter egg hunt. As the children grew up there was less need to keep this tradition: we were at an age where we didn’t want to do it and there weren’t any children around for whom to keep the tradition going. There are others, and most changed because the tradition was no longer practical to keep. However gorging ourselves on food is still a family tradition.

When I moved away from Christianity not much changed, though there was some controversy over how I would observe holidays. It wasn’t so much of how my family felt my faith nor theirs would prohibit observation. I lucked out in that respect. My father’s side of the family are predominantly atheist so there was no issue about faith and the holidays. I grew up not attending church as a family, let alone on holidays. While we knew the religious significance my family raised me to observe it as a secular holiday. The issue of my faith stemmed from the holidays I wanted to observe coinciding with theirs, and the dietary restrictions prove to be an issue. My mother knew how to adjust to the family members who converted to Catholicism, but she wasn’t fully sure how to adjust for Kemetic practices. Luckily this is only an issue around Thanksgiving as that’s when I observe Ka-her-Ka and practice the rituals more rigorously. At first I was adamant about my dietary restrictions. As years have worn on I’ve grown too tired of the heated culinary debates and relented. I just do what I can and hope for the best.

 

When I’ve looked at this issue of overlapping holidays I’ve lucked out compared to the stories I’ve heard about Pagans and fellow Kemeticists. Most families are not multi-faith and tend to be hard nosed about what will and won’t be observed during the holidays. My family has made adjustments where possible but also knew what needed to be in which corner. As long as I’m not forcing my family to sit for long periods of time while I perform rituals in front of them they’re tolerant. My Catholic family members don’t expect the rest of us to attend Mass. The Baptist and Lutheran family members attend services and then spend time with the rest of the family. My atheist family members treat holidays like Christmas as secular holidays. The key for us is to understand when it’s time for someone to be religious and when it’s time to celebrate as a family. It’s probably why I don’t have any issues but personal ones about holidays.

 

I think what is key for my family is also the same advice I’d give anyone about celebrating multiple holidays: just know the time and place. Know when it’s time to celebrate family and being with family, and know when it’s time to celebrate it as a holy day. Don’t expect your family to burn a yule log if it’s never been done just because you observe Yule. Don’t look at the family attending church service as religion being shoved down your throat because you’re not Christian or Catholic. I know it’s hard not to look at that situation as forced, but understand to them it’s also an important family tradition. Even though sometimes traditions change there’s usually a new one in place where the whole family can enjoy it. Sometimes finding that new tradition for everyone will take work and tolerance.

 


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Ka-her-Ka 101

So it’s that time when I observe Ka-her-Ka (thanks to the folks at Per Djeba for correcting my spelling on that) and I thought I’d give folks a quick, basic rundown of the holiday. I’m mostly doing this because there actually isn’t a whole lot out there from a Kemeticist’s perspective even with basic information. I will note, however, the myth of Ka-her-Ka I use is the most common one so I haven’t cited the source for it as I assume it’s common knowledge. I also do not cite a source for the Kemetic Orthodox information as I used to be a member and feel a little too lazy to look up where exactly that information is listed on the cite. I apologize for my laziness.

So What Exactly Is Ka-her-Ka?

Ka-her-Ka (sometimes written as Khoiak) translates to “sustenance upon sustenance” roughly. Members of the House of Netjer / Kemetic Orthodoxy refer to this holiday as “The Wesirian Mysteries”. Ka-her-Ka is a festival commemorating the death of Wesir and the birth of Heru-Sa-Aset. The death of Wesir in later periods, and Dendera is no exception, is attributed to the work of Set, Wesir’s youngest brother. According to this myth Aset and Nebt-Het search for Wesir’s body and find it in a river. Upon recovering the body Set cuts up Wesir’s body into 14 pieces. Aset and Nebt-Het recover all but His member as a fish ate it when Set tossed it into the Nile. Aset formed a substitute member, revived Wesir long enough for Aset to procreate, and Aset gave birth to Heru-Sa-Aset. This was also a time when Sokar was observed to have His own death. His statuette was made at roughly the same time as the corn mummies, but buried much sooner.

The myths surrounding Ka-her-Ka reflect the changes in the season .It marks the time when the harvest time wound down and the time to prepare for next year’s crops in Ancient Egypt. This is also believed by some as to why Wesir’s death is reenacted with the creation of corn mummies. In the earlier steps of creating the mummies the molds are watered so as the wheat and barley sprouts. While actual sprouting seems to be of little importance in its creation (more on that later) reenacting the myths reflected on Wesir’s agricultural aspect of the end of crop yield that, with proper care, would grow and yield the next year.

When Is Ka-her-Ka Celebrated?

This question is tricky to answer because it depends on how one chooses to celebrate. In Dendera the priests started the ritual preparations with mixing the seeds for the corn mummies on 4 Akhet 12 and ending on 4 Akhet 30 with the raising of the djed pillar and burial of the corn mummies. On the Gregorian calendar most modern Kemeticists observe this holiday around October or November (though sometimes a bit later if there’s an intercalary month) if they practice like the priests. The Sokar Festival was observed on 4 Akhet 26 in Dendera, which also places it in November on the Gregorian calendar. However, the statuette started work much sooner. This statuette started later than the corn mummies on 4 Akhet 14 but was completed at the same time as the corn mummies. It was also buried with them on 4 Akhet 30.

As with many records on Kemetic holidays there are more records about how the temples observed each holiday. It’s harder to discern when laymen celebrated except for 4 Akhet 22, the day of the funeral procession. Many people participated in the procession and even made pilgrimages to Abydos. Various stelae have been found in Abydos which mark the procession and serve as something of a script, indicating when the audience could interact and when to be bystanders. While there was a procession around the Sacred Lake in Dendera it’s hard to determine, though it can be assumed it happened, if laymen attended. Later that evening people would hold a vigil by lamplight. While there is evidence the laymen also produced corn mummies it’s uncertain if they followed the same formula as the priests did. On that point I will omit the practice and focus on the procession and vigil. If one focuses only on the procession and vigil this would place the holiday observance in November on the Gregorian calendar.

How Was Ka-her-Ka Celebrated?

How the holiday was celebrated depends on which perspective is taken. As mentioned before the priests as Dendera observed this time through making statuettes: one of Khenty-Imenti, another Wesir figure (which has yet to be determined whom it represents), and a Sokar figure. These statuettes were given a procession followed by a funeral, including a burial with preparations starting at 4 Akhet 23 and ending on 4 Akhet 30. In the process of burying the figures the figures of the previous year’s figures were removed on 4 Akhet 24.

The common man, conversely, had a less elaborate time. As mentioned a procession was held in which Wesir’s death and rise of Heru-Sa-Aset were reenacted. Later that night a vigil was held. The layman also made their own corn mummies as excavations have uncovered large amounts of corn mummies buried in pits.

What Are Corn Mummies?

Corn mummies are statuettes made to look like Wesir. In the temple there was another corn mummy made, but not much is known about it at this time. They are made of wheat, barley, and sand. The corn mummies are made over a timespan of roughly ten days. After soaking the wheat and barley for six hours sand is mixed in with the seeds and water. This mixture is placed inside the corn mummy molds (which are lined with linen) and sandwiched between reeds, where it is watered day and night and the reeds changed at each watering. The reeds are buried while the water is collected. This begins on 4 Akhet 12 and ends on 4 Akhet 21 in Dendera.

On 4 Akhet 21 the mummy halves are removed from their molds and joined with incense. The funerary cloth is woven. The mummies are then wrapped in a papyrus cord in four places (the knob of the atef crown, the neck, the arms, and legs). Finally the corn mummies are prepared for burial on 4 Akhet 23 when the mummies are covered in 14 amulets, bandaged, and placed in a coffin chaped like Sokar.

The mentioned creation of the corn mummies is how it was done in temples. In the temples the corn mummies were created by the shentayit, a priestess who enacts the role of Aset. We do know the corn mummy mold was made of a precious metal or even an alloy of gold and silver, though clay molds have been discovered as well. It is uncertain how the corn mummies were made amongst laymen, but it is believed by Egyptologist that laymen had access to the resources to make their own. Some excavations have uncovered pits of several corn mummies by the Nile, leading to the theory that sprouting corn mummies at the time of their creating wasn’t important as much as the symbolism or even being sprouted by the Nile waters.

How Does Sokar Play Into All of This, Then?

Sokar is a god who predates Wesir and even exhibits similarr traits. He originally had a festival much like Ka-Her-Ka which was observed on 4 Akhet 26 in Dendera, but eventually merged with Ka-her-Ka. Like the corn mummies Sokar took several days to be formed though of a different composition. The Sokar statuette was formed of soil, resins, oils, and gemstones and faience beginning on 4 Akhet 14 in Dendera. This was annointed, baked, and shaped into Sokar. It was eventually painted with a yellow face, turquoise jaw, and black eyes. A wig of lapis lazuli was placed on its head.

The ritual on 4 Akhet 26 was very simple at Dendera. A procession circled the temple four times. The procession led into the Chamber of Heru where libations were offered. Afterwards the procession returned to the “House of the Divine Mansion”. On 4 Akhet 30 the Sokar statuette was buried in the crypt, thus replacing the previous year’s statuette. The previous year’s statuette along with previous year’s corn mummies were removed from the crypt days prior on 4 Akhet 24. The previous year’s statuettes’ bandages were removed, and the previous year’s Sokar received beaded netting made of lapis lazuli. Along with the corn mummies the statuette was anointed, bandaged, and buried elsewhere on the temple grounds.

I know for an introductory post this is absolutely overwhelming. It’s why I recommend reading the sources I used for this post to get a better grip on the ritual if a formal ritual is desired. Even if the formal ritual isn’t followed it’s great to get a better understanding of the holiday anyway. In the meantime I think the easiest way to observe Ka-her-Ka is through making a corn mummy and a night vigil given what we know the laymen practices. I’d even go as far as to simplify it by only practicing a night vigil. The important thing to remember about this holiday is the passing of the harvest season, and subsequently Wesir and Sokar. Even though they pass now we work to plant the seeds and sow the fields in order to produce a yield next season in whatever way one wishes to understand growing a crop.

Sources

El-Sabban, Sherif. Temple Festival Calendars of Ancient Egypt. Google books.

“Khoiak Festival”. Digital Egypt Online. Web. Retrieved 2009.

Meeks, Dmitri and Christine Farvard-Meeks. Daily Life of the Egyptian Gods. Google books.

Ritner, Robert Kriech. “The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice.” Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization 54 (1993): 59. PDF.

Schulz, Regine. “A Corn Mummy Decoded”. PDF

Teeter, Emily. Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt. New York, Cambridge 2001. Print.

Tooley, Angela M.J. “Osiris Bricks”. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 82 (1996), pp. 167-

179 JSTOR. 2/21/11.


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A Semi-Nifty Tekh Guide

I originally planned on having this as a few different posts, but I decided to merge them into one, because it makes more sense to have everything covering the basics of the holiday in one post.   Since I originally had these sections as separate posts I decided to leave the respective sources with each section.  As usual this research is mostly introductory and incomplete.  I hope, just the same, it will provide a nice introduction to the holiday and provide more understanding of it.

What is Tekh?

Tekh, a holiday which translates to “drunkenness”, observes the myth of Sekhmet nearly destroying mankind but ceased upon intoxication. In Ancient Egypt Tekh was allegedly celebrated through intoxication in addition to rituals.  In the temple of Dendera the ritual for Tekh spanned five days which included a procession of Het-Hert to the temple roof,  returning back to Her shrine slowly, then the procession of the Dendera Ennead to the temple roof for the ritual of uniting with the sun disc.

The laymen during this time, if they could manage it, would also celebrate.  There are records of drunkenness in the temple so worshipers would get closer to Sekhmet through intoxication.  At the Temple of Mut during Hatsheput’s reign. there was a place devoted to this called “The Porch of Drunkenness”.  This part of the temple, however, was abandoned after her reign and even remodeled to cover all traces of it.  Other, similar observances were practiced throughout Ancient Egypt only without evidence of a reserved space.

Sources

  • Bryan, Betsy M.  “Amenhotep III’s Legacy in the Temple of Mut.”  Offerings to the Discerning Eye: An Egyptological Medley in Honor of Jack A. Josephson.  Ed. Sue D’Auria.  Google Books.  Web.  14 Aug 2013.
  • Guilhou, Nadine, 2010, Myth of the Heavenly Cow. In Jacco Dieleman and Willeke Wendrich (eds.), UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, Los Angeles.  21 Jan 2013
  • el-Sabban, Sherif.  Temple Festival Calendars of Ancient Egypt. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000.  Print.

The Significance of Tekh

The holiday is more than celebrating the salvation of the world from Sekhmet or entering a state of intoxication. The implications of the intoxication have a religious connotation for practitioners as well as a mythical one. Parallels were of important significance in Ancient Egypt and the myth surrounding the holiday serves multiple purposes, especially considering the date on which it falls (20 days after the new year). Tekh holds many implications about the order on a religious and physical level. The myths in turn lend an explanation to natural phenomenon and serve to reflect the cosmic order in the rule of the land. Ultimately Tekh serves as an explanation for the hierarchical arrangements and natural phenomenon.

One of the outstanding elements of Tekh is the explanation of the current order of the universe and ruling class. The holiday not only marks the restructuring of the world—namely the heavens, the earth, and the duat—but it also establishes the restructuring of how the gods rule. Even though Ra is still perceived as a powerful ruler His ascension into heaven indicates a need to restructure the hierarchical ruling order. In this restructuring where Ra once ruled everything now gods are assigned certain roles, such as Nut reigns over the sky while Geb rules the earth.. The redistribution of rule from one god to many gods implies a need to destroy the current order for the purpose of creating a new order, for which Sekhmet’s rampage served as a vehicle. The need for a new order is reflected in one of the rituals in The Heavenly Cow where the king ascends to heaven as Ra did. Not only does the ritual reenact Ra’s ascension for the sake of the king’s heavenly ascension but it also establishes the creation of different realms.

This new cosmic order affected the earthly realm in the sense of establishing rule over mankind.  Ra’s restructure of the cosmic order affected how mankind structured its government. The government restructure manifests in one form as the parallels of the vizier and Djehuty. Nadine Guilhou notes how Djehuty takes His role of vizier and association with the moon during the rearrangement of the cosmos. Ra, on the other hand, still ultimately rules the day and retains solar associations. It’s because of this solar attribute Ra is able to bestow Djehuty His power and role. Djehuty is appointed not only as the one to serve in Ra’s place while He is away, but also as the light during the nighttime. The direct celestial-nobility connection demonstrates the metaphorical rule of a vizier as one like Djehuty’s: rule as the moon “rules” over the night, the vizier rules in the king’s absence. In addition to acquiring some of His power from Ra, there are implications Ra created Djehuty’s authority based on the puns in how baboon and ibis sound much like calling upon the primordial gods and protection from foreigners. The implication of Djehuty’s role serves as one example of the new order in that it enforces the god’s ability to act on behalf of Ra. Not only does the holiday mark the establishment of the reign of the gods, it also establishes the legitimacy of the king’s reign as well as the legitimacy of the vizier’s role.

There is also the parallel of the myth and natural phenomenon during this time of the year. There are relevant similarities between the timing of Tekh and the narrative. Tekh usually happens around the Gregorian calendar’s hottest part of the summer, the “dog days of summer”, which also coincides with the rising of Sirius (a marker of the new year). The “heat” of Sekhmet’s wrath, a wrath which devastates mankind, parallels the crop-withering heat and deaths from dehydration and diseases that thrive in such a climate. Even though most of the slaying in that respect also contains a following of demons the parallel is still noted.  Despite the dangers of illness and various maladies another even occurred which brought something more positive. According to Guilhou, the inundation also brought waters enriched with iron, namely hematite, which gives the water its red color. It’s not difficult to conclude there’s a correlation between a river of red water and the myth of Sekhmet. Despite the water’s color there’s a positive correlation between this event and agriculture. Much of winemaking—as with all crops at the time—depended on the Nile flood to provide enough grapes, as Mu-Chou Poo also asserts the connection of the red waters of the Nile and the tale of Sekhmet. Her actions also imply other earthly aspects.

The holiday possibly celebrates an aspect of human nature as well. The holiday may serve an element that explains the nature of man’s wrongdoing and free will. Guilhou interpreted the story of Sekhmet asserts evil originates from man as opposed to the gods. Mankind planned to attack Ra first, and Ra responded by sending out Sekhmet. It is because of the initial plot by man the gods separate Themselves from mankind in order to place distance between Them and wickedness. André de Campos Silva believes this distance from the evil acts of humans, at least from the possible view of Ptahhotep, provided the gods more ability to vanquish evil. In that sense evil cannot prevail by this philosophy since evil does not originate from the gods. It also implies mankind chooses to act in evil ways and work separately from the gods, as manifested in Their departure. Regardless of how man punishes itself for wrongdoing, the gods will punish for the transgressions as it’s an act against Them. In the Old Kingdom some of this line blurred given the nature of punishment by the king. Everything event or action parallels.

Tekh serves as a holiday to explain not only the divine order but earthly order. This earthly order manifests as natural phenomena, governmental structure, as well as explain some attributes of human nature. Ultimately Tekh serves as a reminder of the structure in its current state as a result of human actions on a mythical level. It also reminds the Ancient Egyptians how the government hierarchy is sound as it directly reflects the divine hierarchy. Tekh also serves as a mythical explanation for a natural iron deposit delivered during the Nile floods. All of these elements reflect each other in a way the Ancient Egyptians understood as indicative of order.

Sources

  • de Campos Silva, André, 2010, The Status of Free Will in Ancient Egypt’s Old And Middle Kingdoms According to the Instruction of Ptahhotep. Mestrado em História Antiga (Egiptologia), Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon.  Web.  21 Jan 2013
  • Guilhou, Nadine, 2010, Myth of the Heavenly Cow. In Jacco Dieleman and Willeke Wendrich (eds.), UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, Los Angeles.  21 Jan 2013
  • Poo, Mu-chou, 2010, Liquids in Temple Ritual. In Willeke Wendrich (ed.), UCLA Encyclopedia of  Egyptology, Los Angeles.   21 Jan 2013
  • “THE BOOK OF THE HEAVENLY COW”. The Literature of Ancient Egypt. Ed. Lisa Simpson.  Web.  21 Jan 2013
  • Stadler, Martin A., 2012, Thoth. In Jacco Dieleman, Willeke Wendrich (eds.), UCLA Encyclopedia of  Egyptology, Los Angeles.  21 Jan 2013

Celebrating Tekh

I will speak about how Tekh was celebrated from a historical basis.  I am not endorsing one try these methods to celebrate Tekh.  There are other ways to induce a trance state which do not include alcohol or drugs.  If one wishes to induce a trance state to celebrate Tekh, I recommend meditation or using music alone or in combination with meditation as a safer method.  There are other methods also recommended in this section which do not require intoxication to induce trance.

This is a festival about intoxication on a surface level. Some believe this is easily accessed with alcohol and drugs, namely the blue lotus blossom infused in wine. It is believed the blossom and root of  the blue lotus has a narcotic effect which includes euphoria, blurred vision, hallucinating, “vivid dreams”, and deep sleep. According to speculation this concoction would be drunk through a straw with a strainer in a cup.   Kasia Szpakowska and others contest the verity of narcotic consumption in this manner, let alone its consumption, since tests performed on the alleged paraphernalia have yet to produce a trace of narcotics of any sort. However I suspect if it wasn’t used to intoxicate the lily could have been ingested for a symbolic purpose given it’s an icon for euphoria, a point on which Szpakowska supports.

Another questionable method of intoxication consists of mandrake use. Just like the blue lotus the mandrake is shown in various offering scenes, often alongside the blue lotus, and depicted on cups. One source asserts  Het-Hert drank beer infused with mandrake in the story of Her destruction of mankind, though other translations do not mention mandrake. As with the blue lotus there’s lacking evidence of mandrake’s recreational use.

Intoxication, both literal and figurative, is achieved through other means. Het-Hert is also a goddess of dance, and these holidays are known for it. Worship of Het-Hert also consisted of general jubilation as She is associated with joy. Drunkenness did occur during this festival, as did all festivals dedicated to Het-Hert, but everything combined to form a state of ecstasy. There is also the altered state of drowsiness which results from inebriation. What seems to distinguish spiritual inebriation from profane inebriation is the purpose. Since the intoxication served as a connection with the gods (or a goddess in this case) and not solely for personal reasons the Ancient Egyptians didn’t take exception, a unique feature since drunkenness was socially unacceptable .

There’s circumstantial evidence that Het-Hert was approached in dreams or a dream-like state dating from the New Kingdom. It appears these states were entered with the help of intoxication. Moreover it seems encountering Het-Hert in a dream wasn’t exactly planned either. She appeared spontaneously, though the festivities at night seem to act as a possible vigil for Her.

Sources

  • Assmann, Jan. The Search for God in Ancient Egypt.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001.
  • Emboden, Jr., William A. “Sacred Narcotic Water Lily of the Nile: Nymphaea caerulea Sav.” Economic Botany, 33(1) (1979), pp. 395-407. Web. 21 Jan. 2013.
  • Pinch, Geraldine. Handbook of Egyptian Mythology.  Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2002.
  • Szpakowska, Kasia. “Altered States: An inquiry into the Possible Use of Narcotics or Alcohol to Induce Dreams in Pharaonic Egypt”. Occasional Volume of the Egyptologists’ Electronic Forum , 1, 2003, 225-237.


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The Epagomenoi: The Birth of Nebet-Het

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The final epagomenal day marks the birth of Nebet-Het, the youngest 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.

In the Leyden I papyrus the day is called, ‘the child in the nest’ according to Spalinger, and the name of the day isn’t too different in the Leyden II papyrus. This is also the name mentioned in the Cairo Calendar. There is another manuscript which refers to this day as, “the pure AbDw-fish in the front of the barque of Ra”. However from the New Kingdom onward the former name of “child in the nest” is used. Much of this seems to be due to the emphasis on Aset’s ties to Sirius and thus more emphasis on the fourth epagomenal day as opposed to this day. Aset in later periods became more significant of an epagomenal day due to Her later associations with Sopdet, Who is the personification of Sirius. Since Sopdet was tied to the inundation of the new year more emphasis was place on Aset and the transference of Egypt to Wesir.

In Edfu there is a feast and the ambiguous instruction of “all rituals are performed”. The calendar for Het-Hert of the same temple is of little help as enough of the text is preserved to infer there is a feast. I personally repeat the ritual from the birth of Aset based on mostly a hunch and how they two days are treated interchangeably.

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 Nephthys, daughter of Nut,

sister of Seth, she whose father

sees a healthy daughter…I

am the divine power in the

womb of my mother Nut. The

name of this day is The Child

Who is in his Nest.

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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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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The Epagomenoi: The Birth of Sutekh

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The third epagomenal day marks the birth of Sutekh, the third child and youngest son of Nut and Geb. Even though Sutekh had some worship in earlier periods in Ancient Egypt, much of that was lost over time due to His later associations with chaos. 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 coverage of the topic.

There seems to be, just like with the birth of Heru-Wr, some interchanging of names. In the Leyden I papyrus the name of the day is, “The pure gAs”. Spalinger notes there is no name for this day in later periods due to how Sutekh was perceived and His subsequent erasure. Conversely the Cairo Calendar called the day “powerful of heart”, which is also the name listed for the birth of Heru-Wr. Another manuscript refers to it as “the night of purifying sxm-pgs”. It is also noted in some manuscripts how the solar barque presented itself on this day. This would be consistent with boat themes found in other manuscripts concerning the names of the epagomenal days.

What is difficult to discern is how this day was observed. It’s a little difficult to determine how exactly this holiday was observed in the temples due to Sutekh’s poor reputation and erasure in later periods. The temple of Edfu notes on the Het-Hert calendar that burnt offerings were given with water libations at all hours of the evening, but that is to Het-Hert rather than Sutekh. This was followed by a evening procession to meet with Heru-Behedity.

Modern Kemeticists like to light a candle and say a prayer on this day. While the translation of the Cairo Calendar is questionable, it should provide some basis for anyone who’d like practice it:

O Seth, son of Nut, great of

strength…protection is at

the hands of they holiness. I am

they son. The name of this day

is Powerful of Heart.

Sources:

Brier, Bob. Ancient Egyptian Magic. New York: Quill, 1981. 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.


2 Comments

The Epagomenoi: the Birth of Heru-Wr

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The second epagomenal day marks the birth of Heru-Wr, the second eldest child of Nut and Geb. Most of this post is introductory and will focus on the practices of Edfu and Dendera temples during the Ptolemaic period. In that light the information will be more focused on the practices which are possibly more Hellenized than other periods. 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.

The name for the birth of Heru-Wr is interesting. There are a few variants as to what this day was called. In the Leyden I papryus the day was called, ‘Who bails without His oar’. It’s called in Leyden II, ‘Who sails in the pool of the alty canal’ according to Anthony Spalinger. Spalinger notes the day is called, “it is the strong of heart” in the Cairo Calendar. Yet another manuscript about the epagomenal days calls it a “pure bull in his field”. There are a couple of ideas as to why there are so many different epithets for this day. One is the possibility of a scribal error like the aHA-fish in a pool attribution to Wesir. Spalding hypothesizes, on the other hand, the interchangeability may have more to do with later associations with Wesir as opposed to Heru-Wr.

The celebration of this holiday is fairly elaborate in the temples compared to information available of the other epagomenal days. The temple in Edfu focused on not only the robing ceremony like the birth of Wesir, but also notes how the daily rites are performed. Het-Hert also had a procession in Edfu where She’d stop in Her shrine, later resting in “the Palace” for the evening. There isn’t any record available to me about how this day was observed, if it was observed at all, in Dendera.

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 Horus of Letopolis…The

name of this day is Powerful is

the Heart.

Sources:

Brier, Bob. Ancient Egyptian Magic. New York: Quill, 1981. 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.