KRT: Holidays

Do we need holidays? How do we find out when they occur? How do we celebrate them? Can we make up our own?

Do we need holidays?

From the Tomb of Nakht (New Kingdom) Three Musicians

From the Tomb of Nakht (New Kingdom) Three Musicians

Holidays, in our secular lives, provide a time of rest, festivity, refocusing, or reclaiming. It is a break from the mundane. Whether its a carnivalesqe celebration or a high holy day, festivals can reenergize us. They can placate a restless populace or celebrate differences and similarities. They reminds us of who we are, from whence we came, and why that’s important.

There are faiths which have very few celebrations compared to others. But all holidays play an important role. They pass on culture. Each celebration strengthens and changes the cultural affiliations we have with that festival or holiday. Each generation molds it into something both time honored and new.

Stories, values, and customs are regenerated and continued via holidays. Some might say (I would) that our spiritual practices can also be enlivened by such observances. A holiday can force us to consider myths or themes largely absent from our current practices, take advantage of a spiritually powerful time, or even aid in transitioning from one chapter of our lives to another. It can also help you to connect to a Netjer and bring new life to a relationship.

So, to recap, festivals:

  • provide a break from the mundane
  • celebrate/commemorate a period or event or theme
  • take advantage of a holy time
  • Strengthen both practice and cultural traditions

How and When to Celebrate: Flipping through the Calendar

The Kemetic calendar, which consists of lunar and civil calendars, can be complex to recreate and sometimes difficult to celebrate. “Will I set a fixed date to celebrate Wep Ronpet? Will I coordinate it with the actual rising of Sirius in my area? Will I use the date of Sirius’s rising in Egypt? Will I follow the agricultural seasons of Ancient Egypt, or will my celebrations reflect the environment I currently live in? What about all these other feasts and festivals? Now that I have a holiday, how do I use the 1 CORNER OF A PAPYRUS PIECE we have to recreate it?”

Since I think I have a handle on this, I will explain how I create my calendar:

If you go to this site and enter in all the appropriate information for both the sun and Sirius, you can find out when they rise. I know Sirius rises around the end of July/start of August in my area, so I put the date at about July 20th and ask for a 20 day report.

Note when the sun rises and when Sirius rises. While the sun rises later and later with the passing of days, Sirius rises earlier.  When Sirius is up about 10 to 15 minutes before the sun, I celebrate Wep Ronpet, which traditionally was celebrated the first day the ancients saw it rise above the horizon. Why not celebrate the first day it’s up a minute before the sun? Because while Sirius may be in our sky, by that point we wouldn’t see it; the rising sun’s light would block it out. Wep Ronpet begins the civil calendar. The lunar calendar begins on the first new moon after this date.

Now, you have the date at which Ahket I begins, and you simply map out the civil months and whenever your holidays are to fall. Each civil month has 30 days. Each civil season is 4 months long: Akhet I, II, III, IV (inundation), Peret I, II, III, and IV (emergence), and Shomu I, II, III, and IV  (harvest).

Nebamun Tomb Fresco

Nebamun Tomb Fresco

How and When to Celebrate: Planning the Events

In my (humble and amateur) opinion, all the holidays I celebrate must be relevant to my own life as well as to the Ancient Egyptian practices I am attempting to  (partially) reconstruct. The holidays I celebrate relate to the primary gods I worship regularly or that relate to my career, life changes, interests, etc. Once I find a holiday I need to celebrate, I research:

  • how it was celebrated in antiquity
  • WHY it was important
  • What was the social and political function of the holiday, if any
  • How did it fit into other religious practices
  • What was its relation to the mythology?

Then, I ask:

  • How is this relevant to my life and practice today?
  • How was it relevant then? Do these overlap? If not, why?
  • Can I make them overlap somehow?

All of this information determines how, why, when, and if I celebrate.

Sometimes, all we know about a festival is its name. For example, if I saw “The Festival of Drunkeness” somewhere, I could immediately ask myself:

– Who are the dieties that govern intoxication? What are their myths and roles in Ancient Egyptian society?
– How was drunkenness viewed in Ancient Egypt at different times?
-How do I view intoxication? How does my society/culture view it? Do I agree or disagree?
– What symbols and activities are associated or connected to imbibing (in Ancient Egypt and my own time)?
-Why would such a festival be important in the past? Why is it important for me today?

The answers you formulate can give you a foundation for a celebration relevant to both you and the Ancient Egyptians.  As you conduct your research (if not about the holiday itself, then the cultural and religious aspects relating to it), you may discover things which allow you to recreate the festival more accurately and make it even more relevant. If you have scant information on a festival, but have good ideas on a celebration you feel would be meaningful, go for it! Just remember that your celebration is not as historically based as others. This does not invalidate it or mean its not important! It just means to keep this fact in mind when sharing it with others or when reflecting on your practice.

Can I make up my own holiday?

I honestly don’t see why not. Its YOUR religion. If you feel you need a holiday to celebrate X, why not make one based off of the harp playermythological and cultural norms you know about? I wouldn’t go about the interwebs  telling people it is an authentic, historically based holiday, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any less valid (or give you any reason not to share your ideas with others). In my opinion, some man/woman, at some time, decided to celebrate all the other holidays for the first time way back when. We all have the right to sculpt and express our faith in our own way. The sticky part of reconstructionism, to me, is making sure you aren’t simply performing rote actions from millennia ago which are intimately faithful to original practices but horribly meaningless to the practitioner. A lot of folks get a great deal of meaning from recreating the past–thats why they do it! My main point is to remain cognizant of the experiences you are having to ensure that it is meaningful to YOU.

If recreating the past exactly brings you results, go for it! If making up your own holiday gets results, go for it! Is it still reconstructionism? Some very staunch reconstructionists will say, “No.” Others might say, “Yes.” But, in this case, I turn you to the tale of “Goha and his donkey”. You can’t please all people all the time. And secondly, if you allow the confines of a label to dictate what you do and do not do in your practice, you may be limiting yourself.

“It doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice.” Deng Xiaopeng

A few neat things:

General information about a few large celebrations that occured along the Nile (Wep Ronpet, Opet, Wag, Heb Sed, and a few others):
http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/festival.htm

Information on processions, Opet, Beautiful Feast of the Valley, Osirian festivals, and a calendar of festivals in the Middle Kingdom:
http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/ceremonies/

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Kemetic Calendars and Holidays | Kemetic Round Table
  2. Trackback: Calendars | Treasure in Barren Places
  3. Trackback: Creating a Calendar: One Possible Method | Cards and Feather
  4. lplobinske
    Sep 13, 2015 @ 13:35:05

    Love your post, but if I may, I think your calculations may be a bit off. Each season in ancient Egypt had four months, not three (it was a twelve-month calendar with three seasons). But I like how you calculate the New Year. Don’t mind me, I’m just being picky. Thank you for reaching out to me. It’s nice to know there is a kindred spirit out there.

    Reply

    • cardsandfeather
      Sep 13, 2015 @ 19:16:59

      Hey!! Thanks for being picky!! My math skills also assure me that 12 months in a year divided by the 3 seasons is indeed 4…Thank you for catching that 😀 And thanks for reading!!! I will fix it 😀

      Reply

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