Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Calendar Entry #30: Kemet New Year & Opet Festival

Kemet New Year
This is the beginning of the first month in the Ancient Egyptian calendar.  In a year divided into three, four month long seasons, each with three, ten day weeks.  The first season is Akhet, meaning the inundation.  It is a time when the banks of the Nile would have been flooding.  The four months are known interchangeably around the internet by both their Coptic and Kemetic names.  This is the first day of Thoth (Djehuty), followed by Paopi (Pa-en-Opet), Athyr (Hethert) and Khoiak (Ka-her-ka). 
The second season, Peret, means growing or coming forth.  Farmers would have been working the fields, planting and growing crops for the coming year.  The months are Tybi (Ta'abet), Mechir (Pa-en-mekher), Phamenoth (Pa-en-Amenhotep), and Pharmuthi (Pa-en-Renenutet).
The third and final season of the year is Shomu which means heat.  It is the summer season, and a time of waiting between growth and inundation.  The months are Pachons (Pa-en-Khonsu), Payni (Pa-en-inet), Epiphi (Ipip), and Mesore (Mesut-Ra-Heruakhety).
Opet Festival
Procession of Amun - Opet Festival
Also called the Beautiful Feast of Opet, this was an annual festival celebrated in Thebes in Ancient Egypt from the New Kingdom period on.  A statue of Amun of Karnak, with statues of Mut, Khonsu and the reigning king visited the temple of Luxor in a great procession stopping at several locations for the priests to rest and for offerings and prayers to be made.  It would have travelled back to Karnak on the river on the god's ceremonial barque, which was escorted by the royal barque with the king onboard. 
The festival was celebrated differently in different periods with it lasting eleven days during the reign of Thutmoses III, according to the Feast List of Amon of Elephantine, while the Festival Calandar of Medinet Habu (attributed to have been from the reign of Ramesses II) had it lasting 24 days. 
While it more likely that the Opet festival was celebrated in the second or even third  month of this season (depending on which period of Ancient Egyptian history you are looking at), the festival is placed on our calendar to coincide with the first day of the Kemetic new year as this is the day that modern Kemetic reconstructionists will generally celebrate the Opet Festival. 
The purpose of the festival, in ancient times, seems to be focussed on the renewal of divine 'kingship' and to recrown the reigning king.  At the height of the festival, Amun-Re's powers were transferred to the king, reconfirming his right to rule.  The renewal was important because it was believed that during the course of the year the gods would become weary and their power diminished.   It follows that that the powers of the earth and the king would also wane. 
The celebrations were great.  There were acrobats and musicians, sacrifices and feasts.  Oxen were offered, and most probably slaughtered and eaten by those in attendance.

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