Today is the first of five deity birthdays celebrated in Ancient Egypt that are indicated on our calendar. They are collectively known as the Epagomenal Days. In this previous post I recounted the myth where Nut was able to give birth to five children on the days made by Thoth from the light of the moon. These five days were added to the calendar annually from the 13th to 18th of July. Each day a different deity was said to be born, starting with Osiris, then moving to Horus, Set, Isis and finally Nephthys. The Epagomenal days are said to be the Heriu-renpet - 'the Five Days Upon the Year'.
|A figure of Thoth carved on the back |
of the throne of the seated statue of Rameses II.
In the Ancient Egyptian civil calendar each season was made up of four months, each with three 10 day weeks. This made 360 days in the year. The five Epagomenal Days come between the end of the previous year and the beginning of the new one. It was said that during this time the world was in a transitional stage from one year to another.
During this time it was said that the people of Egypt were at risk of the plague caused by Sekhmet, but it was also She who could protect them from it. A ritual called shtp shmt (pacifying Sekhmet) was performed and protective charms were drawn and worn on linen around the neck during these five peril filled days.
While the five days are named as the birthdays of the five deities, there is little to no evidence that they were anything other than names. There were no feasts recorded on the epagomenal days despite the royal artisans being work free on those days. By all research accounts it looks as though all the festivities were held back until the New Year festival celebrations.