Monday, 25 July 2011

Calendar Entry #32: Ritual of Ankhet and Welcoming of the Rising of the Nile

We continue our journey through the Cauldrons Calendar feast/festival/holidays.

Nile floodplains - Aerial view of where the Nile flooding ends.  The green fertile lands
after centuries of flooding separate from the poor desert lands that did not flood. (c) Andrew

The annual flooding of the Nile was a welcomed event as the flooding waters provided new nutrient rich top soil.  The three seasons in Ancient Egypt were named for what was happening agriculture-wise.  The month of Akhet was for the inundation - rising and eventual flooding of the Nile.  Every year the Nile's waters would rise and flood the region.  This was due to heavy summer rains in the highlands of Ethiopia, and occurred between June and September each year.   In June the inundation was seen in Aswan but reached as far as Cairo by September.

While flooding, in modern terms, is something that generally brings destruction and or death, the ancient Egyptians welcomed it, because as the river rose it would provide vital water for the farm land.  In addition, once the waters receded it left behind a deposit of rich, black silt that fertilised the land, making the growing of crops possible and fruitful. (See the picture above for an indication of how fertile the flooded area was compared to the non-flooded area).  However, the level of the flooding determined how many crops were able to be planted.  If the inundation was too low, the flooding not as great, then fewer crops could be planted and famine was a threat.

The ancient Egyptians did not know that the Nile flooded due to the monsoon rains in Ethiopia.  They believed that it was at the will of the Nile god Hapi that the inundation occurred.  If the floods were too great (so that they overran the walls protecting villages and destroyed houses) or too low (so that there wasn't enough silt for farming) then it was due to Hapi being displeased with something the Egyptians did or didn't do.  They would worship him and give offerings in the hope that he would bring just the right amount of flooding to the region.  They had no way to control the level of the inundation so worship and offerings to Hapi were very important to agriculture and life for those affected.

Ankhet or Anuket was the personification and goddess of the Nile river in ancient Egypt.  Each year when the inundation would begin the Festival of Ankhet would start.  People would throw offerings of coins, gold, jewellery and other precious gifts into the river as thanks for the water and the nutrients that the flooding would bring.  Anuket was the giver of life, the nourisher of the fields.  She brought the fertility to the lands when the Nile flooded.

For Egyptians in ancient times, Hapi allowed the flooding to occur and controlled the level of flooding, and Anuket brought the fertile black silt with that flooding. 

1 comment:

  1. Now that is a "line in the Sand" !