Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Epagomenal Days and the Egyptian New Year

The Children of Nut
By Michael A. Starsheen
When Ra commanded Shu to separate his grandchildren, Nut and Geb, to create space where all things might live, Nut was heavily pregnant and about to bear her children, a new set of Gods.  Ra, still angry with his grandchildren laughed, and swore that Nut would not bear her children on any day in the calendar year.  Now, at that time, the calendar year contained 12 months of 30 days each for a total of 360 exactly, and Thoth, the God in charge of Time, was deeply disturbed by Ra’s pronouncement.

After much thought, Thoth went to his good friend, A’ah (pronounced Ay’ah), the eldest God of the Moon and timekeeper for the calendar.  He challenged A’ah to a game of draughts such that if he won, A’ah would have to give him an extra day for each round. The game became so intense that A’ah began to melt, and by the end, he became a part of Thoth.  Thoth was now the God of the Moon, marking time, and as such, may be shown with a crescent moon and full moon on his head.
So there were now 5 days not in the calendar!  Thoth brought his magic to Nut, and began acting as her midwife to help her bear her glorious children.  The first was her son, Osiris, who was born in the city of Per-Asar (Busiris).  (Note: In Egyptian, the word “per” means house or home, and “Asar” is the name of Osiris”.  “Busiris” is the Greekification of the city’s name.)  On the second, she bore Heru-ur (Horus the Elder), who was born in the city of Sekhemt.  On the third, Set tore through her left side, being impatient to be born, and came forth into the city of Per-Matchet (Oxyrhyncus).  Set’s name is sometimes given as Seth (choose your own favorite pronunciation.)
On the fourth day, Isis was born in the city of Ta-en-tarert (Dendera), where Nut exclaimed “Ahs (behold)! I have become thy mother”, which is the origin of the name Aset, or Isis.  She was also identified her with the Goddess Nubt, (Gold), who was born in Per-Nubt, and Aset was given at birth to her brother Osiris.  This is probably part of the confusion between Isis and Hathor, as Dendera is Hathor’s principal worship center.  (Wallis Budge gives this birthplace, and I’m a bit suspicious that it is a later confusion of Isis with Hathor.) 
An earlier potential birthplace of Isis is the city Hebes-ka, in the Nome of Theb-Ka, where Isis is the principal Nome God.  Now the Nome Gods are the earliest, original Gods of Egypt, coming out of the predynastic times.  In their earliest forms, each village or town had their own Gods, whose worship flourished or faded occurring to the fate of the community at large.  As the communities were consolidated into the forty-two (or forty-four) Nomes of Upper and Lower Egypt, each became associated with one particular God or group of Gods.  (See The Sirius Connection, by Murry Hope.)  From these beginnings as local Gods, certain of the Gods became consolidated into families of Gods at certain worship centers, such as Annu.
On the fifth day, Nut’s last daughter, Isis’ dark twin, Nebet-hes (Nephthys) was born at Dendera with her sister Isis.  She was given in marriage to her brother Set.  While Isis is the bright side of the Moon, Nephthys is not so much the dark side of the Moon as the side that is never seen.  She is Isis’ essential counterpart, and spends much of her time with Isis.  She doesn’t appear to have a personal worship center.
So now Ra’s great-grandchildren were born, and they delighted him. For many years, at this time, Ra ruled the Earth, and watched over the people who had inhabited the Earth after Shu provided them space to live.   As his great-grandchildren grew to maturity, Ra eventually withdrew to the heavens, and turned over the rulership of Earth to Osiris.  This began the movement from hunting to agriculture, for Osiris traveled about the Earth teaching the arts of civilization to the people, while Isis held down the throne back in Egypt.
Myth and the Mysterious Five Extra Days

To the modern, Western, scientific, left-brained mind, the word “myth” conjures up something that is “untrue”, a lie.  When we look back on our ancestors, the standard teaching is that their myths were simplistic ways of looking at natural phenomena and making up stories to explain them because ancient people were simply “not smart enough” to figure out what was really going on.
This arrogant modern mindset vigorously ignores the vast amount of data to the contrary of their point of view and, since it is taught in most every textbook, perpetuates itself in each new generation of scientists so that no one is willing to come to the data with an open mind.  For the most part, it takes scientists from different disciplines to take a fresh look at the data to begin seeing what has been missed by the mainstream scientists, and they are roundly trashed by the mainstream as amateurs.  While it is true that not all their speculations are accurate, they at least force people to think in different patterns, and possibly make new connections.
I bring this up as a life-long student of myth, and as a profound intuitive.  We of the post-Renaissance, post-Gutenberg world do not understand what it was like to live in a primarily preliterate world.  In that world, symbol was everything.  When you go into old medieval churches, everything you see around you has multiple levels of meaning that any worshiper would have been aware of just by seeing the symbolic scene. 
Take a simple picture of a mermaid combing her hair in a mirror.  To the medieval Christian, the mirror represents vanity, and the mermaid a sinner delighting in her vanity.  That’s the surface image.  But underneath, this image would call forth related stories from the Old and New Testaments on the subject of vanity and, from there, to sermons on the sin of vanity, and the need to resist it on the road to salvation.  In other words, a simple picture keys open a range of responses in the observer’s mind that lead to the ultimate truth—avoid the sin of vanity, if you with to achieve salvation.  And, unlike our modern reading public, our medieval person viewing the picture would have had no difficulty holding all these layers of thought in mind at once, as a trained memory was a necessity in times before the written word was widely accessible.
Now let’s take another look at myth.  All myths contain intensely coded symbols and images that have deeper meanings that must be decoded by specialists (mostly trained priests).  In the case of the Epagomenal Days upon which Nut may give birth to the five Neters, there is the principal symbol of Thoth playing draughts with the Moon, A’ah.  Through this game he gains 5 days not in the calendar.
So what is the first level of this myth?  Well, the obvious image is that before Thoth’s game, the calendar was only 360 days long, and this was not long enough to encompass the new Gods.  To modern scientists and archaeologists, this is a sign that our ancestors were simply too stupid to know how to count.  (This in the face of worldwide evidence of extremely accurate astronomical observations and calculations, calendar keeping, and other mathematical work.  Worldwide cultures all have this same myth of a sudden need to add 5 days to the calendar. )
The second level hides the reason why Ra forced Thoth to add five days to the calendar.  Through the symbolism, it is clear that the reason involved some relationship between the Sun, Moon, and Earth, with possibly a celestial force.  In the book Cataclysm by D.S. Allan and J. B. Delair (originally published in England as When the Earth Nearly Died), they present archaeological evidence for a major catastrophe that affected the entire solar system, destroying Mars, barely missing Earth, and eventually crashing into the Sun.  This appears to have occurred at the end of the last Ice Age, and is preserved in myths from around the Globe.  Evidence ranges from caves high on mountainsides that are filled to the brim with animal bone flood debris to the specialized megalithic structures from around the world that preserve evidence of the time of the disaster.  A key element of all the myths was the sudden need to add 5 days to the calendar, which are generally seen as unlucky.
Other books that examine this aspect of myth and time:
Uriel’s Machine by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas, which looks closely at Europe’s megalithic “time machines” that were built to preserve specific points in time for reference against a future catastrophe.  It reconstructs the Biblical story of Ezekiel as a journey to the North to see one of these machines, an annalemma, which details the rising points of the Sun throughout the year, and which can be reconstructed at any desired latitude for preservation of the knowledge of the Sun’s motion.
Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock, which looks at myths from around the world, and tracks down the outlines of the global flood and catastrophe that occurred at the end of the Ice Age.  Although the book focuses a bit too much on the sinking and possible position of Atlantis, it is still an extremely useful reference.
Hamlet’s Mill by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, which looks at ancient myth as a cipher for preserving complex astronomical and other information through symbol and story.  This knowledge process and chain of custody of the keys to unlock it was eventually broken and suppressed by the advent of the Greco-Roman worldview, and the development of our modern, Western modality of thought and analysis.
The third level ties the births to the precessional age of Gemini, as the children are paired off into sets of twins: Osiris-Isis, Set Nephthys, or Osiris-Set, Isis-Nephthys, with Heru-ur left over.  He immediately leaves Earth to travel with Ra on the Solar Boat.  Ra sets Osiris to rule over the Nile Valley, and Osiris leaves Isis in charge while he goes forth teaching mankind agriculture and the arts of civilization.
Ultimately, the myth ties into a world-wide stream of consciousness that remembers a time when the Earth’s yearly cycle was an even 360-day cycle, and that something sudden and extreme occurred to add 5 days “not in the calendar” that had to be accounted for.  And in all of these cultures, there were either special Gods born in association with these days, or they were considered purely unlucky.  In most of the associated cultures (Hindu, Chinese, Maya, Egyptian, British, etc.), there is a tradition of astronomical observations and calendar development of high order, so it is very unlikely that they would simply have missed 5 days in their calculations!
Dating the Epagomenal Days (Sirius Rising)
In ancient Egypt, the priest/astronomers who studied the skies for signs that connected the Duat above to the Two Lands below noticed a connection between the Star of Isis, Sirius, and the Rising of the Nile Flood.  They principally observed helical culminations, which in layman’s terms are known as the point of rising just before dawn.
Which came first?  The observation that Sirius rises just before the Sun on the day or days before the first floodwaters arrive from the mysterious source of the Nile?  Or that those waters begin to rise just as Sirius rises?  This is a true mystery, lost in the depths of time.  Sirius is the only star whose sidereal orbit is the same as the earth’s yearly orbit; i.e., it returns to the exact same position in the sky every single year at the same time over long periods of time.
The arrow marks the point on the horizon where Sirius appears in the dawn glow.
The belt stars of Orion, which became associated with Osiris, point to the place on the horizon at which Sirius rises.  This gave the priests observing the skies a marker for where to look for the helical culmination of Sirius.  They also knew that Sirius would disappear from the skies for 70 days, after its last known sighting in the western sky at night as it passed behind the Sun.  (This is the source of the 70 days in which the body sits in the natron salts as it is embalmed—the 70 hidden days that Isis searches for the body of Osiris.)
The only thing that has changed about the rising of Sirius is the timing, due to precession.  As the Earth turns on its axis, it acts a bit like a top, describing a long circle about its axis of spin.  This causes the pole star to appear to shift through the skies from Vega, the star of Ma’at, up through Polaris, our current pole star, and back to Vega.
This affects the rest of the sky as well, shifting constellations up and down against the horizon.  12,000+ years ago, the constellations of Orion and Canis Major, where Sirius is located were far south of their current position, when Vega was the pole star.  At that time, Sirius rose before the Sun in early July.  By the Middle Kingdom, from which we have our early records, and into the Late Kingdom, when we have most of our historical records, Sirius rose in mid- to late-July, about the 191h, which coincided with the annual flood.  At this time, the pole star would have likely been in or passing out o f the constellation of Draco.  (Note that one of the shafts of the King’s chamber of the Great Pyramid is focused on one of the stars in Draco, which was probably the pole star at the time, although this was the Old Kingdom.)
By our modern day, Sirius has shifted sufficiently far north that it rises on August 1st, which coincides with our Western festival of Lughnassadh.  So those who want to celebrate the Isian festival of Opet, which is described in Panthea, see http://groups.yahoo.com/group/circle_of_Isis/ for a copy of the ritual.
Back to the Epagomenal Days, then:
God or Goddess
Ancient Date
Modern Date
July 14th
July 27th
July 15th
July 28th
July 16th
July 29th
July 17th
July 30th
July 18th
July 31st
Sirius Rising
July 19th
Aug 1st 
The Egyptians added an unassigned 6th day every four years to adjust for leap years and keep the civil calendar on track.
The Aswan High Dam
All we can celebrate today is the energy and wonder of the Epagomenal Days and the traditions of the annual Flood, which are described at length in my essay, The Egyptian Gods—Hapi.  Thanks to the construction of the Aswan High Dam by the Egyptians and the Soviet Union in the 1960’s, the Nile no longer floods annually.  According to Marc Reisner, author of Cadillac Desert, this has been described as “the worst ecological disaster committed in one place by mankind.  The spring floods are gone; the nutrient-rich silts no longer come; the Nile sardine fishery in the Mediterranean is going extinct; bilharzias, or schistosomiasis, a gruesome disease borne by a snail that thrives in slack waters in Africa, is rampant; the reservoir is silting up quite rapidly due to erosion from primitive agriculture upriver; irrigation canals, meanwhile, are being scoured by the silt-free water released by the dam; and the salts have arrived.  With their copious supply of year-round irrigation water, the Egyptian farmers have been irrigating madly, and the water table, increasingly poisoned by salts, is rising dangerously.  …. The Egyptians now have no choice other than to install drainage, which they can ill afford—partly because schistosomiasis has become a national epidemic costing them some $600 million a year.”  Egypt had avoided the fate of so many other desert civilizations that poisoned themselves to death with irrigation salts, but is now on the same fast track to death and oblivion.
The building of the Aswan High Dam and its attendant reservoir, Lake Nasser, caused a worldwide controversy in that it would have inundated the archaeological site of the temples of Abu Simbel.  These were the Sun Temple, constructed during the reign of Ramses II, celebrating his alleged victory at Kadesh over the Hittites, and the Hathor temple, constructed by Queen Nefertari.  If there were other sites in the valley, they are inaccessible and most likely destroyed by the waters, Nile silt, and salts now.
These temples were taken apart between 1963 and 1968, moved 60 meters higher up the hillside, and settled onto an artificial mountain.  The international community came together to save these temples in horror at the thought that the Egyptian people, and their Soviet backers, would simply flood such a precious part of their heritage.  And, yet, ecologically, they’ve lost even more.
The Sun temple of Ramses II was dedicated to the Sun gods, Amon-Ra, Ra-Herakhte, Ptah, and Ramses II, himself.  You may have seen pictures of the façade of the temple, which has four giant-size statutes of Ramses II, seated on thrones facing eastwards.  They are each 21 meters high, and his wife, mother, and children are settled about his feet.  On the wall above the entrance is a statue representing Ra-Herakhte, God of the Sun on the Horizon, with two worshipping statues of Ramses II carved into the wall on either side.  (This façade is topped by 22 baboons, apparently worshipping the sun with their hands raised up.) The baboon is sacred to Thoth.)
The temple runs for some 56 meters into the mountain, having 3 consecutive halls, plus 8 side chambers. It is noted for its floors rising considerably the deeper you get. The first hall contains 8 statues of the pharaoh as Osiris.  The arrangement and shape of the temple allows the morning Sun to cast its rays all the way into the innermost sanctuary twice a year, on February 22 and October 22.  (I wonder if they managed to preserve this alignment when they moved the temple to its new location?)
These are not common solar alignments, and are not associated with equinoxes, solstices or other obvious points.  They might have been points when the Sun changed astrological signs back in the time of Ramses II, but are not now, and so are again obscure.  Maybe they are birthdays of his favorite sons.  Who knows?  With the discovery of his sons’ tomb in the Valley of the Kings by Kent Weeks, http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/kv51.htm, it’s entirely possible.  Ramses II was predeceased by over 40 of his children, many of whom are buried in KV51.
Nefertari’s Hathor temple façade contains 6 standing colossi representing Ramses II and his queen, Nefertari, which are 10 ½ meters high.  That they are equal in size shows Ramses’ love and respect for his queen—most pharaoh’s depict their queens as lesser in size, despite the older Egyptian custom of receiving the land-right to rule through the female line.  The interior of the temple is fairly crude, runs only 20 meters into the rock, and contains only a small statue of Hathor, as though it were unfinished and left off in a hurry.
(This is the reason that Isis is the throne Goddess, who provides the source for Osiris’, and later Horus’, right to rule Egypt.  In ancient times, women owned land, and men gained the right to rule it through their access to a woman’s land right.  This became the reason why various pharaohs began marrying their sisters, mothers, and cousins—they would then gain access to their female relations’ land rights.  In later Egyptian times, this was honored more in the breach than in the actual observation but, by that time, the custom of marrying in the immediate family, was ingrained.)
All of this environmental and archaeological damage was a casualty of human greed, and the search for control over the natural world.  We in the West did as much damage to ourselves, although with less shouting about it.  And at some point, we will all have to address the ruination of Mother Earth.  This may be a job for the Druid Clan of Dana and Noble Order of Tara.


  1. It may be coincidence, but the dates given in regard to the Sun Temple of RamesesII, February 22 and October 22, correspond to the visibility of the Galactic Core from the Northern Hemisphere. In mid-February, the GC/ Sagittarius rises above the southern horizon pre-dawn, reaches culmination June-July, and descends/sets below horizon mid-October.