Saturday, August 27, 2011

An alternate perspective on the Egyptian ritual calendar

The seasonal calendar is clearly tied to the ancient Egyptian agricultural year, which begins at Summer Solstice with the Inundation. This physical world process is not tied to the Sothic calendar, which "floats" through the seasons; however, the priesthood definitely maintained methods of determining when and how large the flood would be—they had to, for the purposes of planning storage of grain and dealing with famines.

So, rather than tying the calendar to the rising of Sirius, which presently has no real meaning in relationship to either the "floating" calendar or to the seasonal Solar year, if we wanted a fixed calendar that accorded with the seasons, it would be something like this:

Hru diu Heru Renp-t: The five Epagomenal days:

1st Epagomenal Day, 17 June 2011, Hru mesut Asar, Birthday of Osiris
2nd Epagomenal Day, 18 June, Hru mesut Heru-ur, Birth of Horus the Elder
3rd Epagomenal Day, 19 June, Hru mesut Set, Birth of Set
4th Epagomenal Day, 20 June, Hru mesut Aset, Birth of Isis
5th Epagomenal Day, 21 June, Hru mesut Nebet-hes, Birth of Nephthys

1 Tepi Hai-t 1 Aakhet, 22 June, Summer Solstice 2011 and Wp-rnpt, New Year's Day; Hru mesut Re-Heru-iakhuti, Birthday of Re-Horakhty. Tepi abt, beginning of the month of Thoth.
2 Tepi Hai-t 1 Aakhet, 23 June, Heb djeni-t, Last quarter Moon of old lunar year.
7 Tepi Hai-t 1 Aakhet, 28 June, Day of welcoming the rising of the river and offering to the gods.
10 Tepi Hai-t 1 Aakhet, 1 July, end of first dekan, Dena Tep festival of 1st New Moon of lunar year.
15 Tepi Hai-t 1 Aakhet, 6 July, Smet-t or Half-Month, contending of Horus and Set.
17 Tepi Hai-t 1 Aakhet, 8 July, 1st quarter Moon, Heb sis, First quarter Moon, on which people provide food to the ancestors.
18 Tepi Hai-t 1 Aakhet, 9 July, Hru utchay medu em Geb, Day of the Judgment of Horus and Set (most days of this month involve their contending with one another)
20 Tepi Hai-t 1 Aakhet, 11 July, end of the second dekan
24 Tepi Hai-t 1 Aakhet, 15 July, Full Moon, Iah meh Uatchet Osiris is made whole! (Waning cycle is a time of Set, the 14 days representing the dismemberment and scattering of the body of Osiris.)
30 Tepi Hai-t 1 Aakhet, 21 July, end of the third dekan

1 Penip-t 2 Aakhet, 22 July, Tepi abt, beginning of the month of Ptah-ineb-res-f; "The Ennead is in festivity...the heir [Horus] is established" (Brier, 1980, p. 230).
2 Penip-t 2 Aakhet, 23 July, Hru utcha Heru-ur em Sais, Horus the Elder of Sais processes to his mother, Neith, Heb djeni-t, last quarter Moon festival
11 Penip-t 2 Aakhet, 30 July, Dena Tep or 2nd New Moon begins
10 Penip-t 2 Aakhet, 31 July, end of 1st dekan, Bast of Ankh-Towe processes to Iunu to pay tribute to the August Tree, which has the names of kings on its leaves.
11 Penip-t 2 Aakhet, 1 August, (Lughnassadh)
14 Penip-t 2 Aakhet, 4 August, the day Horus receives the White Crown of Lower Egypt
15 Penip-t 2 Aakhet, 5 August, Smet-t or Half-Month, make offerings to gods of your city/Nome
16 Penip-t 2 Aakhet, 6 August, the day of Osiris-Onnophoris, Heb sis for 1st quarter Moon
17 Penip-t 2 Aakhet, 7 August, Cross-quarter day between Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox
18 Penip-t 2 Aakhet, 8 August, helical rising of Sirius (modern era)
20 Penip-t 2 Aakhet, 11 August, end of 2nd dekan
21 Penip-t 2 Aakhet, 12 August, Hru utcha Neith ay Re-Harakti, going forth of Neith before Re-Horakhty
23 Penip-t 2 Aakhet, 13 August, Iah meh Uatchet or Full Moon
30 Penip-t 2 Aakhet, 20 August, end of 3rd dekan

1 Het-hert 3 Aakhet, 21 August, Tepi abt or beginning of the month of Hathor; Hru nefer Het-hert or feast of Hathor; Heb djeni-t, last quarter Moon
8 Het-hert 3 Aakhet, 28 August, Day of Isis celebrating Horus of the Two Lands
9 Het-hert 3 Aakhet, 29 August, Dena Tep or 3rd New Moon
10 Het-hert 3 Aakhet, 30 August, end of 1st dekan
13 Het-hert 3 Aakhet, 2 September, Tcha-t netjer em Iabdu, day of Osiris sailing to Abydos to go into the West (Dwt)
15 Het-hert 3 Aakhet, 4 September, Smet-t or mid-month, Heb sis for 1st quarter Moon
17 Het-hert 3 Aakhet, 6 September, day of Isis and Nephthys mourning Osiris in Abydos
20 Het-hert 3 Aakhet, 9 September, end of 2nd dekan
21 Het-hert 3 Aakhet, 10 September, Hru nefer Shu/feast of the God Shu
22 Het-hert 3 Aakhet, 11 September, Raising of Ma'at before Re at the front of the mesektet boat
23 Het-hert 3 Aakhet, 12 September, Hru en utchay medtu, Ausar-re sits in judgment; Iah meh Uatchet or Full Moon
24 Het-hert 3 Aakhet, 13 September, Hru utcha Aset Nebet-hes ay Asar Khentimentiu, going forth of Isis and Nephthys in jubilation for the risen Osiris Khentimentiu
26 Het-hert 3 Aakhet, 15 September, S-ayhay djed em Asar-Atum, Raising of the djed pillar of Atum to reconcile Horus and Set; Thoth accords Upper Egypt to Set and Lower Egypt to Horus
29 Het-hert 3 Aakhet, 18 September, Red crown of Upper Egypt given to Set and white crown of Lower Egypt to Horus
30 Het-hert 3 Aakhet, 19 September, end of 3rd dekan

1 Kaherka 4 Aakhet, 20 September, Tepi abt or beginning of the month of Sekhmet; Heb djeni-t, last quarter Moon
2 Kaherka 4 Aakhet, 21 September, Heb Kaherka festival of the end of the Inundation.
3 Kaherka 4 Aakhet, 22 SeptemberFall Equinox.
5 Kaherka 4 Aakhet, 24 September, Hru utcha Het-hert ay Kher-ayha, Going forth of Hathor before the gods of Kher-ayha, giving life, stability, and welfare to the land
8 Kaherka 4 Aakhet, 27 September, Dena Tep or 4th New Moon begins
9 Kaherka 4 Aakhet, 28 September, Thoth decides to give Horus the crown of Upper Egypt and unify the two lands
10 Kaherka 4 Aakhet, 29 September, end of 1st dekan
11 Kaherka 4 Aakhet, 30 September, Hru nefer Asar em Iabdu, Feast of Osiris in Abydos in the neshmet boat with the dead
12 Kaherka 4 Aakhet, 1 October, Hru kheper Benu, Rebirth of the Phoenix of Iunu
13 Kaherka 4 Aakhet, 2 October, Hru nefer Hetch-t ay Re, Going forth of the White Goddess (e.g., Hathor) before Re.
14 Kaherka 4 Aakhet, 3 October, Hru utcha Hedj-htp Tay-t ay Neith, Going forth of the weaving goddesses, Hedj-hotep and Tayet before Neith to give her their weaving
15 Kaherka 4 Aakhet, 4 October, Smet-t or mid-month; Heb sis or first quarter Moon; Hru nefer Bast Sekhmet, Feast of Bast and Sekhmet
20 Kaherka 4 Aakhet, 9 October, end of 2nd dekan
23 Kaherka 4 Aakhet, 12 October, Iah meh Uatchet or Full Moon
30 Kaherka 4 Aakhet, 19 October, end of 3rd dekan and season of Aakhet, make offerings to the gods of the Ennead

1 Imes ims-t 1 Peret, 20 October, Tepi abt or beginning of the month of Min-Amsu. Hru djeni-t or last quarter Moon.
5 Imes ims-t 1 Peret, 24 October, Hru utcha Sekhmet ay Ma'at Ptah Djehuti Hu Sia, Going forth of Sekhmet [in anger] before the great ones who detained Her
7 Imes ims-t 1 Peret, 26 October, Dena Tep or 5th New Moon.
9 Imes ims-t 1 Peret, 28 October, Sekhmet offers pawet cakes to the Gods.
10 Imes ims-t 1 Peret, 29 October, end of 1st dekan, Hru utcha Heru-pa-Aset m ith, Going forth of Horus, son of Isis, from the marshes.
12 Imes ims-t 1 Peret, 31 October, (Halloween)
14 Imes ims-t 1 Peret, 2 NovemberHru sis or first quarter Moon.
15 Imes ims-t 1 Peret, 3 November, Smet-t or mid-month.
17 Imes ims-t 1 Peret, 5 November, Cross-quarter day between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice.
20 Imes ims-t 1 Peret, 8 November, end of 2nd dekan, Hru utcha Bast, Going forth of Bast, protector of the Two Lands.
22 Imes ims-t 1 Peret, 10 November, Iah men Uatchet or Full Moon.
30 Imes ims-t 1 Peret, 18 November, Hru djeni-t or last quarter Moon, end of 3rd dekan.

1 M'khir 2 Peret, 19 November, Tepi abt or beginning of the month of Rehk-ur. Hru nefer Ptah s-aysay Re em Pet, Feast of Ptah raising up Re into heaven.
6 M'khir 2 Peret, 24 November, S-aysay djed em Asar, Raising up the djed pillar of Osiris.
7 M'khir 2 Peret, 25 November, Dena Tep neshen, 6th New Moon, partial Solar eclipse.
10 M'khir 2 Peret, 28 November, end of 1st dekan.
11 M'khir 2 Peret, 29 November, Hru nefer Neith ih hru utcha Sobek, feast day of Neith and going forth of Sobek to guide Her.
13 M'khir 2 Peret, 1 December.
14 M'khir 2 Peret, 2 December, Hru sis, first quarter Moon.
15 M'khir 2 Peret, 3 December, Smet-t, mid-month.
19 M'khir 2 Peret, 7 DecemberDay of mourning Osiris in death.
20 M'khir 2 Peret, 8 Decemberend of 2nd dekan.
22 M'khir 2 Peret, 10 December, Iah meh Uatchet neshen, total lunar Eclipse at Full Moon.
26 M'khir 2 Peret, 14 December, Hru utcha Min em Coptos, Going forth of Min to Coptos.
27 M'khir 2 Peret, 15 December, Hru nefer Sokar ay Asar-In-her-t em This, Feast of Sokar before Osiris-Onnophris in Abydos.
30 M'khir 2 Peret, 18 December, Hru djeni-t, last quarter Moon, end of 3rd dekan.

1 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, 19 December, Tepi abt, beginning of the month of Rekh-netches.
3 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, 21 DecemberWinter Solstice.
5 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, 23 December, Hru utcha Neith em Sais, Going forth of Neith from Sais.
6 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, 24 December, Dena Tep, 7th New Moon of the year; Heb Asar em Per-ba-tet ih hru utcha Inpu, Jubilee of Osiris in Busiris and going forth of Anubis (Rebirth of Osiris).
10 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, 28 December, Hru utchat Djehuti, going forth of Thoth, who guides Nesert (the Great flame) into her desert house of eternity.
12 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, 30 December, Hru utchat Asar-Het em Nun, going forth of Osiris-Het [the Nile] from Nun.
14 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, 1 January 2012, Hru sis, first quarter Moon.
15 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, 2 January, Smet-t, or mid-month.
18 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, 5 January, Hru nefer Nut, Feast of Nut, who counts the days.
19 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, 6 January, Hru mesut Nut, Birthday of Nut.
20 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, 7 Januaryend of 2nd dekan.
22 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, 9 January, Iah meh Uatchet, Full Moon; Hru mesut Apep, Birthday of Apep, great Serpent of the Dwt.
28 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, 15 January, Hru nefer Asar em Iabdu, Feast of Osiris in Abydos.
29 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, 16 January, Hru djeni-t, last quarter Moon.
30 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, 17 January, end of third dekan and month of Pen-Amen-htp, Hru nefer Per-ba-tet, Feast in Busiris celebrating the doorways of the horizon coming into existence [for the rebirth of Re].

1 Pen-Rent 4 Peret, 18 January, Tepi abt, Beginning of the month of Rennuttet.
5 Pen-Rent 4 Peret, 23 January, Dena Tep, 8th New Moon of the year.
7 Pen-Rent 4 Peret, 24 January, Hru utcha Min, Going forth of Min to the festival tent. 
8 Pen-Rent 4 Peret, 25 January, Heb ruai iakhuti Heru-ur, Festival of the healing of the eye of Horus the Elder.
10 Pen-Rent 4 Peret, 27 January, S-ayq netjert Uatchet, Day of introducing the healed eye of Horus (Uatchet) to the Gods; end of 1st dekan. 
14 Pen-Rent 4 Peret, 31 January, Hru sis, first quarter Moon.
15 Pen-Rent 4 Peret, 1 February, Smet-t, mid-month; (Imbolc). 
16 Pen-Rent 4 Peret, 2 February, Hru utcha Kheperi, going forth of Khepera bearing the words of his followers.
17 Pen-Rent 4 Peret, 3 February, Cross-quarter day between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox; Hru utcha Set em Sew, Going forth of Set to his town of Sew.
19 Pen-Rent 4 Peret, 5 February, Hru utcha Re em uia heh ih hru nefer Iunu, Going forth of Re in his boat of millions of years and feasting in Heliopolis.
20 Pen-Rent 4 Peret, 6 February, end of 2nd dekan.
21 Pen-Rent 4 Peret, 7 February, Iah meh Uatchet, Full Moon.
24 Pen-Rent 4 Peret, 10 February, Day of the rebellion of Set against Osiris.
28 Pen-Rent 4 Peret, 14 February, Hru djeni-t, last quarter Moon.
30 Pen-Rent 4 Peret, 16 February, Make offerings to Ptah-Sokar-Asar-Atum, Lord of the Two Lands; 3rd dekan ends, Pen-Rent ends, Peret ends.

1 Pa-Khons 1 Shomu, 17 February, Hru nefer Heru-pa-Aset ih Shemsu Hor, Feast day of Horus, son of Isis, and his followers; Tepi abt, beginning of the month of Khonsu.
5 Pa-Khons 1 Shomu, 21 February, Dena Tep, 9th New Moon of the Year; Hru nefer Ba-neb-djedet, Feast of Ba-neb-djedet, god of sexual fertility.
10 Pa-Khons 1 Shomu, 26 February, end of first dekan.
14 Pa-Khons 1 Shomu, 1 March, Hru sis, first quarter Moon.
15 Pa-Khons 1 Shomu, 2 March, Smet-t, or mid-month.
20 Pa-Khons 1 Shomu, 7 March, end of 2nd dekan.
21 Pa-Khons 1 Shomu, 8 March, Iah meh Uatchet, or Full Moon.
28 Pa-Khons 1 Shomu, 15 March, Hru djeni-t, or last quarter Moon.
30 Pa-Khons 1 Shomu, 17 March, end of 3rd dekan and last day of Pa-khons.

1 Pen-Ant 2 Shomu, 18 March, Tepi abt, beginning of the month of Heru-khenti-khadit, the unborn Horus. Anit, one of the nursing mothers of Horus, also rules this month.
2 Pen-Ant 2 Shomu, 19 March, Spring Equinox.
3 Pen-Ant 2 Shomu, 20 March, Hru nefer Shemsu Re, Feast of the followers of Re.
5 Pen-Ant 2 Shomu, 22 March, Dena Tep, 10th New Moon of the year.
10 Pen-Ant 2 Shomu, 27 March, end of 1st dekan.
11 Pen-Ant 2 Shomu, 28 March, Ferh en hati, Night of the Drop, when the Tears of Isis mourning Osiris renew the Flood. 
13 Pen-Ant 2 Shomu, 30 March, Hru sis, first quarter Moon; Hru nefer Uatchet em Dep, Feast of Uatchet in Dep, singing, chanting, offering of incense and sweet herbs to the Gods.
14 Pen-Ant 2 Shomu, 1 April
15 Pen-Ant 2 Shomu, 2 April, Smet-t, mid-month.
18 Pen-Ant 2 Shomu, 5 April, Hru utcha Asar-Khesti, going forth of Osiris-Khesti to the august mountain.
19 Pen-Ant 2 Shomu, 6 April, Iah meh Uatchet, Full Moon.
20 Pen-Ant 2 Shomu, 7 April, end of 2nd dekan.
26 Pen-Ant 2 Shomu, 13 April, Hru djeni-t, last quarter Moon.
30 Pen-Ant 2 Shomu, 17 April, end of 3rd dekan and month of Pen-Ant.

1 Ipip 3 Shomu, 18 April, Tepi abt, beginning of the month of Ipit, a nursing-goddess form of Hathor; Heb Ipet-Hemet, Festival of Ipet-Hathor.
4 Ipip 3 Shomu, 21 April, Dena Tep, 11th New Moon of the year.
5 Ipip 3 Shomu, 22 April, Hru setcha-t Het-heru, day of the departure of Hathor to whence she came. The Gods mourn.
10 Ipip 3 Shomu, 27 April, end of 1st dekan.
12 Ipip 3 Shomu, 29 April, Heb Re, Festival of Re; Hru sis, first quarter Moon.
13 Ipip 3 Shomu, 30 April, (Beltane). 
14 Ipip 3 Shomu, 1 Mayday of the anger of the eye of Horus the Elder, avoid burning anything.
15 Ipip 3 Shomu, 2 May, day in which Horus hears your words in the presence of the Gods; Smet-t or mid-month. 
17 Ipip 3 Shomu, 4 May, Cross-quarter day midway between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice.
18 Ipip 3 Shomu, 5 May, Day that Ma'at and Re go forth in secret. Date of helical setting of Sirius (modern), which will be invisible for the next 75 days.
19 Ipip 3 Shomu, 6 May, Iah meh Uatchet, Full Moon. 
20 Ipip 3 Shomu, 7 May, end of 2nd dekan.
25 Ipip 3 Shomu, 12 May, Hru djeni-t, last quarter Moon.  
29 Ipip 3 Shomu, 16 May, Heb Mut em Shera, Festival of Mut in Shera [temple lake in Karnak].
30 Ipip 3 Shomu, 17 May, end of 3rd dekan and end of month of Ipip.  

1 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, 18 May, Tepi abt, beginning of the month of Re-Heru-iakhuti (Re-Horakhty).
2 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, 19 May, Hru Ma'at, Day of Ma'at.
3 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, 20 May, Dena Tep neshen, 12th New Moon, annular Solar eclipse.
4 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, 21 May, Peri em Sopdu, Procession of Sopdu, the young male form of Sirius associated with Heru-iakhuti.
5 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, 22 May, Heb Min em Akhmim, Festival of Min in Akhmim.
6 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, 23 May, Peri em Asar-In-her-t em Rostau, Procession of Osiris reborn to Rostau.
10 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, 27 May, end of 1st dekan.
11 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, 28 May, Hru sis, first quarter Moon.
13 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, 30 May, Holiday of defending the son of Osiris, Heru-pa-Asar.
15 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, 1 June, Smet-t, mid-month; Day Re goes forth to petition Nun in his cavern below Elephantine for the upcoming Inundation.
18 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, 4 June, Iah meh Uatchet neshen, partial eclipse of the Full Moon.
19 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, 5 June, Celebrate the feast of your local god.
20 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, 6 June, Hru uab, day of purification and renewal; end of 2nd dekan.
22 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, 8 June, Heb nefer tepi du, Festival of Anubis, who is on his mountain.
25 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, 11 June, Hru djeni-t, last quarter Moon.
28 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, 14 June, Hru nefer Min, feast of Min.
29 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, 15 June, Heb Ptah-Sokar, Festival of Sokar in the estate of Ptah, celebration of health and good harvest.
30 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, 16 June, Heb irq rnpt, Festival of the last day of the year, Birth of Re.

Hru diu Heru Renp-t: The five Epagomenal days:

1st Epagomenal Day, 17 June 2012, Hru mesut Asar, Birthday of Osiris
2nd Epagomenal Day, 18 June, Hru mesut Heru-ur, Birth of Horus the Elder
3rd Epagomenal Day, 19 June, Hru mesut Set, Birth of Set; Dena Tep, 13th New Moon of year.
4th Epagomenal Day, 20 June, Hru mesut Aset, Birth of Isis; Summer Solstice 2012
5th Epagomenal Day, 21 June, Hru mesut Nebet-hes, Birth of Nephthys

1 Tepi Hai-t 1 Aakhet, 22 June, Wp-rnpt, New Year's Day; Hru mesut Re-Heru-iakhuti, Birthday of Re-Horakhty. Tepi abt, beginning of the month of Thoth.

I am sure there are other festivals I've left out, as I was working primarily from Bob Brier's (1980) example of the Cairo Calendar. Let me know which ones you want added. The lunar festivals are in accord with The American Ephemeris for the 21st Century (1996); note that eclipses were considered times of bad luck because of Set was winning against the light of Osiris.

Finally, note that I've added explicit dates for the cross-quarter days, corresponding to the points at which the Sun is at 15-degrees in the fixed Signs, i.e., exactly mid-way between the equinoxes and the solstices. Many of us celebrate the cross-quarter days on the 1st of the month, or the evening before; I've tried to reflect those holidays in the calendar as well.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

Brier, B. (1980). Ancient Egyptian magic: Spells, incantations, potions, stories, and rituals. New York, NY: William Morrow & Company.

Clark, R. (2004). The Sacred Tradition in ancient Egypt: The esoteric wisdom revealed. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

Michelsen, N. F., & Pottinger, R. (1996). The American Ephemeris for the 21st Century: 2000 to 2050 at Noon (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: ACS Publications.

Calendar cycles in Ancient Egypt

Because of our earlier discussions concerning the appropriate dates for the heliacal rising of Sirius and the start of the Egyptian New Year, I decided to do more research into the foundation of the Egyptian calendar system. Unlike the Gregorian calendar that we use in the West, which is based on Greco-Roman calendars developed for use by the early Christian Church, the sacred calendar of ancient Egypt never used an adjustment for the fact that the true Solar year is 365.243 days long. Nor did they adjust for the Sirian (Sothic) year (the sidereal year between subsequent heliacal risings of Sirius) of 365.25 years. Instead, according to Robert Bauval (2008) and others, the priesthood allowed the seasonal/festival calendar to "float" as part of three main cycles.

The first cycle is the 365-day calendar year, with no adjustments. This is the calendar that they broke into 3 seasons—Aakhet (Inundation), Peret (Emergence), and Shomu (Harvest)—of 4 30-day months each. Each 30-day month was further divided into 10-day decades or dekans, which provided the standard civil "week" for work. The dekans were timed by the heliacal rising or culmination of specific stars or star groups, allowing the ancient Egyptians to define their 12 hours of the night throughout the year. The 5 Epagomenal Days were added at the end to bring the year-count to 365, the nearest integer relationship to the real year.

The second, or "Sothic" cycle, of 1460 years related the heliacal rise of Sirius to the 365-day year such that the 1st day of the calendar, Wp-rnpt, or 1 Tekhi 1Aakhet, shifted forward 1 day every four years. In 1460 years, the 365-day calendar would complete a Sothic cycle, and 1 Tekhi 1Aakhet would again coincide with the heliacal rising of Sirius. In the intervening years, the seasons would gradually cycle around the 365-day calendar, ending up out of synch with the rising of Sirius at a predictable rate.

The third, or "Solar" cycle, of 1506 years timed the return of 1 Tekhi 1 Aahket to the Summer Solstice, which is (or was) the actual starting point of the annual Inundation. The shift in Wp-Rnpt across the Solar cycle works out to a little over 1 day in 4 1/4 years, so that in 753 years, New Year's day would have moved to the Winter Solstice. According to Bauval (2008), this is the reason the Egyptian capital moved south to Thebes when it did; Re-Horakhty, "Horus in the Horizon," had reached his southernmost point, that of the Winter Solstice. This corresponds with the reign of Mentuhotep II (2061 - 2010 BC), who is documented as reuniting Egypt and moving the capital from Memphis to Thebes.

We know from a Roman commentary by Censorinus that a new Sothic cycle began on the 21st of July in 139 CE, i.e., that 1 Tekhi 1 Aakhut coincided with the heliacal rising of Sirius on that date. Working backward, Bauval (2008) found that in about 2781 BC, all three cycles came together, with the heliacal rising of Sirius occurring on the Summer Solstice, 21 June, at which point the annual Inundation began. Thus, he contends this is the starting point of the religious/festival calendar, which makes sense, and that the priests and the pharaoh took oaths to maintain the calendar in accord with this unique point in time—the establishment of Ma'at (cosmic order).

Once the Heliopolitan focus moved to Thebes in around 2028 BCE, the Solar religion became syncretized with the local cult of Amun. The Temple of Karnak, principal temple of Amun-Re, is aligned with the Winter Solstice sunrise, in accord with the shift in the Solar year recognized by the priest-astronomers. Indeed, one of the epithets of Thebes is the "Heliopolis of the South." Then, in 1275 BCE, at the end of the Solar cycle, Ramses II moved the capital back north to Pi-Ramses.

So, we know that the Egyptians took note of the endings of both the Sothic and Solar cycles, largely according to how they oriented their temples and whether those temples were associated with the Solar or Stellar (Sothic) cults. (And, please, don't harrass me about the use of the word, "cult." I am using it here simply to distinguish between two sets of festival cultures, not as a perjorative.) Bauval (2008) notes that archeological digs at the temple of Satis at Elephantine show shifts that track the location of Sirius along the horizon as it moved northward due to precession. Other temples and 4th and 5th dynasty pyramids also show these alignments and their change over time.

If we choose to perpetuate the Sothic cycle observed by the Stellar/Osirian culture, working forward from 139 CE, we completed the last cycle in 1599 CE, and are currently 412 years into the next. Since we know the Sothic cycle moves the calendar forward 1 day in every 4 years, we can see that the current Wp-rnpt occurs 103 days after the start of the last Sothic cycle's beginning. We also know that the date of Sirius' heliacal rise has precessed forward to 8 August at the latitude of Cairo (Iunu or Heliopolis), so the start of the calendar, 1 Tekhi 1 Aakhet, should shift forward 103 days, to the 19th of November. We won't resynchronize with the actual heliacal rising of Sirius until 3059 CE!

If we are, instead, following the Solar/Re cycle, 2011 CE is 274 years since the last Solar cycle returned 1 Tekhi 1 Aakhet to coincide with the Summer Solstice. The starting date of the calendar would again be moved forward approximately 67 days to coincide with 27 September. In future years, as the calendar passes through Autumn Equinox and on toward the Winter Solstice, we would see a shifting in ritual and political energy from Lower Egypt back into Upper Egypt. It appears that the priesthood mainly used the Solar cycle to establish the current "place of power" or rulership according to the relationship between Wp-rnpt and the Sun on the horizon, which they named Horakhty or Horemakhut, and consolidated with Re. (Note: The ancient Egyptian name of the Sphinx, who stares at the Eastern horizon awaiting the sunrise is Horemakhut.)

Given that the priesthood of ancient Egypt allowed the calendar to "float" in this way, from one perspective we can simplify our celebrations by simply choosing a date and sticking to it, whether that is the 15th or 21st of July (the 139 CE date of the last recorded Sothic cycle's start), or the 1st or 8th of August that coincides with the current heliacal rising of Sirius. Bob Brier's (1980) example of the "Cairo Calendar" from the New Kingdom era starts on 1 August, which makes it convenient to align with our more familiar Gregorian calendar.

However, if we truly wish to synchronize our worship with the cyclical nature of the calendar as the Egyptian priesthood would do, then we need to take the Sothic cycle into account, and start our current ritual calendar on 19 November. We would then celebrate the 2011 Epagomenal days starting on 14th of November, and Wp-Rnpt, New Year's Day, on the 19th. The heliacal rising of Sirius would fall in the first month of Shomu.

Here is how such a cyclical Sothic calendar might look:

1 Tepi Hai-t 1 Aakhut, Wp-Rnpt corresponds to 19 November (Month governed by Djehuti, Coptic Thoth)
10 Tepi Hai-t 1 Aakhut, end of 1st dekan, corresponds to 28 November
13 Tepi Hai-t 1 Aakhut corresponds to 1 December
20 Tepi Hai-t 1 Aakhut, end of 2nd dekan, corresponds to 8 December
30 Tepi Hai-t 1 Aakut end of 3rd dekan, corresponds to 18 December

1 Penap-t 2Aakut corresponds to 19 December (Month governed by Ptah-ineb-res-f, Coptic Paopi)
3 Penap-t 2 Aakhut corresponds to 21 December, the Winter Solstice (Northern Hemisphere)
10 Penap-t 2 Aakhut, end of the 1st dekan, corresponds to 28 December
14 Penap-t 2 Aakhut corresponds to 1 January 2012
20 Penap-t 2 Aakhut, end of the 2nd dekan, corresponds to 7 January
39 Penap-t 2 Aakhut, end of the 3rd dekan, corresponds to 17 January

1 Het-hert 3 Aakhut corresponds to 18 January (Month governed by Hathor, Coptic Athyr)
10 Het-hert 3 Aakhut, end of 1st dekan, corresponds to 27 January
15 Het-hert 3 Aakhut corresponds to 1 February
20 Het-hert 3 Aakhut, end of 2nd dekan, corresponds to 6 February
30 Het-hert 3 Aakhut, end of 3rd dekan, corresponds to 16 February

1 Kaherka 4 Aahkut corresponds to 17 February (Month governed by Sekhmet, Coptic Koiak)
10 Kaherka 4 Aakhut, end of 1st dekan, corresponds to 26 February
14 Kaherka 4 Aakhut corresponds to 1 March, since 2012 is a leap year
20 Kaherka 4 Aakhut, end of 2nd dekan, corresponds to 7 March
30 Kaherka 4 Aakhut, end of 3rd dekan, corresponds to 17 March

End of Season of Inundation, Aakhut.

1 Ames ams-t 1 Peret corresponds to 18 March (Month governed by Min, Coptic Tybi)
4 Ames ams-t 1 Peret, Spring Equinox (northern hemisphere), corresponds to 21 March
10 Ames ams-t 1 Peret, end of 1st dekan, corresponds to 27 March
15 Ames ams-t 1 Peret corresponds to 1 April
20 Ames ams-t 1 Peret, end of 2nd dekan, corresponds to 6 April
30 Ames ams-t 1 Peret, end of 3rd dekan, corresponds to 16 April

1 M'khir 2 Peret corresponds to 17 April (Month governed by Rekh-ur, Coptic Mekhir)
10 M'khir 2 Peret, end of 1st dekan, corresponds to 27 April
14 M'khir 2 Peret corresponds to 1 May
20 M'khir 2 Peret, end of 2nd dekan, corresponds to 7 May
30 M'khir 2 Peret, end of 3rd dekan, correponds to 17 May

1 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret corresponds to 18 May (Month governed by Rekh-netches, Coptic Phamenoth)
8 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, setting of Sirius in West, corresponds to 25 May (Sirius invisible for next 75 days)
10 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, end of 1st dekan, correponds to 27 May
15 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret corresponds to 1 June
20 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, end of 2nd dekan, corresponds to 6 June
30 Pen-Amen-htp 3 Peret, end of 3rd dekan, corresponds to 16 June

1 Pen-rent 4 Peret corresponds to 17 June (Month governed by Renenutet, Coptic Pharmuthi)
5 Pen-rent 4 Peret, Summer Solstice (northern hemisphere), corresponds to 21 June
10 Pen-rent 4 Peret, end of 1st dekan, corresponds to 26 June
15 Pen-rent 4 Peret corresponds to 1 July
20 Pen-rent 4 Peret, end of 2nd dekan, corresponds to 6 July
30 Pen-rent 4 Peret, end of 3rd dekan, corresponds to 16 July

End of the season of Peret (Emergence, Coptic Proyet)

1 Pa-Khons 1 Shomu corresponds to 17 July (Month governed by Khonsu, Coptic Pachons)
10 Pa-Khons 1 Shomu, end of 1st dekan, corresponds to 26 July
16 Pa-Khons 1 Shomu corresponds to 1 August
20 Pa-Khons 1 Shomu, end of 2nd dekan, corresponds to 5 August
23 Pa-Khons 1 Shomu, heliacal rising of Sirius, corresponds to 8 August
30 Pa-Khons 1 Shomu, end of 3rd dekan, corresponds to 15 August

1 Pen-ant 2 Shomu corresponds to 16 August (Month governed by Heru-khenti-khadit, Coptic Paoni)
10 Pen-ant 2 Shomu, end of 1st dekan, corresponds to 25 August
11 Pen-ant 2 Shomu, Gerh-en-hati "The Night of the Drop," corresponds to 26 August
17 Pen-ant 2 Shomu corresponds to 1 September
20 Pen-ant 2 Shomu, end of 2nd dekan, corresponds to 4 September
30 Pen-ant 2 Shomu, end of 3rd dekan, corresponds to 14 September

1 Ipip 3 Shomu corresponds to 15 September (Month governed by Ipit, Coptic Epiphi)
7 Ipip 3 Shomu, Fall Equinox (northern hemisphere), corresponds to 21 September
10 Ipip 3 Shomu, end of 1st dekan, corresponds to 24 September
17 Ipip 3 Shomu corresponds to 1 October
20 Ipip 3 Shomu, end of 2nd dekan, corresponds to 4 October
30 Ipip 3 Shomu, end of 3rd dekan, corresponds to 14 October

1 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu corresponds to 15 October (Month governed by Heru-iakhuti, Coptic Mesore)
10 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, end of 1st dekan, corresponds to 24 October
18 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu corresponds to 1 November
20 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, end of 2nd dekan, corresponds to 3 November
30 Mesut-Ra 4 Shomu, end of 3rd dekan, Birthday of Re-Horakhti, corresponds to 13 November

End of season of Shomu, end of civil year

1st Epagomenal Day, Birthday of Osiris, 14 November
2nd Epagomenal Day, Birthday of Heru-ur, 15 November
3rd Epagomenal Day, Birthday of Set, 16 November
4th Epagomenal Day, Birthday of Isis, 17 November
5th Epagomenal Day, Birthday of Nephthys, 18 November

1 Tepi Hai-t 1 Aakhet, Wp-Rnpt, 19 November.

I will go back and add various festivals, including lunar ones, at a later point. It would help if my readers could let me know which festival dates are most significant. Ultimately, I hope to make a general calendar. But I would appreciate feedback as to the use of the shifted dates, and how my readers feel that would affect their practice.

As to the month names and the Gods or Goddesses governing them, I used Budge's Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary to look up the ancient names of the months, and the God and Goddess correspondences using Budge's Gods and Goddesses of Egypt.

The first month of the Season of Inundation (Aakhet) was called Thoth by the Copts, and Tepi-Hai-t by the ancient Egyptians, which means "Head of the flood," or "Weeping Goddesses." It was ruled by Tekhi, a title of Djehuti as the keeper or establisher of Time. The word, Tepi, means 1st, and the first day of the New Year was also known as "Tepi Rnpt."

The second month of Aakhet was called Paopi by the Copts, and Penip-t or Penap-t by the ancient Egpytians, and can be loosely translated as "This [month of] Apit," one of the Goddesses associated with the month. The principal God ruling the month is Ptah-ineb-res-f, or "Ptah, South of his Wall," one of the epithets of Ptah of Memphis (Menefer, Aneb). Also, the twin Goddesses Merti represented the flood in Upper and in Lower Egypt. Merit-shemay, the Goddess of the southern inundation, was depicted with a red dress, reflecting the red soil that came down the Nile at the beginning of the Inundation. Merit-meh, Goddess of the northern inundation, wore a blue dress, reflecting the Delta of the Nile.

The third month of Aakhet was called Athyr by the Copts, and Het-her (Hathor) by the ancient Egyptians. While Hathor ruled this month of peak Inundation and the beginning of its end, she also shared features with Sekhmet, who rules the final month of Aakhet.

The fourth month of Aakhet was called Koiak by the Copts, for the festival of Sekhmet, Kherka-heb. In this month, the flood would have ended and the new land begin drying out; it was a month when flies and other insects began decomposing the matter brought down by the flood, and of fevers and illness. (Hence its association with Sekhmet.)

The first month of Peret was called Tybi by the Copts, possibly in association with the birthing bricks women used, or as tiles representing the dry soil to be broken for planting. The ancient Egyptian name for the month, Ames ams-t, ties the month to Min-Amsu, who gives birth to plants, and represents the reproductive powers of nature. Another Goddess of this month is Shef(t)-betd-t, meaning "makes swell the grain," and represents the new shoots of the crops.

The second month of Peret was called Mekhir by the Copts, and M'khir or M'khiaru by the ancient Egyptians. M'khir means "granary," m'khiaru means "food, sustenance," so the name seems to project hope for the upcoming harvest as it grows. The Goddess of this month is Rekh-ur, and the only thing I can find about her is what the components of her name mean: "Rekh" means "wise" and "ur" means "growth." So this is the Goddess who is wise/skilled in growth, who helps the crops grow.

The third month of Peret was called Phamenoth by the Copts, and Pen-Amen-htp by the ancient Egyptians, meaning "This [month of] Amen's peace." The Goddess of the month is Rekh-netcher, whose names means "wise in harvest," or "wise in holding fast," leading up to harvest. This would have been the time the farmers would have begun sharpening their tools for the upcoming harvest of grain.

The fourth month of Peret was called Pharmuthi by the Copts, and Pen-rent, "This [month of] harvest," by the ancient Egyptians. The month was sacred to Rennuttet, a snake-headed Goddess of the Harvest associated with Isis, and possibly the constellation of Virgo.

The first month of Shomu was called Pachons by the Copts, and Pa-khons by the ancient Egyptians, meaning "Son of Khons or Khonsu." Khonsu was the God of the month, possibly for his association with a sickle-like weapon he carried.

The second month of Shomu was called Paoni by the Copts, and Pen-ant, "This [month of] Anit," by the ancient Egyptians. Anit was one of the mothers of Heru-pa-khart, son of Isis, and so can be considered a form of Isis. The God of the month was Heru-khuti-khadit, "The Unborn Horus." on the 11th day of this month, ancient Egyptians celebrated Gerh en hati, "The Night of the Drop," a festival for the Tear of Isis believed to trigger the annual inundation.

The third month of Shomu was called Epiphi by the Copts, and Ipip by the ancient Egyptians, possibly meaning "measuring up the harvest." The Goddess Apit, a form of Hathor as nursing Goddess of Thebes, was associated with this month, and the "birth of the harvest."

The final month of Shomu was called Mesore by the Copts, and Mesut-Ra, "Birthday of Ra," by the ancient Egyptians. The month was associated with Heru-iakhuti, or Re-Horakhty, Horus in the Horizon.

The key thing to keep in mind here is that the calendar was modeled on the Ideal cosmic order, where all three cycles came together and patterned the flood, planting, and harvest. The priesthood used their observations to ensure that the physical year cycle got tracked properly, but had no difficulty accepting that the calendar itself got out of synch with the manifest seasons. It's a very foreign concept to modern Westerners, but it actually tracks the real cycle of the year somewhat better than our system of leap years and intercalated corrections.

Bauval, R. (2008). The Egypt Code. New York, NY: The Disinformation Company, Ltd.

Brier, B. (1980). Ancient Egyptian magic: Spells, incantations, potions, stories, and rituals. New York, NY: William Morrow & Company, Ltd.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A reflection on Sepdet and Ma'at

I'm a very visual person, and have been fascinated by the stars since I was very small. I learned their constellations and how they moved through the skies as a kid, and treasured my first (and subsequent) telescope(s). Gazing into the sky at night gives me a sense of peace, of coming home to friends I know well. And as I meditate, grow, and learn more as a shaman, I see deeper into mysteries that I've only glimpsed in the past.

As an older child, I became fascinated by the star, Vega. I could see it out my window at night in San Francisco; nights when I couldn't sleep because of the tensions in my family. I would find myself entranced by the star's light, feeling some transfer of light—energy—knowledge going on just below my consciousness. This was long before I encountered paganism or Egyptian mythology in this lifetime; my father had helped me focus on science because I was good at it, and I tried to think in that framework.

But it didn't really work, because my main defense from the abuse of my family life was to retreat into "fantasy," beyond just reading; to let my mind wander where it would go without constraining its direction to only those things that made sense in "reality." When you live with people who consistently tell you that what you're seeing or experiencing through your senses is not "the truth" or "real," you learn to look elsewhere to see what reality may be. Somewhere out there had to be something better, right?

In any case, I became strongly attuned to Vega, which is a beautiful blue-white star in the northern sky of summer, much like Sirius is in winter. Many years later, when I took up art again, I tried to capture some of my sense of resonance with Vega, with its light flowing into my hands and spirit, filling me up with clean, clear energy and healing.

This was around 1994, when I had also chosen to re-enter my spiritual studies, and was working through my initiation year. I began paintings for some of the Tarot cards as I meditated on them and their relevance to me—hence, my vibration with Vega. As I studied further, using Richard Hinkley Allen's Star Names: Their meaning and lore, I found a key insight in my growing resonance with the Egyptian neteru. Just as Sirius/Sepdet was considered the star of Isis/Satis, Vega was known as the Star of Ma'at.

Now, this turns out to be a very important piece of information about the development of beliefs and myths in the stellar "cults" of ancient Egypt, because Vega is one of several stars that can become the north Pole star through precession. When most of us think of precession—if we do so at all—we think of the great Zodiacal ages: Taurus, Aries, Pisces, Aquarius, etc. These are defined by the movement of the Spring Equinox "point" backward through the Zodiac as the Earth wobbles like a top around its axis. The whole precessional cycle takes roughly 26,000 years.

[The Spring Equinox "point" is the position where the Sun is against the Zodiacal background at the beginning of spring. We get our current astrological calendar system (tropical Zodiac) from the Sumerians and Babylonians, who fixed the spring point at the beginning of Aries. Thus, each of the four seasons of the year begin on a cardinal sign, initiating action. But actually the Sun's spring point is in Pisces, a mutable sign of change and dissolution of the old ways, and when it shifts into Aquarius, all of the seasonal points will fall in fixed signs of stability and consolidation.]

The north and south poles of the Earth project into the sky as it precesses like a top, pointing to different stars in the course of its 26,000 year cycle. Currently, in the northern hemisphere, the north polar axis is marked by Polaris, a moderately bright yellow-white star lying a degree or so off the actual pole. If you watch it through the night, Polaris and the stars nearby appear to remain in the sky all night, never setting. In ancient Egypt, this gave them the name of the Imperishable Stars, and was one of the locations of the Dwt where the hallowed dead traveled to be reborn.

The north pole precessed through other stars in past times, including Etamin and Thuban in the constellation of Draco, which the Egyptians visualized as a female hippopotamus, Isis-Tauret, who lived in the heavens to constrain the forces of Set, symbolized by a bull's foreleg (the Big Dipper asterism). You can see these Egyptian constellations on the Denderah zodiac. If you go back far enough, to roughly 12,000 BCE, Vega was the pole star.

This was also the time we would call the "Age of Leo," when the last Ice Age ended, and conditions began to warm up significantly. In Egypt, the middle East, and in the Sahara, conditions warmed such that the monsoon rains fell farther north, and parts of the Sahara that are now deep desert had rivers and seasonal lakes (playas) that the ancestors of the Egyptians roamed and used. As Robert Bauval and Thomas Brophy point out in their book, Black Genesis: The prehistoric origins of ancient Egypt, navigating in this part of the Sahara requires one to be aware of where the stars are, particularly north. Vega, bright and blue, would have clearly stood out to the north, and become associated with the establishment of order and balance after the chaotic conditions of the Ice Age. Hence, the star of Ma'at, the foundation of ancient Egypt!

Bauval and Brophy also note that the subterranean shaft from the Great Pyramid points directly to Vega at this epoch (i.e., where Vega would have been in 12,000 BCE), which is consistent with the idea that parts of the Giza complex were older and used for different things over long periods of time. If this point at the end of the last Ice Age was indeed the Egyptian's Zep Tepi, or "first time," then associating Vega with Ma'at makes perfect sense.

In addition, at the 12,000 BCE epoch, one would have observed a strange phenomenon with Sirius from the latitude of the Giza plateau. Precession causes all the stars to move up and down the sky, and at this ancient time, Sirius reached its furthest southern point. Near midnight around mid-July, while Vega shone brightly in the North, Sirius would have just skimmed the southern horizon. The horizontal passage leading to the Queen's Chamber in the Great Pyramid is at ground level and points to this southern meridional mark for Sirius. We know from other research that the upper shafts in the pyramid target different northern stars, as well as Sirius and Orion's belt at later dates, so it is at least plausible that people who had long observed the skies would find this phenomenon worthy of marking.

Bauval and Brophy's book makes a good case for alignments of the megalithic structures of Nabta Playa to determine right angles, and track changes in the star positions over time. The monsoon rains that fed the playa and the grasslands in the Sahara of this time came around the summer solstice, as they do now, reaching their peak around mid-July. The builders of the megalithic structures at Nabta Playa set out alignments toward the heliacal rising point of Sirius just before dawn, and also at northern stars in the Bull's Thigh (Big Dipper) that reached the meridian at that point—primarily Dubhe, the brightest star in the Dipper. The builders laid out rows of stones forming a right angle between Dubhe and Sirius, and may well have used them to key in on the time to expect the rains. Since there are clearly three different sets of orientations as the site was used over thousands of years, the builders knew that the stars changed position over time.

After 5000 BCE, the monsoon rains shifted to their current position, over the mountains of Ethiopia and the Sudan, and the southwestern Sahara dried out. The people living there had domesticated a local breed of cattle, and followed the herds to new grass throughout the rainy season. Once the rains stopped, it takes little thought to find them migrating toward the Nile. Their first place seems to have been at the first cascade of Elephantine, where later myths said the Nile flood rose from two underwater caverns. Satis, the Goddess who releases the flood, was associated with Sepdet/Sirius, and with Isis. Excavations of her temples at Elephantine show repeated reorientation toward Sirius each time a new temple was built atop the old.

So, all this is by way of introducing a vision that I've had for many, many years. Much of the information I've presented is new to me—I just finished reading Bauval and Brophy's book, after all. But what they've said helps me make sense of what I've been seeing/experiencing.

In the vision, I feel quite young—a young girl, maybe 9 or 10. I know that I am a candidate for initiation into the Temple of Isis, and the elders have brought me to a dark, enclosed space. It feels heavy, like it was underground, and they have me sit before a pool of water.  They tell me to pray and wait until I see the light of Isis, then leave me in the dark, alone.

I sit by the water for a long time, feeling the weight of the stone and darkness around me. Suddenly, a glimmer of blue-white light appears in the pool of water; I lean forward in surprise, trying desperately not to disturb the image.  The light grows in intensity, and I feel it on my face and hands. Shortly thereafter, another bright blue-white star appears in the pool, and the image merges with the light of the first.

I feel the light enter my heart, and spread throughout my body, washing away old patterns, ideas, and beliefs, and leaving behind a pure, clean energy that is calm, balanced, and peaceful. I sit, filled with this light, until my elders return the next morning, long after the star images are gone. They can look into my eyes and see my spirit filled with the light of Isis-Ma'at, and know my initiation was accepted by the Goddess.

The material I read in Bauval and Brophy merely gave some structure to this vision—I've been re-experiencing the vision/phenomenon consciously since the early 90s. I suspect that this vision is part of what enraptured me as a child when I became entranced by Vega; my conscious development was not yet at the point the vision could break through. I don't know whether I actually sat in the subterranean chamber under the Great Pyramid and experienced the midnight culmination of Vega and Sirius, but what I did experience was something very similar.

Now you know why my temple is called "Isis of the Stars."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Long Night's Journey into Day

This is a poem I wrote a few years ago celebrating the Ra's night journey through the Dwt. It is told from the point of view of Bast. I offer it in honor of my cat family, past and present. Enjoy!

I am Bast, Divine Mother of Cats,
daughter of Ra, Lord of the Sun.
My day side is pleasure, loving, and warmth,
but at night I defend the life of the Earth!
My sister is Sekhmet, Blazing Lioness of Strength,
daughter of Ra, Lord of the Sun.
Her day side is prowling and seeking fair game,
but at night She protects the daylight from death.
My sister is Hathor, Great Goddess of Beauty,
daughter of Ra, Lord of the Sun.
Her day side is loving, lusting, and adorning,
but at night She helps Father to win free to day!

Many are the names of His great, shining ship:
In the morning—Ma’atchet—“Day becomes strong.”
In the evening--
Semktet—“Day becomes weak.”
But it’s always
Wia hehe—“The Boat of Million’s of Years.”
Many are the souls who ride on his ship:
The blessed dead who’ve followed the way of Ma’at.
The dead poor, who’ve no one, wait, hoping for mercy.
The evil dead, who’ve done wrong, await soul’s destruction.
Many are the neters who sail forth with Ra:
Neith in the West, Bast in the East,
Uatchet for the North, Nekhebet for the South.
Isis stands in the center, and Thoth brings his words.
Hour 1
Old Ra is Atum, the first neter and the last.
He sinks down to
Amenti in the blood of his death.
He reaches the
arret of the first Hour of Night
that lies between Manu, the twin hills of Sunset.
Hathor Khentimentu throws open Night’s portals.
Ra sails through, and Mother Nuit swallows him down.
His blood fills the water, and stains the night flood,
‘til the dark between the stars drowns it in dusk.
Hour 2
We mourn for old Atum in the second Hour of Night,
passing its portal on the flow of our tears.
The souls of the poor dead leave to live in dusk’s shadows
until Anubis leads them forth on their life’s final journey.
The daylight has dimmed; the Aten is in shadow.
We cannot see clearly what things lie ahead.
Anubis and Thoth prepare Atum-Ra’s body,
wrapping the darkness like linen for his shroud.
Hour 3
A light grows ahead through the Third Gate of Night.
Firelight seethes and burns on the waters!
Here stay the souls of the unquiet dead,
trying to hide from the shadows of the deeds that they’ve done.
In the Third Hour of Night, we encounter our Enemy.
Apep, the great serpent, seeks to swallow the Sun down,
so that all will be darkness and chaos will reign.
We fight him back briskly: Ma’at rules supreme.
Hour 4
The rowers fight through to the Fourth Gate of Night.
Bloody, but unbowed, Apep slinks out of sight.
Hathor weeps and watches over Atum-Ra’s body,
while Nephthys guides the boat on into the darkness.
Sekhmet and I watch out for more serpents:
minions of Apep that slither through the sands.
Our duty lies in wakefulness, watching and waiting
for cats’ eyes see best in the dark of the night.
Hour 5
We pass the arret into the Night’s Fifth Hour.
The boat runs aground as the river runs dry.
The riverbed still lingers as an old road before us:
dry as dust, dry as old tears, and cold as the tomb.
Our companions leap overboard and seize the great ropes.
They groan as they drag the boat over the sands.
Slowly we slide forward, still in the darkness,
heaving our way toward the Sixth Gate of Night.
Hour 6
Horus awaits us to lead us to judgement:
the Sixth Hour sees Ra stand before great Osiris.
Anubis weighs Ra’s heart in the scales of Ma’at,
and Thoth records the day’s deeds for eternity.
Here the blessed dead are led to their Judgement.
One by one they come to stand before The Judge.
Pure heart and true voice ensure their rebirth,
coming forth to the day in the new world that awaits!
Hour 7
Atum-Ra’s body is gone; all that’s left is the Aten.
Dim but still shining, it seems like the Moon.
We sail again, slowly, into Night’s seventh Hour.
is the time we must watch for our Enemy!
Apep attacks us from out of the darkness.
We fight and we slash at his slithery minions.
Set spears Apep’s heart; he retreats from the field.
The Boat moves forward toward safety and morning.
Hour 8
We arrive at the Eighth Hour, tired and sore,
pulling towards freedom through the marshes.
Slowly our boat traverses the nightmare swamp,
lit only by faint, glowing, false lights that shimmer.
Wary, we watch for more sign of our enemy,
as we sail with our hopes and the ka of Ra’s heart.
These hours are weary, cold, dark, and so lonely!
Forward is the only way out; we cannot go back.
Hour 9
The Ninth Gate lets out onto a river of starlight.
Even bright Aten is just another star now.
Stars swirl in the shimmer of the eternal
Our eyes seek the Enemy--Apep is coming!
I see him, so does Sekhmet: the advantage of cat’s eyes.
We yell forth our war cry--you hear it in the night.
We leap to the fray, and tear at our prey!
The battle is glorious; we get drunk on his blood.

Hour 10
In the Tenth hour, we rest ourselves panting on deck.
Isis sings to us gently, bathing our wounds.
Thoth shines his moonlight into the star shadows.
We sail on the ancient River, heading toward morning.
We sail along slowly, Senses navigating the shoals:
Sa’a senses shifting currents through soles of his feet.
Hu tastes the waters; its savor tells him where we are.
Ma’a looks ahead, while Sedjem listens to hear the dawn birds.
Hour 11
The Eleventh Hour arrives as we pass through its portal.
The ka of Ra’s heart is beginning to stir!
Apep strikes fiercely, his last chance before him.
Set, Sekhmet, and I leap, roaring our warning.
We fight fiercely to shield the sacred magicians:
Isis and Hathor, Nephthys, Thoth and Anubis.
Their resonant hekau shiver over Ra’s birthing,
shaping his form that will live out the new day.
Hour 12
Bloody, rejoicing, we rejoin the Great Boat.
Apep is vanquished, torn into pieces.
We sail through the Gate of Night’s Twelfth Hour,
onward towards the morning.  Pi-neter-djuau is our new guide.
The Twelfth Hour is cold; the wind dies down to nothing.
You can’t tell we’re moving.  The river is like glass.
We watch as the new God arises from his sleep.
Khepera now bears forth the ka of Ra’s heart.
The twin hills of Morning, Bakhau, glow before us.
Ra’s birth blood is coloring the skies of the world.
Shu lifts us up from the womb of the darkness.
Khepera rolls the
Aten onto the day’s Het-Heru.
The others go their ways to their own day’s amusements.
I know what is best--a nap in the sunshine!
Dreaming of loving and dancing and living,
I rest now for the next Night’s battle for Life.
The day passes in its Hours. They are never my worry.
Khepera becomes Ra-Horus; old Ra becomes Atum.
We sail forth to evening in the world’s endless cycle:
the eternal, ethereal long night’s journey into day.
© 2000, 2006 Michael A. Starsheen

A day in the life....

Sety Spaghetti, disappeared 12/10
Hathor, 7/11/09

M'Nubis, aka Fluff Bunny, 8/11/11

Heru the Pooh, 7/26/11

There are times when all you can do is to bleed, when the concatenation of bits and pieces and scads and blobs and effing boulders of stress just landslide down on you and eat you alive. Today was one of those days.

After I had Heru put to sleep a couple of weeks ago—my baby!—I knew that I had to take steps to get the other cats checked up and get them their shots. I don't know when or how the ax will drop on my home's foreclosure, but I will either have to find homes for some of the cats that are left, or move them elsewhere, and they will at least have to have their shots. So I took some of the money I had ahead, and paid to set up appointments for the remaining 7 to be checked. Today, I took M'Nubis and Wendy in for their shots.
Wendy's Fine—just p'oed

This whole spiraling free-fall stress party from my ex-Domestic Partner robbing me blind and running me into one of these toxic mortgages has been playing out since I threw her out in 2008. She ran through over $100,000 of my assets, left me crippled with pneumonia, depression, and deep, deep anger, and 9 cats. I had 4 when we met, which seemed plenty to me, but she *kept* going on about wanting one of "her own." By the time we'd adopted 7 and none of them would take to her, while I would be pushed down into the memory foam mattress by 80 pounds of cats, I should have caught on to the fact they were better judges of character than I was. Or, at least, that I was allowing myself to be; I was in that mind-warping state where I dissociate from so much of the nastiness to try and "hold the relationship together" that it took some considerable horror to finally knock me back to reality.

The pneumonia I caught in 2006 in Chicago proved to be a drug-resistant form, and I kept having recurring bouts every 5 weeks of it until I changed doctors in mid-2008 and we knocked it out. I haven't entirely recovered from that physically, and I've known I've been getting worse in the last 3 years as I've struggled to deal with taking care of my home (and all of its problems), fighting the mortgage company (B of A after Countrywide), the insistence that they would not even talk to me about a loan modification if I didn't have more income—which is really hard to get when you're a) disabled on SSDI, b) the 2008 economic "downturn" just blew up in your face, and c) you can only work part-time anyway because of SSDI at minimum wage rates—and those jobs tend to be filled by eager, healthy young teenagers, not creaky old people like me.

I had also talked myself into going back to school toward a graduate degree, starting in a Master's program online in psychology because—frankly—after all the years of trying to understand how my own head has gotten so badly messed up and then cleaning up the mess, I wanted to have some clear idea of what normal looked like, and whether there were "best practices" I could use in situations like mine, rather than the "seat of the pants" methods I'd been trying. I got hired to teach undergraduate English classes for the same online university, but found that the stress of keeping up with both my own classes and teaching the students often ended up with me crashing in a heap in the corner—and not getting paid.

Things cascaded, and on the first 4 days of 2010 B of A put 3 trial mortgage payments through my checking about simultaneously, and crashed my finances well into April to recover. They did, later come back with a counter-offer, that if I would pay them over $1300/mo. to make up the differences, rather than the $725/mo. trial payments I'd been struggling with, maybe we could work something out. <shrug> I had, by then, switched over to a different online doctoral program in psychology that appeared to have better prospects for the kinds of material I want to do—but you can only "bank" on the potential of living off your student loan refunds *IF* you have a reasonable chance of paying them back when you graduate. As it is, I don't know whether I have any realistic chance *of* making it to get my degree, and if so, I would be about 60. Where I run into the same dichotomy I have trying to find a part-time job here—if you have a fully healthy, able, raring to go 25-year-old postdoc, and a rather beat up, disabled 60-year-old postdoc prone to stress-induced illness, who are you going to choose for your project? No, we officially do not discriminate according to disabilities; however, the reality is different.

I am finding things that I am quite interested in learning in the program, which is good, but also finding limitations that terrify and depress me further. Online (for profit) universities don't tend to be accredited with the American Psychological Organization (APA), the primary professional organization in our field in the US. They often do not provide degrees that lead to licensing—which often expect APA accreditation—and very few jobs will take you if you cannot get a license. Typically, these licenses involve either clinical practice (involved in a lot of diagnosis) or counseling practice (treating people already diagnosed), neither of which are area I feel very comfortable with because of my own psychological scars. It would not do to have a client act out in a rage in the office only to have me try to reason him or her down from under/behind the desk. Or another room. Not professional.

Horribly, though, I find that I really love the research and mathematical aspects of the work, both the quantitative statistical parts, development of more qualitative studies, and of finding ways to tie results more strongly to the experiences of individuals across cultural groups, sexes, genders, identities, spiritualities, times, places, and on and on. And I enjoy teaching—and am good at teaching statistics to psychology students whose immediate response on being told they have to take a math class is to scream and run around the room in horror. At least, that was how I was making my secondary income most recently—tutoring my fellow students in the stuff while we took classes.

But time and tide waits for no one, not me, certainly. And as 2010 was winding down, I was getting sicker and weaker, with horrendous migraine-like headaches that were lasting a week, 2 weeks, or longer, until I could get into the doctors for shots to break them up. I was having memory problems, and getting tired easily, and by October of last year, I kicked off on a violent headache that lasted 5 1/2 weeks before my doctor and I finally figured out it was a flare-up of a nerve disorder I've had before and found a medication that helped drop it down a little. That was part of why I spent the time at Isis Oasis last year in such abject misery—the whole left side of my face was on fire, I couldn't see very well, and the hotter I got, the worse the pain got. I spent nights sleeping on the mats by the pool; I couldn't manage the upstairs dorm in the lodge at all.

I was also going through tests on my respiratory functions to see if I had sleep apnea, which was likely. It also turned out that I have something called "central apnea," in which I simply stop breathing at all. The latter is worse than sleep apnea, which is caused by a collapse at the back of the throat—you gasp and it opens up. The problem is that it took me a great deal of work to get the trips down for my studies and results—Redding is 65 miles from here, and I've frequently been too sick to drive that far and back. I finally got my local doctor to check the results up here in January, and he had Lincare out with oxygen the next day, and a BiPAP machine for sleep within a week.

They help, and I've actually begun to dream again—I had forgotten what that was like. Not to mention how incredibly warped my subconscious really is. But the fact  is that now I'm getting relatively restful sleep, all those years of being utterly exhausted by not getting good sleep have caught up a bit, and I'm sleeping "too much." When I'm off the BiPAP, which I only use to sleep, I still need to use the supplementary oxygen concentrator most of the time—because if I don't I start getting headachy, confused, disoriented, my memory gets messed up, and on and on into deep depression. If I keep the oxygen on, I stay mostly ok, but I'm pretty much limited to my bedroom, where the cannula reaches. I finally qualified for supplementary oxygen when I go out of the house last week—thank the Goddess! Due to arcane regulations with Medicare, I didn't meet a numerical criterion they required, even though I was clearly mentally impaired off the oxygen; luckily I hit the magic number while my doctor was watching, and can now have some support when I have to go shopping for groceries.

In and amongst all of this sturm und drang that has been scaring the stuffing out of me, I've been trying to deal with the cat clan, and their ongoing situations. I've known that Heru was getting very sick through the latter part of last year: he was losing weight, walking around very creakily, clinging even more than usual, and drinking lots of water—but when your own finances are at the point you have to get creative to have food for everyone the last two weeks of the month, there isn't money to take him to the vet. Finally, in May this year, I had enough to get him checked, and found he was diabetic. Two months of careful feeding, tending, and twice-daily insulin shots, seeing he had gone blind and was very tired, and had a horrible sinus/respiratory infection broke my heart. So I took him up, knowing it was likely to be the end, and had to put him to sleep 3 weeks ago.

I had also watched M'Nubis getting sicker last year, although he was a younger cat. I had no money to care for either of them beyond the love, food, and general care I could provide, and I did my best. But once I had to put Heru to sleep, I had to confront the fact that whether I have to move and can find a place that will let me have my cats, or if I have to find homes for them, I have to be sure they have their shots and are sufficiently healthy. Most of my other cats are 4-6 years old, in their prime of health; only Hathor, who died in 2009 was 10 or so. (Heru was 12 1/2.) I made arrangements to take up two cats at a time because the vet would give me a discount, and I chose M'Nubis and Wendy first.

I knew that Wendy was healthy, and of my cats, most likely to adapt to a new home if I have to find her one. She's a fiesty alpha brat, and if there's trouble brewing, she and Tut are probably at the bottom of it! That being said, she's really very sweet, loves to cuddle, and squeals instead of meows. She loves to have her tummy scritched, and does these roll-on-her-back serpent dances through catnip sprinkled on the floor. She got her shots and is fine, although she was definitely *not happy* about the whole adventure, having pooped over the side of her cat carrier, herself, etc. and requiring a "hosing off" by the technicians. She's back to speaking to me.

M'Nubis, on the other hand, was just resigned the whole time. I've known there was something wrong with his teeth and right ear; he's been drooling a lot, and would not let me anywhere close to his mouth to check. He'd been listless, and had lost weight—I noticed his bony hips even before I did on Heru, despite the long, Persian coat.  The vet checked him over thoroughly, and looked at all of what was going on that we could *see*, much less what might be necessary. He had severe gingivitis, and would probably need removal of all his teeth, he was significantly underweight, and would need medicines for the rest of his life to stabilize him, and the best we could tell was that the problem with his right ear may well have been a festering infection from one of his teeth—he was running a fever. She and I discussed all the possibilities, both in light of the other 6 cats I still have and the potential to find him another home, and we made the toughest decision of the day—I asked to have him put to sleep.

I do not do this lightly, ever. These are the children of my heart, and I have no other family. M'Nubis was a sweet, playful, friendly, lovely submissive cat I adopted from the local shelter, and I gave him love, warmth, shelter, play, petting, and more love, as much as I could. I had to let him go; knowing that he'll be in Bast's arms and hope for a better place and life next turn of the wheel.

So, in and amongst all of the financial, physical, psychological, relationship, scholastic, and sheer misery of the last 5 years, when I had to get rid of a partner I hoped would be my companion, and instead turned into a thief of all I'd managed to regain after my disability, and whom I threw out after trying to kill me a couple of times—oh, it's been fun—I've now lost four of my very beloved cats:
Hathor, Heru, M'Nubis, and Sety Spaghetti. (Sety Spaghetti disappeared between Christmas and New Years 2010, when I had a friend watching the cats while I was at a residency for school. Sety was always a spook, and terrified of his own shadow; I'm sure he got out without my friend even being aware he was gone, and once gone, he wouldn't have come to me if I called him either, though I did try. I'm hoping he's been carried off to Faery, where he seemed to spend a good bit of his time anyway, rather than the more mundane likelihood of being eaten by a bear or coyote.)

I have six left, all of whom are healthy cats, but I'm still facing what to do if I have to move—when I have to move—and how to work things with a potential landlord to keep as many as I can. I don't have many other beings in my life who are *here* and who give me love on a regular basis, and I cannot afford to lose many more of the few I have.

I know that their lives are short, and that I've rescued these babies from difficult circumstances. But it is a point of my belief of self-worth that if I take in an animal such as this, give him or her a home and love, and care, that I am then honor-bound to care for that animal for the rest of its life, and to see that he or she has a good home if I cannot. It tears into me deeply to have to put one to sleep, as I did with M'Nubis today—but if I had the money to spend to make him well, and was able to do so or find him a home, what kind of life would he have had? And I don't have unlimited money; I live on a low fixed income.

In so many ways, this is very hard for me. I am depressed, frightened for my own health, and in despair of what will come because I can't even manage the stuff that's in front of me right now. My bond to my cats acts as a safety valve when my brain chemistry goes completely haywire, and I lose the will to live—I have to wait it out because they need me. There is no one else.

I know that we expect priests and priestesses to be able to write uplifting and hope-filled stuff, about the power of faith and the knowledge that the Goddess/Gods/Whoever will help us get through the darkest night. But, sometimes, when you're in that dark Night, you just need to be where you are, and it helps to acknowledge that where you are. We've fixed all the easy or obvious things we can manage—that's what's so scary about my breathing problems: no clue as to what's wrong. All I can do is keep trying day-to-day to do whatever I am able, not what I've planned, or scheduled, or even *want* to do, but simply what I am able. It is very hard to live this way in Western culture, where everyone has expectations of you, and when they see you, they assume that everything must be ok—and they don't really want to know if it's not because that's scary for them. So I hide a lot of my pain away from sight and sound, but that makes it no less real.

I know that Bast understands, and that She knows I'm doing the best I can for her children. She knows how much I love them, each as individuals, and as a whole clan. They are real people to me, and my family. I have to have faith that She will help me find the best way forward for them and for myself, somehow. I just have no idea what the shape of that future looks like, in any form that I can imagine.

On August 27th, at 8:00 PM PDT, I plan to hold a Dulce Domum rite for the cats that have passed these past few years: Hathor, Heru, Sety, and M'Nubis. The Isian funeral rite is in Panthea, and while I haven't used it for cats before, I feel it is appropriate in these cases, where they are so much my dear friends. You are welcome to join me by attunement at the Temple of Isis of the Stars for the ceremony, and celebrate the passage of any of your own beings at that time. It's after the end of Mercury Retrograde, but in the late Balsamic Moon just before it brightens into New. A good time for passage into the light.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"Correctness" as applied to Magical Practice

Rhondda Francis brought up an interesting thought that has bothered me for years, which is the idea that there is some "correct" relationship between our magical practice and that of the ancient world that must be preserved inviolate—but adapted for the unique astronomical and astrological aspects of our times. It gets especially weird in regards to ancient Egypt, a land in which documented practice goes back almost 4000 years before the advent of Christianity/Roman reduction of the land to their rule/what have you. The likelihood that their practices go back even further is not in dispute; however, as these were passed down through symbolic imagery and mythic storytelling, it becomes particularly difficult for us to correctly associate "fact" with timing.

I've seen it occur in arguments over the correct pronunciation of As-t, Aset, Auset, Isis, Ismou, etc. etc. Many "purists" say that we must take the Coptic pronunciations as being most correct; however, I disagree with this, as these pronunciations are filtered through years of Greekification of the language as well as the natural migration languages go through over time. Anyone that believes languages are unvarying and "correct" versions last forever hasn't recently tried to read Shakespeare in the original, much less Chaucer or Beowulf, all of which are versions of English as it has shifted over 1200 years or so, much less time than that of ancient Egypt.

My reaction when someone tries to correct my pronunciation of something in ancient Egyptian is to stop talking to them. They have made it clear that they are obviously more interested in what is going on in their heads, and showing what they know by correcting me, than in the essence of what I'm trying to say. If we cannot concur on meaning over semantics, then there is little point in talking, now is there?

The thing about the rising of Sirius and the beginning of the season of Inundation in ancient Egypt depends on a coincidence—the observation of the rising before the Sun with the beginning of the Floods. Now, we know that the Floods actually depend on the timing of the monsoon rains in the highlands of Ethiopia and Sudan at the headwaters of the White and Blue Niles, well south of the First Cataract of Elephantine where the first Nilometer would detect the rise. If you look at a current map of the hydrology of the monsoons (, the rains in the highlands begin around Summer Solstice, peak in mid-July into August, and would normally taper off in September and October, if the Aswan Dam wasn't there.

Sirus rising before the Sun, July 14 2011 BCE Cairo
So a mid-July date for the first sign of the rising of the Nile is consistent with Sirius rising with the dawn in about 2011 BCE. This is how that would look from the location of Cairo, which is near the Giza plateau. Sirius is about 1 degree above the horizon at this point, and would be visible for maybe a minute or two before being lost in the glow of sunrise. This particular timing held as far back as I could trace it through mid-July into the 4000BCE era, so the idea of this being the "correct" timing signal for the Inundation is reasonable—according to the hydrology at Aswan/Elephantine. The season of Aakhet, which consists of 4 months of 30 days each would then track through mid-November, when the flood would taper off and the land would begin to dry out.

The following season of Per-t (Peret, Proyet, what have you) would only begin when the land was dry enough to plough, roughly late November, and would run through mid-February/early March in our calendar, 4 months of 30 days of growth. Egypt is still north of the Equator, and does experience Winter Solstice as a time of colder weather, which you can see by images of more substantial clothing in this season. Then, in mid-March, the ripening grain would be ready for harvest during the Season of Shomu, which would run through the beginning of July, and we have ourselves back to the Epagomenal Days.

Brier (1981) points out that the ancient Egyptians recognized that their civil calendar (the one we use to celebrate festivals) gradually went out of synch with the rising of Sirius and the Nile Floods, so they would correct it on the 52 year Sothic cycle. (This is a cycle in which the sidereal rising of Sirius coincides with the calendrical date on which it was supposed to rise on the civil calendar.) Unlike our Western desperate obsession with perfect time, the ancients in all cultures were more concerned about longer-range timing of events they needed to deal with in their environments, e.g., when to plant, when to reap, and when to get the heck out of the way of a big-ass flood! It's no surprise that much of the pharaonic civil projects such as temple and tomb building peaked during the season of Inundation—they are mostly on high ground above the flood plain, and would have provided the farmers and herders of the valley with a source of food and productive work for four months of the year. You don't have to coerce people, or use slaves for this—feeding people works really well, especially when the alternative is to sit down in the muddy, stinking, rotting land full of flies and disease with no food! It's no wonder the Inundation season was associated with Sekhmet, who both brings fevers and pestilence, and cures them.

Sirius rising at Cairo, August 1, 2011 CE
Currently, precession has shifted the date of the heliacal rising of Sirius at Cairo to the first of August in our current era. This is still within the peak flow of the Floods, based on the hydraulic process, but doesn't match what happens on the ground. So is it the "correct" timing for the civil calendar?

Remember that the Civil Calendar was adjusted periodically to account for the desynchronization between sky and ground, not to mention the fact that no one has really figured out a good way to deal with the 1/4 day piece that expands the 365-day year beyond whole numbers! Brier (1981) updated the Cairo calendar to reflect the current heliacal rising as an item of Egyptological interest, as he's primarily an archaeologist, not a magician. But it corresponds with the timing with Sirius, and if we value that particular connection to Aset-Sepdet, then perhaps that's the point where we shift our calendar.

But tying this festival to Lughnassadh is merely another coincidental connection. Remember that Lughnassadh is essential a Celtic/Northern European festival of the start of the harvest season, when the first fruits of the land are being brought to market at the latitude of Newfoundland and New Brunswick! The only reason that part of Europe is warm enough to have a harvest that *early* is due to the Gulf Stream, and I assure you that conditions on the other side of the Atlantic are less "fruitful" that far north. Moreover, there is a frantic rush to harvest everything as soon as possible and get it under cover, as winter does come early to these parts and you will lose anything not gathered first. This is likely why the festival of Sahmain has such a strong link with death; if your harvest isn't under cover by Sahmain, you're much more likely to die during the winter!

In any case, think of how this relates energetically to what is going on in ancient Egypt. They were preparing for a season in which their land renewed itself—a bit like winter up north, but much hotter. Their primary growing season would fall during the Northern winter, and their harvest season essentially when we Celts and Northmen would be celebrating Oestre and first planting. There is no relationship between the two cycles at all; they are completely out of synchronicity with one another. So if we are operating on an ancient Egyptian festival calendar and magical system, wishing someone a happy Lughnassadh is a courtesy between magical groups, not an acknowledgment we're doing the same things, at all.

Sirius Rising at Dunsmuir, August 14, 2011 CE
So, now to the question of how to tie this "Sirius rising" event "correctly" to our current location. I live in Dunsmuir, California, at 41N13, 122W16, and at 2200 feet above sea level, approximately. Yet, Sirius would still rise with the sun here about the 14th of August, much like Rhondda noted for her location in Kansas. However, since I live up against a hillside to my east, even though dawn occurs 6:17 AM PDT, the Sun doesn't even clear the hill until around 10:30 AM, so I would not be able to observe the rise of Sirius *at all* from my location! <shrug>

What to do? What to do?

If I obsess over what is going on in my locality versus what I wish to practice in ancient Egyptian festival magic, then I'm doomed to failure. Because the events that are occurring here in Dunsmuir, California, are totally different from anything going on in Egypt, with or without the interference of the Aswan Dam. For one thing, our seasons are very, very different even from similar locations in Northern Europe, much less near-Equitorial Egypt!

Our weather is dominated by the Pacific to our west—which at least preserves the Wiccan traditional association of West with water. But California is a desert, which means that it is generally very dry all year except during "the Rainy Season." This typically occurs from late November through February, as the summer high pressure ridge breaks down and we get lows off the Gulf of Alaska, but this is highly variable, especially with Climate Change messing things up. It rains down in the central Valley and on the Coast in California, but here in Dunsmuir, which is in the northern mountains near Mt. Shasta, we're right on the edge of rain, snow, slop, both, and whatever feels like happening. It isn't the nice fluffy stuff you see in Christmas post cards from back East, I assure you. And this year, it was still snowing and raining on May 31st, unusually late.

If I were to be realistically "correct" about my local magical system, I would have to move fire to the North, coincident with Mt. Shasta, and with weather systems that warm us up and melt the snow. These high pressure systems rotate winds clockwise around their centers, so we get warm winds from the North and Northeast—e.g., "fire." Mt. Shasta, of course, is a volcano.

East would have to be Earth, as most of the rest of the continent is that direction. That's a pretty strong magical pull, wouldn't you say? The Sierras and the Rockies lie between us and the Great Plains, so it's a different feel than you might get from the mid-west or east looking West. And very different from either Northern Europe or Egypt.

South right after the Spring Equinox snowstorm 2011.
South would have to be Air, as this is where our winds and storms come from. Weather rotates counter-clockwise around low pressure systems coming off the Pacific, driving south and southwest winds right up the Sacramento River valley into my backyard. I always end up with more snow on the south side of my house than on the north side, and there's usually a lot more snow on the south side of Mt. Shasta than on its north side, as well. It's a good thing, though, because that 14,000+ foot volcanic water filter is where a lot of the water for the rest of the state originates!

At Spring Equinox this year, we suffered a series of 4 snowstorms that dumped 2 1/2 feet of extremely wet snow on my property. It didn't melt for several more weeks, and by then we'd had more snow. So Oestre or not, it's still "Winter!" Or "the rainy season" if you use local terminology.

No one can really begin planting until after the rainy season ends, although the catchment dams that line the mountain rivers coming into the Central Valley help with the planning and release of the water captured during the "rainy season." In the mountains here, we begin getting our "first fruits" around mid-July—about the time of the old Sirius rising in Cairo, come to think of it. Our time of harvesting the land and waters around here would coincide with mid- to late-summer, and into the fall if we were living as the California Natives did, or as the first agriculturalists; the dams that allow the control of the water make it possible to harvest a wide range of crops throughout the year, completely out of synch with the seasons—other than "rainy." It may surprise you that California is the leading exporter of rice to China, since rice needs a lot of water to grow; it has to be one of the stupidest perversions of the natural order you can think of to flood the desert to grow rice!

Once the rainy season stops, California gets hot and dry, a side-effect of that ridge of high pressure. I mean, really hot and really dry—this is the start of our "fire season." We get some thunderstorms that move up from the summer Monsoons in the four corners states, but they don't produce much rain. What they do produce is lightning, and since the grasses and other native plants have dried out after the rainy season ended, lightning sparks fires. And so do things like lawnmowers, chain saws, and other things that throw sparks. And incredibly stupid, ignorant fools who throw cigarettes out of car windows, do not put out their campfires, or deliberately start fires to see it burn. AAAGHHH! It makes one begin to believe in the great nature spirit Smokey the Bear!

So in California, we really have two seasons: wet/cold and dry/hot. All of the natural energy, timing, and seasonal flows through the state reflect these two energies. Native celebrants were more concerned about achieving controlling access to rivers and lakes that remained year-round, and controlled whether they would have access to enough food of reasonable quality or not. Those tribes forced to the peripheries—and there were many—struggled to survive at the best of times, and died out in the worst. Three major rivers arise and flow off of Mt. Shasta: the McCloud, the Shasta, and the Sacramento. The latter flows down through the Central Valley and eventually into San Francisco Bay, where much of its flow is diverted southward to feed agriculture in the San Joachin valley and the southern cities. You become very aware of water when you live in this state!

So if I were to be absolutely correct, I would be working with a North/Fire, East/Earth, South/Air, and West/Water circle schema, and celebrating the starting and ending of rainy and fire seasons, as well as when crops could be planted, grown, and harvested, and when and what could be successfully hunted. I would need to construct a Native calendar, probably in consultation with the Shasta or Wintu tribes around here, who know the area. If they would even give me the time of day—as an excruciatingly White person, they may feel that I'm trying to hone in on their magic and should go away and do my own instead. There is some truth to this, and I accept it.

Moreover, we white-eyes have so altered the landscape that the traditional cycles are not "correct" either anymore. So what are we left with? Create new Gods that fit the actual scenario we live with, and incorporate those of the old willing to speak to us? (Shasta is a fairly loud voice, but then She would be.) Follow only those beliefs that fit our ancestral bodies—in my case, primarily Celtic and Norse, since my ancestors were Scots-Irish and English. Fine, that fits with Wicca or Asatru, but not with the environment I live in, and as an Archdruid, I'm sensitive to the land under my feet more than land from long ago.

Or should I go with my memories of other lifetimes, of which I have quite a few of living as a priest/priestess in Egypt? Those memories have taught me more about using my magical abilities than anything else I've had available to me this lifetime; I haven't had many teachers other than books. Even before I taught myself to read and write hieroglyphics, I could tell whether a piece was nonsense or not, which should say something about where I need to be working, right? But that's *not correct* with my ancestry, and the Khemetic purists could get me on stealing their magic just like the California native peoples. What to do? What to do?

I also remember lives in other times and places, and have studied religion, mythology, language, and magical systems from many lands. I tend to work as a shaman, and as a pragmatist—I use whatever works to send me on my journey to the Otherworld, and that brings me back. The longer I do this, the less I find I need cues, such as drumming or whatever. Simple meditation will usually do the trick, and I avoid sage smudge unless I *want* to go bye-bye in a hurry!

I'm also a scientist. I don't take things on faith well, I need to try them, see how the experiment works, and then repeat it to see whether it still works. I tend to do that with the magic that I do, even if sometimes it does mean waiting a year to try again. I find that many of the things from many of the systems work, if you do them through manipulation of the right symbols to connect with that set of energies, regardless of whether you call it High Magic, Low Magic, or shamanism. The point is distracting your logical, left-brained, Western-trained conscious mind with *something*, some set of symbols that gives it something to do, so that you open as space to hear what your subconscious, right-brained, mystically oriented side can access. And then you have to go through and edit out any of your own filters that still sit between you and what you hear, and we *ALL* have them.

So, what is "correct?" My answer is simple: What feels right to you? If working with the updated Brier (1981) Cairo calendar works, as it is still accurate for the heliacal rise of Sirius in Egypt currently, then do so. If you prefer working with the older calendar starting on July 13th that was current in 2000 BCE, then do so. But if you start to obsess on when Sirius rises with the dawn at your own location in your own time and place, which has nothing to do with ancient Egypt *at all*, then you're opening a can of worms that you may not want to wade through.

I thank Rev. Forrest for her application that lets you quickly calculate when Sirius rises with the Sun from your location. It is a fact that may have some interest to you, purely theoretically. But to reorient your entire practice around that fact begs the question of why you're using an ancient Egyptian seasonal system *at all*, when none of the rest of it corresponds to where and when and who you are now.

But that's *MY* opinion, for what it's worth. Plenty of people will likely argue with me, based on their own personally preferred systems of working. But that's what tolerance is about—not trying to *force* one another to do things the "One True Way," but comparing and arguing the merits of different systems to find what works best for you, as an individual spiritual seeker on your individual path, whatever that may be.

I spend enough time studying Buddhism for the satisfaction of the philosophy and psychology of it, and yet I'm a practitioner of shamanistic and Egyptian magic, among other things. The two would seem utterly incompatible, but like the ancient Egyptians, I'm quite able to hold multiple contradictory thoughts in mind at the same time. Maybe that's why my therapist and a number of friends believe I'm a Martian! <grin>