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 (http://www.utdallas.edu/geosciences/remsens/Nile/Hydromap.html), 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|
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|
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|
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.|
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>