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Holy Week in Kemet

In ancient Kemet (Egypt), and for those who still honor the spiritual practices of the Nile valley, we are in the midst of one of the most sacred weeks in the calendar.

This week celebrates the birthdays of Ra and the five netjers (sometimes spelled without the J and meaning Divine Ones), who form the myths of Aset (“Isis”) and Ausar (“Osiris”). This most holy week will climax in the New Year Festival, which in part celebrates the great gift of life that is the annual flooding of the Nile River.  We would do well to ourselves be in a more devotional relationship with our own Waters.

As renowned astrologer Dan Furst writes, “The birth of the five ‘epagonal’ neters is an epoch-making cosmic event that forces a sharing and realignment of Ra’s power by expanding the Earth year from 360 to 365 days. This is the critical time shift that makes possible the later Greek, Julian and Gregorian solar calendars.”

So this week, we celebrate:

  • July 13: Birth of Ra. To the ancient Egyptians and modern-day practitioners of the Kemetic faith, Ra is means “Sun.” According to the Kemetic Orthodoxy, “Embodied in the golden sun which is His Symbol, Ra is Neter of light, life, and heat, and the power inherent in the sun which warms our planet. In several forms, Ra has been venerated as the central Name of Netjer of the Kemetic faith through its entire history, considered both Father and the King of All Netjeru, the Great One Who both creates and destroys…Ra’s popularity, as immanent as sunlight itself, continued throughout Kemetic history…Even in modern Egypt, the sun is often referred to as Ra, especially on bright summer days.”
  • July 14: Birth of Osiris (also called Wesir, Ausar), the netjer of vegetation. He is the male creative force. As one devotional website notes, “Osiris is the oldest son of Ra and Nut. He is the God of the Afterlife but also the protector of Nile flooding and vegetation. He is the Black Land (Kemet) – the fertile land, which fights with the Red Land (the desert) each year. The fight between Osiris and Set is depicted in this annual cycle.”  Most Kemetic practitioners balk at comparisons of Osiris to the dying and resurrecting Christian God, or the Green Man. Instead, He is the final arbiter of destiny after death; the Lord of the blessed spirits (the beloved dead).
  • July 15: Birth of Horus (Hor) as a sort of Light Being. He is born later into a physical body as the son of Isis and Osiris. In that birth, he is the Divine One, the falcon-headed solar hero who saves Kemet from Set.
  • July 16: Birth of Set, Lord of the red desert land, always threatening to “kill” the beneficial Black Lands that were arable.  He is the  force of chaos and destruction, brother and murderer of Osiris. Although in the New Kingdom He was pretty much demonized, earlier, while not exactly a “nice guy,” He was understood as the necessary strong and violent opposition force.
  • July 17: The Birthday of Isis (also called Aset). She is the netjer of female fertility, most widely revered and beloved of all ancient Mother Goddesses. Sister and wife of Osiris.  She restores Osiris to life through Her powers as healer, lover and magician, and bears Him the solar child Horus. I could go on and on about Isis, but suffice it to say that much, much later, the conquering Romans were conquered by Her, declaring that all feminine Names were to be forms of Isis, and crowning Her ‘Goddess of Ten Thousand Names,’ even though Kemetic mythology does not exhibit this over-arching role for Her.
  • July 18: This is the birthday of Nephthys (Nebt-Het), another sister of the primary four netjers, also wife of Set and lover of Osiris, to whom She bears Anubis. Nephthys is revered as the keeper of secrets, and also as the Khemitian counterpart, perhaps even origin of Venus/Aphrodite.
  • July 19: New Year begins with festivals for Thoth (the Greco-Roman name for the God Djehuty/Tehuti), and the Marriage of Isis and Osiris, parallel to the Greco-Roman feasts of Aphrodite/Venus and Adonis, which were held on the same day. This day begins the Season of Inundation, when the Nile floods, bringing life to the region. This time is therefore sacred to Hapi, netjer of the Nile.

The ancient Egyptians understood, in their precarious existence between mountains and deserts, a miracle of life was bestowed upon them by the blessings of Hapi, Who inundated them each winter with the floods. This provided the Black Land of Osiris, making possible life and agriculture.

As the folks at Kemet.org note, though, “Hapi could be capricious, however; no flood or too much flood meant disaster, either from famine or from inability to run from His rushing force.

“Since the erection of the High Dam at Aswan in the latter part of the 20th century, Hapi’s influence is not felt in Egypt as strongly as it was in antiquity – but the Nile still remains the central feature of Egyptian culture and spirituality – Copts, Nubians and Muslims still celebrate holy days with river cruises, boat processions and water blessings.”

May we all recognize the precariousness of our dependence on the sacred, life-giving waters where we live.  May this holy week of our ancestors resonate in our hearts.

And may all who remember and honor the netjers of Kemet be blessed!

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  • July 16, 2010, 10:36 am Arie

    Vow, Beth, I was on vacations this week and visited many Water sites. Ancient springs, wells and water falls.
    You can see some of the pictures on my profile in Facebook.
    I have more I did not post.
    The Goddess Isis is one of my favorites and I work a lot with Her.
    This week’s King of Wands energy was of special significance to me. Being bold and going to see places in nature not so easy to access. Despite the heat and the strong Sun.
    Arie