Ancient Egyptian Feasts


Feasts. In the daily service to the god the public had no part: in fact access to the inner parts of the temple was forbidden to the laity. They were permitted to penetrate to the forecourt and to the corridors surrounding the building, where they could spend the night in those temples devoted to healing. Otherwise the public could only par— ticipate in the great festivals.

Each temple had a calendar of feasts and festivities of which a shortened version seems to have been inscribed in the hypostyle hall. The full text, written on parchment or papyrus, would have been kept in the library of the temple archives. In each temple the principal gods were taken in procession several times-a month either round the town, or to visit neighbouring temples, usually by river. Some of the feasts only lasted a few days, but the great national ones could extend for 28 or 30 days; many of them were closely connected with agriculture, and the fertility of the fields. One of the chief festivals was the Feast of Opet, held in Thebes during the second month of the Season of the lnundation. At this feast Amun processed by boat from Karnak to the Luxor temple, accompanied by the boats of Mut and Khonsu. Other important festivals were the New Year Feast, the Coming-Forth of Min at harvest time, the Raising of the Sky, the Feast of the Potters Wheel (connected with Khnum}, the Feast of Sokar and the Feast of the Valley, both connected with the Necropolis.

As well as feasts and festivals certain temples re—enacted miracle plays every year: for instance the Birth of Horus at Dendarah. the Contendings of Horus with Seth at Edfi’i, or the Death and Resurrec- tion of Osiris at Abydos. Another was the Coronation Play, which is even earlier. This gave an account of the ritual of the crowning of the king.

An oracular service was also provided, either at the temple or when the travelling statues were being carried through the streets, and petitions were presented. The answers were usually a simple yes or no. The animal cults, such as those of the Apis and Mnevis bulls, also specialised in oracles, as did the special gods of the necropolis such as Amenhotep I and Ahmose Nefertari. They were worshipped by the workers in the necropolis who lived in the workmen’s village at Deir al-Madinah on the West Bank at Thebes.


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