Nut and Geb, the children of the god Shu (Air) and goddess Tefnut (Moisture), were born locked together in a tight embrace. The sun god Ra ordered Shu to separate them, so Shu held his daughter high above the earth, creating room between Nut and Geb for other creatures to live. Angered by the marriage of Nut and Geb, Ra decreed that Nut could not bear children during any month of the year. Thoth, the god of wisdom, took pity on Nut and played a game with the moon—the regulator of time—that allowed him to create five extra days in the year. Because these days were not covered by Ra’s decree, Nut was able to give birth to five children: Wesir (Osiris), Heru-ur (Horus), Set, Aset (Isis), and Nebt-het (Nephthys).
As a part of celebrating my faith, I have long since decided that I need to have recreated rituals based as closely as possible on the ancient Egyptian festivals. The first major festival that is rapidly approaching is called wep-renpet, which is translated as meaning ‘Opening of the Year.’ This is, in effect, the ancient Egyptians’ version of the celebrating New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The difference, however, lies in the fact that the calculation of the celebration is based on the heliacal rising of the most important star in the sky, Sopdet (Sirius).
The reason that Sopdet was the most important star in the sky for the ancient Egyptians is two-fold: First, the star is the brightest star in the sky. It was named Sopdet, which literally means skilled woman. The second reason is because at the rising of this star, the annual inundation of the Nile flood waters would soon begin. As ancient Egypt would be nothing without the inundation, the star held an important place.
Unlike with modern-day celebrations of a new year, the ancient Egyptians celebrated wep-renpet for a full week. Resolutions and promises for a good year aside, the celebrations varied from day-to-day. The first celebration hearkens the very end of the previous year, followed by five “intercalary days” which are of mythological and practical importance. (Mythologically, these are the five days Djehuti added to the lunar calendar so that Nut could produce offspring; practically, these days bring the previous 360 day calendar into a 365 day calendar.) The final day is the actual celebration of wep-renpet.
Day 1: Last day of the year
Day 2: Intercalary day – Wesir’s birthday
Day 3: Intercalary day – Heru-wer’s birthday
Day 4: Intercalary day – Set’s birthday
Day 5: Intercalary day – Aset’s birthday
Day 6: Intercalary day – Nebt-het’s birthday
Day 7: Wep Renpet
To honor my faith, I plan on celebrating the full week starting on August 3rd and ending on August 10th, with the rising of Sopdet to commence on the 10th.
On the final day of the year, I will “smite Apep” or at least, symbolically do so. Apep was a demon of the underworld, in the form of a giant water snake. As the enemy of the sun god, he did his best to stop Re’s sun barque from crossing the night sky and fought against them every night after the sun had set. In my symbolic version of smiting Apep, I plan on baking a snake cake and, to defeat him, cut him up into bits and devour him as he would so gladly do to the Re.
I will also clean house and “get rid of evil.” The ancient Egyptians held a “pot-smashing rite” every new year’s. They would focus all of the negative things that could happen in the upcoming year or things that had already happened to them, focus it into the pottery and smash it into bits. They would then throw the shards into the fire to symbolically destroy those bad things. As much fun as this sounds, I think a simple spring cleaning and sage smudging of my home will be sufficient.
Another form of celebration will be with images of Sekhmet. This was a common custom in ancient Egypt as Sekhmet warded away illness. Pendants were frequently worn around the neck or given on the start of a new year so that family members would remain healthy. Though I do not have a stock of Sekhmet pendants to hand out, I think pictures of the goddess should be sufficient to ward off the easier illnesses to contend with.
Other forms of worship will include full rituals to the deities on their chosen days, as well as a full Wep-Renpet ritual which will end in a full dedication to the goddess, Sekhmet.