According to Barbara Watterson in The House of Horus at Edfu, the Dendera preparations for the Beautiful Reunion began two weeks before the New Moon in the third month of Summer. Ceremonies were conducted and Hathor was carried out of her temple to begin her two week journey to Edfu. Installed in her barque by the priests, she would be towed on the river and thus the Reunion begins.
In Hathor: A Reintroduction to an Ancient Egyptian Goddess by Lesley Jackson, she details a four-day journey from Dendera to Edfu. The barque of Hathor, named Mistress of Love, bids farewell to her home and sales to Edfu, making stops at three different temple precincts along the way before she meets with our Horus of Edfu at Wesetjet-Hor on the fourth day. The shortened length of the journey makes more sense since Edfu and Dendera are only a little more than 100 miles apart.
The discrepancies in timelines makes sense if you’ve read The Ancient Egyptian Daybook by Tamara Suida. She highlights the differences in timelines in her blurb on the Beautiful Reunion. For those following the Edfu calendar, the trip from Dendera to Edfu takes about 13/14 days. For those following along with the Dendera calendar, the trip takes 4 days.
I came into contact with the 4-day journey calendar from Dendera long before I found references of a longer journey in the Edfu calendar, which is why I follow a 4-day sail-a-thon. But when we are recreating and celebrating this holiday, the length of the journey matters not at all. The focus should be on the purpose of the reunion – the celebration and reunion of two lovers separated each year, the fertility of the harvests, and the sacred marriage that makes those harvests fertile – and not the length of the recreated trip down our imagined Niles.
I start preparing myself and my home for this particular festival two to four weeks out. There are a handful of long-lasting festivals that have a premier importance in my calendar and this is one of them. I always want things to go smoothly and be able to come away with a feeling of pride in a job well done. My relationship with Heru-Wer feeds into both of those feelings and I feel as if I am consistently trying to outdo myself each year I celebrate the Reunion.
But this year is a little different with everything else changing within my personal practice. This year is less about how fulfilled I feel at the end of it all or how pleased the gods are with my endeavors. While both are important, this year is about an established set of rules to follow from here until eternity, a unification of the local cultus push and the religious practice I need to incorporate more readily into it. So, to meet all of these expectations I’ve set for myself, I actually began planning everything about 6 weeks out.
A month ago, I began taking stock in my yard and what plants the previous owners had tried to grow here. Growth at the front of the house is a little more sustainable; fewer chipmunks up there and more sunlight. Growth at the back of the house is possible though more difficult as that’s where the chipmunks and rabbits live. The backyard gives off to a small forested area and a bog to the side of the house, so sunlight is harder to come by and the backyard is wetter than the front. The plants in the back have come up as best they could (attempts at tulips, iris, and hosta) but they’ve stagnated and no buds appeared.
My mother-in-law is a plant guru who speaks the language of plants. (We’re ignoring the patch of 2×3 in her backyard that refuses to grow grass no matter what.) To me, this is a mysterious magic as I’ve managed to kill all the plants people claim you can’t kill. With her help, and her greenhouse, she picked me up a fair mix of plants and vegetables so I can start the eventual garden in my yard. I have them on my kitchen table, have read the tags so I know what they are, and this weekend I intend on getting them into dirt and soil. Hopefully, I don’t kill them all on their way in because that would definitely put a damper on the fertility aspect of this holiday.
Plants have never really been my jam, though not for lack of trying. But since Osiris has pushed for plants and planting, it only seems right that I’d develop a similar association with the Festival of the Beautiful Reunion.
The rest of my preparations began this past week with my habit of compulsive list making – a tribute or curse from my mother’s side of the family. The lists start out small: dates, associations or work to be done on those dates. But they eventually grow out and get bigger and bigger until I have pages of hodgepodge notes in my crib notes notebook relative to the who, the what, the when, and the how.
And my final preparation this week is to start on the ritual writing. I hate writing them almost as much as I hate performing them. But something this year requires that touch more. Maybe it’s the unspoken belief that this year will establish further things down the road – an anchor of sorts – or perhaps it’s the overall change in my religious practice making itself felt here for the first time after 5 years of ritual-less Reunion celebrations.
No matter the reason for rituals this year, I have begun the work in earnest. This had proven difficult, far more than the list of things to purchase for the holiday or the list of plants or notes or offerings, because I am a bit of a perfectionist. (Surprising, no?) I want these rituals to be great from the get-go, something to inspire not just me but others too. It’s slow going and I need to dedicate more time to the efforts to ensure I meet my timeframe.
Barbara Watterson has a very limited chapter on the Festival of the Beautiful Reunion in her book, The House of Horus at Edfu. I remember being distinctly unhappy with the book in total (it didn’t give me as much detail on Edfu and Heru-Wer as I was hoping for), but I thought it odd that she didn’t dedicate more than a handful of pages to such an important festival. Maybe it was simply because the Ptolemaic inscriptions didn’t provide as much detail, or she wasn’t as interested in getting down what was found on the Beautiful Reunion. Whatever the case, the interesting part in her chapter on the holiday is that she ascribes it less as a celebration of fertility and sacred marriage, and more an homage to the ancient ancestors of Edfu.
The ancestors total nine in number and all were giants who died and were mummified in Edfu. My research for this holiday did show a day where Hathor and Heru-Wer were taken to the Necropolis of Edfu to pay homage to the ancestors, though not for longer than the one day. Watterson indicates that the Reunion festival was merged in a way with the Festival of Behdet (where the ancestors were libated and given offerings) as well as the Harvest Festival. According to her book, the sacred marriage aspect totaled two days of celebrations, followed by a handful related to the ancestors, and finally Harvest rites before Hathor heads back to Dendera two weeks later.
Jackson’s blurb on the Reunion, while also not as long as I could hope, lines up a little more with my personal calendar of events than Watterson’s version. The discussion in Suida’s Daybook correlates more closely with Watterson.
So, which one is the right one?
Since I compiled my calendar and holidays prior to having the access I do now to those books, I had to finagle things based on the materials I had access to at the time as well as what felt right to me. The below list for this year’s Reunion are what I have used throughout the years and will continue to use going forward:
- Preparations to Depart Dendera (June 16th)
- Travel and Arrival at Isrw/Renewal of the Earth (June 17th)
- Travel and Arrival at Per Mer/ Renewal of the Earth (June 18th)
- Travel and Arrival at Hierakonpolis/ Renewal of the Earth (?) (June 19th)
- Travel and Arrival at Wetjeset-Hor (June 20th)
- Celebrations for Safe Arrival (June 21st)
- They Have Arrived in the Presence of Ra (June 22nd)
- They Give Offerings in the Necropolis (June 23rd)
- Marriage/ Harvest Celebrations (June 24th – July 5th)
I included the dates for my holiday timeline in case anyone doesn’t want to figure that out and wants to join in.
Can anyone else hear the ticking of a clock?
I almost always do, no matter what’s happening, as if my internal, anxiety-ridden clock must always be heard. It’s louder than usual as if to say that my time is getting infinitely shorter. It’s nerve-wracking, as it always is, but at least the clock is ticking for something other than an imaginary timeline.
Aside from two or three items that I still need to try and get my hands on, the feast ingredients for each day, the only thing truly left to me is ritual writing. A less-than-favored pastime made doubly unwelcome because everything I write looks or sounds terrible. But perhaps I can overcome that as I continue to hear the clock ticking…