Ancient Egyptians were very social and religious people. They worshiped many gods and goddesses and held these deities in high regard. Many festivals were celebrated in ancient Egypt every year to thank the gods and goddesses for favors granted to them.
These festivals and celebrations were very important to them and were often carefully planned. The festivals were celebrated on specific days on the ancient Egyptian calendars in symbolic locations across the empire. The celebrations were led by religious priests who ensured everything was done in order.
Descriptions of these festivals have been found in various hieroglyphic inscriptions found in ancient papyrus papers. Below are some of the most important festivals celebrated in ancient Egypt.
The Wepent-Repent festival, also known as the new year, is celebrated to mark the beginning of the new year. The date of the celebration was not fixed; it depended on the flooding of the River Nile. Ancient Egyptians understood the importance of the Nile's flooding; they knew the floodings replenished their farmlands with rich nutrients, bringing about new life; they, therefore, marked this flooding with incredible feasts and celebration.
Apart from the opening of the new year, the flooding of the Nile also marked the rebirth of Osiris, the god of the underworld and judge of the dead. The festival lasted for days and is usually attended by every citizen of the ancient Egyptian empire. Osiris's rebirth is celebrated with great dancing and feasting. The religious priest recites the famous call and response poem known as The Lamentations of Isis and Nephthys at the beginning of the festival to invite Osiris to the feast.
The wag festival was usually celebrated immediately after the Wepent-Repent Festival, but the date was later changed to mid-August due to the lunar calendar. It is one of the oldest festivals in ancient Egypt and has been in existence since the unification of upper and lower Egypt. The festival is celebrated to mark the death of Osiris and the journey of the deceased to the underworld.
Ancient Egyptians celebrate the wag festival by making paper boats and floating them on the Nile towards the western direction, which is believed to flow into the afterlife.
Paper shrines are also made and floated on the Nile for the same reason. People also honored the dead by carrying food to their tombs and offering it to them. The celebration was led and performed by the priest belonging to the temple of Osiris, or Anubis.
Thoth was the ancient Egyptian god of writing, wisdom, and knowledge. He is believed to record all the activities during a man's life and even after his death. He also plays a crucial role in the hall of judgment; therefore, his festival falls around the same time the Wag festival is celebrated. Some historians believe the festival took place on the 6th day of August. During the festival, Thoth special prayer is said, after which the religious leader says some blessings over the people.
The Tekh festival generally referred to as the feast of drunkenness, originated in the middle kingdom. The festival is celebrated to mark the time humanity was saved from destruction by beer. According to Egyptian mythology, humanity's wickedness was so much that the sun god Ra could not take it any longer; he then sent the goddess Sekhmet to destroy the earth. Sekhmet took this task with all seriousness; she tore people apart and drank their blood. Ra later pitted the human race and sent Thenet, the goddess of wine, to destroy the human race. Tenet dyed a large quantity of beer and placed it in the path of Sekhmet. Sekhmet mistook the beer for human blood, drank it, fell into a deep sleep, and woke up as the merciful and benevolent Hathor.
The celebration is this remarkable event is usually celebrated in the temple of the goddess Hathor. People drank a large amount of wine, slept, and were later awoken by drums. Participants would lessen their inhibitions and preconceptions through alcohol and experience the goddess intimately upon waking to the sacred drums.
The Sed Festival
The sed festival is celebrated to honor the king and revitalize him. The festival served as a means by which the king connected with the gods and asked for favors from the gods.
Although It was supposed to be celebrated after every thirty years of a king's reign, kings often celebrated earlier if they were distress and needed to ask the gods urgently for help. Prayers made by the king during this festival are believed to be one of the most powerful prayers he can ever make. The festival began with a grand procession held in front of the religious priests, the nobles, and the public. After the procession, the king is tasked with running around an enclosed space to prove he is still physically fit to lead the people. Later, the king is then required to fire arrows to the four cardinal directions as a symbol of his power and ability to conquer foreign nations. The festival is considered a great honor to the king as it reinforces his legitimacy to both the people and the gods.
Min was the Egyptian god of fertility, virility, and reproduction. Although the Min festival started during the old kingdom, it was not until the middle kingdom that it became exceptionally significant and widespread. During the festival, the statue of the god Min is carried by the priest out of the temple in a solemn procession that consists of the priest, sacrad singers, and dancers. The statue is brought to the king, who would ceremoniously cut the first sheaf of grain, symbolizing his connection between the gods, the land, and the people. He would then lead the people in offering the grain to the gods.
The Min festival is celebrated to mark the fertility of the land, honor the king, and pray that his reign continues to be a happy and productive one.