Every day was considered to have some magical significance, which caused it to be ‘good, bad, or partly good and partly bad’ and this calendar was compiled for purposes of religious observance. By consulting the lists of lucky and unlucky days, each individual could protect himself and his family against the danger of the day. The Egyptians also had a more liberal attitude to death and the Otherworld, believing that, ‘To speak the name of the dead is to make them live again. It restoreth the breath of life to he who hath vanished’, and consequently there are numerous feast days dedicated to the Ancestors.
That unknown and long-dead scribe who compiled The Cairo Calendar alluded to the ‘mythological entries’ as being ‘collected by Thoth in the great house in the presence of the Lord of the Universe’. ‘They were,’ he added, ‘an introduction to the manifestation feasts of every god and every goddess on their fixed days’. Also, in strict conformity with ‘what has been found in the writings of ancient times’ which, ‘have been deposited in the library in the rear house of the Ennead etc.,’ etc. The texts were principally based upon the beliefs of Memphis and Heliopolis – older traditions so firmly implanted in the minds of the people that they had survived the religious revolution of Dynasty XVIII.
The original calendar entries were arranged, first according to chronological sequence, and second according to the deities and divine objects or sacred place names in the text. They give us (in the words of that ancient scribe), an introduction to ‘the beginning of infinity and the end of eternity which the gods and goddesses of the shrine and the assembly of the Ennead have made and which the Majesty of Thoth has gathered together in the great house in the presence of the Lord of the Universe. Which has been found in the library in the rear-house of the Ennead. House of Re, House of Osiris, House of Horus [i.e. temples or shrines of the gods].’ Professor Bakir adds this footnote to his translation:
“At first sight it seems surprising, in view of the fact that this is originally a Memphite composition, that Ptah does not figure in this basic introductory formula. One is tempted to interpret the roles of Re, Osiris and Horus in the light of the well-known statement where Re is equated with tomorrow, Osiris with yesterday, and where Horus is the successor of Osiris and is so equated virtually with today. The relevance of the triadic concept to the calendar lies in the fact that the fate of people in the present and in the future is related to the experiences of the gods in the past, and the suggestion is that the calendar is applicable to all future ages.” [Editor’s emphasis in bold. MD]
Nevertheless, The Calendar of Ancient Egypt provides an insight into both the religious and everyday aspects of ancient Egyptian life. It also introduces the seeker to genuine religious texts (in the form of prayers or invocations, including prayer times), and offers a general overview of Egyptian belief that makes it possible to see a living, breathing people – not just exhibits in a museum. This new edition of the Calendar has been extended to include mini-biographies of the deities whose feast-days are being celebrated on each particular day, details of ritual offerings, holy places and sacred sites – not to mention the gossip and harem scandals that were recorded on ostraca – fragments of pottery shards - that were scattered the length and breadth of Egypt.
The Calendar of Ancient Egypt, compiled by Melusine Draco is published by Ignotus Press UK. ISBN: 978 1 78876 583 1 is the revised and expanded version of the original Egyptian Book of Days and available direct from