Raising the Willow

While this has not been the best year for organisation, I have a minor ambition to at least improve my observance and awareness of the festival year. Which means that I have been eyeing my calendar with some trepidation, with the coming of Tuesday’s Festival of Raising the Teret Tree.

Because, well, first of all, I had no idea what species a teret tree might be. My best guess was that this was likely related to the ceremonies of the raising of the djed pillar, and thus linked to Wesir in some fashion. (Which I assumed just from the name of the festival; I see when I actually look at my detailed calendar notes that it is explicitly noted as a Wesir celebration.)

I did, through some useful fluke, manage to hit upon a useful search term combination, though, and finally found a tip as to what the teret was: the Egyptian Willow. Somewhere to work with! I pulled down Lise Manniche’s An Ancient Egyptian Herbal, and find “Salix suberrata Willd. syn. Salix safsaf Forrsk. – Willow – Ancient Egyptian: trt”. Score!

From there, it’s off to Symbol and Magic in Egyptian Art by Richard H. Wilkinson:

The willow (tcheret) was also particularly important in iconographic symbolism. This tree was sacred to Osiris because, mythologically, it was a willow which sheltered his body after he was killed, and in which the god’s soul often sat as a bird. Many towns had tombs where a part of the dismembered Osiris was believed to be buried, and all of them had associated willow groves. A festival called “raising the willow” was held each year which assured that the fields and trees of the land would flourish. The tree could thus function in Egyptian art as a symbol of life, fecundity, and rebirth, as well as an emblem of a number of deities.

Well then. Rather like the djed in its maypole-like nature, though a somewhat distinct symbol. The link with Wesir is consistent – funerary garlands were made of willow leaves, for example – but I would suggest that the presentation of it as a tree affiliates the willow more with the life-giving vegetal god than the royal and funerary role associated with the djed. (However, if I were to actually construct a djed column for ritual performance, I think I might well want to build it out of willow!)

A little more exploring the internet brought me to this webpage, which has translations of some things I don’t currently have (or at least don’t know where to find) in my reference books.

Specifically, this text from Dendera:

Erecting the willow. Formula:
I offer you the willow. I erect before you this branch of the temple of the sistrum. One makes you the feast of drunkenness in the place which you love with the very great of your majesty. I have erected for you that which belongs to you at the beginning of the first month of the season of summer, and you enjoyed it.

So there you go, something to work with. However, I will note that that passage suggests that it is for the month of 1 Shomu; my calendar places Raising the Teret on 3 Peret 28, corresponding with the entry for the Feast of Wesir in Abydos in the Cairo Calendar and the Feast of Wesir: Raising the Trt Tree in the Abydos calendar of Ramesses.

(There is also an Erecting the Trt-Tree festival in the Medinet Habu calendar for 1 Akhet 29. I do not find a mention of the Teret in my notes on the Dendera calendars. Resolving the excitement surrounding various calendars is, of course, on the to-do list.)

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One thought on “Raising the Willow

  1. […] and glorified whole culminates in the raising of the djed, which we can riff on by referring to the Raising the Willow festival for ideas, I think, because this is long enough and I am […]

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