The Eye and the Sky

On my calendar for this Friday (2 March this year due to the leap year; ordinarily it would be 3 March), I have marked down “Festival of the Eye”.

This is … a gross simplification.

On my version of the Egyptian civil calendar (I will explain how I derived this calendar in a post some other time), the upcoming month of 4 Peret, also called Pharmuti, begins on that date.

So, what is celebrated on the first of Pharmuti?

In the Cairo Calendar, according to Brier’s Ancient Egyptian Magic, there is a feast in heaven associated with the repulsion of enemies. Meanwhile, in Temple Festival Calendars of Ancient Egypt by Sherif El-Sabban, the festival of Lesser Burning is marked on the calendar of Sesostris II (the Ebers papyrus appears to have this on the sixth, however), Medinet Habu marks a Feast of Sokar, Esna has the Feast of Bearing the Sky (in my notes marked as ‘like Lifting Up the Sky’, a Ptah festival), the small Heru calendar at Edfu has a festival (unnamed), the large Heru calendar at Edfu has the Feast of Ra and the Eye, and the Hetharu calendar at Edfu has a feast of Heru and the Eye.

And if that wasn’t complicated enough for you, on 2 Pharmuti we have (in the Cairo calendar) “Geb proceeds to Busiris to see Anpu”, which I mention for completeness rather than because I can perceive a way it matches, and another unnamed festival on the small Heru calendar. On 3 Pharmuti the Cairo calendar says something about regenerating the eye of Heru-Wr, the Greek period calendar of Kom Ombo’s east side has a Feast of Heru, and the small Heru calendar still parties on. On 4 Pharmuti we have, in Medinet Habu, the charmingly named Feast of Chewing Onions for Bast, and on the Hetharu calendar in Edfu a feast of Pakhet, the Eye, and Heru. However, the small Heru calendar takes a day off partying, only to resume for one more day on the fifth.

And if that wasn’t complicated enough for you…. The months defining the festivals were originally defined by the phases of the moon. While, over time, those festivals drifted to land on the civil calendar instead, some remained lunar. If we line up the lunar festivals that fall in Pharmuti to the civil dates that they share, on 1 Pharmuti we have the Festival of Zep Tepi on the large Heru calendar and the Procession to the Birth-House in the Hetharu calendar in Dendera, and on 2 Pharmuti we have Heru-Sa-Aset’s birthday in the calendar at Esna. The Edfu Hetharu calendar mentions that birthday, but I didn’t find its date clear; it is celebrated until the 21st, which is a long party! The Hetharu calendar at Dendera also has a lunar-linked Feast of Birth-giving.

So. That’s a giant stack of festivalness that I boiled down to “Festival of the Eye”, isn’t it? Perhaps it should be “Festival of Heru and the Eye”, because what isn’t an Eye festival is dealing with Heru, or – to extrapolate very mildly – Ra (Ra-Heruakhety, perhaps?) or the sky itself, which is of course within Heru’s domain.

Now: I had noted when reading My Heart My Mother: Death and Rebirth in Ancient Egypt by Alison Roberts that the months of the year appear to be somewhat thematically linked with events portrayed in the hours of the night. (She makes similar comments in the book, so it’s at least not just me.) Pharmuti is the eighth month of the year.

In the seventh hour of the night, the gestation process of the solar child is completed and its true character is revealed; in the eighth, the attitude turns once more martial, as the defenders of Wesir come forth in force, His enemies are bound, and Wesir is securely enthroned. The guide in this hour of the night is none other than “Heru of the Netherworld”, and its gate is named “The leader who fights for her lord”.

What we have here is an establishment and regeneration of the cosmic order and authority. That festival of Zep Tepi touches upon the primal establishment of ma’at, with the Bearing the Sky reflecting the opening of the potential to exist in a cosmos in which there is space between heaven and earth. Into that ordered universe, the protection of the Eye of Ra appears – that leader who fights for her lord – and under Her aegis, Heru is born, establishing His father properly in the Duat.

So that’s what I got.

So, I guess, go eat some onions.


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