By Request: Sixth-Day Festival (snwt)

I mentioned the sixth-day festival in passing recently, and a friend asked me to write about that. And that seemed like a worthwhile thing to write about, especially since I did a bunch of research for it when writing the relevant section of the guide, so I figured I could do that for her, no problem.

This is an akhu festival, held on the sixth day of the lunar month. The Egyptian lunar month counts from the new moon (to a reasonably sane first approximation from ancient practice), so the sixth day festival will typically fall two days before first quarter. In Egyptian, the festival is called “snwt”, which means “sixth”, so Does Exactly What It Says On The Tin.

We see references to the sixth-day festival in the Pyramid Texts. (Utterance 408 names festal meals of the sixth and seventh days along with the Wag-Festival; 458 mentions the new moon, the monthly, the half-monthly, and the sixth-day; 493 has the speaker say that “at the sixth-day festival in Kheraha I eat of the pregnant cow like those who are on On”.) These references continue and elaborate until, in Spell 136A of the Book of Going Forth by Day, there is an extensive description of the spell’s recipient enjoying the festival in the boat of the gods.

It seems to me that this is a night festival, as there are mentions of the starry sky which is in Heliopolis in the first line thereof. (It also mentions Kheraha, which a little side research suggests to me may have been considered a prime site for the Contendings; regardless, two types of holy ground are invoked in affiliation with this festival in several texts: the settled reign as established in the first time at Heliopolis, and the Conflict and presumably its resolution sited at Kheraha.)

The ascended spirit for whom this spell is being worked is declared to be taking control of the divine boat, specifically the one associated with Wesir, with the lotus flowers on either end, whose name has fallen clean out of my head right now. This boat ascends to the sky, also named as Nut herself, with the ascended spirit, Ra, and a crew of apes; Geb and Nut rejoice; Wennefer is praised and his name exalted.

This praise is:

You are abundance, the greatest of the gods, widespread of sweet savour among all those who are not ignorant of you. Your warshout is harsh, O swiftest of the Ennead, you being stronger, more besouled and more effective than the gods of Upper and Lower Egypt and their powers. May you grant that N be great and mighty in the sky just as you are greatest of the gods; may you save him from anything that those who hunt with yonder Adversary may do against him. May his heart be valiant, may you make N mightier than all the gods, the spirits and the dead.

The remainder of the spell goes on to describe the effectiveness of this prayer to Wesir in establishing potency, granting peaceful passage onto Ra’s bark for its new glorified navigator, providing that the so-named can ‘drive off the aggressor against Ra’ and ‘come like Heru into the holy place of the horizon’. The named is identified with the god within the holy of holies of the temple, whose face is hidden, and he is granted the office of prime messenger delivering the words of the other gods to Ra.

The rubric for the spell is as follows:

To be recited over an image of this spirit placed in this bark, you being cleansed, purified, and censed in the presence of Ra, with bread, beer, roast meat and ducks; it means that he will be conveyed in the Bark of Ra. As for any spirit for whom this is done, he will be among the living, and he will never perish. He will be a holy god, and nothing evil shall ever harm him; he will be a potent spirit in the West, and he will not die again. He will eat and drink in the presence of Osiris every day, he will be admitted with the kings of Upper Egypt and the kings of Lower Egypt every day, he will drink water from the stream, he will go out into the day like Horus, he will live and be like a god, and he will be worshipped by the living like Ra every day. A matter a million times true.

So, for the snwt-festival: come before the ancestor shrine having done ritual cleansing and supplied with incense. (I tend to use a frankincense-and-myrrh mixed incense for ancestor workings. There was a logic and reasoning behind this at one point which I have of course at this point entirely forgotten.) The appropriate offerings are pretty obvious: bread, beer, meat, duck. This is a time for the model boat to come out as a conveyance for the ancestors (my incense burner is actually shaped like a bark, so the ancestors are always emboatened).

It seems to me that the critical portion of the spell is the prayer I quoted; the rest is description of the scene involving the boat and recitation of the spell’s effectiveness. A recitation of the entire spell would not be inappropriate, of course, but the critical part is the invocation of Wesir and the petitioning of his strength and protection for the ascended spirits of the ancestors.

So that’s what I’ve got for ya, I’m sure you can work with that.

Relevant references: The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts and The Egyptian Book of the Dead, both translated by Faulkner; Royal Annals Of Ancient Egypt, Wilkinson.


5 thoughts on “By Request: Sixth-Day Festival (snwt)

  1. veggiewolf says:

    I’ve been looking for something more solid that I could do for my akhu. Thank you for this.

  2. feathersandcards says:

    Great post! But I have a question: Does the first day of the lunar month start on the new moon? And if so, wouldn’t this festival be two days before the second quarter? Getting my calendars straight is always the bane of my spiritual practice…. :(

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