The Problem of Time and Place

I’ve been doing another round of calendar-crunching. (Which is, as before noted, not an easy problem.)

One of the reasons for the lack of easiness is that of the scattered and fragmentary calendars and calendar references we have, most are from different times and places from each other, which means that they come from different periods and different localisations of religious development.

Egyptian religion is not like Hinduism, a set of related practices and beliefs viewed from the outside by a colonising power and declared to be one monolithic entity. There was, at most times through antiquity, some level of unifying force in the state cult practices and the conceptualisation of Egypt itself as a nation.

But it is more like Hinduism than I think most people process. Each city had its own preferred gods, with its own stories and its own essential festivals. Some grand enough to attract national-level attention, others less significant, all wound through with the personal tie each location had to its particular powers.

This is not Greece, with its defined city-states each with its own calendar and politics and different things, giving grounds for declaring – as a local Hellenic group did, much to my delight – that the local civic holidays are clearly the holidays of our civic gods and heroes. Those localities, the nomes, were still part of a unified nation.

But yet. But yet.

When I put together the public version of the lepidopterist’s calendar it was using dates which appeared in more than one calendar, trying to work primarily with stuff that seemed persistent over time and perhaps nation. (Though given that there were a number of calendars surviving at Edfu and essentially nothing from the Old Kingdom, that may be a bit of a stretch, wot?) But the more I work with this, the more I feel the need to build the underlying nature of the flow of the year, to find how it works.

It’s actually easier for me to imagine this with the Egyptian calendar than many others, as my own personal rhythms of the year – perhaps in part set by following an academic schedule through childhood – match it pretty well. But the more I delve into this, the more I need to return to what was actually an ancient practice: each month themed with a particular power, focused around a particular festival (usually one which gave the month its name), making the shape of the year a matter of moving through the mythological universe and being aware of its significances.

Of course, the end result of such an interpretative lens is that I create something that is more specifically tuned to a particular “place”, a particular way of being and interacting with the gods. Which means that it will be less generally useful to all people with an interest, but I think that’s inescapable; as soon as a choice-set starts to include accessibility and living within the context of a religion, the more subjective factors start to become much more relevant.

It’s an interesting ponder, and the hope of getting something that flows out the far side will probably get me through the tedious bits until then, heh.

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One thought on “The Problem of Time and Place

  1. […] worldviews and the actual organic evolutions of those worldviews. I’ve written about applying information from scattered times and places without really addressing the fact that the most widely scattered time and place in play is here, […]

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