Dendera Festivals

Dendera festivals are two of many ceremonies and festivals the ancients celebrated in the temples. On the southern walls of the temple of Ramses second is inscribed the names of more than 60 festival days between the lunar festivals and Egyptian civil year.

In general there were two types of ceremonies in the past

  • Daily ceremonies took place every day inside the temples
  • yearly feasts were celebrated once a year

The feasts normally including the purification of the gods statue, changing the clothes of the god and clothing him with linen, perfuming the statue, burning incense trees in front of the statue and adorning the statue with regalia.

The purpose of the feasts was focused on fertility, birth and continued renewal of life.

One of the most beautiful feasts in the past was the feast of the beautiful reunion between Hathor and Horus of Edfu which took place during Shomu, the Harvest season.

The Feast of the beautiful Reunion

When we talk about Dendera temple we have to remember very important two feasts took place in the temple in ancient times.

  • The first one called the beautiful feast of the reunion
  • The second one called the New Year’s Day.

We will start by the first feast of the good union between the husband (god Horus) of Edfu and the wife (Goddess Hathor) of Dendera.

Our information about the feast came from some rooms in the Dendera and Edfu temples. So now we will abbreviate how they celebrated the feat? And when it was taking place? And who share in that feast? And why they celebrated the feast?

The festival took place in the third month of Shemu, which would be late May or early June on our calendar. Hathor of Dendera will go upriver to Edfu to visit her husband in his place, spending together some times then back to her temple but how it started from the first beginning

It is known for us In ancient Egypt, every day in every ancient temple, specially designated persons performed a ritual focused on making offerings of food, drink, clothing and ointment, to a divine being.

Those designated persons were The King-High Priest, Second Prophet of the God (Censor), Third Prophet of the God, 2 Priests and 2 Priestesses of Upper and Lower Egypt, 2 Gods, 4 (or more) Wab Priests, Assembled Priests

These daily rituals are ritual cycles that were performed twice or three times daily. In ancient Egyptian temples to provide for the basic physical needs of deities and ancestors.

Dendera Festivals Description

The day feast started like any normal day with the purification of the priests in the sacred lake then they prepare or chant some formula before they reach the sanctuary like the formula for lighting the fire, taking the censer, placing the offering-cup on the censer, placing the incense on the flame, proceeding to the sacred place which is room has no windows, no doors except one door in one side.

The door of the shrine was made out of wood with two leaves and inside that room was the pedestal made out of stone (alabaster or granite or limestone) on that pedestal was the Naos, like box made out of wood covered with gold in most of the cases and it has wooden door also out of two leaves. Inside that Naos, was the statue of the deity of the temple.

Then the sealed shrine is then opened, by breaking the seal and untying the cord around the door-knobs, the person conducting the ritual (King or high priest) bows in front of the image of the deity with two main gestures: kissing the ground and raising his arms while singing hymns then offerings of incense and scented oil are made.

Later on the image is robed, with offering of four lengths of cloth, each with a different name, the image is offered scented oil and green (copper) and black (lead) eye paint, the person conducting the ritual with the help of  other priests carry the figure of  Hathor on her sacred boat going around the temple to  show her everything in the temple before they will take the statue back to the shrine then the high priest withdraws from the shrine, sweeping away his footprints, and offering Natrun, incense and water.

But in the Dendera festivals day, they start normal day and they make all the previous steps then the boat bearing the sacred statue of Hathor would be taken from its sanctuary at Dendera, placed on the Nile vessel and borne upstream in a splendid procession.

Meanwhile that of Horus would set off downstream, also amidst great fanfare. Where the boats met, they would be encircled by a rope cast by other vessels in a gesture of unity. Then, together, the river crafts would make their way to the appropriate temple to celebrate the reunion of husband and wife amidst joy, song and prayer.

The feast may have taken as long as two weeks this was in essence a “conjugal visit” between Hathor and Horus of Behdet, and a renewal of their sacred marriage. Following her visit to Horus at Edfu, Hathor’s statue and retinue would return to Dendera for another celebration to mark the birth of Horus and Hathor’s divine child.

New Year’s Day

The second great Dendera festivals  took place on the ancient New Year’s Day, when the image of Hathor, which was believed gradually to have lost efficacy in the darkened sanctuary in the course of the year, would be taken to the top of the temple to be reimbued with power from the rising sun.

This festival is depicted in the antechamber of the temple, where there are passages on both sides leading to staircases that ascend to the temple roof. The chapel where they keep the goddess facing east to receive the first rays of the rising sun on her face is very similar to the kiosk of Trajan in Philae temple and will be facing the one who will take the staircase up to the second floor.