The Opet Festival in ancient Egypt was one of the most important yearly festivals in the Theban area. It takes place in the second month of Akhet, around mid-September on the Gregorian calendar. The word opet refers to the hidden, innermost chamber of a temple. During this festival the sacred icon of the creator-God Amun was taken from its temple chamber in Karnak, and processed in a ram-headed barque (ceremonial boat) through the streets to Luxor. The Barque of Amun (called Amun-User-Hat, meaning "Amun, Mighty of Prow") was accompanied by a colorful retinue of priests, soldiers, dancers, singers, musicians and acrobats. It is also one of the longest festivals of the Kemetic year, lasting 11 days. During the reign of Ramesses III it was extended to 27 days.
Also called The Beautiful Feast of Opet, this was a celebration of the Inundation when the rich, black soil carried by the floodwaters of the Nile would cover the fields, thereby ensuring a bountiful harvest. But it was also the birthday of the Kingly Ka during which time the powers of Amun were tranferred through special rites into the reigning pharaoh, who was thus renewed and re-established in the right of rule. After the rites, the pharaoh would come out to the people to distribute gifts, awards and food. Many days of drinking, feasting and celebration followed.
Many followers of Kemetic Orthodoxy continue to celebrate the Opet Festival by setting up a special altar to Amun upon which to present daily offerings during the length of the festival. Such offerings include beef, precious metals and strong perfumes. Cool water is also appropriate.
Some aspects of this ancient festival still survive in modern-day Egypt, although under a slightly different guise honoring a 12th-century Muslim saint, Abu el-Haggag. A cloth from his grave is draped on a specially painted and decorated boat, which is then placed on a cart drawn by camels. The cart and its "barque" is processed through the streets of Luxor accompanied by a military escort, local clerics, and the descendants of the el-Haggag family.
Many thanks to Imakhu Neferuhethert of the House of Netjer, whose extensive research into the festivals of ancient Egypt is used as reference here. Visit her beautiful Domain of Hethert (Hathor) to learn more about these ancient festivals, and other aspects of Kemetic life and worship.