Festivals of Ancient Egypt

The Establishment of the Celestial Cow

The Return of the Wandering Goddess

The Feast of Thanksgivings and Establishment of the Celestial Cow take place in late December. It has its origins in the Pacification of Sekhmet, the following account which is taken from this site:

Sekhmet was created out of Het-hert (Gr.: Hathor) by Ra and sent out as His avenging Eye to punish a rebellious faction of humanity that was mocking Him. She was to only diminish the number of these insurgents, but became overzealous in Her task upon discovering that She greatly enjoyed the taste of human blood! Fearing that all humanity would be wiped out, Ra devised a plan with Djehuty (Gr.: Thoth) to calm Her down. He ordered a large vat of beer stained red with a mineral pigment called ochre (ground hematite in some accounts) to be poured out on the ground near where Sekhmet was carrying on Her devastation. Seeing the red beer and mistaking it for blood, Sekhmet eagerly consumed it. She became quite drunk, of course, and Her rampage against humanity came to an end.

Now, when Sekhmet came back to Her senses as Het-hert (AKA The Celestial Cow*), She was angry and mortified at being tricked in such a way. She resumed Her lioness form as Tefnut, and went off into the desert in a self-imposed exile to protest the conspiracy of the Netjeru (gods and goddesses) against Her. And since Het-hert is a Goddess of Love and Abundance the rest of the world became a rather bleak place, devoid of beauty, fertility and prosperity in Her absence. Seeing this effect, the Netjeru wanted Het-hert back among Them again in a pleased state. Once more Djehuty was consulted and He decided to go after Het-hert Himself, along with Shu in His aspect of An-hur, the Victorious Hunter. With sweet words and promises They persuaded the Wandering Goddess to come back to the realm of the Netjeru, which also restored the human world.

Het-hert is one of the solar deities bearing the title Eye of Ra as His daughter (including Aset/Isis and Sekhmet), and so the beginning of Her return marks the longer and warmer days following the Winter Solstice as the sun changes its course. It is also the beginning of the separation of the seen and unseen worlds that were brought together at the Mysteries of Wesir (Gr. Osiris) in November.

On the feast of the Establishment of the Celestial Cow it was customary in ancient times to offer and consume honey, so nowadays we may also eat honey or make warm drinks with it to offer to the Lady of Heaven. And since many office Christmas parties are around this time, these are a good way to celebrate as well! Many of our Shemsu affectionately call this holiday "Moomas," a semantic combination of the Celestial Cow aspect with Christmas.

For the Return of the Wandering Goddess it is appropriate to make a shrine to Hethert in Her form of Tefnut, the Lioness. Offer Her the things that She likes: play music for Her, dance, offer wine and food, and leave lights burning (safely) to light the way for Her return. Gaze at the stars and imagine the Milky Way as the body of Nut through which Ra is born every morning.

Some like to celebrate the season by setting up an Osiris Tree at the end of the Mysteries of Wesir in late November and leave it up throughout December for the holidays.

A table-top festival altar to Sekhmet/Tefnut and Hethert
established by Shemsu in New Mexico at a Middle Eastern
restaurant on December 21, 2006.

*Why is Het-hert portrayed as a cow? Granted, the concept of a cow in today's society is not an positive one. Cows are seen as rather stupid livestock animals, and calling a woman a cow is considered to be an insult. This was not how the ancient Egyptians saw cows; instead, cows were symbols of prosperity in that they gave the populace food, milk, clothing and shelter (from their skins/leather). And so Het-hert was portrayed at times as a cow (or as a woman with cow features) because in Her aspect as a Mother-Goddess She was considered to be the source of all of these good things. In fact, in many parts of Africa today prosperity is still determined by how many cows a person owns.

Welcome | Who is Senyt-menu? | Hymns & Prayers | Festivals| Ancestor Veneration | Related Links