365 Days, Sister-Wives and Moonlight | Mythology Mondays

On January 1st every year, a whole bunch of countries around the world celebrate the beginning of the new year. And despite all the fancy pyrotechnics, twelve-o'clock kisses and resolutions to 'do more...' there's nothing particularly new about new years. In fact, festivals and celebrations marking the beginning of calendar have been around for thousands of years, with the ever-lasting powers of a Nokia mobile.

While a lot of celebrations summoned in the new year with 'drink a tonne and be merry' most were linked to agricultural or astronomical events. In Egypt for instance, the new year began with the annual flooding of the nile, which coincided with the heliacal rising of the star Sirius (according to Roman writer Censorinus). The Phoenicians and Persians began their new year with the spring equinox, and the Greeks celebrated on the winter solstice. The earliest recording of a new year is thought to have been in Mesopotamia, c. 2000B.C, celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox (mid-march). We've already had the Celtic new year, Samhain on November 1st, a time known as the end of summer, coinciding with Halloween and the killing of stock before winter hit.

In thinking of the new year I always revert to thinking of the calendar, trying to plan out my weeks, develop some kind of routine. Three-hundred and sixty five days of 'what's next,' with the shrug kaomoji ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Outside of that though, I get to thinking about how amazing it is that even in ancient civil Egypt they mapped out all three-hundred and sixty five days of the earths orbital period; twelve months, thirty days, weeks made up of ten days, with five extra days tacked there on the end.

Amen-Re, ruler of Egypt some 3000 years ago, toward the end of his life grew old and weary. Thoth, oldest and wisest of the gods (also the god of writing and knowledge wut-wut!) tried to persuade him to retire from his very important very cool duties to the heavens, but Amen-Re, workaholic that he was, said; ‘Na-ah’ and continued on being mediocre.

Thoth challenged him predicting, without agenda or influence, that Nut (the sky) would give birth to four children, and that the first-born would rule Egypt when Amen-Re kicked the bucket. 

Amen-Re didn’t like that idea much, staying stubborn, he swore Nut would never give birth, not in any day or night of the month (a dickish move; Nut didn’t get any say in all this). So, Thoth’s prediction seemed doomed and it would have been, but he had a plan (God of knowledge has to have a plan).

Khons, son of Amun and Mut, was literally the man in the moon at the time. He lived there, alone, in the moon, where he sat in all his hermitute, doing nothing all day but playing a game called senet (the ancient Egyptian version of backgammon). Thoth, totally with agenda and influence, challenged Khons to a game, but demanded a handful of moonlight if he won. Khons agreed.

They played and Thoth won—a shock to all—and with his moonlight, he created ‘five days that were not days, and five nights that were not nights’. Basically a giant middle finger to Amen-Re.

The five new days and nights were, not a part of any month and so, were then added between the end of one year, and the beginning of the next- bringing the year on up to a frustratingly uneven and needlessly arbitrary 365 days. The moon, weakened by it’s loss, wanes a little bit every month since.

FINALLY, Thoth could fulfil his prophesy (a more proactive Macbeth). And though the details are a little hazy on the first new day Nut gave birth to Osiris (the prophesied king, A Jamie Lannister type) on the second; Isis (like the dog on DOWNTON ABBEY, not the other Isis, also a Cersei Lannister type being Osiris’ sister-wife), third; Set (bit of a dick), fourth; Nephthys (that no one ever remembers) and lastly on the fifth day she rested in order to recover from the wacked out multiple births and give herself some breathing room because her last week or so had been crazy hectic and she deserved the break.