Ancient Egyptian Calendar


            The Egyptian calendar is unique in both cosmology and religion. In our time this calendar is very much associated with the Coptic calendar, which is used by many people in present day Egypt.

The mention of Egypt brings to mind the great pyramids and the Sphinx. Very recent discoveries are making many scientists and historians take a closer look at the prevailing cultural assumptions of the ancient Egyptians. Unfortunately, in the early days of Christianity and Islam, a lot of historical records in form of papyrus scrolls and temples were destroyed. Forgotten knowledge is embedded in Coptic rituals, but a closer can reveal how the ancient Egyptians thought of time and its purpose.

Egyptian time corresponded to the cycles of the Nile, and were known as Inundation (pronounced akhet, which lasted from June 21st to October 21st), Emergence (pronounced proyet, which lasted from October 21st to February 21st), and Summer (pronounced shomu which lasted from February 21st to June 21st). Although this might sound simple, astronomy played a major role. They understood precession and developed their own zodiac system, which ironically was named after their gods since their spiritual beliefs were plural.

The ancient Egyptians divided the day-time into twelve hours, numbered one to twelve, and the night-time into another twelve, numbered thirteen to twenty four. The hours were not all the same length: in the summer the hours of the day were longer than the hours of the night, and it was the other way around in the winter.

Interestingly enough the Egyptian calendar, which uses base 6, was more accurate than the Gregorian calendar, which uses base 10 (decimals). The ancient and pre-ancient Egyptians knew that a solar year was slightly over 365.25 days. Actually, it takes Earth 365.25636 days to complete one revolution around the Sun. The difference between 365.25 and 365.25636 days, over a span of 3,200 years, is 20 days. Spiritual events were carefully scheduled to account for the discrepancies.

A year was referred as a Sothic year, and it was based on the Sirius star system, which is the symbol of Isis. Below are examples of Egyptian time measurements.

1 hour = 60 minutes (6x10)
1 day = 24 hours (6x4)
1 month = 30 days (6x5)
1 year = 12 months (6x2) plus 5.25 days
Sothic year (based on Sirius) = 365.25 days
1460 Sothic years = 1461 solar years
In 1322 B.C. the Sothic year was fixed

The Egyptian zodiac represented the qualities of the gods who influenced the culture. Here's a brief look:

Thoth (Tehuty, Djehuty)
(August 29 - September 27)
God of learning. Those born under this sign are typically accurate and capable problem-solvers and excellent organizers as well.
(February 25 - March 26)
Goddess of discipline. Those born under this sign are honorable, straightforward and idealistic. They use logic and intuition and view things from different perspectives. 
(September 28 - October 27)
God of the shining sun. Those born under this sign would risk their lives to avenge their father's death. They courageously face dangers and seldom forestall catastrophes.
(March 27 - April 25)
God of the underworld. Those born under this sign are emotionally perplexing and often misunderstood.
Wadget (Wadjyt, Wadjit, Uto, Uatchet, Edjo)
(October 28 - November 26)
Goddess of the royal cobra; the symbol of knowledge. Those born under this sign are rational, cautious, conscientious, altruistic, ambitious and self-opinionated.
Amun (Amen)
(April 26 - May 25)
God who constructed the world. Those born under this sign are strong, firm and always sought for guidance.
(November 27 - December 26)
Goddess of war and rivalry. Those born under this sign possess a brilliant mentality and sustained optimism and imagination.
Hathor (Hathur)
(May 26 - June 24)
Goddess of Earth and Sky. She is emotional, expressive and strongly linked with love. Those born under this sign enjoy life to the fullest. They are experts at winning the best in most situations.
(December 27 - January 25)
Sphinx is the treasure guardian who could convert himself into the shape of any creature. Those born under this sign can change their attitudes to fit nearly all situations.
(June 25 - July 24)
The bird of life and resurrection. Those born under this sign can create possibilities from scratch.
Shu (Su)
(January 26 - February 24)
God of sunlight and wind. Those born under Shu are incredibly creative. Whenever their talents are proved, their success becomes inevitable. Nevertheless, they are always apprehensive of possible failure.
(July 25 - August 28)
The guardian of the underworld. It is the most determined of all signs. Those born under this sign are self-confident and their ability to keep things under control make them widely respectable.

From what we know, there are many similarities between the Egyptian and Coptic calendars. Below is a table comparison.

Egyptian dates
Egyptian name
Coptic (Sahidic)
Modern dates
I Axt DHwty Thout Tut 29th Aug - 27th Sept
II Axt pa-n-ipAt Paope Babah 28th Sept - 27th Oct
III Axt Hwt-Hr Hathur Hatur 28th Oct - 26th Nov
IV Axt kA-Hr-kA Koiahk Kiyahk 27th Nov - 26th Dec
I prt tA-aAbt Tobe Tubah 27th Dec - 25th Jan
II prt (pA-n)mxr Mshir Amshir 26thth Jan - 24th Feb
III prt pA-n-imn-Htp Paremhotep Baramhat 25th Feb - 26th Mar
IV prt (pA-n)-rnnwtt Parmoute Baramudah 27th Mar - 25th Apr
I Smw (pA-n)-xnsw Pashons Bashans 26th Apr - 25th May
II Smw pA-n-int Paone Ba'unah 26th May - 24th Jun
III Smw ipip Epep Abib 25th Jun - 24th Jul
IV Smw mswt-ra Mesore Misra 25th Ju - 23rd Aug
    1-5 the five Epagomenal days  
    (6) in an intercalation a sixth day was added.  

Please NOTE that the above information is just a brief explanation of the Ancient Egyptian calendar. More information can be found at libraries.

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