Ancient Egyptian Astronomy – Mapping the Gods
If you’re anything like me, ancient Egyptian astronomy (or astronomy in general) will be a fascinating journey into a deeply ingrained human longing. For me, nothing is as alluring and enchanting as the beckoning of the stars in the sky and what they represent.
The moon, full or crescent, has been the subject of poetry for millennia. The sun has been an object of worship for even longer.
In Egypt, when something is exceptionally beautiful we liken its beauty to the moon. This mostly applies to women, but it can be about men, nature and inanimate objects too.
The saying would go something like: helwa zay el ammar, which literally translates to “beautiful like the moon” for a female.
But even more so, we find that the stars have an even deeper effect on our psyche. Have you ever been outside of the city on a moonless and starry night, looked up and started to contemplate life?
Really, I find nothing brings out the spiritual side of human beings than the distant calling of the stars!
It was no different in ancient Egypt, although the beginning of astronomy is actually thousands of years earlier than that. It is actually considered the oldest of the nature sciences…
…Even earlier than 10,000 years BCE, cave art of the different phases of the moon has been discovered carved on bones and walls. The astronomy of Mesopotamia is the foundation of modern western astronomy today.
In ancient Egypt, astronomy came out of a need to understand the flooding of the Nile and the cycle of the seasons which the people depended on for their survival. This is how the ancient Egyptian calendar was born.
In pre-historic Egypt, there seemed to also have been attempts at producing a calendar system and astronomical studies in order to understand the environment for the sake of survival.
The Nabta Playa, for example, has a stone calendar circle that is considered one of the earliest archeoastronomical devices.
Archeoastronomy is the study of how ancient people viewed and made sense of the sky. Unlike modern astronomy, which is science-based, ancient astronomy had more emphasis on spiritual and religious interpretations for the observations.
Still, this doesn’t mean that all of the ancient astronomical observations were totally off the mark…
Many ancient cultures studied the stars and cosmic phenomena so brilliantly that they were able to produce magnificent works with such high precision star-alignments that we are still baffled by them till now.
For example, the Pyramids of Giza are like a compass, their sides facing the cardinal points of a real compass. There also a few other theories about the alignment of the pyramids with specific stars. But I’ll cover this in more detail in another post.
Uses of Ancient Egyptian Astronomy
Egyptian astronomy predicted the rising of certain stars that signalled the inundation of the Nile. The ancient Egyptians relied heavily on the Nile’s flood water to irrigate the land and produce the fertile black silt that made agriculture so abundant in ancient times.
The heliacal rising of the dog-star Sirius (Sopdet in ancient Egyptian, which was associated with the goddess Isis) signalled the coming of the Nile’s inundation and some theories suggest that it is also what marked the beginning of the ancient Egyptian calendar year.
And yet another use of Egyptian astronomy was producing what we call Star Clocks, which fix the hours based on measuring the position and movement of certain stars. Again, this is a big topic that we’ll get into later.
Ancient Egyptian celestial diagrams not only fixed the hours, but could also show constellations, seasons, lunar cycles, planets, and the deities that go along with them.
One of the most significant of these celestial diagrams comes from the ceiling of the tomb of Senemut.
And of course, what goes hand in hand with astronomy? Astrology! The ancient Egyptians, as we know, connected everything to their gods and myths – especially prophecies and symbolism.
Ancient Egyptian astrology is the root of astrology today as they were the first people who judged a person’s character according to his/her date of birth. And until now the astrological signs that they mapped out are still in use with some changes here and there.
Not just that, but more modern occult traditions are greatly influenced by ancient Egyptian mythology and astronomy, especially Tarot cards.
In fact, until now we use some ancient Egyptian astronomy, science and math in our own. It’s really interesting to trace back the roots of these ancient structures, so enjoy
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