For thousands of years our ancestors marked the seasons of the year with festivals. The greatest festivals were the twice yearly solstices.
Since earliest times, before even the great pyramids were built, the ancient Egyptians developed a powerful sky religion based on the apparent motions of the sun and stars. As early as the 4th millennium BC a solar calendar was established in Egypt which was calibrated on the conjunction of the heliacal (dawn) rising of the star Sirius and the summer solstice sunrise. This calendar, which can be precisely dated to 3200 BC, was also locked on the annual flooding of the Nile, Egypt's mighty river and on whose waters all life in Egypt depends. This annual miracle, and its curious conjunction with the stellar-solar 'marriage' of Sirius and the summer solstice sunrise, formed the basis upon which all subsequent religious ideas, ceremonies and rituals were developed, and provided the cosmic principles upon which the great pyramid monuments and, later on, the great temples of Egypt, were designed. Perhaps nowhere has Sirius enjoyed a more regal history, than in ancient Egypt, where Sirius was the Star of Queen Isis. Here the star was associated with the great mother goddesses Isis, and her earlier archetype, Hathor. Sirius was the Nile Star. At approximately 2500 BCE, the time the Great Pyramid was constructed, Sirius would rise just before the sun, on the Summer Solstice, (the first day of summer, the longest day of the year, the day when the noon sun stood highest above the horizon). This is known as the "heliacal rising," after the Greek word Helios for Sun). 2500 years later, during Egypts Ptolemaic Period, Sirius would rise before the Sun approximately 2 weeks after the summer solstice. The heliacal rising would presage the annual flood of the Nile, which would bring the life-giving waters to the irrigated fields of the Nile Valley. This is referred to in the divine inscriptions on the walls of the Temple of Isis-Hathor at Denderah in the Nile Valley, where Sirius is called the Divine Sothis. The inscription states: "Her Majesty Isis shines into the temple on New Year's Day, and She mingles her light with that of her father Ra on the horizon." New Year's Day was the Summer Solstice for the Egyptian calender, and Ra was the Sun God. The Temple was oriented to the rising of Sirius, as were several other temples at Karnak, a practice going back to the 18th Dynasty (around 1500 BCE).
Let us focus on the summer solstice. When the north pole is pointing sun ward, people in the northern hemisphere experience the longest day and shortest night of the year. This is their summer solstice. For people in the southern hemisphere, the same day is their winter solstice. Solstice is from the Latin, sol stetit which means "the sun stood still". In late June and late December the sun appears to rise and set at almost exactly the same places. Its rising and setting points appear to stand still.
By the time of the new stone age, six to eight thousand years ago, there were plenty of signs that seasonal festivals were the center of community life. Ancient people used four ways of marking the solstice and equinoxes:
In Egypt the summer solstice was considered the beginning of the new year. It coincided with the flooding season when the soil would be fertilised and water would quench the arid Nile Valley. There are two solstices each year. The winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, occurs when the sun appears farthest south in the sky. The summer solstice, the longest day of the year, occurs when the sun appears farthest in the north. Egyptians were especially interested in the summer solstice because it marked the beginning of the Nile's flood season. Accurately predicting the floods was of such vital importance that the appearance of Sirius, which occurs around the time of the summer solstice, was recognized as the beginning of the Egyptian new year. The first Egyptian calendar had been a lunar calendar, however this was later changed to a solar one with twelve thirty day months. The year began with the heliacal rising of Sirius on or near the Solstice. In order to have the calendar year fit the solar year, five feast days were added to the end of the year. These days celebrated the births of five gods (and goddesses). The first celebrated the birth of Osiris, the second Horus (Heru-ur or Aroueris), the third Set, the fourth, Isis, and the fifth, Nephthys; (E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901). The first, third and fifth feast days were considered unlucky (Osiris was the slain god, Set was the dark god, and Nephthys was the dark goddess). The second and fourth days were lucky, (both Horus and Isis were winged (ascended) god and goddess). By creation of a 365 day year, it was still short by approximately 1/4 day, and so within four years, the calendar was one day behind the Sun. Over many years, the calendar became more and more out of synch. It was determined that it would take 1461 years to complete the solar cycle to account for the loss of about 1/4 day per year and put the calendar back in sync with the Sun, so that New Year's Day would coincide with the heliacal rising of Sirius and the Solstice.
The fundamentals of this Egyptian sky religion remained the same throughout the 3,000 years of Egyptian civilisation and managed to reach our era almost intact; only to spill its ancient ideas into the new emerging Christian myth. And yet, paradoxically, the key to the 'decoding' of Egypt is found in the ever changing alignments of the temples across the epochs to match the majestic drift of the 26,000 years cycle of precession of the stars against the fixed celestial canopy. Many scholars today look at Egypt and see Egypt as a model of the sky, and its system of law and order, Ma'at, was dictated by the pulse-like churning of the machinery of the celestial bodies whose 'heart' was the solar disc. Egypt believed in the famous Hermetic axiom of 'As above, so below' into observable reality. Therefore the story of Egypt is, quite literally, written in the stars.
If you look to Orions belt and follow it towards the horizon, you will see Sirius, the Winter Star. It is the brightest star in the winter sky. Because it is part of the constellation Canis Major, its been called the Dog Star and, in medieval Europe, it was considered to be an ill-omen. Since its heliacal (or near-dawn) rising occurs in midsummer, it was associated with the Dog Days of summer when it was believed that the summer heat and its attendant disease was caused by the mixture of the suns light with the light of Sirius. The ancient Egyptians had a much more positive story to tell about this star. To them, Orion was Osiris, the green god who died and was reborn, and Sirius was Isis, his beloved. Its annual appearance just before sunrise near the summer solstice marked the rise of the Nile River. It was said that when the Nile flooded, Osiris and Isis were making love, and their sexual union fertilized the land. The archaeo-astronomer E.C. Krupp writes: After disappearing from the night sky (for 70 days) Sirius eventually reappears in the dawn, before the sun come up. The first time this occurs each year is called the stars heliacal rising, and on this day Sirius remains visible for only a short time before the sky gets too bright to see it. In ancient Egypt this annual reappearance of Sirius fell close to the summer solstice and coincided with the time of the Nile's inundation. . . Sirius revives the Nile just as Isis revives Osiris. Her time in hiding from Seth is when Sirius is gone (70 days) from the night sky. She (Isis) gives birth to her son Horus, as Sirius gives birth to the new year, and in the texts Horus and the new year are equated. She is the vehicle for renewal of life and order. Shining for a moment, one morning in summer, she stimulates the Nile and starts the year" (E. C. Krupp, Echoes of the Ancient Skies, Harper & Row 1983, pg. 142).
One last note. Lastly the fact that we know now that Sirius is a double star presents an equally baffling mystery. As stated above, it was not discovered until 1862 that Sirius had a companion star. The discovery was made by one Alvin G. Clark, the famed maker of world renouned refracting telescopes, using a refractor with a 18 and 1/2 inch diameter objective lens at Dearborn Observatory, operated by Northwestern University of Evanston, Illinois. His observation confirmed predictions made some 10 years earlier by C.H.F. Peters that were based on earlier observations of irregularities of the star's motion by the famous mathematician F.W. Bessel in the 1830's. In short, some of the best minds and equipment of the 19th century were utilized in making the discovery of the double star nature of Sirius. The mystery in all of this however, rests in the possibility that Sirius was may have been known to be a double star several thousand years earlier. A primative tribe known as the Dogon, who currently reside in the North African province of Mali, south of the Sahara, and west of Egypt, have long made a practice of worshiping Sirius. And the Dogon have long claimed that Sirius had an unseen companion. This is part of their oral tradition, and they have made paintings showing Sirius as a double star. They have also asserted that double Sirius has an orbital period of 50 earth years! They also claim that they learned of this when they resided in the land of ancient Egypt (or perhaps Nubia or Kush) several thousand years earlier.
Answer for yourself: If this is true, how did they know, or how did the ancient Egyptians know that Sirius had a companion? You would have to ask the Elohim...who once walked the earth...and that opens a can of worms with no end.
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