The Ancient Egyptian Festival of Drunkenness and Its Bloody Beer

The ancient Egyptians were known for their love of beer, which they considered a gift from the gods. But once a year, they celebrated a special festival that involved drinking a blood-red beer to appease a fearsome goddess and save humanity from her wrath.

The festival was based on a myth that dates back to the New Kingdom of Egypt (c. 1570-1069 BCE), which is recorded in the Book of the Heavenly Cow. According to the myth, the sun god Ra became angry with the people for their wickedness and rebellion, and decided to send his daughter Hathor to destroy them. Hathor, who was also the goddess of love, beauty, and joy, transformed into a lioness named Sekhmet, and began to slaughter the people indiscriminately.

Ra soon regretted his decision, as he saw the bloodshed and carnage caused by Sekhmet. He wanted to stop her, but she was too powerful and bloodthirsty to listen to him. Ra then came up with a clever plan: he ordered his servants to brew a large amount of beer and dye it red with ochre or hematite, a reddish mineral. He then flooded the fields of Egypt with the red beer, making it look like blood.

Sekhmet, who had a thirst for blood, saw the beer and thought it was the blood of her victims. She drank the beer until she became drunk and fell asleep. When she woke up, she had forgotten her mission of destruction and returned to her gentle form of Hathor. Ra and the people were relieved and rejoiced, and from then on, they celebrated the festival of drunkenness to commemorate their salvation.

The Rituals of the Festival

The festival of drunkenness was held on the 20th day of the first month of the Egyptian calendar, which corresponded to mid-August in the Gregorian calendar. The festival was celebrated in temples dedicated to Hathor or other forms of the Eye of Ra, the female aspect of the sun god. The festival was also associated with the rising of the star Sirius, which marked the beginning of the annual Nile flood and the renewal of the land.

The festival involved drinking large quantities of beer, dancing, singing, playing music, and making offerings to Hathor. The beer was specially brewed for the occasion, using a type of grain called emmer, which was malted and mixed with water and yeast. The beer was then fermented in large ceramic jars, and colored red with natural or artificial substances.

The beer was poured into shallow tubs or basins, and the participants would dip their cups or jugs into the beer and drink it. The beer was potent and intoxicating, and the participants would soon enter a state of ecstasy and euphoria. They would also experience visions of the goddess, who would reveal her secrets and blessings to them. The festival was a way of connecting with the divine, and also of expressing gratitude and joy for the gift of life.

The Significance of the Festival

The festival of drunkenness was not only a fun and festive occasion, but also a profound and symbolic one. It represented the cycle of life and death, order and chaos, creation and destruction, that governed the ancient Egyptian worldview. By drinking the red beer, the participants were reenacting the myth of the destruction of mankind, and also reaffirming their loyalty and devotion to Ra and Hathor.

The festival also reflected the dual nature of Hathor, who was both a benevolent and a malevolent goddess. She was the embodiment of love, beauty, joy, music, and fertility, but also of wrath, violence, war, and death. She was the mother who nurtured and protected her children, but also the avenger who punished and destroyed her enemies. She was the source of life, but also the bringer of death.

The festival of drunkenness was a way of honoring and appeasing both aspects of Hathor, and of balancing the forces of good and evil in the world. By drinking the beer, the participants were symbolically offering their blood to the goddess, and satisfying her thirst for vengeance. By getting drunk, they were also surrendering their rationality and morality, and embracing their primal and animalistic impulses. By doing so, they were hoping to placate the goddess and prevent her from unleashing her fury again.

The festival of drunkenness was a unique and fascinating tradition of ancient Egypt, that showed the complex and rich culture and religion of the people. It was a celebration of life, death, and everything in between, that involved drinking a blood-red beer that was both a curse and a blessing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *