In the ancient Egyptian language, the word for ‘beautiful’ the ancient Egyptian language, ‘Nfr’ also related to wholeness and perfection. At the temple of the goddess of Het-Hert (Hathor) at Dendera, there exist some inscribed prayers concerning the festival of the Beautiful Reunion, which also took place during Shomu, the season of harvest.
Festival of the Beautiful Reunion has celebrated the reunion of Het-Hert with Heru, Horus of Edfu, with a wedding procession from her worship centre in Dendera almost 200 km south to her consorts cult centre at Edfu.
Journey of Goddess Hathor
In the House of Horus at Edfu, the Dendera preparations for the Beautiful Reunion began two weeks before the New Moon in the third month of Summer. Priests conducted ceremonies and carried Hathor out of her temple to start a two-week journey to Edfu. Installed in her barque by the priests, she would be towed on the Nile River, and thus the reunion begins.
Preparation for the Festival of the Beautiful Reunion
For sure, elaborate preparations would take place before the procession could begin. People made offerings of the first riches of the harvest to mark the start of the festival. The parade took approximately 14 days to travel from Dendera to Edfu and involved ceremonial halts. Het-Hert’s golden barque was named ‘nb mrwt’, meaning ‘Mistress of Love’. It must have provoked awe in the people lining the river bank as the procession stopped at locations including the temple of Asheru at Karnak, where Het-Hert would visit the goddess Mut. Het-Hert’s barque would stop at various ritual sacred sites, including visiting the goddess Anuket at Per-Mer, ( Anuket’s temple on Philae island).
Anuket was a goddess dating back to the old kingdom. Also, Egyptians worshipped Goddess Hathor as Nourisher of the Fields. A further symbolic link to the theme of fertility, aspects of the festival of the Beautiful Valley (an abundant harvest) and the theme of renewal, rebirth and fertility appeared in the Feast of the Beautiful Reunion.
Anuket has a link to the Nile and its fertile waters; one of her many titles was Nourisher of the Fields. She had her festival, which began when the Nile started its annual flood; then, her festival began. Thanks to the life-giving water and the benefits derived from a good harvest, people threw coins, gold, jewellery, and precious gifts into the river.
Khonsu Role in Celebration
While Het-Hert’s procession was nearing Edfu, Heru/Horus of Edfu, joined by Khonsu, set out in his processionary barque to meet his consort. The site is Wetjeset-Hor, just north of the Temple of Edfu. Ancients believed it was the original site of the primaeval mound of creation where a reed was planted, and Netjer settled in it to perform the act of creation. It was significant that Het-Hert’s journey included this location where Horus reunited and impregnated her.
The festival culminates as the barques of Het-Hert and Heru sail to the Temple of Edfu. The awaiting crowds gathered for the festival to witness this event. Priests placed the sacred icons of both gods in the temple’s sanctuary, and fourteen days of rituals and celebrations began. Their reunion symbolised new life, fertility and regeneration. The meeting point at Edfu was the occasion for offerings of the first fruits of the harvest.
Although the rituals at each temple location were secret and sacred, they did not involve the gathered pilgrims or ordinary Egyptian people. The crowds enjoyed refreshments provided by the temples outside the religious grounds during the festival.
Many ancient EgyptianAncient Egyptian Temples festivals have recurrent themes of fertility, renewal, and rebirth. Some festivals had their focused meanings, but renewal or rebirth was a predominant theme in many of them. Also, Egyptians practised some of the same religious performances and rituals during different celebrations.
Het-Hert would sail back to Dendera at the culmination of the Beautiful Reunion Festival. Finally, Hathor would await the child’s birth, conceived at Edfu, Hor-sma tawy or Horus the Uniter. In other words, the ancient Egyptians had to wait for the king’s delivery who would unify the country.