The Coptic Calendar

Of all the survivals from pharaonic Egypt, the calendar is the most striking. Each of the twelve months of the Coptic calendar still carries the name of one of the deities or feasts of ancient Egypt. The year was divided into three seasons of equal length, each comprising four months. Possibly as early as the Ramesside period, each month came to be named after an important festival that was celebrated during that period of time. The twelve months and the origins of their names are as follows:

1 Tut (11/12 September to 9/10 October). The first month of the Coptic year was dedicated to Thoth, god of wisdom and science, inventor of writing.

2 Babah (10/11 October to 9/10 November). In the second month came the celebration of the 'beautiful feast of Opet', whose name Paopi signifies 'that of Opet'.

3 Hatur (10/11 November to 9/10 December). This month commemorated Hathor, a very ancient goddess.

4 Kiyahk (10/11 December to 8/9 January). This month derives its name from a ritual vase that was probably used for measuring incense.

5 Tubah (9/10 January to 7/8 February). The festival of the Great Sacrifice, occurs in this month.

6 Amshir (8/9 February to 9 March). This is the month of the 'large fire' because it is the coldest time of year.

7 Baramhat (10 March to 8 April). This month was originally consecrated to a festival; but after the death of Amenhotep, first king of the eighteenth dynasty, he became the object of a particular cult, which was observed in this month.

8 Baramudah (9 April to 8 May). This month was dedicated to Ermonthis, goddess of the harvest.

9 Bashans (9 May to 7 June). This month took its name from the ancient festival of Khonsou, a lunar god.

10 Ba'unah (8 June to 7 July). The Festival of the Valley was a local Theban festival.

11 Abib (8 July to 6 August). This month was consecrated to Ipy, goddess of fecundity, who assumed the form of a hippopotamus.

12 Misra (7 August to 5 September). In the last month of the year the birth of the sun god Ra was celebrated.

Finally, Nasi, the epagomenal, or intercalary days, called the 'delayed days' or the 'little month', are five extra days that follow the month of Misra (six during a leap year).

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