Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ancient Egyptians Knew How to Party

Just in time for Beltane, it turns out that the ancient Egyptians took part in annual rituals involving widespread sex and drinking. While most Egyptian rituals were highly organized affairs revolving around the priesthood, this particular rite was a far more chaotic affair. Archaeologist Betsy Bryan has pieced together some of the details of these ceremonies from evidence uncovered during the excavation of an ancient temple complex.

Since 2001, Bryan has led the excavation of the temple complex of the Egyptian goddess Mut in modern-day Luxor, the site of the city of Thebes in ancient Egypt. And the ritual she has uncovered, which centers on binge drinking, thumping music and orgiastic public sex, probably makes "Jersey Shore" look pretty tame. At least it was thought to serve a greater societal purpose.

Bryan, a specialist in the art, ritual and social hierarchy of Egypt's New Kingdom (roughly 1600 to 1000 BC), has painstakingly pieced together the details of the Festivals of Drunkenness, which took place in homes, at temples and in makeshift desert shrines throughout ancient Egypt at least once and, in some places (including at the Temple of Mut), twice a year.

The sexual aspects of the rite were intended to represent and encourage fertility much like those associated with modern-day Beltane, and were also thought to facilitate the annual rise of the Nile which was vital to agriculture in the region. The drinking was related to the destruction wrought by the lion goddess in Egyptian mythology, and in fact it seems the point of it was to drink until one passed out. Everyone would eventually awake to the beating of drums.

Unsurprisingly, there is substantial evidence that many Egyptians disapproved of these rituals. I suppose that just goes to show killjoys have been with us from the beginning of time.

Technorati Digg This Stumble Stumble

No comments: