Ancient Egypt / Religion / Cult and Festivals /
Ancient Egyptian: heb-sed
Other name: Sed festival
It is one of the oldest festivals known from Ancient Egypt, and was allegedly first performed by the first king of Egypt, Menes in the 32nd or 31st century BCE. Still, there is no proof for it being performed until Pepi 1 in 2291 BCE.
It is assumed that the festival involved a reenactment of the unification of Egypt, as well as to prove the continued ability of the king to rule, even after his long reign.
The festival is involved elaborate rituals in the temples, processions of priests, offering and public celebration. The central rituals were performed by the king alone. On a special arena, known as a Heb-Sed court, he would first present offerings to lcoals gods of all of Egypt, before being crowned first with the white crown of Upper Egypt, then with the red crown of Lower Egypt.
Then, the king, earing a short kilt with an animal tail would run back and forth on the court 4 times. The ritual would be completed by the king seating himself on two thrones at the court's southern end., before being carried away in a procession in order to call on the chapels of the gods Horus and Seth.
Several kings who never ruled as long as 30 years have had themselves depicted performing it. This may be understood as the anticipation of the festival to come, or even that they performed it before the 30 years. Queen Queen Hatshepsut performed it in her 16th year of reign, though this may have really been a celebration 30 years after the death of her father, Tuthmosis 2.
The festival has its name from a jackal-god Sed, but is linked with Egyptian concept of kingship.
Both at the funerary complex of Saqqara, in a temple at Bubastis and in the temple at Soleb, special arenas erected and walls were decorated for the purpose of the festival. The structure at Saqqara is the oldest surviving one, and has been reconstructed to a fine condition. Along its sides, there are fake chapels contained shrines of local gods. At its southern end, there were two thrones, one for each part of Egypt.
Confused? Try to find a good place to start learning about Ancient Egypt in
Where to begin?