Our modern concept of time - at least of
linear time - is deeply rooted in the traditions of Ancient Egypt. Although the majority
of our ancestors scheduled their lives around a Lunar calendar of 28 days in each of 13
months, the Egyptians adopted the Solar based system of equal months of 30 days each - a
system adopted by the Gregorians and used by most of the world today - and used the Lunar
calendar for the timing of religious days, just as we do today.
Each month was divided into three 10-day
periods and the day into 24 hours, 12 for day and 12 for night. There was no division into
minutes or seconds, but the smallest amount of time was called at and refers
to a moment. Naturally, individual ats were of various lengths
depending on the event referred to.
Together, these years, months, days and
hours added up to a persons lifetime. No doubt you have heard some reference to the
average life expectancy of an Egyptian as being around 23 years. Due to high infant
mortality and childhood deaths, this is an accurate average, but the Egyptian who lived
past these dangerous and delicate years could expect to live to a ripe old age. Ramesses
II died in his 67th year and there is considerable evidence that Pepy II (from the end of
Dynasty 6) lived to be 94.
The ideal span of a life was
considered 110 years, which no one attained yet everyone strove for. The only way to
attain that span of life was to implore the Gods for extra years, and there are hundreds
of examples in the glyphs of Egypt of Pharaohs doing just that. Amun was one who could
grant such favors, as was Osiris, Lord of the Underworld. One prayer to Amun states:
He saves whomever He chooses, even if He is in the underworld... He lengthens
lifetime and subtracts from it, He grants an extension to the one He loves.
The Egyptian who eventually died did not
step out of time but continued on the same timeline on another plane of existence. Souls
live for eternity regardless of their position in life, but the concept of eternity was
slightly different for the Ancient Egyptians. Our past is before us and our future is
behind us according to the Egyptian philosophy. We can see our past but we cannot see the
future. And when Re created eternity he created it behind us. We are all moving backwards
toward the creation and away from the boxed-in past of history. When we get to that point
the sky, no longer supported, will collapse and halt the course of the Sun God.
May you live long, and may Amun grant you the gift of extra years.