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Christmas and Egypt

Thousands of years ago, one of the greatest civilizations known to the world rose. The Ancient Egyptians, renown today for their greatest achievement, the pyramids, built their foundation on knowledge, technology and structured organization. Much of what caused their success is still the basis for many of what we know today.

Pyramids

Pyramids of Giza

The Pyramids of Giza

While many theories arose as to how they managed to build the pyramids, modern historians do not think they were built by neither aliens nor slaves. Instead, they believe that these constructions showed the culmination of years of development in the fields of construction, mathematics, economy, astronomy and organized work.

The pyramids are not only still standing approximately 4500 years after their construction, they show virtually no sign of age. Built with a precision which not only make modern engineers jealous, they are built to last eternally. Each block, weighing several tons, was cut in a remote quary, transported on a long distance and than placed precisely. Considering that the Great Pyramid of Giza is estimated to have been built in about 30 years with an estimated 2.3 million blocks, over 200 such blocks had to be cut, transported and placed every day, which can only be accomplished with very organized work methods.

The Great Pyramid of Giza was built so that the base was an almost perfect square, with an error of only 58 mm, and levelled perfectly with an error of only 15 mm. The height to width ratio is an estimation of π (pi) to less than 0.05% margin of error. The pyramids are a marvel to mathematicians.

Each side of the Great Pyramid of Giza pointed exactly into one of the four cardinal points, based on true north (not magnetic north), with en error of less than a degree, which can only be calculated with a great understanding of astronomy.

Agriculture

All of the knowledge put into the pyramids was actually acquired for many tasks which the Ancient Egyptians needed to built a great civilization. One of these tasks, probably the most important of all, was agriculture. It is indeed impossible to built a stable and flourishing civilization without a good understanding of agriculture.

While agriculture may sound like something extremely basic today, a number of technologies were needed to accomplish it efficiently at the time. Today, we use the calendar to determine when to sow and when to harvest. However, a calendar wasn’t available to the Ancient Egyptians until much later, when they first invented writing.

The early Egyptians understood that the sun was very important. It would heat the land and allow for the food. Without the sun, life would not be possible. The Egyptians worshipped the sun as a god, for it allowed them their very existence. The sun was to be known as Horus.

They observed it, and eventually noticed a cycle, which was the reason for the seasons. Over time, they calculated the cycle of the sun and made note of it.

During the night, they began observing the stars, and soon noticed that they were not fixed in the sky. Instead, they moved slightly every nigh, but repeated a cycle every year. Soon, they realized that while associating certain events to the position of the stars in the sky, they could predict the events which are important for agriculture, and thus predict when was the best time to seed and to harvest. As it is not possible to recognize a single star by itself, they grouped them into constellations, groups of stars which exhibit a recognizable and memorable shape or figure. They noted which constellations were visible in the sky, and at what position, when certain events occurred, so they knew that the same events would occur again as the same constellations returned to the same position the next year. Though many constellations were known to the Ancient Egyptians, twelve were of major significance and were said to surround, or accompany, the sun.

Aquarius

Aquarius

The early Egyptians did not yet invent writing. Therefore, the knowledge they acquired over time needed to be told from generation to generation, or it would be lost and they would need to rediscover it. For a civilization to grow, the knowledge had to be accumulated, not relearned all the time. Repeating from one person to another over many generations is prone to error, as it is hard to remember small details precisely and never make a mistake. A natural method to remember every small detail was to make tales around the knowledge they had to pass to each other. It is easier to remember stories than to remember raw information. This method is still used today by teachers to teach young children and by professional mnemonics.

So that the knowledge of the constellations and what they were meant to predict would not be lost, they associated figures to the constellations based on what they looked to them and what event they predicted. Aquarius, depicted as a woman pouring a pitch of water, predicted the flood of the Nile and announced spring and the sowing season. Over time, they identified and named a vast amount of constellations, each of them associated with a figure. As the number of constellations grew, so did the complexity of the stories. The figures became gods and the stories began intersecting each other, so much that these gods eventually became related with each other. Over the centuries, they forgot how the stories came to light, but they knew that the gods in the sky were always predicting the events correctly, and that because of these predictions their crops grew efficiently. And so agriculture was born.

The Winter Solstice

The Three Kings following the Star in the East

The Three Kings following the Star in the East

At the end of the season, days were shorter every day, until the winter solstice, which is the shorter day of the year. They noted that the days appeared shorter every day, until they reached they shorter length, which appeared to last for three days, and then the days began going longer again every day. They noticed that, by that time of the year, there was a very bright star in the east, the brightest of all at that season. It was visible shortly before the solstice and shortly after, and hidden beneath the horizon the rest of the year. Furthermore, they noticed that three stars, which apparently came from nowhere, were to align with the bright star in the east at exactly the same time as the days were the shortest and would stay there every night for three nights. Then, after three days, if you followed the three stars and made a straight line through the star in the east and down to the horizon, that would predict where the sun was to rise, and from that day the length of the day would grow every day. From that point, the three stars ceased to align and dispersed again.

As far as the story goes for the Ancient Egyptians, as the days went shorter every day, it was said that Horus (the sun) was dying. Then as the day seemed to be at its shortest for three days, it was said that Horus was dead. Those three days were marked by ritual mourning. As the days began to lengthen again, they said that Horus was resurrected and rose in the sky. That day was celebrated as the rebirth of Horus. The three stars became known as the Three Kings, which followed the Star in the East to find the rebirth of the sun, the god Horus, after it was dead for three days.

Virgo constellation

Virgo constellation

Furthermore, the Virgo (or virgin) constellation, which appears as a Y in the sky, was just below the horizon at that time of the year, with just the two top points of the Y visible. On the morning of the rebirth, the sun rose between these two points, and thus Horus was said to be born from a virgin mother.

On the Gregorian calendar, the one which is used in most of the world today, the winter solstice falls on December 21st. The three following days, the days seem to be at their shortest, and the sun rises on the horizon as predicted by the Three Kings and the Star in the East the morning of December 25th.

Sirius and the Three Kings today

Sirius and the Three Kings today

The Star in the East, known today as Sirius, is still the brightest star in the sky, visible in most of the northern hemisphere from early December to late January. The Three Kings, however, do not point directly at it anymore, they are instead somewhat higher and more to the right in the sky, but are still aligned with each other and easy to recognize. The Three Kings are also known as the Belt of Orion. The sun still rises at the same place on the horizon, in between the legs of the Virgo constellation.

Writing

Around 3000 BC, the Ancient Egyptians invented writing, a complex system of symbols (hieroglyphs) whose individual meaning was commonly accepted. By that time, they could write down their knowledge rather than invent stories around it, as it was now easy to remember each little detail of everything they knew. Presumably, an early calendar was created shortly afterwards. It was now possible to perform efficient agriculture by counting the days and marking them on paper without relying on the stars. While the stars are hidden when the sky is covered, the calendar never fails.

Egyptian Hieroglyphs

Egyptian Hieroglyphs

However, the stories of the stars had became so much part of their culture by then that they did not forget them, and instead began writing them. As the stories were not necessary for their survival anymore, their meaning was slowly lost, but they continued to worship them. A religion was born. The religion of the Ancient Egyptians is one of the oldest of all and is the root for many, if not most, of the religions which were born later and up to this day. These religions, no more a set of stories to help with agriculture, soon became used by different forms of governments to help control their population, forcing them to accomplish certain actions in the name of the gods in the sky. It was easier for rulers to enforce laws, which when broken would bring a punishment enforced by the gods.

The twelve constellations considered important to the Ancient Egyptians, along with the stories around them, were carried into time. In Ancient and Medieval time, these figures became disassociated from their original meaning and began to be used for esoteric prediction of future events. These have survived to this day and are known as the zodiac signs.

December 25th

The Ancient Egyptians’ stories about the gods in the sky did not vanish with them, and instead the stories went into history as religions. Many of the religions of the world are in fact descended directly from the stories of the Ancient Egyptians.

The Greeks recycled the stories of the Ancient Egyptians, but changed names and minor events, to better match their own culture. Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, worshipped from 1500 BC to 1100 BC, was said to be born form a virgin mother on December 25th. He was surrounded by 12 followers and performed miracles such a changing water into wine. He was killed and resurrected after three days, and ascended into heaven.

Krishna, a Hindu deity worshipped from the 4th century BC, was also born from a virgin mother. He performed miracles with his disciples and, upon his death, was resurrected. In fact, many figures, in different cultures of the world at different eras, were born of a virgin mother on December 25th, well before the Christian religion came along.

Based on the Christians tradition, Jesus was born on December 25th from the virgin Mary. He accomplished miracles, such as turning water into wine, and was accompanied by 12 disciples. He was crucified and died for men, and was resurrected three days later and raised to heaven.

The Three Wise Men

The Three Wise Men

The story of Jesus was not unique, it was in fact a modernized version of a story dating back the Ancient Egyptians and based on the sky. Jesus, represented in iconography as the sun, was born in the constellation of Virgo on the morning of December 25th. His birth was announced by the Star in the East which was followed by three wise men. His twelve disciples represented the twelve constellations. His rise to heaven represented the sun going higher every day after the winter solstice.

The story of Jesus, among others, which has been used for centuries to justify oppression of populations by governments and to justify wars, was in fact a story made by the Ancient Egyptians in order to create and improve agriculture.

Birth of a Messiah

In 325 BC, Constantine, Emperor of the Romans, wanted to form a new state religion in the hope of uniting nations to form a new, larger empire. He picked Christianity, then a minor cult, as he was hopelessly looking for salvation, for forgiveness of his numerous sins. He united 300 wise men and religious leaders and enclosed themselves for several months. During that time, they carefully picked a number of ancient books, religious writings originating from earlier religions, which would form the basis for what would become the Bible. When they were done, a new religion was born and spread.

What we celebrate today as Christmas is not the birth of the Son of God, it is in fact a celebration much older and perpetuated for millennia as the birth of the sun, the first day which is longer than the winter solstice.

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4 comments on “Christmas and Egypt

  1. Lidia
    December 31, 2012

    The part about Jesus and the bible reminds me of something from penn Gillette! 🙂

    • Tom Duhamel
      December 31, 2012

      The part about Jesus? I must have missed my point. The whole article was about how Jesus came to be the center of the Catholic religion LOL

      I don’t remember haven ever hear Penn talk about the actual story behind religions. The points he really always bring is that you don’t need a religion to be happy. Having actually been raised in Christianity before I grew up and became an atheist, I was interested in how that religion happened to come to us. My article really ends up pointing to that one religion (Christmas being from there), but as you should have figured pretty much all of the religions were derived in some way or another from that one origin.

      Have an happy new year, Lidia 🙂

  2. Slayer81
    February 2, 2013

    Very nice article, moreover, many speak of these pyramids, these secrets, many hypothesis. Some believe that they come from another planet, with their advanced technology, they contruits these wonders. Others believe that the pyramids is a technology to go to the constellation of Orion. What we are sure is that these wonders hidden truth about our origins, never mind what we find, one day we will discover and do not forget that we are a relatively young population unlike many peoples of universe if any.

    Christ’s birth has never been an invention of the true religion which came a pagan religion, was departing to celebrate Kheops, if I’m not mistaken. Many secrets are not yet discovered and we see that the tip of the iceberg but we knew not who or how these ancient people that visited it with very little progress on this small planet.

    ps. it makes me want to open such a site …

    • Tom Duhamel
      February 2, 2013

      It is true that there are still many mysteries around the Ancient Egyptians. I attempted to only write about what is known for sure, and avoided many theories which we do not have much evidences for.
      Though the Ancient Egyptians invented writing, this was reserved to a few selects. Furthermore, we are limited today to what they wrote in the pyramids, as very little remains from them apart from these huge buildings. To add to this, we don’t understand half of what they wrote, we only deciphered part of their language.
      This article was mainly written with the intend of noting origin of religions, and I didn’t go very far in the subject of the Ancient Egyptians as is, though I plan on writing a more specific article in the future.
      Please, do no resist the temptation. Open a WordPress account right now, and start writing. Do not get discouraged by the fact that it takes a while for people to know of you and start reading you. See, you are commenting on a article which is more and a month old. Let me know if you do (you can leave a note in my About page) and I’ll be your first reader.

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